We had a wonderful time in Costa Rica, celebrating David's 50th birthday a few months early when we could all go together. David requested somewhere we had not been before, somewhere without much jet lag, unpacking once, and a mix of culture and relaxation. I found the perfect place and didn't reveal the location until just a couple of days before we left.
We arrived at our hotel at a decent hour. Thomas napped while David, Brennan and I had a quick bite to eat. David had to try a local beer of course.
Brennan sipped the local coffee. Costa Ricans export 97% of their coffee so we actually had to specify he wanted to try Costa Rican coffee!
Brennan ordered the "Opera de Menta" just so I could see what it was. Much like a tiramisu with a mint sauce. Delicious!
After a good night's sleep, we headed out on our first excursion. We stopped first in Sarchi which is an artesan community. We saw their green church and this painted oxcart in the center of the plaza. The oxcart is a national symbol of Costa Rica.
Then we stopped for lunch near the Arenal volcano for lunch. It was a beautiful area and the food was delicious - we did not have a bad meal in Costa Rica!
And then on to the volcano. There are more than 200 volcanoes in Costa Rica and 5 are active - mostly gas and ash, not lava.
The plants in the area are really interesting. Luckily, we didn't see any snakes on our walk.
And then to Tabacon Hot Springs at the base of the Arenal Volcano. What a TREAT this was. We spent hours relaxing in the hot springs.
After drying off, Brennan relaxed in his own way :)
After a long day, we got a quick night's sleep for our next excursion - this time to Tortuga Island in the gulf on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. We took a car, then a bus, then a ferry. GREAT trip!
Imperial on the ferry
Strawberry Banana Colada on the ferry
When I heard there was a wild pig (saina) on the island that would let you pet her and that her name was Philomena, I knew what my first stop would be. She walked between my legs and rubbed her back on my knees. She is so cute. She loves to bed fed - she is a vegetarian.
The island is just beautiful. Only 2 families live there. It is their responsibility to take care of the island. Tour groups are responsible for their own supplies and clean up. It's a great set up - a quiet, secluded island with lots of activities.
We had a yummy lunch on the beach and the boys went paddle boarding. I went out on a boat to a platform out in the gulf to go snorkeling. I saw a ton of small fish, a large turtle, and what looked like a small octopus. It was great to snorkel after many years.
Fearless Brennan took off on the paddle board and was gone for quite awhile!
We really enjoyed a beautiful day on the beach.
It looks like Thomas is posing but he wasn't.
A family caught a lobster. I had to check it out.
I would highly recommend Isla Tortuga if you're visiting Costa Rica.
The final two days of our trip we were on our own, exploring San Jose, the capital. The country of Costa Rica is the size of West Virginia and San Jose is the most populated area. We took in the National Museum and the Jade Museum.
There was a butterfly garden in the National Museum which I loved. I even got to pet some butterflies!
We had some delicious meals too. David found a little Italian trattoria called Sapore with the most delicious seafood and pasta. Brennan requested bananas flambe for dessert.
We also ate at a new restaurant recommended by our hotel called El Abasto. They specialize in dishes from Milan, Barcelona, Lebanon, and Costa Rica. It was all delicious and the boys tried some new dishes while we watched FIFA.
We also visited the San Jose zoo. I was determined to get a look at a sloth while we were in Costa Rica. We found a very sleepy sloth and plenty of other Central American animals. I loved how open the zoo was. It's also a rescue and rehabilitation center.
After seeing the entire zoo, Thomas and I circled back to see if the sloth was awake. Nope - exact same position as earlier that morning. Dang.
We walked from the zoo to the National Theater as well.
The theater is really stunning, from the 1890s. They perform all sorts of music, plays, programs for very reasonable prices. It was built to be for all citizens and guests and not just the wealthy.
We had a nice relaxing 4th of July vacation. We all got some reading in and slept in some as well. We needed it!
I would highly recommend visiting Costa Rica, even in the "rainy season". I understand the only months to avoid are October and November because it's very, very wet then. We were only inconvenienced by rain on one afternoon and we had no plans so it turned out not to be a problem. San Jose is a definite stop on any trip to Costa Rica, but there isn't that much to see. I'd recommend no more than 2 days in San Jose. It's also interesting to us how San Jose is directly south of Atlanta, but they are on mountain time. We had a lot of light for early mornings and late night.
Costa Ricans (Ticos) are pretty serious about the environment and I would see people in the countryside cleaning up litter and taking care of plants. They are very proud of the fact that they don't have an army. I also loved that years ago the government built 40 music schools across the country where any student could attend for free - elementary through high school. Their thinking that is at these schools where academics and music take up most of a student's time, there would be less of a tendency for this generation to get involved in video games, drugs, etc. There is evidence that it is working. I love the devotion to the kids.
Pura Vida Costa Rica!