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Costa_Rica_Map.gifCosta Rica, literally meaning "Rich Coast", officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a Republic in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south-southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Costa Rica was the first country in the world to constitutionally abolish its army.

Costa Rica is approximately 19,730 sq. miles and is about the size of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.  The capital is San Jose with a population of approximately 2.1 million.  The entire country has a population of about 4.13 million.  Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a very strong system of constitutional checks and balances.

For a more relaxing visit to Costa Rica we skipped the capital city and flew into Liberia instead. Liberia is the capital of sunny Guanacaste province in northwest Costa Rica and gateway to some of the most beautiful beaches and National Parks of Costa Rica.

Our destination and home for 5 days was the Paradisus Playa Conchal Resort. Set in the green forests of Costa Rica's magnificent North-Pacific Riviera, the Paradisus Playa Conchal, extends over 2,400 lush acres with plenty of outdoor activities including sailing, horseback riding, and golf.  We enjoyed an outdoor exploration from the beach and through the forests and to the top of a mountain with a four-wheel vehicle and a guide.  We also took a horseback tour with a young tour guide and his father.

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Paradisus Playa Conchal

The Paradisus Playa Conchal resembles a luxurious seaside village set amidst meandering walkways, bubbling fountains, shimmering lakes and lush tropical gardens. The Playa Conchal offers an all-inclusive package and we chose the Royal Service which included Butler service until 10PM each evening.  The resort offers 5 a la carte and 1 buffet restaurant which include French, Italian, American and Asian cuisine.

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Playa Conchal Pool

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Our guides on horseback

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Four-wheeling is popular and fun!

One evening we were surprised to arrive back in our roor was magnificent. Sunset photos above from Guanacaste beach. We tried the popular Zip-Line from the trees at the resort which allow you to come in over the pool on the last leg of the adventure.

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Zip Line

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From Guanacaste we hired a guide to take us to Arenal.  We wanted to see an active volcano and experience the hot springs that the area is well known for.  Arenal Volcano is the youngest stratovolcano in Costa Rica, and presently one of the world's most active volcanoes.

Our trip from Guanacaste to Arenal was approximately 100 miles but it took us 4 hours to get there due to the roads.  Much of the trip was on dirt roads and we traversed from side to side to avoid the potholes.  By the end of the trip we were exhausted due to the constant bumping and bouncing motion that we endured and we were glad to be staying in Arenal for a few days to avoid a quick treacherous trip back down to Guanacaste.

On the trip up our driver told us the story of the big 1968 eruption of Arenal with its huge ash columns, explosions and glowing red lava.  He talked of his friend who had died on the day of the eruption.  As he described this event we could see Arenal looming ominously in the distance with a small plume of smoke emanating from the top.  I later admitted that it put a little fear in me as we came closer and closer to the magnificent volcano.

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Arenal Volcano

Once in Arenal we arrived at the fabulous Tabacan Grand Spa Thermal Resort which was our home for the next 5 nights.

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The resort lies at the foot of the volcano and our room had a wide open view of the volcano.  It was a little unsettling to be so close to this active volcano and I admit that the first night I kept one eye open all night just in case we needed to make a quick getaway. 

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During the day you could hear a little rumble and if you looked up at the top of the volcano you could see the ash roll down the hill.  In the evening you could see the red glow of the lava and it was truly a spectacular experience.

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The hot springs or thermal resort was just a bit down the hill from our room. There were 12 natural thermal spring pools as well as lagoons and waterfalls.  You could walk through trails with exotic gardens all about.  This part of the trip was truly my favorite during the entire trip to Costa Rica.

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While here we saw an abundance of wildlife including Toucans, Hummingbirds and Monkeys. There are 4 species of Monkeys in Costa Rica however we saw and heard the Howler Monkey. Birds were everywhere and the flowers and plants were lush and vibrant.  It seemed that with every turn there was another species of plant or flower.

Costa_Rica_Iguana.jpg Iguana Toucan 
Costa_Rica_Monkey.jpg Howler Monkeys Costa_Rica_Monkeys.jpg 
Costa_Rica_flowers_3.jpg Beautiful and abundant Plant Life Costa_Rica_flowers_4.jpg 
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Our trip back to Guanacaste was much the same as the trip up and we arrived back at the Playa Conchal for our last night in Costa Rica.  Our trip was an incredible and unforgettable experience.

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We found this bug on our way back from Arenal and had to take a photo. He was about the size of an average hand.



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