Saturday, July 19, 2014

Costa Rica

Earlier this month we went on a 9 day tour of Costa Rica. It was beautiful. Wet & cloudy, but still beautiful. We definitely want to go back not during the rainy season. Our tour guide told us that the best time to visit the country is December - February. Someone's birthday just happens to fall right in the middle of that. . .

Most people know, but some do not, that we won our trip on Wheel of Fortune. That was a very exciting experience worthy of it's own post. So at this rate I'll get around to posting about it in about 5 years. ;-) We had remembered the country and that was about it for the details of the prize. I had spent months dreaming of our relaxing trip in Costa Rican paradise. So when we found out it was a tour I was initially disappointed (I know, I know, the very definition of a high class problem). I've had a fantastic time on tours before with my aunt, but they can be exhausting. You move hotels every night or two, spend a lot of time traveling, and don't have much time to just settle down and do nothing. 

But I came around to the idea. I actually got excited for it. I realized we'd get to see so much and it's perfect that we won the tour because it's a vacation I'd never pay for. If we finally were taking time off to go on vacation for which we were shelling out the cash I'd make darn sure it was 7 days of reading and drinking on the beach. 

So we flew out of Vegas at 6am on June 28th. We connected through Miami which was a little out of the way, but our other options were a red-eye through Houston or a late flight through Phoenix which barely landed in time for dinner & welcome brief and I was paranoid that any delay would mean we'd miss it so I wasn't comfortable taking that flight. 

airport selfie

The flights were fine. Long, but uneventful. We landed and had to find our Caravan transport guy, which was pretty convenient but you have to walk through a swarm of taxi & private transport company folk all trying to get your attention and your business. It was overwhelming, for sure. We lived to tell the tale. We checked out the hotel, had dinner, made our welcome brief and went to bed to be rested for the next day! 

Day 2 - Volcano Hike

We hiked up to the crater of the Poas Volcano. It's still active with ash & gasses, and it was amazing to see. There was also another trail up higher to a lagoon.  I just wanted to build a house up there and have my coffee every morning overlooking that turquoise pond. 



After the volcano, we had a really good lunch before touring a coffee plantation. Guys. The Coffee. It's so good down there. They drink it all the time, with every meal. We only brought home 2 bags and we're almost through 1 of them. I am sad. 

**INNERPOST ANNOUNCMENT: We have more pictures. We have hundreds; I have selected about 85 for sharing. They will not all appear in the post. There will be an album on facebook soon.**

After the coffee tour, we went back to the hotel. Costa Rica was playing in the World Cup and we went to the hotel bar with new vacation friends and drank and watched them win. It was so exciting, and turned us slightly into soccer fans. I still know nothing about the game, but I'm much more interested in watching it. 

Day 3 - Rainforest

This was my most dreaded day. The walk through the rainforest. Because sloths, monkeys, and birds are exciting. Snakes are okay. Jungle spiders are NOT. They do great things for the environment, yeah, but they need to do it far from me. 

It was raining so there wasn't a lot of creature activity.  We saw a sleeping sloth & a big dangerous snake (bushmaster) from afar. My group saw a web by a "small" spider - guide said about an inch and half in body - but she wasn't visible apparently. I did not look at the web or the home. I stood up on the path and did my breathing exercises. The guide looked off, asked me how I felt about tarantulas, and then decided to move on. 

I made it out of the forest without seeing a spider and then we went to the butterfly garden. Which because of the rain we did not see too many butterflies. They are delicate and were hiding from the heavy drops. A really pretty one was hanging out by some food though:


Day 4 - Riverboat Tour & Hot Springs

We took a boat ride on the Rio Frio. It rained, again, so there wasn't a whole lot of activity. Saw another sloth, some lizards, and a few birds. It was still calming to float through the greenery and listen to the raindrops on the water - at least to this desert dweller.  And we floated in Nicaragua for a few minutes so even though there's no stamp in the passport, *technically* we've been there, too :-). 



snapped a quick selfie in Nicaragua!

After the boat we had lunch and headed off to the hot springs. It wasn't what I had pictured when we heard hot springs. I thought walk through nature, over dirt and rocks to arrive at a very hot pond. It was definitely a resort built around the springs - more like pools filled with hot springs water. But it was still really neat. The higher up you climbed the hotter the pools became. And they had one with a swim up bar so we got to check in to the US game and have a beer as well. Can't get those amenities in nature, haha. 


Day 5 - The Cross-country Drive

The least exciting day was the day we crossed over their continental divide to get to the pacific ocean and our relaxing resort. It was like 5.5 hours on a bus. Broken up with "lunch" at about 10:40 in the morning, a pee stop at a local supermarket, and a trip to the guanacaste turtle beach. Where sea turtles lay eggs and such. Which would've been SUPERCOOL if it were turtle season and there were actual turtles or nests to see. Most of us agreed that skipping it and getting to the Marriott sooner would've been better. 

We were meant to watch a video on turtles but the guy couldn't get his comptuer to work. But when you have a computer science engineer and former comm officer for a husband he has an uncontrollable impulse to help

He did manage to fix it, but that only helped the next group because we had all evacuated the classroom. We watched the DVD on the bus and then walked down to the beach. To see nothing because it's not turtle season. But I got in the Pacific anyway. 

it was supposed to be a silly, fun candid but Ansel Adams kept messing with settings and was never ready so I told him what I thought of his perfectionism. 




Day 6 - RESTING BEACH DAY!!!!

This day was set aside to enjoy resort life. We didn't have a wake up or report time. We didn't have anything on the schedule except for an open bar from 1-4pm. T & I got a couples massage in the morning, and then we went to the beach to listen to the waves and enjoy the sun. We had lunch with our new friends and enjoyed the pool & booze. We played water volleyball with the group and some other family just there on vacation. We ended the night playing Heads Up (charades) in one of the rooms which was hilarious! I loved all the experiences and different aspects of the country, but this was a much needed day. 


Day 7 - Crocodile Cruise & Sunset Party

We headed out  away from the beach and toward Manuel Antonio National Park.  On our way there, we stopped off to cruise the Tarcoles River for more bird watching and this time crocodiles! Or as we have taught B to say cocodrilo. It was amazing how many we saw especially after the boat captain told us how territorial they are. We got super close to them and a few of them came close to the boat. So much so that we were instructed not to lean out or place our hands over the side lest a crocodile jump up and eat you. 

After we all survived, limbs intact, the crocodile cruise we arrived at our hotel for the night. The tour provided another happy hour so we could enjoy the sunset from the hotel rooftop. Although, as I mentioned before, it was rainy season. And unfortunately it was too cloudy to see the sun. But the view was still spectacular. 




Day 8 - Manuel Antonio & Rainforest

We started off this morning by walking through Manuel Antonio National Park. We managed to see a capuchin monkey on our way to the beach. The plan was a walk through the forest to a little cove where we had 2 hours to enjoy the beach, water, and nature. But the weather had turned the water rough! When our tour guide arrived after us and saw it she advised people against going into the water. She had said she'd never seen it like this. That usually it's a calm, crystal clear oasis. But it was filled with downed branches and debris and CRAZY waves. T was at the back of the beach and almost got knocked down by a wave. I had gone in the water as far as my knees and after two sudden, large waves I was neck deep. I decided to ride the next one back to shore, got halfway there and then basically was swimming in place. I wasn't dragged back, but I definitely couldn't make progress. It was rather frightening. After the drag subsided I high-tailed it outta there and we remained off the shore until hiking back to the room to shower & pack up. 

We did see an actually active sloth which was so awesome! I stood there and watched it for probably 15 minutes. I just wanted it to come down from the tree.  




We also saw a capuchin monkey on the walk to the beach, but moved on too quickly because the group behind us saw a whole pack. 



After getting all cleaned up and back on the bus we headed out to another rainforest. There was no walk through this one, just a gondola/tram ride.  We got to see the vegetation on the Pacific side of the country, and although I couldn't really tell one lush vegetation from the other, the guides seemed quite knowledgable on the differences. This one had more running water which for some reason I'm obsessed with. And also an area of land that has never been explored or altered. It's completely virgin terrain.




Then we headed back to San Jose to our hotel. We made it in time for the second half of the Costa Rica game, where sadly they lost. But we had our farewell dinner to console ourselves with so the night still ended on a good note! Most people went to bed shortly after as we all had airport transfers in the morning. 

Day 9 - Back to reality

We were on the second transfer to the airport. Fortunately we did not have to go at 4am on the first one. We headed out around 9. Costa Rica requires 3 hours ahead for international travel and traffic can be bad on the way to the airport so even though our flight wasn't until 1pm that's the time we were assigned. It was sunday and there was no traffic. And not that many people in the airport yet. We were hotel door to gate in 40 minutes.  But I am glad we had time just in case, and also that everything went smoothly.  We had a LONG day getting home, but we made it back to Vegas around 11 and were welcomed by the smiling face of my father-in-law! He and T were chatty all the drive home but I laid down in the back because I'm not the sunniest of people when I'm tired and hungry :-). 

The trip was a blast and we met a lot of great people! The craziest of coincidences was another young couple who live in Vegas and also won their trip on Wheel. They were using it as their honeymoon. They were so fun, and we look forward to getting together with them back in town. Unless we got fake numbered . . . 



Love & Hugs