Our Welcome to Costa Rica
When we arrived at the Belize International Airport, the porter took our bags to the Executivo counter, and we were checked in for our flight. With our QRP cards, we completed our immigration check without having to pay an exit tax and moved on to the waiting room.
Eventually, our flight was called and we boarded the plane, an Airbus A320. Our seats were in “Business Class” Seats 2D and 2K. This was a pleasant surprise. We don’t remember signing up for business class, but there we were and on the way to San Salvador, they brought a fine meal and a glass of good red wine. Very nice!
Our layover of about one hour in San Salvador was uneventful, except for a policeman and his drug-sniffing dog, who came to check us out as we were sitting waiting for our flight to Costa Rica.
The next leg was the same as the first, so in the space of about three hours, we had two fine meals, although we did opt for coffee with the second meal.
“How long will you be in Costa Rica,” our Immigration Officer wanted to know as we arrived in San Jose on the 24th of July? “Until the end of August,” we replied.
Nothing more was said as he stamped and wrote in our passport, and then handed it to us. We went on to collect our baggage, pass through customs, and move outside to catch the shuttle to the hotel. It wasn’t until the next day when we looked at our passport that we noticed that we were only given a 30-day tourist visa.
“This is terrible,” we said! (Other descriptive terminology might have been used.) The latest stamp is next to the one we received in 2011 when we were given a 90 day visa. After talking with the Concierge at the hotel, we went to the Departmento de Migracion and tried to get an extension to our tourist visa.
Our Spanish was so poor, however, that the agent thought we needed an extension to our permanent residential visa, so, in the end, nothing was accomplished. Instead, we have to leave Costa Rica about ten days earlier than originally planned.
We don’t know why the Immigration Officer gave us a 30 day visa. Maybe it was due to the fact that we arrived on a one-way airline ticket or maybe it was something else. In any case, he did not ask for any proof that we had reservations to stay the month of August, nor did he ask for any proof that we intended to leave at the end of August.
If he had, we could have shown him our reservations for Las Cabinas in San Ramon, and the booking for the apartment in Granada, Nicaragua for the month of September. The bottom line on this experience, regardless, is that we did not check immediately on the length of visa and must bear sole responsibility for the resulting consequences. Sometimes education in the School of Hard Knocks can be quite expensive!
The people at the front desk recommended a tour to see Poas Volcano and other points of interest in the mountains east of there.
It was sunny as we left the hotel in the early morning, but turned cloudy as we moved higher. Our driver took us up the mountain straight to the park entrance. He talked with the man in the booth for a while, and then told us that the mountain was engulfed in fog and we wouldn’t be able to see much. “What do you recommend,” we asked?
“Well, we could go see the waterfalls and a coffee plantation,” he said.
“The waterfalls would be nice, but we visited a coffee plantation on a previous trip,” we said.
“This coffee plantation has a restaurant for lunch.” “O.K,” we replied.
The Waterfall Gardens included areas with birds, orchids, butterflies, frogs, snakes and even some wild cats. The trail eventually led to the rain forest and toward three waterfalls. The path led down and down through the canyon past the waterfalls, often in dense rain forest.
Spectacular views with lots of greenery, blooms and flowers were spread throughout. The path led eventually to some buildings with information and souvenirs next to a road. We were pleasantly surprised that a shuttle would take us back up the hill to the lodge and our awaiting vehicle.
Through great planning by our tour guide, we arrived at the coffee plantation just in time for lunch. And, a fine typical Costa Rican meal of rice, beans, salad and chicken it was. We lingered after lunch and looked through the garden next door.
Part of it was filled with Morpho butterflies, with the iridescent blue on the tops of the wings. However, it is nearly impossible to capture the blue color on a live butterfly. Every time they land, they close their wings and look like in the picture. The garden was filled with lots of plants, trees and bushes, as well.
The tour began in front of the restaurant and passed through various coffee processing stations, where the berries are hulled, cleaned, and sorted before being roasted. In the thumbnail picture of three bags, above, the best grade is on the right. The bag on the left contains twigs and other non-coffee elements with the coffee. Our guide said that well-known coffee companies buy that grade to sell throughout the US.
Next Time: Las Cabinas in San Ramon and Tours to the Beach and Arenal
(Originally published by Email as: Blog #11 081313 Thoughts on Belize and Welcome to Costa Rica)