click the camera above for photos
In May of 2003 we headed out for a week to experience Costa Rica. There seems to be so many varied things throughout Costa Rica worth visiting but we didn't want to eat up our week of vacation with travel days within the country. For this trip we were looking to relax and get a taste of what this Central American country had to offer. We chose to fly into Liberia and stay on the western coast in the province of Guanacaste. Although this meant we would not go to see the volcano we would have the chance to relax on the black volcanic sand beach, snorkel the amongst the mangroves, fly through the canopy of trees on the zip lines and while staying in a very nice resort, still have the chance to experience what the jungle surroundings had to offer.
We ended up jumping on a good deal through Adventure Tours and staying at the all inclusive Occidental Allegro Papagayo Resort on the Gulf of Papagayo. We planned off site adventures every other day and took advantage of the snorkeling, beaches and pool at the resort. We also took full advantage of the constant flow of alcohol and huge buffet meals that were part of the all inclusive. There were very few Americans at the resort but we had no problems communicating and meeting interesting people around the pool bar to visit with. The resort sits on a hill overlooking the Gulf. The pool and restaurant are near the beach at the bottom of the hill. They run carts (large golf carts) up and down all day but we chose to walk most of the time. The hill is steep but we really needed to work of those HUGE buffet meals.
The first adventure we set out on was a full day tour that included horseback riding through the jungle of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park and a visit to the Buena Vista Hot Springs for some mud treatments. After that it was our first encounter with the zip lines through the treetop canopy. There was a hike to waterfalls and water slides and well, since it rained the entire day there was a lot of water. The horses slipped and slid through the paths on wet rocks and through mud. When we got to the jungle 'spa' we were already pretty wet and muddy but with bathing suits ready (worn under our now quite wet clothes) we hit the pools of the hot springs and even smeared ourselves with the volcanic mud for that Spa Experience. The zip lines at Buena Vista are quite rustic with the treetop platforms built of wood and no railings. You wear your harness and while waiting your turn to fly through the trees you snap your harness lead onto the cable wrapped around the tree. Keep in mind it was lightly raining and the trees were dripping wet and slapping you with wet, muddy leaves as you flew along on the cables. It was great fun. At the end of the zip line tour they had a concrete water slide set up that ran all down the side of the hill and through the jungle and ended in a small pool of water. I opted out of this final bit of excitement but of course Bill was all for it and donning a hilarious get-up of batting helmet and inner-tube he rode the slide from the top a couple of times. Somewhere in there we had lunch as well. It was hot, wet, muddy and a ton of fun.
After a day of rest we took a cruise down the Corobici River in a raft. This time of year there is very little movement in the river and lots of birds, monkeys, lizards and other native wildlife to see all along the way. We had a couple small areas with possibly a level one rapid and the rest of the time it was a relaxing drift while a guide pointed out monkeys and Jesus Christ Lizards and told about the many many birds that come to this river bank to nest in the tree branches and hatch their young. We were able to get up close to see some of the small baby birds. The tour included a nice lunch of local fish and vegetables in an open air restaurant. Luckily there was only one other couple going so it was a very relaxing day.
We decided to take advantage of the resorts extra little island beach spot that can only be reached by boat. They serve drinks and the beach is less volcanic sand so is whiter though certainly not 'white'. There was not much there and it was kind of a bust except for the snorkeling around the mangrove trees that Bill took advantage of and I should have done instead of laying on the beach and reading and keeping company with a scary bird. Unfortunately you are pretty much stuck there until they come over from the resort and pick you up. But seriously, good book, sunshine, beach, alcohol......how bad could it be.....
The last adventure trip we went on was a long, all day tour through the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We left early (6AM) and had a private guide for the day. A quick stop at a local restaurant for some rice and beans for breakfast and we drove through some of the most beautiful, green, mountainous countryside. The roads were terrible and it was a bumpy ride but our guide was talkative and friendly and it seemed to go by quickly. As we reached the top we walked the sky walk trails and suspension bridges of Selvatura Park, enjoyed their Hummingbird Garden and lunched in a relaxing open air restaurant. Then we did the Canopy tour zip lines and they were amazing. These zip line platforms were metal, with secure rails, we wore helmets and the cable lines were so much longer than those at Buena Vista. There was practically no one there doing the zip lines so our guide went with us and the workers along the zip lines let us play around. There is one part where you swing out over a huge drop off and then back to the platform. It was definitely worth the early morning and long drive. On the way back we stopped off in a local town to visit a butterfly sanctuary and insect museum where we listened to a talk about all the native insects from a young guy from Oregon and were able to get up close and personal with some HUGE hissing cockroaches. We were back at the resort in time for dinner and it was the best day of the trip.
It is a beautiful country and we need to re-visit Costa Rica now that we are certified to dive.
Hopefully one of these days soon we will get back there.