Thursday, March 14, 2013

Costa Rica - Pura Vida!

We went to Costa Rica in the December of 2006. All of my trips have been very special, but if I were to pick one to write about first, it would be our Costa Rica trip. It is a very beautiful country with amazing people, food, and lots of fun filled activities to do.

I was still in school at the time doing my MS, and had just gotten a job offer. I was eagerly waiting for this trip after which I would join my new job. We left from SFO and flew into San Jose, Costa Rica. We then took a cab to Arenal. It is a beautiful place, with an active volcano right in the center. When we drove into our resort I could not believe how green it was. It was in the middle of a rain forest.

Here our some pictures of the place we stayed at:

This is view from the room. That is the active volcano behind the clouds.
Our cozy room -

On day 1 we went for a walk on the “Hanging Bridges”. Arenal Hanging Bridges is one the most beautiful environmentally-friendly projects in Costa Rica. It is located in front of the Arenal Volcano and within the corridor followed by migratory birds between North and South America. The bridges are above a dense rain forest, and we felt really close to the birds, flowers, and lush vegetation.The imposing hanging bridges overlook a dense canopy with volcano views looming in the background.

I wish I had written about our trip as soon as we got back. I cannot remember the names of many places we went to or the places we ate at. Anyways, I remember the food was amazing. Comida tipica or native dishes included rice and beans, the basis of many Costa Rican meals. Home-style cooking predominates. Gallo Pinto, the national dish of fried rice and black beans is usually had for breakfast. Lunch is usually Casado: rice and beans supplemented with cabbage and tomato salad, fried plantains, and meat. The sweet fried plantains were awesome. I found wonderful vegetarian food options everywhere.

Day 2 was by far the most fun filled adventure activity I have ever done. We went Rappelling. It is also called canyoneering, since you rappel down the canyon. We went through the forest on magical trails that lead to some of the most spectacular waterfalls in Costa Rica, a place very few people get to experience. Along the way we had the chance to discover the secrets that lie hidden deep within the canyon. The trip began with about a 30 minute drive into the tropical rainforest in an ATV, in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano. When we reached some height, we were given our gear, and we began our walk into the forest. We reached our first canyon, and we had to repel down a flat rock face about a hundred feet deep.

So this is how it is done- You have a harness around our waist and a tour guide suspends you from the top and another guy has the other end of the rope and is standing at the bottom of the canyon. You have to face the canyon and let go gradually descending down. You need to bend your knees and hit the face of the rock with your feet, bounce back with that impact, and repeat it all the way down. We were given all these instructions, and I was really excited. Till it was my turn and I looked down from the top of the canyon. It was terrifying, and if you have a fear of heights I don’t think it is a very good idea to be there. Anyways I don’t have that fear, so I turn back and smile at the tour guide, and tell him I am ready to plunge. In a couple of seconds I let go, and it was just amazing. Coming down that canyon, initially I did not have much control, but eventually I started hitting the rock with my feet and bouncing back. It was so much fun.

But the best was yet to come. After this dry canyon, we went down four waterfalls, a couple of which were really huge falls. It was awesome, canyoneering down them, getting drenched and coming down. It was a huge group, so we would all line up and wait for our turn before each jump. After coming down we would wait at the bottom of the canyon enjoying the beauty of the lush green forest, till we were ready to walk down to our next waterfall. We thoroughly enjoyed our day, and were sad when we got to the last waterfall.

Here’s K:

At night we were back at the resort and ready to play yet another round of Poker. We were travelling with another couple, and we played Poker like there was no tomorrow. That night while we were busy contemplating our next moves so that we could be $20 richer, we heard a beeping sound in our room. Being in a new country, it was difficult to say what that meant. Anyways, the front desk told us that it was a signal to tell the guests that the volcano was erupting. All of us rushed to the patio and there it was; the lava and the incandescent rocks erupting from the volcano, making it a spectacular sight. We had the opportunity to witness this splendor on a clear night, making it one of our most sublime and unforgettable experience of what nature has to offer.
Here are the pictures:

Our next adventure activity in Arenal was Ziplining. After what we had experienced the previous day, we were all very excited. I never met an adventure sport I did not thoroughly enjoy. Till Ziplining. Yes, this is one activity I will never do again, ever. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely amazing, everybody else had a lot of fun. It just did not work out for me. It is also called a canopy tour, since you are soaring at about 35-40 mph above a lush canopy. There are cables (Ziplines) hanging between trees, some of them really long. You are secured in a harness and with one hand clamped on the cable (we are given a thick glove for that hand), you are attached to the cable from the waist. And zoom, you are let go and yes it was an amazing experience to go that fast with just the most exquisite landscape below you. The rivers, the jungle, the flowers below, the view with remain in my mind forever.

The problem was when I reached the other end. At some point the tour guide would signal with his hands, and we were supposed to pull the cable applying all the pressure we could. This was mainly to slow us down and make a smooth landing at the tree. But for me, the first time it just did not happen. I could not apply enough force, and could not slow down. I can now only imagine the terror of going at that speed and seeing a huge tree in front of me. Of course there is no way you could crash into the tree, they have huge breaks to stop you. But still, it was scary and I stopped with a huge thud. My head was spinning. So on the next line, I decided I was going to give my heart and soul into the pull. Guess what, I started pulling the cable as soon as I saw that I was almost reaching the other end. It was too early. I had slowed down too much, and I was stuck. Yes I was suspending from the cable, not able to move forward. I had braked way too hard. So I was asked to turn around and tangle my legs over the cable, and pull my body backwards towards the tree. After a while I gave up, and the guide had to throw a rope to pull me across. Enough drama for one day, it was embarrassing. But yes I cannot say that the whole while it was like this. It became easier, and I really enjoyed the last 2-3 lines. Pics below:

Our next stop in beautiful CR was Tamarindo. We stayed at a beautiful beach resort, and spent most part of the two days relaxing on the beach. It was wonderful after our activity filled time at Arenal.

The highlight of our trip was a visit to see the giant leather back turtles. Tamarindo Beach is part of a bay formed by a cape, Cabo Velas (velas is Spanish for sails, or sailfish). Playa Grande lies to the north of Tamarindo Beach inside the bay. The two beaches are separated by a natural salt water estuary, Estero Tamarindo. South of Tamarindo Bay there is another beautiful estuary and beach, Playa Langosta. Both Playa Grande and Playa Langosta are protected nesting areas for the giant leatherback turtle, and are part of the Costa Rican national park system. These beaches are the major nesting areas for the turtles, which arrive from October to March to lay their eggs. They swim thousands of miles from the Galapagos Islands, come and lay their eggs in Tamarindo and swim back never to see the young ones again. The eggs hatch, and the turtles swim back by themselves. After a few years they come to the exact spot where they were born, to lay their eggs. Just one of Nature's miracles I guess.

We were not allowed to take pictures, but here are some pics I found on the National Geographic website:

The turtles are huge and weigh around 600-1000 pounds and are about 2m in length and width. They are an endangered species. We walked with the park rangers quietly on the beach and then waited for an hour or so for the grand arrival. It was just amazing seeing the huge turtle, walk through the sands slowly, carefully finding a place to lay her eggs. She was moving slowly, probably she was in a lot of pain too. When she found a good spot, she used the hind flippers to dig through the sand. It was a beautiful sight. She laid around 60-70 eggs, after which she covered them up. Its was cute to see the way see kept patting on the sand just to make sure her eggs were warm and safe. When she felt they were safe, it was time for her to return. She had a long journey back home. We were awestruck by what we had just seen, and walked quietly on the beach towards the boat waiting for us. What a beautiful moonlit night that was.

The next two days were spent just eating, drinking, playing in the water, surfing, and lounging by the beach. Well just relaxing till it was time to go back. Love you Costa Rica.

- Yam


  1. Looks like the rappelling was fun. I've got good data to visit the place now.

  2. Yes Preeti, it was awesome! You should surely plan a trip:)

  3. This is great Yam! :) I look forward to your future posts and loads of exciting, adventure stories and great volcano shots. Popping ideas in my head for holiday destinations ;p

  4. Hey Aastha, I am glad you enjoyed it:)Have fun planning your next vacation!

  5. You enjoyed one of the most beautiful area of Costa Rica, Arenal is amazing. I can't wait for visit Arenal Again. custom travel to costa rica is a best option for enjoy many destinations at the same time