Costa Rica: Recap of Arenal (April 23, 2014)

Today we woke up bright and early once more to go water repelling. Yes, that means repelling down rocky waterfalls in the rainforest of Costa Rica. Seems awesome, right? Well it was! I was actually a bit nervous going into this activity because I had repelled down a waterfall at my sleep away camp yet it left me in tears and with shaking hands because I dreaded the majority of the repel as I slipped from the rocks and feared my descent into death; well that’s a bit of an overreaction but I wasn’t exactly comfortable during the activity and it was a bit difficult, so I was scared it would be even more difficult here. Turns out it was ten times easier. As I pushed my feet and sprung from the top I swiftly descended and the rope easily slipped through my fingers allowing gravity to take its toll. It was almost like free falling with two backup safety systems! They didn’t take any longer than a minute to get down, if anything 30 seconds! The longest was the first, which probably took about a minute. After one of them you landed in a pool of water!
We then relaxed back at the hotel for a bit to revive and recover our energy for our last activity, a nature hike and tour of more of the forest. We hiked about two miles up towards the arenal volcano, which is actually currently active. We saw quite a bit more wildlife such as a white-faced monkey whilst we were under a 500 year old tree taking a picture and surprisingly, it climbed down from the tall branches to come up in closer proximity to us and most likely analyze us just as we were him. The white-faced monkeys are known to be mean; they will purposely destroy hummingbird nests or crush and crack animal eggs for the sake of fun! The howler monkeys are a bit nicer, but if they see you standing underneath them on a tree they will purposely poop or pee, and they have great aim. SO, they aren’t THAT much nicer. I even saw a tiny green snake that is extremely poisonous by the end of the tour, which excited me because I was sort of hoping but also dreading the idea of seeing a snake. It was such a cute little slivery thing. I learned about a leaf that grows on trees that has many different uses. When its ripe you can brew a tea with it that supposedly helps you lose weight. When it’s rotten and dead you can use the stem as a sponge and apparently you can even use the leave to smoke and it gets you high! Not that this is the BEST use for it. Nature is insanely incredible. Another fun fact I learned is that since squirrels don’t have that much fur and it can get cold, they wrap their tails around their necks for extra warmth and that is where the idea of the scarf came from!! Also a good tip in the forest: brightly colored frogs as well as mushrooms, and probably just any animal that is brightly colored like a snake for example, is most likely poisonous. You can tell because of the color! I also learned that for one year the arenal volcano was extremely active and would go off every 20 minutes! But it isn’t the traditional liquid pouring red lava you see in movies its often solid by the time it reaches the top of the crescent because it took so long to travel all the way up and the molten lava solidifies as it cools at the top! SO it’s like giant boulders exploding from the volcano. The rainforest is breathtakingly gorgeous; it is remarkable to see the millions of shades of green and abundance of tree types flourishing in the rich soil. The infinite amount of different species of insects in Costa Rica is unbelievable and a bit startling. And what’s even more impressive is all of the locals’ extensive knowledge of all of these species, this environment, and their huge emphasis on preserving its beauty by being extremely eco-friendly and gentle with nature and the animals. Not one piece of trash on the ground, and never will you see somebody waste a plate of food or waste anything for that matter. If only it was like that in LA. Tomorrow we head off to our last hotel! Salut!
~xoxo Ali~

Costa Rica Post 3: Wild Water Raftin’ & stuffff (April 22nd, 2014)

Our new hotel is vastly different from the last. It’s a resort and spa, and it has about nine pool/spa’s of water that have waterfalls flowing into each other, and it’s beautiful. It’s got a peaceful ambiance and you can constantly hear birds and insects buzzing and chirping. Once again it’s like living one with nature. But unlike our other super green eco-friendly one towel per person hotel, this one has Jacuzzi’s in the hotel rooms. Yes you read that correctly. Currently I am sitting on my bed looking face on at the giant Jacuzzi in my hotel room; it is pretty ridiculous. They are supposedly trying to be green as well, but they aren’t as convincing as Si Como No when this magical bathtub of bubbling warm water is radiating energy and warmth by the second.
Yesterday was our first full day here by the Arenal Volcano in Fortuna and it was eventful to say the least. We woke up at six, ate at the breakfast buffet and headed off to zip lines. This zip line company did not seem quite as professional as the other one and was lacking a big staff, but the amazing zip lining and surprises at the end made up for it. I tried to go pro the whole thing, but the camera ended up not catching it, but oh well. It felt incredible to zip through the tangled trees and feel the cool rainy air brush my face. I had less trouble getting my body to keep straight during this zip lining, but the oil from our zip lining gloves splashed us in our faces. My mom had the most trouble slowing her down at the end and would always finish a zip line with the oil residue scattered across her entire face. I’m pretty sure she enjoyed the zip lining in Manuel Antonio better anyways considering there was total beef/tension between her and our girl instructor and my mom was so done with her by the end. Lol. We got to repel after our zip lining because the group had extra time, and this was very fun and a workout for my arms. I always get a bit nervous doing this. It took a lot of arm strength to control how fast you wanted your rope to slide through which determined whether you moved down or not. It was a short, quick repel and afterwards Will (my younger brother) and I began catching tiny little brown frogs that were hopping around in the grass and playing with them. My family and I were then surprised with a guest presentation in which we walked into a native tent hunt and were greeted by a half naked native man. was a little fire burning and he told us about these art creations his native people made and what each animal represented in the tribe. These Costa Rican groups always leave in a nice surprise for every activity.
Next was the white water rafting! This was probably my favorite activity. We took an extremely bumpy 45-minute ride up to the rivers and walked to where we met our guides. Our guide was named Stephen and he was a tall, active, informative, and outgoing guy. He knew everything about everything surrounding us and made it super fun. Plus he was pretty cute and funny. And it’s quite possible that he hit on me when we tipped him and said goodbye considering I went for the handshake and he went for the hug and then did one of those European side cheek kiss things. Oh and then he winked at me. ☺ I somewhat imagined myself tumbling outside of my raft like the Pillsbury dough boy in my puffy life jacket and hitting my head on a razor sharp river rock and thus tragically dying as my Jack from titanic aka Stephen said “he’d never let me go” but turns out it was extremely safe and a worry-free situation. Oh except for the overweight lady in a different raft who fell into the water. And then her raft pushed her into a rock wall and then OUR raft crashed into their raft so it was a double whammy of her getting crushed into this wall. Yikes, poor gal. Also unfortunate that all the river guides made fun of the guide of that lady for the duration of the trip and calling him “gordo” which means fat. Tragically humorous. Anyways, we glided down the water and hit rocks sending our tube bouncing and being pushed by the water towards other routes in order to keep going downstream. They said there were about 6 different currents of water that caused tension in the river but it all ends up going downstream in the end, its very cool. We even got to see a couple of sloths, monkeys, and birds down the path! It was about a 2 hour and 30 minute rafting adventure that included a fruit snackin’ break (of watermelon and pineapple, SURPRISE jk not really considering that’s all they eat in Costa Rica), jumping off a rock into the water, floating in the river downstream, and even me getting the chance to sit on the front of the raft facing head on towards all of the rapids and bumps as we glided down. The water was actually quite warm after a while and it was nice to transition from smooth peaceful streams to bouncy crazy ones where we screamed and laughed in fear and excitement as our raft tilted and twirled. We were then surprised to be fed delicious homemade rice, beans, chicken, and other foods at a local farm where we were presented with how they make their fresh coffee and all the different uses of sugar cane. We took sugar cane shots! Pretty crazy, I KNOW. The coffee was some of the best coffee I have ever had, and it could kick Starbucks in the butt. Everything is better when it’s organically ground and all natural with no chemicals and artificial sugary syrups cough cough Starbucks caramel macchiatos. Overall, a pretty rad day in Costa Rica. As they all say, PURA VIDA!
~ xoxo Ali ~
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Costa Rica Post 2: On Route to Arenal and the VOLCANO (April 21st, 2014)

I am currently on route to Arenal,sitting in a poorly air conditioned bus for the next five hours glancing out at water-deprived plains and grazing cows and banana tree plantations. We just left our hotel in Manuel Antonio, Si Como No and it was a bittersweet goodbye. I am sad to leave its lively beach and friendly locals but I am eager to experience the other flavors of Costa Rica. Yesterday we walked through the National Manuel Antonio Park in hopes of scouting out the famous white faced monkeys and other well-known animals to this exotic ecosystem. Our tour guide informed us of a bacteria-like looking bug that tastes like cotton candy, a plant that many of our cleaning supplies are derived from, and a toxic grape like fruit that will shut down your nervous system even if its skin touches yours an absorbs into your body. They were scattered all over the sand at one point of our tour and since I was wearing flip flops, I was a bit anxious to keep moving along rather than stand in the midst of these life-stealing juicy balls of death and hear more about them. Luckily, we saw a couple of white faced monkeys including a mother and her newborn baby, which clinged on to her back; I guess it should be called a monkey-back ride instead of a piggy back ride! She was slowly climbin the branches of the trees scouring for food while her paparazzi (us tourists) snapped away. It was probably one of the cutest things I have ever seen. I also saw about three sloths including both two toed and three toed ones. I learned that while they rarely move during the day due to their extreme laziness, they manage to climb all the way down from their trees to the ground and dig an entire hole just to desiccate and then cover it up and climb all the way back up. If they are so lazy you would think they’d just let it all out at the top of the tree! Landon, the Canadian I met yesterday also told us that they have sex for an entire week. Fun facts of Costa Rica.
During the walking tour we took a midway break at this secret beach cove. I have never seen such a beautiful beach in person in my entire life. The water was a turquoise color, like the Mediterranean sea of Greece I have always dreamed about. The water was calm and gently dancing with the light wind; there wasn’t a string of seaweed or a pesky sandcrab to be found and the sand was velvet on your skin. I floated in that buoyant sea and let my body’s weight become non-existent. I love the float in the water and immerse my ears in the sound of the silent sea and feel like I am one with the ocean. When you wake up from your float mediation you feel refreshed, revived, and completely relaxed. We then continued our walking tour and ended up coming back to the beach we had been before. We finish our tour eating fresh pineapple and watermelon as a treat (the same treat we got after we ziplined so it seems to be the popuar snack of Costa Rica) and then went back to our hotel for a snack and back once again to the beach.
The weather was scorching today and the humidity dampens and weightens the air, like living in a sauna to say the least. I tried my best to tough out the sun and tan, dripping sweat as I did and feeling the burning sensation of a potential sunburn arising. Luckily I haven’t burned too bad but I still have, because with this sun it’s almost impossible not to if you are only using SPF 30 and your are sweating and swimming the protection off every hour. My mom, dad and I ate a dinner of steak and fish at a nie restaurant a little ways off from our hotel, after leaving two other hotels. One of whih the menu looked so unappetizing that I pretended to feel sick so that we’d have an excuse to leave after we had already been seated. My mom was very upset and embarrassed that we did this but I don’t care because I’ll do anything for good food.
~ xoxo Ali~

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Costa Rica Trip: Chillin’ in Manuel Antonio

For spring break, my family and I have journeyed our way from the smoggy California valley to the dense vivacious jungles of Costa Rica. Eleven days in this 100% humidity rainforest on the coast of the warm Pacific Sea (yes, warm because the ocean feels like a bathtub compared to the glacier cold masses at Zuma). We departed at around 7pm from our house and arrived in Costa Rica at 5 in the morning, and considering I had been partying all weekend at Coachella and had been staying up since 2 each school night due to my extreme work load, you could say I was a bit fatigued. We took a 3-hour drive from the airport to our hotel, which you could presume I napped through for the most part. My first thought towards Costa Rica was that it was quite the lush green land, and that impression has not changed. Every where you go it feels as if you are in the rainforest and that we as humans are strangers who have built some sort of civilization within its oasis. Once we arrived to the hotel I was surprised to see how small and quaint it was. It is almost as if I am living in some big deluxe tree house in the middle of a tropical island right off the sea, oh wait just kidding I am! I spend the day tanning and swimming by the pool, sipped on a virgin Pina Colada, and when we got our rooms took the best nap of my life in the freshly washed hotel bed sheets listening to the songs of the birds in the trees outside my window.
Today, we started our real adventure. Zip lining! We took a bus to another location and met our zip-lining guides, who were extremely charming, funny, and professional. Some of them were also pretty cute and fit. I think it’s some sort of culture thing that Central American men make an effort to smell good, and it really goes a long way. I had zip lined in Hawaii before but it was nothing like this. Imagine George of the Jungle or Tarzan swinging from vine to vine, except add a harness a helmet and of course a zip line. It was a bit difficult because you had to cross your legs and wear these gloves and hold one hand along the line and use the other to grip your lines, and you had to try to keep your body still and straight. I loved zipping through the trees and seeing this blur of green flash before my eyes. I felt a surge of exhilaration after every zip (if that’s what they call them). I saw some cute animals on this little trip as well, like two baby bats sleeping in a tree as well as a baby porcupine, a toucan, and some not so cute ones like the poisonous black and green frog. We also met a nice family from Canada who had a very interesting son named Landon who was telling my family and I all about this concoction him and his Canadian friends call “liquid cocaine” that gets you super drunk. I guess they go all out in Canada! After zip lining we sped over to the beach and I was extremely pleased to feel the ocean water. It was like stepping in to a bathtub, literally. Absolutely no seaweed or rocks in the ground, no sand crab or creepy sea creatures, and the perfect sized waves. Not too big, not to small; they were perfect for body surfing. The only downside was how salty the ocean was, but it was nothing a bit of rubbing of your eyes couldn’t relieve. I swear if the ocean was like this at home I think I’d live at the beach. Costa Ricans are quite friendly! They smile if you smile back and are much more open to talking to strangers than Americans, something I noticed in France too. Why are American’s so frickin’ afraid of meeting new people and being outgoing? I think I saw eleven year olds walking around with beers on the beach, since alcohol on the beach is legal and you only have to be 18 to drink and they probably could care less. Some dogs as well! It was a real party up in there! I indulged in some guac and chips, sipped on a coconut, and even got another pina colada. The beach in Costa Rica is much different than La. For one, you are allowed to smoke and drink, you can have your dogs on the beach, and there are tons of venders and people selling fruit, snow cones, coconuts to sip on, and even a chair and umbrella business with their own menu of delicious food and smoothies to order. I obviously enjoy this much more than any day at Zuma!

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^^ notice something wrong with this picture?? (hint hint who’s holding WHAT drink, don’t worry folks its just for innocent fun of creating subliminal messages within your pictures :D)

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^ “dad take a picture of me sipping on this coconut” – me

~xoxo Ali~