Monday, June 27, 2016

All Around the World: Costa Rica and Nicaragua (Plus Some Engagement Photos...Wooo!): PART 2

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Trying to create a resource manual at work when you're going on vacation to a place called manuel really messes everything up. Anyway...

To get to Manuel Antonio you have to fly into Quepos (I'll fill you in on all of that fun later). We stayed at Arenas Del Mar while we were there, a rather expensive resort. We'd heard it was the best of the best and had tried going a year prior, but it's so popular that it was booked solid. Therefore, this trip was a full year in the making. But if a resort books up that quick it must be amazing, right?

Upon arrival you're given their "Welcome Drink." It's this ridiculously good pineapple-mint-coconut drink that I then had to order every single day like some coconut crackhead. The day I came home I recreated it because I was kind of, sort of, maybe addicted. Here's the recipe- you're welcome. Arenas Del Mar is a sustainable luxury hotel, which means they're all about saving water, eating organically and healthfully, and being a good, responsible hotel line. Right up my alley!

At the resort you have two beaches: one public and one private. The rooms are very comfortable and the mini bar food/drinks are free- wooooo! There are two restaurants on-site and they are expensive, however, they have a ton of gluten free options. Unfortunately, the food was very hit or miss for both gluten free and "normal" food. One meal would be awesome, the next would be pretty terrible. That being said, breakfast was pretty kick ass aaaaaand it's free! With breakfast every morning you also get a huge tray of fresh fruits like pitaya, pineapple, mango, and berries.

Public beach
Private beach
I have to give a round of applause to the staff because those folks were super sweet and crazy hard workers. Seriously, the staff made the place. There was one older gentleman, Luis, who I just adored. He was our server most of the time and he always had something interesting to say, not to mention a huge smile on his face.

All in all, I must say the resort is gorgeous. Views for miles...

Now, here's the trick about the rooms: You don't need the ocean view, so save your money. We did one night ocean view and then the rest of the time in a regular bungalow, which was $100 cheaper and three times the size. Sure, the view was nice, but we were out and about the whole time anyway enjoying the view in person and up close.

Your activity options in this tropical paradise are endless! Water activities, hiking, and shopping are just a few, but one thing you should do is visit a rainforest- a rainforest with suspension bridges. Costa Rica is known for these gloriously green forests, however, not all rainforests are created equal. Some are cloud forests, other wet forests, and then there are true rainforests. To get to a real rainforest (and the suspension bridges) you're going to need a tour. We booked a rainforest hike through the resort. We had a private guide and spent a great morning hiking, learning, exploring, and swimming in a mini-waterfall.
Suspension bridges
Looks scarier from this angle, right? 
You know what else you should do while in rainforest country? Go ziplining! We had a full day of zipline and ATV adventures and, honestly, it was amazing. There were more waterfalls and whooshing through the forest and then, the must, the Superman line- a full minute of endless ziplining awesomeness!
The Superman zipline
A true Superman
ATV rides + Being covered in dirt = This
Waterfall time
The wildlife in Costa Rica is pretty impressive. We saw iguanas, monkeys, a cutie Toucan Sam, and two sloths! You've seen the movie Zootopia, yes? Sloths really are that slow. 

Example: This dude who was crossing the street because he saw a tree he liked better on the other side. I know it looks like he's waving at us, but he's really saying ""  Makes me think of a joke. Why did the sloth cross the road? We'll never know, he's still crossing it! JK, LOL. Stand Up Comedy career, here I (do not) come. Don't worry, this little fella is fine. We stayed to make sure no cars would hit him while he made his slow, slow journey to the other side of the street. 

We also spent a day in Quepos, which is an awesome little town with good food and plenty of shopping. Here, you can find all the goodies your little shopping heart desires. There's also plenty of shopping in Manuel Antonio, but it's more expensive.

Overcome with shopping joy
As mentioned, we took an opportunity to have some engagement photos done at a beach because we're never at a beach. Plus, if I'm being totally honest here, we're awkward and we need all the practice we can get. It was a great idea, until we realized it was super hot with tons of humidity, so we ended up just being more awkward with frizzy hair. I make awesome decisions, clearly.

And just because this place is so doggone beautiful, here are a few more pictures.

This was high tide. It was hilarious to walk through- try it

 A bear on a beach
My favorite shot

Before I can end this story about this lovely, lovely place, as promised I must first prepare you for the flight you have to take to get here (and to the San Jose airport to fly home), because holy is terrifying in fresh and new ways. But, um, don't let that scare you...

To get from Nicaragua to the Quepos airport, which is the closest one to Manuel Antonio, it only takes about one hour. Unfortunately, you have to take a teeny tiny 12 seater plane. I'm sure on days when there's no wind the flight(s) are perfectly fine, but when there is wind it's like being on a roller coaster in the sky. A gust comes this-a-way and the whole plane lifts up suddenly. Another gust comes that-a-way and WHAM, the whole plane moves to the right. My butt literally lifted out of the seat entirely several times. There were screams of terror followed by delirious laughter, then more screams- over and over. 

"AHHHHH!!! Hahahah! We made it, we ma- EEEEEEEK!!!! Oh no, ohnonononono...HAHAHA! We're alive!"

Like that.

The flight(s) home was worse. The first plane that we were supposed to take had landing gear problems, so we had to hire a private plane with some other folks because we were desperately trying to catch our other fight. (Didn't make it, for the record. Worst flying day ever in all of my traveling life) The plane we hired was a six seater, mind you. Landing was the most terrifying part of the ride because it's important to, you know, ensure you land smoothly and not all lopsided so one wing doesn't break off on the tarmac.

I should mention that at no point on any of these flights were any of the pilots scared. Nope, not even a little. Just us tourists. The most exciting/terrifying plane ride(s) of my life, I tell you. You thrill seekers will love it! Also, the airport in Quepos is the tiniest, most adorable airport you will ever see. It has two whole terminals all housed under one building the size of a three car garage. Enjoy yourselves. *wink wink*

Some of these pictures can be found on my Society6 page.

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