Discovering More than Costa Rica: Starter Costa Rica Trip Summary & Thoughts
Heather, a U30X alumni, gives you an in-depth and first hand account of our Starter Costa Rica trip.
The Post-Trip High from Costa Rica
I returned from the Under30Experiences Starter Costa Rica trip and I’ve finally come down from the high; truly experiencing that quotation first hand. The trip was eye-opening and authentic, beautiful and informative, and truly a life-changing experience. I’d say the trip exceeded all expectations and has changed the direction I’m heading, most definitely for the better.
Getting to Costa Rica
My getting to Costa Rica proved to be an adventure in and of itself. I’m talking about receiving the full pat down and secondary bag search from TSA and then going from a gate change to a delayed flight to finding the next leg canceled. Ultimately, being stuck in an airport where the terminals were not 24 hours. That led to attempting to sleep in baggage claim and just being tested beyond norms.
Despite that portion though, I’m thankful that it did not set the tone of the trip. The second day of travel was much smoother and I was delighted to be reunited with my best friend in Miami. We flew together to San Jose and the beauty of the country was instantly noticed. We deplaned, went through Immigration and then Customs smoothly before being introduced to the Under30 crew.
At this point, a third of the group had arrived, so we were able to grab lunch and start getting to know the group! Everyone was incredible and our group clicked well! We had a lot of fun talking and waiting before grabbing the bus and heading off for Quepos.
Our first stop
Was to see the crocodiles and I was truly impressed as the group was already sharing suggestions and food! It was amazing seeing the crocodiles and getting to start trying Costa Rican treats.
From there we were off to Bowie’s Point. We got to experience the beach for the first time and enjoy an awesome meal. The beach was breathtaking and the water was so warm! The food was amazing and we finished the dinner by circling up and reintroducing ourselves and stating what we hoped to get from the trip. For me personally, this was my first true vacation in over five years; I hoped to just truly step outside of my comfort zone and experience an entirely different culture. **I didn’t know just how much I would learn in five days.
From there it was on to the resort, Hotel Villas Mymosa. What an amazing property with incredible staff! The pool was definitely one of the best parts, as was the open dining area, where many great memories were made. We then got to settle into our rooms. At this point, I’ll admit I was glad to be able to turn in as I’d been up for about 38 hours but I was too excited for the days ahead, so a few of us decided to check out the pool.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Our first adventure was hiking Manuel Antonio. Beautiful is truly an understatement when describing the park. The greenery was captivating and the path challenging…in a good way. We hiked quite a bit but the view at the top was beyond worth it.
Moreover, we got to experience the deviousness of the monkeys first hand, as one snatched a water bottle from one of the young ladies in the group! The monkey knew just what to do with it, as he removed the plastic cap and then the stopper, drank the water, and then handed the bottle back to her! They certainly weren’t afraid of contact with us and were quite smart.
We saw monkeys, birds, ants, raccoons, and even a sloth mama with her baby. We then continued on to Playa Manuel Antonio, hands down the best beach! Such soft sand, variety of wildlife, and stunning scenery! We had the best little inlet and were totally content relaxing on the beach. Naturally, we had worked up quite a hunger and trekked over to El Sol for lunch. It was truly a delicious stop before heading to the next beach.
Again, we found a great inlet to put our stuff down and ventured into the water or just relaxed on the beach. We had been there a couple of hours before the tide started coming in creating a riptide. I bring this up as you really can never be too careful and sometimes people are brought together for a reason; one of the gentlemen in our group was unfortunately dragged into the riptide and required assistance.
My best friend was a trained lifeguard and without thinking twice, she was into the waves, as was one of our adventure guides. He and our second guide had devised a plan where the stronger swimmer would head out with the other staying on the beach to administer first aid and/or CPR, should it be needed.
Thankfully, there were two other gentlemen on the beach and between them and our guide, they were able to get back safely to shore. Quite an experience but thankful that it all worked out! After that, we were done in the water and wound down on the beach before heading back to the resort, where we enjoyed another delicious meal. We had a blast checking out the local night life and taking in salsa lessons to round out the day.
Day three was truly an incredible day with so many different experiences.
Two others, one of our leaders, and I got to participate in a yoga class at the Under30Experiences office. I enjoy smaller yoga sessions at home but this actually wound up being one of the highlights for me and I’m glad I changed my mind and decided to participate. After all, their office has the best view and Luz was such a great instructor. Plus, I enjoyed getting to meet Matt & Jen. I definitely went in to the next part of the day with much more energy.
From there, it was back to the hotel for a quick change as most the group was going zip lining; for those that didn’t want to zip line, they were able to enjoy the day at another private beach.
I’ll admit I was terrified but knew I’d regret not doing it. My best friend knew this too and she made sure that I didn’t chicken out. The area we zip lined through was magnificent and the Safari Adventures group was great! They were very friendly, helpful, and managed to get some great shots of the group! The best part though was being dunked at the end before heading back for lunch! They had prepared a yummy lunch for us, overlooking the landscape.
Back at the resort, we enjoyed more pool time before getting ready for dinner and the rodeo & fair. Dinner was again prepared by the resort staff and was delicious!
We just happened to be there at the right time as the fair was in full swing. Authentic food, challenging games, traditional fair rides, and the rodeo made for a new experience, especially since I’d never been to a rodeo before.
The bulls were a neat sight and our group really had a good time. Yet, some of the girls and I decided to explore a bit before enjoying some of the food. We also got to meet Jared, as he was there with Matt and Cesar. From there, it was off to the mechanical bull and seeing who was brave enough to attempt it! Quite a sight that was and so much fun! We said our good byes and grabbed taxis back to the resort.
Coffee, Surfing, and Laughing Fits
We started the next day by hiking through the former farm owner’s district.
From there it was off to Paradero Nahomi for a truly magical view with spectacular photo opportunities. Honestly hard to describe the beauty of the park and how well everything is kept up. After that, we tried homemade ice cream before venturing on to the Farmer’s Market. Local produce and souvenirs were purchased, as well as coconut waters!
Another bus ride and we were off to Café Milagro for lunch. We were joined by Matt and enjoyed more wonderful food. At this point in the afternoon, the group split up as some were going on a booze cruise, some were surfing, and three of us were relaxing on the beach. It was fun taking pictures and watching the group master surfing.
It definitely made for a great afternoon before heading back to the hotel and preparing for our final dinner. I’d have to say that dinner was definitely a highlight as well; we experienced what we declared our “8 pm Meltdown,”…laughing fits, bottles and pitchers being used as instruments, and all around fun! We also talked about our highlights from the trip, one negative aspect, and then what we hoped to continue.
For me and another gentleman, we started out with our negative aspect but the common theme was that the group wanted to continue to travel. Personally, my negative aspect was getting there, my highlight had been the yoga class, and I am truly focused on wanting to travel more. We spent so much time at the table, most retired to their rooms, while a few of us joined the guides around the pool. We sat around talking for a bit before finally turning in.
Our Final Morning
I chose to enjoy some time in the hammock; the views around the resort were breathtaking. Not to mention, the staff had been so good to us. Plus, while it was nice having wi-fi, being able to disconnect was also a relief. Breakfast was nice as we talked about going on future trips before ultimately packing up our luggage and saying good bye to two of our guides. We were accompanied by one of our guides to the airport, stopping once for a bathroom break and final souvenirs. Yet, some of us stayed together until our flight’s departures.
The sun may have set on this trip but it truly exceeded my expectations and I’m so appreciative for the experience. This trip taught me so much about myself and the Costa Rican culture. It’s hard to describe just how much I appreciate the opportunity, especially when it comes to the incredible Under30Experiences staff, the terrific people in my group, the beauty of the country, and the authentic experiences. As a result of the trip, I’ve seen that my path has changed and have set myself on quite a journey. I want to travel more! I want to get into better shape! And I want to master Spanish!