Friday, November 7, 2008

Costa Rica Travelogue (Day 4-8)

Day 4: We took a break from all the adventures and saved this day for a bit of site seeing. We walked up to the rim of Poas, an active volcano crater. Although there was no rain that morning, the fog was too heavy for us to see the crater at all. We are told that the sight is something to behold. After the crater we went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This is a walk through the Vara Blanca Cloud Forest and goes through 5 waterfalls. The entire walk is paved but wet, so easy for both adults and kids though the length and the climb can be tiring for adults.

Day 5: We headed south towards Dominical area (Pacific ocean side) where the mountains meet the ocean. The drive to the beach was long and tiring. We passed over the mountains as high as 13,000ft high. We stayed at an Inn called Necochea, a private home tucked up in the mountain and surrounded by the jungle with a nice gurgling stream right outside the kitchen. A short drive down, the stream ended in a nice swim hole where my husband loved going for a dip. It felt like a private stream with its own waterfall and a swim hole. We used to wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys and toucans.

Day 6: This was a rappelling day, over the Nauyaca (Baru) falls, a beautiful double-decker falls. Basically you get to the bottom of the fall by rappelling down and then hike to a small but beautiful swim hole. The rappelling was initially scary, especially when it is time to go over the edge of the cliff. But when I got down and looked up, I wished I could do it all over again. Our 7 year old was too young for this, but our 10 year old was able to rappel. Of the three activities (zip lining, whitewater rafting and rappelling), our 10 year loved zip lining, rafting and rappelling in that order. Because of his light body weight, rappelling was a bit of hard work for him and he had to be assisted by the guide who was rappelling alongside. Our 7 year old hiked down to the swim hole with one of the guides and waited for us. After rappelling, we hung out by the falls, our really fun guides (a family of three) had prepared a nice lunch for us that we ate right there for a very relaxing afternoon.

Day 7, this day we had the option of going sea-kayaking, spending day at the beach or go whale watching. We chose to go whale watching. We saw two humpback whales, and few dolphins. Because of the rain the previous night, the water closer to the beach was very muddy so we chose not to snorkel, but in clear season, the water in the bay is supposedly very clear and supports a huge variety of fishes and beautiful snorkeling.

Day 8: This was our morning on the beach. The rocky coastline was lined with awesome beaches some of them with caves that people could paddle around in kayaks. We found a beach with two caves that connected the beach to the ocean creating a blow hole. These caves were perfect for body surfing or surf boarding. Such pristine beaches are what Costa Rica is all about, a place where the rainforests meet the ocean with nothing but a small slivers of sand in between...Costa Rica is Pura Vida.
Pura Vida: Pure Life

Monday, November 3, 2008

Costa Rica Travelogue (Day 1-3)

Our trip to Costa Rica was in the middle of August. Costa Rica promotes this time of the year as the “green” season, we all however call it the rainy season. As with most of our family trips, we used a small privately owned and locally operated company called Tico Tom Tours. Our main focus for this trip was to experience various adventure activities. We chose to skip visiting the northern pacific side of the country, where most of the major resorts are located. For lack of time, we could not go down south to Osa either, but hopefully our next trip to CR will include OSA. Our itinerary scheduled our activities in the mornings. Although it was the rainy season fortunately all our mornings were dry. Right around 2pm every day, it would start raining, at which point we used to stop for lunch and relax in our hotel. In the evenings we went out for dinner, rain or no rain. In fact, the rain created a very tropical ambiance. We had warm weather, pouring rain, nice dinner, all the while surrounded by the sounds of nature. If you are into nature & adventure tourism, Costa Rica is a good place to be during the rainy season.

On day 1, upon our arrival at Alajuela airport, we were met by our guide. We swallowed some dramamine and drove straight to the Arenal area. The drive from the airport is about 3 hours, so a morning or early afternoon arrival works best with our itin. We stayed at Arenal Resort, under the majestic presence of Arenal Volcano. The resort was about 3-4 star. The rooms were small but comfy; there was a swimming pool and a restaurant on the premises. Buffet breakfast was included. At night, from our bedroom we could see the smoke coming out the volcano. We had to take a short drive from the hotel to a lookout point, to see the lava pouring down its side. Since it was cloudy at the time we were there, we only got a brief glimpse of the lava. Nevertheless, Arenal area and the volcano are beautiful and a “must see”.

On Day 2, our big activity was zip lining through the rainforest. Zip lining constituted of 8 separate zips from one mountain to another to get to the bottom. Once we started, there was no turning back. Our 7 yr old was too young to zip (no harnesses for a small body. Hindsight, even if they did, I don’t think we would have felt comfortable with him ziping 8 times from one mountain to another). Our 10 yr old was able to zip with the guide. I fear we may have inadvertently created an extreme sports kid. He was scared but absolutely loved the thrill that came with it. After zip lining, we went for a short hike to La Fortuna falls and later that evening we dined and relaxed at Tabacon hotsprings. I confess, the day was a bit too hectic for the kids. Spending the eve relaxing in a hotspring was god sent and now I consider it a must do. It was drizzling while we were soaking, the outside air a bit cool but the water warmed by the lava was heavenly. We spent about an hour in the hot springs jumping from one pool to another. If we ever go back, I would without a doubt spend more than an hour there.

Day 3, we headed to the Sarapiqui river for whitewater rafting. It is a class II (mostly) & III river. This activity was perfect for both our kids. Because it was the “green” season, the river was full and the water level perfect for rafting. The flow was brisk but not too fast for the kids. We barely had to paddle and both the kids got a chance to sit up front in the raft for the thrill. It was great! We stopped half way through the river for a swim and to eat watermelons. After rafting we headed towards the Central Valley.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

9 Day Costa Rica Itinerary

Itinerary from our Costa Rica trip in Aug. We used a small privately owned and locally run tour company specializing in private family vacations called Tico Tom Tours( The folks were really nice and friendly. They gifted each of us a custom trip journal. When we left CR, it felt as if we were leaving family behind. I will write a more detailed travelogue in the next few days, but in brief, our trip was adventure filled, and wonderful. Our kids had an amazing time with various adventures. We definately recommend Tico Tom Tours for your trip to CR.

Day 1: Arrive in Alajuela. Travel north via private car to Arenal Volcano. Stay in Arenal
Day 2: Ziplining in Arenal. Other activities included hiking and Lunch at La Fortuna Falls. Dinner and soaking at Tabacon Hotsprings. Amazing experience.
Day 3: On route to central valley, we went whitewater rafting in Sarapaqui River. Mostly Class 2 rapids perfect for families with young children. Overnight at Xandari Resort.
Day 4: Visit to Poas Volcano and hiking in LaPaz waterfalls.
Day 5: Drive south towards the pacific beach, an area called Dominical. Stayed at a private inn called Necochea.
Day 6: Rappel down Baru Falls. Relax in the eve.
Day 7: Spent day whale watching, on the beach, and exploring the local town.
Day 8: Spent day at the beach and late afternoon drive back to San Jose. Walked around the tourist district in San Jose and a relaxing dinner in the city.
Day 9: Spent morning shopping for trinkets and Fly home.