A Mini Travelogue of Costa Rica: Part 1
Mary Hall and I are both kicking off 2014 with travel adventures. While she’s headed to Moscow on her “babymoon” (and in her third trimester of pregnancy I might add), Keith and I went to Costa Rica to celebrate a different milestone…our 4th anniversary. We first fell in love with Costa Rica in 2007 when we were still single and went on a cruise with friends. One of the ports of call was Puerto Limon on the Caribbean side of the country and the six or so hours that we spent there zip-lining through the canopy, visiting a banana plantation and taking a river boat ride were some of our favorite parts of the entire cruise and we’ve been itching for the opportunity to explore the country further ever since then.
We cashed in some of Keith’s Hilton Honors points and booked a week at the Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa…an all-inclusive resort in the Guancaste Region that makes up the Northwest corner of the country. The resort had a cozy feel, with great views, an efficient shuttle service to help folks out with all the hills on the property. If you choose to stay there, we’d recommend the Grill de Fuego by the Spa Pool both for lunch (fish tacos) and dinner (try the gnocci to start and end with the salmon)….and anytime you find yourself in need of a mango smoothie (which was often for me.)
Unfortunately our first day in country Keith wasn’t feeling very well so we kicked off our trip with a visit to the local Hopital Clinica Biblia just down the road by the “Do It Center” that boasted a cafe with fantastic vanilla iced coffees for $2 each. We rented a car from Economy Rental car near the Liberia airport. (we were pleased both with the new-ish Hyundai they gave us as well as their service and cost) and we were eager to do some exploring of the country on our own. Now don’t get me wrong, Keith and I love a nice pool and a cushy lounge chair as much as the next person, but we’ve learned that it’s hard for us to sit still for very long. Even with both of us sick (yes, I caught Keith’s cold-like-symptoms on Wednesday) we did more than our fair share of checking out our new favorite travel destination. In fact, we saw so much of the country that I’m going to split this post into two posts: today we’ll hit the beach, and Friday, the mountains.
We were amazed by how large the beaches in Costa Rica are! They are so deep and stretch on as far as the eye can see. We walked along Playa Hermosa and Playa del Coco up near our resort with dark volcanic sands. Then on the recommendation of a Hilton employee, we headed down south to the non-volcanic sand beaches. Playa Flamingo was beautiful and virtually deserted except for a few locals enjoying a picnic, and a random cowboy who rode by with another horse in tow.
We also checked out a great little place for lunch at Playa Brasilita and then went for a stroll on Playa Conchal. I loved all the little funky places that dotted the beach towns. This sign made me laugh and I loved the rickety bridge.
Then we made our way down to Playa Tamerindo, which we liked so much that we ended up going back again a few times. Granted, it’s a little more “touristy” than some of the other beaches, but there were some fun shops and places to eat and we loved the whole vibe. And by a “little more touristy” it’s still a far cry from the over-commercialized beaches in North America. We had such an amazing time walking from one end of the beach to the other and swimming in the ocean. I just could not get enough. Here are some beach photos because, well….they are pretty.
And then the third night we were there, we had a magical magical night on the beach. No, not that kind of magical. We went to find sea turtles. It was another case of a National-Park-For-The-Win. For just $25 a person, we headed over to the Marino Las Baullas National Park (if you go, make sure you know which ranger station to go to. We made an impressive 30-minute sprint across town and arrived just as the turtle presentation was beginning.) We’d initially signed up to on a leatherback turtle watching adventure but after learning that our odds of sitting on the beach for hours and not seeing a darn thing were pretty high, we opted to switch to the “black sea turtle” watching tour. After driving down some long and precarious dirt roads and hiking along some dark cliffs guided by Spanish-only speaking park rangers and cell-phone flashlights, we arrived at another beach just in time to watch a huge black sea turtle lay the last of her clutch of eggs. and start covering them over again. Some other researchers were out patrolling the beach and moving the eggs to a protected area and it was pretty incredible to watch them measure the turtle as she began the careful process of covering over her “nest” by kicking the sand in…then patting it down carefully and repeating. A truly stunning and beautiful thing to behold. Photography wasn’t allowed, but I did get this great photo of us with a statue of a leatherback at the ranger station to remember our turtle watching night by.
And just in case you want to get your head around the geography of the country, here are some helpful maps below both of the region where we were, and the entire country.