Monday, August 8, 2016

Back from Vacation to Guanacaste, Costa Rica

I just returned from an 8 day vacation to Guanacaste, Costa Rica with my family and am starting to get caught back up!  I thought I would cover our trip in a few posts about the different aspects of our trip and how it all went.

We left out of Wichita, KS and flew into Liberia, Costa Rica. I've been to Central America several times now but wasn't sure what to expect of the airport in Liberia.  I've always dreaded the airports in Mexico because there are police and military in vests with large rifles standing around and everyone is trying to sell you something when you walk out of customs.  The Liberia airport wasn't like that at all.  Our flight got in pretty late so it was dark when we arrived.  The airport was very small but very modern.  Going through customs was very simple and took maybe 10 minutes total.  One we picked up our luggage we walked out of the airport to look for our ride.  I expected to be approached by drivers offering rides but everyone stood their distance and waited for people to ask for help.  I found our pre-booked driver pretty quickly and we got in our van to head to our resort.

We had a driver and a tour guide in our van so he was able to tell us about the country. He was full of facts and stories -- I didn't know that cashews grew from a fruit and have quite a bit of processing that has to be done before they are eaten, this is why cashews are so much more expensive than most other nuts.

We arrived at our hotel the RIU Guanacaste which is an all-inclusive resort set between the rain forest and the beach.  The hotel is very remote with only it's sister property, the RIU Palace, next door.  We checked in and quickly grabbed dinner before the restaurant closed.  The RIU Guanacaste had a buffet restaurant that was open for all meals and then additional sit down restaurants -- Italian, Asian, Steak, and Gourmet restaurants.  There were many bars including a sports bar that my family liked to hang out at.  Our meals and drinks were included with the hotel which makes it so much easier in my opinion; it almost always comes out cheaper this way.

Our room was on the 5th floor overlooking the ocean.  The ocean is a pretty turquoise color but the first 10 feet or so is very murky water.  Costa Rica has volcanoes and the sand is made of lava rock which is much darker than the white sands you find in the Caribbean.  As the tide stirs up the sand, it causes the water to be murky.  This didn't bother us at all.  The sand itself can be a lot hotter on the feet though because it is darker. The beaches also have many vendors that walk around or have booths offering handcrafts and massages.

I had expected the food in Costa Rica to be similar to what we have had in Mexico but was actually quite a bit different.  First, beans and rice  and rice and beans are the two main dishes.  For breakfast, they have rice and beans (black beans) combined together and are often eaten with eggs.  For lunch and as a dinner side they have beans and rice which is the two as separate sides. I loved the rice and beans and had them with nearly every meal.  The fruit was also amazing.  Some of the best pineapple I have ever eaten.  We also noticed that the people of Costa Rica seem pretty serious about Chinese food, we saw more Chinese restaurants than any others.  Fresh avocado and pico de gallo were staples nearly every day.

The pool is where we spent most of our time.  There is one large pool with several different tiers and corners.  Plenty of lounge chairs for everyone and lots of games poolside.  We enjoyed the drinks, I had my share of Pina Coladas, Blue Hawaii's and Mudslides.  I didn't drink as much as I normally would I think due to the fact that the sugar flavor was so strong, it got old quickly.  My girls loved their virgin strawberry daiquiris.

We did have a few outings while on the trip -- visiting the Monkey Bar, going down the river in Palo Verde, visiting the Catarata Llanos del Cortés waterfall, and going into the city of Liberia to explore.  The roads in Costa Rica are very narrow and we went through a travel agency so we had drivers the entire time.  I was very nervous at how fast the drivers went up and down the steep hills and mountains on such narrow roads with traffic coming the opposite direction.  I'll be posting separately on our outings.

We also hired a photographer to our family photos done in Costa Rica this year and I wasn't disappointed.  Our photographer, Marco, was excellent.  He captured perfectly what we were looking for... some family shots, some couple shots, and of course plenty of the girls playing.  The scenery in Costa Rica is so beautiful and vibrant the photos pop. 

We did a few outings but we spent a lot of time relaxing as a family.  The girls really enjoyed playing Foosball and Ping Pong in the Sports Bar, especially during afternoon rains (which were typically under and our).  We swam every day and am happy to report that no one was badly burned.  I did a good amount of reading and finally finished Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss (I think I am done with crime novels for awhile and ready to switch gears back to my favorite genres). I might have managed to squeeze in some nice naps as well!

Stay tuned for my next post on the wildlife adventures we had while in Costa Rica!

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