We’ve been in Costa Rica for two weeks and it feels like months with all the different experiences we’ve had! Costa Rica is lush and green, with mountains and ocean framing every view. The locals are called Ticos and the expression on everyone’s lips is “Pura vida.” More than an expression with endless meanings and uses, it also describes a lifestyle, which on the surface seems to be slow paced, friendly and resourceful. We arrived in San Jose to kick off our two week pre-backpacking vacation with Jordan’s family. We were able to stay for two nights at a beautiful hotel and adjust to the heat and humidity in luxurious conditions. The hotel was really a resort, but we did pry ourselves away for one afternoon to explore downtown San Jose and the central mercado. The central mercado was an enclosed square block filled with vendors storefronts and stalls that wound around narrow alleys. Spices, fried food and pungent leather footwear wafted through the enclosed market as we explored the wares. It was fun to see Christmas decorations going up but also strange since christmas in the heat and humidity is anathema to the New England experience.
From San Jose, we drove to Manuel Antonio to spend 8 days at an incredible house on the beach. We were on full alert for wildlife, particularly for Toucans as this was the creature Jordan’s two nieces wanted to see the most. Sipping on roadside coconut water, we made our way southwest. We stopped in Quepos to buy food for the week and discovered how expensive food and other groceries are here, at least in the formal supermarkets.
‘Casa de Bali,’ is a home that was constructed in Bali and then moved here to Costa Rica. It is made of Balinese wood that had been cured for 50 years and designed to be enjoyed with the open air as opposed to AC. The house was perched on a hill in the middle of the jungle trees which sloped down towards the ocean, which you could see clearly from the infinity pool out back. I’m talking about some MTV cribs quality digs here. Each couple had their own quarters, replete with marble surfaces and copper bathtubs. Jordan and I knew that we had better enjoy this as the quality and luxuriousness of our housing after the family vacation ended would be miles away from this. The first day at Casa Bali we all went for a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is beautiful and we saw a sloth, capuchin and howler monkeys as well as several interested plants and colorful iguanas. We were all elated by these wildlife sightings. Little did we know, however, that everyday right through our backyard we would see a three toed sloth, toucans, iguanas, white face capuchin monkeys and squirrel monkeys. Both types of monkey travel in groups and one morning both groups arrived together. There were upwards of 20-25 monkeys on our back deck, some of which actually stole bananas from the kitchen, if only those monkeys knew what a cliche they were! how sad. Additionally, we all learned what sound a sloth makes (insert link). Bet you wouldn’t have guessed that, huh? The Pacific Ocean right out our door was warm and inviting. Shocking Jordan and myself, i not only went swimming, but i boogie boarded almost everyday. My lifelong fear of the ocean seemed to be slipping away faster than the tide. Not even the occasional sting of sea lice (think mosquito of the sea) deterred me. It was wonderful to spend time with Jordan’s family. From the beach to the pool and back, we really lived it up.
Despite everyone’s reluctance to leave our home paradise, we did venture out on two excursions. First, we spent one day zip-lining through the forest. Not knowing quite what to expect, we strapped on our harnesses, donned some seasoned smelling helmets and hiked up a mountain. On the way back down, we zipped 10 lines, rappelled twice and did one Tarzan swing. The birds eye view of the forest and the adrenaline rush were fantastic. The guides were all very experienced and liked to play jokes on us by pretending to fall out of the tree platforms. They definitely kept the mood jovial, right at the edge of terrifying. We also spent a day off shore on a boat fishing for mahi mahi and sail fish. By ‘we’ I mean Jordan and his family caught two sail fish and a beautiful mahi mahi which we ate for dinner that night. Meanwhile I was lying down beneath the captains chair, hurling into a bucket. 30 minutes into the trip i realized that I had made a huge mistake and prayed that the next 6 1/2 hours didn’t drag on too slowly… I have to say however, that my spew fest was worth it because at one point we came across a herd (pack? school?) of 2,000 dolphins!!!! I pulled myself up long enough to witness their playful spins and flips, and even saw a few babies swimming alongside their mamas. Jordan reeled in a 110 pound sailfish as well. Beautiful creatures! Apparently you always throw back a sail fish as opposed to bringing it home for dinner.
Our days were so full of fun and sun that by the time we witnessed the beautiful sunset and ate dinner we were all ready for bed! Not to mention that the animals wake up at about 5:30 am, and it is pretty impossible to sleep through a howler monkey screaming outside your window.