Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving in COSTA RICA!

This Thanksgiving, I decided to do something a little out of the ordinary - 3 friends and I took an AMAZING trip to Costa Rica.

Lora, Dana, Mindi and I packed our VERY LIGHT bags (all of us traveled with one suitcase each, weighing UNDER 25 pounds each) and headed to San Jose, Costa Rica early on Wednesday morning. The short 3 hour and 45 minute flight direct from Houston got us to San Jose, CR around 1pm on Wednesday afternoon.

We met up with our driver, Allejandro, and headed off to Manuel Antonio. One of the first things he taught us was the phrase "Pura Vida" – means pure life. It's used as a greeting, thank you and also you're welcome. It caught on fast, and was used everywhere! The drive was beautiful, but we were very thankful that we weren't doing the driving ourselves. It was through the mountains, and the roads were skinny and the fog was so bad that at times, we couldn't see much further than the car in front of us. Not to mention too that the signs to let you know where to go were less than desirable. The drive took us through Jaco Beach, a quick stop at Crocodile Bridge, and over 2 140 year old bridges that were so scary that our driver called his family before going over them to say his goodbyes should we not make it across. I am sure he was exaggerating for effect, but how comforting, huh? Thankfully, we all made it across the structures and got to La Mariposa in Manuel Antonio right around sunset, which in Costa Rica happens around 545pm. Our hotel was so wonderful and the staff was even better. We were on the top floor with a beautiful ocean view. Dinner that night at the hotel restaurant set the bar high for our dinners on the trip. We shared Mahi mahi, Schnook, Red Snapper, Tuna and wine – all were superb!! After we stuffed ourselves, we took a short walk over to Barba Roja – "The Pirate Ship Bar" for some drinks and fun. We called it a night after that for our early morning expeditions started at 715AM!

Thursday morning we were greeted with the sunrise at 530am. After breakfast we were picked up for our first great adventure – ATV Tour through the jungles of Quepos. The 4 of us, along with a couple from London and a rather loud and obnoxious girl from Florida, joined Aldo and our other guide for the time of our lives. We drove the ATVs through mud, puddles, bodies of water, etc. Some of the ATVs got stuck, which was so much fun and got us all a little dirty!!! We took a chilly dip in a natural watering hole to wash ourselves off before the end of the tour and a home cooked 2nd breakfast of the morning – complete with the local Imperial beer of course! :) This is also where we learned about Lizano Salsa which became a quick favorite to all of us!!

A quick trip back to the hotel and then we were off again for the Titi Canopy tour – a zip line adventure through the jungle. We considered ourselves lucky when we came across some monkeys playing in the trees atop one of the platforms. They were so cute and fun!! After we got back and were ready for some food, we took a recommendation from one of our hotel staff and dined at La Cantina for dinner. Again, we shared an exorbitant amount of food and enjoyed every bit of it. We made ourselves stay and enjoy some extra food and drinks so we could make it out to Ladies Night at The Lounge that evening, which didn't start up until 10pm. The local places were fun to hit up, although we only stayed for a bit, enough to see some people make fools of themselves and then we headed home.

Friday morning had us ready for another grand adventure – we started out with White Water Rafting on the Naranjo river. Our tour guide, Fabian, entertained us with telling us to "forward twice", "paddle back hard" and "get down", while we knew he was really doing all the work. We spent about 2 hours going down the river on the most perfect sunny day!! At the end, we enjoyed another home cooked meal and fresh made juice.

We got back to the hotel with a little time to kill, so we headed out to an ATM in preparation for our afternoon of shopping in town, and made some time to take the infamous JUMP pose, Costa Rican style. We love those pictures!!! The hotel shuttle took us to the beach, where the streets were lined with jewelry and local goods vendors. We didn't do too much damage, but did all manage to make it home with some new fun bracelets, earrings and wraps! We did get to walk a little on the beach too, and how gorgeous it was! We planned on viewing the sunset from El Avion – "The Airplane", and made our way there just in time. The sunset was gorgeous, and even better enjoyed with a few pitchers of Margaritas – of course! It poured while we were there, and was still raining when we got back to the hotel….although that didn't stop Dana from fulfilling what our original plans were….to sit in the pool swim up bar and order a drink before going out that night. She got quite a few stares when she jumped into the pool and swam up to the bar – while it was still raining and even lightening, especially when the rest of us were sitting under umbrellas to do the same. :)

We took our time getting ready, and were lucky enough to have our rafting guide from that morning come get us for a night of local fun. We first went to play some (terrible – we are SO not good) pool at Babylos, some salsa dancing at Bambu Jam, and finished up the night with some more dancing at Arco Iris Discotheque. What a night!!

Saturday morning Lora, Mindi and Dana took a walking tour of Manuel Antonio National Park while I stayed at the hotel and got us our exit row seats on the return flight and enjoyed a little time at the pool. It was warm and sunny enough at 745am to enjoy and get a nice tan – how wonderful!! We rejoined for lunch and then took off for the Quepos airport. Since we'd already taken the drive between the two cities, we decided that for the way back we'd experience the Nature Air flight. We were standing ON the runway when our plane landed. It was a quaint little 20 seater with large windows so we could enjoy the scenery on the 25 minute flight through the mountains to get back to San Jose.

After getting settled at our hotel for the night, we took off and decided to walk around town to find some Lizano Salsa to take home. We bought the first Mini Mart that we came across clean out of their supply….and then stumbled across the local version of Walmart and hit the jackpot. We all brought home quite a few Lizano products and probably could have stuffed more into our suitcases had we thought about it. Dinner was one more fantastic meal at Sale e Pepe, a cute little Italian place that we stuffed our faces one more time. Getting everything into our suitcases for the travel back home while watching Legally Blonde on TV put us all to sleep before 10pm.

The driver picked us up at 5am on Sunday for us to head home. We had the best time and were a little sad to leave, but can't wait to go back!! The girls, the country, the people, everything were just perfect!!! Glad to be back home in good ole USA, but looking forward to our next trip already!!


Annemarie :)