Just a like race recap – this is long – sorry in advance!
2/23 – we took off from SFO at 10:30 pm. The San Francisco airport was all decorated for Christmas- they had even made a Golden Gate Bridge out of lights. Our first flight was about 5 hours to San Salvador. At the end we got breakfast of a ham & cheese omelette with yogurt and bread.
12/24 – We arrived in San Salvador and promptly changed into shorts. So hot. Our next flight was only about an hour to San Jose in Costa Rica. This flight they gave us a chicken empanada, which was really good. We got the airport in San Jose and breezed through customs. It was the fastest passport/customs line I have ever seen. John & I each had a back pack for luggage. The large pack has a smaller one that zips off for a day pack. We had both separated the packs for purposes of flying. We put them through the scanner in customs all together. Four packs went in, three came out. John’s day pack was missing. We asked the people working at customs if they had grabbed the pack. They looked at us and shrugged and shook their heads. We chased down the people who were in front of us In line – had any of them seen it, or possibly grabbed it by mistake? More head shakes and shrugs. It was worrisome – but also very weird. We watched the packs go in and come out. Then I head a guy yelling “little pink lady!” (I had on a pink tank top). He was the guy from customs and was holding John’s pack. WHEW. It had gotten stuck inside the conveyor belt.
We met our driver, who informed us it would be a 4 hr shuttle ride to Arenal. We had been told the drive would be 2 hours….but it wasn’t too bad. On the way, the driver stopped and showed us a coffee field and a coffee bean.
The little beans inside are white and each pod has two beans. They are bitter & gross as that stage. We also stopped for lunch. Everything is advertised as “comida typical,” which is no joke. Everything is rice, beans, chicken and a plantain. I was definitely looking forward to the food and it didn’t disappoint. Got to hotel & grabbed drinks & dinner before crashing.
12/25 – early tour start at 6:40am. Our hotel supplied a quick breakfast of eggs, rice & beans before we left. We did rappelling first & met David & Caroline from Sweden. There were a total of 5 rappels – 1st was the highest at 165 ft. 2nd monkey drop, zip line to a drop (which also made my stomach go into my throat). Two more rappels after that and the final was 2nd highest down a waterfall.
Next, we took a shuttle to go rafting in the Balsa river from there. On the shuttle we met Tom & Matan – who had just moved from Israel to San Francisco – small world! The rafting trip was about 2 hours. The 1st hour had Rapids up to class 3. Then we got to swim in the river & stopped for pineapple & watermelon. The rest of the rafting trip was calmer and we looked for animals. We saw iguanas & two sloths.
At the end of the rafting trip went to a farm for more comida typical. We also got to try coffee and Costa Rican moonshine made from sugar cane. Moonshine was 165 proof & GROSS. You aren’t allowed to sell it in Costa Rica, but can make to share with friends.
Headed back to Arenal and ran into David & Caroline. We grabbed drinks and food with them before heading back to our hotel via taxi. It rained hard all night.
12/26 – We took a shuttle to boat to cross the lake, then another shuttle to get to Monteverde.
Monteverde was a lot like Arenal, but a little smaller. We walked around and found a tree house restaurant that had a claim to fame of being one of the world’s top 10 bizarre restaurants. Comida typical again haha – which was delicious. We wandered around the very small town and decided to do a night tour of the rainforest. The night tour started at about 6pm. The hope was to see some animals, since many of the rainforest creatures are nocturnal, but it was drizzling, so our guide told us we may not see much. We did end up seeing a small green pit viper – which is venomous enough to kill someone in 6 hours if it bites them. We also saw some large and cool looking spiders, toucans, jay birds, toucans and a pair of kinkajou running around. Kinkajou look like small reddish squirrels crossed with a raccoon. At the very end we saw another sloth. By the time the tour was over, we were pretty cold, wet & ready to sleep.
12/27 – We had another early pick up for a cloud tour and zip lining. After breakfast of fruit, eggs and you guessed it – rice & beans – we headed to the top of the rainforest. The first part of the tour was a walk through the rainforest. We looked for animals, but didn’t see much because it was early in the day and raining. We walked over six suspension bridges through our walk. They were high above the rainforest canopy and swayed when we went across.
After the walk, we got harnesses for zip lining. The first zip line took us to a sky tram & the tram took us to the very top of 7 long zip lines. It was still foggy, so when John zipped off before me, I could only see him about half way down the line. They had people at each end of the zip line. One to set up the harness and let you go, and another one to help catch you. We got going what felt quite fast & it was weird to be going into the thick fog and not be able to see the end of the zip lines head of you.
The views were amazing though. It was pretty windy & some of the zip lines were up high enough that they needed two people to a zip line so that it would be heavy enough to get to the bottom of the line. It was fun to go together with John. He was brave and held my GoPro; so we got some cool videos and photos.
After zip lining, we headed back to our hotel and waited for our private shuttle to Tamarindo. Another 4 hours – turns out Costa Rican time does not quite match up to real time. They do things much slower and more relaxed. “How much longer of a drive? “Oh maybe one, two hours, you know.” Our driver stopped along the way and showed up some huge iguanas and howler monkeys. He would hoot to the howler monkey in one tree, and moments later all the other trees would start hooting back.
Once we got to Tamarindo, we met our Air BnB host and got the keys to our place. We were a little disappointed to find that it was farther from the beach than we thought, but it was clean and cute and worked out great. We went and got dinner at a place on the beach called Vaquero’s. After all the rice and beans, we both ordered cheeseburgers & fries haha!
We walked around and got gelato and noticed how many tourists there were. Per Lonely Planet, Tamarindo has the nickname “Tamagringo” because of all the tourists that come – especially during the holidays.
12/28 – The next morning we slept in a bit and had coffee. Then went to wander around. We booked a surfing lesson at the Crazy Banana Surf club for that afternoon.
Our AirBnB host had recommended the Crazy Banana over one of the bigger surf classes. John already knew how to surf, but he was going to go out with me while I learned. We got lunch at Nougi’s on the beach nearby. Grilled mahi mahi with rice and beans, and of course a side of plantain.
After some sun, we went to go surf. The water was the perfect temperature for me – warm! After some instruction from our teacher, we headed out to the water. John went off to go surf and was up on the waves right away. It took me about 4 tries before I got the hang of standing up. It was so helpful to have someone to tell me when to paddle and when to stand up. I did get knocked in the chin by the board pretty hard. It HURT & was still sore 3 days later haha. After that, it was a blast. I got the surf for almost two hours and was tired by the time we were done.
John had gone to play beach volley ball by the time I was finished, so I went back to the surf shop to get our stuff & we met up to go back to our place. We emailed with Matan & Tom, from the rafting trip, and planned to meet them for dinner & drinks. John has also invited a guy he met playing volleyball, Brian, to come too. Brian brought along his hostel roommate, Mario. Brian was from Austin, TX and Mario from Italy. We all got sushi from a place our Air BnB host recommended. My favorite was the tuna poke – like mini tuna hand rolls with macadamia nuts and mango, and no mayo – which I hate.
12/29 – After all the activity, John & I decided to head to the beach to do nothing. I had bruises on my hip bones and rib cage from surfing. They matched perfectly with the bruises on my back from the back pack hahaha. Clearly I need to eat more steak for iron so I don’t bruise like an overripe peach! We laid in the sun and read and had beer and coconut water.
Eventually we decided to go get lunch. We were both really hungry, and split a small piece of fish and fries from a restaurant before walking back toward a food cart type restaurant called the Shrimp Hole that I had seen on TripAdvisor. The guy who owned it had an accent and had moved to Costa Rica from England. John got the classic – shrimp with macaroni salad and rice and beans. I got the shrimp Banh Mi. Banh Mi is one of my favorite foods – but I never get it. The last time I had it was my favorite food cart in Portland, and I always felt like nothing else would compare. This Banh Mi was amazing though. It was perfect and probably my favorite food from the trip.
After our late lunch we read our books more and got ready for dinner. About this time I realized I was SO SUNBURNT. Without my swimming suit on, you could still see the perfect outline through the red. I am so good about putting on sun screen, and did put some on that morning. I guess just not nearly enough. We met up with Brian & Mario and got drinks & pizza. We decided to go to a bar that had beer pong. I had a shot of guaro – basically Costa Rican tequila – with the guys which was DUMB. I never take shots and won’t do it normally. I ended up having to call it a night early after that. So sick. Yuck.
12/30 – We had the morning free before our shuttle to back to San Jose. In retrospect, we should have flown out of Liberia, because it was much closer to Tamarindo. We hadn’t realized the shuttle back to San Jose was going to take 6 hours. We looked at options to change, but it didn’t really make sense with what it would cost. Plus, most all hotels were completely booked. So we laid on the beach and looked for souvenirs for our families before we packed up to leave.
The shuttle ride wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The worst part was that we seats were super uncomfortable. About half way, they stopped to let us all grab food. John and I shared a small taco. There were more monkeys at the rest stop. We laughed that we had paid to go into the rainforest twice and seen NO monkeys, yet had seen them at a random rest rest stop. We finally got to our hotel in San Jose at about 8pm. Still sandy from the beach from 2pm – showers and dinner were amazing. I had to get one last comida typical – arroz con pollo with refried black beans. So good!
At breakfast the next morning my omelet came with a side of rice and beans. Pretty funny!
We flew home and rang in the New Year with champagne & pizza! An amazing trip overall!
Wishing you all a Happy New Year! Did you take a vacation or do anything special for the holidays?
With love, sand & sunburns,