Travel Thursday: Costa Rica

On a recent Spring Break trip, I journeyed down to Costa Rica and was ready for an adventure. This was my second trip to Costa Rica while it was third trip for both of my parents. Since Costa Rica is a place that I’ve gotten to know quite well, I decided to give you a couple pointers for this tropical place….also because it has been a long time since I posted a Travel Thursday.

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My first trip to Costa Rica was to explore the new place over summer break. On that trip, I did a lot of the touristic things, such as zip-lining, walking the hanging bridges, seeing volcanos, going to hot springs, etc. My second trip was to get a deeper feel for the country, as well as visiting some of our close family friends who moved to this tropical country. But let’s start with a trip down memory lane as we look at what I did on my first trip. (Please realize that I was only 10 years old and wasn’t a photographer so the pictures may not be as good quality wise.) Also, this trip was in 2009 so I don’t remember the exact itinerary. Thus, I just going to give you a quick run down with places and not a day to day plan.

Where I stayed:

What I did:

  • Hiked around the Observatory Lodge

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  • Visited Playa Blanca and Montezuma

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Comments:

  • The country is B-E-A-Utiful but not all roads are paved and signs can be hard to read

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On my second trip, I didn’t visit the same places as I did before. This is how the traveling went.

Day 1

  • We started off our trip by relaxing on the Pacific Beaches of Manuel Antonio.On the beach, there were vendors of all sorts, some selling food while others sold merchandise, such as necklaces or whistles. If you run into a tico named Jose and he is selling empanadas, make sure you buy a few because his are the best. They are not like typical empanadas  them but they are truly exceptional. But not only are the empanadas great, Ceviche Express is also great and has people going around selling fresh ceviche. Both of these vendors created a memorable beach day that I wish we had in the USA. And if you want to try an almond, there are plenty of them in their shells around the beach. To open, my dad used a rock and cracked it open.
  • At night, or anytime of day technically, you should visit the market in QueposI found plenty of tropical fruits that I’ve never seen before. When visiting, don’t be afraid to ask what things are and how to prepare them.
  • We stayed with our dear friend Laura, who soon will have her bed and breakfast, Villa Ceiba, up and running.

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Day 2

  • Make sure you give yourself a day to walk through Parque National de Manuel Antonio. If you do visit, make sure you have plenty of water, snacks, battery in your camera, a bathing suit and a towel. While walking around, you will run across so many different animals, such as monkeys, sloths, lizards, iguanas and raccoons. But it’s not only the wildlife that will attract you but also the landscape. You’ll see mountains and beaches but make sure you have good walking shoes because it would be a pain if your feet begin to hurt. If you have the time, stop and join the other families as they all enjoy the beach.
  • Want to grab lunch or dinner somewhere? Stop at El Avion. This restaurant cannot be missed even if you’re driving by. It was a former plane that got shot down in Nicaragua during the Cold War. In 2000, it was bought, shipped and rebuilt on top of a hill overlooking the jungle and the beach of Manuel Antonio.

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Day 3

  • We just spent this day relaxing on the beach again…partly because we wanted more empanadas and ceviche. Bonus point because the coconut guy came so we grabbed a few. If you want, you can even ask him to cut it open for you so you can eat the fresh coconut meat.

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Day 4

  • This was one of the longest and most scenic days that we endured. We traveled for 3 hours along a mix of paved and unpaved, straight and winding infamous roads of Costa Rica to reach our destination: our friend’s coffee farm in Coto Brus by the name of  Las Duenas. Hint: A four-by-four may be helpful, but I wasn’t the driver so I’m not an expert. As the scene changed from beach to mountains, the trip seemed to have just begun.

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Day 5

  • After thinking that Day 4 was an adventure, Day 5 had more to it. The day started with a trip to the Benefico. I’m no coffee farmer but I do have great family friends who know just how to make the perfect cup of joe. For the remainder of our trip, we stayed at la finca Las Dueñas. This is a newish coffee farm but is definitely known for their different taste and quality product. After seeing how they dry, roast and grind the coffee, we headed back to the finca for an afternoon lunch alongside the many animals (6 cats and 5 dogs to be exact). And to ease the digestion and get into the Pura Vida mode, we went down to the hot springs.

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Day 6

  • Since we were in Costa Rica, we tried to spend as much time at the well known beaches. Thus, the Ortiz trio joined Las Dueñas, and their incredibly cute cat, on a business trip by the beach. After all the work was done, we crossed the street to relax on the beach. And yes, we did get more fresh coconut juice.

Day 7

  • In Costa Rica, they say Pura Vida. Thus, we took its catch phrase and applied it to the entire vacation but particularly on the 7th day. Relaxing with friends and preparing food together were the highlights of that day.  You may wonder:What was cooking? Flower Frittata, which eventually inspired me to make the Ramp Frittata. One more thing had to be done that day: we needed to go to Panama to get a few things to fix up the farm. I tell you, everything in Costa Rica is more relaxing, including working on a farm.

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Day 8

  • I’m still not sure where the yuca came from but Day 8’s morning was spent preparing the yuca for Yuca Fries. The heat can be exhausting, so everyone took a VERY long cat nap before preparing for the dinner fiesta. That evening, we chowed down on chorizo, yuca fries and amazing ribs.

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Day 9

  • Farm to City. We ventured back down the valley to San Jose. Now, I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing but it took a long time because of how cloudy it was once we got to the peak of the mountain. This was what people mean when they say their heads in the clouds…..literally.

Day 10

  • Since it was the beginning of Semana Santa, we had to go to San Jose a day earlier than expected because of the heavy traffic over the Holiday weekend. San Jose doesn’t have much to offer, except crowds of locals. So we decided to go out and get more fresh air. We went back up the mountains to visit Poas Volcanos. But here is a piece of information that you may want to know before you venture up there. Poas is known for its green slime covering the crater but also for its unpredictable, cloudy weather. Luckily, we had a great view and were able to see the crater and the lagoon. On our way back down the mountain, we stopped at a local restaurant. At Doña (I forget the rest of the name), we devoured a casado, typical Costa Rican dish. Here, the casados were served in a buffet style. Imagine walking down a cafeteria with gourmet food that is so fresh and full of flavor. Well, that’s what you get at Doña something. For dessert, we had a box of fresh strawberries. Be aware, if you go in the spring, you are destined to see tons of strawberry stands, and you can’t go wrong with choosing a vendor.

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Day 11

  • Sadly, our trip had to come to an end and  we had to make our way back to the airport to fly back to the USA. That’s when reality set in and I realized I couldn’t stay there forever.

Safe Travels,

-Stephanie

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