Trip Report: Costa Rica – Day 1
We started our trip on Tuesday morning when we left for the airport at 3 am. The memories of this morning are very foggy – we somehow made it onto a plane and headed for Miami. At some point the sun came up and it was time to land in Miami. Something seemed off as we were approaching the tarmac in Miami, “has the pilot put the wheels down yet?” “Isn’t the runway right there?” Sure enough at the last minute the pilot pulled back and we were headed back into the sky to circle around and try again. Fortunately on the second go around we landed safe and sound. A quick tram ride and we got to our next gate just in time to board the flight for San Jose.
Getting through San Jose airport was pretty easy and the immigration process was quick and we were on our way. On the other side of immigration we met with our driver, Francisco – a friendly local man who would take us on our 4.5 hour journey to our first destination. Before we got on our way we stopped to say hello to Alexis our travel agent who came to the airport to greet us and give us a little gift bag with some local candies and bottle of wine.
We chatted on and off with Francisco on the drive and he gave us some advice on local food and suggested Gallo Pinto (beans and rice although the literal translation is “spotted rooster”!) was one of the most popular dishes in the region. We took note of this, eager to try it out. Little did we know we wouldn’t have to try hard to sample this dish… it was served at every meal for the next 5 days! At some point in the middle of the car ride we stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant that Francisco picked. While we ate our lunch in the open air dining room we were able to take in our first sampling of the landscape and country. All of the plant life was so green and tropical while the air was very thick with the humidity. There goes the nice hair! At this point we were a bit overwhelmed from being in a new country, learning the customs and how to communicate so we weren’t sure what to order. I ordered the first thing I recognized…. Grilled cheese. I am still being teased mercilessly for this. Knowing Little Star has a more discerning palate I suggested she get Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken). This turned out to be one of the better dishes we ate on the trip. We washed this down with a bottle of Coke Light (no ice!)
Back in the car to keep driving while trying to and avoid car sickness on the twisty mountain roads. (Tip: always look straight ahead!) After driving for what seemed liked forever Francisco dropped us off at our hotel for the first two nighs – the Riu Guanacaste on Matapalo beach. When we first walked in the resort looked palatial – everything was newly constructed and looked so big. There are 5 restaurants, 6 bars, many pools and an ocean front beach.
We were very tired by this point since we had been traveling since 3 am Boston time but we also knew we had such limited time here we wanted to make the most of it. We checked in, dropped our bags in the room and set out to explore. The resort was all inclusive so our first stop was to get a snack to tide us over until dinner. We grabbed a plate of nachos which had a tasty black bean sauce, salsa and lots of cheese. (ok it was probably cheese whiz – yikes!) After our snack we checked out the sports bar where we tried to play ping pong for a while until Palm (that’s me, Pam pronounced in the local accent) got tired of spending all her time chasing the ping pong ball around the bar while Little Star stood still and returned every shot.
For dinner we wanted to try the steak house at the resort which I had read really good reviews about. Sadly, they require 24 hours advance reservation and reservations can only be made from 9am until noon. So really it’s not possible to make reservations at the steak restaurant unless you’re visiting for more than 3 days. We also never actually saw this restaurant so I’m not convinced it actually exists ;). We ended up eating the Toucan restaurant which is supposed to be the “gourmet” restaurant at the resort. They offer a 3 course menu and I think there were three choices for each course. Little Star had the ceviche and is still talking about this as being the best dish of the trip. I had some kind of steak in a tamarind sauce and it was okay.
After dinner, while totally exhausted we still wanted to get as much of the experience as we could. We went to the old person’s bar, Filidelfia, where we had some excellent Mojitos. Then we wandered over to see the entertainment at the theatre. We did not make it long before we had to go to our room to pass out!