Hard to believe it’s been a little more than a month since returning from this wonderful journey, but time flies when you’re…well it always flies – and so did my girlfriend and I, to sunny Costa Rica for an awesome adventure.
(That may have been the least grammatically correct sentence I’ve ever written. But I digress.)
Costa Rica. Ah, what a marvelous place. In a word: Beautiful.
Beautiful, I tell you!
We spent a week there as part of an ‘adventure tour’ that took us through several parts of the country. Groupon provided the motivation with a 50% off deal and a company called Costa Rica Monkey Tours provided the rest once we got there.
We landed in Liberia and spent the first night there. Of course, as soon as we got there it was time to get out and explore. Who wants to rest on vacation? Sarah and I met two of the gals who were on our tour and split a cab with them to Playa Hermosa to see what we could see.
What we saw was spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean from high above (and not too far from the edge…our cab driver was awesome but he was also fearless, unlike the rest of us.)
Playa Hermosa is a quiet little town with dark sand beaches and plenty of natural beauty along the water.
After the obligatory prancing up and down the beach, it was time to eat. Sarah kicked things off with our first meal of casado (aka ‘tipico’ as it was frequently described) for the week. We had a lot of this. Salad, rice, beans, chicken, and fried plantains. Apparently it is a staple there.
From there we encountered a photo op as I stood with our new friends Crystal and Red in front of the Ginger restaurant sign…three gingers at Ginger, yes it was too good to pass up.
Playa Hermosa was a nice place. Really enjoyed the sunset at the beach in the lounge chairs. It was a good way to start the trip. Oh, and I told him I would do this when he gave me his card that night: Be sure to see Gilberto Soto if you want to do any sport fishing there.
The next morning our tour guides arrived and they were ready to roll. Tags were put on bags, hands were shaken as 20 of us made each others’ acquaintance, and two big vans were loaded up and headed out toward the first official day of our tour. Destination: Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Guanacaste and Hacienda Guachipelin.
Our first activity of the day was horseback riding. I’d never done this before and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Fortunately these were relatively docile animals but I won’t say I was confident as we left for the trail.
Sarah’s horse went up to the front of the pack, while mine got stuck in traffic. It was especially interesting when about a dozen horses tried to squeeze through a gate. Keep your legs in!
We stopped halfway through the journey to check out an awesome waterfall/lagoon/river spot. Really pretty. Sarah took a swim, I took some pictures. Good times.
Next up was whitewater tubing. Now this was fun. They gave us our instructions, stuck us in our tubes, and pushed us off into the water. Nothin’ to it, right? Well…sorta.
It was a rush, getting bounced around and then taking the various drops through the path of rocks that led us down the river. I loved it. Sarah did too – until her tube flipped over. Aside from that it was fun though
After lunch, the afternoon brought us to the activity of zip lining. This was the one thing I swore that I would not do, before arriving in Costa Rica that week. No way, no how, and no cares in the world if I got grief for it!
That was, until everyone suited up in the gear and I realized that it was time to cast fear aside and take a wild ride out into the wilderness.
Ironically, Sarah had been all about the adventure aspect of things but when we got to the base of the first zip line tower, that changed. She wasn’t feeling it and I could totally relate, based on how I had felt beforehand. Funny thing was, I was now thoroughly excited about it. Weird. She got up there and after the guy working the first cable station assured her it would be fine, she took off.
I was still in my suspended belief of reality/excitement mode as my cables and hooks were attached to the line. And with the exception of that first half-second, that excitement (to my surprise) continued for the rest of the experience. I loved it! Zip lining is a ton of fun and I’d definitely do it again. It was actually really peaceful up there. The lines got more and more ‘interesting’ as we crossed a river canyon and other interesting things. Really cool.
A dip in the hot springs afterward, some more casado, and a night of chatting with more of our new friends in the tour group, and it was time to get some rest.
The next day, our tour took us to a magnificent waterfall, an equivalent of a zoo with some cool animals to see, and then the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
At the cloud forest, we got to take a sky walk tour and then a sky tram tour. Both were pretty neat. Picture how you felt about walking across a suspension bridge a foot or two above the ground as a kid – and multiply that by about 100 feet. That’s the sky walk. A series of bridges takes you high above the forest, and yes they shake when you walk. It was quite an experience.
Great views though, and even better views on the sky tram tour. It’s like a ski lift gondola and when you get to the top, you are basically in the clouds. I enjoyed being up there. It was the only place in Costa Rica where we needed a sweatshirt that I can recall.
We were then taken to a ridiculously nice hotel in Monteverde.
Sarah and I set out for some food that night and we found a great place called Morpho’s in Santa Elena. We had consumed about all of the ‘tipico’ we could handle, so it was time for some old standbys. Sarah ordered a fish dish (hooray for things that rhyme) and I ordered a double cheeseburger…which came disguised as a buffet on a bun. It was delicious, my friends. Simply delicious. I was so happy.
After having a great conversation with the owner, who kindly kept his restaurant open nearly an extra hour for us, we decided to call it a night.
The next day took us to a pottery place where a man with outstanding talent made pottery while we all watched with a reasonable amount of amazement, unless it was just me. The guy was gifted, it was amazing to me to see him create something as nice as he did with what seemed like complete ease.
Next up was a river tour where we got to see monkeys, birds, and a whole bunch of crocodiles. This was also quite cool as the boat captain would back our boat up to within feet of the crocodiles, many of which we found sunning themselves on the shore of the river. The crocodiles would sit there until we’d finally gotten close enough to inspire them to move – and then in a flash, they would zip into the water causing most of the people on the boat to at least gasp, if not let out a yell. I liked it.
A minor glitch on the way to our final stop involved Sarah’s debit card getting eaten (the machine actually shut off while the card was in there) and then our tour guide, Rodrigo, having to track down a security guard inside the -closed- bank to fetch the card. Rodrigo was awesome to help us out with that and countless other things along the trip. We got the card back and it was off to Samara!
Samara sits right next to the Pacific Ocean, and it is south of where we’d been for the rest of our travels. It has beautiful beaches and plenty of greenery, as well as a nice little town area with shops and restaurants. We spent the last four nights there.
After a mix-up with the accommodations (nothing is perfect) we all settled in for the rest of our trip and one of the nicest surprises of the week was that our tour group all ended up sticking together and doing things as a group, despite the fact that our formal tour had essentially ended. We were really blessed to meet such nice people on our tour and we still keep up with each other on Facebook…perhaps we’ll even travel together again sometime. Good folks, and I know I wasn’t the only one who felt fortunate to make some good friends while on our journey.
Days were spent at the beach, swimming and kayaking to an island not too far off the shore, but far enough to get the arm muscles going a bit to get there and back. Again – beautiful. Every place we went in Costa Rica was more picturesque than the one before it, which was always very picturesque. It was a visually pleasing country, for sure.
Sarah and I also spent a day wandering through town. We met some of the store owners and the men and women who sold items from stands near the street, too. We chatted with them and loved their stories. I particularly enjoyed the store owner who stated that his hours start when he is done surfing in the morning. That’s the life, right there. There was definitely a different approach to time and scheduling there and it was so refreshing. I could get used to it. In fact, we met a woman who had just moved there from California after only visiting once or twice. She said she just loved the way of life in Costa Rica. The place has that kind of effect on you.
Nights were spent checking out different restaurants – a wood-fired pizza place, a Mexican restaurant, and a newly opened spot right on the beach for our meal on the final evening.
We rounded out that last night gazing at the incredibly bright looking stars and the moon by the ocean. It was a wonderful vacation and I would definitely recommend Costa Rica as a travel destination.