Pura Vida: The Good life – My Costa Rican Vacation (Part 2)

Part 2 collage Costa Rica La Fortuna

So let's talk about part two of this vacation. If you haven't read part one or need a refresher, click here to read my post on part one of this fabulous vacation. There was too much going on to include in one post. To be honest I could have split it up more but two seemed appropriate.  So let's continue:

Day 3: (Part 2)

Rafting

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We stayed with the same tour company from the previous tour but switched guides. This time were in the care of a firecracker named Marcos. Marcos loves his job entirely too much and you could see the happiness ooze from his pores as he spoke about his experiences rafting and kayaking through the river.  As we headed to the Balsa River he taught us the meaning of “Pura Vida”, the Costa Rican Motto we’d heard a number of times during our trip. Pura Vida literally translates to pure life. In essence it’s the Costa Rican version of Hakuna Matata. It’s used in a number of ways. From “How’s it going?” to “It’s going great.” or “It’s cool.” Or “Thanks” or “No worries.”

We met up with other guides at a structure at the start of our next hike and were suited up with our rafting gear. We grabbed our paddles and started off. At the river entrance we were given our standard operational and safety instructions with tons of jokes thrown in for our amusement. As Marcos began assigning individuals to rafts and their corresponding guides we had a feeling we’d be assigned to his raft. Yup, as our luck would have it we got the firecracker.  We braced ourselves we knew this would be wild. The river was classified as a 2-3, which shouldn’t be too bad but with this guy at the helm who knew what to expect.

The rafting turned out to be great. It was a little scary. I bounced pretty high up a few times and E bounced right off her seat onto the middle floor a couple of times. Luckily no one actually bounced off the raft and into the river. I dodged a couple of tree branches that would have certainly left me with a black eye or two if I didn’t pull the matrix move but it was all good. Marcos burst into song as he guided us down river. E and I chimed in as we accompanied him in his selection of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.  He playfully splashed us and dowsed us with cold river water to irrigate the flower he had placed in each of our helmets (don’t ask).

We managed to get into a mini war with the guide of another raft. How? Well when he splashed us with water using his paddle I egged E on to splash him back and that was it. He actually jumped (like a Tarzan leap) off of his boat onto ours to let some air out of our raft. Taunting us that it was a bad idea to mess with the guides. Well damn, point taken sir.  All in all it was so much fun. I repeat, too much fun. I wish I could go again right now. As if the rafting wasn’t good enough, they paused for a break mid-way and whipped out fresh fruit and started chopping it up right in front of us, forming a pretty design before inviting us to dig in. Let me tell you, I had some of the best pineapple I’ve ever had in my life along that river in Costa Rica that day. To cap off the experience we stopped for lunch at a local soda (Costa Rican eatery – think family run-diner) and fruit stand where we picked up some fruit to go.

Later on, after we returned to the hotel from the day’s adventures we showered, had dinner and headed down to the hot springs closest to the main building before retiring for the evening.

Day 4:

Club Rio - Hot Springs and Animals

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We left the day open and decided to enjoy the resort. The Springs Resort and Spa has a plethora of activities right on the property that you can take part in during your stay. In a section of the property that’s more than a mile off of the main building called Club Rio, you can go tubing, rafting, rock wall climbing, visit the small animal preserve and more. We were tired so we got a late morning start. After breakfast we took the bus down to Club Rio and participated in a guided tour of the animal preserve.  It was small but impressive. I’m a sucker for wild cats and the jungle cat sanctuary had several so I was impressed. The white-faced monkeys and toucans weren’t bad either.

Hot Springs

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Afterward the tour we wandered around the natural hot springs area. This was a delightful experience. Deep in the trees, behind hidden paths and rocks were some of the most amazing hot springs a girl could ask for. I almost need not to mention how fitting these tucked away gems were for pretending one was on an episode of America’s Next Top Model smizing her way through a fierce by force impromptu photo shoot. We had a grand ole time there before heading back up towards the main building and enjoying the water slide and hot springs near the villas.  We ended the hot springs visits in one of the hotter springs sipping on cocktails and recalling the adventures of the previous days, sadly coming to the realization that we would soon have to leave.

 

Last stop of the evening was the spa. We had planned on venturing into town with some of our friends from the hotel but little did we know that the spa would hold us captive. We took advantage of the steam room and personal showers before relaxing in the lounge area. I dozed off a couple of times before we decided to call it a night.

 

Day 5:

Goodbye Springs. Hello Jaco Beach!

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Rise and shine. We were up and at’em early again.  On our final morning we grabbed some breakfast and said goodbye to some of our new friends on the staff particularly Manuel (who E affectionately dubbed Manny). For our trip back to San Jose our driver was Fabian from Desafino. Once again, we got the friendly tour guide treatment. We lounged in comfort in the van as he stopped and pointed out things of interest to us and tried to teach us a few Spanish words.  We stopped at the same souvenir shop we visited on our way to La Fortuna and picked up a few extra souvenirs.

Our final stay was the Apartotel hotel in San Jose. It was a quaint little hotel with a traditional Spanish feel about it. It wasn’t the lap of luxury we were just wallowing in but this apartment style room with full kitchenette and cookware was just what we needed to accommodate us before our flight out of San Jose in the morning.  We arranged a short trip to Jaco Beach for the day. Our driver picked us up around 1:30pm and we were off. When we arrived at Jaco Beach we set up camp on the sand and relaxed for a bit.

Jaco beach has a bit of an exotic feel. The sand is darker because of the deposits from the volcanoes and so is the water. It’s wet season so the beach wasn’t very crowded. We struck up conversation with a long-term visitor/local (in Costa Rica for the past 8 months) who told us where to score some good eats for cheap.  We followed his directions and landed upon Soda Milagro, which was pretty much what we like to call the “hole in the wall” when traveling. We get so excited about the holes in the wall because this is where you usually get the best, tasty, authentic food.  We both packed food onto our plates and when we were done doing damage our total came to $8. That’s right. I said $8 USD for both plates. Like together. We got two more plates to go.  We met up with our driver and back to San Jose we went. We did some damage to our second plates of food as well as some mango we’d purchased while in La Fortuna before calling it a night.

Day 6:

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On the sixth day we bid Costa Rica adieu or adios, rather. Sadly it was time to leave. The hotel provided us with a free shuttle back to the airport.  Overall this was the absolute best trip I’ve been on so far. It was a dream come true. I was one with the jungle for a while and grateful that all my hard work allowed me to enjoy a rejuvenating vacation like this. Of course with any vacation there are at least a couple of minor snafus. Customs was ridiculous and the smack over the head “surprise-surprise/gotcha gotcha” Costa Rican tax to leave the country was annoying enough to momentarily disturb my Hakuna Matata but only momentarily.

I may sound a little repetitive by now but I’ll say it again. This was the best trip ever. I must come back to Costa Rica again. I just can’t see anything wrong with an occasional dose of Pura Vida in my Vida. Hope you enjoyed the recap and the pics now back to work. Let the power moves continue. Pura Vida.

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