Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Costa Rica Day 8

Our plane wasn't due to take-off until about 3pm but since the airport was in San Jose and we were on the west coast, we planned to spend our last day driving from Playa Flamingto to San Jose.  From the research Kathie did, the drive would be anywhere between 4.5-6 hrs depending on the traffic and conditions of the road.

To be safe, we decided to leave by 7am to give us enough time in case we ran into any delays.  We munched on our supermarket food while making sure we packed everything up (we've forgotten our phone chargers in the past).

The roads ended up being pretty good.  Most of the roads weren't too crowded and when we did get stuck behind trucks, we simply followed the customs of Ticans and passed in the other lane when it was safe.  We were on Rt 27, one of the new paved double-laned roads near San Jose, making fantastic time when it ended up completely closed.  We think it was due to the earthquake from the night before but we had to detour and that road took us on VERY twisty one-lane roads up mountains.  We couldn't pass simply due to too much traffic in front of us so we just relaxed and followed the rest of the cars.  We finally made it to San Jose with more than enough time for our flight.

Costa Rica requires everyone to pay an exit fee, so we took care of that, got our boarding pass and got on our plane home.  It was nice to finally get home although the temperature difference was a bit of a disappointment.

Costa Rica was definitely a fantastic place to visit.  The people are super-friendly, the country is beautiful, and most speak English so we didn't feel too out of our depth.  This would definitely be a country worth visiting again in the future.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Costa Rica Day 7

We didn't have any real plans for today since we would be leaving Costa Rica tomorrow morning.  Yesterday our surfing instructor pointed out a kayak rental area near our hotel and we liked the idea of doing some kayaking on our own so we walked over to the rental place and they brought a kayak right to the beach behind our hotel.  It was a bit dicey getting the kayak past the breaking waters and we did flip the kayak over once but finally managed to get through the water.  We kayaked out towards the ocean but realized that it might not be smart to get too far out into the ocean.  Kathie's slightly paranoid mind kept running through scenarios of falling into the water and getting eaten by sharks.  Mike was more pragmatic and realized that it would take a lot of energy to paddle through the waves and come back into shore afterwards since the water was a bit choppy that far out.  So we turned further towards the land and followed the shoreline for a while.  After about 45 minutes we turned back around and really had to fight through the currents to make any headway.  We finally made it back to our beach and rode the waves back to shore.

View of the beach from the restaurant terrace

Since it was still such a beautiful day outside and we hadn't taken advantage of the pool, we dumped our things into the room, grabbed some towels and headed into the warm, empty pool.  The pool has two swim-up bars and two really shallow areas with chaise loungers in the water.  We did a fair bit of wallowing, floating, sunning, and resting in the pool until Mike was beginning to feel a bit baked (and both of us were getting hungry).

We headed out and stopped at Outback Jack's for lunch.  It's very much pub/bar type food and it felt very Americanized with all the junk hung on the walls and ceilings; however it was open and had more than one other customer there.

After lunch, we made a quick stop at a nearby supermarket.  Since we were leaving the hotel early in the morning, we needed sustenance for the trip back to the airport.  We grabbed some rolls, yogurt, and soda then came back to the hotel and packed up.

We grabbed dinner at the hotel and spent the rest of the night just hanging out and reading.  Sometime in the early evening, we both noticed the bed shaking.  We both shrugged it off as a big truck passing by but found out the next day that Costa Rica was hit with a 5.9-magnitude earthquake.  Fortunately it hit pretty deep in the earth so there wasn't a lot of damage.  We were about 60 miles away from the quake and still felt the tremors. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Costa Rica Day 6

We signed up with a small surfing company recommended by a few on trip advisor.  Basically it's one to two instructors and no more than 8 students.  Since it's off-season, we were the only two signed up for the day.  Matt picked us up from the hotel and drove us to Playa Grande, a good area for surfers, especially beginner surfers.  Playa Grande is one of those nice small beaches that are mostly used by locals so it isn't crowded at all, apparently even during the busy season.

Matt brought two 9 foot surfboards and one 11 foot board; obviously the bigger the board, the more stable and easier it is to learn to surf.  We did some practice on the beach for a little while then headed into the surf.  It's funny how small the waves look from the beach, but they sure seem to get a lot bigger when we're actually in the water.

Instead of riding the boards out to where Matt was waiting, we walked the boards in since it's a little faster and easier.  We'd then get on the board, he'd guide us into position, and when an appropriate wave came, we would paddle like mad while he gave us one big push.  While Kathie was the first to get up and ride a wave successfully, Mike had the longest runs, a couple all the way to shore.  We weren't good enough to move to the next stage where we actually ride the boards out to the right wave and surf in, so we spent the time walking the board out to the surf each time we finished. 

Surfing is exhausting!  It took a fair bit out of us to fight the waves to go back out, then try to stay on the board.  Even though it was tiring, both Mike and Kathie immensely enjoyed the lessons.  Both of us had some good runs and both had some serious wipe-outs.

After 1 hr 40 min both of us were exhausted and called it a day after we were both happy with our last runs.  We came back to the hotel, washed off and headed off to find some lunch.  While we really love avoiding crowds and going on vacation during the off-season, we've discovered that Playa Flamingo goes really off-season and a fair number of places are closed until December, including a highly rated restaurant we wanted to try.  So we went to a nearby restaurant that was opened and ate there.  The prices were a little higher than most places we ate at, and the food was much more Americanized.  We're going to try to go a little further out tomorrow to find better eatings tomorrow.

After lunch, we came back to relax some more in the room (yes, we enjoy just vegetating and reading while on vacation too), then Kathie couldn't resist getting a facial through the resort.  Spa services were 20% off which made it a really nice deal.  The facial was really well done and Kathie looked a bit dazed after her facial. While Kat was being pampered, Mike got back in touch with civilization via the ipad and the free Wi-Fi in the hotel's open-air lobby next to the pool.

It was a great day.