Costa Rica Pura Vida and Bocas del Toro Panama!!!! (PART 1)

Costa Rica originally was not on my list of places to visit, but resulted to be an incredible 2 week journey, during which, we decided to take advantage of Panama being so super close and went to Bocas del Tora, Panama the last 2 days of our trip.

costa rica and panama

As most of you know, I’m originally from Mexico.  Every Latin American country has their own slang and own special words that have special meanings or are only used in certain areas.  These are the new words that I learned, tipical Costa Rican words…
Ticos … That is what they call people from Costa Rica because many of their words end in “tico” meaning small or with endearment.
Soda —  This is a small restaurant (normally called restaurante pequeño).
Pulperia — This means a small grocery store (normally called tiendita).
Cabina — This means cabin, but in Mexico we have always used the word cabaña, so it was weird for me to get used to…
Pipa fria (Cold pipe)  — Thats what Costa Ricans call a coconut!
Chancho is the word they use for pig…  I have grown up only using the word cerdo, another adjustment.
Lastly, when someone says Thank you (gracias) instead of answering de nada or your welcome, most Costa Rican’s will respond “Con Gusto” which means “With pleasure”!!!
There were many other words and phrases that surprised me too, but with practice, after a couple days, we were able to start communicating like the locals! : P

The fruit was delicious!  I loved all the native fruits of Costa Rica, but the “gallo pinto” (rice and beans) that we got for breakfast, lunch and dinner was a little bit too much. I was always looking for breakfast empanadas, they’re handmade YUMMMMM.

It is impossible not to fall in love with the scenery.  It was amazing to be able to interact with the animals in their natural habitat and all activities are outdoors!!

One thing that was not my favorite was the weather, super humid and hot!  It seems to me that Costa Rica only has two seasons… hot and SUPER HOT!  Supposedly we went during the winter months, but all I felt was heat, heat and more heat, and the rain was impressive!  It didn’t matter if it rained or was raining, all the activities continued!

As many of you probably would, I checked out a whole bunch of websites about places to see and go, the weather, what to expect, etc before we left on the trip.  There was tons of information, but what was most helpful for me were the tips my friends who had already traveled to Costa Rica had given me.  Also talking to locals once we got down there who shared a lot about their country.  Costa Rica is beautiful, and easy to cross quickly because it is a very small place.

Here are the places we decided to go….

We we told to try to stay in different hotels,  so we split the trip up into 4 different hotel stays, which turned out to be a really good idea.  Our arrival and departure point was the Airport Juan Santamaria in Alajuela, Costa Rica.
0 … Alajuela, Costa Rica (Juan Santamaria Airport)
1 … Puntarenas, Costa Rica
2 … Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
3 … Monte Verde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
0 … San Jose, Costa Rica (Juan Santamaria Airport)
4 … Bocas del Toro, Panama
0 … Alajuela, Costa Rica (Juan Santamaria Airport)

We arrived at the airport in Alajuela, rented a car and went straight to the hotel in Puntarenas.  The roads are nice but very twisty!!!


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Puntarenas is a tourist spot for “Ticos”.  We had lots of fun.  The people were super friendly and they like tourism/tourists.  We did a day trip to the Manuel Antonio Park (about 2 hrs distance).  I didn’t mind the drive because I was just happy to see all the vegetation and wild life.  I loved seeing all the green, the random flowers, leaves, etc, but when we got to the beach we found white faced monkeys! They are so cute!! Some of them had their babies on their backs.

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We saw raccoons that would open up people’s backpacks to steal their food.  It was super fun to watch how they behaved with each other and with the people.

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We saw and heard other species of monkeys, but we didn’t interact with them.  We went hiking on the trails, visited the different beaches, waterfalls and saw many other small animals such as lizards of various types and colors, and insects!  I wasn’t as much of a fan of the insects, hahahaha  but they are a part of nature and a part of the beauty of the experience!  It was amazing!

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The next day, we got on a small boat and went to go see dolphins!  Ok, so they weren’t EXACTLY dolphins, they were their cousins.  I don’t remember the species name, but they are very similar.  We loved it and we got along really well with the family that gave us the tour, so we decided to go to the “Isla Tortuga” (Turtle Island) with them again the next day!

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So, the last day we were in Puntarenas, we went to Isla Tortuga.  We arrived at the hotel where the boat and snorkling equipment was already waiting for us!  We were very close to a swamp area.  I don’t normally freak out about crocodiles, but for some reason I did not want to get too close!!  We had time to talk with Indira Gandhi and her family (they were whom we rented the boat tour from).  They told us about the different ways the villagers would scare the crocodiles to keep them close to the river, so they wouldn’t go into the village.  They talked about the story of an enormous crocodile named Pancho (who has recently passed away) who was the pet of an elderly villager.  There were YouTube videos about Pancho and his owner.  National Geographic even came to the island to do a documentary about them.

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We passed by a few different islands before we arrived at our destination such as “El Negrito” (Black Island) and “La Isla de la India Dormida” (Sleeping India Island), named for the fact that it is the same shape as an Indian woman sleeping.  You can see the hair, head, mouth, body, legs and feet.  We went snorkeling, it was awesome!!  It was the first time I had been in the ocean after many many years on dry land!  It took a lot for me to get in the water, since I was very very tramatized after seeing the movie Jaws! hahaha

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Someone decided to give food to the fish super close to me.  I got to play with them and even touch them while they were snacking.

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Then we went to Turtle Island to eat.  It is a super nice place, the perfect beach atmosphere.  They have tons of different types of tours relating to water/ocean activities, many restaurants, souvenirs shops, etc.  We saw macaws and the star of the island Filomena, a wild boar!  They said she was a pig but she behaved like a dog.  Everybody on the island loves Filomena, and she follows people around, going up to them just waiting to be petted.  Filomena will throw herself at your feet waiting for you to pet her.  The local villagers scratch her tummy and rub sand on her, she seems to really like it!  People come and go from the island, but Filomena is always there.  Some of the people told me she even has Facebook!  I was told that in the old days, there were some tourists that started giving Filomena alcohol.  They said that she became addicted and would follow them around begging and begging for more.   Since then, she has been rehabilitated and now the locals watch her very closely to make sure that no one gives her alcohol so that she doesn’t relapse.

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Don Santos, someone we met on the island, told me that in the last five years Costa Rican’s have planted 5 million trees.  That the country works almost entirely with renewable energy, and it is estimated that in about 5 years Costa Rica will be using 100% renewable energy and 75% of the land will be protected.  Most fences are made by planting trees.

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Arenal Volcano

Before arriving at our next stop, we went to the Rio Celeste.  It is quite a sight to see!  The amazing color of the water, the amazing beauty of nature… It was perfect.

Laguna AzulFormacion Rio Celeste

The waterfall did not seem real, partly because of how beautiful it was and partly because you go down soooo many steps in order to get there that you aren’t quite sure if you finally arrived or if you are just hallucinating.

Puente Rio CelesteCascada Celeste

I do have to admit that on the way down there was more than one spot where it smelled really REALLY bad (*insert rotten egg smell here*), but I would go through it all again in split second!  It is worth it!  Also, you can see the Tenorio Volcano from the same place!    Volcan Tenorio

Once we got to the Arenal Lodge we rented a villa with a view so incredible it is worth waking up at 5am just to see the sunrise!!

Lobby del Arenal LodgeChalet Areanl Lodge

I am not a morning person but I found myself waking up at dawn just to see the first rays of the sun and hear the cries of the Howler Monkeys.  It was so inspiring!  It was the perfect time to start thinking about new designs and colors!  From our hotel we could see both the volcano and the lake, so we spent a lot of time their relaxing and taking in the sights.  We only went into the town “La Fortuna” to have dinner and walk around a little bit. The volcano can be seen from almost any point in town… it blows out smoke a little bit, but no one has seen any lava come down for years.

Volcan del Jardin del Hotel Amanecer Volcan  Iglesia La Fortuna  Panoramica del cuarto Reflejo del Volcan Arenal Lodge Volcan de noche

We were able to rest and we also took a day trip to the cloud forest of Mistico, where we walked across rope bridges (made of metal).

Turist Entry MISTIC

Happy Couple on Bridge Excitment Bridge

I know I’ve said this about 500 times now, but seriously the view was stunning!  The amazing scenery just never seemed to stop!!

Mushroom Tree Wet Flower Hairy Leaf Spider Crazy Rain Drop End

It was so much fun, and kinda scary walking across the bridges that were so high up in the air..  It was hard not to scream sometimes when the wind would pick up… it felt like even the more stable bridges were moving under my feet… but I did my best!  : $

High Pillars

From there we went to the La Fortuna Waterfall.  You had to go down 500 steps to get there, and then guess what…. you have to go back up them!!!  It was not something that sounded very tempting and like everything else super-exhausting, but it was worth it to se the force of nature and the sound of the waterfall.  The water was very cold so I did not get in, but there were many people enjoying the water.  I walked among the stones and took pictures, basically just admiring the beauty of the place.

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Hanging bridges, waterfalls, and still the day was not over!  Next we went to some hot springs and while we were relaxing in the WARM water, we found some street art under the bridges.

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It was a magical place.  The water was at the perfect temperature and candles melted in the stones.  People go there all hours of the day… I can imagine that it would be very romantic at night.  I am not a fan of toads or snakes and in the evening is usually when they decide to go for a walk, so we decided to enjoy the springs in the afternoon.  It was still pretty amazing!  It made me think about how you can listen to the sounds of nature at all hours of the day, and how different nature sounds during the day as opposed to at night.

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Our stay at the Arenal Volcano finished, but I was really inspired, so it was the perfect time to design something. Before we left it was time to change my look, my wardrobe demanded it !!!

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Look for a DIY Pink Blouse with fringe coming soon!

So, this is just the first half!  Come back soon to find out about the rest of our trip and more DIY projects!
I would love to hear from you!  Where have you gone recently that has inspired you in your home/personal life or worklife??  As always, your suggestions, comments or questions are very welcome,  just put them in the comments below and I will be sure to get back to you!  Please share this with others so we can continue to have fun and help the environment at the same time!



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