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Laura Hunt

Costa Rica 
Adventure and Relaxation

Text and Pictures: Jubilee Lau
I am a full time Wedding Coordinator, so you can imagine that my weekends are quite busy from April through October. To catch up on quality time with my husband Alan, we usually plan a vacation around Thanksgiving, when the wedding season has slowed down and the holiday rush hasn’t quite begun. Our goal is to visit at least one new place a year. In previous years, we traveled to many parts of the world, including Japan, Thailand, Tahiti, Quebec, and Vancouver.

For our 2005 trip we decided on Costa Rica although the decision was not easy. We had also been considering South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji, Maldives, Spain, and Brazil. After reading endless travel magazines and comparing conflicting reviews on Internet forums, I finally understood how a bride must feel during the early stages of her wedding planning when she has no idea in which direction to go to and which sources to trust. Therefore, I decided to turn to an expert and called my friend Dianne Tatro of TravelQuest.

Dianne is a Certified Travel Consultant who has helped many of my previous clients plan extraordinary honeymoons. When she heard of my frustration, she immediately asked me a lot of great questions to determine the type of travelers Alan and I are. Within a few hours, she proposed that Costa Rica would be the perfect destination for us since we were looking for a combination of relaxation and adventure. Although we gave Dianne short lead-time, she was extremely efficient and sent me a detailed itinerary in just a few days. The itinerary was so well thought out that hardly any changes needed to be made. On December 1, 2005, Alan and I headed for our first trip to South America.

When we arrived at San Jose Airport, we were thankful that we were able to ignore the many local taxi and shuttle drivers fighting for our business. Instead, we were greeted by a friendly bilingual driver, who was kind enough to educate us about the culture of Costa Rica during the one-hour drive to our first destination: Peace Lodge at the Le Paz Waterfall.

The Peace Lodge was beautiful, romantic and even magical! Situated high within the Le Paz Waterfall Gardens, each of the rooms had a Jacuzzi tub and stone fireplace. We had upgraded to a Deluxe Room and were most in awe of the amazing garden bathroom with a 7-foot waterfall behind the Jacuzzi tub. At night, Alan and I gazed at the stars from the additional Jacuzzi tubs on our spacious balcony as we celebrated our 3rd anniversary.

We spent the second day hiking down to see all of the different waterfalls, and experienced the largest butterfly observatory in the world. Both were delightful! Our driver arrived on time to take us to our next destination: Arenal Volcano.

Arenal Volcano, the only active volcano in Costa Rica, is considered one of the ten most active in the world. We had a nice view from our quaint little cabin perched on a quiet hill, but because of the low clouds we were unable to see the volcano clearly. We spent the next day rafting on the Sarapiqui River, which was very exciting. Our guide stopped to point out a lot of different birds, and gave us fresh watermelons and pineapple to snack on.

Our third stop was Monteverde, which is called the Cloud Forest of Costa Rica instead of a rainforest because of its altitude. The clouds actually float through the forest. It is the most famous ecotourism-oriented community in Central America. Its reserves are rich in biodiversity and, despite the unpaved and terribly rocky roads, tourists love the beautiful and lush forests. We chose several different ways to explore Monteverde: by horseback, ATVs (all terrain vehicles), and the most famous method of all—canopy tours.

Our favorite was the canopy tour, allowing us to zip through the cloud forest, hundreds of feet high on 10 different cables. The longest cable was 427 meters long! It was definitely breathtaking and exciting!
Our final stop was Manuel Antonio. It took us about four hours to get there by car but the ride was not bad at all. Our driver had a great eye and often stopped to point out monkeys and other mammals. Halfway to Manuel Antonio we stopped by the side of a bridge and, looking down, we saw almost a dozen crocodiles!

Manuel Antonio was the most relaxing part of our trip since we had done most of our excursions at the previous destinations. We were scheduled to stay there for four nights, and spent the first two days kicking back at the beach, surfing, and catching up on our reading. Manuel Antonio is a charming area, a combination of lush rainforests, beautiful beaches and coral reefs. On the third day, we joined a guided tour of the famous Manuel Antonio National Park, known for its diverse wildlife. It was an extraordinary experience. We saw troops of white face monkeys, sloths, bats, and many more fascinating mammals, birds, and insects.

We left Costa Rica with only one thought: We’re definitely going back!

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