New Year in Costa Rica

2014.01.01.a2014.01.01.b2014.01.01.cWith several attendings gone and co-fellows helping to cross-cover, I was able to arrange my first week-long vacation in fellowship to spend New Year’s with my wife. The options were slim given the little time we had to plan, the costly airfare flying from different cities, and most hotels being sold-out for the holidays. We ultimately decided to explore ecotourism in Costa Rica at the Los Angeles “cloud forest”, a private nature reserve that was more secluded than the better-known Monteverde cloud forest. Our trip began on Saturday with a morning flight to San Jose, where my wife, despite having overslept her connection, was able to rendevous with me. Our 2-hour bumpy drive to Villa Blanca did not help Melody’s migraine, but we recovered after settling into our casita, a quiet little sanctuary overlooking the misty, picturesque landscape. After dinner and a good night’s sleep, we awoke next morning for a day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. We were thankful to have opted for a private transfer instead of the cheaper group tour so that we could take our time enjoying the kaleidoscope of animal species – delicate butterflies, hefty toucans, ferocious parrots, buzzing hummingbirds, agile monkeys, colorful dart frogs, slithering snakes, and restless jungle cats – along with our niece’s school project Flat Stephanie. The lunch buffet was simple but satisfying – a welcome break from the repetitive resort menu. Before dinner, we embarked on a guided night hike, where the 10 pairs of eyes in our group located a variety of frogs, toads, spiders, and walking-stick insects, but sadly no sloths or other larger animals. On Monday, we learned to zipline among the San Luis canopies, where our professional guides and well-equipped 12-cable trail kept us feeling safe as we glided and swung through the trees. The final “superman” cable sent us soaring 106m above ground along a 552m cable back to our launch site, where we dined on delicious typical cuisine at La Arboleda. We spent the afternoon exploring the self-guided trail before trying a new board game beside our wood-burning fireplace. Next day, after trying our hands at milking a cow, we returned to San Jose. From our hotel, we set out on foot to explore bustling Central Boulevard, where we got a taste of the culture and energy of the capital city. After very authentic fare at Nuestra Tierra, we scoured the nearby crafts market for souvenirs, then returned to the hotel exhausted from all the walking. We had our New Year’s Eve dinner at the hotel restaurant, considered the best in the city, where the beautiful courtyard view made for a perfect night of celebration. Sadly, we fell asleep soon after ABC’s 30 Greatest Women in Music countdown, and could barely hear the firecrackers sound off at midnight as we drifted into peaceful slumber with Dick Clark’s NY Rockin’ Eve playing in the background. With most businesses closed on New Year’s Day, we found reprieve with HK-style dim sum at Wong’s to celebrate our last day in Costa Rica. We didn’t make it back to Sacramento until almost 4am next morning, thanks to a 4-hour delay at our Houston layover, where United’s food voucher only got us hot chocolate since the airport restaurants were mostly closed. Luckily, our board game kept us occupied and we had all of Thursday to recover. While our trip to Costa Rica would have been more satisfying without the airport drama, or if we had seen more animals, we were nevertheless thankful to have the time together, and to experience a unique New Year experience abroad.

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