Sunday, 22 June 2014

Costa Rica - March 2013

While we've both been busy working full time, John and I have found time to travel and recently had a request to update our travel blog.  So the details may be a bit fuzzy as time has passed, but I'll do the best I can to capture the key elements of some of our latest adventures.

We travelled to Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste in Costa Rica for one week in March 2013 for a holiday.  John had been working too many hours, so this was definitely a week for him to relax and unwind.  We lucked out and were upgraded to first class on both legs of the trip to Costa Rica, which made for an enjoyable flight. 

When we arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica we were met at the airport by Nan and Paul who owned the casita that we had rented for the week which we found on the Vacation Rentals by Owner website. 
They are a wonderful couple from the States who own two casitas - one that they live in and an identical one next door that they rent out.  It was perfect - just one bedroom, one bathroom with a kitchen, living room and a cool and shady covered patio where we spent lots of time.  There was a triathlon happening in the village that afternoon so we made a quick stop in nearby Playa Coco for groceries and then headed to our home away from home.

Paul and Nan also owned the vacant lot next door to the casitas and we spent time watching the monkeys in the mango trees as well as the rooster and chickens who liked to wander through the yard every afternoon.  Most days consisted of a walk on the beach in the morning, then we would head back to the casita from breakfast and retreat to the patio during the heat of the day, head over to the pool at the hotel next door in the late afternoon, then out to dinner.  It was a lovely lazy way to pass the time.

Found this sea horse washed up on the beach one morning during one of our morning strolls and scooped him up and put him back in the ocean.  It reminded me of the Starfish Story that is near and dear to so many teachers.

 Even though Playa Hermosa is a very small town with only three streets we were able to find lots of great restaurants.  It was interesting that none of the streets have names so directions were challenging and we would walk and walk to find a restaurant only to find that they weren't open even though they were supposed to be open according to web sites like Fodors and Trip Advisor.  We just had to be flexible!

One day we had hiked around looking for a Mexican restaurant that we had read about but it was closed so instead we stopped at Papa Hog's Smokehouse which is owned by a couple from Quebec.  We had great smoked ribs and chicken, and while they were preparing our meal they told us we could go next door to the variety store to buy wine or beer to have with our meal.  They don't have a liquor license but you are allowed to bring your own.  Sweet!

Waiting for dinner at Papa Hog's

One evening we dined at the restaurant at Hotel La Finisterra which has the best view in Playa Hermosa.  The food was good but it was worth the hike up the hill just to enjoy the view.

By far, our best meal in Playa Hermosa was at Mario's.  It took us a
few days to figure out where Mario's restaurant is because it is at his home.  We hiked up the driveway one afternoon and his children were outside playing.  They ran inside to get their parents and we made a reservation for the following evening.  Mario asked us if there was anything we couldn't have (I have food allergies so this was greatly appreciated) and then told us that he would go spearfishing in the morning and we would have the catch of the day.  The next evening when we arrived it turned out the other couple who had also booked a reservation had had to cancel so it was just Mario, his wife and the two of us dining on the patio overlooking the lights of the town.  As each course was presented they told us about the local ingredients and we learned all about his chef training and why they had decided to return to Playa Hermosa.  We really gained an appreciation for the burdens and benefits of life in Costa Rica.  The food was great, the company was great, it was one of the most memorable meals of my life. 

We did take a few side trips while in Playa Hermosa including a hiking trip to a volcano.  Every one got off the van to go on a water tube ride and horseback trip so we had a private tour with our own tour guide.  Birdwatching is a huge tourist draw in Costa Rica and I almost felt bad that John and I couldn't fully appreciate all the cool birds that our tour guide pointed out to us on the volcano tour.  We didn't get to see a sloth - it was very windy and they don't tend to be out in the tree tops on windy days.  We did get to hear some of the loudest cicadas EVER - it sounded like hundreds of car alarms were going off all at once.  We also saw a marching column of army ants, and got to climb over trees and hike through streams.  We had booked the trip through the front desk at the hotel next door to our casita, Hotel Villa Del Sueno.  It was nice having the hotel next door - we could take advantage of their services even though we weren't staying there as Paul and Nan had a great relationship with the manager. 

A vine - behind me is a tree trunk.  Things grow BIG in the jungle!

Our other side trip was a ziplining tour not far from Playa Hermosa.  We got to fly through the jungle while the monkeys watched us from the trees. 

Lastly, we took a quick road trip with Nan and Paul to the hilltops overlooking the town to watch the sunset.  Just another beautiful day in paradise.  Usually I tend to check places off once I've been there but we had such a great time I'd love to go back again!

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