REI Costa Rica Ultimate Adventure
by Liz B.
- Friday, July 8, 2011
I departed from Seatac Airport today - on my way to Costa Rica via Denver! I'm super excited and can't wait to get there. Check out the fantastic view we had of Mt Rainier on the way out! I love the PNW!
I just arrived at Denver's airport and in line to get my passport checked before boarding. Everybody in line is ready for warm weather and I don't see their rain jackets :)
5 hour countdown!
- Saturday, July 9, 2011
I landed in San Jose this morning at 5am. I was picked up by the Costa Rican REI Adventures team and thankfully my hotel room was ready. Time for some much needed sleep. But first things first: rice, beans and fried plantains breakfast! Yum
Tonight we had our group orientation at the hotel with Marco (nicknamed Tex because there are about 501,000 Marcos in Costa Rica). Tex was great! He's really enthusiastic and engaging. We could tell he is very passionate about his county too. He told us of wildlife encounters he's seen in his 20 years of guiding, such as a boa constrictor eating a sloth. He told us of two very important upcoming events - the football match against Argentina on Monday and the birthday of La Negrita on Aug 2. He had a lot to share with us so I'm excited for the next 9 days of his stories and lessons!
- Sunday, July 10, 2011
We arrived in Arenal yesterday, Sunday, and will be here for 3 days. We visited a local family restaurant and farm where we made our own sugarcane juice and corn tortillas for lunch. Nobody in the family spoke English so Tex had Megan, a girl who is on this trip celebrating her high school graduation with her family, translate a few things. This little restaurant was everybody's favorite for today! It was in the middle of nowhere and we had the entire place to ourselves.
On our hike we saw a howler monkey momma and her shy baby, a toucan, and an eyelash viper (all pictured). The entire group would have just walked right by all of these but Tex spotted them immediately!
- Monday, July 11, 2011
Today we got to do some rappelling! And not just any rappelling, but through waterfalls! Our first drop was the tallest and I was absolutely terrified! I don't do well with heights and ledges ... and voluntarily going off ledges. The rappelling guide, Mauricio, was so great though! When it was my turn and I was visibly terrified, his entire focus was on me and looked me straight in the eyes and kept saying 'you can do this!' He walked me through all the way until I was over that edge and on my way down. After I got going, the rappelling got fun! We did 5 different drops all together. Everybody had an absolute blast today.
- Tuesday, July 12, 2011
This is our last day in Arenal...
This morning I woke up to this view of the Arenal volcano. Pretty spectacular and not at all a bad way to start the day!
We spent the first half of the morning on a zip-line canopy tour. Being scared of heights, I was a little nervous about this but it was so much fun! We did a bunch of cables but the longest was a half mile and they said some people can get up to 50mph!
After zip-lining we hiked to the crater of Cerro Chato, or Mount Chato. This hike was tough! Not only was it straight up but most of it was climbing up through muddy crevices or grabbing on to roots to pull ourselves up. It took about 5 hours to hike up to the top, down to the crater, back up, and then down the other side to where our van was waiting. The mud and terrain made this a really fun, but challenging, hike!
This evening we finished the day in some thermal pools. It was the perfect ending and so relaxing. My favorite pool was one of the hottest and had a warm waterfall you could swim through and sit behind. We had about 2 hours to enjoy the pools, but Tex still had to almost pull us out to make it for dinner.
And now ... bedtime! Tomorrow we'll leave for some whitewater rafting to a jungle river lodge. Which means, no internet and no updates tomorrow! :)
- Wednesday, July 13, 2011
We left Arenal this morning for the Rio Pacuare River. Our plan: whitewater raft class 3, 4 and 4-plus rapids to a jungle river eco-lodge. And the next day? Raft back out. This river is known to be in the top 5 rivers for whitewhater rafting in the world!
Before I get there though, I want to show what we saw on our way to the river. We made a slight detour to a set of trees Tex knew about where tons of Iguanas hang out. Michelle is completely disgusted by lizards, so Tex had this 'special surprise' for her. Across the street as we're loading back into our bus, someone points out, 'Hey, look. Another monkey.' (We're used to seeing monkeys at this point so nobody really jumps.) Then we realize it's not a monkey, it's a sloth!
We walk over to the small tree it was in to take a better look and get some pictures, but not too close. I'm not sure why the sloth came so close to the road and in the middle of the day. It was a little worrisome but by the time we left it had made it's way out of that small tree, along the building and back into a larger tree on its way back into the forest.
Have any of you seen a sloth? This was my first sighting and I feel really lucky to have gotten so close!
After this we made out way to the river. It was an exciting ride to the river lodge! Waiting for us were nice rooms, all with a hammock, view of the river, comfortable beds and most importantly: warm showers! Next, dinner is served. I think everyone was in bed by 9:30 tonight. I wanted to bottle up the loud noise of the cicadas and the river for falling asleep every night. It was so peaceful being in the middle of nowhere, and so relaxing having all the creature comforts, also in the middle of nowhere!
- Thursday, July 14, 2011
This was our second day of whitewater rafting. Wooeeeee! What a blast! We weren't sure if we'd be able to raft out of the lodge this morning or if we would have to hike out. Last night the water level was too high to make it safely by river. Luckily, it didn't rain overnight and the levels dropped. We still hit some 4 and 4-plus rapids, though! This day was exhilarating. No rafts flipped but if they had we had 3 other rafts and a rescue whitewater kayaker with us. One of my favorite parts of today was Michelle. She was so nervous and just wanted to get through the rafting, but about 15 minutes into it she is hollering and having so much fun. This day ended up being her favorite (so far).
After the rafting Tex made a special stop at a serpentarium of a herpetologist named Minor. He's discovered many Costa Rican snake antivenoms. He spoke to us about snakes in Costa Rica and how the real problem with the snakes is people - our footprint, temperature changes, ignorance when protecting ourselves, etc. This was something really special, to hear his passion and respect for these snakes. The detour was a special treat from Tex.
Minor brought out 2 different snakes for us to take pictures of: the Jumping Pit Viper named 'Lula' and the Hog Nose Pit Viper named 'Emily'. He then brought out a red eyed tree frog and put it on a branch for us to take pictures. Very briefly, before taking the frog back, he placed it on Megan's hat.
This afternoon we made it to our hotel in the Turrialba Valley. The hotel is absolutely beautiful! I feel like I'm in someone's manor in the south of Spain. There is wine everywhere I look and they offer spa massages! A few people in the group are already signed up for a massage. We're here for 2 nights and I already don't want to leave!
- Friday, July 15, 2011
Tico biking tour! The bike ride today was 65km over rolling terrain with one big uphill ... which means one big downhill, too! My favorite part was getting to ride through all the neighborhood streets and see the real Costa Rican houses and way of life. It was definitely not a tourist trap of a bike ride! I think every local person I passed smiled at me and when I gave a little wave they always waved back and smiled even bigger.
We stopped for a tour of a local organic farm. The farmer, Don, spoke no English so Tex translated everything. He specializes in the water squash, or 'chayote'. We got to try a lot of his fruits from right off the vine, and aloe for our sunburns! Don was so proud to show us all of his crops. He had the biggest smile on his face the entire time and kept pointing out one thing after another. This was very neat to experience! Back on our bikes and about a mile down the road some men were cooking tamales. Tex came to an immediate halt and bought us each one to take for our lunch spot. Fresh tamales! They were SO good!
Next up: our big hill! A few had to walk their bikes at least part of the way up. It was a tough climb that just seemed to keep going up and up! We had a spectacular view of the valley the entire way. Plus, there was a support van in case anyone wanted a break from their bike. We waited for everyone at the top and then it was descent time! It felt great to be rewarded a fun, winding descend!
Ofelia and Mary, two local women, cooked us a homemade lunch in their house. Ofelia is the mother and Mary the grandmother. Everybody felt like they were at grandma's house in the country. They seemed so happy to have us there! We were so hungry after the climb we were really happy to be there too!
From here the ride got much easier. It was mostly flat with only some very small hills. The road turned to gravel when we passed through the sugarcane fields. It was a beautiful ride with beautiful people along the way!
- Saturday, July 16, 2011
We left Turrialba this morning and made a stop back in San Jose to drop off the 4 people that weren´t traveling with us on the trip extension to Manuel Antonio National Park.
Just outside Manuel Antonio, we stopped for lunch at a local woman´s house. Since REI tours have been visiting her for lunch, she has been able to build a little extension to her home for a larger open-air seating area for our trips and her large family. I loved this lunch! I told Tex it was my favorite meal out of all our meals on the trip. It was perfect in every way! She lives at the end of this tiny sandy road right on the beach. There are no restaurants or shops or hotels nearby - just her and her neighbors, the palm trees and the waves. And if that´s not perfect enough, the food we had was so delicious. It was sea bass marinated in lemon and garlic and cooked in a banana leaf. She brought out fresh steamed veggies, fresh pineapples, mangos and watermelon. And for dessert? Coconut cajetas!
After lunch was a half day of sea kayaking to a beach for some snorkeling. On our way, though, we had to cross a section with some rolling waves. They were okay because they were not breaking there, but they did make our kayaks flop down on the water each time we crossed one. Well, I was a few strokes back from everyone after taking a picture when a huge wave formed pretty much right in front of me! I should have kept paddling through it, but instead I just held my breath and tried to brace myself, knowing what was coming. Yup. The next thing I knew I was in the water next to my flipped over kayak. Artie was just behind me and managed to stay on hers! She´s a way more experienced paddler than I and used to do kayak polo. If you´ve never heard of this sport you should look it up. Sounds like an absolute blast! After I got myself back in my boat I realized I lost my sunglasses. Bummer! But, at least I didn´t fall in with my nice SLR camera. Cough, cough. Andy ;)
Hotel tonight: HOLY COW! This place is fan-cy! I´ll just say this: my hotel room is larger than my apartment. I don´t want to make anyone at home start pouting, but I have to post a picture of our pool. It just wouldn´t be right if I didn´t.
- Sunday, July 17, 2011
Today we walked from our hotel down to the beach. Tex loves taking the ways with less people so we went through little side streets and saw our first two sloths for the day! We rounded a corner and WOW! There is our first up-close view of the beach of Manuel Antonio. Everybody started yelling and running for it.
We walked down the beach to the enterance of the National Park. Along this hike we saw more wildlife than I think we have all throughout the trip! And we haven´t had a shortage of wildlife or anything, either!
Today we saw: 12 sloths (10 3-toed sloths and 2 2-toed), white-faced monkeys, a green parrot snake (This was the one Tex got most excited about), jesus christ lizard, iguanas, white nosed coati, a family of bats, caiman. The one thing we did not see was a boa constrictor. Tex heard there was a 9-foot one in a certain tree by the trail the day before. But, it had moved on by the time we arrived.
I don´t think I have ever seen so much wildlife in one day. I felt really lucky to have Tex as our guide, too. There were plenty of other groups with a guide that would walk right past something and then Tex would spot it, pull out his scope, and we´d all have a great, first look and picture.
We had some time after our hike for souvenir shopping or walking the beach and then 2 hours at the hotel to relax in the pool and shower up for dinner.
- Monday, July 18, 2011
This is our last day of the tour! So sad! It´s gone by much too quickly.
We had a morning to do whatever we wanted. Two people went surfing, one went for a walk, a few relaxed at the beach, and myself, two others (Gemma and Pete) went snorkeling with Tex.
On our walk down to the beach Tex spotted some squirrel monkeys. These guys are endangered so are very rare to see. Tex heard them first and then started making a loud kissing/clicking noise with his mouth and sure enough, here they all came! These little guys were so cute! And so curious, too. They were little hams and loved getting their picture taken.
We´re all back in San Jose now and everybody leaves early tomorrow morning to fly back home. I, on the other hand, decided to take some vacation days, extend my trip and head to the Caribbean coast for a few days. Can´t wait!
I´ll be in a little bungalow just outside Puerto Viejo where I hope to do some diving. After this I´ll make my way to an eco-lodge in Tortuguero National Park. This happens to be one of the places we stay in REI´s Jungle and Sea Mutisport trip: http://www.rei.com/adventures/trips/latin/costarica_escape.html
My goal is to relax, see some underwater wildlife, meet more great people, and ... see the turtles nesting!!
Thanks so much for following me on this amazing adventure!
- total distance: 3,662 miles (5.893 km)
Liz B.Seattle, WA, USA
ElizabethNorth Carolina, USA
Jessica JonesSeattle, WA, USA
Jessica BusseSantiago, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
Deb LSt Paul, MN, USA
Cathleen WilkAllentown, PA, USA
Byron DumbrillWest Hollywood, CA, USA
RickLos Angeles, CA, USA
Costa RicaCountry | 5 followers