Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Thanksgiving Travels to Arenal

We’ve established a few traditions during our time in Costa Rica, and one of them is to travel for US Thanksgiving. This year we let the girls choose our destination and they both—independently—decided on staying at Los Lagos resort at the base of Arenal Volcano. (This is the same place we ziplined with my mom and dad last year.)

We drove through a misty cloud forest on our way north that was unbelievably lush, with rolling hills as we topped the mountains and rushing waterfalls. Some areas—spotted with dairy farms and Holsteins—even reminded me of Wisconsin. And of course what would a road trip in CR be without a few cows in the road here and there?

The first day we had some gorgeous views of the towering, active Arenal Volcano. After that, it was cloudy for much of the trip but we didn’t mind the overcast, frequently rainy skies; Dan and I spent much of our vacation in the hot springs while the girls visited all three big pools and flew down the waterslides. A few times we ventured to the small, private hot springs pools surrounded by all sorts of tropical plants and flowers. It was so beautiful, so relaxing. Ahhhhh, I wish I could go back already!

One morning after breakfast we visited the crocodile farm, butterfly house (lots of blue Morphos—my favorites!), and frog enclosure. The gardens are spectacular, and it’s hard to fathom how many types of vegetation are on the Los Lagos property. And while we didn’t zipline on this trip, we did hike around and crossed a long, hanging bridge a few times—which terrified me, but I tried not to look down (waaaaay down) and I made it across each time once I determined that nobody could follow me on the bridge (too much swaying) until I had reached the other side.

A favorite pleasure from this trip was sitting on our second-floor balcony early each morning and watching the birds; we saw so many, including a bunting, kiskadees, and many hummingbirds. When we moved here I had an informal “Costa Rica bucket list”—a bunch of things I wanted to see and do before we had to return to the States. Spotting a big toucan in the wild (because I’ve seen quite a few in captivity) was the only thing I had remaining on my list, and I was worried I’d never get to cross it off. Dan, Erin, and Lauren all had seen at least one—but not me. Until Saturday morning at 5:45, when I heard a crazy-loud bird making a racket outside. Sure enough, a chestnut-mandibled toucan was perched in a tree near our room, calling out to another toucan who answered him each time. (This is the largest toucan in CR. He was big!)

Dan and I watched the toucan and though we took photos, they didn’t turn out well because of the mist and the lighting. But we saw him and then saw another toucan join him and they both flew off. It was amazing!

I spent a lot of time thinking about our lives in Costa Rica during our time at Arenal. Thinking about how spectacular the natural world is here, how much we’ve seen and done, how living here has brought our family closer than ever, and how much I’ll miss this country when we leave. I even grew teary-eyed on the drive home (Wow, was it a gorgeous day!) and feel like I’m splitting in two: half of me longs to be home in the US and half of me wants to stay in Costa Rica, which after a couple of years is also our home. I’m not ready to face leaving yet and am determined for us to get as much out of our remaining time here as we can. I have a lot to be thankful for! (Enjoy the photos and you'll see what I mean!)



Justine said...

Oh wow, Beanie, it's so incredibly lush and beautiful. The pool at the hotel looks incredible. Wish you would have taken some pics of the hot springs!!! And wow, what a gorgeous bird. HOw cool that you finally got to cross it off your list!!!

Justine :o )

Four in Costa Rica said...

The resort has a lot of pools, and the photos I posted actually are both of a big hot springs pool! It's so beautiful when the air cools down and you can see the steam coming off the water. There are covered areas with underwater bench seats so we could get out of the rain and just relax while the girls played. Ah, nice!