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Celebrating Guanacaste’s Choice – Guanacaste Day

July 25 - Guanacaste Day

From Spain, to Nicoya, to Costa Rica — Celebrating Guanacaste’s Choice

July 25th, or as we call it, the Annexation of Guanacaste Day, marks the date when a portion of Nicaragua became a piece of Costa Rica way back in 1824. Of course, the territory had been someone else’s, long before the first Conquistador ever arrived, but let’s fast forward to the last two centuries if we may…this post isn’t that long. 😉

Back then, Nicaragua was embroiled in civil war, and since the inhabitants of Guanacaste decided not to be a part of it, they requested to join Costa Rica. The vote was made, papers signed, and the Central American Federation ratified the measure. Across the border, the date is commemorated for different reasons as the Nicaraguan press like to rehash the legalities of the adoption. Some things are hard to let go of apparently…

Despite the bad blood across the border, Guanacaste citizens have embraced their Costa Rican identity. Their famous motto “De la Patria por nuestra voluntad,” that translates to ‘Of the country from our choice’ evidences this pride. The election to join Costa Rica demonstrates democracy; an essential Costa Rican value.

The celebration is a national holiday. The province of Guanacaste is a huge hub of activity with many different cultural festivities. Guanacaste Day’s importance is confirmed as all banks, governmental offices, public services and businesses are closed for the day.

I’ve personally enjoyed many festive activities, including the spectacles, such as the typical dances, folk music and more. Of the many parades, one of which involves costumed school students parading through the streets. My favorite shows are the bullfights because they have always been such a part of the celebration. As a nature-oriented country, Costa Rican bullfighting differs from the classic Spanish matador-led show of bravado and blood. Tico-style bullfights involve young men baiting or teasing the animal around a rodeo ring for twenty to thirty seconds of pure adrenaline. This brave rite of passage finishes with the bull angry, but alive and well to perform yet another day.

On a calmer note, Guanacaste’s streets are lined with artisan goods and local dishes — like corn-based foods and barbecued beef. Once the marching bands have reached the park in the afternoon, there’s live music, firework displays and typical dancing in the later hours. The well-known ‘Caballito Nicoyano’ (little horse from Nicoya) and the other national dances of Costa Rica, like the ‘Punto Guanacasteco’, are frequently performed during the festival.

The marimba (precursor to the xylophone) is the national instrument of Costa Rica and an intrinsic part of the celebrations as is the Nicoyan traditional bomba from the word ‘bombeta’, meaning firecracker.

The four lines of light-hearted poetry, with the second rhyming with the last, are delivered in a musical pause, and is usually comical — frequently uses a twist or risqué pun in the final line to raise a laugh from the audience. Passed from generation to generation, a famous example of this folklore would be:

Las ramas del tamarindothe branches of the tamarind
se revolvieron con las del cocointertwine with those of the coconut
mi mamá no quiere que yo me casemy mother doesn’t want me to marry
ni yo tampoco.And me neither!

 
The person delivering the bomba will usually then ‘whoop’ in a distinctive fashion which is famously Guanecastecan.

In retrospect, it’s an amazing experience. Oh, I almost forget to tell you about the morning music band. A Cimarrona band (composed of wind instruments and a bass drum) will pass by the houses, waking up the people of the neighborhood and encouraging them to leave their houses to greet the band and and partake in the small, early morning parade.

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El Cadejo #FrighteningFriday

Hellhound of Costa Rica

No one can agree whether it was in Nicoya circa 1830, or Liberia at the turn of the nineteenth century, or even near Papagayo years later. However, they all share the same story. Don Elias, a typical Guanacaste peasant, who worked with his bare hands through the daily, searing 90° heat of the region, and liked to wet his whistle at the local bar after sundown. The beers and spirits would flow until last call, where he’d find himself staggering the two miles home, along a dark, lonely potholed road, shaded by tall trees so thick that the moon’s beams could not even penetrate.

On this particular evening, Don Elias heard heavy steps of a large animal prowling behind him. It wasn’t like anything he’d ever heard before. He was horrified. Then the clanging of chains striking the rocks as they dragged past sent chills through him. He prayed it was just the drinks playing games with his mind.

The sensation of being followed increased…he broke into a panicked run, but barefoot and with blurred vision, he tumbled and fell to the ground. When he regained focus, a huge dog, the size of a bull and as black as night, was starring with glaring, red eyes over him. Don Elias fled in terror…knowing that he had encountered “El Cadejo,” the hellhound that stalks drunkards on their way back home.

That night, Don Elias arrived home unharmed, but he was so shaken that he never drank again.

It is rumored that Jose Joaquin, the lazy and disrespectful third son of a humble couple, was a dedicated drunk and trouble rouser. Night after night, year after year, Jose would stagger into the family home in the wee morning hours, unable to even stand, until one night when his father cursed him to walk on his four limbs for eternity. Thus, “El Cadejo” was doomed to roam forever after the inebriated late at night.

El Cadejos is a devilish, bull-sized dog with thick, black fur and eyes as red as Hell, weighed down by clanking chains. A common legend in Costa Rica and in Central America as a whole, there are many regional variations of this tale. Specifically in Costa Rica, the legend speaks of a mystical animal who accompanies, but doesn’t directly harm, the drunkards to their destinations. Although…its paranormal characteristics ensure that none dare to stay with the creature and all flee to safety.

Black hellhound stories are told in many countries across the world. Connecticut boasts of a small black dog that haunts the Hanging Hills and locals believe that to see the hound three times is a death omen. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, blends folklore, featuring terrifying supernatural black canine figures, to create one of Sherlock Holmes’ most memorable mysteries. More similar to El Cadejo are the Belgian tales of black dogs known as “Chained Hound” and “Old Red Eyes” that remind us of the most frightening features of the Costa Rican black dog.

 

Image © Poas Rent A Car. All Rights Reserved.
Artist Dan Mora
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Atenas #TravelTuesday

Church
Sunny Park Benches

Just twenty minutes from San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport, and thirty from the capital city, San Jose, is a beautiful and fairly extensive valley, surrounded by mountain ranges and characterized by the conical form of its hills. But perhaps Atenas’ greatest fame comes from National Geographic’s claim that it has the best climate in the world.

Atenas’ celebrated climate is due to its location. The town is 700 meters above sea level, and surrounded by mountains that reach upwards another 530 meters, making for temperate and pleasant weather. Temperatures regulated by warm winds from the San Ramon region and that enter through the depressions caused by the Montes del Aguacate or Avocado Hills, and the influence of the dry Western Zone, benefits the region. It’s little wonder that the largest population of expats outside of Escazu chose to settle here.

Since 2005, the Fiesta de Clima or the Climate Festival, has been celebrated in Atenas at the end of April with traditional activities such as an ox-cart parade – which recalls the town’s past when it was part of the route to transport coffee to port to ship overseas. Independence Day on September 15th is celebrated nationwide but with great enthusiasm with uniformed marching bands, parades, and bystanders dressed in national dress for visitors wishing to experience an authentic Costa Rican holiday.

I was lucky enough to grow up in the Montes del Aguacate and went to high school in Atenas, so the small town is close to my heart. It hasn’t changed much in the last decades, although there are more commercial buildings and expat retirees’ residences on the hillsides, Atenas remains a close-knit agricultural community with a population of around 8,000. One of the best characteristics of Atenas is its warm, honest and friendly people – just like it’s weather.

Atenas was declared a county of Alajuela Province on August 7th, 1868, bordering the counties of Naranjo, Palmares, Grecia and San Ramon to the north and the counties of the San Jose counties of Mora and Turrubares to the south, Grecia and Alajuela to the east and San Mateo and Orotina to the west.

The area is known as one of the best coffee producers in the country, thanks to the privileged geography of its mountainous zones, and in its farmers’ markets, local organic farm produce is sold in addition to its coffee. Friendly vendors share the essence of Atenas hospitality while selling fruit, vegetables, bread, flowers, plants, and dairy and meat products to satisfied customers.

The town is ideally located to provide views over beautiful landscapes across to the Central Valley and down to the Pacific Ocean, where in summer months, the sunsets fill the sky with orange as night falls. La Zopilota or the Vulture viewing point offers spectacular views across the San Ramon, Palmares and the Central Valley, and Vistas Atenas or Atenas Views has more Central Valley panoramas to delight the observer. Locals enjoy the ancient pastime of people watching from benches in the park, which is a place to relax and greet passers-by.

Local gossip insists that MacGyver actor, Richard Dean Anderson, has a home in the area.

 

Getting there:

From our Poas office in Alajuela, take the Pan-American Highway east for 14 kms, then exit right for the Manolos overpass. Take the first left and drive 14kms further to enter Atenas.

From Poas San Jose Airport Office to Atenas: Approximately 30 minutes + traffic. Check out the routes here -> From Poas (SJO) to Atenas.

 

Recommended Car Category:

Sedan Car Category

Sedan :: CDMR – CDAR

Sedans are a common sight on the well-maintained and smoothly paved city streets and highways of the Central Valley. Rental rates for a sedan are cheaper than renting an SUV. Sightseeing, parking and fuel economy will be less stressful in a sedan when driving around the San Jose area.

If your vacation plans include day trips to the beach, mountains or anywhere else off urban roads, an intermediate SUV should be considered for the higher road clearance.

Reserve Yours Today!

Where to eat:

Roadside CafeEnjoy a coffee or cup of agua dulce, the warm drink made from unrefined sugar, at La Casita del Café at Estanquillos on the old Atenas road while watching the sun go down. It is a great spot to sample some typical Costa Rican food, such as gallo pinto, casado, tamales, and potato or papaya picadillo while overlooking the green mountains of San Mateo sweeping down to the ocean. I’d recommend El Balcon Café for its attractive balcony seating and great chicken sandwiches accompanied by a Moccachino, and Pizzeria La Finca for Italian flavour. Don’t miss the Salvadoran speciality, pupusas or rice flour tortillas, served at Las Fiestas de las Pupusas with a variety of fillings from cheese to chicken.

Price: Reasonable. Currency IconCurrency Icon

 

Where to stay:

Villa Atenas

Image © Joe & Nancy Rees

Villa Tamarindo de Atenas is my recommended place to stay in Atenas. Accommodating six, this vacation rental home is nestled by lush, tropical gardens with stunning views overlooking both the Rio Grande and Central Valleys; the Poas, Barva and Irazu volcanoes provide backdrops as the morning sun illuminates the tropical hideaway. Hosts Joe and Nancy designed their Balinese-style home to optimize outdoor space with three separate pavilions, surrounding a large swimming pool, yet providing privacy and tranquility.

Price: Modest for Six People. Currency IconCurrency IconCurrency Icon

 

Soundtrack:

Mellow into the Atenas pace of life with the laid-back beats and indie vocals of Heredia’s The Aimers on their first EP entitled, Memories of Mandattan.

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San Jose #TravelTuesday

San Jose has long been viewed as an unavoidable entry and exit point by visitors looking for beaches, rainforests and to experience nature. The traffic can be intense, there’s no signage, and your head will spin with all the activity, but the much-maligned city has much to offer its guests in culture and authenticity so is worth adding to any travel itinerary.

Costa Rica’s capital city is named for Saint Joseph and is the county’s largest city with a population of 333,981. It is one of the newest capitals in Central America as it was established in 1738. The decision was made to base the country’s government away from the original capital, Cartago, which was shaken by earthquakes and covered in layers of volcanic ash.

The country’s prosperity in the 1970s and 1980s led to a flurry of construction in the city, but colonial-style buildings and nicely shaded parks can still be found amid the modern and less attractive parts of the capital. Like many modern cities worldwide, there has been large-scale construction of shopping malls and nightlife spots outside of its center, but the city has made a recent return into fashion with trendy hangouts and coffee bars making it the place to be for local trendsetters.

As a Josefino, I have a genuine affection for my city which is small enough to walk across but large enough to provide the visitor and local with diverse and authentic experiences of Costa Rica. Park in one of the fenced parking lots, where a nominal hourly rate will ensure that your vehicle is watched until you return, and start exploring!

For the true taste of genuine San Jose, look no further than the Central Market, in the very heart of the city.  The tiny stalls inside the bustling market offer a wealth of goods from herbs and spices to butchers and fishmongers, and clothes. In pre-internet days, when Poas maintained offices on either end of Paseo Colon, my father would stroll with me up to the market for a hearty breakfast pinto or lunch soup perched on stools at one of the tiny sodas (as local restaurants are called), which still serve some of the best typical food around. The flurry of sights, sounds and smells are as exciting today as they were as a child.

Of course, it isn’t all fun and food. My city offers its guests plenty of culture and history too so let’s begin with the Poas Museum Guide:

 

Costa Rican Art Museum

The former control tower of Costa Rica’s first International Airport of Costa Rica became the Costa Rican Art Museum in 1977. The building was constructed in neo-colonial style in 1930 but was no longer in use after the airport was relocated to its current site in Alajuela. Its protected status, history and architectural elegance made it the perfect location to house the 6,000 local and international works of art. At the top of the wooden staircase in the museum’s center, visitors can see the old VIP reception area – the Bronze Room – with Costa Rica’s history embossed around its four walls starting with the Conquistadors’ arrival to the country’s economic boom in the exportation of coffee and fruit. Larger sculptures form an attractive patioed garden outside, and if these are not enough to satisfy your art appreciation, the adjoining Sabana Park offers more.

 

Jade Museum

As the name suggests, this small museum is dedicated to displaying examples of the country’s pre-Columbian jade work. The jade tradition passed through three distinct stages between 500BC and 900AD when gold became the preferred valuable raw material for jewelry and artifacts. The jade pieces incorporate animal and human forms reflecting the beliefs of the indigenous creators of these beautiful objects. The museum has been collecting archeological pieces of jade since its beginning in 1971, and its relocation and modernization to an interactive and child-friendly spacious depiction of Costa Rica’s ancient cultures make this museum a must-see.

 

National Museum

The Bellavista or Beautiful View Fortress was built in 1917 as a military barracks, and was a strategic location in Costa Rica’s brief civil war in 1948, as the bullets still embedded in the walls testify. President Jose Figueres Ferrer declared the abolition of the army the following year, and this act is commemorated on the fortress wall. In 1950, the building was established as a museum for the country’s history and culture. Today it exhibits Pre-Columbian History, Indigenous gold, Costa Rican History, a Colonial house, and old fortress cells with original graffiti drawn by inmates in the 1940s. An unexpected treat for visitors is the Butterfly Room by which visitors enter the museum for a burst of tropical color, and kids will enjoy playing in the pretend supermarket complete with shopping carts.

 

Gold Museum

Located below the Plaza de la Cultura in the heart of the capital, the museum holds 1,600 pre-Columbian gold artifacts created between 500 AD and 1500 AD. Gold was regarded as a symbol of authority by indigenous people just as in other nations, and represent the ancient beliefs of the tribes. The gold ornamentation attracted Columbus’ eye when he arrived on Costa Rican shores and earned the country its name of Rich Coast. The Museum also has an exhibit of Costa Rican coins, banknotes, coffee tokens, paper money, documents and pictures.

 

Museo de los Ninos / Children’s Museum

Housed in the abandoned Central Penitentiary, the Children’s Museum was opened in 1994 after its transformation to an interactive and exciting learning experience for families. Suitable for children of all ages, the earthquake simulator was a big hit with the kids there; they were all laughing as the adults tried to maintain our balance on the shaking platform. The building houses the 526 seat National Auditory and fourteen room National Gallery.

San Jose’s cultural offerings will easily fill a morning pre-flight or a day between tours for an enjoyable city exploration to contrast with beach and jungle time.

 

Recommended Car Category:

Mitsubishi Mirage Car

Sedan :: CDMR – CDAR

A practical transport option for Costa Rica’s Central Valley and nearest beaches, such as Jaco and Manuel Antonio. Economical on fuel and rental cost, this car is a wise choice for city driving, and ideal for the business traveler or visitors remaining in the capital and surrounding area.

Reserve Yours Today!

Where to stay:

Patio DiningDowntown Hotel & RestaurantDitch the cookie cutter large international chain hotels for an authentic Costa Rican flavor in the carefully restored and converted Victorian homes which compose San Jose’s Grano del Oro Hotel. The upscale boutique hotel is situated in the heart of the capital city, but with its charming courtyard gardens and fountains, feels removed from the busy streets to provide a relaxing stay within walking distance of many of the popular sights.

With just thirty-four rooms, from standard to the luxurious Vista del Oro suite, guests receive the personalized service and attention to detail that simply isn’t possible in a large establishment.

Price: High-end, but well worth the splurge. Currency IconCurrency IconCurrency Icon

 

Soundtrack:

As they sing “dance until dawn”, Entrelineas rocks their Tico beat specifically geared for the San Jose metro area – where their video was produced and recorded – and also a fitting theme song for this post.

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Monteverde #TravelTuesday

When you grow up in Costa Rica, your family has one idea for the vacations – to head to the beach. I spent my childhood in idyllic vacations with days filled with sun, sea and sand, but it never occurred to me that my vacations would be spent anywhere but at the beach. Working with visitors from other countries is a great eye-opener as they sometimes see more of my own country in a two-week vacation than I’ve seen in a lifetime, but I’m working to put that right by exploring Costa Rica with my wife and family!

Monteverde

It was our first trip to Monteverde, which couldn’t be a more different trip than a beach vacation. The “Green Mountain” as it translates to in English is 1,800 meters above sea level and although the sun shines, the dense forest cover and frequent mists mean that it feels much cooler and damper than other parts of the country at lesser altitudes. The attraction of Monteverde is its wonderful biodiversity within the cloud forests which cover the mountainsides. The area was once an indigenous settlement, but the elusive tribes that inhabited the region left little trace of their existence or reasons for departure. Many of its current inhabitants are descended from the adventurous band of Quakers who set up their dairy farming community here in the 1950s to avoid the draft and to establish one of Costa Rica’s most successful cheese producers.

Like most tourists to the area, our interest was in seeing and hiking the protected reserves, and we made an early start from San Jose, loading our hiking gear into the trunk to cover the three-hour journey to Monteverde. The first couple of hours sped by with our favorite music providing the soundtrack to our adventure. Our last hour up the mountainside was different, and we tried valiantly to drive around the potholes rather than through them, watching as hardy locals overtook us on small scooters. But once we rounded a bend to gasp at the spectacular panorama over the misty forests below, it was all worthwhile. The small, but bustling town of Santa Elena is situated to provide a tourist base with restaurants, accommodation and tour companies jostling for attention among the amenities offered such as the bank and pharmacy. While some visitors are taken aback by the level of tourism in the mountains, the relatively inaccessibility of the cloud forest reserves makes a day trip out of the question, and Santa Elena has grown to serve those flocking to immerse themselves in the natural surroundings.

We were glad that we’d chosen a hotel off the main stretch where we were close enough to town to have a choice of restaurants but far enough out of the crowds to listen to bird songs from our room.

After tucking in to a typical breakfast of Gallo Pinto, scrambled eggs and tortillas, we were ready to hike the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Just a few short minutes’ drive from Santa Elena, the reserve is run by a non-profit organization, the Tropical Science Center, after being established in 1972 by a U.S. biologist and members of the Quaker community. The $20 entrance fee all goes towards maintaining this vital eco-system and its research facilities for future generations, so we were more than happy to contribute our fees.

Cloud Forest TreesWith thirteen kilometers of trails to choose from covering much of the 10,500 hectares of reserve, we decided to push ourselves with a 2 ½ hour hike on the El Rio or River Trail, and the Pantanoso or Swampy Trail. I’ve always believed that you don’t need to be on the athletics team to hike, and we choose the trail that suits us best and rest along the way if we need to. There are guided tours available and this is probably the best way to learn more about the flora and fauna of the reserve, but we were happy going at our own pace and enjoying the views from the observation points along the way.

Small FlowerDespite the cool air, we drank through our bottles of water fast and it is best to bring plenty for the walk. My wife had a lightweight waterproof jacket in her backpack and I found myself wishing that I’d brought mine, as despite the sunlight peeping weakly through the thick canopy, the tree coverage was dripping constantly. The reserve is ninety percent virgin forest and it is easy to believe that the mossy, misty forest is timeless. Although the region is home to 2.5% of the world’s diversity with one hundred species of mammals and more than four hundred species of birds, the forest is strangely quiet. We saw and heard birds along the trails, but despite my hopes, the Quetzal wasn’t one on our list. My wife’s passion for orchids was satisfied though, which thrive in this climate among the 2,500 plant species. There’s a real satisfaction in breathing in a lungful of fresh mountain air and feeling the breeze on our faces as we entered the forest’s cool. The thousands of different tones of greens of the plants and trees and the incredible sight of immense trees stretching high up into the forest canopy took our breath away. The sound of the wind through the leaves, and the hum and buzz of insects combines with the rain dropping for a background symphony that fails to interrupt the overriding calm and peace. By the time we emerged from the end of the trail, muddy, sticky, and with our hearts beating form the exertion, the moisture in the air was welcome to cool our faces.

We tried an afternoon hike too, but the darkness falls early under the thick forest and we were forced to move at a fast pace to exit before nightfall. Other than recommending morning hikes, I’d suggest bringing plenty of repellent to ward off the mosquitoes. No one likes getting bitten!

We’ll be back to Monteverde without a doubt to hike further, and to take advantage of the area’s activities to zipline and I’d like to take a night tour to see the nocturnal creatures that make Monteverde their home – although my wife is determined to skip that one!

 

Getting there:

There are 3 main routes to exit the Metropolitan area, and all of them will merge at the Pan-American Highway in Barranca, Puntarenas. The fastest road is usually Highway 27 and it’s the one I’d recommend. The toll booths will accept local currency or small dollar bills in payment.

 

Recommended Car Category:

Standard SUV :: SFMR – SFAR

This crossover SUV is a five-passenger vehicle with a larger engine and more space than the intermediate. This 4×4 vehicle has great clearance to take you where you want to go. Available in either manual or automatic transmission.

Reserve Yours Today!

Where to stay:

Poco a Poco Hotel MonteverdeWe stayed at Hotel Poco A Poco just outside of Santa Elena. The spacious room was well equipped with a coffeemaker, cable TV and A/C, although the cool temperatures made the latter unnecessary for our visit. It may be that tourists from colder climes would appreciate the A/C though.

We enjoyed sitting on the small balcony with the view over the mountains with our early morning coffee, just the perfect way to begin the day. We slept well, but that was as much due to the hiking as the comfortable beds. The hotel restaurant offered complimentary breakfast which included great coffee as well as traditional dishes.

Price: Mid-range. Currency IconCurrency Icon

 

Soundtrack:

For a tuneful taste of the cloud forest, our musical choice to accompany this blog post (and your drive there) is a Costa Rican band named Magpie Jay. Check them out!

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Sharing Tico Beats

Image © Fernando Amador Chanto & Google

In 1928, José Raventós opened what is now the Melico Salazar Theatre in downtown San Jose to perform the operettas of Esperanza Iris. Fifty-four years later, Poas opened our first office a mile away from the same theatre that had been named in honor of the most important and influential Costa Rican lyrical singer, who was known worldwide.

We have seen our cities, roads, cars and fashions change through the years and of course, music has changed too. Costa Rica started to import musical genres, like disco, just as it did other trends.

In the ‘80s, more Costa Rican bands started making their own style of music like: La Banda, Marfil, Jaque Mate, La Pandylla with the unique Latin genre, Chiqui – Chiqui, a blend of Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue, Calypso and other Latin rhythms.

A decade later, there was another boom in Costa Rica music, which was now more rock-oriented with bands as Ghandi, Tango India, El Parque, Kadeho leading a new generation.

Winning the Grammy

Ruben Blades with Editus

In the 2000, the Modern Jazz Band, Editus, put Costa Rica on the musical map by winning the “Best Pop Latin Interpretation of the Year” Grammy with Ruben Blades for their hit, Times. Three years later, Editus and Blades won two more Grammys, Best World Music Album and Best Tropical Contemporary Album, for their collaboration Mundo.

Today, Costa Rica has a great variety of genres, bands and stages. El Café Chorale, the most successful choir of Costa Rica started in 1994 and has been highly awarded worldwide.

Malpais Farewell Show

Malpais at the National Stadium

Bands like Malpais, explore a contemporary folk genre with “Costa Rican New Song” — a tribute to folklore music with a mix of calypso, Latin, jazz. The band was formed by well-known musician, Manuel Obregon, who was the Minister of the Ministry of Youth and Culture. With the sudden death of lead singer Fidel Gamboa, a last concert and tribute was held at the National Stadium, with an attendance of 30,000 people — the largest crowd a Costa Rican band has ever attracted.

MishCatt, a Costa Rican artist, has hit the charts with 25 million plays of her music on Spotify. Her EP was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden and produced by Pontus Winnberg (Miike Snow, Amason).

Poas understands what it means to be Costa Rican and creating a new path. As a small, local company striving to make a name for ourselves, surrounded by well-known international brand franchises, we can sympathize with the fight that other Costa Ricans have had to establish themselves as artists in a very competitive, worldwide music scene. That’s why we want to share only Costa Rican music with our clients — from different genres, different parts of the country, and new bands that have worked hard to stand out.

Help us to welcome a new era of local musicians by clicking, sharing and enjoying!

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Poás Volcano

Poas Rent A Car takes its name from the volcano closest to the country’s capital and the agency’s first office. Poás reflects the company being “proudly Costa Rican” as the volcano and surrounding national park are symbolic of the country’s natural beauty, and environmental commitment. Costa Rican owned and operated, Poas offers local warmth and international standards of vehicle quality and professionalism.

And so, for my childhood years, my father and his Poas partners felt that every visitor should be taken to view the volcano that gave our company its name. I have blurred memories of the winding road through rolling hills with family, friends, and business associates to the famed aquamarine lake of Poás Volcano.

Recently, I returned to the Poás National Park with my cousins, Santiago and Yessenia, from the United States to continue the family tradition of a day out and was pleasantly surprised at how unchanged it was from my recollections. Yessenia was less than enthusiastic at the dawn start to reach the volcano peak before it clouded over, and at the idea of leaving her new bikinis unpacked to take a waterproof jacket, but we persuaded her that the trip would be worth sacrificing her sleep and fashion sense. We headed off towards Alajuela for the hour’s drive, aiming to get to the park as it opened at 8:00am for our best chance of clear views across the acidic Lago Caliente or Hot Lake that bubbles with volcanic activity.

We left the city on the main Pan-American Highway to head through the airport city of Alajuela before taking the smaller route to San Pedro de Poas out of the city center and started to climb up the hillsides. The air was fresh and wispy clouds lay low on the pastures where cows watched us pass, as we drove around the bends on the mountain road to the park’s entrance. As a popular tourist attraction, there is a safe parking lot just before the visitor’s gate and my cousins paid the $10 entry fee to begin our adventure. The short trail to the center point of the park is paved and was an easy stroll although we had to pause along the way to pose against the huge, tropical foliage for Yessenia’s Instagram shots.

We were so lucky that the panorama over the mile-wide crater was clear. On previous visits, cloud cover has disappointed visitors and we’ve huddled together in our rain jackets to peer hopefully into the mists for a glimpse of the lake below. Our crack of dawn exit from the house was rewarded with the spectacular sight of the blue-green waters and the tell-tale aroma of sulfur emitted by the volcano’s rumblings under the surface. And you better believe that it stinks! Although Costa Rica has other volcanoes, each with their unique characteristics, there is no other crater lake with such incredible color. As more visitors started to join us at the viewing platform, we left – the sign asks that visitors move on after ten minutes so that everyone can get the best views.

As we still had the whole day ahead of us, we headed for Lake Botos trail that starts near the crater lake. The less-visited crater is also filled with a lake, but unlike the Hot Lake, the waters are completely transparent and it’s surrounded by cloud forest for a peaceful scene. The trail’s downward slope is steep and unpaved, although it is not that long – allow an hour to walk around to the lake and along the Escalonia trail. We had our eyes peeled but weren’t fortunate enough to see any of the rare Queztales that are occasionally spotted here. We did see loads of squirrels and the little brown yiguirro, which is Costa Rica’s national bird, as well as more brightly colored birdlife that had Santiago reaching for his camera. The winds at this height stunt the tree growth, and push the branches into strange angles to create what is known as a dwarf cloud forest. The hike was not a challenge although we were glad to have switched to sneakers as the gravelly path and incline would have been difficult wearing sandals. With the temperature picking up despite the descending clouds, and our exercise, we were ready to ditch the rainproof jackets and finish the trail in t-shirts and hastily applied sun-screen. One of the big pluses for Santiago was that the altitude was high enough that mosquitoes weren’t around to plague him, as he is usually a magnet for biting bugs.

Our stomachs were growling as we waited for Yessenia to browse the selection of souvenirs at the gift shop, but we decided to skip the small, crowded café to get a hearty gallo pinto with all the works — sour cream, eggs, and sausage — at a restaurant with mountain views. After washing this down with fresh orange juice and coffee, we were ready for the rest of our day. We debated whether to visit the La Paz Waterfall gardens or to see the painted ox-carts at Sarchi, but eventually settled for a nearby coffee tour so that Santiago could see his favorite beverage from the bean to the cup. I stopped at a roadside stand to pick up the some punnets of the sweet strawberries that are famous in the region to take home to my mom, and our day was complete.

I’m glad that I have these memories, both new and old, of my times visiting the volcano with loved ones, as I’m sure many others are as well. I’m looking forward to sharing it with my son — once he’s old enough to walk on his own. Carrying him is just too much! 😉

When you arrive in Costa Rica, please try to experience our national treasure and company namesake — Volcán Poás. It’s worth it.

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