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Imagine awakening to the sounds of howler monkeys and roosters, watching the sunrise, enjoying the quiet moments before people get moving for the day……yeah, I can’t either. Matter of fact, I slept through those moments except for my last day in Mal Pais, when I was forced to get up at 5:30 AM.

We definitely enjoyed our time to the fullest and were sad to have to leave.  Matter of fact, my boyfriend’s initial impression of Mal Pais was, “Where am I?  You have me in the middle of nowhere.  It took 2 shuttles and a ferry just to get to the middle of nowhere.”  Then he looked around our hotel room and said,  “Baby, where’s the T.V.? What am I supposed to do for the next 8 days?”  In the end, he had a great time and inspired me to compile a list of our favorite moments, places to eat, and fun facts.  Enjoy!

Top 7 Moments:

1. Surfing/Surf Lessons
2. Riding the Quads/ATVs
3. Zip Lining/Canopy Tour
4. The Beach
5. People Watching
6. Eating
7. Partying

Favorite Places to Eat:

1. Cosechas – Smoothies
2. Mi Tierra – Breakfast
3. Soda La Armistad – Lunch/Dinner
4. The Bakery – Pastries (take it to go or they charge you a fee for sitting in the shop)

Fun Facts:
1. Mal Pais is a dog friendly town.  Unlike the states, dogs are allowed on the beaches (and to roam the streets for that matter)

2. Gotta pee?  Just pull over to the side of the road. There’re no fines for “indecent exposure.” Matter of fact, it is permissible to walk the streets or enter restaurants in just your bathing suit (read skimpy bikini or board shorts).

3. Ticos and Ticas love their reggae music. At one point, I thought I was in Jamaica! You hear more reggae music than latin music and definitely NO R&B/HipHop.

4. Costa Rica is an eco-friendly country. Not only do they recycle and use rain water, but in most places you CAN NOT put tissue in the toilets. In the words of one of my favorite tour guides, “If it doesn’t exit your body, then it doesn’t go in the toilet.” LOL

5.  In Mal Pais, you get to interact with people from all over the world and they stay in the area indefinitely.  We met people from:  Sweden, Ecuador, all over the the States, Argentina, Greece, Belgium…

March 4, 2010. The time, about 8:30 AM. On this day and at this time, while riding an ATV to Cabuya, I went off a cliff and into a ravine. What I thought was a 10 to 15 foot drop was in actuality about a 40 foot drop (according to the locals). And all I suffered was a broken wrist. How I managed to escape so lucky is beyond me.

Fast forward 2 years to March 5, 2012. For the first time in two years, I’ve gotten back on an ATV despite my fears. And on March 7, 2012, I managed to travel the road, the site of my accident, again. I made it to Cabuya and back. It was scary, but with the encouragement of my boyfriend, I made it.

*I should’ve taken a picture, but I wanted to get off that road as soon as possible.* #scaredycat

The Adventure Begins…Rather than write something somewhat pretty, here’s a list of my activities for the rest of my stay in Mal Pais:

– Surfing Lessons
– Rented an ATV to get around
– Lazing by the hotel pool
– Lazing on the Beach
– Eating
– Drinking Smoothies
– Zipline/Canopy Tour in Mal Pais
– Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary for photo ops and communing with the wildlife (Not worth it unless there are monkeys there)
– Yoga
– More Eating and drinking smoothies
– Watching the awesome sunsets

– Watched a surfing competition (sort of)
-Enjoying Nightlife: Live Reggae Bands, Reggae Nights at the local bar (there’s also latin night and house music night).

Day 2 we woke up early and headed to Mal Pais via shuttle and ferry. The journey itself wasn’t as bad or as long as I thought it would be. We left San Jose at about 8:30 AM and arrived in Mal Pais at 2:30 PM. My hotel of choice, Casa Marbella, a quaint, boutique style hotel overlooking the Pacific ocean.

Mal Pais is a small surfer town. The roads are unpaved. Most restaurants and Sodas are outdoors and lack air conditioning…By the way, Sodas are little shacks where you can get a typical Tico meal. My favorite is Soda  La Armistad…And well, on the surface, it lacks many modern amenities.

If you are looking for modern luxuries/resorts, Mal Pais is not for you. If you are looking for a way to relax, commune with nature, and enjoy easy living, then by all means head to Mal Pais. The main activities here are surfing and yoga. The food is wonderful and fresh and the people are friendly. And if you require connection to the outside world, many hotels and hostels offer free wifi and there are internet cafes around as well.

And if you absolutely can’t sit still and enjoy life here, you can rent a 4×4 or an ATV and head to nearby Montezuma for some ziplining, sightseeing, and shopping.

Me personally, I think Mal Pais has everything one needs to survive: hotel, internet, food, and beach. What more could you need?

Costa Rica, Pura Vida…the country that I travel to annually for a week of rest and relaxation. Maybe it’s the easy going nature of the country, or maybe it’s the wonderful home cooking that keeps me coming back year after year. Whatever it is, my mind and soul craves it.

This is the third year that I’ve traveled to the Pacific Coast (Nicoya Peninsula) and my second time to Mal Pais. I keep telling myself that when I come back I’m going to visit another area of the country, but alas, it’s the Nicoya Peninsula that calls to me.

This year I started the trip in San Jose. My boyfriend and I flew in early and spent the day unwinding. Many that I’ve talked to recommend not going out in San Jose. They say that there is not much to do there and it is not very safe, but my boyfriend being who he is, found a reggae club that we made our way to and we partied with the locals. The club is called Bongos (don’t ask me exactly where it is), but the vibe was nice and the dj’s were better than some I hear back home in Atlanta that come from yard (aka Jamaica).

One thing I’ve learned, Costa Ricans love their reggae music and their reggaeton.

For my first tour group, it was a great trip. Contiki caters to the 18-35 age group. No older. No younger.

I chose the Greek Island Hopping Tour because of the amount of free time we were allowed as well as the opportunity to spend 3 nights in each locale (Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and Ios). The only schedules we needed to adhere to were transfers between islands and the optional tours. And if we missed the return to the hotel from an optional, it was nothing to catch a bus or taxi or walk back.

I think I got lucky with this trip. The people in our group (72 total) were all great. The fact that they didn’t annoy me is amazing in itself and the tour guides were great (fun going and about business when necessary). It was a great mix of party animals to more laid back/conservative individuals to snobs. My easy going attitude afforded me the ability to bond with most people and to be accepted by all, even the snobs took a liking to me and requested my presence at dinner. [Actually, I don’t think they were snobs at all. I think they were more intimidated by the amount of people on the tour and by the personalities of the tour mates).

Interestingly enough, the majority of my tour mates (say about 75%) were Aussies with a few (the other 25%) from the States, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.

I wish I did a Contiki tour sooner. Now I only have 2 more years until I am no longer eligible to do another tour with them.

The one thing about the tour is that it has me inspired to look into my running joke of quitting my job and becoming a tour guide to actually doing it. (*I’ve already started researching different tour groups and looking at their job opportunities*). Excited and nervous about my future, especially since I want to settle down and start a family.

Ios (pronounced ee-os) is another island in the Cyclades, known for its good times aka partying.

It’s so peaceful here that it’s hard to believe that all there is to do is go to the beach and club/bar hop.

My only complaint about this island are the flies and that it is not authentically Greek. Meaning everything here is so americanized/australianized.