Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rancho Pacifico, Costa Rica

When choosing Costa Rica as a vacation destination I knew that the beach was going to be very important.  However, it's different than going to Mexico or the Caribbean where the resorts are right on the beach.  Costa Rica has really strong conservation laws, which is great because it protects all the monkeys and birds that we all love to go see, but it means that the hotels are built a little farther back from the ocean.  In the area we were in called Uvita, there is a layer of rain forest between the beach and the city where you'll often find diverse wildlife that will come right up onto the beach.  In the more touristy town of Manuel Antonio, which I avoided on this trip, but went to before the monkeys will come right onto the beach and steal food and drinks right from your bag (which is why you should be super careful when hiking with bug repellent because if they steal and eat it, it will kill them).  The hotel we picked was about a 15 minute drive from the beach, but only because it's on top of such a steep hill and you have to drive very slow up and down it.  There are a bunch of advantages though to being on top of that hill- the two biggest were the wildlife and the temperature.  We were deep into the jungle at the top of our hill and had incredible wildlife sightings right from our villa.  We rented out their private three bedroom villa, which was perfect for a family of adults traveling together or for a group of couple friends who want to share space but also have their own rooms.  It's very open so I wouldn't say there's an incredible amount of privacy, but the openness is amazing to watch the toucans, monkeys and killer sunsets from the bed, shower or out on the porch.  The only downside to the villa was the steep walk to the main part of the hotel where the restaurant, pool and internet are, which is not so bad in the morning, but terrible after a couple drinks in the evening and makes it hard to just run back to the room if you forgot something while lounging by the pool.

The hotel was wonderful and we enjoyed our time both there and off site going hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving and whale watching.  Because of the steep drive we ate dinner every night at the hotel, but the chef was wonderful and prepared us a different hot sauce every evening, which was wonderful because most Costa Rican food is on the blander side and we love spicy! My favorite day of the trip was when we chartered a private boat for just my family and while my parents and I went snorkeling off of Cano Island my sister went scuba diving with a dive master and then we all went over to an uninhabited small island where we lounged, ate lunch, and swam in the water feeling like we were on our own private island.  It was incredible.  We finished the afternoon by whale watching on the way back and spotted 7 humpbacks including a small calf who was only a few weeks old.  In addition to the first hotel we stayed at, Monte Azul, I highly recommend Rancho Pacifico as well!  It  was a perfect winter getaway and warms me up looking back at the photos now that I'm stuck in the coldest NYC winter ever!
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