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As winter continues, it has been a little bit slow for the tour company I work for back in Seattle, and thus I felt that it was a good excuse to head out on an adventure. With an interest in going somewhere where I could visit a new theme park I have not yet been to, that gave a bit of a limit on the options of places to go to here in the United States, as the vast majority of the parks I have left to visit are those that operate seasonally. As I currently still have the ability to use my friend’s flight benefit for the time being, I also thought it would be a good excuse to go somewhere a bit further where the flight would normally be more expensive. That ultimately led to the decision to go to Costa Rica.
There had been a few other times I had thought about making this short trip, but ultimately all of the stars aligned for this time, as 3 out of the 4 flights needed had pretty wide availability of seats, and I didn’t have any work scheduled back home. To make this trip out to Costa Rica, it started with an overnight flight to Miami. Since this flight had a large number of empty seats, I was able to get an empty row so that I could lay down a bit more, although with the newer seats on airplanes, this isn’t the best in terms of comfort, but it certainly beat sitting upright in a middle seat for an overnight flight.
Upon arrival to Miami, there would be a bit of a holding pattern before knowing for sure if I was going to make it to Costa Rica. At the point that I had my name added to the waiting list for the flights, the San José flight showed about 5 available seats with 2 other people on the waiting list. While this wasn’t the best of odds, I figured that worse case scenario, I would be in Miami and could find something to do while in town before catching a flight back to Seattle. While I theoretically could have waited for the next flight to San Jose, the ultimate goal was to keep the trip short, and thus I took the risk I wouldn’t make it. In the end though, it worked out as the available seats went up to 6 before I left Seattle, and never changed, and there were only three on the standby list. I also lucked out getting a bit more legroom with an exit row seat.
Upon arrival to Juan Santamaria International Airport, I checked my Uber app to see if that was an option in the area of the airport as I had read there were some areas they were not very common, but fortunately the airport was not one of those areas. What is a bit odd about Uber in Costa Rica is that it technically is illegal in Costa Rica, but it still seems to be very commonly used there. When you use it, the drivers want you to sit up front with them so as to be a bit more discreet. From what I could find out about it after the trip, any punishment or traffic tickets issued for a violation of this is levied on the driver and not the passenger. When asking the hotel staff about getting somewhere, they even recommended using Uber since it was cheaper than the cabs, so that seemed to suggest that it’s almost like when you see people selling things on the street in certain places that require a permit to do so, but they don’t have one. More of a misdemeanor than anything. That would also suggest that you wouldn’t want to be so blatant about it around taxi drivers as the cab companies are part of the reason for Uber being illegal in Costa Rica.
In any case, upon arrival to Costa Rica, I went right to the amusement park that was the inspiration for this trip, Parque Diversiones. Located in La Uruca in the province of San José (not far from the city of San José). This park was founded by a doctor named Roberto Ortiz Brenes, who created it as a way to raise money for the local children’s hospital.
Having been aware of this before getting to the park, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have incredibly high expectations for the park. Not to say that I thought it would be a dump, but I didn’t expect it to be on par with some of the nicer small local parks in the States either. As the visit went, however, I would find out that the park was actually really nice! On top of being really well landscaped, there were a lot of really neat buildings that would have resembled those of the past in Costa Rica, there also were a lot of statues and sculptures to really added to the atmosphere of the park, in some areas giving it a fun and whimsical feel.
The park has five roller coasters, one of which is called Montana Ghibli. This one doesn’t allow adults to ride, and frankly I don’t think I would be likely to count it. Granted it is listed on the various websites that track them, this powered ride moves at such a slow and consistent speed, even when going downhill. It was more like an inclined train ride than a roller coaster, thus I’d be less inclined to count it as a credit and wouldn’t find it to be worth the effort of asking the operator if a special exception to their height requirement can be made, but that’s just me.
The other four coasters in the park were also operating on this day as were most of the park’s other rides. I was happy to see this as my previous trip to Mexico had found that several of the parks had one or two coasters closed. When looking at the park’s calendar, I had seen that the park is open every day in December and January, and then more of a weekend operation for much of the rest of the year, which may be because of the way the schools operate in Costa Rica. I had a conversation with a woman who told me that Costa Rican Children get their breaks from school in a sort of opposite way than we do in the United States as they get two weeks off in July, and then they are off from school for December and January. It seems that based on the operating schedule of the park, they may so a lot of maintenance during the days they are closed during the week, and try to keep as many of the rides running during those two months that the kids are out of school.
The first coaster ridden was Bocaraca, a Vekoma Whirlwind. This coaster had previously operated under the name Whirlwind at both Rye Playland in New York, and at Knobels in Pennsylvania. This was the same coaster that was featured in the movie “Big” staring Tom Hanks. As with other Whirlwind style coasters, this isn’t the most amazing ride, but it was fun to ride it for the first time knowing its past operating locations and its role in a popular movie.
While there were a lot of decorations throughout the park, I would be more inclined to say that it was more of a traditional style Amusement Park, although some of the rides had elements of themeing around them. Like Six Flags, but with less cut-out signs and more objects that fit a sort of theme for the ride. One ride that really seemed to go all out on its unique design and themeing was Torbellino, the newest ride at the park. When in line for the ride, you pass alongside of a large rotating head that blows air out the mouth, as if it was meant to represent a god blowing the winds. Along the queue, you also cross over a suspension bridge and floating bridge, as well as this odd walkway with tires in it. It certainly made the wait for the ride more interesting.
As for the coaster itself, it is a Zamperla spinning mouse style coaster that opened on Christmas Day this past year. The ride itself was fairly tame as they had all of the trim brakes engaging with the ride, but what really blew me away was how high a capacity they were operating it with. Mouse style coasters (both spinning and traditional) are not known for being very high capacity rides. Yet this one was being operated with what seemed to be four or five cars on the track at any given moment, and the flow of the queue showed it as even though it was the longest line in the park, it didn’t take all that long to get on board.
The park also features a boomerang style coaster, Búmeran, which is pretty much the same as a standard boomerang, although this one was a little bit clunkier with the lift mechanisms, and a tad bumpier than other boomerangs. What is interesting about this one is that it first operated at Playcenter São Paulo in Brazil, making it one of the only coasters I have heard of to make the switch from the Southern Hemisphere to Northern. Usually it seems to be the other way around.
The last of the four coasters in Teletren, a Zamperla junior coaster that is located in a children’s ride area. Not a whole lot to say about the ride itself other than…Shameless credit achieved!
After riding the four coasters, I decided to get some lunch. There is a food court that offers fast food options including Taco Bell and Pizza Hut among local chains as well, but I decided to go to Restaurante El Ventolero. This is a full-service style restaurant that offers some Latin American favorites. I saw that they had a steak, so I thought I would try it as I had a feeling that they may have a special way of serving it in Costa Rica. When it came out, it seemed to be similar to a steak I would get back home, so had I known that, I would have likely tried something more tradtional of the area. Still, it was a pretty good steak.
After going for a re-ride or two and a couple others, it was time to head to the hotel I booked once I knew I would be on the flight, and when I got to the hotel, I dozed off for a couple hours, and when I woke up, I was still feeling pretty groggy, so I decided to call it an early night rather than to head out. I knew that I had some time in the morning before I would be going back to the airport the next afternoon, so I would go ahead to the central part of San Jose in the morning. On the way there, the driver drove us past the Children’s Hospital which is supported by Parque Diversiones.
The initial plan was to visit Mercado Central, however it seemed that many of the businesses in San José would open a bit later as there were a lot of closed shutters, so I took the time to wonder around, heading toward the National Bank building, through Central Park, passing by the historic post office building, and eventually over to Morazán Park. Between the unique sculptures and beautiful architecture, there was a lot to see, even with a short amount of time in the city.
Unfortunately, there really wasn’t enough time to really get into San José, but if anything the short visit was a nice preview, and I would certainly like to come back again, likely adding a journey to mountains or the beaches to see the natural side of Costa Rica. Until that time, I needed to begin the journey back home which would be really smooth as both flights would allow me to enjoy an empty row because they both had a large number of available seats, so unlike the trip to Costa Rica there were minimal concerns about not being able to get onto a flight.
Thank you for checking out this report, and I hope you be back for more from Coasting with Culture.
Take Care and Safe Travels!