My fellow AP Biology students and I sauntered along a small street in San Jose, Costa Rica on our way to our first dining experience in a foreign country.Rounding the corner, our senses were assaulted by blaring techno music, flashing lights and dancing bodies, in other words, a spontaneous Costa Rican dance party.Unexpected? Yes.Fun? Absolutely.This is the first of many adventures I would have while experiencing a new culture in Costa Rica.
Our group spent the first night in Costa Rica at the Balmoral Hotel in San Jose, where we spontaneously joined a local “Recafis” parade promoting healthy lifestyles. We then traveled to Arenal and stayed at Luigi’s Hotel in La Fortuna.Concerns about a hotel named “Luigi’s” debunked upon arriving, we proceeded to have numerous irreplaceable experiences.Befriending the local dog, we rose early to play ultimate Frisbee at a local high school then traveled to kayak on LakeArenal and see the active Poas Volcano explode.The next day relaxation awaited us at the gorgeous Baldi Hot Springs (http://www.arenal.net/baldi-hot-springs.htm).A true tropical oasis with over thirty pools of varying temperatures all beneath the picturesque Poas Volcano, the hot springs were the perfect place to unwind after our first few days of whirlwind activity.
The following day we rose early to depart for the Hotel Villa Verde in Monteverde.Rumors of scorpions and mold had made us skeptical of this upcoming hotel, but when we pulled up the most beautiful resort yet greeted us.Eager to seek out every corner of the rolling hills we had landed in, we followed a rugged path into the surrounding greenery.After encountering and attempting to communicate with adorable native children, we made our way back to the hotel to rest for the next day’s activities.
The next morning we boarded the bus and tackled the switchback roads leading up the mountains.This is where our zip lining would take place, courtesy of SelvaturaAdventurePark (http://www.selvatura.com/index.html).Fifteen cables, eighteen platforms, one free-fall drop and the mysterious “Tarzan Swing,” all in the heart of the Costa Rican cloud forest, awaited our challenge.The feeling of weightlessness, the breathtaking view as I soared over valleys and past walls of trees and the delighted (and terrified) shrieks of my fellow classmates as they plunged into an endless sea of green on the giant-scale rope swing affectionately dubbed the “Tarzan Swing” are experiences I will not soon forget.Adventure still awaited, however, as next day we visited ManuelAntonioNational Park.After hiking along beautiful trails, seeing sloths and being touched (yes touched!) by white faced monkeys seeking snacks, we relaxed at the most dazzling white sand beach I have ever seen.
Perhaps the best day, however, was when we visited a local school, Escuela Ciruelas. As I stepped into the single classroom it seemed as if the whole pace of the trip slowed to a crawl. The tiny room was filled with thirty students of various ages. One frazzled teacher stood at the front of the classroom. Broken school supplies littered the floor. Time seemed to freeze as we interacted with the students, presented them with school supplies, and watched as their faces lit up with thanks and curiousity. I then realized how truly lucky I am.
Immersion and adventure.These, in my opinion, are the keys to successful traveling.Do things out of the ordinary, try the local cuisine, speak with natives in their language, and most importantly, do not be afraid to try new things.This is the way to ensure that your trip will be truly memorable.
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