Adventures in Costa Rica

We’ve been to Costa Rica several times, including a one-month stay to study Spanish years ago. So, for our stop in Puntarenas, Costa Rica we decided to do the classic excursion: zip lining. We have zip lined numerous times before, so this one needed to be good. After much research online we found Adventure Park, just 30 minutes outside Puntarenas.

Adventure Park is part of a larger property called Finca Daniel-Vista Gilfillan de Nicoya, which includes accommodations and a restaurant. However the 25 zip lines over 11 waterfalls makes this different from the 20+ other zip line properties in Costa Rica.

We booked the excursion on our own, directly with the property, which some fellow cruise ship passengers have said is risky. We’ve never had a problem with our independent approach, but today we were tested. We were off the ship and ready to meet our driver at 8:00 as scheduled. He didn’t show up. By 9:00 it was obvious we’d been forgotten. After a few emails we were able to reschedule for the afternoon tour, and we used the morning to wander around Puntarenas. We shopped, explored the busy fish market, watched fishermen unload their catch, and had a beer. Before we knew it we were headed to Adventure Park. No harm done.

For our trouble, the property offered us a tasty, authentic Costa Rican lunch of rice, veggies, chicken,and beef. The restaurant overlooked the expansive valley below with views of the ocean in the distance. As they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida!

The time had come to suit up in our harnesses and head out to zip. The best part was that it was a private tour–just the two of us with our three guides, Cristian, Walter, and Juan. If we had gone on the morning tour as planned, we would have been two of 24 people. With just the two of us, we got special attention, went at our own pace, and got to know our guides a bit.

As we flew over the water and through the trees, we soaked in the beauty of the rainforest. Part way through the 25 lines we stopped for a swim in a watering hole fed by a pretty waterfall.

On the two longest lines, our guide Walter flew just behind us with the camera on video, which was great until Marnie put the brakes on too early, missed the platform and got plowed into by Walter while hanging on the cable.

Everyone was fine and it made for a good video!

We made it back to Puntarenas with plenty of time to spare before boarding the ship and heading back to sea.

All in all, a perfect day in Costa Rica!

Panama Canal x2

We’ve cruised the Panama Canal twice before, and both times we did a full transit. That means we went in one side and out the other. This time our itinerary included a partial transit which means we went in part way and then turned around and came back the same way we entered. We didn’t realize it when we booked this trip, but the partial transit has a lot of advantages. We spent more time in the canal, saw the highlights from two directions, and didn’t have to fly across the country to get home.

Our canal passage began by crossing under the Bridge of the Americas, at one time the Pan American highway’s connection across the water and the official entrance to the canal. It was at this point we could see the Country Inn & Suites, the hotel we stayed in a few years ago.

During the transit a narrator provides commentary about the canal’s history and operation so you know what you are seeing. Whether on deck or in your cabin you can listen throughout the day-long transit.

Passing through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks, the Culebra Cut, and into Gatun Lake, we enjoyed the day by wandering the ship and taking in the sites from all angles. We saw cargo ship of all sizes transporting everything from oil to cars and even yachts. Did you know there are crocodiles in the Panama Canal? Yep, we saw them!

After reaching Gatun Lake, which is more than halfway through the Canal, we pulled out of the shipping channel and dropped anchor. While spending the night in the canal we were able to watch even more ships pass by, on their way to ports across the globe.

The following day we did it all again in the opposite direction. And, like when you’re hiking, it looked different from the other way. On our way back out to the Pacific Ocean we continued to be awed by the enormity of the canal project and the impact it has had on world commerce.

One fascinating thing we observed on the second day was the transit of two small boats. Normally the daytime is reserved for big ships, and the small ones pass at night when the traffic slows and the prices drop. For some reason two sailboats we’re using the locks at the same time as we were. It was fun to watch them maneuver the locks in contrast to how the big ships do it. To say they were dwarfed in comparison to our ship is an understatement.

Our second day cruising the Panama Canal finished by anchoring off the coast of Panama City, where the night was spent off loading trash and refueling for the remainder of our journey.

Now we are headed towards home, with stops in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Manzanillo, Mexico. More adventures are planned, so stay tuned.

Redemption at Pacaya

At least ten years ago we cruised to the Panama Canal with a stop at Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. Our plan at that time was to hike the active Pacaya Volcano. Via the ship’s excursion we made it to the trailhead. But Marnie’s suspected case of Norovirus sent us back to the ship before we even took a step towards the lava. We’ve had this on our bucket list ever since.

Today we embarked on the same excursion, feeling 100% and ready to tackle the trek. Along with 21 other Island Princess passengers we conquered the relatively steep two mile hike up through the jungle until the volcano appeared before us.

Pacaya is very active with the last big flow occurring in 2014. We watched in awe as rocks and smoke shot from the top of the mountain and red lava flowed from its sides.

The so-called “ring of fire” runs through Central America with many active volcanoes throughout the region. We visited several during past trips to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and now we can add Guatemala’s craters to the list.

In total we hiked about four miles and being down close to recent lava flows was a highlight. Now Guatemala is on our list of places to return, as there are many more volcanoes to explore.

Now we’re on our way to the Panama Canal!