A Taste of Costa Rica

Liberia Travel Blog

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Parque Central (Central Park) in Liberia

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.

Sabanero statue on one of the main streets in Liberia which celebrates the cattle culture of the Guanacaste region
  The town of Liberia is accessible by taxi but I would recommend a rental car or using the bus system, as these options seem to offer more flexibility.  Walking to town from the airport is not an option.

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.

  The central park (Parque Central), which is the town square, is interesting as is the large, modern church facing the square, Iglesia Inmaculada Concepcion de Maria.  I was told that Costa Rican churches in the town squares tend to face west.  In fact, one of the locals told me a joke that in Costa Rica, you don't need a map--the church in the town square will always face west.

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.

El Punto hotel which is a renovated elementary school

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.

A room at El Punto--beautiful colors
  In case those fast food options are not enough, there is also a McDonald's across the street.   Apparently, many retirees from the United States have decided to live in Costa Rica and you could see some of this influence within Liberia.  I wanted to try Costa Rican food--not U.S. fast food.

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.

Historical buildings in Liberia constructed of bahareque which is a white clay
  Because it is the off season, there are few tours this time of year so finding a group may be difficult. 

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.

Another historic building
  All sorts of fishermen were along the river, but fishing is dangerous.  The river is filled with crocodiles and we were advised that in 2008 there were at least seven deaths.  We saw several crocodiles swimming in the water and we were all careful to keep our arms and legs inside the boat.  Apparently, the size of a crocodile's head gives an indication of the animal's size.  The larger the head, the larger the crocodile.  The tail of the crocodile gives some indication of the animal's health.  The wider the tail, the healthier the animal.

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.

Slightly scary bridge for pedestrians and scooters
  The white-faced monkeys seemed to be much more active.  We were told this was partially due to their diet.  Interestingly, our boat pulled up near a tree with roughly eight white-faced monkeys.  Our group of roughly ten people were all excited and smiling, which was upsetting the animals.  Apparently, a smile is a sign of aggression to a monkey.  The monkeys began clustering together and sitting on top of each other, to make themselves look bigger.  The alpha male of the group began shaking tree branches at us. 

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.

m. to pay the tax (I had a large cup of coffee with me!).  A recommendation is if you are visiting Costa Rica, pay your tax when you arrive and keep your voucher for exiting.  Otherwise, you may end up standing in long lines at off hours.

 

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.

  Costa Ricans are very proud of their country's natural beauty and they have every reason to be.  The country is beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

sabzero says:
great blog and good informations :)
Posted on: Aug 25, 2009
vulindlela says:
Nice read!
Thanks for the great info......
Posted on: Aug 23, 2009
travelfan1963 says:
Car hire is easy but you need to book in advance. In Liberia, there were several car agencies but they are a little distance from the airport. Be sure to specify automatic or standard transmission. Avis is the closest to the airport but you will need to arrange for them to meet you.

The guidebooks warned about roads during the rainy season (washed out, pot holes, dirt roads, etc) and recommended four wheel drive vehicles, but I think a regular passenger car will work on many roads. If you are driving the Pan American Highway, this seemed to be a good two laned road (and I will drive this next time).

We had a small Toyota when we lived in Costa Rica many years ago and I remember my parents would drive up into the mountains and to a volcano near San Jose.

I definitely recommend visiting Costa Rica and a rental car will be very helpful to get around. I depended on taxis and buses this trip and will use a car next time.
Posted on: Aug 21, 2009
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Parque Central (Central Park) in L…
Parque Central (Central Park) in …
Sabanero statue on one of the main…
Sabanero statue on one of the mai…
El Punto hotel which is a renovate…
El Punto hotel which is a renovat…
A room at El Punto--beautiful colo…
A room at El Punto--beautiful col…
Historical buildings in Liberia co…
Historical buildings in Liberia c…
Another historic building
Another historic building
Slightly scary bridge for pedestri…
Slightly scary bridge for pedestr…
More historic architecture
More historic architecture
Outdoor room at El Punto--beautifu…
Outdoor room at El Punto--beautif…
Church known as Iglesia Inmaculada…
Church known as Iglesia Inmaculad…
Another view of the church
Another view of the church
Inside the church which was decora…
Inside the church which was decor…
Local school in Liberia
Local school in Liberia
A lovely gesture on Costa Rican Mo…
A lovely gesture on Costa Rican M…
Paso Real restaurant--just off the…
Paso Real restaurant--just off th…
Coconuts in the Liberia town square
Coconuts in the Liberia town square
Central Park in Liberia
Central Park in Liberia
Coffee roaster on site at a shop. …
Coffee roaster on site at a shop.…
Sunset in Liberia
Sunset in Liberia
376 km (234 miles) traveled
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photo by: travelfan1963