A Taste of Costa Rica
Liberia Travel Blog› entry 1 of 3 › view all entries
I usually don't like to travel on short notice and tend to plan trips months in advance. Last week, however, I received a deal that was too good to pass up if I visited Liberia, Costa Rica just for that weekend. When I was five, we lived in San Jose for a year and it was always on my list to visit Costa Rica as an adult. Because it's the off season in Costa Rica right now (it's the rainy season), really good deals are available. Armed with my muy mal espanol (very bad Spanish), I decided to head to Liberia...
Liberia, Saturday, August 15th
The airport in Liberia is a few miles from the town, located in the Costa Rican countryside.
Liberia is nicknamed the "White City" because of the colonial houses found around Calle Real (Real Street) and Calle Two. These houses are roughly 150 years old and built of bahareque (which is like adobe), which is a white clay. Located in the Guanacaste region, this part of Costa Rica has primarily been a ranch area in the past. More tourists are now visiting this area, however, with the number of national parks and beaches nearby.
There are some things to do in Liberia including a museum, but I would not allocate a lot of time for Liberia.
There are some statues in Liberia honoring the sabanero culture (cattle culture). I enjoyed walking through the different streets exploring both the architecture of the buildings and a few statues. Off the Pan American highway, there is an interesting hotel called Hotel El Punto, which is a converted elementary school. The hotel has been painted in beautiful bright colors and I enjoyed looking at the artwork.
Off the central park, there is a restaurant called Paso Real, which is a popular seafood restaurant in Liberia. I stopped for a late lunch and as it happened to be Mother's Day, the restaurant very kindly offered each woman a bouquet of orchids. The restaurant faces the town square and the balcony is a great place to people watch and enjoy an Imperial beer (or several!).
I also enjoyed exploring some of the grocery stores and remembered some of the brands from when I was little. Eating the fresh bananas and pineapple, two of Costa Rica's biggest exports, is also a treat.
Sadly, some of the influences in Liberia are not necessarily great. To cater to the influx of many tourists from the United States, on the west side of Liberia is a Food Mall which included a Burger King, TCBY, Papa John's, and Church's Chicken to name a few places.
Anyway, if you are visiting Liberia, while there are points of interest, I would allocate no more than three hours for the town. I spent the entire day in Liberia but I think time would be better spent exploring the Pacific coast or one of Costa Rica's many national parks.
Palo Verde National Park, Sunday, August 16th
I was lucky enough to be able to tag along on a boat tour of Palo Verde National Park.
Be aware that driving from Liberia to Palo Verde, there may be unscheduled police check points. Costa Rica has had an influx of immigrants from Nicaragua looking for a better standard of living. The police will check vehicles and buses looking for illegal immigrants.
Located not far from Calle, Costa Rica, Palo Verde, which literally means "green pole" or "green stick", is a 27,000 acre park filled with wildlife. This park is one of the protected areas for scarlet macaws and is filled with many species of birds.
Our boat trip began on the Bebedero River heading for the Gulf of Nicoya.
Our guide, Felipe, has been giving tours through Palo Verde for the past nine years. He was very helpful in pointing out wildlife throughout the park. We were lucky enough to see several iguanas, fruit bats (which are really camoflauged with the trees), different species of birds (including tiger herons and egrets), coatis (including some babies) and two types of monkeys--the howler monkeys and white-faced monkeys.
The vegetation within the park is beautiful and you really feel like you are on a nature program (and in the tropics). Along the water are all sorts of trees including huge palms. Outside the park, there are some private ranches nearby.
We were lucky enough to have a great lunch in the park consisting of rice, black beans, chicken, homemade fried tortilla chips and a pineapple custard for dessert. To drink, we were offered guava juice which was fantastic in the heat, along with a cup of Costa Rican coffee for dessert. The food was really good and it was nice to eat just off the Bebedero River.
Monday, August 17th
Unfortunately, to keep the air fare, I had to take a very early flight back to the United States at the end of the weekend. A cautionary note for visitors to Costa Rica is that all visitors must pay a departure tax of US $26. This tax is payable at the Banque Central (central bank) at the airport but lines form early. I was in line at 4:45 a.
Overall, I really enjoyed my visit to the Liberia area. Two days barely even touched the surface and I am definitely going back. Even though it's the rainy season, there really wasn't much rain the weekend I visited. Unfortunately, because it has stayed fairly dry, the rice crop is in danger this year.
The off season also means you basically have the roads and hotels to yourself (and prices are much lower). Next time I am staying for several days, planning to drive and will explore the beaches and national parks.