Monday, April 11, 2011

costa rica

Spring Break 2011: Looking for plenty of sunshine, relaxation, and a splashof adventure...we headed to Costa Rica. This was a family vacation to remember, with a little something for everyone. I will attempt to include enough info to help those of you headed to this lovely destination while planning your trip. With our spring break at the end of March, it coincided with Costa Rica's Dry Season...95 degree temperatures and a beautiful ocean breeze...we could not have asked for better weather.

We chose to stay at the Flamingo Beach Resort, on Flamingo Beach (the southwest side, in the Guanacaste Region). The location gave us the beach along with easy access to tours and adventures. There are so many regions to choose from...depending on your interests. Next time I would definately work-in the Arenal Volcano. This resort appealed to us, because of it's more intimate size, yet it had all the comforts of a luxurious resort. I arranged transporation through the hotel from the airport (1 hour drive) however, next time we will rent a jeep to give us more flexibity during our stay.

The resort offered breakfast only as well as all-inclusive packages (your wristband indicates your status). Knowing we would be headed out for a number of family adventures throughout the day, we opted for the breakfast only package, which included a very adequate beachfront breakfast every morning.

Just outside the resort gate are a number of wonderful restaurants...Marie's is one of my favorites, with its open-air design. Their Fish Tacos are out of this world.

Beautiful waves...great body surfing with clear water in whichyou can
sometimes see fish swim through the water as the waves crest.

the swim up bar...chocolate monkeys and pina coladas

Flamingo Beach Resort.

Flamingo Beach Resort: Our Family Suite: 3 balconies and 3 Queen size beds.

About a 20 minute walk from the resort, brought us to Playa Potrera, a dark sand beach (this is where we later walked to catch our deep sea fishing excursion and catamaran sunset cruise). We found our first local ocean front restaurant...Plea Mar. Meals of typical Costa Rican and seafood cuisine are served right on the beach under thatched umbrellas. As we drank our Imperial Beers, fantas and cokes...we watched the fresh seafood being delivered.

the guys walking to Plea Mar Restaurant

Trip enjoying his fanta and the owner's parrot at Plea Mar.

ATV to Zipline: We purchased most of our adventures through the resort. Booking ahead of time is not necessary. Our first adventure was a combination of the ATVs and the Zip Line located at theCongo Trail. The ATVs were delivered right to our hotel (we each rode our own, except for Trip, who rode on the back of Bren's). Since we were in the dry season, the river beds were not quite as wet and fun as they would have been otherwise. We had a blast...after heading down a short paved road past Potrero, we went on dirt paths/small roads through villages and remote areas. About 45 minutes of fun riding later...we reached our destination: The Congo Trail zip line.

ATVs delivered to the resort

lots of dirt and dust...

cal taking a break...poor guy had to ride with a cast on for his broken thumb.

family of rough riders

starting out on the atvs....

riding along...

hello cows...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

costa rica: zip line

We arrived via ATV to the Congo Trail Zip amazing maze of platforms and cables high up in the tree tops. We climbed steps and ladders to get to the first of the platforms.

You are hooked by your cable to the platform's cables which are attached to the tree....awaiting your turn to jumb up and get hooked to the zip line cable. you were leather gloves. One hand holds your harness and the other holds one of the cables loosely from behind your head. This is pulled down on, in order to slow as approaching the next platform.... You go from one to the next...really quite amazing.

mama...geared up

trip zipping

Trip zipping...

looking forward thru a zoom lens to the next platform.

there it is...we also saw howler monkeys in the trees.

nick zipping...

cal zipping...

the boys hiking to the next section

Nick held a camera in his hand as he zip-lined...

Friday, April 8, 2011

costa rica: dinning

Our resort was an easy place in which to relax, swim in the ocean...walk over to the pool, and swim up to the bar for a cool refreshing pina colada. We ordered lunch on occasion by the pool (their sandwiches were good) but generally heading off the compound was much more tasty and interesting. Just outside the gate was Marie's, which I mentioned earlier for their fish tacos, but their drinks were amazing... I ordered a mojito and wondered what was taking so long to make a mojito...finally looking over at the bar, we witnessed the care being taken to hand squeeze the limes, crush the mint with sugar far the best mojito ever! Of course Imperial beer was the local beer, but on a return visit to Marie's, Bren couldn't resist their Pina Colada which is a sight to behold, and a meal unto itself.

We were somewhat limited by the fact we had not rented a vehicle...we went to restaurants within walking distance, however cabs were also easily available. The Laguna Azul beachside restaurant had been mentioned by a few locals...just past the Plae Mar Restaurant. Rustic wood tables right on the ocean, with hammocks hanging nearby. Puppies at our feet and Grandma cooking in the kitchen, with Grandpa lounging 10 feet away in his 'front yard'...the beach. It was a family affair, as most of them seem to be. These restaurants are very reasonable and offer fish, chicken...and burgers. Bren and I had the Mahi Mahi which came with a side of rice and black beans. We ordered bottled water everywhere except the resort which served bottled water from a cooler...
waiting for our lunch at Laguna Azul

Trip with Puppy #1

puppy #2

There were also pizza shacks, sandwich stops and little grocers, where we purchased snacks, sodas, beers etc...for the room and beach. I brought foldable beach bags...but next time I would also bring one of those soft, insulated, foldable coolers too.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

costa rica: fishing trip

We went out for a 1/2 day trip on the Sun King. We had heard that the fishing had not been too good in the past few weeks, but having never been on a deep sea fishing trip we forged ahead. This was Trip's Birthday wish...he passed on a kid party to be able to do this adventure as a family.


We had been boating for about 40 minutes, when Cal caught the first fish....A Mackerel. Cal proceeded to hold up the fish for the camera...not thinking too much about the razor sharp teeth right by his fingers...
When handing the fish off to the guide...the fish dropped on deck, flopping around. One guide picked it up and lost it it continued to flop, it flopped right next the head guide's foot and sliced the top of his foot wide open. Blood everywhere...the fish is caught and we take the guide into our care.

Wrapping his foot, keeping it elevated with pressure, we were able to stop the flow of blood, as the boat turned around to drop him off on shore to get stitches. We later learned he had 13 stitches and would be out for 10 days...
We then headed out again. Cal was splattered with blood from the fish and the guide for the rest of the trip.

We were served nachos, and a fresh fruit plate, along with sodas and beers. It was a gorgeous day, and though we did not catch any monster fish we still had a good time.

Trip with his Red Snapper.

The tinniest catch...

Nick's Bonita held by the guide.

Trip and Dad

The boys on the front of the boat, heading back.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

costa rica: horse ride

Trip had never really had the opportunity to ride a horse outside of a pony this was a great opportunity. It was $30 for a 3 hour trip, but we decided to limit the ride to 2 hours since we were not used to riding. We were so was the perfect length.


Trip and Mom...the land in the background is where our resort was located.

Trip's horse was named Baby Racoon, mine was Bobby and the guide's horse was Black. We followed the guide thru some little villages and out along the ocean. Walking on the beach, up through hillsides. We were walking along Playa Conchal. It was a beautiful beach with really calm waters. Our beach at the resort was much more playful and fun for body surfing....but this was lovely. We passed the resort: Reserva Conchal, which looked very luxurious and had a golf course. Another Resort we would look into next time is Paradisus Playa Conchal. The thing to consider is whether or not you will take advatage of the all-inclusive package if you are out and about doing lots of adventures. That was our dilema.

Reserva Conchal Resort. We rode on a path through the grove of trees you see in the picture.

On our ride back, I was filming the area when two dogs rushed my horse...a little startling at the time, but caught it on tape.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

costa rica: catamaran sunset snorkel cruise

On the last day of the trip...we decided to go on a snorkel trip. We opted for a wonderful Sunset Cruise on a 48' Catamaran named The Hibiscus, which was one of the highlights of our trip. The boat and crew were amazing, and we would definately do this one again on a return trip. I booked this trip through some beach vendors...using Christian our chair/umbrella guy as a connection....and introduction to his friend, Major. It was a way better boat than the one the hotel was offering up. They do Third Lung Diving and private charters.

We were picked up at the resort at 1:45 and taken to Potrero to meet up with the Catamaran. We were taken out by dingy with some other passengers. We were met with drinks and a cheerful crew. We sailed out to Honeymoon Beach for snorkeling (the boat provides the equipment) and while we snorkel...the crew prepares a grilled dinner of delicious fajitas, fresh fruit, and cookies. It tasted wonderful. I highly recommend the rum punch.

the boys on the net

the brothers

The kids loved getting their drinks through the little hatch to the kitchen. While we cruised..the captain had some rods out for trolling...but we did not catch anything. The sunset was amazing and the fellow passengers all fun and easy going.

mom and trip...getting ready to snorkel

dad and his two big uns


we've snorkeled and had dinner...the sun is setting... we sail back.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

cost rica: tips

1. get out and about: the people of costa rica were so friendly and outgoing. They went out of their way to wave and reach out. We always felt safe and well taken care of. This friendliness seemed cultural....We would recommend getting out into the surrounding areas and meet some of the people. Mucho Gusto...that pretty much says it. Every thank you we said, was met with Mucho Gusto (my pleasure) and they really made you feel like it was.

2. sunscreen: bring lots. I used 45 the whole time and we still got some sunburns. The sand is so fine, that when swimming in the ocean, the sand rubs it right off. Re-applying frequently....very frequently, is recommended. Bring long sleeved t-shirts and hats with you. Surf shirts would be a good idea.

3. repellent: bring mosquito repellent with you. Some restaurants have it available...but I kept it in my bag for use in the evenings.

4. car rental: road signs are very clear and next time, we will definately rent a vehicle. The adventures always pick you up but if you went to set out on your own and explore different beaches and restaurants it would be key.

5. credit cards: almost all places take credit cards, but some beachside restaurants only take cash....either U.S. or Costa Rican.

6. exit tax: when you leave costa rica you will need to pay an exit tax $75 per person. If you are traveling at a busy time, you can pre-pay this at a local bank to expedite your process in the airport. You need to take your passports with you when you go to the bank. Our flight was in the early a.m. We did pay our exit tax in advance...but there was no line at the airport exit tax window when we got there....In hindsight it wasn't necessary.

7. next time: next time we plan to see the Arenal Volcana and do the natural hot springs, and volcanic mud baths...