I have a long list of places that I want to travel to and this was near the top. Visions of a tropical rainforest, turquoise blue waters, and a variety of animals you only find in a zoo. Who wouldn't want to see that? I am slowly but surely checking off destinations but since having a baby I have become the bigger baby about leaving her. I have said it before and I will say it again as I am not ashamed...I am a control freak and when things are out of my control my anxiety goes through the roof. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me "oh she will be fine" I would be rich....and still anxiety ridden. Listen, I know she will be taken very well care of and I knew she would have a blast with Nana, but that is not the point. Well I had to get over it because the plane was leaving no matter what. Thank God for iMessage and Facetime. This is my baby giving me kisses, how could you not miss that face?
Needless to say we both survived the 8 days away from each other and I have already made it clear to my hubby that the next vacation I am not leaving her for that long...at least not this year :)
After a 5 hour flight from Chicago we finally landed in Liberia, Costa Rica. The airport was built brand new only 2 years ago and it was really clean and nice. Make sure you have a taxi or shuttle scheduled because they charge you $80 for 2 people to get to your hotel when the hotel only charges $55 for 2 people in a private taxi or $25 per couple on a shuttle. Upon landing and while driving to our resort, the visions I had of this country was not what I was looking at. It was brown, dry, hot, and looked just like Mexico. I was a little bummed I am not going to lie. We decided to stay at the RIU Palace as it was an old standby that we knew what to expect having stayed at 3 other RIU resorts. And also...1.) Because I was so out of sorts leaving my child I didn't need any more stress of researching and picking a new place and it being a disaster like Barbados :) (See Travel Barbados blog post for a good laugh). 2.) We were going to stay at the Westin but when I went to book it the price went up $1,500 per person and I am a cheap. 3.) We are old and all we want to do is lay around, soak up some sun and maybe hit up a few touristy things. Done with the excuses. We love the RIU Palace in Puerto Vallarta but this RIU was probably our least favorite. Yes, I read the reviews and searched through Trip Advisor, but I am convinced that the people who write glowing reviews never get to travel and the poor reviews are people who think they are going to have the best food of their life and best accommodations at a at best 4 Star property. Forgo the expectations and just enjoy the ride, it is much better that way!
The decor is very modern and the colors do not seem to fit the location but the view looking out was all I needed. We spend majority of our time outside trying to un-thaw from winter, probably why the hotel was packed with New Yorker's and Canadians! Haha
We would enjoy a glass of wine here each evening overlooking this view. Not to shabby eh?
We did walk over to the RIU Guanacaste property which is right next door and if you stay at the Palace you have the option to hang out there if you would like, no charge. The decor and vibe were much more Costa Rican if you ask me with lush landscaping and more earth toned palate.
For what we did the RIU accommodated my butt just fine. There was an empty chair pool side every day waiting for us, a seat at a their several restaurants and buffets, and more importantly friendly staff waiting to assist you with whatever you could possible need. And they win the award for best dirty monkey drink! Who doesn"t love chocolate and bananas??
The weather is warm and toasty, and was a whopping 98 degrees Thursday of our trip. I would say that is hot especially when the humidity is 60-70 percent too. The locals say that their summer goes from September until May and after May it rains almost every day along the coast for 1-2 hours each day then stops and more like every day all day in the rainforest. We had all sunny days, even at the volcano. The best part was spending 8 whole days uninterrupted with my hubby. We have such a great time together and this trip was nothing short of that.
I think that walking the beach each morning is the best way to get out and explore the raw culture of a country, no matter where you may be. Each morning brought something new for us and it just kept getting better! First off my husband discovered that our beach had jelly fish :)
No he wasn't hurt and no I did not have to pee on him. Nasty. But we saw plenty and depending on the day we saw hundreds or none. After a lot of Google searches we discovered the bottom photo is a Blue Button jelly fish. We encountered monkeys in their natural habitat almost every day and while I am terrified of spiders...I didn't see a one!! Yippee. Lots of lizards, frogs, and birds but all very harmless.
( I am not the idiot who tries to touch or capture wild animals so I wouldn't know if they were harmless or not). There was a trail next to our property at the RIU that people were talking about stating we had to go to the Monkey Bar. So we took the trail one day and if I could white knuckle my own hands, I sure was doing just that! I was freaked out. The thought of being on this trail, alone with lots of foreign animal scurrying about was freaky. I did give my hubby a good laugh that is for sure. I am usually the brave and confident one but after reading some crazy article in The Mens Journal about a man who went missing in the Costa Rican jungle, I was freaked. We finally reached the monkey Bar and it was just that. A bar that had a tree just across the street with several monkeys just chilling minding their own business. I later learned you are not supposed to smile at them because they show their teeth as a sign of agression...note to self for the next time.
On one of our last walks it was a Saturday and the locals had all come to the beach to enjoy their family time and we saw thousands of tiny fish had washed up on shore. The little children were collecting them in their toys and taking them back to their parents...something my child would do, although she would have it in her mouth! Birds were swooping down picking up these fish left and right as it was probably the easiest meal of their day. All of a sudden these 3 men ran out into the water throwing a string wrapped around a scrap piece of wood with a lure attached to it. They all reeled back in these huge fish like it was nothing! Incredible to see. I guess that was going to be their dinner that night.
It is those types of experiences you can not buy.
In my "older" age I love trying new things and foods. At our breakfast buffet there was this fruit with snot like seeds inside of it and whatever made me want to try it is beyond me but I am sure glad I did.
It turns out that I LOVE passion fruit and ate it every single morning. Convincing my husband to eat it after he tried it was another story :) See for yourself. Snot? or not?
Before we left I really wanted to do the Arenal volcano tour, so once we had a few relaxing days under our belts we booked the tour through a travel guide at the hotel. Gray line tours did a great job and I highly recommend them. It was about a 3.5 hour ride in a van there and back but you can't describe the experience unless you see it for yourself. And what else do you have to do the next day besides sit poolside and relax? Get up and go! You won't regret it.
That is what I had pictured Costa Rica looking like. Absolutely stunning. Our driver quickly pulled the van off to the side of the road or just stopped in the middle of the road several times for us to capture photos of monkeys, pizotes (as seen below), volcanoes, and of course a couple of selfies!
We selected the tour with the volcano, the rainforest hike, and the hot springs. The hike was more like a walk and not a hike. We are the dumb tourists and wore flip-flops but if we would've bought different shoes for this "hike" we would've been pissed. We were fine. Just remember your bug spray. I had read this in previous posts that mosquitos were bad. I led the pack, after the guide of course so he could take the first snake or spider bite :) Kidding. sort of.
Next stop was the hot springs. They took us to this hotel called The Springs Resort and Spa where of course the Bachelor had filmed and Sharon Stone happened to be walking into the spa as I was walking by...eeek! This place was breathtaking.
This is the view from their lobby, where I would've just sat for hours. The views, the springs, the people, the food....ahhhhh I want to go back. I think this would be a perfect place for couples or just a group of girls for a trip!
It is our tradition that when we stay at a RIU we must see the Michael Jackson show because it was the first one we saw together and it is so funny. Hard to believe that they can look and dance so much like him. So this is the Michael Jackson of Costa Rica :) Pretty good I would say.
So peace out Costa Rica until we meet again, if ever. Happy travels to all and if you have any comments of suggestions feel free to let me know or ask!! If I put every single detail it would be a book and if I wrote every single praise or fail I would be one of THOSE people :) Cheers!