Next stop on our adventure was Costa Rica, the Central American country sandwiched between Panama and Nicaragua.
Some fun (well not exactly fun) facts:
- Costa Rica occupies 0.3% of the worlds land space but has over 5% of the worlds biodiversity (that means it has lots of animals and plants!)
- Costa Rica has no army
- Every radio station plays the national anthem at 7am in the morning daily
After leaving Cuba we flew into the Costa Rican capital of San Jose. We grabbed a luxury hire car (luxury = 1994 Daihatsu Terios) and I may have missed the memo that suspension was an optional extra. We headed for the south west coast and Manuel Antonio National Park. Arriving into our rainforest cabana was a welcome relief from Cuban life. We could drink the water, fresh food and supermarkets were readily available and we had internet.
There are 3 main reasons as to why you would visit Costa Rica – nature, adventure and relaxation. So, we split our time here into 3.
Manuel Antonio was the nature and monkey capital of Costa Rica.We would wake in the morning to the sounds of monkeys on our roof. It was wildlife galore in this part of the country. We watched monkeys run along our roof and throw themselves onto the trees a few metres away. I feel as though our girls are not really that interested in zoos as the amount of wildlife we’ve seen this year in their natural habitat has been pretty large. In Manuel Antonio National Park we saw sloths, howler and white face monkeys, iguanas, frogs, crabs, deer, bats and more strutting birds than the Ivy pool bar. It’s the real rainforest here.
We hiked for an hour through the National Park down to the beach. Waiting at the end for us were families of white faced monkeys and racoons. I’ll be honest I’ve never really felt much love for white faced monkeys. I think it’s because they remind me too much of the movie Outbreak and that they are probably smarter than me.
We had come prepared with packed lunch (sandwiches and pineapple in tupperware containers) as I was going to be no easy targets for these monkeys. Two minutes later while unpacking my bag one of the little Michael Jackson lookalikes jumped me for my tupperware of pineapple. The kids were in hysterics while I sat there feeling like I was a few fries short of a happy meal. We moved down closer to the water with Piper holding her sandwich tighter than a new prisoner holds his soap. We watched the monkeys and racoons comb the beach looking for their next victim. There were plenty.
Piper and Evie – Have you even watched those tourists feeding pigeons in Hyde Park and you think ‘what idiots’. Well that’s what dad. These cute little monkeys owned him. We weren’t crying because of the monkeys, we just really wanted the pineapple.
Now Piper has really grown a set this holiday. She left home as a timid little 4 1/2 year old who baulked at water slide and has become an adventurous 5 year old willing to give anything a crack. She had been begging to go on a zipline. So we went on one of sorts. The Zip Coaster is similar to a zipline but has drops and turns like a roller coaster. Needless to say she loved it while mum and dad shrieked with terror.
On our last day our host said there was a storm coming tomorrow and advised us to check our driving route. The storm turned out to be Hurricane Otto – the first hurricane to ever hit Costa Rican land. With that in mind we made our way to San Jose and bunkered down in a little hotel for the night. We missed the Hurricane (it did do some damage further north) but just left us with plenty of rain. Over the next 4 days we would have had more rain than we had previously had for the whole of 2016. That wasn’t too hard as we have only had about 4 days of rain all year.
Piper and Evie – Mum and dad lost it a little. Every second word they said was Hurricane. I feel sorry for the poor people it actually affected. Not the tourists making out like the world was going to end.
After the San Jose night we made it to San Carlos, a small town outside of La Fortuna (the adventure capital) of Costa Rica. Over the next 4 days we got our adventure on.
First up was horse ring through the jungle. Piper went with Dany the guide, Ez took Evie while I rode solo. I felt sorry for my horse. When I jumped on I think his belly was touching the ground. He was sweating more than a buffet on a cruise ship.
We walked the rainforest canopy in the rain across 100m long hanging bridges. We ran into a couple friendly snakes along the way.
Piper and Evie – Snakes aren’t fun dad, never ever. I know mum agrees as she’s always saying put the snake away at home.
Next up, we jumped on some ATV’s (Quad bikes) and drove to the hot springs. Not our brightest idea. It was constant rain and some of the rivers we needed to cross were overflowing. After a little over 1 hour our guide said it was another 45 minutes to the hot springs. Ez and I were wetter than an otters pocket while the girls were relatively dry under the ponchos. I told the guide that the girls had enough and we should head back…for some reason we were only 10 minutes from home (I still haven’t worked out what happened). So we did. We jumped in the car and headed to some awesome hot springs in the rainforest where we defrosted for 2 hours.
We visited a wildlife rescue sanctuary and participated in a volunteer program where we got to feed the monkeys, red-faced Macaws, raccoons and a baby porcupine.
The final act of adrenalin was the real zip lining that Piper and I did on the last morning here. Our daredevil had been begging for days so I took her. I may have had to embellish the age here (hers not mine). Over the next couple of hours we zip lined 7 lines up to 600m of length and 100 m above the ground. She didn’t flinch once, unlike dad. She was prouder than a backpacker with a Canadian flag badge.
Piper and Evie – I ripped it up. I made sure I always went before dad as who knows how the cable would be after the big guy came through. I’m not dumb.
Our final part of Costa Rica saw us hit the Guanacaste peninsula and bunker down in the small surf town of Playa Avellenas (the relaxation part). When I say small, there was 1 1/2 restaurants and a pretty nice beach. It was about 20 minutes drive from the larger Playa Tamarindo and was 10km down a dirt road though with some of the most savage pot holes I have ever encountered. I reckon I hit about 90% of them. So it wasn’t a total surprise when I woke the next morning with a flat tyre. When I wasn’t trying to dodge potholes I was trying not to hit the chickens or cows that wander along the road.
The highlight and lowlight was taking Piper surfing. I hired a board and we hit the waves. I probably overestimated her surfing ability and my coaching ability. The first wave I chose was a little large, she had a pretty decent wipeout. Drank more water than pregnant book club. Unsurprisingly I couldn’t get her back on the board for love or money.
Piper and Evie – Great work dad. Push the 5 year old onto the Tsunami wave and then act surprised that I wiped out. Your new nickname is minibus because you’re certainly not a coach.
We hung out at the one restaurant in Playa Avellenas, Lola’s. Lola was a 200kg pig that chilled on the beach and even made it down for a swim.
Piper and Evie – We’ve got a new nickname for dad. You guessed it, Lola.
We also spent our time trying to figure out how we would survive our next destination, the snow of Colorado. That is where I am writing this post, having swapped the 30 degree Celsius of Costa Rica for the -10 of Colorado!
For more photos from Costa Rica, check out Erica’s gallery here.