Today we landed in San Jose, Costa Rica. In the capital and most populous city of this inspiring country, we were picked up by our local guide and Global Travel Alliance staff member Daniel. He took us to dinner at Pizza Hut (Pizza Hut in Costa Rica is so much better than the American ones!). While all 13 of our eager minds were waiting for Andrea (the wife of our tour guide) to join us, we practiced Spanish, got to know each other even more, and saw how busy this town moved around with such enthusiasm at night.
That night we stayed in a cute bed and breakfast in Alajuela, a city located about 10 miles north of San Jose.
This was one of the best days ever. There was a great breakfast served at the B&B with lots of fruit! Today was the first day that I had eaten eggs since I was a little girl because I didn’t like them. I sucked it up and tried them and they were actually alright! (Little did I know that we would be having them almost everyday!)
We started our journey on the Pacuare River in Guapo’s boat with Rios Tropicales. In my raft, consisting of Indie, Eron, Xavier, Profe, and me, we had a hard time getting our rowing synchronization down. We started with Class 2 rapids and then stopped at this rocky shore to grab lunch. While our guides prepared an amazing lunch of burritos with sour cream, guac, tortilla chips, lots of pineapple and watermelon, and good cookies, we walked up a small stream to a swimming hole. Swimming in a swimming hole is something I have always been wanting to do! It was so magical and amazing. It was perfect swimming conditions and we jumped off a rock with pure elation. No one had their camera during this part of the trip because we were rafting, but it will be a day that I will have visual clips of the awesome adventures we had forever.
After swimming, we came back to where we had stopped the rafts and lunch was ready! Ultimately, the amazing part was that the guides had brought one of the rafts and flipped it upside down to act as a serving table for the amazing food we devoured.
When we finally made it to our lodge, only accessible by raft, before we even opened our rooms, we went ziplining. There were four lines and it was so awesome to see part of the jungle from a bird’s eye view.
It was so awesome to see part of the jungle from a bird’s eye view.
Later that night, after about an hour, Eron had persuaded Profe (Erika), to dance with a local! In the dining area they were playing music and all them, looking like regulars, were dancing. Other girls in our group got out of their comfort zones as well and started dancing along and we ended up having a fabulous night.
The highlight of the day for me was sleeping in a hammock. Not just part of the night, the whole night! There were bats inside our rooms at the Eco-lodge so seven of us (out of 11 kids on the trip) slept on the four hammocks looking out to the river. I slept in one hammock with Emily and Nessa, as the sounds of the River and animals in the rainforest put us to sleep.
Although the hammock was more or less pretty comfortable, I awoke at 12:30am, 2:30, 3, and then 4:30am when breakfast wasn’t until 8.
We finished rafting today, and right near the end, the most beautiful part of the river was in front of us. Profe had told us that there was going to be some place that was unreal on the river trip and it sure was. Dos Montañas, or two mountains, was the best part of rafting. There was an old bridge connecting the two mountains and It was so spectacular everyone jumped out of the rafts and floated down the cute little canyon. That was truly an amazing part of the experience on the River. A few small rapids after that, there was another old bridge that looked like it could have had train tracks once. There were tons of locals; kids, teens, adults/parents, abuelos… This is when I really fell in love with these people. When we floated under the bridge, one Costa Rican boy yelled “Hello!” after we had said “Hola!” He was the cutest kid I have ever seen. They were all jumping off the bridge with the biggest smiles ever.
We spent about two hours looking at different species.
That night we drove to Tirimbina Lodge which is known for its education and research center for biology. We went on a night hike that was probably not even half a mile long but we spent about two hours looking at different species. Some highlights of the animals that we saw was a tarantula, sloth, and a kinkajou.
Today was super rad. My alarm went off at 5:15am, but then I got up at 5:30. We woke up to pouring rain, but Indie, Sydni, Jeremy, and I still went birding at 6 with Daniel. We were able to see a lot of birds and my favorite was the toucan! Daniel did amazing bird calls and they were so good sometimes when I was turned around, I thought Daniel was the bird! After breakfast we went on almost the same hike we did the night before to see the life during the day. We saw Howler Monkeys! Daniel started talking to them, it was so so cool. Although the morning was pretty great, the afternoon was the highlight of this day. In Río Frío, Daniel’s family on his wife’s side, work and live on a subsistence farm. We got to tour the farm and try new things. Lunch was amazing, everything but three foods were taken from their farm. It was probably one of the best meals yet. The kids on the farm were the best. I took so many photos of them and they were always smiling. The happiness was contagious. The family followed along on our tour around their farm as we tried lots of food including pineapple, mandarins, sugar cane, herbal medicine, termites, coconuts, and cocoa beans. We also made tortillas! Touring the farm was overall an amazing experience. It is great to see humans have an innate desire to play and be happy no matter what language you speak, how old you are, or who you are. That was one of the best things I was able to see today. Eron gave his soccer hat to the little boy, Fabricio, and Daniel said that once we left he was crying. Today that was the most beautiful thing I saw in using the human spirit.
We tried lots of food including pineapple, mandarins, sugar cane, herbal medicine, termites, coconuts, and cocoa beans.
After our bus-ferry-bus adventure to get to this amazing place they call Montezuma, we arrived and it was the most beautiful hotel I have ever seen. On the way here we stopped to see crocodiles and howler monkeys from the road. At the place where we were staying, the swimming pool was the best ever. It looked over the Pacific Ocean and you saw where the sky met the sea. This became the central point on our trip, we were in that pool before breakfast, during the day, and after dinner.
This morning I got up at 5:30am to watch the sunrise. I then came back to our porch and wrote in my journal. Sydni fell asleep in the hammock as the sun was rising and I took probably my favorite photo of the trip.
The waterfall was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
We hiked up a river bed, once again, to a stunning 70ft waterfall. It was so amazing and there was a swimming hole beneath it and a couple above. I jumped off this one rock a couple times and then scrambled up underneath the waterfall where it was a cold shower and you couldn’t hear anything. The waterfall was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. After the waterfall we walked into the small town of Montezuma and went to the beach after a really delicious lunch. I managed to make it through the beach day with no sun burns, just some golden brown skin. We had another amazing meal and of course we hopped in the pool right after.
I got fried today. I don’t have golden brown skin anymore, it’s more of a tomato-orange tone. I used sunscreen, but apparently not enough.
We had the best pancakes I have ever eaten this morning… they were too good not to pass up seconds.
We took a 30 minute hike along the beach to the other side where we spent most of the day. Right as we got there, because we had been walking in the fiery hot sun, Eron, Profe, Sochie, Sydni, and I ran into the water and stayed there for a while. We kept getting caught in the waves, jumping and then diving into them. I love how long we stayed out there. After tasting the super salty water for more than a couple hours, Profe and I went to bathe in the sun. This is when I went from being a toasted marshmallow to a tomato. I think it is awesome that today our whole group had an amazing time enjoying themselves.
Above me, the sky had speckles of glowing stars and just being in that moment was so exceptional.
After being in the sun and having a waterfall of sweat running down my back on the return hike, Profe, Indie, Nessa, Sochie and I headed back to the gorgeous hotel to swim. We were in the pool for almost three hours, just talking. By the time we got out of the pool, we were raisins. The rest of the group had gone back up to the waterfall that we went to yesterday to do some more exploring. I really enjoyed the time we took in the pool because the sun really does take a lot of energy out of you, no matter how fun it is.
Tonight I sat at the end of the pool looking into complete darkness. You couldn’t tell where the sky met the water and I think that’s what made it so special. Above me, the sky had speckles of glowing stars and just being in that moment was so exceptional.
We had yet another early morning to go to a park known as Curu, to hike and look at more wildlife. We saw so many more amazing animals and habitats of the special creatures in Costa Rica. After visiting Curu we drove down to the ferry, sailed across while enjoying a fun dance party in the sun, then drove to stay at our last hotel of the trip in Alajuela. The view from our hotel, Buena Vista, was incredible. It looked over the whole Central Valley of Costa Rica and hence the name, it sure was a good view. This last dinner in the land of ‘Pura Vida’ was the best. The restaurant looked over the valley, once again, and we got to take in the last bites from the best trip of our lives. This night was the perfect way to say goodbye to this awe-inspiring trip.
Alarms went off at 3:30am, the bus departed at 4:15, and we took a flight at 6:15. This whole week and a couple days I’ve gotten up at least before 6am, maybe even 5:30. I loved getting up and doing things; either going on walks, writing in my journal, lounging in the hammocks, sitting by the pool, looking off into the distance, or watching the sunrise.
Costa Rica is such an amazing country; driven by the culture, people, and language. As much as I hate saying goodbyes, you have to leave amazing things to be able to grow. In having a schedule of when you do things on a journey, it creates a place where more gratitude can be found at any given moment throughout something amazing because you know you’re going to leave it.
Costa Rica is such an amazing country.
In leaving this spectacular country and culture, I bring home with me a stronger, more developed self who has new aspects and thoughts about different values, while being able to set attainable goals. With the country’s motto in mind, happiness is a choice. You don’t have to have a bad day if you don’t want to, because in the end, what we all strive for and what we all want to have is a ‘Pura Vida.’
Hallie, you rule! Thanks for traveling with us and for sharing your student trip experience. Global Travel Alliance is Building Bridges and Change Lives through Educational Travel, and it sounds/looks like that’s exactly what happened on your adventure to Costa Rica. Keep up the great work, keep snapping awesome pictures, and keep traveling the world! We can’t wait to hear about your next adventure(s).
Check out more of Hallie’s professionally beautiful artistic camera skills on her portfolio: http://halliemac38.wix.com/photography