We flew into Costa Rica on American Airlines into Daniel Oduber International Airport, in the city of Liberia. This is one of the two major airports in Costa Rica, but it's not like any major airport I'd ever seen. Made up of just one building that looks more like a big open air barn and just one runway.
We arrived in Costa Rica at about 1 PM local time, which is the same time zone as US Central. We thought we'd be in Mountain Time Zone, but we were surprised when we looked at a map to see that Costa Rica is actually directly south of Atlanta. Shows how much we know about world geography. We were met by representatives of our travel agency, but before they could take us to our hotel, we had to get some cash. Luckily there was a bank and an ATM at the airport, but using the ATM was a bit of a challenge for me. The machine dispensed in both US dollars and Costa Rican colones, but only in specified increments. I could get 20 US dollars, or I could get colones in quantities of ten-thousand, five-thousand, or two-thousand. The conversion rate is 525 colones = 1 dollar, but it still felt crazy to withdraw ten thousand colones! I withdrew ten thousand colones, and then another two thousand colones to start the trip with, as we planned on using our Visa card for almost all our expenses.
We took a van across very bumpy roads, and by the time we arrived at our hotel we both had headaches from the lack of eating coupled with the bumpy ride. Still, we were excited to start our vacation!
When we arrived at our hotel, the all-inclusive Allegro Papagayo, we were greeted with a welcome cocktail called "sunset" by the bartender Alberto. Sooo delicious! Unfortunately I never got the recipe, but believe me it was quite good!
Since we left Greensboro pretty early, and didn't get to eat in the Miami airport, by the time we got to Costa Rica we were pretty hungry. Our room wasn't ready yet, so while we waited we headed down to the restaurant to get some much needed food. We were too late for lunch, but they had a snack bar where stuff like hamburgers, hot dogs and nachos were available.
We checked into our room, which was clean, but honestly not what would be considered "four star," as advertised. The room itself was more like a Days Inn, to be quite honest. The bed was comfortable enough, and the hot water worked, as did the air conditioner and the television, so it could have been worse. We took a nap before dinner, exhausted from all the travel so far.
This was our first time at an "all-inclusive" resort, and weren't sure what to expect. We can be "food snobs" of sorts, and were worried about what it would be like eating from a buffet every night. The food the first night was decent, and it was nice to eat outside, listening to the birds around the resort.
After dinner was what what we hoped were signs of things to come. We walked down to the beach and saw a man with a flashlight looking for something. We asked what he was looking for and he told us he was looking for animals. He then pointed to what he called a mapache running into the forest. We'd never heard of them before, but were thrilled to see our first glimpse of Costa Rican wildlife, right there at the resort. (As it turns out, mapache is spanish for 'raccoon', so -not that wild) But the man then told us that there was a monkey up in the trees! We couldn't believe it. We followed him, and looked as he shone his light up into a tree. Sure enough, looking down on us was a howler monkey! We knew that howler monkeys lived in the area, and were hopeful to see one, but were thrilled to see one the very first night. Then as we walked back to the hotel, we saw another animal in our path - It was a coati (pronounced KWA-tee) - a cousin to the raccoon that we know here in the States, but very different looking and unlike the common raccoon is not nocturnal. It took one look at us and took off.
So we were very excited as we headed off to sleep - our first night sleeping in amazing Costa Rica!