The Best Way to See Costa Rica – Flying with Nature Air

Nature Air flight San Jose StadiumIn the previous post, I wrote about how much I dislike driving in Costa Rica so I thought I’d follow it up with a post about the best type of transportation experience here on the Rich Coast…flying.  There is no comparison between taking a flight on a puddle jumper and driving.  Seeing from above Costa Rica’s villages, rich coastline, stunning tropical jungles and expansive volcano range, it is an experience like no other.

And this time, not only did I get to fly over the Pacific coastline to travel from Manuel Antonio/Quepos to San Jose but the next morning, I flew from San Jose to Bocas del Toro, flying over the Caribbean coast of both Costa Rica and Panama.

The morning I left Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio, there were two families leaving as well – both leaving by shuttle and not so happy about the 3+ hour drive ahead of them on a winding mountain – the road I had taken to get there a few days before.  But this time, I was flying to San Jose on Nature Air – a less than 30 minute flight from start to finish.  The plane was on time and as we took off, we flew over African Palm plantations then headed inland, flying between the tropical rainforest and coastline.Arriving in Bocas del Toro, Panama

The next day, we took off from San Jose and headed southeast.  We traveled over thousands of acres of mountainous terrain.  The Eastern mountains seem to be even more dense than the ones near Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula. Being in a smaller plane, you’re able to really see the details of the small towns located throughout the countryside, which are often surrounded by plantations (I imagine it’s delicious Dota coffee) and alongside rivers running through the valleys.  Eventually, we came to the coastline and headed into the Bocas Archipelago.  The woman behind me squealed a little when we landed as we literally landed on the beach (similar to arriving in Tambor).  But as always, the landing was smooth and the plane stopped just in front of the futbol field (a little bizarre that there is a futbol field next to the runway on the airport’s property).

On the return flight from Bocas to San Jose, there was a spectacular sight – the smoke stream coming out of Turrialba volcano.

Active Turrialba Volcano, Costa Rica

There are many reasons to fly when traveling around Costa Rica or doing add-on trips to Nicaragua or Panama…when you’re on vacation you don’t want to spend all your time in a car.  Arriving at your destination hours ahead of someone who is driving is well worth it.  Imagine all the extra time you have to relax on the beach or hike in the rainforest if you’re not in the car for hours on end!  It’s also so much easier – someone else is driving  which means no getting lost!  And Nature Air is the first airline to be certified as 100% carbon neutral – meaning it offsets its carbon emissions by supporting local reforestation and conservation programs.  They also have a foundation for child and community development and only use bio-diesel in their ground vehicles.

Supporting a company who gives back to the community and automatically offsets my travel are both super important to me and my commitment to living a conscious life.  And not having to drive on dirt roads, go down one-way streets the wrong way or get lost are the added bonus points.

Enjoy the beautiful slideshow of what Costa Rica and Panama look like from high above…Next up: Travel Adventures in Bocas del Toro!

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Pura vida…Chrissy

Note: While I am now paid and/or receive comped services at many of the places I visit, I will always offer my unbiased opinion to you, my readers. Fortunately, I almost always have experiences that exceed my expectations.

Driving in Costa Rica

Cyclist in Costa RicaWhile I love to explore and visit new areas here in Costa Rica, I really prefer not to be in the driver’s seat.  There’s lots of reasons why…

  • Getting lost, even with the GPS (#1 problem – almost ended up in Tambor last week because I missed the turnoff for the bridge)
  • Poor road conditions
  • Inclement weather
  • Much more challenging to take photographs
  • Can be quite boring if I’m by myself and it’s a long drive
  • There’s generally no pit stops along the way so I arrive to my destination both hungry and tired
  • Random dogs, cats, chickens, horses and cows in the road
  • Many near misses with 18 wheelers and other oncoming vehicles when trying to pass on the left

But last week, I had a 6 hour drive with all of the above, minus the bad weather (thankfully), so to try to put a positive spin on something I prefer not to do…here’s a few photos from the road…You just never know what you’re going to see when driving in Costa Rica!  And as you can see, green season is upon us, winter has returned!

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Pura vida…Chrissy

A little bit of Harmonious Inspiration

DSC08357While visiting Panacea last week, we couldn’t not be inspired by the painted rocks and signs which had been created by former guests and placed around the mountain.  Attached to tree trunks, placed under benches and set on hillsides, each one provided us with a message of harmonious inspiration for the soul.

I overheard one guest comment: It’s nice to walk around the property and see so many inspiring messages.  And it’s totally true – it really brightens up your day when, at every turn, you see a positive and lovingkind message.

Enjoy the slideshow and let me know…which one inspires you the most?

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Pura vida…Chrissy

A whirlwind week with clients

Secret Costa Rica Surf Spot

Kevin and I took two last minute trips last week to visit with clients.  Our first adventure was with Real Surf Trips.  Bob, our host, and his friend who was visiting gave us a few days of pure Pura Vida.  It was a low key experience at Bob’s luxury home only a few steps away from Playa Negra.

Real Surf Trips provides its clients with just that – a real surf experience with over 17 breaks (some that not even the locals know about) in just 7 km.  On our first morning at 5 a.m., Bob was knocking on our bedroom doors waking us up for “dawn patrol”.  He had made us coffee and provided us with a few pieces of fruit to get us started. We then quickly geared up and headed down to Marbella, a surf break about 45 minutes south of Negra that is more often surfed by experienced surfers.  The sun was just rising over the nearby hills when the three guys got in the water.  They were the only ones there when we arrived but within an hour, another 15 guys and girls showed up to surf these beautiful, crystal clear waves.

Eventually, the low tide took over and the surf died down so we had breakfast at Tiki, a local restaurant, to wait it out and see if the waves would pick back up.  When they didn’t, we returned home but not before checking out several of the surf breaks heading north.  The palm tree lined beaches were empty and with the warm tropical sun overhead, it felt like we were on our very own deserted island.

Surfing Playa Negra

The second morning, we were up early again to surf Playa Negra.  Another beautiful morning with massive flocks of pelicans flying over the breaking waves.  After a quick breakfast of macadamia nut pancakes (YUM!), we headed back to Tamarindo where we were picked up by the owners of Panacea, a local retreat center located on a mountaintop just outside of town.

You could say it was a bit of a night and day experience although both places are special in their own way.  We went from Bob’s air conditioned beach home to a cabina located on a mountain with virtually a 180 degree view of the ocean below us.  All the food at Panacea was delicious, fresh and vegetarian.  We relaxed in the hammock and enjoyed the sounds of nature that were all around.  I chose to do a walking meditation through the labyrinth and in the morning, Kevin participated in a yoga class.

The owners of Panacea work tremendously hard to provide their guests with a restful and rejuvenating experience.  There is no wifi or computer access on the property and in talking with guests, it’s what they prefer.  They come to Panacea to leave the busy rat race behind and to enjoy a few days of peace and quiet.  And while we were there only a short time, we both left with a sense of tranquility and renewal (and a few new mosquito bites!).

Tranquility at Panacea Costa Rica

Enjoy the slideshow…lots of fun photos in this one!

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Pura vida…Chrissy

Note: While I am now paid and/or receive comped services at many of the places I visit, I will always offer my unbiased opinion to you, my readers. Fortunately, I almost always have experiences that exceed my expectations.

Celebrating One Year in Costa Rica

Sunset at Playa LangostaA year ago today, I left California and took off for Costa Rica on a red-eye with my cat and 10 bags of luggage and have had no regrets or desire to return.  These last few weeks, I’ve been comparing my past life experiences, pre-Costa Rica, to how my life has been in the last year.

I’ve seen and experienced some pretty incredible (and some not so fun) things in my lifetime:

  • Stood atop the Washington Monument, Empire State Building and Eiffel Tower
  • Been to the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone and Multnomah Falls
  • Drank a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans (first and only time) and ate beignets every day at Cafe du Monde
  • Seen the Mona Lisa, David and Sistine Chapel
  • Toured the Hershey Chocolate Factory
  • Walked amongst the ruins of Pompeii
  • Stood on Juliet’s balcony in Verona and shopped for clothes in Milan
  • Was denied access to St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice because I was wearing shorts
  • Ate my first chocolate crepe at Mont St Michel
  • Ate gelato every day in Italy for a week (I was 9, my parents were trying to appease me)
  • Ate pizza and pasta and drank wine every day for lunch and dinner in Italy (15 years after the gelato week)
  • Enjoyed a cappuccino at an outdoor café in Portofino
  • Visited the Round Table (as in “Knights of…”), Stonehenge and Westminster Abbey
  • Been to Mavericks twice on a boat with 40 foot waves and had backstage access to the Kart races in Monterey where I met Paul Newman who was wearing purple socks and white shoes
  • Visited the casino in Monte Carlo and seen the red carpet in Cannes (no celebrity sightings at either)
  • At the age of 17, got talked into going into the Dianetic’s building in Hollywood with a friend (we quickly made our way out)
  • Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben and Anne Frank’s House.
  • Pretty much been to almost every cathedral in France and Italy and every castle in Germany and France
  • Bought my first stein when I was 9 in Germany and on that same trip, visited Hennessy’s cognac in France
  • Went to Tijuana when I was 16 and came home with the worst stomach virus of my life.  Well, it probably wasn’t a virus – more like bacteria from the watered down drinks.
  • Drank a beer with Kelsey Grammar in Puerto Vallarta, danced on the bar at Papa’s & Beer (everyone was doing it!) and ate fresh lobster burritos for breakfast in Calafia (Baja, Mexico not California).  Best hangover food for a then non-vegetarian
  • Visited Cuba and had one of the best weeks of my life although 99% of the food was abysmal
  • Stood atop the active Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua and paid off a police officer at the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border (twice, now)
  • Went to the Panama Canal and the next day visited an indigenous community with no electricity or access to modern day life, acknowledging the stark differences in lives that were less than an hour away from each other

But even with all of those adventures and experiences, nothing compares to the last year of my life.  It’s been challenging and frustrating and complicated but it’s also been, and continues to be, so totally worth it.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Meeting new people, making new connections

I am constantly meeting new people.  Normally, it’s on the catamaran tour or at one of the hotels I work with.  And while I don’t always make lasting connections, I always learn something new from them.

My newest friend is Hasida, originally from Bosnia and now living and working in Canada as a nurse.  We met at the retreat at Hacienda del Sol.  We’re the same age and we joked that with all of our similarities in our personalities, we could easily be sisters.  But there were also many differences in our lives and I learned so much from my experience of meeting her.

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First, it was nice to see Costa Rica through her eyes.  It was her first experience in this type of rural environment and while everything is just so normal for me now, for someone new, there can actually be some interesting and sometimes scary moments.  One thing she probably wasn’t totally prepared for were the bugs.  We’re not yet in rainy season so there aren’t many but, somehow, most of them found their way into her room.  And of course, coming from Canada in April, she had to adjust to the heat and humidity.  But by the end of the week, she had settled  into the living environment and really enjoyed her week on the rich coast.

Then there was the dirt roads – which again, by the end of the week, she had grown accustomed to.  And let’s not forget the Costa Rica Pura Vida lifestyle.  Like when we went to a hotel in Guiones for lunch but received our food before we got our Tamarind, Lime and Ginger drinks.  Welcome to Costa Rica is all I can say.  That’s just the way it is here.

The funniest part were the howlers one morning.  She could only hear them and she couldn’t believe that there weren’t gorillas in the jungle.  They’re so loud that while she had seen howlers on our first day’s hike, she couldn’t imagine such a small animal making such a loud noise.  Especially not at 5 a.m.

As for life experiences, hers are very different from mine.  I can’t imagine being a teenager in a war-torn country and having to flee (first to Germany, then to Canada).  Because of those circumstances, she can speak fluently Bosnian, German and English.  Impressive since I’m still trying to learn Spanish!

I learned so much from her about life in this one week we spent together.  And I’m looking forward to seeing her again when she returns to Hacienda del Sol for another retreat in December.  Which I promised her…the roads will (hopefully) be graded at that time, the rivers will have water in them and everything will be so green and lush!  As for the bugs…well, I can’t do much about them!

Pura vida…Chrissy