Tag Archives: rafting

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.

 Part 1 collage Costa Rica La Fortuna

Every once in a while it’s a good idea to pack up the bags, leave the cares behind and escape the everyday craziness and replace it with a good kind of crazy.  After unfortunate circumstances caused me to miss out on vacation trips I planned last year and the year before, I decided to take the trip that’s been on my bucket list for a while.  Eight years ago (give or take a few years) I saw some vacation images from Costa Rica. Images of people having the time of their lives zip lining through the jungle struck a chord with me. It looked absolutely incredible. I was in awe and decided I had to go there. It took me a little while but I finally made it. Here’s how it went:

 Day 1:

San Jose in a Day

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My travel buddy, Emmanuella (my sister from another mother who I call E for short) and I arrived in the capital city of San Jose on Friday and checked into our first hotel, Hotel Presidente. Hotel Presidente is located smack-dab in the middle of downtown San Jose along Central Avenue, the main street and pedestrian walkway. Uncertain of what San Jose had to offer, we didn’t really set our expectations too high. After all, the part of the trip we were really excited about was the following day’s trek to the town of La Fortuna.  That being said, Hotel Presidente far exceeded whatever minimal expectations we might have had.

To begin with, we were greeted by Jorge, the friendly front desk clerk who couldn’t have made us feel any more welcome. This was our first introduction to the kind of hospitality and kind-hearted, good-natured, Costa Rican people we would be interacting with during our visit. Jorge let us know exactly where we could find authentic Costa Rican food, stock up on groceries and provided us with a walking map, which included restaurants, museums and other areas of interest close by. He even helped me use a phone card I’d purchased when I couldn’t decipher the Spanish language instructions (My elementary Spanish was of no help here). After eating we spent the rest of the evening strolling through the downtown area. Later on we stopped for a drink and listened to some live music at a hotel bar across the street from ours.

 

Day 2:  

Bienvenidos a La Fortuna and The Springs

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In the morning we went down to the uber-cute bar/buffet area for breakfast. Hotel Presidente offers an excellent breakfast spread (It was actually our favorite breakfast from our entire trip) in traditional Costa Rican fashion. At 7:00 am our driver from Desafino Adventure Company arrived to take us to the Springs Resort and Spa in La Fortuna, a small city in the canton of San Carlos.

Diego, our driver was another warm individual who made the long three-hour drive seem more like a scenic tour. We stopped along the way at a souvenir shop where he patiently waited while I got my indecisive self together and made final selections before we hopped back in the van and headed into town. As we arrived in La Fortuna, Diego pointed out that this small area was the center of town and up ahead we could see the Arenal Volcano.  We drove a little further and down a winding, bumpy road we arrived upon The Springs Resort & Spa. One word, breathtaking. I was in awe of this place on sight. It’s simply breathtaking. The open plan of the resort features a lobby with an open-air design that looks right out to the Arenal Volcano.

Upon our arrival at the hotel we were greeted by name and literally welcomed with open arms. We felt the hospitality from the moment we set foot on the property until the moment we left. We checked in and were offered some morning mimosas while being given a tour of the property.  We arrived early so are our room wasn’t ready yet.  Our bags were stored by the concierge while we went on our first excursion of the trip.

 

Zip Lining

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We booked a zip lining tour with Arenal Mundo Aventura. There was a snafu with transportation (mostly my fault for failing to reply to an email sent by the coordinator at Arenal Mundo) so we arrived to the excursion late. The staff at The Springs went out of their way to help arrange transportation so that we didn’t miss our excursion and was even apologetic about the misunderstanding even though it was beyond their control. The staff at Arenal Mundo and The Springs coordinated transportation for us and we were able to sit down for lunch at the casual dining restaurant (one of three restaurants in the main building) while we waited. They were even kind enough to wait for us while we finished up lunch.

By the time we arrived at Arenal Mundo we were several minutes late. Everyone taking part in the tour was ready to go so we were rushed through the payment process and souvenir picture info before quickly purchasing access to a rental locker and then hurried onto a “bus” (it was more like a large, partially covered wagon with bench seating pulled by some sort of tractor), which would transport us up towards the hiking point. As soon as we got into the “bus” it started pouring. No biggie. This is rain season. We were mentally and physically prepared. I brought ponchos and protective pockets for our phones and wore water resistant boots.

We reached the hiking point and were suited up by the instructors and we began our hike. Whoa nelly! Let me tell you that hike was no joke. I’m in pretty good shape and it was tough. To make matters worse the instructors never let up so you had no choice but to keep up. Our ponchos had become our own personal saunas. Jesus take the wheel. When we reached the first line there was a water break and one of the instructors shouted out “Okay everybody remember all the rules?” E and I look at each other with a look that said “We’re about to die” because clearly we missed out on the orientation/safety presentation. At this point we shouted “No… we weren’t here.” The instructors decided to leave us for last and explain the procedure after the others had gone ahead. They explained the procedure and off we went.

 

It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had in my life. We got through four shorter zip lines (where I totally screamed) before the instructor asked if I was ready for the real stuff. I looked at her like she was a two headed creature. What do you mean real stuff? What the hell did I just do? She laughed and said that was just practice. She launched me down the next cable where I whizzed past trees, foggy mist, and river down below all while thinking “This is absolutely crazy. I’m flying through the jungle.” On one trip I went with an instructor to increase my speed down the line. A few seconds in he taps my shoulder and tells me to look to my left. We were flying by the huge La Fortuna waterfall. The feeling was unreal. Give me two-mile long zip lines any day. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

 

Our Room at The Springs

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When we arrived back to our hotel we were taken to our room. I’ve stayed in some pretty nice hotels and resorts but this room takes the cake.  The rooms at The Springs all have a view of the Arenal Volcano so that’s the first thing you see when you enter the room. Large floor-to-ceiling windows and doors on either side, which open up to a veranda or balcony depending on your floor provide a picturesque frame for the view. Outside, take your pick of seating from a set of rocking chairs, seating for two at the small dining table or for optimal relaxation, pick from two hammocks, which flank both outdoor walls.  We spent quite a bit of time luxuriating in those hammocks. The bathroom was glorious and the tub.. the tub was something out of every girls dreams. Absolutely beautiful.

Our entire experience here would turn out to be something phenomenal with only a couple of hiccups. On our first night for example, as we entered the room there were two huge puddles of water in the entrance hall and water was leaking from the AC unit above. The gentleman who helped us with our bags let us know he would send someone to take care of it. I spoke to him twice about it so I’m not sure if he got lost somewhere but it seemed to be taking forever for someone to appear. I ended up calling the front desk who informed me that no one told them but they would send someone to fix it. Shortly after that, two cleaning personnel and three maintenance people arrived to clean the mess and repair the leak. They weren't overly apologetic about it but at least the issue was taken care of promptly after my call.

I was also a little disappointed by housekeeping. Not that it was bad. It just wasn’t exceptional. At a hotel of this caliber I just expect more. There's something to be said about a luxury hotel with a standard of going the extra mile to straighten things up. Although our last housekeeper was a great improvement over the previous one(s), a little more attention to detail would have been great overall. I’ve stayed at hotels where the cleaning personnel literally makes me chuckle because they insist on placing my hair care products in a straight orderly line. Also, where were my little white slippers? I’m nitpicking. I know, but when in the lap of luxury, a white robe should totally come with white slippers, shouldn’t they? I digress. These are minimal complaints. This place was paradise, slippers or no slippers.

After we were settled in our rooms, we ventured down to the restaurant again for an amazing dinner before retiring for the night in preparation for another activity-filled day.

Day 3: (Part 1)

Canyoneering and Rapelling

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On our third day we booked a tour with the Desafino Tour Company. They arrived bright an early at 7:00am to get the day started.  We were greeted by David, the guide and Ramon the driver. Again, two warm and friendly individuals who made us feel right at home. We picked up other travelers who had booked the same tour.  Luckily they were all fun people and we had a pleasant commute to the location despite our last leg were we once again got into an open-air “bus” and experienced getting drenched in Costa Rican Wet Season rain, but oh well, it’s the rainforest “When in Rome”.

Our tour for the day was called a Combo Mambo. This consisted of canyoneering, rappelling and rafting. Canyoneering through the Lost Canyon and rappelling down tropical waterfalls, I felt like George of the Jungle. I’m a total princess. I don’t like being cold, I don’t like getting dirty and I don’t like hiking. On this trip I often found myself dealing with all three of those things, sometimes at the same time but for whatever reason I had the time of my life. Surprisingly, my princess sister/friend E, turned out to be an even bigger princess than I was and could have totally gone without the stepping in the mud and wadding through beige-colored river water but she was all for the down-climbing and long drops down the sides of the rocks and waterfalls. Go figure. After rappelling we made our way back up to the canyon house and had breakfast and viewed pictures from the experience.

That's it for the part one recap. Tune in tomorrow for part two where I'll let you in on more on our adventures on day three and more.  In the meantime, thanks for reading and let the power moves continue.