Saturday, December 10, 2011

Buenas Dias from Costa Rica

We took our first "real" vacation to Costa Rica this year. We had the most amazing time and experienced so many wonderful things! We chose to go in December so that we could escape the cold Minnesota winter for a while. Plus, we used this trip as an excuse to celebrate our 5th anniversary this year. Wow, how time flies! Our trip was 10 days long. In that time we traveled to several different areas in Costa Rica. We rented 2 houses to stay at. The first house was in a town called Atenas, and the second house was in a town called Dominical. Both areas were not very touristy, which made the experience that much more "authentic" and cultural. Luckily, Jacob speaks Spanish. Otherwise, we might have been in trouble.

When we first flew into San Jose (the capital) we found a
Walmart to do some grocery shopping. San Jose is very
"Americanized" compared to the other parts of Costa
Rica we visited. There are American stores and restaurants
everywhere, and many of the people speak English.
One thing Jacob found in Walmart that reminded him of Venezuela
(where he served his mission) was the isle with rows and
rows of different flavors of Tang. I remember Tang as a child.
It was orange, and only orange. Not in Costa Rica.
We had to buy a few to help bring Jacob back to his mission days.
After leaving San Jose, the first house we stayed at was in Atenas. It was located in the mountains and the views were gorgeous! The house was also equally amazing. It was a Bali-style house, made for outdoor living. Nearly every wall of the house was a sliding glass door that opened up to the outside. The living room/dining room/kitchen  and master and guest bedrooms were all separate living quarters, each with their own doors and locks.  
Front of the house
Jacob at the front gate

Neighbor's banana tree

Main house (living room, dining room, kitchen, and half-bathroom)

Master bedroom with bathroom (left).
It was convenient having the bathroom just behind the
stone wall of the bed,... but not very private
when nature called. 
We had a beautiful view of the mountains
Pool-side hammock (big enough for two)
The ceilings throughout the house were made of
dried bamboo. Absolutely beautiful!
Between the two bedrooms was an
outdoor Jacuzzi made of stone.
We planned on using it, but when
we realized it would take hours to fill
(low water pressure) and that the water
was only luke-warm, we opted not to. 
The bush on the right, with the pink flowers, appeared to attract
hummingbirds. We saw them flying around and feeding just
about every day.

One little hummingbird flew into our house and up onto the
ceiling beams. I thought it had found its way outside, but later that
night Jacob found it in the kitchen sink drain. It was drenched and
exhausted. It could barely move and its foot was caught in the drain
with a hair/string wrapped around it.

I was able to get it out of the sink and gently untie its tangled foot.
I sat it on a towel and put a lamp over him to help dry his feathers.
I looked up as much information as I could about saving
hummingbirds, but apparently not many people run into
this problem because there weren't any solutions online. I read
however, that hummingbirds expend so much energy with their
rapid wing movement that they need to eat every 10 minutes
 or so. I guessed this little bird hadn't eaten in hours, as it was
trapped inside the house, so I tried to provide food for it but
 with no luck. He did however eventually dry off and begin
to flutter around. This is where I ran into a dilemma, it was late
a night (dark) and I didn't know if I should keep him in our room
until he got enough energy or simply let him go so that he could
scavenge for food. Jacob and I decided he would have the best
chances for survival if we let him go Sadly, I kept seeing him try to
fly into our room towards our light, bump into our window and fall
to the ground. I repeatedly checked on him and eventually could
not find him anywhere.I figured he had flown away. To my dismay,
I saw him later the next day deceased on the patio. I was so sad I
nearly cried. Apparently my attempts to save this little creature
failed.  May it rest in peace. Despite my sadness, it was amazing
to be able to hold a hummingbird in my hands.
How many people get to experience that!
Outdoor patio looking in on the main house.
The house also had an outdoor grill, which we used once.
Lesson learned...beef in Costa Rica (unless imported)
is not worth eating, let alone firing up the grill for.

It was so relaxing to be around so many plants and be in such
a calm, serene environment. It was just what we needed!
Outdoor shower next to the pool
Around each corner of the house were hammocks, rocking
chairs, and swinging chairs to enjoy all the beautiful scenery
and landscaping.  

Guest bedroom

My hubby soaking up the rays
The weather was pretty much perfect. It was warm
(in the 80s) and not very humid. It rained a few times, but the
rain was warm and inviting. The kind you feel like dancing in.

This table was one of my favorite parts of the house.
Main house looking out
One night, Jacob and I were sitting in the main house with 
the sliding doors open, when I saw something run across the 
ground through the shadows. I knew it was larger than a typical
insect but too small to be an animal. I walked outside to see what
it was and shrieked when I saw this monstrosity crawling
around. It may not look that big in the picture, but it was
HUGE in real life. Jacob told me it was the kind of spider that
"jumps on you and eats your face off." 
Words of comfort... in my time of fear.
This is the life!
The guy who rented us the house suggested we go
hiking down a trail by the house. Most of it was
so steep and hilly that we didn't make it very far.
We saw so many people walking and biking to and from 
work, school, the store, etc. in Costa Rica. It really made us
grateful to have a car and reminded us of how blessed we
are in the United States. It wasn't uncommon to see women riding
a bicycle with their children on the front
and their grocery bags on each handle, all 
while trying to pedal up the road or highway.  

One of the highlights of our trip was a rafting trip we took at Limon,
which was about 3 hrs away from San Jose. This is the club house where the bus brought us and picked us up. 
Sadly, we don't have any pictures from our adventure as we were told that we would get wet from head-to-toe and that bringing a camera that was not waterproof was not recommended. We had the most amazing time! The rapids were class 1-4. The first half of the river was full of fun rapids. Jacob and I were pretty confident we had nothing to worry about.  We were surprised when the instructor told us we hadn't even reached to the class 3 or 4 rapids yet. The class 4 rapids were definitely an adrenaline rush. Only 1 person flew out of the raft, although many of us came very close. We got to jump out of the raft and swim down the river a few times. Towards the end of the trip, it began to rain. There was something strangely enjoyable about rafting on a river, through the rain forest, in the rain. The people we rafted with were also really fun which made the experience that much more memorable. We became friends with another couple from Florida (Francine and Andres).  It's hard not to, when you're on a bus with them for 8 hrs. Although our raft was full of tourists, oddly, I was the only one that didn't speak Spanish. 
Robin, Jacob, Francine, & Andres after the trip
After our rafting trip, Jacob and I walked went to a nearby
Denny's to eat dinner. I cost $25-30 just for
two regular meals! It was nice to have a change from
the arroz and frioles (rice and beans) though! 

Costa Rican houses on our way to our rafting trip

During out stay in Atenas, we also went on a
canopy/zip-line tour through the forest.
We started at the Hotel Vista Golfo and rode horses
to the zip-lining site.

Me and Bandito.

Jesus (our tour guide)
These horses were so smart! Once we reached our site (which
was 20-30 minutes from where we began) the instructors simply
 let go of the reigns and whistled, which signaled the horses to
turn around and head home on their own. 
The zip-line course consisted of 25 zip-lines and 13 waterfalls.
This particular one was difficult as we had to repel
backwards instead of simply riding our way down.

Waterfall where we went swimming
Jacob and I (on the right)
with another couple on the tour

Jacob crossing a bridge Indiana Jones-style

Jacob repelling 
The first beach we visited on our trip was in the city of Jaco.
We had to stop at this fish taco bar that is basically legendary
in Costa Rica. Signs to come here can be found hundreds
of miles away. 

The restaurant had a fun vibe and even swing chairs at the bar.
As soon as the two girls left (above), Jacob insisted
we try them out.

Jacob waiting for his fish tacos.

After eating, we stopped at the Playa de Jaco (Jaco beach)

After our stay in Atenas, we drove to Dominical.
The drive was beautiful. It's so green and lush in Costa Rica.
It's no wonder Jurassic Park was filmed close by. 
Rows and rows of palm trees
Rode-side shop
It was fun to see rode-side shops and stands
selling clothing, handmade items, and local fruit.
Before reaching our house in Dominical we stopped to take
a tour of Manual Antonio National Park. We were advised
to pay the $10-15 to get a tour guide, otherwise, we really
wouldn't see anything. It was great advice. We would have
probably missed all the hidden animals along the route.
We saw several sloths like the one above. We learned that
they only come down to the ground about once a week
to do their business before climbing back up to hang
out more. They move incredibly slowly, even when
re-positioning in the trees. They also don't
require much food or water as their metabolism is so

This spiky tree had thousands of sharp needle-like quills
on it.  Monkeys have to use other nearby branches and trees
to get to the fruit on top.

Bamboo growing sideways out of a hill.
Our tour-guide told us that bamboo was originally brought
over from Asia and planted here, and because of the conducive
climate, it grows out-of-control. 
Mock "Bird of Paradise" flower. 

Jacob and another couple on our tour through Manuel
Antonio park. 
If you look closely, you can see a small brown lizard
on the leaf in the center of the picture.
Our tour guide said this lizard is named the
"Jesus Christ Lizard" as it can run on water. 

The beach in Manual Antonio park was absolutely stunning.
It was probably the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.
The weather was gorgeous, the sand was white, the water was blue,
and I got to enjoy it with my best friend!
 What a perfect day!

My favorite beach 
One of the funnest parts of the park was getting to see
all the monkeys right along the beach. They were so
playful as they ran around and swung overhead.
We were told to be careful, as the monkeys often steal
tourists' purses, wallets, and cameras!
Jacob and I with the another couple on our tour

Hermit Crab

House in Dominical (a.k.a. my dream house)
This house was also in a gated community in a secluded part of
the Dominical. The houses in the neighborhood all sat on hills,
which gave us the most incredible views of the ocean from
the back patio. 
Flowers along the side of the  house

Jacob in the kitchen
We even had a welcome package of fruit, wine, coffee, cereal,
and milk when we arrived. Talk about great service.
Dining room
Sitting area
Infinity pool and patio
Patio table and grill
Patio lounging area
The pool/patio area had speakers, which allowed you to
hook up your Ipod inside and play music outside.
View from the back patio
We loved seeing the trees and especially the ocean in the distance.
One night we got to watch the most amazing sunset just beyond the ocean.
There were three bedrooms (all exactly alike) in the house.
Each bedroom had its own bathroom (also exactly alike).
It would be a perfect house to rent with other family members
or friends as no one would be fighting over the nice rooms
or bathrooms. Each bathroom had a double sink, large walk-in
shower, and Jacuzzi tub.
Downstairs bedroom that opened up to the back patio

Living Room 

The one story Jacob still laughs about to this day, happened
one night when the power went out. I woke up to a beeping sound
going off in the house. I wasn't sure what it was, so I woke Jacob
up to tell him about it. He got up to check it out and I attempted
to turn the lights on. It was then that I realized the power was out.
Being paranoid like I am, I thought that someone had possibly cut our
power in order to blindly rob or assault us! Jacob was convinced
this was not the case and searched the house for the origin of the beeping.
He decided to tamper with the house alarm system, as he thought it might have
something to do with that. I was standing anxiously by his side (and by the alarm), when
he accidentally set it off. I don't think Jacob has ever seen me scream and jump
SO high! The alarm was honestly as loud as a school fire alarm, so you can imagine
how much is startled me! Within a few minutes, the security guard was
at our house with his flashlight, checking the parameter of the house for intruders.
Luckily, we survived (with no break-ins) to see another day.
One of our favorite experiences was when we took surfing lessons in Marino Ballena National Park. Our instructor and his wife were so fun to work with and helped take the nervousness out of trying something new. The weather was perfect and being surrounded by miles of uncrowded beach was unbelievable. We had the rain forest on one side of us and the ocean on the other. 
We took our lesson from Bodhi Surf School. The word bodhi in sanskrit means
"enlightened" or awakened.

We first practiced standing up on surf boards drawn in the sand. Helpful....but not quite as easy on the water.

Surfing was one of my favorite activities of our trip
(other thanwhite-water rafting). I can't wait to
go again!
My instructor cheering me on!

I love this picture because it looks like Jacob is being chased
by his board

My husband....the romantic

After our surf lesson, Jacob wanted to take a walk down the
beach to the "Whale's Tail", which I had never even heard of.

So we headed down the shore to take a look. 
On our walk we saw several McCaws in the trees. It was
amazing to watch them flash their vibrant colors as they
flew from tree to tree. McCaws mate for life, so we
always saw them in pairs, often bickering, like true life-long

This dog was our companion for our entire walk down the
beach and back. I first saw him at the beginning of our walk
and showed him a little affection. From then on, he was hooked.
Despite other beach goers attempting to play with him
or feed him, he stayed loyal to us and never left our side (even when
we wanted him to). It was fun watching him dig for sand crabs
and chase flocks of birds he never came close to catching.
By the end of the walk,  I was concerned that he would
give me the sad puppy look and want me to take him home with me.
Surprisingly, he just flopped under a picnic table by our car and
was content to stay. I suppose he was satisfied with just using us for
an afternoon of entertainment and companionship.
Isthmus of Punta Uvita or the infamous "Whale's Tail" as it is called.
The area where Jacob and I surfed was just to the right and up a mile
or so from the end of the tail. After our lesson, we went on a walk
down the right side of the tail, but could not make it to the end, as
the tide had come in. I had never even heard of this site until I was
standing on it. Apparently, it is a result of the southeast and northeast
currents converging in the same location, which causes an accumulation
of layers of sand and sediment forming a sandbar in the shape of a whale's tail.  
We went on a deep-sea fishing trip near Dominical.
I knew it was something Jacob was really
looking forward to, so I let him reel in the fish
anytime we had a bite. He caught several Mackerel,
a Needlefish (as seen above), and a Blackfin tuna.

At the beginning of the trip, I thought I was getting slightly
sea-sick. Our guide gave me a motion-sickness pill (who knows
what it was) and told me to take it right then, before things
got worse. Seeing that I didn't want to be barfing over the
side of the boat for the 6 hrs we were on the water, I complied.
The medication however, made me drowsy for most
of the trip and I fell asleep at the bow of the boat.  

The fisherman that took us fishing spoke very little
English. I got to practice my Spanish with him
and he practiced a little English with us.

Holy Mackerel!
Another Mackerel. After our guide filleted the fish,
we were able to take it to a local restaurant right off
of the beach and have them prepare it in a meal for us.
It was neat to eat what we caught and know that it was

Blackfin tuna 
Before we left, we checked out a burger
joint that got really great ratings. It
was delicious! Good beef  is nearly
impossibly to come by in Costa  Rica
(something Jacob and I discovered
the hard way). This beef however, was
 imported from the states. The owner
was a total beach bum (long hair, board
shorts, and flip flops). We loved it!
The smoothies were also to die for.
Mine was blackberry banana and Jacob's was  Pina Colada.

On our way back to the airport to come home,
we stopped at a local bridge that always seemed to
draw tourists. There, we saw several crocodiles along
the river bank. 
How many crocs can you spot?
There are actually six pictured here!
Jacob on the bridge
We were fortunate enough to drive by the San Jose
temple a couple of times. Right before we arrived at the
airport to come home, we got to see it one last time. 

All in all, our trip was absolutely amazing and so memorable! We had many wonderful experiences and are so grateful we got to experience to people, food, and culture of Costa Rica. Until we meet again....Adios Costa Rica!


  1. So Glad you had a wonderful vacation!

  2. your trip looks AMAZING!!! how fun!

  3. This trip looks amazing! Much needed and well deserved!! Thanks for taking the time to upload all of the pictures so we could get a glimpse of paradise, too! I love all of your stories with the pictures. What fun memories!!! Love ya.