Costa Rica, start to finish, was an adventure. There was a close encounter with some form of wildlife at least daily (both big and small, welcome and unwelcome). We often woke near dawn and went to sleep by 9. And the lessons were plentiful-always wear shoes in the grass. Scorpions are actually arachnids and they might hang out in your blinds. One should focus on passing one's time, not spending it. Washcloths soaked in ice water can save lives on a dance floor.
Before you scroll down to see photos of the wedding, I should warn you that I will be dedicating a separate post to that, next. For now, I'm going to set the stage.
Amanda and Andrew chose Punta Islita, a remote resort in the western region of Guanacaste (go ahead, say it-it's as fun as you think), for their wedding because Amanda has fond memories of the summer she spent volunteering in this central American country, and because this particular resort houses a bird sanctuary, something particularly close to the heart of Andrew (our veterinarian-to-be).
Getting there from the airport took patience, trust, and ginger candies. We were arriving at night, so in addition to the terribly bumpy roads, everything was pitch black. Our driver warned us that the end of the drive would have a remote dirt road (I assume so that we didn't accuse him of kidnapping us), and we settled in, popped champagne, and started asking him about his home country. When I asked after his favorite local animal, he paused before responding, "My younger brother." And according to him, when Costa Ricans aren't eating rice and beans, they're eating beans and rice.
When we finally arrived at the hotel after midnight, the staff was waiting with fresh juice-an auspicious preview of the amazing service that would continue through our stay!
Pochote, our villa
There were close to 50 of us in the wedding party, and we really dominated the hotel's guest list. We felt like we ran the town. We golf carted every which way around the resort, walked the beautiful grounds, swung in their benches, visited the spa, relaxed by the pools. Basically, we made ourselves right at home!
Until this year, I had never been in an infinity pool. Now, thanks to Amanda, I've been in multiple. The villas we were staying at each had their own mini-pools, and the larger hotel pools both boasted swim up bars. I had a blended drink and ceviche for lunch at the pool almost daily.
I could never seem to get the name of our villa, Pochote, right. When the waiter would ask which room to charge the meal to, I'd confidently proclaim "Pacheco" every time, like a nitwit. Unfortunately for my villa-mates, this problem was contagious, and before we knew it there were so many "P" words flying around we had no idea what home was called.
One of the best features of the hotel was that it included unlimited adventures, which was as cool as it sounds. In addition to the ones below, we also went zip lining. It started pouring down rain before we could finish all the lines (imagine flying through the air with buckets of water piercing your face), and our guides had us pack up early. As we walked back, one guide told us it was due to lightning, and I thanked him for waiting to tell us that until after we were safe back on the ground. He said, "Yes, we've learned from our mistakes." Comforting.
The first morning we jumped in a safari bus and headed to the river. Once out on the still, undisturbed water, we paddled and coasted (and sometimes ran into each other) until we reached the ocean for a break of beer and watermelon. It was a wonderful introduction to the country!
Visiting the bird sanctuary was incredible. These birds are beautiful and large, formidable and playful! They were also a little too human-friendly, getting extremely loud and incredibly close. It was amazing to observe them up close and interact.
Also, Andrew might have his sights set on coming back here as a vet one day!
Wildlife Hikes (Monkey and Bird Watching)
I had never seen a monkey in its natural habitat before, and now I've seen more howlers than I can count! The highlights were the mothers with their tiny babies attached to their backs, and watching one of the alpha males gobble down mangoes before flinging them down to the ground like grenades.
Sunset Horse-back Ride
The highlight of this adventure was getting to know the different horses' personalities. Stephanie's had to be in the lead. Brittany's and especially Victoria's stopped for grass snacks at every possible moment.
But the real highlight of our stay, of course, was the wedding...