Author:  Bill Morse, Solar Outdoors Historian

Vol 28 Late March 2020

‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness’

  • Mark Twain

We started a travelogue of sorts last time, with a visit to Grand Teton National Park. Now we head south to a beautiful land….


Costa Rica Spanish: [ˈkosta ˈrika]; literally “Rich Coast”), officially the Republic of Costa Rica (SpanishRepública de Costa Rica), is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 5 million in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers (19,714 square miles). An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José, with around 2 million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.

Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous peoples before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces of Central America, from which it formally declared independence in 1847. Following the brief Costa Rican Civil War in 1948, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming one of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.

Costa Rica has progressive environmental policies. By 2019, 99.62% of its electricity was generated from green sources, particularly hydrowindgeothermal and solar.

Costa Rica description is from Wikipedia (

Many Solar Outdoors members have visited Costa Rica. Here are excerpts of an article about one such journey, and some photos, from the April 2008 SOLAR Ray. The author is a man who left us much too soon, Jim Gessner.



Getting There

The 16-day adventure traversed Costa Rica from Nicaragua to Panama and from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean, traveling by boat, horseback, foot, 4-wheeled drive ‘monster’ tractor, van and bus. We traveled rivers, volcanoes, rainforests and cloud forests.

February is the driest month of the year, yet we were surprised at the dry weather we experienced everywhere, even in the rain forests. The insects were almost non-existent. The temperatures were mostly in the 80s but plummeted to the low 70s at the higher elevations.


Fun-loving people

We started (and ended) the trip with 16 intrepid adventurers:  Pete Lamb, Darrell Ahlberg, Marie Harrington, Cheryl Szyniszewski, Brian Emerson, Debbie Devore, John Wade, Harvey Terkel, Jennifer Zunker, Debbie Ross, Sharon Smelter, Winnie and Al Chrzanowski, Carolyn Ludwig, and Jim Gessner and Johan Fernandez. 

The evenings were filled with delicious dinners, salsa dancing (Cheryl demonstrated great stamina outlasting the group and all the local dancers) and enjoying the tropical fruit and the local beverage, guaro, known as ‘wata’. One evening we decadently relaxed in the 20 hot spring pools heated by the nearby Arenal volcano after we were thrilled by a non-stop explosion of lava from the Arenal volcano. 


Soaring through the clouds, gliding on the Tarzan swing, rappelling down a 200-foot waterfall, bouncing out of a raft in class five water, and exploring Rara Avis were among the most memorable adventures.

We flew through the cloud forest of Monteverde on 12 ziplines, hanging precariously from a cable with only a gloved hand as a brake. We seemed to soar into the clouds on one zipline and narrowly miss tree branches on another. The wet cable complicated stopping and at a few stations, our stop was as breathtaking as the ride.

The Tarzan swing involved jumping from a platform, trusting that a cable attached to a tree branch 100 meters away was just the right length to keep you from being crushed by the impact with the ground. It resulted in a thrilling pendulum swing through the forest.

The canyoneering and rappelling trip provided the thrills of rappelling 10 waterfalls, the tallest almost 200 feet. While all the rafters enjoyed the challenge of class 5 rapids, Pete experienced the additional thrill of narrowly being rescued twice from the frothing rapids.

Rara Avis is a remote, pristine forest preserve which was a former prison colony. Its inaccessibility, beauty and abundant wildlife distinguished it as the ‘must see’ spot of the trip. Rara Avis has no lights/electricity in the lodging section but has a friendly, talented staff. The food was excellent. The creative staff uses nature to address problems. One evening I spotted a large rodent luxuriating in my bathroom sink. When I inquired, I was informed the staff had been using a large boa in the walls to curb the problem but recently removed it when it made some guests skittish.

Wonders of Nature

In retrospect, we ventured too close to the venomous eyelash palm pit vipers and voracious 15-foot crocodiles. On one hike we were surprised by an eyelash pit viper at rest on a tree that was a natural ‘hiker’ resting spot. On another hike one of our adventurers leisurely waded waist deep in a pond and rapidly exited it when sighting the warning ‘crocodile sanctuary’ sign.

Even though there were birds everywhere we went, we were still in awe of the many beautiful birds, especially the rare Resplendent Quetzal, Toucans, Parrots, Herons, Macaws, Anhinga, Ibis, Vultures, and Hawks. At last count we spotted a hundred species.

You must experience Costa Rica. Words fail to deliver the exhilaration of exploring this country which has made nature its highest priority. The adventurers’ common comment is, “Pura Vida, when are we going back?” 


Other group members who have visited Costa Rica are Dave and Moe DeFrance. The photos below, and a previous color photo, are from their visit there in 2009.


Have you been to Costa Rica?  Or want to go there? Please share your comments!


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