Animals, Central America, Costa Rica, Nature, Travel

Costa Rica – the trip of a lifetime! Pura Vida!

June 24, 2009

We are just back from our amazing, un-freaking believable trip to Costa Rica for 10 days to celebrate our 10th anniversary.  We covered a lot of ground and went to La Fortuna (Arenal), Uvita and the Osa Peninsula.  I am so sad to be back.  Usually I am ready to go home, but not this time.  The people, wildlife, activities, food, lodges, etc. were all absolutely incredible.  El Remanso Rainforest Lodge in the Osa Peninsula turned out to be our favorite part of the trip.  This was the most remote with the most wildlife, and the people really made it special.


Costa Rica is certainly the most wild, exotic, unspoiled place I have ever been and I will never forget our magical time there.  Everything seems exaggerated in Costa Rica–the bugs are bigger, the colors are brighter, the forest is more dense, the waterfalls are taller, the waves are more powerful, the sounds are more intense–all of which made it seem like we were on some dream-like planet at times.  On the flip side– nighttime is scarier, the spiders are bigger, the snakes are more poisonous and the roads are poorer.  All together, it amounts to an exhilarating, captivating and adventurous experience.

I discovered a new side of myself while we were there.  I love to travel to new places and experience new cultures and so I’m adventurous in that way, but I’m not a dare-devil and I’m usually the type that is deathly afraid of spiders and stuff like that.  But, in Costa Rica, I found that I was just as fascinated by the snakes, spiders and scorpions as I was by the prettier creatures.  It was like being a kid again where you’re so enthralled with something seemingly mundane to others.  But, just to be clear, I don’t care to see these things in my room.  I also found that I really enjoyed the thrill of some of our adventures, like ziplines and hiking the second most active volcano in the world!

Pura Vida
We certainly tried to embrace the spirit of “Pura Vida” while we were there.  Pura Vida literally translated means pure life.  It is something that the Costa Ricans (also called Ticos) say for just about anything – a greeting, a departure, or as an answer to “How are you?”  It’s a state of mind and a way of living that in my interpretation means something like “Live it up!” or enjoy your life because you don’t know how long you’ll be here. It’s a celebration of life and good fortune.


The Itinerary and the Hotels/Lodges:
I spent months planning this trip researching where to stay, what to do and how to get there. I wrote about different parts of the trip and here are the links to the posts and photos:


The Food:
A wonderful souvenir from our trip is that we feel great!  We’ve been eating homemade, mostly organic food and getting plenty of exercise every day. And Erick got a nice tan, while I got more freckles.  Also, Erick lost his cough and we both ceased to have allergy problems.  Thank you, mountain air!


The Sounds:
frogWe miss the sounds of the rainforest.  There’s always a certain low-level hum throughout the day of bugs, frogs, geckos and who knows what, but then there are distinct sounds at certain points of the day.  At 5 a.m., you wake to the the loud calls of the howler monkeys.  This is not the cute monkey sound that might spring to mind.  This is a deep, gutteral, angry almost bark-like calling of the alpha male.

Later in the morning, you hear the loud rise and fall hum of the cicadas, the jittery call of the toucan, the whine of the collared forest falcon, the loud squawky sounds of the scarlet macaws.  At night, you go to bed shrouded in complete darkness to the sound of tons of insects and frogs, wondering what’s really out there, and then sometimes the sound of the rain mixes in, giving it a peaceful or more powerful feeling depending on how hard it’s raining.

The Activities:
We did so many amazing things — waterfall hikes, rainforest hikes, hanging bridges, ziplining, volcano hikes, beach hikes, swimming with dolphins and last but not least, driving in Costa Rica.  Ha!


The Wildlife:
We saw SO many different types of animals, frogs, insects, snakes, birds, etc.  The Ticos told us repeatedly how lucky we were to have seen everything we saw.   I’m going to attempt to list everything…

Howler Monkey
Squirrel Monkey
White-faced Capuchin Monkey
Spider Monkey
Tamandua Anteater (Oso Hormiguer0)
Sloth (Oso Perezozo)
Coatimundi (Pizote)


Parachuting Red-Eyed Leaf Frog
Bluejeans Poison Dart Frog
Masked Tree Frog (Smilisca phaeota)
Cross-banded Tree Frog (Smilisca puma)

and many others that I’m not sure of the names


Eyelash Pit Viper
Coral Snake
Fer de Lance Pit Viper (Terciopelos)
Chunk-headed Snake (Imantodes cenchoa)
Racer Snake
Lora Snake


Reptiles & Lizards
American Crocodile
Basilisk (Jesus Christ Lizard) – he walks on water


Chesnut-Mandibled Toucan
Scarlet Macaw
White Hawk
Collared Forest Falcon (This was a several day hunt to find.)
Crested Caracara
Bare-Throated Tiger Heron
Boat-billed Heron
Slaty-Tailed Trogon
Green Heron
Amazon Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
White Ibis
Rufous Motmot
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Gray-necked Woodrail
Roadside Hawk
Various Hummingbirds


Insects / Other
Golden Orb Weaver Spider
Tailless Whip Scorpion
Peanut-Headed Bug (Machaca)
Leaf-mimic praying mantis
Morpho Butterfly
Swallowtail Butterfly
Windowpane Silkmoth (Rothschildia orizaba)
Dysdaemonia boreas
Small Postman Butterfly, Heliconius erato
Red crab
Blue crab
Hermit Crabs
tons of other unidentified things


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  • Candra Haven

    Hi Whitney and Erick! Your trip looks amazing! I leave for Costa Rica tomorrow and am so freaking excited. I definitely got nervous after looking through your pictures… OMG… you saw so many scary creatures! Did you actually see everything you have a picture of? So many snakes and scorpions… SCARY!

    Did you love the hot springs? We are starting in Manuel Antonio and then heading to Arenal – I was really excited about the hot springs. 🙂

    Thanks for posting all your pics. Love seeing all the fun things I have to look forward to.

    Pura Vida!

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