Monday, February 27, 2012

Costa Rica Vacation

We spent our winter retreat/break in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica in the Guanacaste province. We thought Hawaii was beautiful last year but we are still emotionally scarred from flying such a long distance with Oliver. When we set out to make plans for our winter vacation way back when we had a short list of must haves:
  • reasonable flight time
  • guaranteed warmth (our trip to Mexico several years ago proved to be a chilly one)
  • rental houses
After researching and researching we settled on Costa Rica. It met all our criteria. To make the flight time more manageable and more Oliver-tolerable we flew on Friday, February 17 in the afternoon to Dallas and spent the night with my parents, who were traveling with us. The six of us flew out on Saturday morning (my Dad's birthday) to Liberia, Costa Rica. All in all it was two, four hour flights.

Its the dry season in Costa Rica, and February is the warmest month of the year. YES!!! Temperatures were in the high 90s all week. Glorious.

We rented a three bedroom, 2.5 bath home that had a pool and overlooked Playa Hermosa and the Pacific Ocean. The house was spacious and fantastic. Perfect for four adults and two kids. We ate nearly every meal at the house and the kids got to eat what they wanted, when they wanted and all their paraphernalia could be scattered about without us tripping over it or feeling cramped like in a hotel room. We could put Oliver to bed in the children's bedroom and mill about the house at our leisure. There was no hanging out on the balcony waiting for a child to go to sleep and then trying to remain quiet the rest of the evening like in a hotel room.
View from the patio of the rental house.

Sunset view from the pool of the rental house.

BeBe enjoying the pool.

Chloe & BeBe playing in the pool.

Chloe diving into the pool.

"The Fish" still in the pool. It was great having our own pool, we got A LOT of use out of it and we didn't have to worry about disturbing anyone.

The kids in the pool.

Oliver loves the pool too. He loves his water wings---they gave him such confidence.

Now, you couldn't go to a resort and chill out at the pool in your swim diaper without worrying that someone would steal your cars & your iPad.

The only negative of the pool, the tiles were super-slippery once the kids started splashing about. We had to keep shoes on Oliver to keep him from slipping and sliding.

More pool time with toys.

It was so great having my parent's travel with us. Chloe loved looking at all the stars in the sky at night with PaPaw and being silly with BeBe. Oliver loves BeBe and PaPaw's attention and we loved having two extra sets of hands to wrangle one feisty toddler.

Matt and I loved Playa Hermosa. The beach doesn't have the best sand, its course, gray-sand,  or the clearest of water. The Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is known as a surfers paradise. Its not known as a snorkeling destination, though we did go on a sunset cruise and snorkel. The thing we loved most about Playa Hermosa is that it lacks giant resorts. There are hotels and the Four Seasons is right up the road, but it is very private. You can walk the beach without dodging 100s of beach recliners. The beach is public and open and there are relatively few people on the beach. If you want to relax and get away from it all, this place is a pretty good choice. Its real and it lacks the over-the-top, pretentious and cheesy-factor of most beach destinations.
Looking south along the beach at Playa Hermosa. Where the kayaks and canoes are is one of the largest beach-front hotels in Playa Hermosa. Can you see it?

Looking north along the beach at Playa Hermosa. No chairs, no massive resorts. I took the photo when I was trying to wrangle PaPaw to happy hour at the above beach-front resort. He was headed in the wrong direction up the beach and was too far ahead of me to catch up. He's in the red shirt in the center of the beach in the photo.

Monkey face rock just off the coast of Playa Hermosa. We saw it up close on our sunset sail.

Probably the cheesiest thing we saw all week...a pirate ship that takes cruises from Playa Coco, just 5 km south from Playa Hermosa.

The rock outcroppings off the coast of Playa Hermosa. We could see these from the beach and from our house.
Matt and Oliver taking a dip in the Pacific Ocean.

Matt, Oliver, PaPaw & Chloe playing in the water.

Most of the time we relaxed, went to the beach and swam in the pool. We made a lot of trips to the grocery store and one to the local fish market where we purchased an obscene amount of sea bass and red snapper (freshly caught that day). I think we are topped up on our Omega-3 fatty acids and probably our mercury level is elevated - wink wink . We did go to Rincon de la Vieja National Park & Hacienda Guachipelin, a hotel and adventure resort just at the base of the national park. Chloe and Matt did a zip line tour while BeBe, PaPaw, Oliver and I walked around. Guachipelin is a working ranch and we got to see the ranch hands driving the cattle and lots of horses.
The sign at the entrance to Rincon.
BeBe, PaPaw, Chloe, Oliver and Matt at the entrance to the national park.


View of one of the volcanoes at Rincon.

View of the other volcano at Rincon. Oh, they're active volcanoes too.
Chloe getting ready to swing across at Guachipelin.
If I saw this while it was going on, I would have probably "freaked out" as Oliver would say.

Swinging across a canyon at Guachipelin/Rincon.

Matt zip-lining at Guachipelin.

Instruction from their guide.
And some video of the duo (despite the look on her face, Chloe really was having fun).



Chloe loved the zip-lining. Besides requesting to swim, body board at the beach, Chloe's next request was zip-lining. Later in the week, we obliged, and went to the closest zip-line, which was a canopy zip-line. It didn't have all the climbs and canyons of the Rincon zip-line.

Chloe, the zip-line pro. Matt and Chloe went with a group of about 10 people and one of the ladies said that she didn't want to do it until she saw Chloe get up there and make it look easy. She thought "if that little girl can do it then I can do it!".

Matt at The Congo Trail Canopy Tour. There were lots of capuchin & howler monkeys on the tour.
We also went on a snorkel and sunset cruise during the week. BeBe stayed home with Oliver and Matt, Chloe, PaPaw and I went. The snorkeling was not so great but the sunset was magnificent.

Hanging out on the back of the boat.

Matt & Chloe on the back of the sail boat.

We also had a few visitors at the house during the week. We had our own friendly gecko/lizard that lived behind the air conditioner in the living room and would come out at night to rid the room of bugs, we had a couple of scorpions, which were unwanted guests, a giant wolf spider looked on one night as Matt & Chloe went for an evening swim and our friends the howler monkeys would stop by to say hello at dawn and sometimes dusk.
Our pal, Terry, the wolf spider.

And forgive the quality of the video. I tried to capture the howler monkeys that would visit us at the house but had difficulty finding and keeping up with them as they swung through the trees through the camera lens. Perhaps I should have let Chloe film them as she requests during the video.  You can hear why they get their name and why they are the loudest land mammal on the planet.


On our last night, Matt and I got to go on a date while BeBe and PaPaw stayed behind with the kids. We wanted to go and eat at a hotel that has fabulous views over the Pacific but they were closed for a wedding. The owners directed us to another hotel/restaurant. The food was good but the experience was odd. Once the entertainment took the stage we quickly realized that we were dining at the hangout of the French-speaking expats. There was no English or Spanish spoken, only French. To make it more weird, we were the youngest couple (excluding members of the band, i.e. the trombone player) by about 15-20 years. And, just in case you were wondering, French-speaking expats are just as rude as if they were in their French-speaking homeland. I was corrected by a man who was gabbing to someone in French and blocking the entrance to the women's restroom. I said, "Excuse me" to which he snapped, "NON! It's PARDON!". I mean really? You're at one of the most laid-back places on earth and you have to bring your hoity-toity to it. Give me a break. Other than that one encounter, the people of Costa Rica were super-friendly. No complaints there.
Two thumbs up for this vacation. We can't wait to go back!!

2 comments:

Costa Rica Lots said...

Thanks for the nice post...!!!

Brielle Franklin said...

This sounds like such a great experience! I am normally all up for zip lining, but that one just looked like even I would chicken out of it! My husband and I have been looking into Costa Rica condominiums for our next trip. We have only been to a resort in Costa Rica the last time we went. This time we are looking forward to getting a tour and seeing much more of the nature in this beautiful place. Thanks so much for sharing this great article!

 
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