Monday, December 11, 2017

Costa Rica: Saturday, November 25th-Playa Negra

Saturday was our last day which for Larry started much too early when Preston climbed into his bed.  Larry had been watching Preston the night before while the rest of us were patrolling for sea turtles.  Preston had fallen asleep on the couch while they watched a show together and I carried him to bed when I got home.  He woke up in the middle of the night disoriented and, assuming Larry was still in charge went to find him.  
It was another gorgeous beach day with lots of time spent out in the waves (which we don't have pictures of this time), and more animal finding. Ethan was happy about catching a frog.  James was glad to finally get a picture of some of the iguanas we often saw on the bridge as we left the house.
We ate at home that night the fresh fish purchased the day before. Shrimp pasta, seared ahi and grilled mahi mahi made for an amazing dinner.
Afterward we went out to the Playa Negra hotel for dessert before going back to watch a movie and pack up to leave the next morning.  When someone said something about Costa Rica not having rules Preston informed us that there was in fact 2 rules in Costa Rica.  1. you don't throw toilet paper in the toilet there, just in the trash.  and 2. you don't drink all the milk from your cereal bowl.  The first rule is true.  The second is a manner he apparently had never heard of before. When at the hotel breakfast buffet the first day on the trip he started drinking his bowl like a cup, I informed him that you only use your spoon to get what you can. He must have assumed this was a cultural thing.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Costa Rica: Friday, November 24th-Playa Junquillal

Friday morning started with a visit from the fish truck in our driveway.  As the truck came by with a honk we hurried out to see what we would have for dinner which we cooked at home the next day.  
We then drove up to Tamarindo, for groceries, souvenir shopping and to gas up the cars since despite the city being 20 kilometers away it was our closest station
 We then went to Playa Junquillal looking for information about sea turtles.  We couldn't find much in our online research other than that is was a good place for turtles to nest and hoped we could find a sanctuary or museum.  We stopped at the Playa Junquillal Eco Resort where we enjoyed a very yummy lunch.
The smoothies were our least favorite on the trip (we'd become mango smoothie experts by this point), :) but the food was pretty delicious.
We then went down the street to where we were told we might find some information about the turtles. 
Here we found a protected area of sea turtle nests and met some volunteers from the organization Verdiazul who were very friendly and willing to tell us about their work in saving the sea turtle population.  They invited us to patrol the beach with them that night.
We stayed there for a while as the beach was another great one for playing in.
 The kids and I played out in the water while James (who wasn't feeling well) took pictures and talked more with the volunteers.
 We enjoyed sunset at the beach before going home for a short time.  The road suggested to us on our GPS was not really a road at all.  We drove through rivers and huge puddles sometimes at a very odd angle, but on such a skinny trail that we couldn't turn around and go back.  We made it back without getting stuck and knew to take the main road when we went back that night. 
 We weren't hungry for dinner, since we'd had a late lunch.  So grabbed a snack and got ready to go back to the beach.
The patrolling started at 8pm.  Preston and Larry stayed back at the house while the rest of us joined the 3 volunteers from the organization: one from the U.K., one from Scotland and one from Finland and started our beach walk.  We couldn't use flashlights, as they didn't want turtles scared or disoriented, so we walked by the light of the moon and stars in search of turtle tracks coming up from the ocean. 
We were very lucky to come across a leatherback turtle.  One of the volunteers spotted the tracks, a long and wide darker section of sand.  She used red lights to check on the progress and found the turtle in the process of digging her nest.  They called the organization and the other volunteers all came on motorcycles as quickly as they could.  Leatherbacks are extremely endangered and they were all very excited we were there to see one.  It was over 4 feet long.
We waited while they turtle finished digging her nest.  Once she was laying eggs we were able to go over to watch until she was done.  She had 53 eggs, plus about 20 fake eggs she laid on top to discourage predators if the nest was found (those ones are smaller and don't taste good). The volunteers collected the eggs to move to their protected area which is guarded 24 hours against poachers and predators.  We finished about midnight and walked about 6 miles that night, but loved the experience.  

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Costa Rica: Thursday, November 23rd-Thanksgiving

Thursday was another beautiful day at the beach.  I loved that the water wasn't cold in Costa Rica. 
Everyone spent time out in the water boogie boarding, jumping waves, swimming and also tide pooling and playing in the sand.
Preston is light enough to catch every wave and he loves it.  He would go out again and again.  He loved the big waves also.  They were about 6 feet here, and get bigger later in the season.  They told us this beach gets crowded with surfers in February and March.
After a few hours playing at the beach we went back to the house.  I napped in the hammock (most relaxing thanksgiving ever!) while everyone else swam in the pool and watched some football.
We then drove over to the JW Marriott for a walk on the beach at sunset before dinner.
It was so fun to spend time together as a family.  We have so much to be thankful for, and enjoyed spending the day to celebrate our blessings.
The dinner buffet was impressive.  This is just showing the dessert display!  
We did have turkey there, but it wasn't quite the same as thanksgiving at home.  
We loved it, but still all decided we'd do a make up Thanksgiving when we got back.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Costa Rica: Wednesday, November 22nd-Tamarindo

Wednesday we headed first to Playa Avellanas.  The boys immediately ran out to start playing and tide pooling.  You can see them as specks in the background of the picture.
Brielle loved the horses on the beach.  They seemed to wander freely, but were very friendly so I assumed were owned by someone.
We visited Lola's restaurant, named after their resident pig, "Lolita" who isn't very 'ita' :)
We enjoyed smoothies on the beach, always a perfect treat.
And also ate some lunch before heading off to continue further north.
in Tamarindo we saw a lot of howler monkeys while we waited to go out on our boat ride
Larry had arranged for a Catamaran experience for all of us.  It was another gorgeous day to be out on the water.
Preston loved wearing sunglasses.  He said no one looked quite as cool as he did.  
Ethan loved being able to help reel in a couple of fish.
and Brielle loved being able to relax with Gramma
We went out for about an hour to a cove where we all jumped in to snorkel, kayak and paddle board.  Brielle had some amazing stand up paddle board skills.  Preston loved the snorkeling.  I was happy to be off the boat for a while as I'd forgotten to take motion sickness meds before heading out and was quite seasick the whole time. 
We all enjoyed some great pizza that night at Kon Tiki--recommended by the owners of the house were staying in.  It was served with a pretty spicy sauce that Preston was licking off his plate. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Costa Rica: Tuesday, November 21st-Guanacaste Province

Tuesday we left the Arenal region to head towards the west coast.  
It was a pretty drive around Lake Arenal with a few interesting sites to see along the way.
  We stopped in Liberia to drop Donna off at the airpot and pick up some groceries. 
The house we had rented in Play Negra had a very nice kitchen.  It was fun to eat at home for the evening.
These giant grasshoppers greeted us at the front door.  This is a picture of one next to James' hand.  They are huge!
The house had a perfect room for all 3 kids to share and each have their own bed.  
It was a great house to stay for our next few days of beach fun.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Costa Rica: Monday, November 20th-Los Lagos

Monday was our first (and only) rainy day.  We had overnight rainstorms other times, but they always cleared up by morning.  Now we could see how many people could come visit this region and never see the volcano.  
Every morning at the buffet Brielle would load up her plate with pineapple.  It was so sweet.  They also served cake for breakfast.  They didn't have dessert after dinners, but seemed to enjoy it for breakfast.  The boys all loved creating their own omelets in the mornings and the freshly made hot chocolate.   Preston and Ethan were very excited about the fruit loops.  I loved the gallo pinto.
Luckily we had planned to go to Los Lagos resort that day for the waterslides, so the rain didn't stop our fun.  
The slides went into water of varying degrees as these are also hot springs. The warmest pools were about 103 degrees.  It was such an interesting feeling going down hot waterslides.  
The kids loved using the gopro to video themselves going down the slides.  And loved going down again and again and again.  There was only a few other people there so never a wait.  
Luckily the rain cleared that afternoon in time for us to go on a canopy tour.  We went on a series of 13 ziplines of various lengths.  The longest was a 1/2 kilometer and a couple hundred feet about the ground.
They said the youngest age is 5, but decided Preston was tall enough and strong enough to go.  On these ziplines you used your back hand to pull down to slow yourself down before the platforms, so you needed some arm strength.
He did the first couple on his own and then went with our guide for the longer faster ones.  The guides called him "puerta abierta" because of his missing tooth grin.  He loved it!
Brielle also surprised me by how much she enjoyed the experience.  I thought she'd be nervous, but all 3 kids thought it was so much fun.
After the busy day and only snacks for lunch the kids had worked up quite an appetite.  We ate at the Los Lagos restaurant that night while the rain again poured down. The boys both had the buffet dinner. Preston was free (he loved being free to so many of the activities and would get so excited about not having to pay), but I don't know that they planned on him eating 4 plates of dinner.  I think Ethan had 7 plates at dinner.  :)