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Trip Report Just back from CR for my 50th. Expected alot and got more than I hoped for!

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Hi and thanks to all of you who helped me with our first CR trip. I wanted to celebrate my 50th with DH and kids, 10 and 12. This trip exceeded all expectations, which were super high, allowed us to meet the locals and make new friends and also gave us a good mix of venues and activities.

We flew direct to Liberia and had a driver take us to La Carolina Lodge but first we stopped to grab some beer for the lodge. We arrived there around 1 ish and lunch was waiting for us as requested. Karien was always lovely and responsive and recommended we rent their house, El Comisario, a 3 br 2 bath with private hot tub on back deck, since they would not be there in July. We were disappointed we did not have the opportunity to meet them in person. House was perfect. My 10 year old son immediately started taking movies of it-it must be every boys dream. It is quite large with a front porch with hammock and table and chairs, a living area, 3 br and 2 baths. it also has a fridge which was great to keep beer cold and a dryer, which is almost a necessity since we were in various stages of damp in the rainforest. Back porch is large with 2 chairs, hammock and newly created hot tub which we used a lot. My son have never met a hammock he does not like and he did a lot of "chillaxing" during our time here. I also love hammocks so thrilled we had 2.

Meals are cooked open air and served communal style but since we arrived a bit late, we ate by ourselves. Food was delicious and filling and we always looked forward to the freshly prepared juices. We loved looking at the bright flowers and colorful birds while we ate.

DH and son went to hot tub so DH and i asked Alejandro if we could take a horse ride. I was given medium level and my daughter easy. It was just us with Alejandro and 2 other rancheros. It was a real horse ride when the galloped and ran and did not always stay on course. Very fun but be sure to hold on! A few times my horse needed some direction and I always felt safe. The views were lovely but 2 local volcanoes always covered with clouds. We were fortunate enough to see a baby cow lassoed and taken from his mother and put into another pen. Alejandro pointed out toucans and parrots along the ride. The lodge is on over 150 acres and they grow everything there that is served-all the tropical fruits, rice, veggies, coffee etc. Very cool. Went into hot tub and then played a family game of Phase 10.

Dinner is 6 ish because it gets very dark once the sun goes down. Loved it when the grounds were illuminated by candlelight. The sound of the river was so soothing too. We enjoyed a communal dinner and met folks from France, Canada, the Netherlands and expats. There were families and a young couple on their honeymoon.

Went to bed around 9 ish since we were up at 4:30 am. Fun first day and we knew we were somewhere special. Poured at night and was very loud with the tin roofs. Comfy beds with ceiling fans and mosquito nets were perfect for a good night's sleep.

I was surprised how easy it was to wake up early. We had wanted to do the Rio Celeste hike but it had rained too much the night before for the celestial blue color. Good and hearty breakfast and then we toured the grounds and did a scenic hike to their neighboring farm where we saw amazing flora and tropical fruits. Also went in the rowboat. After hike, my kids met 2 Dutch children and they swam in the river and went in the communal hot tub.

After lunch we asked Alejandro if he'd drive us into town so we could watch the final World Cup. We told him we'd pay for his beer and he agreed. It was a small bar and a few other folks from La Carolina joined us there along with some locals who came to the bar on horseback. Love the local color! Too bad CR wasn't playing.

After the game, whole family went on a horseback ride. It is an amazing deal for $15/adult and $10/child. My son had never ridden before and he had a great time. We saw some oxen, cows and a pony herded. I am fortunate enough to speak Spanish conversationally. I really enjoyed the conversations I had with Alejandro, the ladies who cook and the rancheros. The vision of the owners of La Carolina is amazing-from the log heated hot tubs to diverting the river water for the communal hot tub, to sourcing all the food consumed, for the color and texture of the flowers to attract the birds and butterflies, to the open air cooking and communal dining. We loved the no tv, no wifi way of life-not sure if my kids agree! It was very
easy to relax almost immediately here. Two nights was perfect since we were unable to do the Rio Celeste hike. I am thrilled we came here. Got some but not many bug bites (expected alot more) and remained in various stages of "damp" given the environment. It was peaceful, calming, tranquil, exotic, communal, active-all at the same time. The interaction with the locals at the bar and the folks that work at La carolina was a definite plus.

After another conversational meal, we lit our own candles around the hot tub and listened to the rain on the tin roof and the exotic sounds of the rainforest. It never rained during the day but rained both nights. We knew Rio Celeste hike would not happen tomorrow so we decided to check out and have our driver pick us up at 9 am and take us to Llanos de Cortez Waterfall. What a good choice. It was beautiful and you can swim in the water and climb behind the waterfall. We all really enjoyed it and stayed later than we intended. We met some really nice folks here and loved watching the older ladies splashing in the water like they were children. We tried our first ague de pipa (coconut) which was quite refreshing.

Our driver asked if we minded bringing a friend of his with us in the van who needed to go to Liberia. We said sure and conversed on the way to Villa Vista de Oro, an all inclusive villa (chef, food, bar, maid ) I rented for the real celebration.

More to come...

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    Lovely report plambers! It's a shame it has rained and you didn't go to Rio Celeste (we love there!). Looking forward to reading more of your adventure in Costa Rica!

    All the best!

    Laurent

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    volcanogirl, you are a big reason we chose CR. I want to return next year and try
    BDC! I was bummed about not doing the Rio Celeste hike given all the rain but do hope we return.

    Ten months ago, I found Villa Vista de Oro, an all inclusive villa (cook, maid, food, alcohol etc.) in Ocotal. I wanted the perfect place to celebrate my 50th with my family. I finally booked 5 nights and will say I had very high expectations for this house.

    When we arrived at the villa, I was literally speechless. The 180 degree ocean views can not be captured in a photo. Nor can the openness of the living area, the attention to detail nor the spectacular pool. But we soon realized that there was even more to impress us. Brenda, the maid, took all of our dirty clothes from 3 days at La Carolina and washed them for us. Benedicto, the amazing chef, who cooks every meal with such pride and passion, had delicious nachos waiting for us. When I would awake in the morning, I would don my Villa Vista de Oro robe and walk down the steps feeling like I was starring on lifestyles of the rich and famous. Benedicto would have freshly prepared juice for the children and great Costa Rican coffee for us. Then we would have a tray of fresh fruit and then a delicious cooked to order breakfast. My son ate pancakes and bacon every day and could not have been happier. All the meals were cooked with such passion.

    Benedicto taught my daughter how to make strawberry juice and gave my husband and me a lesson on ceviche preparation. On our day of departure, Benedicto sent us off with sandwiches for the kids and ceviche for us. All the folks at the airport were hoping the ceviche would not make it past security so they could eat it!

    We used Tours Your Way (cannot recommend Mainor enough) for the adventure day at Hacienda Guachelpin where I successfully confronted my fear of heights by ziplining over a river in a canyon, rock climbed and even did the Tarzan swing and white water rafted (tons of fun) and did a horseback ride (not too great after the real deal at La Carolina!) We were too tired to do the waterfall jump and hot springs.

    Another day from 9-1 we sailed and snorkeled on the Seabird, a lovely sailboat in Coco, with a super friendly and accommodating crew. For a treat, we had three women from 5 star massage in Coco come to the house for pen air massages. Lovely….

    Benedicto, the chef, became a friend to us and this made the trip even better than we could have expected. He realized that we missed our dog and brought the family dog, Muneco, to the house. He took us on a 3 1/2 hour golf cart ride which included a ride to the Pez Vela beach where we all (Muneco included!) swam in the clear water and then on a ride to see the spectacular views and villas of Ocotal. He watched a movie with us (we had on the Spanish subtitles) and we looked at the stars one crystal clear night. He helped me improve my Spanish and taught the kids basic words.

    Mainor, from Tours your way, brought a couple staying at the Four Seasons too see the villaand they could not believe the house! Although this was the rainy season, the weather was perfect.

    This was an amazing trip.I don't believe I have ever relaxed so fully All the people we met were so proud of their country. I love the Pura Vida saying, and it like a mantra now. Re-entry to real life has been difficult!!

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