Leaving the monkeys behind we headed south to a much slower pace than we had set. We had been wrapped up in our adventures and it was time now to settle in and reconnect with us and ourselves. Some would say this is where the "vacation" started, but really what is a vacation? It's doing whatever helps you to feel respite from the daily grind. Personally I enjoy it all. I like appetizers and a flight of beer as much as a main course with a glass of fine wine. I like long adrenaline fueled days or sitting on the edge of an infinity pool drink in hand. Life has too many good elements to just choose one. Why not sample them all? We left what we knew as "touristy" Costa Rica and drove to Ojochal. Just an hour and a half south of Manuel Antonio, yet it seems like a world away. Life slows down here. Full of palm oil farms, soda shops, and locals going about their daily. Simple. Small town style. I soon found out that most of these people have never been elsewhere even in their own country, yet here, they are happy. Their smiles were genuine and infectious. It reminds you that no matter how many places you travel to, it's nothing until you are happy with yourself, because that's who you always come back to and who you always take with. (Did I say we had time to reflect? I also mentioned grabbing a drink...)
Alma de Ojochal is perched atop a mountain. The road that leads you there is a winding, bumpy, dirt road. The reason for our four wheel drive. After highcentering twice (shhh... don't tell Hertz) we pulled up to an empty parking lot with one dirtbike parked in the corner. I imagined the other guests were out doing whatever there day took them to do. I immediately loved the grounds. Small and sweet, we were shown to our room. The pool, breakfast area, and our private balcony all had the same magnificent view overlooking the mountains to the Pacific. We decided to grab lunch at a soda shop we had seen on our way in a little further down the main road. Yes, that means we passed the dirt road with the small wooden sign that said "Azul" and "Alma". That was the only indicator of our hotel. Boca Coronado was a bar and a few tables under a hut. The food was good and the beer was cold. Their was an iguana on the roof, a toad in the toilet, and another restroom without a toad. The owner was a friendly, easy going guy and we both knew that had we lived there this would quickly become our spot. Stomachs full, we set off for beach hunting. We stopped at many of the different coves along the way and dipped our toes in the water. We climbed rocks, caught crabs, watched parrots fly over us, and took it all in. We stopped at Ventanas and Tortuga beach, drove up to Vista Ballena to see the whale's tail, and checked out the small town of Uvita. We took in each other and the country we were in. Wasting away the day to a more relaxed state of mind.
Back at the hotel we had the pool to ourselves. With a glorious sunset filling the sky. We made reservations at Azul, which we found was the restaurant at the hotel half way down the dirt road. Dinner was romantic. We sat outside by the pool contemplating the lives of the bugs and toads stuck in it. The hotel itself was picturesque and had quite a few more guests than ours. In fact, we came to realize we were the only guests there. We had the whole place to ourselves.
Waking with the rising sun we left for Sierpe. Another hour south of where we were, along quiet stretches of palm farms, this small town is where our journey would begin. As soon as my guy had chosen Costa Rica he knew he wanted to go to Corcovado National Park. One of the most bio-diverse rainforests on the planet, with thirteen major ecosystems and some of Costa Rica's most endangered habitants, this rainforest in the Oso peninsula is a must for any hiker/backpacker. We met the owner of the excursions, Jorge, and sat down to breakfast. Assuring us we could pay our bill when we got back since his machine was down, we were introduced to our guide, Oscar. A family of three from the states would also be joining us. At one point you could freely backpack in Corcovado with permits, but now you must have a guide and even then many areas are now closed to hiking through. Hopefully one day they will reopen. I can only imagine after the taste of what we saw what this magical forest holds. There are several ways to arrive to Corcovado, hiking the beaches from the hotels, approximately eleven miles, or taking a two hour boat ride in from Sierpe as we did. Mainly we chose this route because of where we were staying.
We began the hike early morning. Through a well maintained path we headed towards Sirena ranger station. Along the way we saw many birds and our guide was like an encyclopedia, able to identify and spot them all. Their colors vivid in all of the green. We saw monkeys, tapirs, pizotes, and snakes as well. No kittys, although truly I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a puma. We also saw spiders as big as our hands, they looked like something out of Alien. Oscar made us lunch before we headed back to the boat, and drifted out to the mangroves, an underwater rooting system amongst the trees. Here we saw three sloths and a few crocodiles. Really I could keep a sloth as a pet!! They are ridiculously cute and we had been on a sloth mission since stepping off the plane! Boating back to Sierpe, seeing dolphins playing in our wake, we said goodbye and thanked everyone. Back at the hotel we showered quickly and decided to spend the evening at "our spot." Just as good, if not better, the second time around. Tomorrow would bring the last day of our trip. Our last day to relax in this paradise.
We made the short hour trek to Uvita. On our way we stopped to take a horseback ride to Nauyaca Falls. While this is a popular "attraction", for lack of better words, it is also a must see. The small family run business is by far one of the best. We were allowed to run the horses if we knew how to ride! We ran them to where we would stop for breakfast, continued on, and were greeted with by far the most beautiful waterfall we had seen so far. We stripped down to our swimsuits and jumped in. They attached a rope to an inner tube and helped to pull us to the falls. We were shown the route to climb and allowed to jump as we pleased! Ready to redeem myself from Gravity Falls, I took the 25ft plunge more than once. I love adrenaline. I love the smile it creates that reverberates throughout my body. Little did I know my horse would give me another rush on our way back. After lunch, the same stop as breakfast and the food just as delicious, we rode back. Once again allowed to run I noticed the guide staying close to me. Apparently my horse was eager to get back and quickly decided to bolt back to his stable. Not wanting to be deterred by the guide alongside me attempting to slow him towards the wall, he took off up another trail. Luckily I can ride, and he eventually slowed and we turned around... an even bigger grin on my face. For those of you wondering, they ask you in the beginning if you can ride and give you a horse based on your riding skills. Mine was frisky and I loved him. There were plenty of children, all paired with horses accordingly. They have them trained extremely well. Our bellies full and our hearts happy once again, we were off one last time to listen to the macaws and the monkeys, breathe in this lush jungle, and enjoy pina coladas in coconuts. Oh yeah... it was that time.
We left to Uvita in search of the Oxygen Jungle Villas. Hidden away off anther unpaved road high atop a mountain with little signage (see a theme here?), we find our way to this slice of heaven. The small boutique hotel with Balinese architectural influences is just what we need to end this thing. We were served with complimentary drinks upon check in and were shown our villa with a view. Did I mention it was glass? All of it. The room was window to window with frosted glass over the shower areas. Outside a sidewalk surrounded the room with hanging bamboo curtains. Linens surrounded the private patio and four poster bed. It was gorgeous. We walked the grounds and found a short trail to their small waterfall. We took in the quiet, staying a moment.
We spent the evening lounging in the infinite pool and taking in the ocean view waiting until sunset. When it finally came we languished in the waters until the last pink ray faded. We dined poolside at the restaurant. Our "last" dinner of Ahi, Filet Mignon, and wine of course. They even did the swirly taste thing where you feel super official like you know what your talking about with wine. (Did I give away that I don't? I said I enjoy the glass... not that I am knowledgeable) The next morning we had breakfast and a swim, checking out as late as possible. We took the way we hadn't come back to San Jose. With our flight delayed we had to spend a full night there. At La Sabana we found a dingy room in the ghetto of Costa Rica... reality check, we were heading home to Los Angeles. What a way to prepare us for the flight home, that included screaming child free of charge. Next time we stick to red eyes and finish with Oxygen Jungle Villa style.