Happy almost Christmas! For the past few weeks I’ve been busy working, meeting new people and taking weekend trips. No wonder time flew by! Now despite my hefty cup of joe and a whole day of relaxing ahead of me, the thought of organizing my thoughts into a cohesive whole sounds mildly daunting, therefore I’m going to opt for a list of what I’ve been up to (who doesn’t love a good list anyway?) and I’ll start with places I have mixed reviews for and end on the highlights, so if you’re an optimist or one of those people that read the last page of the book while in the middle of chapter 2, then I suggest you skip down a bit further.
Gold Museum; San Jose ($4 with student ID- If you are like me and look barely 18, then bring along your college ID when travelling- this baby face of mine will get student discounts well into it’s 60’s). My honest review: Meh. Was it educational? Sure. Did I need to know that much about gold? Probably not. It was well-organized and interesting to learn the history of Costa Rica, but not being a big museum person to start with, I found two hours was more than enough time to look at shiny objects.
Doka Coffee Estate ($20). On my unofficial “meh” scale I’d give it a “meeeeh?” (the question mark serves to indicate my indifference, or confusion about my indifference). We were given a tour of the process, but the information was slightly repetitive, not especially informative and, varying opinions of coffee grounds aside, mostly consisted of “Costa Rica has the best coffee in the world!” (which according to Buddy the Elf, is actually in New York City).
On the plus side, it included a lot of samples and a decent breakfast, even if the chefs were confused about which holiday is up next considering my tortilla had the imprint of “feliz años nuevo” in November. But maybe they are just as indifferent about holidays as I am about their tour.
Volcan Poas ($15). This is a hit or miss; you either have a clear view of the volcano or are surrounded by post-apocalyptic fog that looks like you’ve reached the end of the earth. Can you guess which one I got? I’m told that if you wait a few minutes the fog sometimes clears and you get a breathtaking view of the bright blue crater below, but alas, after thirty minutes I had no such luck and I can only trust Google Images that it really exists. My advice should you find yourself here: go early in the morning and no, you do not need hiking boots or trekking poles- I say that because of the abundance of people I saw sporting this look. It’s an 800 meter walk with a 5% incline along a paved road… Now, I’m no hiking expert, but I’d say the survival rate without such equipment is near the 92% range, no guarantees though.
**Optimists and spoiler-enthusiasts start here**
La Paz Waterfall Gardens ($40, including buffet). This place was fantastic and has a slightly deceiving name since there is an abundance of wildlife including jaguars, snakes, a butterfly garden, birds (you can hold a toucan!), monkeys, farm animals and more. Then of course there are the falls, which are spectacular even when it rains, and trust me it did. A lot. Overall, a solid day!
Baldi Hot Springs; La Fortuna ($45). As far as the best weekend adventure goes, we’re getting hotter (bah-dum-dum-tss!). Baldi has very clean pools varying in temperatures from 68F (a cold pool, but trust me you’ll want one) and 119F; some had waterfall caves, others had swim up bars and one even had 3 waterslides. Oh, and did I mention a delicious buffet that makes your heart soar with love and happiness? Yeah, there’s one of those there too. Cheese Cake, coconut cake, chocolate fondue, alfredo sauce (!!), parmesan cheese (!!!!!). Basically it was a gringo’s paradise and we took full advantage, but maybe too much so considering that sometime near our fifth plate we overheard the staff whisper, “we need to do something about these four…” Sorry Baldi staff, but the heart wants what the heart wants and mine just so happened to want eight plates of goodies and all the coconut cake from your free buffet.
Canyoning; La Fortuna ($95). Seriously one of the greatest things I’ve done while in Costa Rica and worth every penny (and that’s coming from a peasant traveler who likes to hoard her pennies)! I was able to repel down 4 waterfalls from 25 to 220 feet, zip line through the jungle and hike through a gorgeous canyon, which is a tough experience to beat. Now if you don’t want to get wet or are afraid of heights you might want to steer clear, but anyone can do it! Take for example two 70 year olds in our group. On our way to the falls this conversation ensued:
Guide: “Since we’ll be wet anyways, we’ll start off by just jumping in when we get there.”
Older women: “Now why would we get wet?”
Peanut gallery: *awkward laughter*
Older women: “What’s funny? Are we getting wet on this nature walk?”
Guide: “Nature walk? We’re climbing down waterfalls!”
Older women: “We’re doing what!?”
Their faces were priceless. You see, they thought “canyoning” meant a nice jaunt through a canyon (which might make sense except for the fact that it would’ve been a $95 walk…), so they asked to leave and that was that. Just kidding! That would have been a lame story… What actually happened was this: Instead of asking to turn back they looked at each other, laughed and then shrugged saying, “our grandkids won’t believe what we are doing!” Now maybe it’s just me, but if I signed up for, let’s say, a gentle bike ride and was then informed that I was actually skydiving off a mountain, well, I’m not so sure what my reaction would be, so you can see why I seriously admire their spirit. And they ended up slaying those waterfalls too! Sure, they were a bit slower and required more assistance but turning back was never an option for them. If by some miracle I make it to 70 years old on my Nutella diet, then I intend on having that same adventurous spirit that I saw in them that day.
Now I promise I came to Costa Rica to volunteer and not just lay in hot springs and climb down waterfalls. My time in San Jose wrapped up last week so I’ll be writing about my work experience soon, but I’m currently a little distracted because two of my best friends arrived in Costa Rica and I can be unabashedly weird again and I’m relishing in all its glory. For the next two weeks I’ll be recharging my batteries for the next adventure as we take on the Pacific coast and spend our days lying on sunny beaches and swimming in the warm ocean!
¡Hasta la vista, baby!