In Costa Rica, Sodas are not carbonated sugary or diet drinks. Rather they are cheaper restaurants that feature both local flavors and “fast foods” (i.e. hamburgers and fries and other tourist aimed food).
I particularly love eating at sodas, primarily because of their cheaper prices, but also because of how they vary from region to region. My favorite thing to eat is “casados” which literally means marriage and is used in this reference as a marriage of food. For anywhere from $3.00 to $5.00 you can feast on a plate of rice, beans, salad, a veggie of some sort (varies by region, soda and day), your choice of meat or vegetarian (chicken, beef or fish) and often times a few slices of sweet fried plantains for dessert. All of this deliciousness is served on a single plate and is very satisfying! Whether you are on a budget or not, I would highly recommend a stop in a soda or two!!
One interesting note on this topic: pollo is chicken, carne is beef. While carne literally translates to meat, they mean it to mean beef. It’s quite humorous sometimes because vegetarian friends of mine have stated to waiters that they don’t eat meat (i.e. carne) and are happily told that they also serve fish or chicken if they don’t eat carne! So if you are vegetarian, be sure to specifically say “vegetarian” and skip the statement that you “don’t eat meat” or you too will be offered other meat varieties that aren’t beef.
When dining out anywhere in Costa Rica, unless you are dining out at very high-end places, do not expect your wait staff to wait on you hand and foot as they do in the states. They will come by to get your order, deliver your food, and when you ask for it, deliver the bill (la cuenta). They will not come by to see how your food is or whether you need a refill for your water and they definitely will never ask you if you are ready for the bill. Don’t take this personally- it’s just the way the culture is. If you want or need something during your meal, simply get the attention of someone working and they will come to you. And when the time comes for the bill, once you get the eye of your server a simple mimic of writing a scribble in the air also suffices as asking for the bill.
Volcan, as you may guess, means Volcano in Spanish. This particular volcano however was not a cone volcano, but rather a geyser. It is apparently the largest active geyser in the world! But I’m getting ahead…
I took a bus ride to the volcano with all my gear in tow thinking there was a town nearby where I could stay for the night, and not really fully understanding that the volcano was located in a National Park… Therefore NO sleeping facilities… In any event, the ride there was almost entirely uphill and quite cloudy. There literally were times when I had to stop watching the road and just trust that the driver knew what he was doing because it became so cloudy at times that it was hard to see more than a few feet ahead!!
We reached the National Park entrance and all tourists on the bus were asked to get off so we could pay. All National Parks in Costa Rica cost $10.00 for tourists to enter, but if you are local it’s cheaper. I’m not entirely sure how much cheaper, but none of the locals had to get off the bus to pay, but rather they were all counted up and paid for by the bus driver. It was standing in the line to pay for the park where I met two fellow Americans. One was teaching English to students in Alajuela, and the other was a retired gentleman who was going to head to Puerto Viejo after a short stay in Alajuela to potentially retire there.
Once all the payment business was over we loaded onto the bus and were dropped off in the bus parking lot… Perhaps now is the time to bring up again that since I was thinking that I could stay the night in or at least very near the park, I had brought my backpack with me… Well, when we were all getting off the bus, since I wasn’t sure whether we were going to have the same exact bus on the way back down, I thought it best to bring my backpack with me. But what this meant was that I was going to get a bit more exercise than I had signed up for originally, lol!! Basically I hiked all around the park with my dang backpack cinched on me and cursing every time I had to walk uphill, lol!!
In any event, after getting off the bus I simply followed the signs and my two new friends up the trail to the volcano. My oh my what a view…
Isn’t it just fantastic?!?!?! Ok, now I know it doesn’t look like much, but believe it or not you are actually looking at the volcano in this picture. Everyone looked and looked and looked around for some sign of where exactly this volcano was, but because of the low clouds, all you could see (as above) was mist. My two friends and I hung around for a little while longer and agreed that this (the dense fog) was probably the reason we were given 3 hours to hang around the park. Apparently dense fog is quite common at this volcano and one must be very patient if they want to actually see it.
Patience wasn’t very high on our list however, and since there were two other trails that led to a lake beside the geyser volcano, we decided to try our luck and see whether the lake was visible. Up and up and up we hiked through dense jungle forest on teeny concrete paths until again meeting our final destination. And can you believe it??? The lake looked exactly like the picture above!! Nothing but dense fog!!
Once again we resolved to simply hang out for a little bit and got to chatting. And then it happened… In mid-sentence one of my new friends gasped at the image that unfolded in front of us. The clouds suddenly lifted revealing a beautiful green lake!
This beautiful view literally only lasted about 10 minutes and then the fog once again swept in and obscured the lake from view. Thinking perhaps to try our luck at the geyser we immediately left (all downhill thankfully) and headed back to the geyser.
The rain started to pour down on us as we went down and I even had to stop to put on my poncho before getting too soaked! Once back to our original station at the geyser, the fog once again showed no signs of lifting. But about 10 minutes later, just as it had at the lake, the fog miraculously lifted and you could see the geyser!!
Just as the mist came and went within 10 minutes at the lake, the same was true for the geyser! We really lucked out on our timing for this trip!!
After waiting for the fog to close back over the geyser, we headed back for a snack at the cafe in the park and awaited our bus. It was on the bus ride back that I was offered a free couch for the night at the girls place. I accepted the generous offer and we were all dropped off in Alajuela. The rest of the night was spent hanging out with my two new friends and the girls boyfriend. We had a great dinner at a local soda then wandered the streets for some ice cream at a chain place called Pops. Personally I wasn’t impressed by the ice cream there, but many people seem to enjoy it, so to each their own!