Costa Rica

Costa Rica.  A country of lush rainforests and unspoiled beaches, of thundering waterfalls and miles of coffee plants.  A place where you come face to face with nature, where you can get up close to wild animals and colorful flowers you’ve only read about in the pages of travel and nature magazines.  The boundless beauty makes it the ideal place for an escape from everyday life.

One may think.

My trip to Costa Rica left me bruised, sunburned, sweaty and sore.  And I learned an important lesson — I am a wimp.  I’m not so good at roughing it.  Big bugs scare me.  I don’t like sharing my room with lizards (especially ones that choose to perch right by the head of the bed).  Bridges that look like they could crumble into the water below right as we’re driving over them are a bit unnerving.  Waves crashing on me while I’m attempting to surf – not so much fun.  And you know what?  I really like air conditioning.

Now that I’m back in my city apartment (with the air conditioning set to a comfortable temperature), I can look back on a trip I really did enjoy.  Here are some of the more memorable moments.

Our first destination was Manuel Antonio.  We spent one morning exploring the national park.  Our guide pointed out all sorts of wildlife you would never be able to see on your own.  We saw bats, birds, frogs, lizards, sloths, leaf cutter ants and crocodiles.

We hiked a short while through the woods and came to one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen.  With sparkling blue water and bright white sand, I was ready to jump in with all my clothes on.

One thing that’s pretty neat is the monkeys that roam around. All of a sudden, you’ll hear a rustling in the trees, and a group of monkeys will pass through.

We saw howler monkeys the most frequently.  And if we didn’t see them, we heard them.  They sound like a snarling dog mixed with a growling boar.  It sounds kind of frightening the first time you hear it.

One morning while having breakfast outside at our hotel, a group of capuchin monkeys came through.  They jumped from the roofs to the trees, and had the most expressive faces.  It was so neat being able to get so close to them.

Squirrel monkeys were the most elusive of the three monkeys we saw.  We only saw them once, and it was unfortunately when I didn’t have my camera.  They’re smaller than capuchin monkeys and really cute, with light orange-brown fur.  Google them and you’ll want to get one as a pet, just like I do (though I’m not sure how well they’d do in Miami).

Of course one of my favorite parts of any trip is the food.  By far my favorite meal in Costa Rica was breakfast.  Every day I ordered gallo pinto.  It’s basically day old rice tossed in a pan with black beans, a little cilantro, and a lot of this sauce called “salsa.”  It’s a brown sauce with a tangy and slightly spicy taste — not like the stuff you get at Mexican restaurants.  Gallo pinto comes with scrambled eggs and tortillas.  Add some hot sauce and it’s perfect.  My choice – a hot sauce called “Mean Green Iguana,” which is strangely enough manufactured by a company in north Florida, and can be purchased at Whole Foods.  During my trip I tried a bunch of Iguana hot sauces and they were great.  My taste buds were numb by the end of the trip.