April 18, 2023 – Tuesday – Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas) on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
2023 Panama Canal Cruise
I’m awake at 5am as the ship turns into the Gulf of Nicoya enroute to dock at Puerto Caldera near Puntarenas. Once the Explorations Cafe opens, I get a cappuccino to take back to my stateroom to enjoy on my balcony in the early morning sunshine. I have a bagel, lox and cream cheese with a passion fruit parfait for breakfast in my stateroom, since my excursion leaves at 8am this morning from the pier.
As our rather large group boards two buses, I’m happy to see that Swiss Travel are the excursion company today. I have lots of good experiences with this Costa Rican travel company, who provided services to TravelQuest on their Costa Rica astronomy tours in past years.
We drive for about an hour and a half along the Pan-American Highway (Carretera Interamericana Norte) inland from Puntarenas, passing small farms in the hills until we are almost at San Ramon. The Cloud Forest we visit today is in a private reserve – San Luis Adventure Park – San Luis Canopy Tour. We split up into groups and walk along the trails, and over four suspension bridges that provide elevated trails, which offer a bird’s-eye view of the cloud forest below. Each of these bridges stretches between 30 and 78 metres (95 and 253 feet) and is suspended up to 38 metres (126 feet) above the ground.
Our guide stops along the way to tell us about the flora and fauna found in the cloud forest. Our first stop is an open hummingbird garden, where I photograph Amazilia hummingbirds perched on the bushes in the area. Many people miss them, since they are busy talking and moving about. I keep still and move away from the crowds in order to get some good sightings.
Other than the hummingbirds, we don’t spot other birds, butterflies or small mammals. Our guide talks about the plants, such as orchids, heliconias, ferns, bromeliads and other species of aerial plants that are part of this habitat.
After we slowly hike up the hill back to the main office, we enjoy a traditional Costa Rican lunch of beans, rice, vegetables and a choice of chicken or fish. I have the fish, which is very good. There are also some fruit drinks available from a self-serve fountain that is included with the lunch.
On our way back to the ship we stop at El Jardín, which has a massive souvenir shop, a display garden and decorated ox carts in the back, along with a screened area containing some butterflies. I take video of the butterflies with my iPhone, since I know from past experience it is hopeless to take photos of butterflies as they constantly flit about our heads.
The excursion returns at about 3:15pm, just beating the All Aboard time of 3:30pm. The ship doesn’t pull away from the dock until 4:45pm, 45 minutes late due to excursions returning a bit late. We have three days at sea until we reach Puerto Vallarta, so being a bit late leaving port isn’t an issue.