Costa Rica Highlights: Hot Springs

I’m happy to report that we’re feeling much better today.  Wildman actually went to school today for a few hours…  The school nurse called me to report that Wildman had a stomach ache after lunch.  Wildman sounded so pathetic on the phone that I immediately went to pick him up.  Of course, he was perfectly fine after about 10 minutes on the couch.  I’m sending him back to school tomorrow and will tell the nurse to let him wait it out if I get a call tomorrow.

But that is not what this post is about!  Let’s talk about the hot springs!

We stayed four nights at the Tabacon Grand Spa and Thermal Resort.  It is a magical place.  The property is divided into the hotel and the hot springs and spa half a block away.  We could either walk to the hot springs or take the hotel’s shuttle.  The foot path was so well lit and well-landscaped (with plenty of leaf cutter ants) that we were happy to walk over each night.

We mainly visited the hot springs at night because it was too darn hot during the day to immerse ourselves in such warm water (but we did stop by one day to take pictures).  The water temperature is 122 degrees!  That doesn’t feel so great when it’s 87 degrees outside.  But at night, the hot water feels heavenly!  You can read more about the water supply to the resort here.

I loved how natural the hot springs were.  It was as if we just stumbled across these little hot pools and waterfalls in the middle of the rain forest.  Of course, it’s a great illusion since many of the pools have underwater lighting  and concrete steps leading down into the springs.  But I have to give high praise to the designer because this place looks so unforced.

Even the bottom of the pools and rivers are sand and pebbles.

Here’s a photo of me in a waterfall to prove that I was actually there 🙂  Don’t laugh.

J loved this big waterfall.  The pressure of the falling water gave a really great massage but I didn’t care for it too much because I don’t like getting water in my eyes/contacts.  I was happy to either sit behind the waterfall or take pictures of J in it.

The plant life was amazing too.  There were so many different and unique things to see.  A lot of them I’d never seen before but would love to have in our backyard landscape.   I’m not sure that they would survive here but they would look lovely!

On our last night at the hot springs I got out of the water and stretched out on a deck chair near the waterfall to drip dry.  The evening air was just the right temperature where one could lay there without a towel and feel completely comfortable.  I remember lying there looking up at the clear night sky thinking that I wanted to remember that moment forever.  I could make out several stars winking through the huge plumes of mist coming off of the hot springs.   A gentle breeze would sway the large palm trees overhead every now and then.  The only sound I could hear was the roaring waterfall.   I felt so peaceful and so relaxed.

It was one of those moments that I will try to recall in stressful situations to calm myself down.  My happy place, if you will.

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Costa Rica Highlights: Arenal Hanging Bridges

J and I decided to head over to the Arenal Hanging Bridges on the advice of the nice family with two kids on our canopy tour.  They said it was amazing.  Something we could not miss.

They weren’t wrong.  The hike through the rain forest was breathtaking!

The hanging bridges were so cool.  It was sketchy going across the first couple but after that I had my “sea legs”.  The bridges were actually very sturdy metal suspension deals.  I never felt like they would come crashing down like a scene out of Indiana Jones.  They just had a bounce to them, especially when you reached the center, that took a bit of getting used to.

J took this photo looking down through the bridge floor.  It does not capture how high we were in the canopy.  We were probably a good 75 feet off of ground but it sure does not look that way from the photo.  It looks like we’re mere feet from the ground.

We saw some of the most lush, tropical rain forest you could hope to find anywhere.  I’ve never seen anything so green!  Some of the palm trees had to have been a hundred feet tall or more.  It was amazing to think that trees could grow so tall!  Some of the trees we saw were ones that we have in our own backyard.  I could not imagine having palm trees that big in the backyard.  I guess under the right conditions with enough time, they could grow that tall.

Here’s a better view of that waterfall.  I love how the water has carved a twist into the landscape.  Coming to a place like this gives you a whole new respect for nature’s power and beauty.

We saw many animals on our two-hour hike like these leaf cutter ants.  I couldn’t get a great photo of them so I took a picture with the flash so you could at least see the bright green leave bits that the ants were carrying.  Leaf cutter ants were everywhere in Costa Rica.  We saw them going down side walks, at the hotel, everywhere we went.  We saw them so much that they failed to be a novelty after a while.

“Oh, look!  Leaf cutter ants!”

“Big deal.  I want to see a sloth.”

Sad but true.  🙂

We also saw a black monkey up in the trees, lots of birds and butterflies, and a pit viper.  One of the locals called us over to check out the pit viper coiled in a plant on our way out of the park.  The deadly snake was a tiny little thing that we would have surely never found on our own (can you imagine how much we missed without a guide).  I’m so glad that he called us over to see it.  Too bad my camera battery had died by that point though.  No pictures of the venomous pit viper, sadly.

We learned that there is another variety of pit viper called the jumping pit viper.  It’s bad enough that their venom is deadly.  But the ability to jump adds a whole new dimension of freakiness to the equation for me!  Needless to say, I was a little leery about walking through the Jumping Pit Viper Tunnel on our hike…

From one of the highest bridges in the park we captured this amazingly clear photo of the Arenal Volcano.  It had been pretty overcast that day so we were quite surprised to see the clouds clear and the volcano come into view.

I highly recommend visiting the Arenal Hanging Bridges if you are ever in Costa Rica.  Like I said before, the views are breathtaking.  There is a photo op. around every corner!

Costa Rica Highlights: Canopy Tour

Consider this outing an item scratched off my Bucket List.  Don’t think I didn’t start singing the Go, Diego, Go! theme song because I did.  How could I not?  I have little kids and no shame…  Speaking of little kids, a family on our tour brought their 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter along.  Incredible!  They were fearless!  I am not so sure that our boys would have been so brave.

Experiencing a rain forest canopy tour was at the top of my list of things that I wanted to do on this vacation.  J did a lot of research to find a highly recommended company to go with when we were staying in the La Fortuna area.  The staff was extremely professional and very safe.  As you can see, we got our training on the baby zip line before we headed up the mountain.

J brought along the little video camera that he uses to take kiteboarding and other extreme sport footage.  Luckily the sexy blue helmets had holes in them so J could strap the camera on top.

After we all took a turn demonstrating our skills on the baby zip line, we jumped in the back of the truck to head up the mountain.  Of course the trail that we ascended was rugged.  To say it was sketchy would be an understatement.  More than once I looked over the side to see that we were just inches from careening down our deaths.  My adrenaline was pumping and we hadn’t even reached our first platform!

Our driver expertly navigated the trail and delivered us safely to the top.  Our little group of 12 hiked up a few steps to the first platform and gasped at the beauty of our surroundings.  Lush, green, tropical beauty.  I have never seen anything like it.  Then, as if in a dream, I found myself speeding over and through the treetops with nothing above me but blue skies and nothing below me but rain forest.  It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  I will never forget the sound that the apparatus makes on the cable.  It’s kind of a loud “zzzzzzzz” sound.  Do you see that leather thing on my right hand?  That’s how you brake.  You pull down on the cord to create enough friction to stop at the next platform.

J and I took turns with my trusty point-and-shoot.  I think it did a pretty good job capturing our verdant adventure.  There were 15 zip lines and one Tarzan Swing that we all got to try on our way back down the mountain.

The Tarzan Swing was essentially a bungee cord that was attached to our harness.  They attached the bungee cord to us while we stood on a platform then they walked us to the edge and let us go!

We swung high up into the trees then back up to the platform.  Back and forth like a pendulum.  They stopped us after a handful of swings by tapping our feet to slow us down.  Eventually, we slowed down enough for the staff to grab our legs and help us disconnect from the cord.  It was an insane rush!  I’ve never been bungee cording before but this has to be close.

I am so glad that we had good weather for the canopy tour.  It was an experience of a lifetime!  The headache I got after my adrenaline rush was worth it.  It was amazing!

I’m going to get J to edit some of his helmet cam videos after his flu has passed and when he returns from DC.  I hope to share it with you soon.