My Xandari Villa

My third time to visit one of the most expensive hotels that I like in Costa Rica gives me a third different and bigger room/villa. I rarely show this many photos of a room, but because it is unique, I decided to this time along with the Art in My Villa, yesterday’s post.

This “room”  is called a “King Junior Suite” meaning just one king size bed in multiple rooms or spaces, a large suite or villa. They call all their rooms villas because most are in separate buildings and all are large.

From the lobby and restaurant main building, you walk through the gardens on a beautiful winding, paved path to the entrance of #5 in this case:

Private Entrance Compound

Kitchenette by front Terrace

 

Living Room

 

Valley-View Terrace

 

Bedroom

 

Bathroom

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Shower behind blue wall overlooking private garden. Toilet in separate room behind me.

This exceptional hotel is just 20 minutes from the San Jose Airport, thus a starting and ending location for many international tourists coming here, like the people I visited with this time from England, Germany, France, Canada and the U.S.

Yet they are immersed in a tropical rainforest with hiking trails, 5 waterfalls on the river, wildlife, both wild and cultivated flowers, a small farm for the kitchen, a wonderful Spa and restaurant. Some things are worth paying more for!   🙂   I do this occasionally here while other times I “rough it” in the wilderness to be closer to nature. I like both experiences! And the way Xandari combines both luxury AND nature! Plus now they house the Charlie Doggett Photography Library!   🙂   That alone makes the visit worthwhile!   🙂

Luxury is attention to detail, originality, exclusivity and above all quality.
~Angelo Bonati

¡Pura Vida!

Xandari Costa Rica

My Photos in an Art Gallery

One reason I was happy that Xandari would house my library of Photo Books is that the entire hotel is an art gallery with art literally everywhere, inside and outside. It was built by an Artist/Architect and his wife an Art Teacher. In another post I will display the art in my villa this time – different every visit!

The above stained glass window is in the reading room of the lobby and my photo books are on a book shelf at the entrance to that reading room. In earlier Tennessee days I tried to sell photos at art fairs calling them “Nature as Art” which fits this arty nature retreat very well. I’m happy to be a part of Xandari!

 

Today was my very full day with an early morning birding hike with excellent guide Jose and a lovely couple from England, followed by breakfast and a tour of the only Starbucks-owned coffee farm in the world which I will tell you more about later, then an afternoon late lunch, relaxation massage, a desert at dinner time and I’m ready for bed! With lots of photos to process tomorrow, my last full day here.

¡Pura Vida!

Xandari 2018-Enchanted by Nature
Just one of 29 books in the library!
Brilliant Book cover
And the other one about Xandari!  Plus all of my other Costa Rica photo books!

To see all of my Costa Rica Photo books, go to My Bookstore at Blurb where you can preview any of the books for free electronically! Best if viewed in full screen mode of course!   🙂

Good Night from Xandari

My first afternoon was settling in, photographing the room, hiking the upper level of trails photographing mostly flowers and having a really great dinner! I love it here! Maybe my favorite hotel in Costa Rica! But I’m too tired to process photos tonight and this sunset is not great but will have to do. Good night!   🙂   Much more tomorrow!

¡Pura Vida!

All Over Costa Rica!

I was thinking of doing a Costa Rica Map on a cork board with map pins showing where I’ve been – which is a lot more places than most people I know here among both Ticos and Expats. Then suddenly in my electronic mailbox appears an email from Google Maps titled: Google Maps Timeline 2019 Update.  Yep, it included the feature photo map above and some other stuff  that seems to go back to 2015, my first year here when I began traveling Costa Rica. It seems I approved them tracking me (my cell phone) back then and this is what I get! Should I be afraid of Google or send them a thank you note?   🙂

The big red blob in the middle is the space between Atenas & San Jose that includes Alajuela and all the places I go there including the big SJO Airport. I cannot explain the red dot in the Pacific Ocean, but if you study the map more you will see the large green area in the south-southeast above Panama that has no red spots for my visits. One main reason is that it is the Talamanca Mountains, much of which is indigenous reserves with no public roads going through there plus protected national forests not allowing travel. My May trip will put me on the Western edge of that area at Chirripó and my visit to the Bribri Yorkin Reserve had me on the eastern edge. And that is it!   🙂   So just 17 more parks/reserves to go!   🙂

After 37 national parks & reserves are visited, I will do a photo book like I did with all of Tennessee’s State Parks in my photo book A Walk in the Woods Through All 54 Tennessee State Parks. There are technically only 28 national parks here! But the nine reserves count as equals and for my nature photography purposes especially, so I’m saying 37, with only 17 more to go! I don’t have a car which slows me down a little! But I will get there!   🙂

See links to the photo galleries of the 20 National Parks & Reserves I have already visited  or for all of my travels over Costa Rica browse through the family of galleries:

Costa Rica Trips (80) which is the best collection of my photos here!

 

“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.”

~Claude Monet

¡Pura vida!

2019 in Photos

Someone may remember that for “2018 in Review” I did a “Photo a Month” and decided then that it was not the best way to choose favorite photos – like it or not, the best or “favorite” photos are not evenly divided among 12 months.   🙂

So . . . this year I decided to try my personal favorite photo in each of several categories for 2019 – but yikes! This was not easy either and I really wanted more from the category of Birds, which is what I photograph the most – but this is what you get this year and since I used a different bird on my electronic “Christmas Card” earlier, you got that bird too!   And now I’ve decided to include two photos from my December trip to the rainforest AND there’s another bird!      🙂

I kept adding categories to include more photo! Cheating?    🙂    Here’s my personal favorites (not necessarily best photographically) – photos that mean something special to me in each of 18 categories listed alphabetically:

Airplane Shot

Flying in a small plane out of SJO to another adventure is joy! I flew on 5 of  my 12 trips in 2019. For longer distances it is usually quicker and cheaper than my hired driver and with fun photo-ops! See gallery of all my airplane shots since 2009! Costa Rica from above!   🙂

Amphibian

Red-webbed Tree Frog, Maquenque Eco Lodge & Reserve, Boca Tapada, January 2019. See my gallery on this frog (including one at another lodge) or my total Amphibians Gallery.

Art & Architecture

A worker arriving in the morning at Zephyr Palace,Villa Calletas Hotel, Jaco, July 2019 or maybe find other architecture in my Places & Things Gallery or more art in my People, Fiestas and Art Gallery

Bird

A Pale-billed Woodpecker building a home at Arenal Volcano National Park, Arenal Observatory Lodge, November 2019. See my Costa Rica Birds Gallery.

Butterfly

A Dina Yellow Butterfly at Villa Calletas, Jaco, July 2019. See my CR Butterflies Gallery.

Flower

Orchid at Maquenque Eco Lodge, Boca Tapada, January 2019. And my Flowers Gallery.

Forest Sunrise

Sunrise at Macaw Lodge near Carara National Park, June 2019. See also my Sunrise/Sunset Galleries.

Insect (not a butterfly)

Dragonfly at Macaw Lodge near Carara National Park, June 2019. And my More Insects Gallery.

Jungle Sunset

Cristal Ballena Hotel, Uvita, September 2019. Or see other Sunset galleries.

Monkey

Mantled Howler Monkey, Maquenque Eco Lodge & Reserve, Boca Tapada, January 2019 and shot from my Tree House Room!   🙂   See my CR Howler Monkey Gallery.

Mountainscape

The tip of Arenal Volcano seen From the Continental Divide, Santa Elena Reserve, Monteverde, April 2019 or check out my Vistas Gallery.

Oceanscape

Pacific Coast Mountains near Uvita & Dominical, September 2019 or check out my Vistas Gallery.

Ocean Sunrise

At Banana Azul Hotel, Puerto Viejo, Caribe Sur, August 2019. Or see other Sunrise/Sunset galleries.

Ocean Sunset

Villa Caletas, Jaco, July 2019. Or see other Sunset galleries.

Rainbow

Arenal Observatory Lodge, Arenal Volcano National Park, November 2019 or check out my Vistas Gallery.

Rainforest Animal

Tapir at Tapirus Lodge Costa Rica. See also my Other Wildlife galleries.

 

 

 

 

Rainforest Bird

Sunbittern at Tapirus Lodge, Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa Rica.  See my other photos from earlier in my Sunbittern gallery.

Sloth

Sloth Rescue Center, Cahuita, Caribe Sur, August 2019. Or see my Three-toed Sloth Gallery.

 

Waterfall

Nauyaca Waterfall near Dominical, September 2019 with my Portuguese friends in the photo. See all my Costa Rica Waterfalls Gallery.

 

And yes, I realize that I kind of stretched the landscape category with other “scapes” which I won’t do next year but maybe try for my top 12 favorite photos (17 here) which had I done this year would have been mostly birds. But hopefully these “favorites” will give you an idea of what it is like being Retired in Costa Rica!   🙂   And 2020 will have a lot of great new photos!   🙂  I’m sure!

“As long as I am breathing, in my eyes, I am just beginning.”

~Criss Jami

 

Happy New Year’s Eve!

¡Pura Vida!

 

 

 

Evaluating Rainforest Adventures Lodge

Yes, it is called “Tapirus Lodge” but is owned & operated by “Rainforest Adventures” and even the lodge employees wear Rainforest Adventures shirts and do other jobs within the bigger operation. It is 10 rooms available inside a huge outdoor, nature-oriented rainforest amusement park on the border of Braulio Carrillo National Park, with a second, smaller facility near Jaco Beach on the Pacific side. Most of their business is day visits from nearby hotels including in San Jose plus from cruise ships in Limon on the Atlantic.

Someone responded to one of my blog posts this week with a comment that she was coming to Tapirus Lodge in the next three months and my posts helped her to choose her “tours” or activities but asked for more info. I am copying what I told her earlier today (Sunday) and will then present several slideshows to illustrate what I am saying:

If you love nature you will probably like it very much! Be aware of a few things that are different from what is implied in their lodge website:

(1) It is a tiny room, very basic with non-reliable hot water in the shower. And I had to ask for fresh towels each day the first 2 days until they learned I wanted them daily. So humid that a used towel never dries! There are 10 rooms in 5 buildings (like duplexes).
(2) It rained constantly for the 6 days I was there, day and night, with maybe 3 hours of sunshine one morning. You can still see and do a lot in the rain, but expect it any time of year there. It’s a rainforest!
(3) The food in the restaurant is basic with limited choices, the “tipico” (Costa Rican) breakfast being my favorite. Lunch is a buffet with lots of day visitors not in the lodge including from cruise ships some days. I avoided that and it did not look that appetizing. For dinner there is a choice of chicken, fish or beef with a couple of preparation options. The staff is wonderful! Super nice young waiter (just the one)! No bar, but beers & wines available.
(4) They have one of the longest zip-lines in the country and the longest canopy tram ride which this old man preferred and rode twice! I don’t zip in the rain! 🙂 All of this gives the place the feel of an amusement park, though deeply immersed in nature! Their “Birding Tour” was super good and worth the cost! The room comes with free morning & night nature walks of about an hour each. Great! Don’t miss those!
(5) Their butterfly garden had only one species my week (blue morpho), but the frog and snake exhibits were extensive and the orchid garden limited but nice. Some hiking trails are open for residents and a few require a guide.
(6) The National Park is just 5 km away if you have a car. I did not and the lodge took me in their shuttle bus. Two very nice trails that are easy to hike, even in the rain! 🙂 But I did not see many birds or other wildlife except for one wet sloth. A lady ranger was very helpful there, but you are own your own hiking.

Later I will have a photo gallery posted of my trip and will announce it on the blog.

¡Buen viaje!

 

In short, I prefer more “creature comforts” and gourmet food than I got here, and less rain, but overall it is a great place to experience nature in a rainforest – including the rain!   🙂

 

10 Rooms in 5 Cabins

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Grounds Around the Rooms

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Tourist Attractions

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Birds I Got

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Other Wildlife

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Tapirus Lodge

¡Pura Vida!

And tomorrow will be my annual Photo Review of the Year – 2019 this time!

My First Tram Ride

These shots were Tuesday the 24th as a part of my “Birding Tour” with guide Cristian who is the guy in the gondola with me. I said “first” because I am doing it again tomorrow morning the 26th and hope for more than one bird! Though the Aracari shot Tuesday wasn’t bad!    🙂  And for it to not be raining! It has rained constantly for the last 4 days. And hoping for a shot of an Umbrella Bird before I leave Saturday morning.

The Longest Tram Ride in CR, 2.6 km

Tapirus Lodge Rainforest Adventure

The photos title has their bragging number of 2.6 km, length of your ride round trip! One-way from beginning to the other end up on a mountain top is 1.3 km, but either way it is long!   🙂   If you are the only one riding, it takes an hour and 15 minutes. But every time they board or exit someone more minutes are added. When the cruise ship passengers were here this morning it was taking them about two hours with people in most of the gondolas.

It will be quieter tomorrow morning right after breakfast with few if any other people and hopefully more birds in the tree tops!   🙂   There is the option to get off at the top with a guide and hike a trail up there, but my birding guide said it was not very good for birding, so we didn’t. I think the manager is sending one of his birding guides with me tomorrow to help me find birds in the tree tops. Fun! This is what you do when you are “Retired in Costa Rica.”   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

When? Rain stops? New airport?

The clear skies from my terrace on today, December 1 (feature photo above), hint at what the next 5 months could be like as the rainy season slows down and stops for no rain in the Central Valley Dec-Apr. But like weather everywhere, there are sometimes exceptions and as a gardener I happen to like rain!   🙂    Either way, I will adapt!

The above shot is a single shot on my cell phone.

Below is a composite shot on big camera yesterday with clouds.

Nov-30_Panorama1 copy

Plans for New Airport in Orotina, Costa Rica on Hold

This Article Title link is to an old newspaper article that still holds true today as the government here is not yet ready to spend billions of dollars on a new airport (25 minutes west of Atenas) which would be in a lower, flatter, larger valley of farm land for much greater expansion than the current international airport in Alajuela (45 minutes east of Atenas) which is basically land-locked with expensive developments, though closer to the capital of San Jose. The new one would be closer to the Pacific Coast beaches and resorts.

The debate will probably never end (seen in responses to above article) and it will never happen until both the president and the legislature make it a priority which they still have not done. I expect to die before it actually happens, if ever, and it really doesn’t matter that much to me. 45 minutes is close enough to a major airport!   🙂

New Airpor Artist's Renditiont
Artist rendering of new airport in Orotina.

And a “Profile” is on the CAPA Center for Aviation website.

Plus I’m happy with the new Domestic Terminal (my photo gallery) at the current airport, since my only flights now are short hops within Costa Rica on little local planes with Sansa Airlines. So if you’ve heard there will be a new San Jose Costa Rica International Airport, don’t expect it before 2030, if ever, unless you want to donate money to the government to build it and maybe get your name on it!   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

 

 

Waterfall & Tower Hikes

Today I had a morning hike to the Danta Waterfall and afternoon hike to the Observatory Tower they call “The Nest.” Both were good, see photos below. And though still rainy today (I had to leave tower before most toucans arrived), there was almost a sunset tonight or the nearest we’ve had this rainy week and of course what little I got was mostly behind the clouds.   🙂

Waterfall Hike

 

Tower Shots

 

An Almost Sunset

 

Arenal Observatory

¡Pura Vida!

Hacienda Guachipelín – THE BOOK

The book is finished with 4 new lifer birds for me and now I’m off to other creative activities. Remember – you can PREVIEW the book electronically (flip through the pages) for free at my bookstore by clicking on this link and then each page to turn a page. Fun! And best seen in full screen mode!   🙂

https://www.blurb.com/b/9712481-hacienda-guachapel-n

Or click the book cover image below to get there:

¡Pura Vida!

 

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
― Vincent Willem van Gogh