Here's Part II of our Tico Times series "Costa Rica's Least Known Greatest Places," with a history of the Santa Ana region dating to 1561, when the Spanish are believed to have founded their first settlement in the Central Valley here. Today it's one of Costa Rica's hottest boom towns, but its history runs deep.
Where does a Costa Rica travel writer go on vacation? With scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, ziplining and a luxury villa to share with friends, the Honduran island of Roatán proves to be a virtually perfect retreat.
Craziest story ever? Puerto Viejo resident Monica Mercedes Pérez Jiménez is the daughter of a 1950s Venezuelan dictator and a German CIA spy named Marita Lorenz who was a lover of Fidel Castro and was recruited by the CIA to kill him — but she loved him too much. Then she got involved with Lee Harvey Oswald and future Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis on a mysterious mission to Dallas in 1963. And if you think that’s strange, when Monica was 15, she tried to shoot Sturgis on the streets of New York City because she thought he was coming to their apartment to kill her mother. You can believe it or not, but first you've got to read it. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
Yesterday was Costa Rican Mother's Day, so I drove my late mother's car to Poás Volcano National Park, an eerie green cloud forest surrounding a steaming, super-acidic lake. Wish I could have brought you, Mom.
I knew that the Santa Ana area was known for beautiful, handmade clay pottery, but I wanted to find the workshop where the elves actually churn it out. I came to the right place. Part of the Tico Times series on "Costa Rica's Least Known Greatest Places," focusing on Valle del Sol.
Today The Tico Times launched a major new series in Travel called “Costa Rica’s Least Known Greatest Places,” starting with Valle del Sol, aka Santa Ana, one of the country’s fastest-growing urban areas yet one of its most beautiful. We’ll be rolling out eight (8!) more stories on this booming region in the month ahead. See what you think of our opener. This has been a ton of work but a great education. I hope our next destination has a beach!
A visit to the controversial Costa Rica zoo turned into something of a project when I learned that new laws are about to totally change the landscape of wildlife management in this country. And it may be the supposed anti-zoos, animal rescue centers, that have to make the most changes.
How many men does it take to move a tree in the road in Costa Rica? Plenty, it turns out, but it helps to have one with a Land Rover.
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Tico Times travel editor, international man of mystery and rogue agent
I'm the travel editor of the Tico Times in Costa Rica, the former national editor and graphics wrangler of the San Jose Mercury News in California, an obsessive and undiscourageable writer, a tireless vagabond and, according to a court-certified U.S. psychologist, a "happy-go-lucky" fellow with no diagnosable mental disorders. Motto: "If I could be anybody else in the world, I would refuse."
Graduated summa cum laude in journalism and history from the University of Southern California. Author of "The Cult That Snapped," the definitive exposé of The Way International. Proud father of two sons, a lawyer and an actor, who will always be my greatest accomplishments.