Costa Rica can be an adventure

May 21, 2010|By LISA PREJEAN
  • A scene from the beach at Punta Leona resort in Costa Rica.
By Lisa Prejean,

Pura Vida!

This Costa Rican greeting literally means "the pure life," a wish natives have for each other and for the tourists who visit their Latin American homeland.

In last week's column, I wrote about the service projects we performed during the first week of May in the poverty-stricken areas of San Jose.

Some of the homes had dirt floors. Electrical wires dangled from the ceiling and down the walls.

As we traveled outside the capital city, however, we saw some very different scenery.

We drove up to a neighborhood called "The Clouds." It is on one of the beautiful mountains in Costa Rica, and the mist hangs so low that the rooftops of these fine homes seem to be covered in clouds.

Costa Rica is known for its zip-line parks and whitewater rafting. There's nothing quite like zip-lining through the mountains of a jungle or whitewater rafting along a tropical river surrounded by cascading waterfalls. The beauty is unsurpassed.


At Fossil Land ( ) we crossed five zip lines and had several adventure park-type activities in between. As we were climbing up the mountain to the first zip line, there were times that I didn't think I would make it. The spirit of determination and a drive to keep up with the students I was chaperoning kept me moving. So what if I have 20 years on those guys? I wanted to do everything they did, even if it took me twice as long.

I admit that I was nervous about our whitewater rafting trip. While I had gone rafting in West Virginia, I thought this trip would be much more challenging. And it was. The rapids were levels one to four, with one being the easiest and four being the hardest. Level five is for professionals, so we didn't go up to that level. (Thank goodness!)

Our group only had two "swimmers," rafters who fell in the water. Of course, I was one of them. "Teacher," as our Spanish guide called me, quite ungracefully bounced out of the boat. One of my students said I wouldn't have fallen out if I'd only followed directions .... Another asked if I had a nice swim ... Very funny.

We traveled 18 miles down the river, staying out until about 3 p.m.

The sunblock we put on at the beginning of the trip was no match for the brutal tropical sun. We all ended up with sunburns, which carried over into our next activity: Two days at a beach resort on the West Coast.

This was the highlight of the week for many of the students. They had worked at fund-raisers throughout middle and high school to raise money for this trip.

The resort is called Punta Leona (the Spanish word for lion) because the beach there is in the shape of a lion.

This area of Costa Rica is gorgeous. You can check it out at, but the photos on the website don't do it justice.

At the resort, we swam in the Pacific Ocean, which was as warm as bath water. The tides were intense and we quickly found ourselves far from shore.

Once again, I was determined to keep up, so I swam determinedly to shore.

From there, I could watch all the happenings and be content to rest a while. I needed it after trying to keep up with all those teenagers.

* * *

There was a math mix-up in my column last week. I had mentioned that the money conversion rate in Costa Rica, where the colon is used as currency, takes a little bit of thought. Each American dollar is worth about 500 colones. So, if something is priced at 2,000 colones, it is four dollars. (Not two dollars, as I wrote in last week's column. Thankfully, a colleague who happens to teach math, pointed out the mistake. Thanks, Harold.) The conversion is not too difficult to figure out in increments of 500 or 1,000, but it gets a little more challenging when the numbers aren't rounded. Or if your mind is a little cloudy from grading research papers.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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