Posted in My Travels

Costa Rica 2017- Our last Full Day and departing!

Hey Everyone!
On this last day of February, it seemed like a good reason to share our last full day in La Fortuna and our departure the next day.  
We woke up to another grey start, a light drizzle, but you could see the sun was trying its best to shine for us. Even so, a little rain won’t stop us! We headed to our last big breakfast up at the Tres Cascadas. So bittersweet, because we ended up having the sun shine during breakfast like it was meant solely for us. We were the only people there on the patio for a while, so it felt like a personal send off. All these different type of birds flew by and stopped at neighboring trees, like it was a parade. So special. We hung out at breakfast again for a long while, just no need to rush anywhere, felt so good. This day we decided to spend the whole day at the resort, to see everything and have a real fun lazy last day swimming.  
Afterward breakfast we went down to the Perdido Springs area, where we played on the slide with the kids, then did our thing by letting them play on their own so we could escape up to the hotter pools. When we got up there I noticed that some type of wildlife, a monkey or something, had just foraged a meal and placed it on the edge of the hottest pool (where the vegetation was thick and out of the way). I saw little bite marks along with split open fruits/berries. It was awesome. We ended up staying in the pools for a long time, just chilling out, talking to some other guests and enjoying a drink. It was a beautiful day relaxing.
We had only made one plan for the day, to enjoy the resort, and we had yet to explore Club Rio. Club Rio is an outdoor adventure area, on The Springs property, about 2 miles south of reception. They offer kayaking, tubing, horseback riding, rock wall climbing, wildlife sanctuary, hiking, bird watching, etc. etc. A funky green bus picks you up outside of the main reception area to take you down to Club Rio. When you arrive, you are greeted by the main thatched check in desk, but the views beyond to the right are the coolest. There is this green lush lawn overlooking a raging river scurrying by. First we saw a team of tubers floating, then a bit later a handful of kayakers, super cool! Then to the left there was an open floor plan restaurant, and then beyond that were trails going in every direction then to the left of that were the lockers/bathrooms adjacent to this massive rock wall. This place was AMAZING!
The girls really wanted to go on the Wildlife Sanctuary Tour, cause they remembered seeing it on their website. This was a fantastic tour, and our guide made it special for my girls. So off we went hiking up this massive stair case that gave way to the grounds above. There was a natural styled habitat for each rescued animal, some like animals could be together, but there were many that just couldn’t be together. There were a lot of jungle cats, like ocelots, pumas, and margays. They had a float of crocodiles, too! HUGE ONES! They had rescued a lot of tropical birds, and a slew of monkeys. This place, sadly, was created to rescue animals that are either illegally taken on as pets, in zoos or used as performers with traveling shows and neglected or in unfit conditions. The weird part was the largest jungle cat, the puma, acted like a house cat because it was conditioned by its previous owner. So this giant cat would come up to the window wanting to be pet. Super crazy, and sad. Yet I wanted to take him home.  smh. A few of their animals were rescued from the wild too, because they were ousted in their packs from injuries. They were all so beautiful, and happy there.
We were talking to our guide while we were inside the two-toed sloth’s home, yes inside!, that the girls really wanted to see the toucans cause they had both done projects on them at school, our 9yr old this year and our 11yr old two years ago. Well, that got him excited for our next leg of the tour. He told us we were about to go to their enclosure, but if we wanted, and for nothing, he would let us inside to feed them…lemme think…UHM YES!!
The girls went nuts, and we had the most insane adventure with these toucans. There were three in total, one more beautiful than the other. Their beaks are a marvel really. Perfectly colored. Huge. Their contrasting feathers were just amazing. The blackness of the base feathers compared to the brilliance of the yellow and greens, seamless and plush. Beautiful animals. The guide gave us a few pellets of food in our hands, and told us to open our hands a certain way so the toucan knew we had the food. First, our youngest tried it. The bird flew right to her. She was happy at first, but then when she looked at the creature she just freaked out! Hahah She held one bird only. Second, our oldest was given pellets, puts her hand out and a bird flew to her. She was in heaven and this bird was so happy to be with her. She was hooked, and got to feed all the birds multiple times. Third, I was given a handful of pellets. Gently this beautiful bird lands on my arm and eats. I figured that their talons would be sharp, but not even a little. They had the coolest blue colored feet. So, as one bird is on my arm, another bird perched himself on my SHOULDER! I was covered in birds. Haha Snow White strikes again! Then lastly, but not least, my husband was given pellets and fed two birds. He looked adorable holding them. Then we were able to take pictures with the birds as a group and alone, it was so awesome.
Best part was NOT ONE BIRD POOPED ON ME! Woo!
After the toucans, the tour was basically coming to a close. We got to check out the crocodile pit. They had five or six crocodiles that were rescued from a home. HUGE crocs! They built them a pit with fresh running water, and those guys were content beyond content. We were too, safely above!  After the tour, we headed to our room to change and wash up for dinner. We had heard about another local restaurant that was supposed to be great, ironically the name of the place is The Rainforest Café haha, so we decided that is where we wanted to go. This place was locally owned and everything was made to order and super fresh. It was right off the main street, quaint, and soooo busy. So it had to be good right?
RIGHT!
We ended up being seated right by the front window, so we could see all the passersby and feel the cool breezes. We ended up having such a great dinner there! The girls were happy because they had milkshakes (they are exactly my version of Venezuelan milk shakes, which is basically lots of ice, a cup of milk and a scoop of Nesquik topped with whipped cream!). I was happy because they had tamales, and good sauvignon blanc. We ordered a bunch of delicious dishes.. an empanada, a tamale, a chicken burrito, arroz con pollo e arroz con camarones. My oldest daughter and I lived off the rice dishes of the area; she loves shrimp, so she would be ecstatic to see that dish everywhere. I am drooling just remembering. No food eaten was salty or greasy, everywhere we went it was fresh, clean food.  So ooOOOo  good.
We hung out at this place till real late, the latest we stayed out our whole trip. Might have been a mistake since we had to leave the next day to meet our guide by 8AM back in La Fortuna. haha Oh well! We got back to the hotel, and I decided to pack up the room and let the kids go play in the game room with my husband. They were dying to be in there all the time, so I figured that left me free to make a big repacking mess getting everything in order. I am so glad I did that. I got everything packed, talked to a lot of my friends online and got myself showered all by the time my family got back. Boom. We enjoyed a drink when they got back, all cozied in the room, then crashed hardcore after that.  
Departing is such sweet sorrow…
We woke up at the crack of frack on our last day! That sunshine came too early.
YES, SUNSHINE!
We woke up to a bright blue sky that had wafting fluffy clouds. We got ourselves ready and out the door by 7:35AM. Said our last goodbyes to our resort guide, Dixon, before checking out. I was so sad. I just didn’t want to accept the fact that we were leaving yet. hah  After we departed with Dixon, we stuck around a bit looking for that volcano to shed her grey exterior to show us her goods! C’mon, mamacita, show me what ya got! She teased me not only the four days there, but that entire morning, too. The breezes off the mountains were blowing the clouds in a pretty good clip off the volcano. The second you’d think the tip of the volcano would appear, another cloud swept over. I was tracking her the whole drive from our hotel to the restaurant where we grabbed coffee and breakfast to go.. uhm, from The Rainforest Café! haha We loved it so much there the night before, that when the owner told us they’d be open, we gave each other the eye and planned to be back! The best part of us stopping for coffee and food there was that when we left to go back to the car, we saw the Arenal Volcano in FULL!
She did not disappoint, and that cloudy tease was worth the wait! She was glorious in every facet imaginable, and the best way to say goodbye to us. 🙂 This made me so happy.
We got to the car dealership where Geiner, pronounced hey-ner, was waiting for us from Maleku Tours. We got packed in his van to make our way back to Liberia for the airport. Now all week back home was getting hit with snow, and a storm hit the night before, but we never got word about the flight until we were a few minutes into this drive back to the airport. The flight was delayed 2 hours, Boston had a delayed departure. Not the worst place to be stranded, I guess, but our tour guide had another group to pick up after our departure so he wasn’t available after a certain time. BUT. He was so great to us, because he changed up our drive with a view of some local sights; drove through some neighborhoods, stopped at a cool church and then brought us to the local super market so we could grab some food to eat at the airport. The supermarket might have been our favorite part of this drive back. First of all, it was clean and beautiful, but they had Latin music pumping loudly; you couldn’t help but dance and smile while picking out food. We happened to see a live recording of some local show in the bakery, which was funny to watch. It was all a fun experience!
We got to the airport, Geiner got our bags out of the van that last time, but before he left I made sure we got a picture together. I mean, we spent three days together on this trip, he was an intrical part of it! The airport, thankfully, was clean and had tables set up outside for us to hang out an hour or so before we went to the gate for take-off. We sat there playing games, enjoying our last 90F day in Costa Rica. It was sad but also comforting by this point to know we would be home soon. We did all miss home, too, even though this trip was tops. Well, that is it. We had a pretty basic plane ride home filled with blue chips and movies. We got to Logan by midnight, had a fun time maneuvering through immigration, then a talkative Uber ride home, and passed out by 2AM. Perfect. haha
That was Costa Rica.  🙂
Hope you loved following along my diary as much as I loved reliving it.  We had so much fun learning about this rich country, and to see all the beauty it had to offer.  I would love to go back one day. 
Thanks for reading along on this trip!
Hasta la proxima!  
Xoxoxoxo!
Posted in My Travels

Costa Rica- Chocolate Farm

Hey Everyone!

Onto our second day in La Fortuna..

This day we woke up later than normal, at 8:30AM, to a super cloudy day.  As soon as we hit up breakfast at the Tres Cascadas the sun started to shine.  We hung out at breakfast a long while, just soaking in all the beautiful surroundings.  As we were joking around together, we decided that this was the perfect day to take advantage of the grounds of the resort then take an adventure in our car to find a chocolate farm we had researched before hand.  We contacted the farm to make a reservation for 3PM.  All was set.

The resort had the most awe-inspiring descending landscaping of pools along this mountain. The grounds were lush, the landscaping tranquil and the waterfalls a delight.  The surroundings were meticulous in design, to say the least, keeping the natural feel of the rainforest.  The part that was spectacular were the pools, they are fed directly from the thermal river of the Arenal Volcano, so they are naturally hot and mineralized.  To keep integrity of the water, each night at closing the pools are drained, scrubbed, then refilled for 6AM, and they only offer one pool (the swim up bar one) chlorinated.  The pools are situated in connecting trails, as I mentioned before, and  they spill into one another to create varying degrees of waters.  I just thought it was the coolest thing to notice, how they designed the pools to naturally be used and mixed with other waters to create these different temp pools.  Functional beauty.

We spent most of our day swimming; watching the kids going up and down on the slide, trying out different stunts along with my husband. My husband might have loved it more than they did..ahem.  But once we decided to relax together, which we did a lot this part of the trip, we spent time in the hot pools of the Perdido Springs area.  This was the perfect spot because we could still watch the kids as we swam, cuddled and relaxed in the 99F waters.  Utter paradise.  But after about two hours of relaxing, we started to experience rain.  Rain, hah..it was a deluge!  We started feeling a light drizzle, that stopped.  Then we felt a light rain, that stopped.  Then we felt large drops of rain, that didn’t stop, but turned into a huge rainstorm! The girls ran up to us in the pools, then we took some shelter in the tiki bar, but that didn’t last long.. duh we were swimming! haha We all got into the hot pool and then the rain stopped just as fast as it started.  Super cool.

Side note .. The warmth and minerals of the pools are not only therapeutic and relaxing, but to me, they had such a beautiful scent, too. My husband smelled it too, but I don’t know if this is a thing.  The scent of the waters were dreamy; like a clean cologne.  It made me so happy swimming around smelling so good.  I am smiling just thinking about the scent..gah I miss this place!! 😦

Ok, so back to the trip!

Then we dragged ourselves out of the pools to get ready for the afternoon.  I wasn’t really sure what we had in store so I made sure everyone dressed as comfortable as possible.. sneakers, shorts, and bring a rain poncho in case!  The farm was located about 25 minutes away from our resort, not a bad drive at all since most everything is one straight shot through the center of La Fortuna.  We found the residential area to be totally different from the downtown area. Lots of dirt roads, houses congregated together in a pod like formation with roads surrounding them. We found the chocolate farm, Don Olivo Chocolate Farm.

I LOVED IT!

This was a family farm, not a commercialized place. Super rustic with the drive way flanked with colorful carved trees and a quaint flat yellow house centrally located. This place was full of fruiting trees and wildlife.

Quickly we were greeted by the abuelo of the family.  He greeted us so enthusiastically, telling us his son would be right with us.  Super cute older man.  We got to looking around a few minutes, and met the family German shepherds.  The grounds reminded me of a version of campagna (the countryside) in Sicily, not the look but the vibe.  Almost everyone in Sicily owns a family farm, a second countryside home. Some small. Some large.  They grow so many things on their farms for their day to day lives, and they use the farms during vacations, holiday weekends, and some like to live there all Summer long to get out of the city.

The farm owner came out to greet us, all smiles, beaming in English.  Very sweet guy. As he is talking to us about his farm, cutting down fruits from the trees to have us eat them ripe, another family shows up, unexpectedly, to take a tour, too! So we went on to the tour together.  The farmer takes us on a tour of his fruiting trees, and like I said, he was literally talking and cutting stuff down for us to try them.  Then a minute later, his father would come over with a machete slicing more fruit for us.  It was awesome.  We got to try star fruit, papaya, soursop, mango, green coconut water, peppercorns, spearmint, and so much more I can’t think straight.  After we toured the front part of the grounds, he took us to his house’s porch to talk about sugar cane.  He showed us how you take the stalk, beat it to loosen the fibers, then squeeze it to extract the juice.  We tried it over ice, and it was yummy.  Then because my husband loves rum, the conversation of rum came up and the father went into his private stash to let us adults take a shot of rum.

WOAH.  I mixed mine with the sugar cane juice cause it was potent. haha

From here, the group was guided to the cocoa tree grove.  A grove with a thousand trees!  We learned so much about the history of the cocoa trees, amazing and ugly cocoa!  hah  We were then taken along the stages of the cocoa pods to cocoa beans to chocolate.  As we were walking the rain came, but it wasn’t a big deal.  It lasted a few minutes then the sun came out.  Didn’t stop us from seeing all the trees full of cocoa pods. The pods grow in a few colors, brown, purple and yellow, but the pods inside are the same.  The farmer grabbed one right off the tree, a yellow one, and smashed it open.  We were allowed to try a piece of the interior fruit, which were white gelatinous blobs (to me, tasted floral and bland), these were raw cocoa beans.  The cool part was the bite of one showed this vibrant purple color inside.  The farmer then walked us over to his backyard covered patio, it was the coolest spot, where he showed us the process going forward

After the pods were opened, the beans are taken out and fermented for 5 days in a barrel.  From this fermentation the pods turn brown, and they smell horrible! haha  Then they need to be dried out in the sun/dry place for 15-20 days.  He had a greenhouse full of drying beans we got to walk into, touch them and smell them.  The beans are then husked by hand here.  He had a large wooden mortar and pestle he uses to bang up the skins, then the breezes of the area naturally whisks the husks away.  Then there is only the bean left, which is then ground by hand, which we all had a crack at doing. Then this ground cocoa is at the stage to be made into chocolate however you like!

It was so fun!!

The farmer had set up two large farm tables for us to enjoy some chocolate inside the patio.  There were mugs, spoons, homemade sugar in the raw and cookies.  His father cooked up hot cocoa for everyone with the grounds we all participated in grinding, and let us sample fresh 90% dark cocoa chocolates he made.  YUM!  The hot cocoa was delicious.  Soooo rich and good!  I could only take a few sips.  Then afterwards his daughter came out with his wife, and we got to hang out together, talk and get to know what the culture of Costa Rica was really like.  I LOVE TALKING TO LOCAL PEOPLE!  The farmer’s daughter was so sweet.  My gosh.  She wouldn’t leave me alone, it was so cute.  She pulled up her bunny chair next to me, talking and talking and talking.  We exchanged a lot of Spanish together, and her mom.  She was almost 3, but her personality was beyond her years. What a funny kid. She was so upset I had to leave.  Good people there.  So glad we went.

Then after we left there, we traveled to go eat in the center of La Fortuna at a chicken rotisserie place we researched, Pollo Fortuneno.  We were happy to see it was right smack dab in the middle of the town as we drove in.  We parked the car, went a little souvenir shopping, then made a bee line right to eat. The restaurant didn’t have a lot of tables, about 10 in total.  We grabbed one of the large, grass thatched tables out front, and so glad for that luck! Because in minutes the place was chock full and a line started to form… I overheard one woman say that there was over an hour wait!!

AND THEN THE HEAVENS OPENED UP, ANOTHER DELUGE!!  HOLY MOTHER OF WATER!  Then again, as soon as it started it was over!

Thank goodness for the umbrella over the table!

The restaurant was a lot of fun.  It is situated on a corner, with their large stacked rotisserie facing the street on a platform for show.  It was the coolest thing to watch, all engulfed in flames, mesmerizing. The staff going up there to grab chickens was like some show.  We ordered a few fun items, like chalupas, patacones, rosemary oil papas fritas, rotisserie chicken and pork ribs….can we say DeLiCiOuS!?!  We had such a great time dining there. The wait for food was long, but that isn’t a complaint, more of a FYI.  I personally love hanging out for a long time, no rush here!  Bonus, we were allowed to bring our own beer and sangria, which was great.  We left there happy and full.

Another great day spent in paradise.  🙂

 

Next up…our last full day in La Fortuna!

Posted in My Travels

Costa Rica 2017- The Springs Resort and Spa

Hey Everyone!
I have to split this second part of our trip out into separate posts because we did so many fun things.
So, the tour guide picked us up in Tamarindo around 10AM to take us to La Fortuna.  La Fortuna is just under 4 hours East from Tamarindo.  Our tour guide had shared so much of Guanacaste’s history, the province we drove through, and he also shared that the name of Guanacaste was an indigenous word for monkey ear, of the regional trees that grow all around.  I love learning things like that.  It was just such a  real good idea hiring the tour guide this whole trip to get us from point A (airport) to point B (Tamarindo) then point C (La Fortuna) and point D (back to the airport!).  His van was air-conditioned, large and clean, he spoke perfect English for my family, and had so many fun things to teach us.  
We drove about an hour outside of Tamarindo before we stopped at this hidden gem, the Waterfalls of Llanos de Cortes.  This place was AMAZING to say the least! We pulled into a very dust parking lot at the end of a long dirt road.  The entry way to the area was flanked by two makeshift souvenir tables that lead to a tented entrance to the stairway.  We had to trek down a ton of steep, but beautiful, stairs built right into the hill.  Very windy. As you descend, you can hear the rumbling of water. So you hurry to try to get to it quicker. As the stairs end the ground opens up to this massive span of private beach with a ginormous waterfall.  GINORMOUS!!  I have never seen anything so beautiful in nature like this in my entire life…never.  I was blown away, my kids were kicking off clothes faster than ever, charging towards the water, and my husband just was dumbfounded too.  My mind is still reeling over the beauty.  There were a few travelers too, not many for what we were seeing.  We were there on a weekday, and learned that the locals like to go over the weekends to picnic, BBQ and stay the day there relaxing and enjoy the view.  I WOULD TOO!
Our tour guide let us have as long as we liked there, so we swam and played for about an hour.  The water was cool to the touch, but not frigid.  I had never seen so many varieties of butterflies in one area like I had this afternoon there.  I saw every size, shape and color imaginable. Birds too! After we hung out here,  we headed 45 minutes to grab lunch at our tour guide’s favorite local spot.  Food in Costa Rica is typical South American, beans and rice with every meal, chicken, beef or shrimp, lots of stewed foods..all so good.  Like really good.  So we enjoyed where he had taken us for lunch, it was clean and the food was pretty great…plus, I love arroz con pollo, that is something I could eat on the daily.  Then we continued on our trek to La Fortuna.  
This ride was beautiful.  I know I keep saying that everything was beautiful, but it really was!!  The drive through all the towns along Lake Arenal were spectacular. Lake Arenal is a man-made lake that has a dam.  Lots of people boat and wind surf along the lake.  Pretty rad if you ask me!  So the ride…The colors of green and all the wildlife we saw were the best part. The one road leading to La Fortuna along the lake was the coolest.  It went on for an hour, and was a slim road with a lot of curves.  The craziest turns, hills, steepness, views of the Lake, lots of farmland, driving right through tiny villages..the views were something out of a travelers guide. Just perfection all around… it was all so much fun!
La Fortuna, in the province of Alajuela, is the town at the base of the Arenal Volcano; so cool, guys, I can’t even do the explanation justice.  So we rented a car when we got there, this is where we asked the tour guide to drop us off.  It sounds scary, especially if you have travelled to Europe, because the driving over there is crazy scary, but we found Costa Ricans to be cautious and respectful drivers.  So we hopped into our 2016 silver Suzuki SUV, and drove onto The Springs Resort and Spa.  Just 17 minutes outside of the main area.  
We will catch up with our tour guide on our last day in La Fortuna to go back to Liberia’s airport.
The Springs Resort and Spa… holy wow!  The drive to the resort off the highway is bumpy, they are having a dispute with the city to pave the road..but that bumpy dirt road ride is so worth it!  You pull up in paradise. Romantic. Luxurious. The vegetation, the flowers, the landscaping and paths, waterfalls, ahhh it was so beautiful.  Then you follow the driveway to the reception area where they take your car for you, not a worry to think about here from that second.  You are brought to check in, then you are greeted by your own personal guide, who grabs your whole family drinks (ours with their traditional rum- tdf) and who takes you on a walking tour of the hotel.  We were treated to our experience with Dixon, who was the cutest and sweetest kid.  The kids liked him a lot. 
HOLY WOW!  The main part of the resort was breathtaking, at about 1000FT above the canopy, then the property cascades down to each level.  There the main floor (reception), then the spa and gym floor, then the bar and restaurant floor with a kids sick game room, then there is the bottom floor that has locker rooms that spill out to the main part of the pools and swim up bar. From there the thermal river fed pools, YES THERMAL RIVER FED POOLS FROM THE VOLCANO, flow into each other.  They created a system where the hottest pools flow into other pools, mixing with another system to cool them down to create a new pool cooler than the top one.  If that makes sense…  So the first area had three linked pools.  The top pool was 99F.  This pool flowed straight to the next pool that was a foot lower, but it was being mixed with a different stream to create a 94F pool.  Then this pool flowed into the next pool a foot lower and triple the size that had a touch cooler water falling into it making it an 87F pool.  It was like this throughout, even if the span from one pool to the next was further.  SO COOL!  
After the tour, Dixon walked us to our rooms where our luggage was waiting for us and he showed us all the fun things in our room…namely, that VIEW!  
We were in room 103 of the Toucan House, which was the coolest room ever.  We were ground level, so our outdoor patio was open to the grounds and the volcano..the VOLCANO WAS OUR VIEW!  Lush right?  Well, I felt so lucky to be there.  The balcony had hammocks, a beautiful table set and rocking chairs.  I loved it out there.  The view was of large birds of paradise and the volcano..so close.  The room itself was beautiful, and clean, and smelled so good.  There were heated floors in the bathroom, and a jacuzzi tub as big as a pool!  The bedroom was fixed with our kids bed, individually, in front of the massive window, so it felt like a tree house.  So awesome.
The first night here we went to dinner on property at the sushi place, played in the kids’ game room for a bit, then hung out at the main thermal pools till they closed.  
It was breathtaking, every turn, detail and the pools.
Next up, our first full day in La Fortuna at Sky Adventure…