Costa Rica is a gorgeous place. Saw everything from monkeys to crocodiles to millipedes. There's nothing quite like being woken up by howler monkeys at 5 in the morning. The highlight: the group (I was with a tour group) happened to be walking along a beach near sunset at Tortugero, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, when a nearby green sea turtle nest just happened to hatch out. Around 75 little turtle-lings all scrambled down the beach to the sea. It was great. Costa Rica has a very high proportion of its territory dedicated to national parks and wildlife refuges, and eco-tourism is a huge part of its economy.
I was particularly impressed by how well the country, though poor by American standards, provides basic necessities for all its people. In Costa Rica, the nonprofit government-owned utilities will run an electric line and water plumbing to any house, no matter how remote it is and whatever the cost--which is why over 95% of the houses in rural Costa Rica have electricity and potable water. Not only does ALL of Costa Rica's electricity come from renewable sources, but the country produces enough of it that it is able to sell its excess electricity to the rest of Central America. And every rural village with more than 15 children has a school--and those with fewer get transportation to the closest nearby school.
Costa Rica also has a pretty large American expat community. Most of them, sadly, live in wealthy gated developments where they don't bother to learn the local language or culture, and where the only locals they ever see are their maids and gardeners. The Costa Ricans (quite rightly) resent them. On the other hand, I did see and talk with a few Americans who were living in town with the locals and who fit right in with the local culture, and they were accepted by the Ticos (Costa Ricans are, as a whole, a very friendly and outgoing people).
Village of Tortuguero.
Tortuguero from the river.
An old collapsed volcanic cone, next to Arenal.
Hanging Bridges, near Arenal.
View of Arenal Volcano from Hanging Bridges.
White-Faced Monkeys at the hotel.
Coatimundi at the hotel pool.
A blue-throated anole lizard that paid a visit to my hotel room.
Tropical termite nest on a tree.
A Blue Morpho Butterfly that spent a few minutes licking salt from my foot.
Gorgeously-colored tropical cockroach.
Anteater in a tree.
Spider Monkey leaping between trees.
Crater at the Poas Volcano.
Cloud forest at Poas.
Banana processing plant.
Banana plantation. The bags protect the fruits from pests.
A caterpillar as long as my hand.
A female Nephilia spider on her web.
White-faced monkey in the jungle.
Cacao seed pods--chocolate.
A tropical millipede, about six inches long.
Red-Eyed Tree Frog.
Anhinga drying its wings.
A tropical caterpillar. The hairs are stinging spines. Nearly everything in the rainforest can bite, sting, or do something unpleasant to you.
Hatchling sea turtle racing across the beach.
Hatchling sea turtle makes it to the sea.
Male Basilisk Lizard in a tree.
Poison Dart Frog.
Bats roosting on a tree trunk.
A baby Green Iguana acting all big and tough.
Two-Toed Sloth on a telephone pole.