Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wanderlust Wednesdays - Costa Rica Honeymoon (Part 3)

Joaquin welcomes you to our suite!

After our rafting adventure, we finally headed to our fourth and final hotel, Banana Azul in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Coast. We stayed in the Howler Suite, the best sea-viewing corner room with a wrap-around deck and the room closest to the beach. We had a hammock on our deck, as well as a rain shower and deep tub in the bathroom. The rooms had two beach facing walls were doors that opened up to allow the ocean breeze and sound of waves crashing to fill the space. We were welcomed with some fruit, candy, a bottle of wine and tokens for free drinks at the hotel bar. Our view included the beach and the ocean, as well as the hotel’s pool and turtle pond. We were able to wander to the beach to dip our feet in the Caribbean Sea and watch the sunset. We would also watch the sun rise while drinking organic coffee from our deck each morning and enjoyed a delicious homemade traditional breakfast! I think that’s one of the things I miss most about Costa Rica, the food!

Our walk to the beach

Stephy and our pool view <3

Hammock and Patio

Cori and our beach view <3

The glorious bathroom

Sunset Beach Kisses xo

The next morning, following breakfast, we set off to for our Gandoca-Manzanillo Refuge Jungle Hike. At the southeast corner of Costa Rica lies the unspoiled Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, stretching to the border of Panama. This refuge is home to monkeys, sloths, a great variety of birds and much more. The area is rich with wildlife. It is also spectacularly scenic with cliffs and hidden beaches along the water. We met up with our local naturist guide in Manzanillo town and he encouraged us to rent some giant rubber boots from him for our hike. No one had mentioned the need for knee high boots but our guide explained that the forest is sometimes dense and can hide such creatures as vipers, fire ants and warrior ants. We started by observing a large spider in the center of its web on the side of the road. Our guide shocked us when he picked up that spider and let it crawl all over his hands before placing it back. We went to the local beachfront where we purchased coconuts to quench our thirst. We spotted several groups of howler monkeys in the treetops, which was truly incredible. We also saw lizards, tree frogs and warrior ants, which were quite large! The leaf cutter ants amazed us as our guide explained their various jobs within their ant community. They were collecting leaves and leading them back to their hive, as our guide explained because a rain storm was coming. We observed many different types of trees and plant life that we otherwise would have missed without the trained eye of our guide. And he also led us to a picturesque cliff overlooking the sea where we snapped some photos. 

Hiking Boots!

Tasty Coconut

The Caribbean

Howler Monkey!

Jungle Scenery

Ferngully Tree!

Cori inside the Ferngully Tree 

Stephy inside the Ferngully Tree 

Beach Break <3

We enjoyed some wonderful fruit smoothies upon our return to our hotel that evening and felt thankful for all the wildlife we were able to see; however, we still haven’t seen any sloths! That evening Stephanie opted to have a massage while on our balcony by her personal masseuse. She still talks about that massage to this day, months later! It was well deserved after our daylong hike in the rainforest.

Walking back to our hotel

Fruity Drinks!

Sunsets and Relxation!

Crystal Blue Caribbean

The next morning we learned that our surfing lessons were been cancelled due to a lack of waves. We weren’t aware when booking, but the Pacific side was better for surfing at this time of the year and the Caribbean side was better for snorkeling. So we booked a snorkeling tour instead of wasting the day away. I expected a catamaran boat would be docked at the harbor waiting for us, which is what we were planning for the Pacific side; however, we were shocked to see a small 6 person boat with a single motor waiting in the waves along a small beach. We boarded along with another young couple and the driver sped out towards the Parque Nacional Cahuita, the largest system of Coral Reefs in Costa Rica. The guide explained that this reef included 6 species of coral, a wide range of colorful tropical fishes and the occasional encounter of a harmless reef shark or stingray. We were hoping to see a shark or stingray, well Stephanie was hoping but she did get her fill of lionfish! This beach had a horseshoe shape, with the entrance of the park at one end and beautiful Punta Cahuita at the other end. We geared up with masks, snorkels and fins and then jumped right into the crystal clear blue water of the sea. We enjoyed two snorkeling sessions in two slightly different locations. Following the guide allowed us to observe different varieties of fish and underwater coral and plant life. He picked up a starfish and carefully placed it in each of our hands as well as a sea urchin called Diadema antillarum, also known as the lime urchin, black sea urchin or the long-spine sea urchin. If you have ever seen one, they look terrifying, but are actually not very dangerous as long as you’re careful when handling them. During one of the moments when we went up to the surface for air, Stephanie didn’t realize she was treading water right over the coral home of two lion fish. I saw them charging at her under the surface and there are two things I know about lionfish: they are territorial and they are venomous! Yelling to her among the waves with a snorkel in my face was tricky, but thankfully she moved out the way and was unharmed! What a story that would have made if she was stung! It was only within the last 20 years that lionfish have inhabited the Caribbean Sea. They are native to the Pacific Ocean and have somewhat taken over since first being introduced by accident.

The Boats!


After our adventurous snorkeling expedition, we were dropped off at the Punta to enjoy a delicious fruit and snacks break at the beach. Stephanie took this time to swim in the shallows and I photographed the gorgeous surroundings. We then embarked on a 1 hour guided hike in this wonderful coastal forest. We first saw some bats, sleeping across the trunk of a tree, just as we had days before in Manuel Antonio. We explained to our guide that we hadn’t found any sloths during our 9 day trip. He made sure to keep his observant eyes peeled and we spotted not one but three sloths, one even had a baby on its back! We saw some crabs, birds, poison dart frogs, and a very large iguana sunbathing. We ended our trip with some shopping and beach fun before heading back to our hotel.

Exploring the waters

Ready for our beach walk!

Cool Iguana


Beach Lovin' Cori

Splish, splash!

Beach Lovin' Stephy

Riding the waves!

Our last night in Costa Rica was terribly romantic. We walked into town, heading to our destination for couple massages. We were greeted with some herbal iced tea and warm foot soaks as well as some local chocolates. Our massages were wonderful, considering I was dying in pain from some terrible sunburn on top of my thighs from the white water rafting trip. After melting to relaxation bliss, we headed over to Stashus con Fusion for a romantic dinner in the open air restaurant. It was wonderful and we spent our last night listening to the waves crash along the beach.

Final night

Perfect Honeymoon! 

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P.S. We miss the food!