Saturday, December 8, 2018

Costa Rica Days 5 & 6: Snorkeling at Cano Island and a Lazy Day

Back to Central America we go! On the 5th day of our trip (See Days 1 & 2: Travel; Day 3: Nauyaca Falls; Day 4: Osa Canopy Tour/Catarata Uvita, for the recaps so far), we woke up early with the Howler monkeys and left the house by 6:30 to be in Uvita by 7 for our all-day snorkel adventure!

6:30 sounds early on a holiday, but the sun rises at like 4:30 and sets by 5 so we were pushing it staying awake until 8 (not even kidding; I could barely recognize myself as I was snuggled with James under our covers at 7:45, laptop closed, book half-heartedly open). And when you're asleep by 8:15, being somewhere by 7 a.m. is really no problem at all! I made tea, the kids and James had toast with peanut butter, we packed snacks and reef-safe sunscreen, a change of clothes, hats, sunglasses, and whatever else seemed necessary and off we went to Uvita!

That is Uvita Beach, also known as the Whale's Tail. It's a protected National Marine Park and we were all delighted to get a picture in front of another national park sign on our trip. (Then the kids were so disappointed that we couldn't add a push pin to our national park map at home; it literally took 5 minutes to wrap their heads the idea that it was a national park of a different nation. The solution, obviously, is to add a world map to our wall art collection.)

We checked in with Bahia Adventures, the company with which I'd booked our tour. It was by far our priciest excursion (and our worst weather; this happens on literally every vacation, from pouring rain during our waterfall adventure in Jamaica to also pouring rain during our all-day offsite excursion to Xcaret in Mexico; it's a Lag Liv family tradition), but we really wanted to SEE the Pacific and I knew I was never getting in the ocean without a reason and the rest of the trip was so much less expensive than I'd originally budgeted for (all in, 8 days for 5 people doing ALL THE THINGS in Costa Rica, cost exactly 50% of Disney; not that I regret a penny we spent at Disney, I'm just saying, literally anything else you do costs far fewer pennies) that we decided to go for it. I'm so glad we did, but you could absolutely enjoy the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica without the add-on.

After sitting down to listen to our guides (3 of them for our group of about 18), getting fitted for our fins, taking advantage of our last bit of bathroom access, and enjoying a light breakfast spread (fresh fruit everywhere!), we drove behind our guides in our car to park closer to the beach. I had everyone in our suits and rashguards (including swim tights for me because fair skin/skin cancer), and then packed our fold-up microfiber towels (SO grateful for those), sunscreen, extra snacks (always), sunglasses, and left an extra set of clothes in the car to change into when we were done. (Space was at a premium on the boat, but our one bag was perfect.) The tour group provided water (you could use one of their plastic cups or fill a water bottle; we were glad each day of the trip that we'd each brought a nice insulated water bottle from home), snacks (more fruit!!), and lunch later on one of the islands.

We walked out on the beach with our group to the boat, after passing the ranger station and watching the guide pay our fees, and passing a few signs warning us not to feed the crocodiles. It's unfortunate that Claire can now read things like that. After assuring her the crocodiles were not around often and were quite absent this morning, we flip flopped across the beach to board the boat. The sea wasn't too choppy, though the skies were grey, and it was a solid 90 minute ride out to Cano Island.

The kids were amazing. It was a long, bouncy ride, adults were puking off both sides of the boats, and each of our kids was just chilling in their little chair for the hour and a half, watching the ocean and keeping a lookout for whales and dolphins. All our group-mates were very impressed (I doubt they were originally very excited about spending an all-day snorkel excursion with three kids!), especially as our boat motor died and our trip got longer as we bobbed up and down in the sea waiting on another boat.

But eventually we made it to Cano Island and hopped in the Pacific to snorkel! We saw a reef shark, some stingrays, lots of fish, including angel fish, parrot fish, and so many other colorful varieties. The guides were great about keeping us generally together and pointing out exciting things to see. Unfortunately the sun wasn't out, so the water- though CRYSTAL clear (I was shocked to hear the coral we were seeing was actually 30 feet below us!)- was not quite as bright a scene as you often get. It was still a great experience and the kids loved seeing all sea life.

Bringing sexy back

Cora got cold and bailed early, but our captain was happy to hang out with her on the boat and Cora was thrilled to have an adult's undivided attention. After two snorkel drop-offs from the boat in different areas around the island we docked on the sand and got to explore the protected island that allows for very limited boat traffic.

It was beautiful and also covered in hermit crabs. This delighted Landon.

The girls played in the waves on the smooth sand for an hour (we were waiting on the new boat) and giggled and laughed every single time a wave crashed at their feet, while Landon built an island for his hermit crabs in the middle of a fresh water stream that flowed out to the sea from the middle of the island. Once our new boat pulled up, we piled in to head to Isla Violín, about an hour away, and even more restricted and remote than Cano. One boat is allowed per day and our tour company had the day's ticket.

Isla Violín was incredibly beautiful and incredibly remote.

We felt like we were the only people in the world while the kids played in the soft sand.

Our guides set up lunch- arroz on pollo, deli meat, a white chewy local cheese we could never get a name for ("it's cheese... from a cow.") lots of vegetables (we found every meal to be so healthy and fresh, we loved it), fruit, and fresh juice. We ate, scrubbed our plates (we never saw a disposable anything on our whole trip; again, loved it), and then played a little more. The big kids found dozens of sand dollars (everything has to stay on the island, but each discovery was exciting just the same) and I walked around with my beach baby.

Eventually we piled back in the boat around 3:00 to take the hour-long boat ride home. And the skies opened up. It poured rain. It was pretty cold. It was a long, very wet ride. The kids were SUCH troopers with nary a word of boredom or complaint and Cora took the opportunity to grab a 60-minute nap.

We were so glad to come to shore, get in our cars, change out of our wet and cold and sandy clothes (there is no better thing, except maybe taking off ski boots), and then take the short drive home to rest and stay dry.

Except lol, these are our children, so obviously they jumped right back in the pool. James did a swim workout. I didn't even put on a suit, because no way was I getting wet again, but I did make a margarita and watch everyone play while reading. After James finished his workout (his big meet is next weekend and he takes his training seriously; I take my vacations seriously and did not do anything physical unless it was connected to seeing a beautiful fish or jumping off a waterfall; we make room for each other to do what we need to do), we headed out for dinner. We'd been eating lunch out and dinner at home, but it was fun to mix it up after a long excursion day. We headed to PorQueNo?, located about 5 minutes away, with a spectacular sunset view. And pork and fried plaintain pizza (and literally everything else we ordered). So good.

I don't remember anything about that night, so I'm pretty sure we all fell asleep within 10 minutes of coming home from dinner. It was probably 7:30.

(the Jurassic Park gates to our house)

Wednesday, day 6, was our lazy day. We slept in as late as the monkeys would allow, lounged about, let the kids watch a movie with all the doors open in the main room, I made tea and actually had time to drink it, Cora searched for monkeys on the property... it was lovely.

I'd planned our last full day to be empty just in case we got rained out of any other plans, and I'm so glad they all proceeded as planned and we were able to luxuriate a bit in our beautiful house at the end. We just explored and enjoyed, including finally opening the gate to the walk the gardens in the lower half of the property.

There were winding paths through some beautiful flowers and greenery. The kids thought it was quite an adventure.

There was more swimming while I lounged.

And then we headed to town for lunch at our favorite local place near the beach, Cafe Mono Congo.

After lunch we went to Dominicalito Beach, which was right across from the road to our house and the beach we looked at from our pool deck every day. It was lovely but a bit rocky for us, so we headed up the road just a little ways to Playa Hermosa (different from the Playa Hermosa we stopped at on the drive down from San Jose on Day 2) and it was perfect.

Smooth, empty, gorgeous.

The kids dug holes as if they had a reason for doing so and then splashed in the water forever.

We got home in time for our private chef to make dinner for us on our last night in the house. He was super friendly and full of stories, having moved down to Dominical after visiting for his wife's 50th birthday years earlier. And it was so great to just be home, with someone else in the kitchen doing the prep, cooking, and clean-up, sitting by the pool and watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean in front of us.

We'd requested a local meal and we got patacones (fried mashed green plantains; Landon's new favorite thing) with homemade pico and bean dip, grilled mahi and chicken with a tomatillo salsa, grilled local squash I can't remember the name of, mashed sweet and regular potatoes, and a dessert of plantain bananas foster with ice cream. It was great. Honestly it was not our very best meal (we really loved all the local places we found!), but it was a wonderful way to close out our last night in the house and we got a great recommendation for where we ate our last meal in Dominical the next day (Tiki Bar!).

While it was only Wednesday, we pretended it was Thanksgiving and just enjoyed the evening, the breeze, and the spectacular view. And each other. I love traveling the week of Thanksgiving. Right now we alternate between a traditional extended family Thanksgiving on the years when my parents don't go up to see my sister and an international trip (because no one else is leaving the country that week and the kids and James have the whole week off school/coaching). It's perfect, especially if you're me and could totally do without the Thanksgiving meal (scandalous I know, but the actual food does nothing for me). I love the back and forth between traditional, busy extended family meal and exotic yet cozy small family trip. We're already planning where to go next.

But back to Day 6- it was so hard to believe we'd already blown through our days in the house, but they were amazing and unforgettable and everything I never even dared hope the trip would be. The last day was also great (we visited a wildlife sanctuary!) and on day 8 we explored a bit of Mexico City, but on day 6 we closed out with thankful hearts, beach views, and very happy memories of our beach babies splashing in the surf.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sparkly Real Life Updates

Taking a break from Costa Rica blogging (it's so hard to believe we've only been back a week; real life takes off fast!) to capture the last week in our "real life" (as Cora calls it; she was quite insistent that Costa Rica was NOT real life and really, she was right). But this is my view right now and it's pretty great too.

(Yes that is the Great British Baking Show Holiday special. Recently available on Netflix. It's everything you want it to be, especially when everyone in your house is fast asleep.)

Annnd that is all I managed to write this morning. The kids woke up at 8. We finished Home Alone 2, which started the night before after Christmas tree decorating, and went on a very long walk (Cora can now go VERY far and VERY fast on her two-wheel big girl bike and we realized a few streets in we'd neglected to explain to her how far ahead she was allowed to get... it had never been an issue before).

I ran some errands with Claire; James took Landon and a friend climbing (with Cora along for the ride). I taught bare. We went to see The Grinch. We ate dinner and decorated our adorable and colorful family tree. It was an excellent Sunday, relaxed (or as relaxed as we ever have these days) and easy.

But back to the last week. The weekend was about fridge and pantry stocking, home-cooked meals, Christmas decorating, and Christmas music playing. If we were sad to no longer be in Costa Rica, we were still happy to be home in our "Christmas house." The kids have about 85,000 things going on with school (spelling bee! talent show! student council! news crew! choir! they're such joiners), I'm still teaching barre 3x a week, Landon has climbing 2x a week, the girls have gymnastics on Wednesdays, Claire also has volleyball on Wednesdays, and all three kids have swimming on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So obviously we added in the Christmas tree lighting at TCU on Tuesday night.

It worked. I taught barre on my way home from work as usual and our nanny took the kids to swimming. I walked over to the tree after class and James brought the kids straight over from practice. We hadn't eaten dinner, but there were friends to run around the lawn with and that's even better.

What they looked like all night

The kids were never still, the weather was crisp and perfect, and the music and lights were wonderful.

I love when we take advantage of living right next to a university.

After the tree lighting and fireworks we headed to our fave local taco place and ran into two other families coming from the same thing. And though I adored all the food we ate in Costa Rica, I was THRILLED to be reunited with my frozen margaritas and liquid cheese.

There are no substitutes.

On Wednesday everyone did all their Wednesday things just the way they're supposed to go (that delicate excel sheet schedule trucking along smoothly as it does 92% of the time) and then on Thursday it all went a bit off the rails.

Every single leaf fell off our tree on Thursday; it was a sign

It started with me taking off work at 2:00 (after a delicately balanced call then meeting then lunch then Commission meeting) to take Claire to the doctor for a 2:30 appointment I'd secured 3 months ago with an allergist to start getting her allergies under control and today was the day! I had given our nanny the day off, arranged for Landon to go home with a friend, and then planned to pick up Landon when we were done (surely no later than 3:30- HA), take Claire to the school talent show try-outs that ended at 4:15, pick up Cora, and take everyone to swim practice by 5:00, so I could drive back to go teach my 5:30 barre class at TCU. Perfect.

Except we didn't get called back for her appointment until 4:15. We saw the doctor at 4:30. She had her first panel of allergy testing at 4:40. By the time her results were read it was 5:00, the kids had definitely missed swimming, Cora was still at school, Landon was still at his friend's, and I needed to be home and changing into my barre clothes at that exact second. By 5:01 we had learned that Claire is anergic- a rare but not "unheard of" condition (2% of allergy patients, go Claire!) where you skin doesn't react to scratch testing AT ALL, including not reacting to the very reactive histamine that serves as the control, so she has to go to a lab for blood work and the whole 2.5 hours taught us exactly nothing.

I FLEW out of the doctor's office, calling friends along the way. Picked up Cora from school, picked up Landon from his friend's ("have him ready to go in the yard, thanks!!"), ran into the house, stripped off my clothes in the living room and shoved myself into leggings while talking a mile-a-minute to the kids who had opted to stay home instead of sitting in the corner during my class without the entertainment we didn't have time to gather: "Put on a movie. Don't open the door. Everyone can have a snack. Water only. DON'T OPEN THE DOOR. I'll be back in one hour. Text me every 15 minutes with how everyone is doing. FTLOG don't open the door." And off to barre I drove. I parked, ran to the athletic center (I don't have a parking pass, so I'm in the visitor's lot), and visibly sweaty and heart-rate already pumping, I flew into my multi-purpose room at 5:29 for my 5:30 class for which I have NEVER arrived later than 5:12. I found 21 students all sitting on mats with an assortment of equipment (usually I tell them what we need that day), just patiently waiting. I wanted to hug them all. At 5:31 we got started and at 6:20 we were done, my Apple Watch having buzzed four times with Landon's "um, we're still just watching the movie" updates. I drove my mile home and started dinner. It was a day.

Friday was better. I worked from home. Ran errands at lunch. (At no time this week have I gone to yoga. I can't explain it, I just... haven't wanted to go. I have wanted to check things off my shopping list and drink margaritas, so I'm indulging in that right now.) Picked up the kids from school and attended Claire's make-up talent show try-out the sweet teacher let her do. She and her friend/partner did great and back home we went. That night was supposed to be the swim school Christmas dinner, but someone forgot to make a reservation, so he ended up getting one for 8:30 that night and that is too late for me and dinner. Feeling a strong need to stay close to home and watch cheesy Christmas movies, I backed out of the dinner, giving kisses and apologies to the host (my husband, just in case that wasn't clear) and texted to meet a friend for tacos and margaritas with our kids. Her husband was out too and we needed a girls night. Well, a girls' night plus Landon. Plus another favorite family we ran into as soon as we arrived!

Then Landon ended up spending the night at a friend's house, so it really was just girls (she has three). They went home to put on pj's, Claire, Cora, and I put on our pj's and then we reunited on our couch with A Christmas Prince 2: The Royal Wedding, five girls, two moms, and two glasses of wine. It was the BEST. By the end, we were the only two watching the movie and all the kids (ages 5-10) had somehow migrated to play play-do at the kitchen table while singing the wrong words to Feliz Navidad. It was 9:45 p.m. It was the perfect Friday night.

On Saturday Cora woke up early and I totally forgot that Landon was at a friend's so I had to go turn on the TV and man are big kids great to have around. Claire had an early volleyball game (ouch, said friend and I when we saw each other court-side at 8:50 a.m.) and then Landon came home before going to Bass Concert Hall downtown to see Charlie Brown Christmas with another friend. He put on a "fancy shirt" and suddenly looked like a teenager. What is happening?

The rest of us did Saturday things like thinking about going to yoga and then not doing that, the girls went to our friends' house to play, and James and I wrapped all our gifts (in a house without closets or attic, you wrap as soon as you buy). We walked down the street to collect the girls and then got everyone changed for our Casa Manana children's play that evening! I had absolutely planned to go to yoga and thus had never taken a shower, something that took me by surprise when I went to get dressed 20 minutes before we had to leave. Ye olde "messy bun," we meet again for the 7th time this week.

Landon met us at Casa (so much culture for him on a Saturday!) and said Charlie Brown was great. We LOVED the new Christmas play at Casa- super fun and original with pop songs changed out with holiday lyrics. The first one was a witty take on "Can't Stop This Feeling" and about halfway through the song, Cora yelled out, "Wait! Those are NOT the words!". She couldn't believe no one else was outraged at the fraudulent singing going onstage.

We picked up pizza on the way home and changed into Christmas jammies. Claire felt strongly that Pua needed to be included.

And then it was time for the tree. We turned on Home Alone 2 (Elf having already been watched this holiday season; it's always first) and got to sparklifying our living room.

I will never not take a picture of the baby focusing intently on putting three ornaments in the exact same place.

I was really into buffalo plaid this year?

All done! I bought an outlet plug off Amazon that connects to your phone so I can have the tree turn on and off on a schedule and just whenever I press a button on my phone. This brings me enormous joy.

Much like these socks I bought for our "Champagne & Whiskey & Ugly Sweater Party" we're hosting next weekend. There will be voting and tasting and some fabulous festive wear. I have prizes.

Whew- now that we're done with tonight's episode of Narcos Mexico, I can finish this post (love that show, but having to read the subtitles REALLY makes blogging difficult) - on to this week's menu!

Sunday: Skinny Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup, bread, crackers.

Monday: Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac, raw veggies on the side, cornbread.

Tuesday: Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce (James's favorite meal; I'll be at a PTA meeting/holiday party with these meatballs, a bottle of wine, and an ornament to exchange).

Wednesday: Elk Tacos (a friend shot an elk while hunting and we now have several pounds of ground elk meat; it's like buffalo- super lean and grass-fed beef tasting), Mexican Rice, Refried Black Beans

Thursday: Crockpot Creamy Chicken Enchilada Chili, chips, avocado.

Friday: No idea; Landon has a climbing thing, James will be coaching, the girls and I may be forced to get chips and queso and margaritas for dinner again.

Saturday: PARTAY. I'm making French Dip Sliders (SO GOOD), Warm Pesto Goat Cheese Dip with pita chips and crostini, Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake, Balls O' Fire (maraschino cherries soaked for a few days in Fireball), and providing lots of champagne and a big handle of Fireball and mixers (spiced apple cider, cranberry juice). Everyone is bringing something and it is going to be delicious and fun. I've already started prepping.

And that's a wrap! This week is pretty much the same, except it has two talent show rehearsals and a school field trip! Honestly though, it generally just hums along and works out. My Christmas prep is done, my presents are wrapped, our house is sparkly and joyful, and this season of friends and parties and champagne (and homemade chex mix! and cookies!) is my very favorite season of all.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Costa Rica Day 4: Osa Canopy Tour & Catarata Uvita

Well clearly it's not actually the 4th day of our trip, but each day was so packed and perfect and wonderful that we fell asleep by 8:30 every night with no time for blogging. Except for all the time I spent drinking margaritas and the pool and reading/watching James work out, but I was doing important work then. But even a week out from the events I'm writing about it feels like each day is still worthy of their own posts, so we're going to go through them all retroactively.

In the present (our "real life" as Cora calls it), we got home Friday night about 7:00 p.m. (after waking up at 2:55 a.m.), unpacked everything, ate cereal for dinner, and had the kids in bed by 8. We decorated the house for Christmas on Saturday (my new favorite thing is being gone for Thanksgiving and then coming home to jump into the sparkly Christmas holidays), shopped and cooked and settled, and then my parents came to stay the night on their drive home from Colorado where they had celebrated Thanksgiving with the rest of my family. Sunday was a big breakfast, big family walk (including Papa and Gigi), teaching my first barre class in what felt like years (ouch), and putting up the Christmas lights and Christmas tree. It was a great weekend. I made two delicious, healthy, hearty home-cooked dinners (this vegan winter lentil stew and then this chicken wild rice casserole) that were perfect after 8 days of travel. It's so lovely to be home and I'm so ready for the holidays.

But I was not ready to leave Costa Rica, so let's go back.

On Day 4 we woke up bright and early with the howler monkeys to get ready and head to the Osa Peninsula Rainforest for our Jungle Canopy Zip Line Tour! The kids were so excited about this one and after exploring the Pacific, going on a hike, and jumping in a spectacularly beautiful waterfall, James and I were excited to see yet another side of this beautiful country.

We drove about 40 minutes south to the Osa peninsula to the tour we'd booked and then, after assuring the guides that we had a 4x4 car, we headed up a very steep mountain, high into the rainforest, in our trusty Hyundai Tucson, following behind a pickup truck with open bench seats for those who didn't want to drive. It was at least 15 minutes of bumpy roads and direct sun so I'm glad we could do it in our own car. We joined the group of about 18 to get geared up and instructed on how to work our brake gloves and harness. It all seemed pretty straight forward and then 20 seconds later you're clipped on to a line and told to pull your feet up and bam, you're off, wondering if maybe you needed more instructions.

Cora had to ride with someone who knew what they were doing the first time. Just before we got up on the platform she decided mayyyybe she didn't want to do this after all, but we just kept prodding her along until she was clipped to a guide and then whoosh.

I'd gone first to meet her on the other end so I was a little nervous she wouldn't like it, but I needn't have worried about my roller coaster girl- I could hear her squealing in joy and her grin as she and her expert guide swooped onto the platform was from ear to ear.

Claire also rode with a guide on the first line just to get her comfortable and then she confidently handled her own zip lines from then on out.

Landon flew solo the whole time, and James- only 15 pounds away from the upper weight limit- literally FLEW.

Cora hooked to me for the next 8 lines and like doing anything with her in Disney, she was pure joy as a partner. "Faster faster!" she yelled, laughing and squealing with glee. We loved it.

In addition to the 9 different zip lines way high up in the canopy, there were two repelling stations where you were repelled down to the jungle floor to move to another tree. Cora got to do those on her own and liked that VERY MUCH.

The guides loved her- her tutu and high levels of enthusiasm and dare-deviltry made her something of a mascot.

There were also two hanging bridges that were way more precarious and swingy than I envisioned. You're clipped on to a line so you're totally safe, it's just kind of crazy to walk across an actual hanging bridge high up in the trees.

But the very best part was at the end. We walked to a little shelter for fresh fruit and water (the fruit in Costa Rica was AMAZING) and then you could get hooked to this rope and jump and FLY. I went first and it was amazing. It was also 300 feet above the ground.

We all did it. Cora looks like a tiny little sack of potatoes flying out there and she LOVED IT. Everyone was very impressed with our adventurous kiddos.

After we'd all been Tarzan, we got a ride back to our car on the back of the pickup truck, which was the kids second favorite part of the tour.

We drove back down the mountain in manual first gear while James remarked that these declines were steeper than anything we'd ever driven in Colorado. Lulled by the insane bouncing of our entire car, both girls fell asleep immediately.

We started to look for a place for lunch, but quickly discovered many restaurants on the Osa Peninsula (and elsewhere) are closed on Mondays. We saw a sign for Playa Ventanas, which looked beautiful in the picture I saw online and pulled in. We paid a small fee to park and hoped to find lunch, but settled for some ceviche and Costa Rican cheeto puffs from a small vendor. Playa Ventanas has caves you can explore in low tide, and the kids set out with James to do just that, but then it started to rain and the waves kicked up, so we only lasted about a half hour. Though Landon and James did manage to scale a cliff over the ocean in that time.

We set out again for lunch, when I discovered a little Soda in Uvita called Soda Ranchito Dona Maria. It was 10 miles away. We were starving and we were promised authentic, local food, and that is precisely what we got.

A tiny restaurant, FABULOUS food, a cook in a kitchen the size of our dinner table, one waiter (the cook's son; who left at one point to pick up his sister from school), and a few outdoor tables. It was the best meal of our trip until the very last one. The kids ordered pancakes and eggs with rice and beans, James and I ordered casado (means "married," a traditional dish with rice, beans, some kind of protein, noodles, potatoes, and a green salad- then you just sort of eat it all together and it's delicious), and we shared a bunch of other things from the appetizer section. It was all great. At one point James asked for salsa. After trying one from a bottle they brought he asked if they had a hotter one. They pulled a little Tupperware container out of their refrigerator and BAM.

Challenge offered and challenge accepted. He sweated and grinned the rest of lunch.

We finished eating around 2 p.m., paid our bill, and considered heading back home when I remembered there was a waterfall in Uvita. Google told me it was just 2 km up the dirt road from our little restaurant! Always prepared for a new adventure, I'd packed a bag with swimsuits and towels in the car before we left that morning, so off we went in search of "Catarata Uvita," a waterfall you could allegedly slide down!

We parked, did a quick car-change into our suits, and followed a little sign to the falls. We came upon a restaurant where we paid our entry fee to the bartender ($2/person USD) and then followed the verbal directions to "walk down."

Like literally everything we saw in Costa Rica, it was absurdly ridiculously beautiful. Like something out of a fairy tale.

The water was freezing, but in we went. The waterfall was roaring over giant pointy boulders and I was very much doubting the "you can slide down it" aspect of the waterfall, when two locals started scaling the rock wall near the falls and whoosh, down they came. Always up to maximize any vacation adventure, Landon and James started climbing.

James went first, survived, and threw Landon a thumb's up from the pool below. Whoosh, down went Landon. He flew down the current, sticking the landing to the cheers on onlookers, none of whom were setting foot in the water.

I swam over with the girls. Cora was not allowed to climb up to do the waterfall and she was PISSED. We had to keep pulling her off the rocks she was attempting to climb and eventually James just towed her back to the shallow area.

Claire and I headed up. The water was moving so fast and the rocks looked so very pointy, but determined not to let the men show us up, Claire and I took off. Her first, me next, and wow.

It moves very fast. I somehow got sucked under the waterfall at the bottom, losing my hairband and the correct placement of my bikini underneath my rashguard, but it was quite a rush.

(that's me, about to lose my top)

We swam around and waterfalled a few more times (even me; bikini in place this time). Cora forgave us for not allowing her to risk her life on a steep rock climb and way too strong of a water current and went off to explore with James.

A little further downstream we found a smaller waterfall with a calm lagoon that Cora got to jump into.

As always, the pictures just can't convey the overwhelming beauty of it all.

We spent $10 and over 2 hours at Catarata Uvita and it was such a fun bonus afternoon adventure.

By now it was getting close to 4. We had a 30 minute drive home, the kids still wanted to swim in our pool, and the sun sets around 5. We headed out, stopped for gelato in Uvita to refuel, went in their super market that was much larger than ours in Dominical to buy pasta and jarred sauce because anything more required too much thought, and drove home. The kids swam. James worked out. I considered uploading pictures, but made a margarita and read my new book instead. It was lovely.

The kids were in bed and asleep by 7:30 and even James and I had lights out by 8:15. The sun rises and sets so early in Dominical that even though we were still in the central time zone, it was like we hadn't adjusted to a time change. But it worked out well- the activities start early, so our senior citizen schedule kept us well rested and cheerful when the sun was high and the howler monkeys loud by 5 a.m.

While I loved every activity we did (and the kids definitely voted the zip line tour as their #1), I think the waterfalls are what I'll reminder the most vividly. They were just so impossibly beautiful... it was so hard to believe we were allowed to hike down and jump in them. Truly unforgettable and so much more than I expected this highly anticipated vacation to be!

(Next up, Day 5: all day snorkel adventure out on the Pacific!)