We left for our honeymoon the Monday following the wedding. We took a red eye direct from LAX to Panama City. The flight seemed to be pretty smooth, but right as we were anticipating landing we were told by the captain that due to weather conditions we’d have to land a little outside the city, wait half an hour and then be able to get into Panama. Four hours later we were still sitting on the tarmac in pouring rain. When we finally got word that we had permission to land we took off, spent less than 10 minutes in the air and then landed. I’m not sure how dramatically weather conditions changed from one location 10 minutes of air-time away from the other, but apparently it did. We were exhausted and little worried about how the rain was going to impact our vacation, but a smooth trip through customs, a quick taxi ride and an early check-in at the beautiful Tantalo Hotel helped to alleviate some of our tension. We grabbed lunch at the hotel which was located in the Casco Viejo district of Panama City and headed out to check the area out. The rain had let up, but it was HUMID. We tried to be good tourists, but were falling asleep on our feet. We headed back to the air conditioned hotel and took a glorious, long nap. That night we had a much more pleasant walk around the neighborhood, grabbed a cocktail at a swanky bar with a view of downtown Panama City and then headed back to the hotel to take advantage of their rooftop bar- also with killer views. It was a long day, but a good start to our honeymoon.
The next day we decided to check out the Panama Canal before our afternoon flight to Bocas del Toro. The Canal is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary next year and is gearing up for a big expansion. We toured the Canal’s small museum and took in a short introductory 3D film. Most of the big liners don’t go through the canal until the afternoon, but we were lucky enough to witness a smaller boat (loaded with school children and traditional Panamanian dancers) make the journey. It was really interesting to read about the creation and completion of the Canal and we both though the museum literature made it pretty clear that the Panamanians weren’t too happy having the US manage the Canal for so long. Directly from the Panama Canal we headed over to the small Albrook airport for our short flight to Bocas del Toro. We had some amazing views of the islands from the plane and loved the “baggage claim” which consisted of one guy holding up each piece of luggage until someone claimed it. We grabbed our stuff, walked to the dock in town and hopped a boat over to Bastimentos where we were greeted at our hotel, The Firefly, with a rum punch and a cute welcome sign congratulating us on our marriage. A very sweet touch from the Firefly’s awesome owners, Lauren and Ryan. We checked into our room, had a quick swim in the ocean before the sun set and then enjoyed a delicious meal of fresh ceviche , green curry with shrimp and shrimp in peanut sauce. We were officially in honeymoon mode!
We booked five nights at the Firefly and spent most of our time hanging out at the beach or reading on the big, comfy deck. On Bastimentos it’s almost impossible to go anywhere that doesn’t require a boat. We hired a boat on our first day to take us to Red Frog Beach and a few days later to check out Starfish Beach. The other days we took advantage of the ocean right outside our door, borrowing snorkels from the hotel or chose to relax on the deck. We wandered into Basti Town a few times, but it was too hot to stray from the water. We did meet and spend time with a few other travelers- we met a fun couple from Houston who we hung out with at Starfish Beach and a fellow New Englander who we caught one of the Red Sox playoff games with at a bar in town serving up American classics and $1 beers. It was a relaxing start to our honeymoon and we loved being in Bocas del Toro, but were excited to head into Costa Rica by the end of the week.
We found a company called Caribe Shuttle to take us from Bocas into Costa Rica. They drove us to the border, dropped us and had another shuttle waiting on the other side. The border crossing was pretty easy, but a little sketchy. To get into Costa Rica one has to walk across an old, decrepit bridge. The people in front of us kept pausing to take pictures and at one point one of them stepped onto a piece of wood that fell out from under him and his shin had a pretty good gash in it. Definitely the sketchiest border crossing we’d ever encountered (well until Nicaragua, but we’ll get into that later…).
The shuttled dropped us off right at our next hotel in the beautiful town of Punta Uva. We stayed 3 nights in what was one of my favorite hotels of the trip, Korrigan Lodge. The lodge has just four private cabins, is located in the midst of a beautiful and wild jungle and is just a few hundred meters from the best beaches in the area. Our first morning in Punta Uva a herd of monkeys went swinging through the trees above us, two toucans flew by and we spotted a sloth on our way to the beach!
Korrigan Lodge provided us the use of bicycles and we used them to explore the area. We visited the Jaguar Rescue Center and had a fantastic guide who introduced us to a bunch of local animals. All the animals at the Center were brought there by locals who found them injured or tried to raise them as pets and realized wild animals aren’t so easy to domesticate. We got to pet anteaters, raccoons, monkeys, deer and more. The Center was full of mostly uplifting stories, but also a few sad ones. We saw one owl the Center had rescued who refused to eat because her mate had died. They were working to nurse her back to health, but were still worried because this particular breed mates for life. In general we had a great visit. We learned a lot about the local fauna and had so much fun checking out all the animals.
We logged in a lot of beach time and hammock time those first few days in Costa Rica. We also had some great meals in the area. Our favorite spot was El Refugio, where we had a delicious dinner of steak and octopus. We were initially worried a bit about the weather, but we lucked out. It only rained at night and when it rained it poured– perfect sleeping weather.
Our time in Punta Uva flew by, but our next stop was just about an hour up the coast in Cahuita, so we had a few more ocean side days before starting our journey inland. We took a local bus from Punta Uva to Cahuita- a cheap and quick mode of transportation. We underestimated the walking portion of the journey however and ended up carrying all our luggage more than 3 kilometers down a dusty, dirt road to our next hotel. Sweating and blistered we were delighted to find a gorgeous pool and direct beach access and spent the rest of the day lounging and swimming.
We spent our final day on the Caribbean coast at Cahuita National Park. We spent the morning walking along the well maintained trails that provided a fantastic view of the ocean and ample opportunities to spot wildlife. We walked right past a sloth making his way down a tree. He was so close we could touch him! Right after that we spotted the famous white face monkeys. We even saw a baby clinging to the back of his mother. After a couple of hours we came to an area with picnic benches and a couple of snorkeling groups eating lunch. One of the guides pointed out a basilisk and a snake to us. We sat down to enjoy some lunch and noticed that the monkeys we’d seen a little ways back had migrated to the well populated picnic area. Dave was holding a piece of bread in his hand talking to me when all of the sudden one of the monkeys ran up, put one hand on Dave’s knee and used the other hand to snatch the bread out of his hand! Obviously surprised he dropped the the rest of the bread and those bold monkeys kept coming back until every last crumb had been eaten! After our excitement with the monkeys we started our walk back and stopped at the beach for a refreshing swim and some reading. We spent the afternoon chilling by the pool and sipping on some beer. Great last day on the coast.
Saturday morning we began our trek across the country to the area of Arenal. We spent most of the day driving in the rain and were a little worried the rumors about the rainy season would hold true, but we ended up being pretty luck on the rain front during our stay in Arenal. We stayed at a sustainable rainforest ecolodge called Finca Luna Nueva and were one of the few guests at the Lodge. We spent our first day taking a tour of the working farm, hanging out by the pool and enjoying lots of delicious Costa Rican coffee in the rocking chairs at our bungalow.
We rented a car for two days starting Monday and drove out to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. We hiked along the bridges, catching some views of the volcano (which until three years ago use to regularly erupt) through the clouds. Along the way we spotted some wild hogs and a couple of toucans.
From the bridges we made our way to La Fortuna Waterfall. The rain was coming down pretty steadily when we got to the park so we debated if we should spend the $10/person to get in, but decided to go for. We were so happy we did. The hike to the waterfall was about 20 minutes straight down and when we got to the falls we were the only visitors at the site. We clambered out onto the rocks, stripped down to our suits and dove into the cold, powerful pool. The waterfall was so powerful that it was extremely challenging to swim away from the pool’s edge. We swam around the pool’s edge, looking up at the falling rain and watching the bats fly in and out of the cave behind the fall. La Fortuna Waterfall turned out to be one of the highlights of the honeymoon.
The next day we took advantage of having the car and drove a couple hours north to Rio Celeste National Park. When we initially planned our honeymoon we thought about staying at a hotel near the park, but decided against it due to it’s location and price. We were very happy that we opted to visit the area though. The last part of the drive to the park is about 10 kilometers down a BUMPY, dirt road. We parked and were one of two cars in the lot. The ranger in the information booth at the entrance recommended wearing rain boots if we had them and we were glad we did. The trail is about 7 kilometers roundtrip and even though we lucked out and had mostly sunny weather for our hike the ground was pretty muddy and the trail had a couple creeks you had to wade across to continue. We stopped for lunch a few kilometers in at the waterfall, which was just as gorgeous as La Fortuna, and then continued our hike to the mouth of the river. At the end of the trail you’re able to witness the spot where two rivers join and create the beautiful, misty blue color you see as you hike along Rio Celeste. The color change is due to a chemical reaction between sulfur and calcium carbonate. We stayed awhile to marvel at the natural surroundings before starting our trip back out of the park. Along the way we spotted some steam coming off the water and decided to take a dip in one of the natural hot springs. Our trip to Rio Celeste also made it onto our honeymoon highlight reel.
Wednesday was our final day in the Arenal area and we decided to partake in a more traditional honeymoon activity by spending the day at one of the upscale hot spring resorts, Tabacon. We decided to kick the luxury up a notch and booked one night at the 5-star Tabacon hotel as well. This was mostly due to the fact that hotel guests get in free to the Hot Springs which are a steep $65 entry fee per person as it is, but it felt pretty nice to live in the lap of luxury for a day. We dropped our bags off in our room, changed into our suits and spent the rest of the morning and most of the early afternoon moving between the different temperature pools and lounging under waterfalls at the hot springs.
In the afternoon we headed back to the hotel for a nap and a were pleasantly surprised to find a congratulatory bottle of wine and a plate of fresh fruit waiting for us. We put on fluffy robes, popped the bubbly and toasted to married life. We decided to be decadent and order room service before heading back to the hot springs for a nighttime soak and to catch the World Series game 6 game at the pool bar. Dave was of course ecstatic that the Red Sox ended up closing the series out. It was another pretty perfect day.
Thursday morning we woke up early to catch the first of four local buses we needed to take to make it from Arenal to the Nicaragua border. We needed to make it across the border and take a 30 minute cab ride to the city of Rivas by 5:45pm to make the last ferry to our next destination, Ometepe Island. We couldn’t believe our luck with the buses since literally no one could find us a timetable before hand, but we made all of them and were at the border just after 2:00pm. That’s where our good luck ended. We made it through the exit counters at Costa Rica with no problem, but were stopped just inside the Nicaraguan border and told that Dave’s passport was unacceptable for entry. It was RIDICULOUS. The back page is peeling off a bit and the cover slightly frayed, but there was no damage to the photo page or the bar code every other country just scans to prove the passport is authentic. We attempted to argue and even resorted to buying glue from some “helpful bystanders”. The border patrol wouldn’t budge. We thought about trying to wait it out and see if we could enter once the current guards went off duty, but felt a little sketchy and we’d spotted a Tica Bus on the way to San Jose that had just crossed into Costa Rica. Thinking it was our best bet to get the hell away from that border we hurried back, crossed back through immigration and haggled with the bus driver to get a ride back to San Jose and the US Embassy. Six more hours of bus later we made it to San Jose and luckily had a hotel near the embassy reserved by my savior of a sister Madeline. We downed some much needed beers and crashed. The news the next morning from the Embassy was less than helpful however. They informed us that it takes up to 10 days to repair passports and Nicaragua is notorious for rejecting emergency passports. We then spent hours on the phone with United representatives because their website wouldn’t allow us to change our flight and they couldn’t find the same flights we were looking at. They eventually figured it out, but when they tried to book it my credit card was declined because it had already been charged for five $400 change fees coming from the website. Another hour or so was then spent on the phone with my credit card company and then in a three-way call with United. Eventually we figured everything out, were able to change the flights for the following day and able to have one nice afternoon out in San Jose buying souvenirs and walking around the downtown a bit. Needless to say, we’re not huge fans of Nicaragua or United at the moment.
We landed in LA late Saturday night and decided that we couldn’t end our honeymoon on a sour note. We were lucky to find an great deal on a cabin rental up in Big Bear and my parents were nice enough to lend us their car. So Monday morning we drove up to Big Bear (about 2 hours from Pasadena) and ended our honeymoon in Daverian fashion- lots of game playing, drinking our weight in wedding wine, bloody marys and beer and fashioning feasts to devour. The weather difference dropped from 90° in Central America to 28° in Big Bear and we savored the chance to get bundled up, view some fall foliage and do absolutely nothing for a few days.
Our honeymoon didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but overall we had a fantastic time. And the most important thing is that we’re married, we’re happy and hopeful about the future. Now if all our recent job searching pays off soon life will be pretty perfect!