Category Archives: Costa Rica

Arenal Eating in Costa Rica

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La Cascada is probably the best known restaurant in the little town of La Fortuna and sits near the base of the Arenal Volcano. Our steaks were pretty good but a little tough (which is pretty common for a steak in Costa Rica).

We always spend time on our trips to Costa Rica in the Arenal Area, because Irene’s family lives here. We’ve tried a lot of different restaurants in the area – but if anyone has tips on where they had a good meal near Arenal, please do share with us in our comments section.

We move our office to Costa Rica at least a couple times a year – so we have the chance to explore some of the exciting new adventure and adrenaline experiences available. We also like to find out which ones are not living up to their billing and see how some of our favorites are holding up. We get a chance to talk to and have fun with our Costa Rican friends and colleagues, and we also take some time to visit some of the places that our travelers visit regularly, experiencing first-hand the latest and greatest that our favorite lodges have to offer.

Remember to post any good Arenal dining recommendations here!

Postcard from Costa Rica

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We LOVE hearing from our clients and wanted to share this review from The Phillips Family who took a GreenSpot vacation to Costa Rica. If you would like to share your feedback or trip photos, please email us!

Dear Irene: 

I want to Thank You for putting together such a wonderfully organized trip together for us at such a short notice. Your selection of Hotels/Lodges, our Guides, the driver – Gerardo, all exceeded our expectations.

Also, grateful that you were able to make the adjustment to our itinerary at El Silencio Lodge.

We will definitely return to this beautiful country, and know who to turn to, for making our trip ‘smooth-sailing’, and simply amazing! Needless to say we will recommend you to our friends. 

Thanking you,

Neeru and Michael Phillips

Teach a Man to Say Fish

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Ceviche can also be bought as street food. Here we are in Zarcero, shopping for a snack.

 

The same rule about not judging a book by the cover applies to food.

Tackling another language is tricky, so it’s smart to start with survival words. Teach a man to say fish, and voila! He has dinner. Well, technically he has to say the right word for fish otherwise he may be served something that’s still swimming. In Spanish the word for fish that is still breathing is pez and the word for the fish you probably prefer to have on your plate is pescado. It’s like pig and pork.

 

 

 

 

Pescado is one of the most memorable foods you’ll experience in Central America. It’s fresh, cheap, plentiful, and delicious. Menus everywhere feature fantastic fish dishes ranging from the appetizer of ceviche (like a cold fish soup/salsa) to the most epic of entrees, the pescado frito entero. It’s a mouthful all right! A mouthful of mind-blowingly tasty fresh fish which is fried to perfection and served on a plate alongside accompaniments like succulent tomato salsa, tostones that will make you forget all about french fries, and a slice of lime if your tongue takes pleasure in an added tang.

 

 

Family style is always a fun way to have a feast when you’re on vacation~

 

Eating it is labor intensive, but that doesn’t seem to stop the locals or the tourists who discover how much flavor is packed into each piece of meat that must be picked off the bone. Yes, picked. First timers may approach the dish with their fork, but it quickly becomes clear that fingers work best. Pescado frito entero can be prepared with a variety of fish—the only requirement is that it must be fresh, and in Central America, lack of fresh fish isn’t an issue.

 

At any beachfront restaurant in San Juan Del Sur, this dish featuring an entire fish will set you back about $10. You’ll have plenty of money left to souvenir shop in town and just enough room left for dessert. Maybe next week we’ll share our favorite Central American dessert. Well, not the dessert itself because that we do not share!

Tip: order this at the upstairs section of Henry’s Iguana in San Juan Del Sur to take in the closest thing to an aerial view in town.

No More Border Crossing Blues

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Expect to see very long lines of semis and buses; we even saw a truck driver who had hung up his hammock beneath his rig to take a nap!

Last Saturday, over 15,000 Nicaraguans working in Costa Rica crossed the border back into Nicaragua. Over 50,000 more are expected to cross in the next few days to spend Semana Santa (Holy Week) with their families. Even when there aren’t thousands of people, border crossings by land make TSA screenings seem like a piece of cake. Still, they’re not so bad if you know what to expect. Below are a few tips based on our recent crossing by bus.

After boarding the bus & getting your passport checked by the driver, sit back, relax, and watch Lord of the Rings if your bus has TVs.

Our bus driver giving our passports back to us as we reload.

Come prepared. Obviously you’ll need your passport, but also have a pen handy to fill out forms. Sharing is caring, but it’s more efficient if you bring your own.

Know your number. At some point the bus driver will collect your passport, and sometimes he does this before you fill out your forms. Have a copy of your passport on hand and/or memorize your passport number.  Otherwise you have to track the bus driver down and try to get it back from him. Yes, the bus driver WILL take your passport, but he will give it back!

Cash is king. You’ll need to have cash to pay the entry fees. To enter into Nicaragua, we paid 8,000 colones (about $16 USD) each, and the American couple sitting in front of us paid in USD. The bus driver should have plenty of change in both currencies as well as cordobas. The mysterious part is the amount you pay seems to vary according to the source. Try to have at least $20 USD or the equivalent in local currency easily accessible.

There’s a reason it’s called hand luggage. Keep your hand luggage in your hands at all times. Even if you unload the bus and are told to leave your big bags below, always carry your hand luggage with you. Never leave it on the bus unattended.

Mugshot and one of the immigration forms you’ll have to fill out on the bus.

Be prepared to be bombarded. “Cambio, cambio?” men will yell as soon as you step off the bus.  Although they’re offering to conveniently change money for you as you wait, they may be ripping you off if you don’t know the current exchange rate. Also, your first welcome is likely to come from the many vendors that will approach you. They sell everything from snacks to sandals and cell phone cards. Others will straight up ask you for money, providing a toothless grin in return. As we understand, the men wearing navy blue vests are authorized to search your luggage, but they too can be aggressive and demand tips if they help you carry it.

 

 

Based on our experience, the border crossing into Costa Rica or Nicaragua at Penas Blancas takes at least two hours. Best of luck with your next border crossing, and if you have any experiences to share, please do. After all, sharing is caring~

 

Note: A version of this post was published in the The Nicaragua Dispatch & can be seen here

 

El Sano Banano: Home of the Mocha Chiller

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Two words describe my favorite thing to consume in Costa Rica, and they’re not “gallo” and “pinto.” Rather, “mocha” and “chiller.” I first read about the Mocha Chiller in a Costa Rican guide book, but by no means did I plan my first trip around trying one. After the first taste, I now plan my trips to Costa Rica around this delightful drink served at El Sano Banano in the small beach town of Montezuma. El Sano Banano translates into the healthy banana, and much of their food is healthy. I’m going to consider the Mocha Chiller to be a healthy alternative to a shake since it’s made with homemade frozen yogurt. I’m not yet privy to the exact recipe, but I’m told the other ingredients are espresso and homemade chocolate syrup.

 

In addition to their drinks El Sano Banano serves incredible food, and their menu is like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere in Costa Rica. In addition to the typical Costa Rican fare, they serve sushi, sandwiches made with fresh-baked brown bread, colorful salads, and desserts showcasing their homemade frozen yogurt and baked goods.

 

At El Sano Banano vegetarians can mingle with meat lovers while watching a free movie on their projector. Every night they play a movie, often new releases in English, but you’d better show up early if you want a seat. Otherwise, they have outdoor seating on their front and back decks where you can people-watch. Actually, you’re far more likely to be plate-watched as people passing by will do double takes at the sight of your food. For dessert, indulge in the Mocha Chiller or another one of their specialty drinks. In my dreams El Sano Banano has free refills…

 Photos: A collage of a FEW of the MC photos in my extensive collection. The chicken sandwich served on homemade brown bread with homemade honey dijon mustard and homemade pickles! If you choose to sit on the back balcony, you’ll share the ocean view with the birds who like to help with breakfast service. Speaking of birds, the early bird gets a good seat at movie night to watch Argo. 


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