Pura Vida: Welcome to Costa Rica

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Shamefully… I’m over a year late in sharing our adventure tales from our trip to Costa Rica in January of 2019. I have to say though – this is one of my favorite trips that we have taken, and one which we recall pretty frequently.

I don’t remember exactly how it came to be… I remember craving an escape from the cold, and Rabbit and I discussing having a long (3 day) warm weekend somewhere. I’m pretty it had to do with where we could fly easily and quickly so that our weekend wasn’t spent in airports and travel, and we had more time to enjoy our destination.

Nevertheless, I remember Rabbit throwing out the idea of Costa Rica, and immediately imagining a relaxing weekend beach/poolside at an all-inclusive (my first) and loving it.

We lucked out (thanks to Rabbit’s planning) with a great direct 5h flight from JFK in New York to Liberia (LIR) in Costa Rica. Upon arrival, it was impossible not to notice the stark contrast between gray and bustling New York, and the green, far more relaxed (and less populated) Costa Rican landscape.  We were greeted by a friendly driver who was eager to introduce us to and share some information about his home country, and safely escort us to our resort- the Riu Guanacaste. The ride from the airport was enjoyable if a little long. It was explained to us that there really is only one main road, which makes traffic a bit slow at times… and also isn’t always the most direct route. The sights along our ride were lush and interesting- we got to view the tropical terrain while also enjoying a glimpse at the small towns and areas populated by the locals. We also noted a difference in the air… a slight (pleasant) smoky smell perfumed the air – reminiscent of the comforting smell of a chimney in the winter… this (we assumed) was the local volcano providing a gentle reminder of its sleeping power – and the majesty of the land.

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View from the pick up line at the airport.

We also learned the national mantra, and ideal for living in Costa Rica… Pura Vida (“pure life”).  Our driver explained with natural ease and delight that to enjoy Costa Rica, to take in the natural beauty, be grateful, be present, and really savor life – that is Pura Vida. His explanation, and that feeling of relaxed awe of life is something that I will always carry with me (and need to remind myself of periodically).  You could see and feel it throughout the areas we visited, in all of the people we met, in the sunsets, the sunshine… pura vida is truly a beautiful thing.

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An imperfect shot of the lobby of Riu Guanacaste at night. 

Upon arrival to the resort, we were offered an “upgrade” from the Riu Guanacaste to the sister/neighboring resort- the Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica- which was described to us as being more “couples friendly”.  Though we had instantly fallen in love with the Riu Guanacaste’s open air lobby, we were also happy to accept the upgrade, and followed our directions next door.

After checking in, we immediately changed into our bathing suits, grabbed our cover ups and essentials- and headed out to relax and explore our resort (and all of its eateries). The pool area was beautiful, offering several little areas to tuck yourself away and relax… but the beach was breathtaking.  Black volcanic sand met perfect shore waves – dotted with a few photo-ready rocky spots, driftwood, and gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains- the private resort beach was a definite treasure.  We walked the beach several times during our stay- even meeting some locals who were fishing in the shallows for some very active fish!  It was amazing to sit back and watch the group of men – young and old- who you could see had experience and joy for their natural fishing.  We got to see them make a few catches!

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We opted to participate in the resort’s photo service- getting paired with a professional photographer on the beach to capture some vacation moments. I am so glad that we did this- these photos were the first “real pictures” of us as a couple, and were a lot of fun to take 🙂 . *If you’re thinking of capturing your vacation this way- definitely snag your chance early on in your trip- the photos are processed and available in the evening of the day they are taken (perhaps next day if your session is later on). You want to make sure that you have time for your photo op AND the chance to review and purchase the ones you love.  If I could do it again, I would have made sure my outfit was a little more photo-ready… but all in all, it was a wonderful experience. **One thing I will mention, which we heard on a few planning videos- make sure to bring your own sunscreen!! Do not plan on purchasing when you are there… for whatever reason, the markup is crazy and you’ll be spending a fortune to avoid unwanted sunburn. (see below)

We really made it a point to enjoy our resort while we were there… Our general itinerary was: Day 1: Arrive, relax and enjoy; Day 2: Adventure Day (I’ll write a separate post on this so I can really do it justice!!) and visit the local popular beach/downtown area; Day 3: Relax and enjoy resort, depart for home.  We agreed as we were packing up that it would have been great to have another day to see more of Costa Rica.  It really is a diverse country- rainforests, cities, beaches.. there is something for everyone, and many ways to stay busy.  Perhaps we will make it back someday so we can explore more? 🙂

A few more notes about the resort…

Our Room:  Well appointed, though not exactly up-to-date decor (think late 80’s/early 90’s)  Our beds were comfortable, the AC worked perfectly, there was an in-room alcohol dispenser which we didn’t utilize but did take note of… and it was a decent-sized room. Everything was very clean and well-maintained.  All in all… it was a perfect room for our weekend.

The Resort: the grounds were beautifully maintained, as was the pool area.  The surrounding trees and landscape provided just the right insight into the local wildlife (iguanas!, monkeys, birds of all kinds) without bringing them too close for comfort. (Though we had a great time watching and visiting the iguana’s nest tree, and finding them as we strolled the grounds).  There were several restaurants within the resort.  We did not have the chance or interest in visiting all of them (we were not in the mood for the formal italian restaurant indoors, nor one of the other formal dining experiences), but the main buffet area (which we could view from our room’s balcony), and the restaurant near the beach were excellent.  We enjoyed our meals, and though we weren’t completely blown away by the food… we weren’t disappointed either. At night, there were activities – including live stage shows which though they were not the broadway quality we have been lucky enough to become accustomed to, were entertaining and fun.  Surprisingly, there were not huge crowds, and we were able to find decent seating both nights we attended. For those staying longer, there were other themed nights, a pool party, and other activities posted which seemed like a great time!  We were surprised, however, that things seemed to wrap up pretty early- which could be a function of the fact that we were visiting in January.  There is a shopping area with a nightclub situated between both the Riu Palace and the Riu Guanacaste – we walked through to see the shops and get a lay of the land, but did not go to the club, as it didn’t seem particularly busy/engaging as we walked through.  Again, that could be (and likely is) very different during the warmer months.  As we explored the resort grounds, we also checked out the Riu Guanacaste’s lobby and pool areas, which seemed more extensive (and certainly were more family oriented with a kids only pool, etc.).  Overall, I wouldn’t have changed anything (aside from maybe the snacks available in the lobby’s lounge). The staff was friendly and helpful, the resort was beautiful and clean… and very relaxing and picturesque.  I’d be happy to stay again and recommend to anyone visiting!

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Our iguana friend 🙂

Stay tuned for the tales of our Adventure Day – it was definitely our wildest (and riskiest) adventure to date!

Gabby

 

 

 

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