One down… lots more to come

We’ve reached the end of our first major stop. After 28 mostly sunny and hot days we boarded our flight for Quito, Ecuador (by way of Bogota) on Tuesday afternoon.

We chose Costa Rica for our first month for a few reasons. The first was a chance for me to share with the rest of the family some of my special memories. Costa Rica was the first place I travelled to independently (I spent a month there in 2001). The trip was truly an eye-opening and confidence building experience – one that holds a very special place in my heart. I was pretty excited about the chance to return to some of those experiences, share and relive some of the magic and see how the country has changed twenty years on.

For the most part, I found the country much as I did the first time I visited. The people were warm and friendly, navigating the variable infrastructure was a real adventure and the natural sites were unbelievable. There were definitely signs of change as well. It is no longer quite the travel bargain it used to be (I spent about $1,500 in total living and exploring there for a month in 2001), San Jose (the capital city) has developed into a considerably more modern destination, and the number of tour operations and ways to spend your tourist dollars everywhere have grown exponentially. All in all still a magical place.

There were two other reasons in my mind when scheduling Costa Rica first. We wanted a slow-paced month to ease into the travel lifestyle and a sunny destination to help us forget the Canadian winter. I’m less sure these rationale turned out well. We spent seventeen days at our first destination (Playa Ocotal) and I think we all thought it was too long – by the middle of the second week we were ready to dive into more activity and adventure than was easy to find close to Ocotal.

As for the sun, it turns out we may have got a little too much of a good thing – Wendy and Kieran in particular found the heat (highs averaging 32-35 plus some humidity everywhere save Monteverde) pretty uncomfortable. On the plus side.. we’ve learned something about our comfort with heat as a family and will make some adjustments to the plan going forward to compensate.

In terms of highlights there is little doubt that, in Costa Rica, nature takes first prize. We got to spot a number of nifty creatures in the wild (howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, sloths, iguanas, scarlet macaws, kinkajous, pit vipers and tarantulas to name a few). We ticked off three of our top 100 experiences (scuba, surfing and zip-lining), two of our top 100 foods and one of our top 100 sights (stay tuned for posts about food and sights).

We visited at least six beautiful beaches during our time in Costa Rica (Coco, Ocotal, Conchal, Tamarindo, Dominical and Manual Antonio). Kieran and Caleb both felt Dominical was their favourite: it had the best (biggest) waves and was the site of their surfing lesson (probably their favourite activity). Wendy and I chose Ocotal as our favourite – for it’s nice dark sand, calm waters and quiet, laid back vibe.

We also went on at least five amazing hikes, in National Parks at Rincon de la Vieja, Tenorio, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio and at the Private Reserve at Nauyaca Waterfalls. Here our favourites are more diverse. Kieran enjoyed Rincon de la Vieja the most – for it’s beautiful “Carteratas Congejas” hike and chance to swim under a waterfall. Caleb chose the Nauyaca Waterfalls for similar reasons (nice hike, great swimming). For Wendy, Monteverde, and in particular the suspension bridges over the Cloud Forest, was the most memorable. For me, the amazing blue waters and misty, high-elevation rainforest at Tenorio National Park took the cake.

It’s been a great beginning and we can’t wait for what comes next.

Until next time…

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