Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Manuel Antonio

For the 3-day long weekend, we headed to Manuel Antonio National Park. The park was created in November 1972 to protect it from development as the area's tourist industry began to boom. Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica's second most visited park behind the Poás Volcano National Park.

October is a great time to travel in Costa Rica since it is the low season which translates into less crowds and prices.  We stayed at Hotel Mono Azul for a mere $45 per night. (Prices start at $25 a night but for 5 people, we needed a bigger room.)

Some of the highlights:

A short hike to a magnificent beach in the National Park


The White-headed Capuchin monkeys who come to see the tourists at the beach (and stole our first-aid kit from our bag).

Swimming with giant turtles

Eating at “El Avion”: an Iran-Contra-Cargo plane converted into a restaurant and bar.

Remember one of the biggest scandals in the mid 1980s that involved the Reagan Administration? This very cargo plane was shot down on October 5, 1986, while delivering supplies to the Nicaraguan Contras.


Boogie boarding

Here is a slideshow with more pictures (clicking on any of the pictures will open our album).

Videos of the monkeys on the beach:

  • After stealing some items from tourists

  • Being a little hostile

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


As mentioned before, it is technically the “green season” right now in Costa Rica which means that we get more rain especially in the afternoon. But, so far, nearly every day has had at least some sun (unlike the year that I spent in Lancaster, England) and it hasn’t yet rained all day (unlike some days during winter in British Columbia). In general, the weather has been fairly constant – hot with sun nearly every single day.

The majority of people that I know don’t live in tropical climates but rather live in places with clearly delimited seasons. Atenas, Costa Rica (where we live) was voted as the best climate in the world because of its consistently hot days and comfortably cooler nights.

Having grown up in Quebec, the one time of year that I always miss is now – Fall - when the leaves on the trees change to vibrant colors. My sister-in-law sent us the picture below which she took in her backyard close to Joliette, Quebec.

I am loving the heat and the sun… don’t get me wrong. And, I realize that this post is a bit out of the Costa Rican context. I am just taking a moment to reflect on the fact that travelling doesn’t only allow a person to enjoy experiencing other parts of the world, it also allows one to appreciate where they have been.

Dog Adoption

It is Mélanie’s birthday today and Léah drew a card for her; notice that Léah has included Manchas as a member of our family.


On the subject of Manchas, he decided to join me for my morning run today. I don’t recall inviting him but when I came out of the house in my running gear, there he was waiting. There aren’t any leash or pooper-scooper laws in Costa Rica (at least none that I know of) so he tagged along beside me the entire way (except when he had to stop to do his business and then he would easily catch up). His endurance was pretty remarkable and in this sun, heat, and humidity, he could easily outpace me. Maybe I should outfit him with a huge tank of water so that he can rescue me when I am ready to pass out from heat exhaustion?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tourist Visa

Canadians don’t need a tourist visa for Costa Rica. An excerpt from CostaRica.com:

If you hold a valid passport from your home country, you may enter Costa Rica without a tourist visa and can stay up to 90 days.
You only need the following documents to enter Costa Rica:
    * a valid passport with at least one blank visa page. The expiration date of your passport must be greater than 30 days from your date of entry to Costa Rica.
    * a pre-paid airline ticket to exit Costa Rica or proof of financial resources ($400.00 US - $1,000.00 US in cash or traveler checks, and/or a ticket to either return to your home country or to go to another country)

When we arrived in Costa Rica in July, all of our passports were stamped with a 90-day visa.

As a tourist you have two choices to extend your stay in Costa Rica:

   1.     File for an extension of stay at the Department of Temporary Permits & Extension of Stays at the Immigration Department in Costa Rica.

   2.     Cross the border to one of Costa Rica's neighboring countries - ensuring that the port of exit official stamps your passport with the exit seal; and then come back in to the country 72 hours later.  When you re-enter Costa Rica you will be granted another 30, 60, or 90 days to stay as a tourist.

To renew our visas, we opted for #2 above.

We had decided to take a one-week vacation and researched heading to a nearby country like

Panama (on the southern border of Costa Rica) or Guatemala (south of Mexico). Amazingly, it was way more expensive to fly the whole family to one of these close countries than to fly to the US with a cheap carrier like Spirit Airlines. It almost seems hard to believe that we were able to fly one-way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida per person for $9 (yes, you read that right, I am not missing any zeroes). Of course, for a mere $9 flight, you don’t get anything free on the plane but then again, the more expensive carriers don’t offer much for free nowadays either.

We had wrongfully assumed that upon reentering Costa Rica, we would be granted another 90-day visa. When we checked our passports, we discovered that the immigration officer had given us only a 60-day visa. I spoke to the Costa Rican consulate in Ottawa and the representative from Costa Rica explained the wording “up to 90 days” – a 90-day visa is the maximum that the immigration officer will grant but it is at their discretion whether they will grant you a 2-week visa or a 90-day visa or somewhere in-between.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


All 3 of our children love dogs but we never really considered getting one of our own. We never thought that when we would rent a house in Costa Rica, it would come with a dog that just can’t get enough “kid love”.

Manchas (“Spots” in Spanish) belongs to the family who owns the house that we are renting. His current official residence is one house over from us but Manchas insists on sleeping outside our backdoor like a guard dog. Today, when we were leaving the house, he even jumped inside the car next to the kids ready to go. We couldn’t take him and it broke our hearts to see him run after the car for around 2 KM. When we got back at the end of the day, there he was waiting.

As you know from previous posts, it hasn’t been easy for Léah lately and Manchas has surely provided some much needed dog therapy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Léah took her antibiotics for the prescribed 7 days but still hasn’t been herself for the last 2 weeks; she has been low on energy, very pale, and has been complaining about cramping in her stomach with pains reverberating to her back. Yesterday, Mélanie spent the day with her at the hospital in San José.

After a urine test, blood test, stool test, ultrasound, and seeing 2 pediatricians, we were informed that Léah no longer has Shigella in her body but she now has Dysentery (which was caused by the Shigella). An excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:

Dysentery (formerly known as flux or the bloody flux) is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the feces. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.

The Wikipedia entry on Dysentery mentions that, “consumption of fresh, warm camel feces has been recommended by Bedouins as a remedy for bacterial dysentery”. Instead of camel feces, Léah is taking Glutamine with Lactobacillus Reuteri twice a day for 5 days. Léah loves dairy products and fresh fruit but unfortunately, can’t eat either for possibly 6 weeks.

There are other lab tests being performed over the weekend and Léah needs to return to the hospital on Monday.