Thinking about our 5.5 week family vacation in Costa Rica really, really makes me wish I was a better writer so I could capture in words a bit about the trip. But, as I type that, I realize that I can share the trip but not with words, through photographs. I took something like 2000 snapshots so surely can give you a taste of our adventure, imperfect though it may be.
As far as words, it was truly an adventure in every sense. We all got outside our comfort zones and, even better, we all still love (and like!) each other. The kids were amazing. I would say four is a bit young for this type of mega vacation but Oscar did great and it seems like Costa Rican's (Ticos) love kids so even at his worst he usually got smiles (or at least us parents got nods of understanding rather than annoyance). Biscuit was a total trooper.
Not that it was an option to leave them home but, I can honestly say, having them both along made the trip much better. Four year olds have an amazing perspective on the world and in a new place, the eyes of a four year old see things us older folks would never notice. And the upbeat attitude of a nine year old comes in really handy too. "I LOVE this, it's the BEST thing EVER!" (about every new place we went).
So, photos. Unedited (SOOC as they say) but at least I have them downloaded. Now that I've looked at them it's clear I have more than one posts' worth of images so lets start with the 'grass hut.'
We rented this house for a month (we used VRBO which I would NOT recommend--it's also listed on AirBnB). As you'll notice, the house is quite secluded, in the jungle, only accessible by boat and doesn't have walls. But it was quite large, did have plumbing and a kitchen and the roof didn't leak so it was sort of like camping and sort of not. Manuel (the caretaker) came every other day to bring fresh ice for the icebox and he was happy to give us boat rides to the road for the bus to town but otherwise we were pretty on our own.
Arriving with a boat load of all our stuff plus our groceries. It was high tide when we arrived. No private beach at high tide--the ocean hit the jungle.
The kids' faces on our first boat ride with Manuel. We quickly gave up on raincoats in the warm sprinkle rain of Osa Peninsula and hung them in the bedroom (where mine proceeded to mold because nothing ever ever dries in the humidity). We kept the life jackets :)
One more view of that first boat ride. It was seriously disorienting. High tide, almost dark, slightly rainy and he was dropping. us. off. with whatever groceries we thought we might need and a quick review of light switches, water systems and how to light the stove. Ahhhh!
But then our private beach came back!
And we found out that, at low tide, we could walk to the only neighbor. Who was a giant, beautiful, closed resort. The owner lives there alone with many, many houses, a staff of groundskeepers and some dogs. Very odd but he said we could walk through his property so that was nice. He had a super, duper steep driveway that led to the road so in theory we could have walked there to catch the bus but the logistics of tide tables overlayed with bus schedules overlayed with the super, duper, can hardly walk up it driveway meant we always opted for the boat to the bus. But the grounds were fancy!
Also, kayaks. Though it turns out we aren't that into kayaks. And the kayaks were parked in a pile of biting ants so they didn't see a ton of action.
So we swam a lot. The water was 90 degrees and dead calm (we were at the very top of a narrow gulf--Golfo Dulce if you have an atlas handy. Or google maps). Anyway, great for swimming and Oscar got wonderfully comfortable in the water (in a life vest).
Believe it or not, our family friends visited us in the hut for four nights on the way to their own family vacation in Belize! They pointed out that we might try snorkeling and wow were they right. Tons of fish! We also saw an eel and a ray and a puffer fish. Biscuit and their younger son had a blast diving down. Which led to Biscuit getting a bit of swimmers' ear. Luckily antibiotic ear drops are over the counter in Costa Rica.
So, things to do when you live in a grass hut in the jungle that has a beach only at low tide. Hike the short/steep trail around the property (only at low tide! it ends on the beach! ask how we know!)
Monopoly. I kind of hate Monopoly but the iPad app is actually really cool. We played a LOT.
Movies. Thank goodness we brought a computer and that my friend loaned us a pile of DVDs. The kids watched them. A lot. We tried to do movies after dinner/dark (it was full dark at about 6 pm so that was the same time) or if it was raining buckets but a lot of movies were watched. Especially: Tom and Jerry, Incredibles, Cars 2, and Roadrunner.
iPhones and minecraft.
Dominoes--real games and made up ones. Plus a LOT of domino towers and slow mo videos of domino towers toppling.
Oh, have I mentioned the cocktails? We used the tropical fruit in the yard to concoct smoothies (for the kids) and then we added tequila (for us). Kind of fun kitchen experiments! The ice is in a big block because Manuel froze plastic bags full of water as ice for our icebox. After he refilled, we'd chop up the 'old' ice for drinks.
Of course, there was always nature. Like the little family of howler monkeys sunning themselves in the tree outside our loft "window" (this was an iPhone photo taken through binoculars--they were close but not iPhone close) I could post a LOT of photos/videos of howlers, capuchins and coatis but I'm restraining myself.
Big tree (I CANNOT resist captioning!)
Our other primary socialization/entertainment was whatever Manuel (nicest guy on the planet) suggested. Fishing? Yes! Visiting islands? Yes! Visiting his home to see his palm oil tree farm and woodshop and kids? Yes!
A super lucky fishing day (and super yummy fish tacos!)
Palm oil fruits, cut by hand, collected by horse cart. Rather fascinating!
Very tiny islands.
With many, many shells and bits of coral on the teeny tiny beach.
Also, he took us up a river/mangrove swamp that was silent and interesting and filled with birds and lizards and completely boring to the children so was actually an exercise in trying to keep them quiet while we enjoyed the tranquillo of the river. Oh well :)
This is the 'grass hut'
the view out the front 'door'
and sunset on our beach (at low tide)
It's 1 am so I'll stop this mega -post here with a cute photo of the kids on Manuel's boat. More soon about the rest of our adventures.