Costa Rica, 8-11 June 2016

Arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica
Arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica

Over the past 6 Summers we worked to get the kids to all 50 states in the US before Tommy went off to college.  We managed to complete that goal about a week before he reported into West Point for Beast Barracks.  We had thought about trying to go to England this Summer, but the cost of airfare just put England into the “too hard” box for this year.  To work around Sam’s Summer School and Tom’s military training, we decided to have two smaller vacations rather than one long one.  The first vacation of the year is a week in Costa Rica.

Our first stop in Costa Rica for traditional Costa Rican food.
Our first stop in Costa Rica for traditional Costa Rican food

Normally Candy has spent months planning each of our family vacations, using TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other Internet sites as well as travel books from the library.  This year she did some basic research, but then we hired Orlando Vargas, a Costa Rica guide, to work out the details.  This was both liberating and stressful to Candy the Microplanner.  Orlando picked us up in the airport and began the four-hour drive over largely unimproved roads to La Fortuna.  Along the way we stopped at a small “Soda” for lunch.

Typical Costa Rican fare
Typical Costa Rican fare

Most traditional Costa Rican meals include black beans and rice.  All of the food has been superb.  The drinks were fruit juices of different types.  Tom and I hand pineapple, Sam and Candy had something red.  Tom and I also tried the home-made hot chillies in large yellow-topped jar.

The entrance to our hotel. You can see the Arenal Volcano in the background.
The entrance to our hotel. You can see the Arenal Volcano in the background.
The interior of your "supreme" room at Los Lagos
The interior of your "supreme" room at Los Lagos

We arrived at the Los Lagos resort just as the afternoon rain began to fall.  We checked in then went to the pool-side snack bar to get a light dinner to take to our rooms.  We weren’t very hungry after the huge lunch we ate.

The view out the front door of our room at Los Lagos
The view out the front door of our room at Los Lagos
Candy posting in front of our room
Candy posing in front of our room

This first day was largely a travel day, but the second day was full of high adventure.  We began with a wonderful breakfast buffet at Los Lagos and then Orlando took us to Pure Trek, where we had scheduled an excursion in which we conducted four rappels down canyon walls and waterfalls.

The reception area for PureTrek canyoning
The reception area for PureTrek canyoning
Our guide, Orlando, and Tommy in the parking lot of PureTrek
Our guide, Orlando, and Tommy in the parking lot of PureTrek

After signing a bunch of waivers, we boarded the PureTrek van to take us to the adventure area.  Most of the drive was along unimproved roads past houses and agricultural fields.

After a short van ride to the transfer point, we boarded 4x4 trucks to take us to the first rappelling cliff
After a short van ride to the transfer point, we boarded 4x4 trucks to take us to the first rappelling cliff

I haven’t been rappelling in many years, and I was really looking forward to it.  Sam and Tom had both rappelled with scouts.  Tom had just finished air assault school, during which he rappelled from a helicopter.  Candy had never rappelled.  So we were a mixed bag.

The 4x4 truck that took us to the rappelling area
The 4x4 truck that took us to the rappelling area
A quick safety class
A quick safety class
I got to be the first to rappel
I got to be the first to rappel

I volunteered to go first for the day.  I wanted to check the safety of the apparatus before Candy and the kids came down.  We all lived. One of the things I liked about these PureTrek guys is that they were safe, but they let you bound down the cliff instead of just walking.  It was an awesome experience.

I really enjoyed being able to bound down the side of the cliff
I really enjoyed being able to bound down the side of the cliff

From this shot, you get a sense of scale.  The cliff for the first rappel was 145 feet.

This is another shot to gives a sense of scale to the first rappel
This is another shot to gives a sense of scale to the first rappel
What a blast!
What a blast!
Ensuring that everyone gets wet
Ensuring that everyone gets wet
Everyone gets wet!
Everyone gets wet!

The guide at the bottom of the cliff, pulled the rope to stop our descent and then dragged us under the falling water to make sure that everyone gets wet.

Sam's first rappel of the day
Sam's first rappel of the day
One of the guides decided that Candy need to look like a bug
One of the guides decided that Candy need to look like a bug
Candy's first rappel
Candy's first rappel ever
Down she goes!
Down she goes!
Tom: Rappelling is old hat now -- but fun nonetheless
Tom: Rappelling is old hat now -- but fun nonetheless
Sam completing her first rappel of the day
Sam completing her first rappel of the day
The next event was the monkey drop, in which you zip line to the middle of a crevasse and then rappel down to the ground below.
The next event was the monkey drop, in which you zip line to the middle of a crevasse and then rappel down to the ground below.
Now she's a pro!
Now she's a pro!
Posing for the camera
Posing for the camera
Our group for the rappelling excursion
Our group for the rappelling excursion

Our next stop for the day was to see the La Fortuna falls.  Getting there meant going down hundreds of stairs to the base of the falls and then back up again.

Posing near the La Fortuna falls
Posing near the La Fortuna falls
At the base of the falls
At the base of the falls
What a swell group of dudes
What a swell group of dudes and dudettes
After the trek down the long set of stairs and back up from the falls, we stopped to have fresh coconut water from a roadside stand.
After the trek down the long set of stairs and back up from the falls, we stopped to have fresh coconut water from a roadside stand.

After leaving the La Fortuna falls area, Orlando took us to a local watering hole on the La Fortuna river.  Tom and Sam both had a chance to swing out and drop 30 feet into the pool.

Tom leaping from a large rock into the water below
Tom leaping from a large rock into the water below
Sam playing Tarzan
Sam playing Tarzan
Tom plays Tarzan
Tom plays Tarzan

After all the adventure and hiking, we went back Los Lagos to relax a little before dinner.

Candy going down the slide into the pool fed by the hot springs from the Arenal volcano
Candy going down the slide into the pool fed by the hot springs from the Arenal volcano

The resort had several pools, some “cold” and some fed by the volcanic hot springs.  They both had the fastest water slides I have ever experienced.  You could really shock yourself going from the cold pool to the hot pool and back.

Candy relaxing by the pool
Candy relaxing by the pool
Just chillaxing in one of the hot pools
Just chillaxing in one of the hot pools

The Los Lagos also had a butterfly enclosure, some alligators, a frog enclosure, and an enclosure for leaf cutter ants.  We spent a few minutes walking through these areas before getting ready for dinner an at upscale steakhouse / soda.

Walking around the hotel's butterfly (mariposa) enclosure
Walking around the hotel's butterfly (mariposa) enclosure

The next morning, after another hearty breakfast, we took a hike up a trail to an observation area for a better view of Arenal.

Studly dudes!
Studly dudes!
Looking up at Arenal from the hotel reception area
Looking up at Arenal from the hotel reception area
Finding a pump print on the trail
Finding a puma print on the trail
The lookout on Arenal at the end of the hike
The lookout on Arenal at the end of the hike

After this hike we began a three hour drive over unimproved roads to Monte Verde.

The "tourism van" in which Orlando has been shuttling us around
The "tourism van" in which Orlando has been shuttling us around
Can we come out and play?
Can we come out and play?

Upon arriving at Monte Verde we went to lunch at the Tree House restaurant.  A tree grows up through the middle of the restaurant.  It is a living tree and home to birds.

Lunch at the Tree House restaurant
Lunch at the Tree House restaurant
Our cabin at Cabinas Capulin in Monte Verde
Our cabin at Cabinas Capulin in Monte Verde

After a terrific Italian dinner at a local restaurant in Monte Verde, we hit the sack early and got ready for the next day’s adventure.  Stay tuned!

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