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Thanksgiving in Costa Rica: Experiencing Pura Vida

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 by in International, Travel | 6 comments

Costa Rica

Jimmy & Merlinda practicing aerial gymnastics

The moment I stepped off the plane, my body began to breathe differently.

Later, I would describe it to a friend as a subtle shift from consciously having to tell my body to breathe long and deep to melting naturally into the rhythm of the earth. The minute the oxygen hit my pores, my body instinctively knew how to drink it in. We had arrived in Costa Rica.

Pura Vida.

Thanksgiving in the Land of Pura Vida


Our custom itinerary prepared by Merlinda and Paul

Unlike our other travels, this visit to Costa Rica would be unconventional in many ways. First, with the exception of booking plane tickets and a rental car, there was virtually no additional planning on our part. Our dear friends, Merlinda and Paul, newly minted Costa Rica residents, took charge of the trip planning weeks before and surprised us with an itinerary that touched us both in terms of its breadth and heart. From zip-lining and riverside yoga to soaking in the healing waters of a sacred volcano, our friends designed an itinerary that truly spoke to how well they knew us and the things we would love. All we had to do was get there.

…We are grateful for the kind, generous hearts of dear friends.

Another important departure from our typical travel routine was the opportunity to see a place through the eyes of its people. To this point, our gracious hosts opened up their home and welcomed us into their warm community of fellow expats and native Ticos (native Costa Ricans). Thanksgiving dinner was a vegetarian feast prepared by their neighbors, Elkin and Valentina, a Tico couple Merlinda and Paul refer to as their “Costa Rican family”. The afternoon before our departure day, we stopped by a self-sustaining farm owned by one of their expat friends. Welcoming us with an easy smile, their friend paused mid-errand and led us on a guided tour of his extensive 8-acre slice of paradise which included a grove of banana trees, meandering cows, a flock of geese and a magnificent view of the lake at sunset that would make any aspiring photographer jump for his camera. Such experiences cannot be found in any travel guidebook or tour outfit, but were only made possible through the far-reaching connections of friendship and community.

…We are grateful for unexpected connections and the warm hospitality of the local people.

Costa Rica was a springboard for many firsts. It was the first time we bathed in the mineral-rich waters of an active volcano and skipped through a rainforest canopy on hanging bridges. On our last full day in Costa Rica, Mr. Travelbypoints tested his fear of heights by zip-lining through the treetops of a lush rainforest, while I indulged a whimsical last-minute decision to remain behind and explore the grounds of a delightful eco-resort. It was there that I had my first Reiki massage session – atop an open-air tree house, to boot! The experience was so magical and spiritually transformative that it deserves its very own blog post (to come).

…We are grateful for the thrill of new experiences and the joy of connecting with our bliss.

Finally, while I could wax poetic for days about the splendid natural beauty of Costa Rica, the highlight of our time there was the privilege of sharing these experiences with people we love. From laughing till our bellies hurt in our search for a convenient papaya tree (inside joke) to arguing about who would ride in the back trunk (I don’t even know if that was legal), it was the little moments of companionship and camaraderie that made our trip so memorable.  Heartfelt thanks to Merlinda and Paul for helping us create wonderful memories to last a life time.  We love you guys!

…We are grateful for the gift of shared laughter and unforgettable experiences.

Pura Vida in Pictures

Pura Vida is a refrain you’ll often hear while traveling in Costa Rica. Quite simply, it means “Pure Life” or “Full of Life” and can be used as a greeting, farewell or to express appreciation or thanks for life’s bounty. We hope that these pictures can convey even a fraction of the joy and wonder we felt during our time there. Pura Vida!

Costa Rica

Open Air Yoga Platform at Villa DeCary

Costa Rica

Jimmy at the Arenal Hanging Bridges

Costa Rica

Tabacon Thermal Resort – one of the “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”

Costa Rica

Flowing volcanic hot spring river @ Tabacon

Costa Rica

View of Lake Arenal from a roadside coconut stand

Costa Rica

Visit to a local farm

Costa Rica

Sunset view from the Ceiba Tree Lodge

Costa Rica

One last visit to a glorious viewpoint before heading to the airport

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  • Merlinda

    You have captured the spirit of PURA VIDA, TravelWhimsy! You all are truly our familia. We look forward to sharing other parts of this beautiful country with you and Mr. Travelbypoints for years to come (let’s plan a beach vacation to Manuel Antonio, Dominical, and Uvita-it’s what we imagine your birthplace must look like). Te amamos!
    Merlinda and Paul

    • Love!  I think a future trip to Asia with you both is in the cards for us….!

  • It was an honor to spend time with you, Travel Whimsy y TravelByPoints. Te amamos! PURA VIDA!

  • Great blog!

  • americantaitai

    Wow, looks like an amazing Thanksgiving for you and Mr. TBP!  So glad you were able to spend a few days truly taking everything in with wonderful friends.  Hahaha, love your photo of Jimmy on the hanging bridge!  So funny!!  

    • Thank you, Americantaitai!  We are blessed to have wonderful friends in our lives to share these travel experiences with.  I had a feeling you would appreciate the picture of Jimmy monkeying around on the hanging bridge – not as fun for the people behind him (we got a little motion sick). 😛

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