Hotel Grounds – Cristal Ballena

Included are shots from their “Rainforest Trail” which is a fairly dense forest with a lot of old growth big trees which is refreshing but difficult to photograph birds in because of all the limbs and leaves!   🙂

I did not show my room this time but the rooms are on the hill just above the restaurant and pool seen at top of feature photo above or in the pool photo below at upper left. Rooms 10-14 look directly over the ocean and sunsets, while other rooms like mine have garden views with partial ocean views. (My room views are seen in gallery Day Vistas.) I got more birds from my garden view but the premium rooms have better sunset views (cost more) and with clouds & rain every afternoon in rainy season there is not much sunset to see. See the hotel website for more information at

Cristal Ballena Hotel, Uvita

CLICK Image to Enlarge

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more”
― Lord Byron

For more photos see my Cristal Ballena Trip Gallery

¡Pura Vida!

New Neighborhood Swimming Pool

Complete with Racing Lanes, It opened this morning for an event.
I think it is a private club promoting triathlons, but no sure.
Atenas, Costa Rica

See my March 6 post on the construction of this commercial facility, complete with sign describing the purpose of it. I think the early morning event here was a small triathlon for primary school children, probably to promote the facility and gain membership. My neighbor walked by between 7:30 and 8:00 this morning seeing a couple of hundred parents and children here and then later saw the children running through town. I missed the activity but cellphone photoed the pool that I walk past every day on my way to town. There is a high interest in health and sports here, though not a lot can afford a private club, if that is what it is. 

Triathlon “Motivational Quote”

Commercialism Creeping In!

Construction has begun in a large vacant lot behind one high school.
And they cut down at least 8 large trees! Sob, sob! Sign enlsrged below.
Atenas, Costa Rica

Basically a Membership Health Club focused on Triathlon Athletes
It appears to be mainly a large swimming pool and track for running and bicycles.
Atenas, Costa Rica
We have other public and private parks/gyms/pools in town but this looks like it will be the nicest and of course the newest! The title “Academia Just4Fun” in English sounds like a chain of businesses and maybe North American with that English name. I expect to learn more in time. It is only about 400 – 500 meters from my house.

We are slowly becoming more than a sleepy little farm town, good or bad. At least there are no typical U.S. fast food places yet! Welllll . . . Atenas does have a POPS Ice Cream Parlor which is owned by Pops Costa Rica, but it is something like a franchise from General Mills USA and modeled after the Pops Ice Cream Parlors in Virginia, but locally owned like the franchised McDonald’s in the bigger cities (and tourist towns) of Costa Rica.

My observation is that Fried Chicken and Ice Cream are possibly the two top comfort foods in Costa Rica and it interested me to see that all the stand-alone McDonald’s in San Jose and Alajuela have two separate windows and lines for nothing but their soft-serve ice cream! And there is nearly always two ice cream lines waiting from around 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning when they quit serving much breakfast. Ice Cream Rules! Although there are a lot of KFC’s in the cities, they have more competition than McDonald’s with many Latin American Fried Chicken (el pollo frito) franchises. There are major fried chicken chains from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico. So the Colonel has to work harder here!  🙂   And yes, the traditionally thin Costa Rican (Tico/Tica) is beginning to get heavier, though not as fat as North Americans. And the popularity of hamburgers (hamburguesas) is growing with several local Tico restaurants having them! And they are good! And pizza is following!

See also my general Atenas photo gallery, People & Fiestas,  Public Art & Graffiti Atenas, and/or my Flora & Forests Walking in Atenas photo galleries. I live in a very nice little coffee farming town in the Central Valley, 45 minutes to an hour from the capital that I am afraid is getting too popular with expats from the north. Too many gringos can destroy the local culture. Especially some from the states who try to make everything be “like America.” If you want that, stay there! 🙂

New Luxury Health Retreat in Atenas!

Yoga, Massages, Therapy and Detox are available in addition to
pools, hiking, birds, views, etc.

Expect to eat healthy and enjoy spectacular vistas.

It is known as a Yoga Retreat, maybe the best in Costa Rica, but available as hotel, other retreats, or just to relax if you are willing to pay $221+ per night for luxury rooms in the mountains above Atenas with gardens, walking trails, a natural stream with waterfalls, and many optional activities, some at extra cost. Breakfast is included with all room prices. I just became aware of this and sorry I did not know of it for earlier visitors, though it is fairly new, this year I think.

They are offering us residents a Christmas Dinner with wine and entertainment for just $61 which I might do if I weren’t already scheduled for my jungle adventure at Selva Verde Lodge on the Sarapiqui River! They are likewise offering us a New Years Eve Celebration for $75 including fireworks! Yeah, just about anything you guys in the states have, we can find here, for a price!  🙂

And it is also now another option you have to my free couch-bed or the several Mom & Pop B&Bs or simple hotels in Atenas. Note: We are NOT a tourist town! But a coffee farming town. Yet being in the center of Costa Rica makes it a great place to headquarter or travel out from or just start and stop your visit to Costa Rica here, 45 minutes from the airport or an hour from San Jose.

Or just look at their site’s photo gallery
The Retreat at Atenas

Vanilla Comes from an Orchid?

Vanilla Pod or
Vanilla Bean

Yeah, the second most expensive spice in the world comes from an orchid plant pods that grows on vines (up to 30 feet long) right here in Costa Rica and other tropical countries. Read about this unusual spice in this Huffington Press Report. And I learned this week that the original owner of these apartments didn’t get all his cash flow from rent, but more from his vanilla farms in Guanacaste and other areas of North Costa Rica. It only grows between 10 & 20 degrees north or south of the equator.

Hans, the new manager, gifted me with one of these expensive vanilla pods (often called a vanilla bean) from the Von der Bom Farms when I conferenced with him this week. They are picked green and sun dried for 2 to 6 months the article says. I could take a sharp knife and scrape little bits of the nearly black stuff from the dried pod to season a dessert or whatever. I am more likely to keep it as a conversation piece in my living room fruit bowl. Vanilla Extract is made from this pod mixed with water and alcohol to make the more familiar use of vanilla. So a full pod is quite valuable and could season a lot!

Phons von der Bom, the original owner, loved the vanilla vines (his major income) and the ornamental ironwork bridge over our swimming pool features vanilla vines as does the tile work on bottom of his pool and on some doors and other objects around here. This property was his home for many years before he added the apartments (after the price of vanilla beans dropped).   🙂  What an interesting place! I learn something new every day!

Close-up of Vanilla Pod or
Vanilla Bean
Vanilla Bean Vines decorate pool bottom and bridge
on what was originally Phons’ home and personal pool before the apartments.
Hacienda La Jacaranda, Atenas, Costa Rica

And oh yes, the most expensive spice just ahead of vanilla is saffron. In case you were wondering!