Costa Rica | Vol. 4 | The Wedding Finale!

Andy and Katie’s wedding at ‘Casa de Capitan’ was an incredible event and the finale of our trip. We had looked forward to the wedding day the whole week and we were happy to see that the event would be set in absolutely perfect weather. As the sun began to set we gathered on the beach and watched Katie, the gorgeous bride, come the down the aisle.

Sarah, Katrin, Vivian, Alexandra and Shan

Charlie and Me

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Anthony & Alex, Sarah and Brian

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The newly engaged.

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For the reception dinner, Shan and I were assigned to the “pantera” table.

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After the ceremony, the group enjoyed drinks and appetizers on the beach.  There could not have been a better setting.

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Fitz played a few a songs.

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The ceremony amongst the palms, the circular arrangement brought everybody close the action.

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The groom, very happy obviously.

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Mr. and (very soon to be) Mrs,

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And they’re married!

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First steps of many in a life together!

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Brian, Sarah, Katrin and Sten

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Shan, Kim, and Suzi

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The Father-Daughter dance was all time, a full, intense swing dance to Free Bird.  An instant classic.

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The Punta Coco clan, those who live together, party together and eat ‘Gallo Pinto’ together:

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This is scene looking towards the beach from the house and swimming pool, Marty, myself and Kevin.

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Flor de Cana a local rum,

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Dinner was first class, also first class were the “Shot-skis,” here the Curtis’s give a lesson in teamwork.

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Andy’s brother Erik, delivered a great speech.

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Some ‘Shot-ski’ races.

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The happy newlyweds.

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At midnight, Katie surprised Andy (and all of us) with a firework show! We were blown away!

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I really like the shot on the right here, it’s the Grand Finale on 20 second exposure hand held.  What you’re seeing on the bottom is the tent illuminated by the fireworks and framed by palm trees on both sides, quite an experience!

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Congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Curtis!!!

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Costa Rica | Vol. 3 | Santa Teresa

The ride from Manuel Antonio to Santa Teresa is a long one but very pretty and hugs the coastline the whole way.  We passed some very pretty towns including Jaco which stands out a bit in Costa Rica due to its few high rise buildings.  One ugly town we had to pass through was Puntareraus, the town where the ferry departed from.  We made our way through Puntareraus as quickly as we could and without incident that is until our last turn before boarding the ferry.  Standing in the middle of the road with his hand up was a weird looking dude and we had nowhere to go so we had to stop.  With the guy now standing on the running board right next to me, I gassed it a bit and he jumped off.  It was kind of a crazy experience and none of us were sure what he was after, we think he wanted to help us find the ferry and get a tip.  We knew the direction so he was just a hindrance.

With that passed us, we boarded the ferry for the first time.  The whole process stumped us initially, the tickets are sold out of store across the street. We boarded the ferry and were on our way. The boat had a full snack bar and even karaoke!! One Costa Rican sang the whole time and nobody had a problem with it because he pretty much killed it.  The four of us ate a churro, a taquito, and a beer.  About an hour later, we arrived in Paquera.

Once on the other side of the peninsula, we started our drive towards Playa Santa Teresa.  We heard the roads were bad, but we had NO idea.  The procession of cars that left ferry left me in the middle of the pack so I had to tackle the road at the same speed as the locals who had memorized the pattern of potholes.  This left me at a serious disadvantage.  Their line swerved on the left side of the road and included the shoulders on both the right and left side of the road. Flying down a road that was 40% pothole at 40-60kms per hours was definitely an experience.  It was nuts!

Finally, we arrived in Santa Teresa to find a big group of our friends having lunner at Burger Rancho.  Everybody literally jumped on our Mitsu’s running boards and bumpers as we drove a short distance down the road to where we’d spend the next week, Punta Coco.

“Punta Coco” was a gathering of jungle casitas (jung-alows) in the midst of dense trees, right on the beach.  The property came with a native family of caretakers who protected us and cooked us “Gallo Pinto” breakfast.

Here is the sign that marked our entrance, it was doubly important.  The sign was a marker for tourists as well as for “Rocko” one of the property’s dogs who would hang at the local bars into the early morning hours.

Looking north-west-ish from under the Punta Coco sign. “Super Ronny” is pictured, this is where we picked up water, beer and other snacks on a daily basis. This dirt road is the only road through town, so you can imagine how dusty it can get during peak hours!

Katrin, Kim and Alexandra hanging in our second story room during our first night in the jungalows.

Chris and Shannon enjoying a drink before we went out for a family dinner at “El Pulpo”.  El Pulpo served some of the best pizza we’ve had anywhere.  Shan has even vowed to learn to make pizza as good as El Pulpo’s because she liked it so much!  The chef/owner was European (and he had a really sweet sheep dog too).

Poosman and Toneman

From right to left, me, AC, Sten, Chris and Jaime (led the Costa Rican Pacific league with 17 goals in the summer of ’09, and great guy, we gave him a Laker’s shirt and even though he didn’t speak a word of English he fit right in).

Aside from surfing and lounging on the deserted beaches, Santa Teresa offers many opportunities for adventure.  On one of the days, about a dozen of us rented quads and headed south east-ish towards Montezuma to see one of the many waterfalls.  Quads are the way to do this as it provides a chance to ride on the back-country roads through beautiful farmland with several fun water crossings.

We sped along on this dirt road until we hit our first hold up.

Costa Rican road block!

These bulls were not happy!  The black one was scrubbing his front feet just like the cartoons so we held off and let them pass.  Fortunately no one got horned. Thanks to Fitz the photog for getting this picture of me and Shan participating in a stare down with “el torro negro”.

Soon after this bull encounter, I saw something move and before I had a chance to stop I ran over about a 4-5 ft snake.  It was red and after we hit it, it scurried very quickly into the green. I’m glad we didn’t kill it. The road paid off with this great waterfall.  We swam in the pool and did some jumps.  Fitz grabbed these shots with our Canon (underwater camera), kudos for the timing the second one.

Shan grabbed these great shots as the sun set on Punta Coco while I was out surfing.  Her first attempts with our ND filter and I’d say she did an ok job!  The fog is actually waves moving water while the shutter remains open. Nice job Shan!

Kim and Chris enjoying the view from Andy and Katie’s rehearsal dinner at Brisas Del Mar.  Incredible food and an even better view! Everybody was happy that the taxi driver didn’t kill us on the way up.  It was a close call as the driveway feels like 45 degree hill and at the very top he pitched his ten passenger van sideways and way off camber.

Early morning from Punta Coco, a few hundred yards down the way was where we surfed each day.

Alex and AC were newly engaged just before the trip so it added to the fun of traveling with them.

Really fun waves the whole week, Stenner.

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Katrin was getting great waves the whole week, here is one.

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Kim at our pool, where we hung out each day.

Here is one of my favorite shots of the week, Shan grabbed this after one of our afternoon sessions.

Andy and Katie’s wedding day came on a gorgeous day.  Everybody was ready to go and the cab was waiting but Sten wasn’t ready yet so it gave Shan and I some time to mess around and take some shots of each other.  I’m a lucky guy!

Shannon getting in touch with her inner-self.

The last sunset before the wedding from our pool at Punta Coco.

Stay tuned for wedding shots and more!

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Costa Rica | Vol. 2 | Manuel Antonio

[Ryan’s thoughts are in italics]

After a couple of nights in Arenal, we awoke early and packed up the car for our long trek to Manuel Antonio. We followed our trusty GPS route and passed through several small towns – all of which were extraordinarily bustling due to election day.  It was the red and white party versus the green and white party and the towns people proudly flew flags and wore their respective colors.  It was VERY cool to wear your parties flag attached to the hood (think Dukes of Hazzard – but on the hood not the roof).  Some towns were comfortable with good roads, some towns were very uncomfortable with terrible winding roads.  With surfboards on the roof, maps out, cameras and sunglasses, we screamed “TOURISTS!! RIGHT HERE IN THIS CAR”.  After passing through San Ramon (about 100 km or 2 hours from Arenal), we headed through the windiest mountain roads for another hour, we passed a big road block (not really considering why would a road block be right there) and right then the road turned into a glorious well paved wide and straight HIGHWAY! A highway! Yes! We pinned our diesel and were flying!

For only about four minutes, then we saw this (below).  A massive mudslide that covered the road with about 30ft of dirt and rocks and went on for hundreds of yards.  The road that we had just spent an hour on working our way through the mountains was now closed!  The boys went to check to see if we could just drive over it (there was no way in hell but we checked it out anyway) as the girls stayed in the car and consulted the maps.  Just out of the picture beyond the dirt we a saw a lone guy doing something weird which sealed the deal, we hopped in the car and turned around.  We had to find another way. Thankfully, the girls found that we only needed to back-track 10kms and we could catch Highway 3.

Even with three savvy navigators and a courageous driver, we were still unsure of our chosen direction.  That is until  we saw a tour bus with “Manuel Antonio” on the back. As we passed the bus, we joked, “See ya later Fitz & Kristin” knowing they were going to be in Manuel Anontio via bus that day as well.  Later on that night we found out that Fitz & Kristin were in fact actually on the bus!  Feeling at ease, we turned back on the iPhone music (we forgot the AUX cord, so all music was played through the iPhone speakers!) and cruised through Jaco (below) and arrived at Manuel Antonio many many hours after we left Arenal.

After arriving at The Suu Hotel, we flipped a coin for rooms and headed to the pool.

The newly engaged bride-to-be catching up on the latest wedding trends!

That night, Charlie, Vivian, Kristin, and Fitz came over for drinks and some good ol’ fun!  We all weighed in on Costa Rican politics and wondered who had won the day’s election.

Ryan and I brought just about every charger, cord, back-up cord you could think of, except for the AUX cord to play our iPod through the stereo. We even brought the old school tape adapter in case the car had a tape player.

Ryan, being the genius MacGyver, decided that if we sacrificed a pair of headphones and the tape adapter, he could splice the cords together and make an AUX cord. After 30 minutes into this process, he realized that the headphone cord and tape adapter had different configurations and this wasn’t going to work (did you know that inside ipod headphones there are four cords wrapped into one? Now you do!). Fast-forward to our evening dance party (with music coming out of an iPhone), I realized that our stereo had a tape player and that tape adapter Ryan demolished 3 hours prior would have worked PERFECTLY!

Once I relayed this information about the tape adapter, Ryan began his new quest — to repair the once working tape adapter!  Let’s just say he succeeded and we had music coming of real speakers for the first time!  (Stay tuned for the video which we will post in the coming days, aaaarrrrgggh)

After a fun night, we woke up early and headed to Costa Verde Hotel to meet up with Charlie, Vivian, Fitz, and Kristin for breakfast.  This is the view of the north facing side Manuel Antonio National Park from the Costa Verde Hotel.

Here is Ryan’s first order of ‘Gallo Pinto’ – the traditional Costa Rican breakfast. Little did we know that we would be eating this for the next 7 straight days.

While at breakfast, someone spotted this sloth about 10 feet away in the trees! I was creeped out at first, but I guess they are kind of cute, in a creepy-cute kind of way.  Ryan took both these pictures of this guy, while I was busy videoing!  This sloth’s name was Geoff which many tourists mess up by pronouncing “J-eff”, but it is in fact pronounced “Gee-off”.   A sloth never needs a back scratcher.

While we were all staring at the sloth, this Central American Squirrel Monkey, the smallest of the Costa Rican monkey species, made an appearance.

After the breakfast jungle adventure, we headed back to our room for a complimentary balcony massage courtesy of Melissa at Tropical Sun Villas!!!!

I love this picture Ryan took using our Tokina 12-24mm with our new polarizer!

Even Ryan got convinced on the massages!  Above is Cynthia working it out, she is an angel sent from god and this is what heaven probably looks like.

We originally planned to go to Manuel Antonio National Park on Monday, but we learned that the park is closed on Mondays.  Since Tuesday was our last day in Manuel Antonio, we decided to get up early, quickly check out the park before heading to Puntarenas to catch the ferry.  In Costa Rica as a sign of masculinity, men wear purses and stand looking toward the sky with their hands on their hips.   Below is a picture of AC and I demonstrating.

The beach was definitely one of the best things about the park.  It is completely isolated and offers beautiful views.  This crab was only one of hundreds we saw on the beach!

These White-headed Capuchin monkeys were causing a ruckus as they scoured through the trash cans in the park – specifically the trash cans that had monkey pictures on them.  I’m sure saying to put your trash in the can so the monkeys don’t eat it!  Guess those didn’t work too well!

Here is a picture of the Costa Rican trash cans. These metal containers are planted at the end of driveways and people put their trash bags in here for pick-up! Something a little different than here in America.

After two-nights and countless wildlife spottings in Manuel Antonio it was off to Santa Teresa next!

Costa Rica | Vol. 1 | Arenal

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We arrived at San Jose Airport on Friday and picked up our rental car from Dollar and headed towards Arenal.  We missed our first two exits even though we had GPS and three co-drivers.  One reason why it took three hours to to only go ~100kms.  We drove through a lot of countrysides and a few cities including San Ramon which had a pretty impressive church. Once we gained some elevation the roads became more and more twisty, we went from sun to clouds.  I was shocked by the size of the trucks that drove these narrow roads including the one way bridges.  On the road towards La Fortuna  we saw a bunch of waterfalls and fast moving rivers.

We grabbed lunch in La Fortuna at Las Brisitas and were pumped to try the local cuisine.  The ‘mexican’ food here was good, nothing out of the ordinary other than nacho cheese was substituted.  The highlight of lunch was finally reaching our destination and of course a cold Imperial beer.

We paid for lunch and headed about fifteen minutes up the road to our hotel where we’d spend the next couple of nights.  At Tabacon resort we were greeted with a glass of delicious fruit juice and were pumped to see our room had a great view of the volcano. This place was NICE!  Alex and AC came over for a cocktail and we caught a shuttle across the road to the hot springs.

My expectations for the hot springs were not too high, I was expecting jacuzzi size pools and lots of crowds with a sulfur stench.  Well I was wrong, Tabacon has hot springs of a whole other kind. It is an adult paradise.  Rivers of jacuzzi water flow through the jungle and land in lava sand bottomed pools where steam rises into the romantic light. Above the steam and exotic trees we enjoyed a star filled sky.  Sitting in the jungle, while hot water rushed around me with a cold beer was a new experience.  It was only night one, we were HAPPY campers!

The next morning was early and we headed up the hill towards our next adventure, zip-lining with SkyTrek tours.  A couple of kilometers past Tabacon, we left the paved road and headed into the tropical forest.  The plan worked out and we were the first up and got to do the tour with only us four.  This afforded us time to take in each view and mess around with our video cameras, Gustavo and Andres (our tour guides) had lots to share about the wildlife and the parasitic jungle where vines, trees and all other plants fight for sunlight.

Finally, it was time to zip!

We all howled with excitement on each line and for good reason, some of them were hundreds of feet above the jungle over half a mile long and you travel over 50mph!  Such a blast!

To refuel for the hot springs, we had dinner at Que Rico in La Fortuna and shared great pizza and a couple of beers.  Then it was on the main course, another night in the hot springs!  To top it off, we ran into Brent and Suzi and relaxed till they finally kicked us out.  Hours melt away in the hot springs at Tabacon.

We weren’t ready to leave, but next up was Manual Antonio.  Please stay tuned.

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