After an amazing 24hrs at the Tabacon Hot Springs we jumped in our tiny rental car and took off down the windy, pot hole filled roads to Tamarindo, a beach town on the North West Coast. We arrived at the JW Marriott late evening in time for dinner and some wine before crashing for the night. We spent the next few days enjoying the ocean views from the hotel beach and pool, reading and enjoying some waterside cocktails. Katie was connected with a colleague from DISH and reached out to convey a few stateside hellos and potentially meet for a drink. She heard back from him and we decided to go into Tamarindo to the Volcano Bar to meet Jim and his wife Jill for a drink and watch the sunset. Jim introduced us to Luis who was a local surf instructor, on the spot we decided to meet Luis the following day for lessons.
After a relaxing morning and our Cafe con Leche by the pool relaxing we ventured into town to meet Luis. In high spirits and very friendly, Luis got us very excited to head out to the water. After a few short instructions on the beach it was time to hit the water and both Katie and I got up on the first try!
We spent the last day at Playa Avellana, just a short walk down from the hotel but we were cautioned to only attempt during low tide. Lola’s, the only place on the beach for food and drink is named after a 200kg pig. Yes, a pig. We wished we had come to this beach earlier in the week, it certainly would have been the default place to spend our days. A quiet sandy beach with good surf, good refreshments and a few good people. Lola’s had excellent ceviche and the marg’s were delicious. As the sun set, we realized the tough reality of our last night in Costa Rica and headed back to the hotel. It was an amazing week of adventure, reflection and well needed relaxation.
Sunday morning came quickly, a little too quickly as we could have spent a few more days exploring the park and Manuel Antonio. We got up and out early to drive back to San Jose and head for La Fortuna in the northern part of the country. This time we flew Nature Air, a two prop plane with enough seats for about 12. It was an easy flight that took us into a tiny private airport where we called for a taxi into town to collect our rental car. The views of the volcano were spectacular and were even better once we were on our way to Tabacon Hot Springs.
Tabacon is one of the better resorts we have stayed in; from the welcoming staff, attention to detail, food and of course the hot spring itself was spectacular. Upon check in we realized that 24 hours was not long enough, this place deserves a little time to relax and indulge. We spent the afternoon and all the next morning lounging around the hot springs, feeling the drizzle of the rain through the cloud forest, listening to the many birds and basking while in amazement of the volcano and all it’s surroundings.
Monkeys, Sloths, toucans, zip lines oh my! Manuel Antonio is a fun filled destination emerging from the jungle and jutting into the pacific coast. It’s no wonder it’s a big tourist destination with the national park full of incredible hiking, beautiful white sand beaches and friendly people.
Day 1: Making up for lost time and no bags we headed across the street to Cafe Milagro for a little Costa Rican cofee and breakfast and fell in love with this quiant little cafe. After relaxing into our surroundings we decided it wasn’t worth worrying about our bags and it was a good excuse to get a new swimsuit and support the locals. We wandered down the street and stumbled on a little surf shop called Beso Loco. Natalie, an expat from Ontario, was an awesome help. She had as much fun as we did pulling out all different combinations of suits, trunks and t-shirts. It became a bit of a fashion show and with so many great options it was difficult to make a decision. Admittedly, it was as much fun for Chad as it was for Katie because everything looked great. We finally made some choices and got out of there and were off to the beach.
Day 2: And off we go with a packed agenda of Zip Lining and wildlife scoping through the National Park. We booked our Canopy Tour through El Santuario Canopy Adventure Tours and were out the door by 7am for coffee and to meet the bus. There were 14 Tree Platforms, 3 Towers, 6 Hanging Bridges, 1 Double Belay Rappel and the adventure included the longest zip line in Costa Rica coming it at 4300 feet!
After an exhillerating morning we made a quick turn and headed straight to the Park for a quick tour and a little relaxing on the beach. We got our tickets, met a tour guide – to which Katie haggled him down in price – and off we were scouting for wildlife. On our 1.5 hour hike through the park we saw several 3 toed & 2 toed Sloths, bats, snakes, frogs, monkeys and many birds thanks to our guide. Although we aren’t ‘tour’ people the guide was totally worth it, he had a great eye and pointed out things that we wouldn’t have spied on our own; not to mention he had a few good jokes along the way.
The Park closes pretty early so we made our way to El Avion for an amazing sunset. We ran into a couple of guys we’d met on the Zip Line tour and cheersed to a great day and incredible sunset. A successful, non stop day was deserving of a cocktail and relaxation.
The thing about standby is you have to hope for the best while always evaluating what the back up options are, quick on your feet. Especially these days with airline travel is tough and not as fun as it used to be. The thing to remember is go with the flow and move on from the disappointment; I mean, you’re on adventure so make the best of it.
We made it to Atlanta without a hitch but missed the San Jose flight by 3 seats; so we were there for the night. The morning flight to San Jose looked a little tight and in speaking with the ticket agent we decided to change course slightly and list for the flight to Liberia with an in country connection via Sansa Airlines. We didn’t want to risk missing the San Jose flight since the evening option was already oversold and we didn’t need another repeat of Asia 🙂
A key piece to flying standby is to always carry on your luggage – if you want it with you at your destination. We packed our (uber) nice backpacks, headed off to the airport and after a slight distraction getting checked in we proceeded to check bags without thinking. What a rookie move, ugh.
First thing the next morning we were back at it and at the gate; we were back and forth between the two flights leaving within 15 minutes of eachother and debated about transfering back to the San Jose flight. Once it was confirmed there were in fact seats on both we wanted to keep course and stick with an SJO arrival. Struggling to connect to the WiFi we were about 90 seconds short of confirming the change, so Liberia it was. We pressed on and just glad to know seats were available. We finally arrived, waltzed through customes and proceeded to the Sansa Air counter to get checked in – all looked a go.
With a couple hours on our hands we went to find some lunch, which turned out to be one of our most expensive meals of the entire trip. Chicken tenders, fajatia lettuce wraps and a single glass of white wine ran us $82, yikes! I guess the airport tax is substantial when it’s the only option. What it did do, was get us familiar with the currency conversion.
It had been advised that any air travel we book, we should plan on morning flights as the weather in the afternoon can make for a sporty ride. With little option on this one we just watched the clouds roll in and hoped for the best. The 8 passengers headed out and vied for position to choose a seat upfront, not that the back was that far from the front but every little bit helps. On take off, we were amazed at the jade hills and vast rivers as we ascented to through the clouds. It didn’t take long for that little plane to be engulfed and before we knew it the windows were being pounded by rain and lightning was flashing all around us. This was one of the most intense storms either of us had ever flown through and we were glad it was only about 45 minutes.
Upon arriving in San Jose we wandered over to the main terminal looking for international arrivals so we could find the Delta counter and collect our bags. It was ‘downtime’ between flights and there wasn’t a Delt agent to be found. Someone finally showed us the back office and said they should be back within a few hours. We settled in to the coffee bar that had WiFi, slow is better than nothing. After repeated attempts at the office trying to find someone to assist we discovered our bags had been taken off the San Jose flight and put on our Liberia flight meaning our bags were sitting in Liberia waiting to be claimed. I will skip the frustration and mutliple conversations around how this could happen and what it would cost to have our bags delivered. So we just had to suck it up, move on and consider it an excuse to do some shopping in Manuel Antonio to get us through the next couple of days.
After two full days of traveling and aware that we would be driving at night we rented a car and were finally on our way to Manuel Antonio, about a two hour drive South West of San Jose. After a few hours of tight roads and not knowing exactly where our VRBO was we made it to the condo and had to talk our way past the gate attendant who seemed like he wasn’t expecting us. Relieved to finally be there, we settled in to the condo, cracked a bottle a wine were thankful to have arrived.
Well this is way overdue, referring to an international trip and one we have been pushing off for no good reason – except for a few little things like moving, new jobs and buying our first house. After everything life has thrown our way the last few years we decided it was time to pull the trigger and embrace our need for adventure and journey. Although it’s been on the list, neither of us have been to Central America, so in the spirit of keeping with the new we decided to venture to Costa Rica.
In serious need of some good ol’ R&R and re-connection, we started out planning a beach vacation to sit and soak up the sun. But as we tend to go, it evolved into an exciting adventure with zip lines, beaches, volcanos, hot springs and surfing.
Incase the trip wasn’t adventure enough, there’s something about adding the adrenaline and hope of flying standby. Oh Delta, how we love thee (and at times curse/hate thee).