Here I sit at Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. Two friends and I are resting with feet perched atop the white railing of our porch. We are awaiting the moment when we can no longer see the sun behind the peaks of the westward mountains. Jade Mar is the name of our jungle hotel that overlooks waters of the Pacific that are famous for whales and dolphins. There are scarlet macaws perched in the branches above my head, and roosters roaming beneath the floorboards of our four-person cabin. Currently, 8 weeks have elapsed since our arrival, and we have just passed our halfway point.
I have begun to write because I have not reflected upon any of my adventures thus far. Each weekend has had new places and experiences that I never want to forget, so hopefully you find my tales entertaining. I am going to take you through the waterfall gardens of La Paz; beaches of Manuel Antonio, and mountains of Monteverde.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Our first adventure began by meeting at the central park between our home-stay locations early in the morning with a friendly greeting from our weekend tour guide, Gustavo. He truly made our first impression of this country an astounding one. His charismatic stories, and charming humor won my group over in minutes. We toured a coffee plantation, and learned of the several steps in its preparation as well as its waning economic influence. We then traversed through a cloud forest toward a famous volcano that we thought would surely not be visible. We waited at its peak encapsulated by a cloud. Suddenly, the gaseous giant stepped aside for a matter seconds, and we could view the beautiful ridges and rainbow that was stretched across its interior. The following hike led us into a center for several animals, such as jaguars, monkeys, snakes, and toucans – all of which had been removed from Costa Rican homes that had attempted to adopt these creatures as pets. My favorite section, however, was a magnificent butterfly emporium where the insects would flutter by in every direction. The several stages of metamorphosis that we observed were fascinating in that they completely change their figure. I watched a Monarch emerge from its chrysalis, and then it was off to our next location – a delectable buffet. We gorged ourselves to the point immobility, and then a cake was brought out. It was the birthday of a girl in my group, and she became the victim of an element of Costa Rican culture. Before she knew it, her face was flying forward, and then collided with the frosting. On one’s birthday here, it is a custom to push the celebrated individual’s face into his/her cake. Later, we climbed up a trail that ended with an elegant waterfall. As legend has it, there was a woman who died here due to a broken heart. Her tears formed a waterfall, and it is said that you can see her if you stare through the waterfall for 30 seconds and then glance away. Naturally, we tried it, and were astonished at the sight of a woman who materialized on the mountainside.
This location is the most honeymoon-worthy that we have ventured to thus far. Manuel Antonio is the highest regarded beach on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, and my journey here begins with the Karahi Hotel. I step in with luggage in hand, and glance around at the casual atmosphere. The beds are made with our towels folded into the shape of swans, and through the sliding glass door at the back, I can see the hotel’s pool and restaurant sitting upon a beach that was more beautiful than any I had ever seen.
That night, my friends and I burned calories on an upward walk to a restaurant that was constructed from the shell of an airplane. It was quite the sight. At each meal this weekend, I ate the freshest of fish, and on this night I had Tres Leches cake as well. We returned to the hotel shortly thereafter, and about eight of us decided to explore the beachfront. The night was clear, and the stars were closer than ever before. Sitting down in the sand, we spontaneously divulged several stories of our lives, and then returned to our beds.
Waking up the next day was no hard task. We left to explore a rainforest that was down the street and along the beach. The birds, sloths, and monkeys were magnificent, but the most entertaining creature was a fearless doe that greeted us, and allowed multiple people in my group to pet her. The trail that we hiked along brought us to three of the most radiant beaches. The water was crystal clear, and the trees and rocks that cradled its edges contributed to the illustrious image. My group began to laugh – this must surely have been a joke. We never expected a sight this grand. We spent the majority of the day swimming, taking pictures, and exploring every detail of this place.
Immediately after leaving, my friend and I caught sight of a man selling coconuts by slashing a hole across the top, and sticking a straw through for drinking purposes. We had to try it. Personally, the flavor was not the best, but I felt exotic walking around with a coconut. After stopping for lunch, we continued to walk back across the beach in the direction of our hotel. My friend and I relaxed in a hammock, and eventually fell asleep to the sounds of the ocean’s rolling waves.
We woke up, and there was still time left in the day to return to the water, so many of us swam for a while longer. All day, we had witnessed horses running back and forth across the beach. From the water, I watched a man ride with three horses in our direction, so I waded out to inquire about it. He told me that he would meet me in thirty minutes if I wanted to ride one along the shoreline. Shortly thereafter, the sun began its descent, and the man approached me with the horse. He had to show me how to climb aboard because this was my first time riding. I felt surprisingly comfortable initially, but I will admit that it was quite painful when he began to accelerate. Nonetheless, the white horse and I cantered along the ocean’s edge at sunset until colors could no longer be seen. That concluded the evening, but the next morning was an early one because several friends and I woke up to go jet skiing.
Around six o’clock, we got on a bus from our hotel that read, “100% Aventura.” This heading seemed to be a common occurrence in our excursions across Costa Rica. The bus escorted us to a close and contained shore, where we partnered up, and hopped atop our vehicles. The only rule that our guide gave us was to operate in a formation that resembled a flock of geese – him at the front, and us trailing on either side. We ripped across the surface of the water, and past the beaches that we had swam in the day before. At our halfway point, we stopped to snorkel for a while with a fleet of tropical fish, and eat a lunch of pineapple. I began to follow a separate group of fish, and the current began to increase. The fish scattered from sight, and all I could see was white water. I then yank my head upward and see that in the next instant I will be colliding through rocks. I crash into the first, prop myself up on it, and propel myself in the opposite direction. I almost became a permanent resident of Costa Rica. When it was time to leave, my group and I glided back to our starting point, and began our voyage back to San Jose.
Monteverde is a city in the mountains of Costa Rica that is famous for florae, zip lining, waterfalls, and crafts. Upon arrival, I unpacked in a cabin of my own and prepared for the following days. On the first morning, my group and I journeyed across a rickety bridge and through a cloud forest. We discovered many exotic plant species, and the jungle here was truly a sight to behold. On one vine, over thirty plant species could be observed. On the route back, we stopped to watch hummingbirds, and one perched atop my hand.
That afternoon, we were picked up by another 100% Aventura bus and escorted to the longest zip lining center in all of Latin America. I attached my camera to my equipment as we geared up at the entrance. We encountered a group of middle-aged women from Peru who were adventuring around the world, and they took our picture. It seems that many places in Costa Rica attract a global audience. My group excitedly began this next experience by zip lining traditionally through the first section of the course. We then hiked to the second section, and our harnesses were flipped in order to hang in the Superman style. From there, we zipped between two mountainsides, and were stopped by a man waiting on the other side. Our final trial was a “Tarzan Swing” that would require one hundred and fifty feet of free fall.
My group was not all together at this point, but a few of us were lined up and ready to walk across the bridge from which we would be falling. I saw my friend drop first. I heard the scream, but I could not see where she fell to because it was at a substantially lower altitude. I began to inch forward across the narrow bridge to the last guide. I asked for a count down, and he strapped me in – it was just one bungee that I was to hang from. My toes were grazing the edge of the metal box, the man stepped behind me, he quickly counted to 3, his knees hurtled into mine, and I began the free fall that temporarily blurred my vision. Once the swinging started, I could breathe again, so naturally I screamed. I was descended to meet the ground, and looked back up to see my friend at the top. We all jumped, and then made our return to the cabins, had dinner at a tree-house restaurant, and called it a night.
The following morning, after an early breakfast, consisted of another exhilarating experience. Three of us boarded a similar bus that took us to rappel down seven waterfalls. We arrived, received a bit of instruction, acquired our equipment and we were off. The guide warned us of the frigid water that could only ever be conquered with Tequila, but we braved it without. The first was a practice, but we followed the resulting river through seven additional waterfalls. Each ended in some kind of freezing pool of water, but that did not take away from the escapade at all. At one point, I was convinced to walk forward into a puddle that was actually a pit of deep water. Our guide photographed all of our endeavors, but managed to video tape that clumsy misstep. By the end we were exhausted, and so satisfied.
We stopped at a local shop before the bus ride home. A few of us got ice cream, but I went next door to see an artist creating colorful blown-glass trinkets. I asked him what he was finishing, as flippers were apparently coming into existence on his creature. He told me it would be a turtle sculpture designed for a necklace. I told him that I would buy it, and currently – it is hanging around my neck. It has been ever since.