Costa Rica

For Giovanna & Antonio

February 2012.

Costa Rica’s natural majesties

Dear Giovanna and Antonio,

Costa Rica is reportedly the most satisfying place in which to live. It has an HPI score of 44.7, putting it just above Mexico and Colombia. Instead of hola (hello), Costa Ricans say “Pura vida” (pure life) or “Que tuanes,” which is of obscure provenance, but may be a corruption of the English “get-to-our-knees” – in other words, I like you so much I am genuflecting. Costa Ricans also refer to their partners as “media naranja,” or the other half of their orange. I trust you will enjoy your honeymoon in this joyous, romantic and exotic country.

Day 1: Arrival

After you land in San Jose, you will be met by Carlos Arguello, your expert tour guide, who will escort you to your next flight toward the private oasis of Punta Islita. In Punta Islita, Carlos will take you to your hotel which features stunning ocean views. From your room, you can watch the breathtaking ocean sunset before falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the Costa Rican coast– a perfect start to your honeymoon.

After settling in, you will be free to spend the afternoon relaxing, or, if you wish, Carlos can take you to explore the small town’s thriving artistic community– depending on your level of energy.

Day 2: Nooks and crannies

Today, Carlos will give you a personal introduction to Punta Islita’s many charming nooks and crannies. You will be taken on a horseback riding tour across Punta Islita’s private beach, over the generous offering of trails and dirt roads surrounding the hotel property, and through nearby villages. Carlos will introduce you to the myriad of monkeys and bird species as you pass. You will enjoy breathtaking views and stories about the town and townspeople, providing a more personal introduction to this unusually intimate land.

After your morning of horseback riding, Carlos will take you to his favorite locales to sample some of Costa Rica’s most authentic cuisine. Start with some fresh-baked biscochos, savory pastries of cheese and cornmeal, and then dig into a rich plate of comida típica, Costa Rica’s most common meal. Stuffing yourself full of beans and rice, fried plantains, cabbage and tomato, and finely cooked meat you will understand why true Costa Ricans eat this dish almost every day! Savor your meal along with a sweet refresco, a delicious fresh-squeezed juice beverage.

After lunch, you will visit the outdoor museum, featuring unique art by both local and regional artists. Finally, you may go back to the hotel and spend some time relaxing on the pristine and quiet Carillo Beach.

Day 3: Surfing

Antonio, today is your chance to heed the call of the breaking waves. We have arranged a private surfing lesson with an experienced instructor on a nearby, non-crowded beach, perfect for all levels, including first timers. February is one of the best times of the year for newer surfers—calmer than the summer months, but still enough swells to really experience the full thrill of surfing. The weather is hot and dry: perfect for some beach relaxation after a hard surfing session.

Giovanna, because you are a musician, we have arranged a special treat for you. Guanacaste, the region where you are staying, is known for its rich tradition of indigenous folk music. In the evening, after a relaxing beachfront dinner, Carlos will take you to a local community center where musicians practice and perform their puntos, tambitos, callejeras, and parranderas, the principle indigenous musical genres. Gain a personal understanding of the importance of music to the people there as you watch expert musicians play their marimbas, ocarinas, and other indigenous instruments. You will leave Costa Rica with rhythms and melodies running through your head that will open your ears to music beyond what you expect, what you know, and even what you can understand fully. Truly getting to know a place and a people, far beyond merely seeing them and where they live, requires opening yourself up to the personal and vulnerable aspects of their culture and their daily lives. We hope to create that connection for you and leave you with an understanding of Costa Rica that exceeds the sights and extends into the cultures and peoples.

Day 4: Zipline

A zipline adventure awaits you today! Costa Rica, known for its lush rainforest with endless varieties of wildlife, can be best appreciated soaring through the sky above it. Roam the forest canopy as you safely zip from platform to platform thanks to a setup of steel cables, climbing gear, and harnesses. You may even spot a monkey or two as you glide over the green canopy! Experienced guides are fully trained and will assist you throughout the tour to ensure your safety.

We learn and we grow in the crevices of discomfort—that’s where we see the truth in places and make the memories that harken us back to our travels long after we have returned home. Tonight we hope to curate one of those moments. After your day on the zipline, Carlos will take you to a local dock, where you will both embark on a local fisherman’s boat and go out into the calm evening ocean. In this humble seacraft, you will see how locals earn a living catching fish, from snook to yellow-fin tuna, and even the occasional marlin. Whatever you catch you will bring back to a port side restaurant where it will be cooked for you Costa Rican style. When your catch is crisped to perfection, enjoy the freshest meal possible in Costa Rica—or, really, anywhere in the world.

Day 5: Spa day

After a day of hiking and exploring, nothing is more rejuvenating than time at Punta Islita’s Casa Spa, a sanctuary for relaxation and holistic well-being. Enjoy the nourishing elements of traditional healing arts and exotic local ingredients that ease the stress of everyday life. The Spa’s signature offerings channel the herbalist heritage and beauty rituals of the chorotegas and other indigenous people through an array of modern techniques and treatments. Curate your own wellness experience from the broad selection of Casa Spa’s treatment options—including hydrating body treatments, healing and calming spa rituals, facials, and of course a variety of massage options including a romantic couple’s massage. Enjoy the expert treatment options as the calm ocean breeze caresses your skin through the open rooms, and relax to the sounds of the natural beauty surrounding you. Your spa day is a perfect way to end your stay at Punta Islita, leaving you refreshed and calm with the best of local essences.

Day 6: Wildlife viewed from the water

This morning you will depart for the short trip to Tortuguero to explore the National Park’s world-renown habitat preservations. Originally intended to protect a major nesting beach of the Atlantic green sea turtle, Tortuguero National Park now protects 51,870 acres, one of the last large areas of tropical rain forest in Central America. Eleven habitats are found in the park. Three species of monkeys (spider, howler, and white-faced), three-toed sloths, and river otters are frequently seen along the waterways and canals. Caimans (a small crocodile), iguanas, river turtles, basilisk lizards, and poison dart frogs also inhabit the area. Additionally, more than 320 species of birds, including all 6 species of kingfishers found in the new world, 3 species of toucans, 8 species of parrots, and other neo-tropical species such as the slaty-tailed trogon, white-collared manakin, purple-throated fruit cow, and white-fronted nun bird live in the National Park.

After lunch, you will have the opportunity to look for all of these different creatures as Carlos guides you through the small creeks that ramble through the hidden secrets of the park. You will continue this exploration in an ocean kayak built for two. These vessels are capable of exploring places even motorboats can’t get to—precisely where the wildlife is most abundant. The kayaks, agile and safe, will take you to see first-hand one of the most magical places in this flooded forest.

Day 7: Departure from Tortuguero

After breakfast, you will begin your journey home. I hope you will take home with you not only memories of fun and relaxation, but also the feeling that you truly began to understand the beauty of Costa Rica through both its land and its people. Let that feeling linger with you and it will coax you back to experience it again. Costa Rica, I have found, is not the type of place I could only go to once; I’m sure this trip will make you feel the same.

Giovanna and Antonio, it has been my pleasure planning this itinerary to Costa Rica’s natural majesties. Please contact me at any time if you have any questions. Have a wonderful trip.