LIFESTYLE Travel & Food  >  Living the Pure Life in Costa Rica – Part 2

Living the Pure Life in Costa Rica – Part 2

Living the Pure Life in Costa Rica – Part 2
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BY KATHLEEN HEINS

Today we continue on our trip to Costa Rica…

Day four: Passing through sugar cane and pineapple plantations, I wished that a tour to one of these farms was a part of the itinerary. As we drove through town after town, I also felt that I was missing out by not getting to know the people of Costa Rica; how they lived and what they thought of being a nation whose income was based largely on tourism. I wondered how they felt about all the massive tour buses continuously passing through their towns and in some cases in front of their homes. Many residents smiled and­­ waved. I wanted to stop and share a meal with them in one of the many “Sodas” (family run restaurants) we saw along the way. I was told the Soda served inexpensive food such as “Gallo Pinto”, rice and beans and “Casado” a mixed plate with your choice of meat. Further on in our journey, I saw a group of uniformed school girls make their ways down a dirt road to a makeshift village composed of dilapidated shacks. All children in Costa Rica must legally attend school and all of them wear uniforms. A little over 20 percent of Costa Ricans live in poverty.

Later that day, we took a nature cruise on the Rio Frio, where we saw many migratory birds not seen elsewhere in Costa Rica. We enjoyed watching distant monkeys swinging from the trees as they seemingly kept pace with our pontoon. At our turnaround point our boat straddled the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua before heading back; a major photo opp.!

Day five: Today marked one of the highlights of the trip; a hike through a tropical rain forest at Mistico Park that took us across a series of hanging bridges. I tried to put this excursion out of my mind until we arrived. Would walking across a suspension bridge, several hundred feet over the jungle floor, pose a problem? My heart rate quickened as I made my way across the first of six bridges but by bridge two I had no problem. The day of the hike was steamy and while not pouring, a steady rain fell throughout our journey. It was the perfect day for a rainforest hike!

That night we checked into the J.W. Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa near the village of Tamarindo. The open-air lobby featured clay-tiled floors and inviting hammocks. Walking down to the beach we were just in time to witness a glorious sunset.

Day six: Today was spent soaking up the sun, cooling off in the resort’s infinity pool and enjoying frozen margaritas poolside. I watched as one woman passed by; her skin a deep red. Our tour director warned us that as we were only eight degrees north of the equator so the sun’s rays could be very damaging. I made certain to keep my jungle hat, protective shirt, sun glasses and sunscreen with me at all times. Being so close to the equator, I learned, also meant that sunrise and sunset occurred at the same time every day of the year!

The next morning at breakfast, an exotic bird I had never seen, flew in to enjoy the leftovers at an adjoining table. He looked like a flamboyant version of the American blue jay with feathers that sprouted straight up from his head.  Many of the meals we enjoyed in Costa Rica were open air allowing us to spend more time amidst the country’s colorful birds and tropical offerings.

Day seven: Today began with a bird watching cruise on the Tarcoles River. Note: If you visit Costa Rica you must bring your binoculars! The bird calls filled the air and my spirit! That night we traveled to the Manuel Antonio National Park spending the night at the San Bada Hotel located at its entrance. The park is the smallest of Costa Rica’s national parks but known around the world for its beaches and trails and is also one of the most bio-diverse areas in Central America. The proximity to the jungle, however, meant that doors and windows had to be kept closed at all times to prevent some large insects and lizards from sharing your room! Tour sites cautioned that we should shake out our shoes in the morning to make sure no guests had checked in while we slept.

Day eight: We set out early, to avoid the crowds and heat, to hike Manuel Antonio National Park. The park was home to spectacular beach coves and those that could bear the direct sun of late morning took a dip in the water. On my wish list for this visit was an up-close sighting of the White-Faced monkey. While they seemed to keep their distance at first, at one point one made his way to a public drinking fountain hoping to quench his thirst. Soon a family of them could be heard making their way toward us in the trees above and I got my photo as one studied me from a nearby tree! Another even made his way to ground level and held out his cupped hand to my husband! A very human gesture but we were warned to keep our distance as they’ve been known to bite tourists who come too close. Feeding the monkeys was forbidden.

Another very memorable sighting was a pair of huge scarlet macaws flying side-by-side as our bus made its way to a tropical dry forest. The sight of the pair of bright red, blue and yellow feathered birds passing overhead is imprinted in my mind forever. I loved seeing them in their natural environment, flying free. That afternoon we took an aerial tram through and above that forest.

The day ended with a return trip to the capital San Jose. Walking into the elegant hotel lobby in our hiking attire we felt very out of place. We quickly made our way to our rooms to shower, and dress for our farewell dinner. The next morning, we enjoyed our last typical Costa Rican breakfast of fresh squeezed juices, endless platters of fresh fruit, homemade yogurts, delicious omelets, delicate pastries and endless cups of coffee. Unlike other vacations, I returned feeling refreshed and invigorated. I understand now why the “pure life” has so much appeal.

 

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