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Travel: A Honeymoon in Costa Rica

Go in the wet season. It's way better.

Costa Rica

September 18, 2010

Paradisus Playa Conchal is a lovely resort that can hold 232,000 in the high season, when temperatures are near 100 and the swimming pools look like a salmon run of fat white people with regrettable tattoos. Our honeymoon was during the rainy season, so there were about 150 guests, and most nights you kept looking for the guy in the monster costume who scared away all the business so he could buy the property for the oil well only he know about.

Rainy season is the way to go. Paradisus has the largest pool in Central America, and there's something special about being the only person in it, when the urine and spilled-drink content is at a bare minimum. Of the eight restaurants on the resort about five are closed, but there's no waiting for a table at dinner. Plus everything is green: the locals told us that during the dry times, most of the trees lose their foliage and all the grass disappears, which reveals all the garbage on the side of the road, which the locals burn on a regular basis. For the most part the rain is in the late afternoon, but the sun comes up at 5:30 a.m. and goes down around 6:30 p.m. If you're drinking most of the afternoon, about the only thing you'll have the energy for when the rain comes is more drinking. It's not a huge crimp in your day.

So we had a great honeymoon! Allyson got some sun, which she loves, but there wasn't so much sun that I developed spontaneous carcinomas, which I loved. I was actually able to go shirtless for a good portion of each day, which the rest of the resort probably hated, but I'll never see those people again.

Some Fun Facts about Guanacaste

Paradisus is in the Guanacaste province, the northwest frontier of Costa Rica. It is a land rich in tradition and history, most of which I learned from Swiss Travel Company tour guides while I was barely awake and sitting in a van, and I share it now with you:

  • Guanacaste began as part of Nicaragua, but at the time of independence, Costa Rica's bloodthirsty despot was a lot cooler than Nicaragua's. So they totally left. Most of the land was owned by a small handful of cattle ranchers. Now most of the land is owned by the federal government or people from Hollywood who want somewhere relatively authentic to relax and do coke.
  • The largest city is Liberia, which is pronounced with a "v" sound to differentiate from the African nation with less-pleasant resort hotels. It has 50,000 people, one traffic light and a Church's Chicken.
  • Due to the poor conditions of some roads, the primary mode of transportation is zipline.
  • While the Atlantic side of Costa Rica is mostly rain forest, Guanacaste is mostly tropical dry forest. The difference is, while it rains almost every day in the rain forest, it rains only 96 percent of the days in the dry forest.
  • Much of Costa Rica's power is generated in Guanacaste, by geothermal plants, hyrdoelectric stations at the man-made Lake Arenal, and sexual energy collectors at the discos of Liberia.
  • The largest sector of the economy is tourism, followed by agriculture (ranching and sugarcane) and wandering the roads aimlessly with a mangy dog at your side.
  • Many migratory birds make their home in Guanacaste, to take advantage of spotty extradition treaties.

Off the Reservation

Having a black Russian with breakfast is nice, and the pool is nice, and watching "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" with Spanish subtitles is nice. But inquisitive, active people like Allyson and myself need some adventure, so we took some trips off the resort as well.

The general rule for any outdoor activity is: the more fun it is, the stupider the head gear you will have to wear. If you sign up for something and they ask you to put on a Darth Vader helmet, get ready for the time of your life. Ziplining is a lot of fun, in part because of the learning curve. If you have enough limbs to wear an embarrassingly tight harness, and you are affected by gravity, you have all the skills you need to zip line. Braking is nice (they give you a glove with a leather palm, bought from a surplus falconing store), but it's clearly not essential to your continued existence, since shove you off a platform toward a tree 200 feet away after 30 seconds of instruction. If I were a personal injury lawyer, I'd retire to Costa Rica this instant.

The most fun, though, is ATVs. After taking us to the ATV place, we signed a one-page waiver, which apparently was enough paperwork to satisfy the ATV people that we were capable of operating a seat-belt-free deathmobile at 30 mph on badly potholed local roads. These local road are also being used by local drivers. Fun fact! There are 1,200 traffic cops in all of Costa Rica, and we did not see any of them in our one week there. Another fun fact! Apparently, in Costa Rica, if you are on a two-lane road and you see another vehicle in front of you, you are legally obligated to pass on the left. But ATVs are awesome. I enjoyed my one experience on a Segway, but once you go ATV, you'll never go back. If Al Gore rode an ATV he'd probably come out in favor of global warming within a week.

We rode horses at one point, which is slightly less thrilling, but still enjoyable. Allyson named her horse "Maxwell," after the pig in the Geico ad, and I named mine "Saphire," because he was a pretty horse. I haven't ridden horses for about 20 years, and I remember not having a good experience (i.e., being sore in places a man should never have to be sore). But once again, the Costa Rica tour guides came through with a stellar 30 seconds of instruction. They tell you all the things you can do to control the horse, so that you are fully prepared for the horse to do whatever it damn well pleases. Saphire was more of a "follower," which means I got lots of great views of horses pooping -- exactly what every little girl has in mind when she dreams of those majestic animals. Saphire Was not much of a mudder -- which matters, because about 5 minutes into a 45-minute ride it started pouring rain. I think it says a lot about the future of our marriage that, after 40 minutes on wet, smelly horses, we both agreed that it was a great afternoon.

One man's quest to be the humblest person alive
Copyright 2014, Chris White