Alyssa’s Costa Rica Adventure: Manuel Antonio

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I got back from Costa Rica — take me back! I’ve especially missed the lush, tropical country as I’ve been stircrazy the past week since I’ve been stuck inside fighting the flu. (Yeah, I have rotten luck – I got over a cold and immediately got the flu. Yay!) Anyways, part one of our vacation was in Fortuna Arenal, part two was in Monteverde, and now we’re to part three: the beach! I knew after a few days of intense adventuring, we’d be ready to spend the final days of our vacation with toes in the sand.

On the way to Manuel Antonio, we stopped in Jaco Beach for lunch. Jaco is a famous surfing spot, and it seemed to be a popular beach town, especially with young international travelers. Isn’t it pretty?


We arrived late into Manuel Antonio, so we pretty much headed to bed for some shut eye. The next morning, the boys went ziplining while I explored the public beach. I had an awesome time reading Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar while I dug my toes into the sand.


When the guys got back and were thoroughly hopped on adrenaline, we headed into the private beach, which is a national park. This beach was stunning, as you can see above. There were monkeys and iguanas all around, and the water was about 75 degrees. The best part was you had to hike in to get to the beach, maybe about a mile, and that meant there were no cars, very little trash, no city sounds, and unspoiled nature as far as the eye could see.


After the beach, we popped into the hotel pool where I flew down the water slide at an alarming speed. Then, we headed up to the rooftop bar to grab a drink before dinner. I enjoyed my pina colada as the sun sank into the horizon. Paradise.


The next morning, Matt and I went to the hotel lobby at 6:15 A.M. (ugh!) so we could go on a mangrove boat tour. Because the mangrove swamp changes depth based on the tides (the pull of the moon), we had to go super early to avoid getting stranded in the swamp. Mangroves are really cool, complex species — they’re a self-filtering tree that live only in brackish water (half salt, half fresh).


It was cool being out in nature that early for a relaxing boat ride, and we ended up being the only two people on the tour. Our guide actually had spent a few years living in San Jose, so we had fun talking about the differences between California and Costa Rica (actually, more similarities than differences)! I told him one of my goals was to see a crocodile, and we ended up seeing three! This tour was a really peaceful way to see one of the special ecosystems of Costa Rica.


Sadly after our tour, it was time to head back toward San Jose to fly home the next day. We made one last pit stop at the famous Tarcoles River bridge, because we knew there was a spectacle below… CROCODILES! Nobody really knows exactly why there are so many crocodiles at this spot, but at any given time you can expect to see more than 20 crocs. We counted 42 in just the few minutes we were there. We didn’t dillydally too long in this spot, because even though we were up on a bridge, I didn’t particularly need to spend much longer near these massive scaly beasts.


Costa Rica far surpassed what I had hoped for in a good vacation. The people of Costa Rica were so welcoming and kind, and genuinely shared a love for the natural treasures of their country. I couldn’t take a single bad picture being surrounded by such vivid beauty, and at every turn, there was exotic wildlife. I loved getting to see the rain forest and cloud forest, and I can’t wait to go back. In a week we covered so much of Costa Rica (and ended up putting over 700 miles on our rental car!), but I already know the next time I go I’ll want to see even more. If you’re thinking about going, GO! Getting to Costa Rica is relatively inexpensive (about $500 round trip from LAX), as is the lodging. While things like the rental car and food were pricier than anticipated, it all evened out with the valuable deals on really top notch accommodation for around $90-$100 a night. If you have any questions about Costa Rica, leave a comment or shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to tell you what I learned. As the people of Costa Rica say… Pura Vida!



Hocus Pocus – Our Ghostly Encounter

If you haven’t already noticed, I have a pretty vivid imagination. I’m one of those people easily influenced by the power of suggestion. If you say I should get a mole checked out on my arm, I’ll immediately think, “OMG, I HAVE CANCER” and will spend the next thirty minutes of my life plotting out my will. (Matt gets everything.) My wild imagination isn’t always a curse, and in fact, it’s responsible for helping launch my career in creative copywriting. But sometimes… like this last weekend… I wish I could just turn that imagination off, and be ‘Betty Bland N’ Plain’, with no tall tales swirling around in my brain.

We stayed in the top left room.

Matt and I spent the weekend in Big Bear Lake at a historic Mansion. We were staying in the Carriage House, an old building used for…. yep, you guessed it, housing carriages. This house was built in 1917, and the main lodge was built in 1879. Our room was pretty small and dusty, but there wasn’t anything particularly ooky-spooky about it. A little dated, a little country clutter, but it’s not like I found blood stains on the mattress – and the only dead body that I could see was the taxidermy trout perched above the bed. I even proclaimed that the room definitely wasn’t haunted – cuz you know, I’m like an expert on that stuff. We checked in, put our stuff down, and headed out pretty quickly to grab dinner since our tummies were rumbling.

Matt smiles, unaware of ghostly Emily lurking in the background. Look carefully at the sink.

We came back to a slightly eerie surprise – classical music was softly playing in the room. Our first guess was the radio – but nope, the alarm clock wasn’t on. We finally realized it was the phone that had some sort of hold button that played classical music. BUT WHO TURNED IT ON?! Matt and I were busy nomming on Cabin Cuisine, far away from the hotel room and creepy classical-music playing phone. Whatever – we moved on, a little spooked but just assuming it was on a timer or something (we talked to other guests who also experienced this – so maybe it was on a hotel wide timer?)

The corpse in our room. Anybody want fish sticks?

We ended up seeing Crazy Stupid Love that night (it was cute!), and when we came home at 11:30, the whole carriage house was dark, our neighbors all peacefully snoring in their tiny, creaky beds. We crept into bed, and with the light flicked off, I regressed to my five year old self and started to imagine cold fingers on my neck and monsters under the bed. I finally drifted off to sleep, but Matt and I were both startled awake around 3 AM from a large crash. You know when you’re woken up suddenly, and your heart pounds, and your eyes are frantically trying to catch up to the lack of light in the room? We both had that, and suddenly, my ‘spidey sense’ was tingling even more, crazed with anticipation of some axe-wielding, gold-panning demon ready to harvest my soul.

I managed to fall back asleep and awoke the next morning to find my makeup bag spilled inside of the sink with a few things on the floor. Big deal, right? Stuff falls all the time. However, look at the picture of Matt above. See the vanity counter? It’s tiny. And I made sure to push the bag all the way against the backsplash, purposely so it wouldn’t fall – cuz I use Lancome foundation, and that shiz is expensive, and I’ve broken the glass bottle before. So I kinda tried to make sure it couldn’t fall – no matter what. Weird – for sure. IT GETS WEIRDER!

No Up-Skirt shots here - this aint TMZ! Me in the haunted mansion

The next day, Sunday, I was shopping at one of the local stores when I started talking with the shop owner. I mentioned where we were staying, and she asked how I liked it. I explained that it had been a little creepy at night, and she laughed and said “Oh yes! My daughter worked there in high school as a maid – she eventually quit because of the ghost of a little girl who died there. She just got too creeped out.. they never hurt her or anything, but it just got weird!”

Little girl? The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Little girls love playing with makeup. Suddenly and randomly, a name popped up in my mind – EMILY. Emily was playing with my makeup. I don’t what kind of koolaid I’d been drinking, but in my mind, it suddenly made sense – it was the little ghost girl, Emily, playing with my makeup. Needless to say, Sunday night was a rough night for sleep – I kept one eye open, convinced a transparent little girl would pop up in front of my eyes, giggling, asking me to play with her. She never did pop up, thankfully. That was the end of the spookiness, but I left Big Bear with a great story – and an appreciation for my seemingly un-haunted house, where the only spirits are stowed high up in the liquor cabinet.

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had a ghostly experience? Do you find your imagination prods you to believe in things that just might not be there?

**Note – A few yelp reviews pointed out a “weird feeling” in the room we were staying in – one person even said they felt a “demonic” presence. Luckily, nothing felt harmful – just a little creepy crawly!

This is not from where we stayed, but a "haunted" restaurant we ate at. The waitress described women in long blue aprons floating through the tables. We didn't notice the weird, gray thing in this shot until last night - and there was nobody there, but there is a guy standing off to the right. HOCUS POCUS?