Quepos, Costa Rica

We arrived in Quepos on August 10th. The Airbnb host was very nice and picked us up at the bus station. The apartment was located on a very local street with a lot of ticos (Costa Ricans) homes. There was a friendly local family living in the house below our apartment. Unfortunately, they did not speak any English but he introduced himself and we always said hola while passing by. The family had two very friendly dogs and the small Chihuahua would come to visit us on our porch. The larger dog was kept down below, but on our last day, he got out to visit us and was very friendly. It amazed us that he could fit between the columns to access our porch.

 

On our first full day, we went to explore the shops in Quepos. It was a pretty small town, probably about 5 by 10 blocks, right next to the water. There was a very nice walking path around the water leading to the colorful Quepos sign right on the edge of town.

We continued walking on the path in the opposite direction and reached the Quepos Marina. This was a newly constructed plaza with shopping, restaurants, and tourist excursions. We came to the Marina a couple different times just to sit, relax, and listen to the ocean. One day, we walked past the Marina and found a nice park with an outdoor gym and exercise machines.

The biggest highlight from our trip to Quepos was visiting the Manuel Antonio National Park. The entire time we had been in Costa Rica all Tim had wanted to do is see a monkey. He talked about it all the time and anytime we were near what might have been considered a rainforest, he would start calling out for George. You know, George the curious monkey? Well, George never came when he was called until we went to Manuel Antonio National Park. And after that, we saw George and all his friends quite often.

 

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The Manuel Antonio National Park is the smallest, but most popular national park in Costa Rica. The park had multiple beaches and hiking trails, which mostly consisted of walking up and down stairs. My legs were very sore the next day.

We saw a group of monkeys on the path while walking to one of the beaches. They were jumping and swinging from all of the trees. When we were relaxing in our hammock on the beach another group, or maybe the same group, of monkeys invaded the trees above us. One monkey actually tried to steal our plastic bag with our flip-flops. After a short tug a war match between Tim and the monkey, Tim won and the monkey ran away empty-handed.

We were in the middle of the last hiking trail of the park when it started to downpour. We had to get out of the park and run to the bus in the pouring rain (around 3 miles). Who would have thought it would rain in the rainforest?

One evening we went to eat at the Tico Rico restaurant that was located in a hotel on the side of the mountain. It was covered by the trees and had a beautiful view of the water and sky. While we were eating a monkey walk across the restaurant’s roof and jump into the trees below us. Our waiter told us that in the mornings they had to be extra careful because the monkeys would try to get into the kitchen and steal the food. We went back another night to this restaurant and got to enjoy the pool and water slide.

We took an hour bus trip and spent a full day in Uvita and went to Marino Ballena National Park, which is actually just a beach. What makes the beach special is that it has a huge sandbar shaped like a whale tail that is only visible during low tide. Unfortunately, we got to the park right when the tide was rising and we weren’t able to fully enjoy the sandbar. But, we were still able to relax on the beautiful beach.

Our last day came too soon, literally. We got the dates mixed up and thought we had another full day. We were planning to go back the Manuel Antonio National Park and do a couple other last-minute things. Oh well. Lucky our host sent us a message the night before asking us what time we were planning to leave. This allowed us to wake up extra early to pack and clean up.

This was a beautiful area and we are blessed that we were able to create these lasting memories.

Jaco Costa Rica

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Jaco is the prime example of a beach town. The area is known for tourist and the main strip is filled with restaurants and shops of all types. Everything you need is in easy walking distance; we didn’t get on a bus or call an Uber during the stay. Surfing is one of the main reasons tourist visit Jaco. During our stay, the waves would get up-to 10ft tall. The language barrier was non-existent because most everyone there is fluent in English or knew enough to get by.

Our Jaco trip began by catching the bus from the 7-10 Bus Station in San Jose. The tickets were $5 per person and the trip was two hours long. We meet a passenger on the bus that spoke English and we had our first English speaking conversation while in Costa Rica. He was an older man and we were skeptical of his motives at first, he looked like he might’ve asked us for money or tried to sell us something at any moment. However, he turned out to be friendly and gave us some helpful tips about the area.

 

Our room was right on the main strip, one block away from the beach. Each morning we walked to the beach and found a different spot to hang the hammock. We never hung it in the same spot twice, but one of our favorite spots was on the north end of the beach, which was a more secluded area surrounded by large boulders in the water.

 

Lose dogs roamed all over the town and beach. They all seemed very friendly but kept a respectable distance. At first, we thought the all were strays, but they looked much healthier than normal strays. We finally learned that it is very common for pet owners to allow their dogs to roam free and the dogs would just come home when they were hungry. It seemed like a perfect life for a dog. Come and go as you please and spend the majority of the day on the roaming the beach.

 

There was no use looking at the weather app while in Jaco. Each day, and hour, it would say the same thing: high of 84, low of 81, and a 50% chance of rain. It rained at least once every day. Sometimes it was just a light sprinkle that lasted 3 hours or a heavy downpour lasting a couple minutes.

 

Although most days were pretty cloudy, we spent each sunset out on the beach. A couple nights we lucked out and had a beautiful view. We stayed near the north end of the beach and it wasn’t until our last night in Jaco that we discovered that the south side had a much prettier view of the sunset.

 

There were multiple tents set up on the beach advertising local surfing lessons. We decided to make the most of being tourists and took surfing lessons from one of the local guides. The best spot for surfing lessons was on the south side of the beach, the waves are much calmer and great for beginners. This was a great experience and lasting memory. Tim and I were both able to stand up as we rode the waves in. Tim did a much better job than me and stood up on almost every wave. I kept putting my font foot in the wrong spot making me lose balance and tumbling over. But regardless, we both had a great time.

 

While surfing, the guide pointed out a local lookout spot that you could see from the beach. It was an old abandon building, probably a restaurant or hotel but no one know for sure, that had a beautiful view of Jaco. The hike up the Mountain was paved for the most part and a lot easier than I expected. We felt completely immersed in the rain forest. Tim eagerly kept his eyes open for monkeys, but we had no luck. The building itself was very unique. It had three tiers and the top and second tire were completely open. The bottom tier was sectioned off into what looked like six individual rooms; each one had a spot for a balcony and bathroom.

 

One of Jaco’s main attractions, besides the beach itself, was the Jaco Walk. This was a brand new shopping plaza area filled will upper-class restaurants, stores, and coffee shops. We explored this plaza almost once every day mainly so Claire could use the bathroom. Our favorite trip to the Jaco Walk was when we went to the Puddle Fish Brewery. We struck up a conversation with one of the brewers and a couple at the bar from Settle, Washington. The wife was a Spanish teacher and had just ended a school trip in Costa Rica, she stayed an extra week after and her husband met her there. The beer, food, atmosphere, and company were great.

 

We really liked Jaco and would defiantly consider going back if we had the opportunity.

 

 

South Bimini, Bahamas

Take a moment to close your eyes and try to picture paradise. Imagine sitting in a hammock under palm trees, the sunny salty air all around, and the sound of waves crashing on the shore.  Yep, that was Bimini. Honestly, we would have been happy if Bimini was the only traveling we got to experience.

The Diaz family kindly welcomed us to their beach house and showed the most gorgeous sights around the island. We got to snorkel through SS Sapona (a sunken concrete ship), ride jet skis, drive and ride the golf cart all around the island, feed and swim with stingrays and sharks at Honeymoon Cay, fell in love with Bimini bread, ate conch fritters and conch salad for the first time, and found a countless amount of sea glass on the beach.

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Feeding the stingrays and sharks at Honeymoon Cay was one of my favorite highlights. This was an experience that people would pay big money for and we were able to tag along just because it was a local spot that they knew about. There were dozens of stingrays and sharks swimming around waiting to be fed. The stingrays would swim right towards you and then turn at the last second, but their fins would brush up against your body. This is a memory we will keep with us for the rest of our lives.

We were in Bimini during the 4thof July, and Uncle Wayne brought a ton of fireworks to set off. Tim, Máximo, Isabel, and I had a blast lighting the fireworks and watching them explode in the sky. One of the firework boxes ended up tipping over and shooting under one of the neighbor’s beach house. Thankfully no one and nothing got hurt, but it sure is a funny story to tell.

Another neat thing about Bimini was meeting and interacting with the locals. Every Saturday night the locals would have a huge bonfire on the beach. The local residences were a mix between actual local Bahamians and retirees. One of the local residences carved faces, or full people, in the dead trees. His name was Mike and he drove his tractor around the island. We tried to find all 13 cravings, but were only able to find 6.

But, even in paradise there are bumps in the road. In Bimini, those bumps were noseeums. These were tiny little bugs that are very similar to mosquitoes but even smaller and more annoying. Tim and I both got eaten up, my legs getting the worst of it. But on the bright side, neither of us got sun brunt!

We can’t thank the Diaz family enough for allowing us to spend the week with them in paradise.

Florida

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Spending time in Florida was a great start to our adventure. We were able to relax, research our trip, and spend time with family. The time in Florida felt like a transitioning period. It was very different from our normal everyday life in PA, but we weren’t yet on our own traveling. Tim and I had multiple “I can’t believe this is actually happening” moments and spending time in Florida allowed us to mentally prepare.

It was such a blessing to visit and stay with Tim’s Aunt Diane and Uncle Wayne. We learned some cooking tips that will be helpful for our travels and got to do some exciting activities. We went to an out door market, bowling with Aunt Barb and Thumper, spent a whole day out on the boat at Sebastian’s Inlet, had a family pool party/cook out, and a midnight trip to the beach with Aunt Barb. These were just some of the highlights that we were able to enjoy.

We also took a couple days to visit my brother John in Jacksonville. We spent one evening exploring the local restaurants in the JAX beach area. On John’s day off, we took a day trip to St Augustine, which is the oldest town in America. We started at the Fountain of Youth and learned about the first settlers and then went to the downtown area for lunch. Tim and I did not know much about St Augustine and didn’t know what to expect. The downtown area was much larger than we had thought and we spent the rest of the day exploring the shops and restaurants.

For our last adventure in Florida we were able to spend a couple of days in Orlando. Aunt Diane had a hotel room for a conference and she let us stay with her since our flight left from the Orlando airport. It worked out perfectly. Tim and I spent most of the day lounging in the sun at the hotel pool. One evening we ate at Morimoto Asia in Disney Spring, formally known as Downtown Disney. We ordered tuna, ribs, and salmon and each of us had some of each. The food was excellent and the restaurant atmosphere was just as good. We walked around Disney Springs and were amazed by how large the area has grown.

Our flight leaves on Wednesday, July 24th at 8:48am and then we are on our way to Costa Rica!