Costa Rican Extravaganza
On June 16th, 2013 I took the trip of a life time! It was one of the best trips I have gone on and I experienced so much. The trip was to the beautiful country of Costa Rica and was one of the best trips I had been on at that time of my life.
The trip occurred the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I went with some students from my high school, specifically those in Spanish classes, and our Spanish teacher as well as a group of students from a Muncie high school and their Spanish teacher.
We had to be at the airport around 4 am to get our luggage checked and we didn’t start boarding the plan until after 6 am. The first flight was from Indianapolis to Houston, Texas, which took two hours and we have a two and a half hour layover in Houston. 9:45 am (Central Time; 10:45 am Easter Standard Time) came around and were finally on our way to San Jose, Costa Rica. The flight there took three hours and we arrived in San Jose at 1:15 pm (Central Time; 3:15 pm Easter Standard Time).
Flying on a plane isn’t bad, but it isn’t the greatest either. I am the type of person that can’t sleep in moving vehicles and that includes planes. Most people can fall asleep because of the motion of the vehicle, but I can’t and being up at 3 am was not fun. But I was so excited to go out of the country especially with friends. Honestly the scariest part of the whole process of getting to Costa Rica was going through customs when we landed in San Jose. I’m not sure why it was the scariest, but I was concerned that something would prevent me from going any further and continuing on the trip.
Finally in Costa Rica
But everything went smoothly and we all got through customs to meet our tour guide Victor. We then got on a bus to go to our hotel, El Gran Hotel de Costa Rica. On the bus ride to the hotel Victor shared with us a phrase that they use often in Costa Rica, the phrase was “Pura Vida,” which actually translates to “Pure Life,” but according to Victor Costar Ricans use it to say hello, goodbye, ask how you are doing, and to just get rid of your worries.
We finally got to the Hotel de Costa Rica around 3 pm and were given our room assignments. After we put our luggage into our rooms we went back to the lobby to get instructions from Victor. After getting the instructions we were allowed to go out in groups to explore San Jose. I walked around with a group from my high school that included Kelsi Maxwell and Abby Morgan, my two friends that I was rooming with. Our Spanish teacher, Señora Thompson, went with us as well. As we walked around we saw many Hispanic vendors selling different things on the side walks. I was so interesting to be immersed in the different culture and be surround by all the people.
The next day we left the hotel at about 7:45 am to head to Arenal Region. On the way we stopped and visited INBio Parque to get a glimpse at all the different wildlife and plant life of Costa Rica. We saw so much at INBio Parque. We saw frogs, iguanas, tarantulas, sloths, turtles, and different plants and trees. I have always loved zoos and nature parks so walking around INBio Parque was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
After INBio Parque we went to visit Poás Volcano. When we went it was foggy around the volcano so I didn’t get very good pictures of the volcano but it was still a great experience.
After the park and the volcano we made one last stop at Las Iguanas which was a little town that was full of iguanas. They were all in the trees and it was really cool to see that they just live so closely to people and roads and stores. After all the stops we finally arrived at Hotel Vista Arenal.
It was an extremely nice hotel and the room we stayed in was pretty big and pretty close to a outdoor pool.
The third day, June 18th, we went to visit La Fortuna waterfall. When we go there we had to hike down 550 steps to reach the waterfall. The trek down wasn’t too bad, but going back up those 550 steps was hell. The waterfall was beautiful though and we were able to swim a little ways down from the waterfall. It was a nice way to spend part of the afternoon.
After the waterfall we went to Arenal Lake to go kayaking. This was the first time I had ever been kayaking and it was an experience. Kelsi and I did a two person kayak and it was difficult at first to get momentum and get into a rhythm of paddling but we got the hang of it and it was great. To this day I still love kayaking, but i prefer a single person kayak to a double kayak. In between the waterfall and the lake we stopped in La Fortuna, the town, and had lunch and walked around the town looking in the different shops and taking in the scenery. I noticed that no matter what town we went to or stopped at there were dogs every where.
Baldi Hot Springs
The last thing we did on the 18th was visit Baldi Hot Springs. The hot springs were great! they were very relaxing and beautiful. It was a great way to end the day especially after walking up and down all those steps at the waterfall. The hot springs had different areas that ranged in temperatures from 93 F to 152 F. Baldi Hot Springs also had a bar area that could be accessed from inside the hot springs as well as from the outside. There were some hot springs that had waterfalls within the springs that made the experience extra relaxing.
The following day was chalk full of adventure. To start off the day some of us went on a little walk to a farm a little ways away from the hotel to milk cows. That was an awesome experience in and of itself because I had never milked a cow before. After the little walk and after breakfast we checked out of Hotel Vista Arenal and took a four hour bus ride up to Monte Verde. On the way to Monte Verde we took two small stops. The first stop was in a little town to use the bathroom and buy water or snacks and the second stop was at a school. We got to look around the school and in the classrooms as well as watch two girls and two boys dance some traditional Costa Rican dances while wearing traditional clothes.
After the school we continued on to Monte Verde and made another stop to go ZIP-LINING! Zip-lining was amazing! There were 6 zip-lines that increased in length and height in the rain forest. Going up to the last zip-line was an up hill walk that took a little while and it was wet and muddy and I ended up falling. After the last zip-line we had the option to do a Tarzan Swing which dropped you from 140 feet! I have always been a little afraid of heights and wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the Tarzan Swing but I did and it was awesome! After zip-lining we went into Monte Verde and walked around town and went into different shops. While we were there I saw a dog sitting on the seat of a motor bike. It was one of the most interesting things I have ever seen.
After the events of the day we finally got to the hotel. Hotel Villa Verde was a really cool hotel in the middle of a forest. Victor told us that the hotel occasionally has scorpions although it was getting better because of the pesticides that the hotel would spray. He told us that if anyone found a scorpion to catch it and bring it to him and he would give a $20 reward. Kelsi, Abby and I found the scorpion and we got the $20 which was super cool but scary at the same time.
The next day, June 20th, we went on a trip to plant a tree which was really cool. We went to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest to plant the trees. We broke up into small groups of four and each group got to plant a tree. I was really great to be able to give back to nature in that way. After that we went back to Hotel Villa Verde and just got to hang out and relax. It was nice to be able to relax and not worry about having to be ready at a certain time to go somewhere.
On the 21st we made the trip to Jacó. Before getting to Jacó we went on a riverboat tour called the Jungle Crocodile Safari. On the tour we got to watch one of the guides feed some crocodiles which was super scary. The hotel we stayed at in Jacó was within walking distance of a beach but we weren’t allowed to swim there because the currents were too strong. After arriving at the hotel around 1 pm kelsi, Abby and I walked on the beach for a little and then we went walking around Jacó with Señora Thompson, Mrs. Chruchill (the Spanish teacher from Muncie), Rachel, and Sean (two of Señora’s friends who were our chaperons). Walking around was a lot of fun and the shops were really cool.
On the 22nd we went to Manuel Antonio National Park and spent time swimming and walking a small trail at La Playa Blanca or the White Beach. Swimming was a cool experience because we got to swim in the Pacific Ocean and that was the first time I ever swam in an ocean! After swimming we walked around an open market where there were many different booths with people selling various items. I bought a dress that was made with the same colors of the Costa Rican flag. Then we went to each lunch at a restaurant called El Avión (The Airplane). It was a really cool restaurant. Our hotel room was awesome too. In the bathroom there was a jetted tub, but unfortunately it didn’t work. We also ended up finding a gecko in our hotel room which was super cute.
The last couple of days went by pretty fast and we mainly just went back to San Jose to get ready to travel home. On the 23rd we stopped in Sarchi to look at the world’s largest ox cart which was awesome. Then we finished our trip back to San Jose. On the 24th we went white water rafting which was scary for me because I don’t like to go under water, but it was really fun. In the middle of rafting we took a break and had fresh pineapple which was delicious! After white water rafting our guide for rafting gave us all leaves that he had wrote on commemorating the rafting experience. We went to the airport on June 25th to make the trip back home.
My trip to Costa Rica was an amazing experience and I had a blast. There were many things that I wouldn’t have thought about doing had I not gone on the trip. It was a spectacular trip with great people and I am extremely grateful that I got to go.