In Search Of Our Final Destination, Province No. 2
Uvita - Southern Puntarenas
Province No. 2
We traded palm trees and sand in, for monkeys and nature. Our second home was located in Uvita, Southern Puntarenas Province. Funny enough for this house, we realized from photos after earlier trips when visiting Costa Rica, that we actually stood right next to it while trying to get the ‘best view’ of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. I can’t count the number of cars that made its way to the same spot we did in earlier visits, while renting this home. This home and location was absolutely amazing. We had a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean from our front patio. Jungle enclosed the land around the home on both sides and back allowing wildlife to make its way through the trees, often entertaining us for hours on end. From howler monkeys and sloths, scarlet macaws and toucans to the giant insects and happy cicadas, our home stayed pretty lively. Furthermore, the area is surrounded by a jungle, rich waters and sweeping mountains that lie on the outskirts of town. We would leave the windows and doors open throughout the day to feel the soft breeze from the mountains that would swoop through the house. The cicadas often had us yelling to communicate more often than not. ((Males disable their own tympana while calling, thereby preventing damage to their hearing; a necessity partly because some cicadas produce sounds up to 120 dB, which is among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds. For the human ear, it is often difficult to tell precisely where a cicada song originates.)) Having children twenty months apart, the cicadas sometimes came in handy.
Hanging Off The Side Of A Cliff
Knowing that this AirBnB rental was higher up in the mountains versus being at sea level, we knew we would have to play by ear how we would situate our dogs on the yard once we arrived. The front yard that over looked the Pacific, featured two yards on an upper level and a lower level, which was fantastic for the dogs to roam as well as the kids to play. Living abroad and being put into unknown situations, really opens the mind up when think-fast-mode. We quickly figured out how to contain the dogs from chasing an iguana or howler monkey off the yard and down the side of the cliff. The weather was a bit cooler in the mountains and the overhanging jungle offered shade on the yard for most of the day.
The kids often played soccer against the hill that led to the yard on the upper level, or played catch with a baseball and gloves. We were able to save a few balls that were missed and had rolled down the unpaved road. The slower (rolled) balls would end up rolling into a drain ditch that our hands could fit in and easily grab out. Others, weren’t so lucky and would roll right over the drain ditch and down the side of the cliff. It was known that if a ball gets kicked hard against the hill, it would roll over. Of course, sooner than later the soccer ball got kicked and went over the side of the cliff and landed stuck behind a tree truck rooted onto the side of the cliff, a few feet down. By this time, we had one kid in tears, knowing we couldn’t just go down the road to the store to get another one. Not only that, since we’ve moved, we have been trying to teach the kids the value of a dollar and spending money wisely on things you need more often times than on things you want. Before I knew it, I was laying with my stomach flat on the ground with the tips of my shoes planted in the soil as best as possible, while holding my husband’s ankles as he was hanging off the side of a cliff. My stomach churned and sweat poured down my face as he struggled to scoot down further trying to touch the ball with even just his fingertips. The cliff sat at a 90-degree angle, so we all knew there was no just climbing out. Luckily, with one hand, the ball had been retrieved and thrown backwards up towards the area of flat land and saved. We were able to tote that ball around the country for 9 months before it had gotten stolen. We still have yet to replace it.
When it comes to natural attractions in Costa Rica, beaches, volcanoes and rain forest take the spotlight. However, there is one other natural attraction that has been gaining more attention: waterfalls. Especially during rainy season, Costa Rica’s lush green forests, full rivers and massive volcanoes mean that wherever you go in the country, there are waterfalls. Thanks to the mountains and nearby volcanoes, there are many rivers and waterfalls in the Southern Pacific that we had the opportunity to partake in.
During our stay in Uvita, and only within a couple minute drive from our driveway thrives a popular waterfall with adventure, Uvita Waterfalls. The water that flows over the rocks at the pool of Uvita waterfall has smoothed out turning it into a natural water slide. The Unita Waterfall entrance fee is 1000 colones (or $2usd, cash only). From the parking lot there is a very short trail down to the waterfall that takes only 5 minutes. The trail isn’t really much of a trail as it is walking on rocks through the jungle. Dogs are often seen splashing around the pools of the waterfalls as well as children jumping from rocks situated along the side of the pool. It is not unusual to see small groups playing sitting on the rocks enjoying the falls playing hand held string instruments like the guitar, ukulele, banjo or mouth instruments like the harmonica. Its very easy to get caught up in the radiant vibes that the falls exude.
Uvita - Town
A quick 10-minute drive down the unpaved road from our AirBnB rental in mountains, sits the town of Uvita. Even though we had a 4x4 vehicle that would lead us up and down the rocky roads, I never trusted myself enough to make that drive. Uvita is a small village in Southern Costa Rica that has grown tremendously over the last few years and is the commercial center of Costa Ballena. Although Uvita is a small town, it is easy to get around and has all the basics such as supermarkets, pharmacies, local restaurants, street side sodas (small cafes), banks, cozy bars and gas stations. Uvita currently hosts about 1000 inhabitants and has a student population of more than 500.
The town has the main entrance to the national park and the beach. Playa Uvita is situated within the Marino Ballena National Park. This park was specifically created to protect the marine life such as coral, turtles, dolphins and humpback whales. This marine park is the highlight of the area and very popular between the months of December and April, due to humpback whales migrating here to the warm waters off the coast to mate before returning up north.
Additionally, Uvita is the best place in Costa Rica to see humpback whales. That fact was not lost on Mother Nature as the national park also has something the locals call the Whale’s Tail. The Whale’s Tail is an incredible formation of two beaches coming together to create one. During low tide, the rocks appear, creating what looks like the tail of a whale. Playa Uvita is a 3.2 km sand beach with moderate waves and crystal clear blue waters. Swimming conditions are ideal here. The best feature of Playa Uvita is its beautiful landscape with estuaries and mangrove swamps as well as lovely local village atmosphere.
Uvita is also known for the Envision Festival. The Envision Festival is one of the biggest festivals in the world and brings in thousands of people. It’s a 4-day festival on the beaches of Uvita, dedicated to awakening the inner self to a higher consciousness. There are concerts, meditation, yoga classes, fire dancing, food and performances. It is held the last week in February. Most compare The Envision Festival to a smaller Burning Man, which is held in Las Vegas, USA. With that said, Uvita is incredibly gorgeous in its own way with the peaceful and picturesque dark sand beaches and lush mountain jungle.
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
Who wouldn’t want to go to an animal sanctuary? Well, within just a 15 minute drive from Uvita is Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary. Not only do you get to see some of the worlds most interesting and beautiful beings, but helping out the sanctuary by purchasing a ticket is an incredible feeling; especially when you hear of the stories and backgrounds of each animal. Although there are other sanctuaries located within Costa Rica that don’t look out for the animals best interest, I can definitely say that Alturas is the complete opposite. They are always looking out for the animals best interest, which shows in every aspect of their sanctuary. Volunteering here is an option and highly recommended.
The sight of a small deer watching over a baby agouti (rodent like animal) like it was the mother, is one memory that will be sure to steal the heart away. From the scarlet macaws to the baby sloths and kinkajou this sanctuary is sure to win even the grumpiest person over. One story told during a visit was about a wild male monkey who had fallen for a female that was being held in captivity at the sanctuary and had gotten her pregnant through the enclosure. Births in captivity are unusual but tend to happen more often than most think. Sanctuaries try to prevent this type of thing due to having monkeys born in captivity. Most captive born animals die when released. Animals in captivity do not usually have the natural behaviors needed for success in the wild. Their lack of hunting skills and lack of fear towards humans are a major disadvantage. The Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary offers tours of the sanctuary from Tuesday - Sunday 9am, 11am, 1p, 3pm. Tours are offered in English and Spanish and are closed to the public on Mondays. Tours last between 1 - 1.5 hours and provide information on the sanctuaries history, aims and objectives, the animals’ individual stories and rescue work. Visitors are not allowed to touch the animals in accordance with Costa Rican law. Many of the animals in the sanctuary have had traumatic experiences at the hands of humans before being rescued. The sanctuary creates a natural captive environment for the animals with other members of their species. The hands-off policy allows the animals to live in a low stress but naturally enriched environment. The cost for the sanctuary: children under 3 - free; children (3-12) - $15; adults - $25.
When it comes to impressive waterfalls, Nauyaca Waterfalls in the South Pacific is the queen of them all. The waterfalls are located on a private property owned by a Costa Rican family. The entrance fee for the falls is $8 per person. Horseback riding is also an option $70 per person, as well as the pick up truck ride for $25 per person. The trail is about 4km through dense rainforest. The hike takes about 1.5 hours one way, depending on speed. The Nauyaca Waterfalls are located in a canyon approximately 80 meters wide. Nauyaca Waterfalls is one of Costa Rica’s most impressive cascades with two sets of falls measuring a combined 61 meters tall.
The lower falls have a large pool to swim and numerous areas to jump into the cool water from the rocks. Although there were people climbing to the top and jumping off, I could not bring myself to imitate their actions. However, the rocks closest to the pool were just my size to jump from. There is a lovely deep pool to swim and bathe in and plenty of rocks to sit on. This area allows for a stunning view of both waterfalls surrounded by lush green jungle and the sounds of nature. The upper falls have an impressive 43 meter cliff. These majestic waterfalls are one of the most main attractions of the southern region in Costa Rica.
The upper falls is comprised of several cascades but swimming in not permitted in this area. There are three ways to get to the waterfall. You can hike, go on a 4x4 truck, or go horseback riding. The trail is about 4 km through the dense rainforest. Although the 4x4 offers amazing views of the hills and mountains along the path to the waterfall, hiking was like being one with nature. Not only did we get to see the numerous species of birds and beautiful flowers, we also got to witness a green vine snake eyeing his next meal, so we quickly walked off so we wouldn’t scare off his prey.