There are some destinations that tug at your heart, luring you to come back again and again. I guess Costa Rica is that place for me because less than a year after spending all of August exploring this magical country, I was back – this time, to the Osa Peninsula.
Unlike my first trip where I mostly hotel hopped around the country, I decided to let Costa Rican Vacations take the stress of logistics planning off me. The result was one of the smoothest, most enjoyable trips I’ve ever had.
As you might remember, I’ve traveled with NAMU Travel Group before, to Panama. Much like that trip, I was able to partake in some super immersive and culturally educational experiences. In short, it was pure magic. ?♀️
Here’s why Lapa Rios is the most magical spot in Costa Rica
One glance at Lapa Rios and I knew this place was magic. As soon as you arrive, you’re greeted with a wooden spiral staircase leading to the observation deck above. Most people don’t know this about me, but a couple of years ago I wrote a first draft of a young adult novel and part of the book takes place in a setting much like Lapa Rios. Suddenly, that fictional world came swimming back to the forefront of my mind.
Even though I haven’t gone back to that story (yet!) I was so inspired at Lapa Rios. Everything about this lodge, from the open-air rainforest bungalows overlooking the sea to the outdoor showers and daily Yoga classes, is a magnet for magic.
My first night at Lapa Rios, I got caught in a rain storm heading to dinner. Despite the 30-second commute from my bungalow to the restaurant, I was drenched. The funny thing is that I felt more alive in that brief moment than I had in months. There was a flicker of home, and of possibility. It was as if the rain shook me awake. It fogged my glasses so that I could see what was really right there in front of me.
You’re forced to live in the moment
This trip really came at the perfect time. Usually, I’m working 24/7 and constantly scrolling through social media to reply to comments. That, and I almost always travel with my Tep hotspot that allows me to be connected no matter where I am in the world.
For this trip, though, I left my hotspot at home and, at Lapa Rios, there is only one small area where you can connect to Wi-Fi. In any other situation I would be freaking out but I just went with it and ultimately, it was the best gift. It forced me to be present.
I’ve been going through some major life changes the past few months and within an hour of not having my phone to distract me, I allowed myself to really reflect on my life. I couldn’t hide from the feelings that haunt me. I had to sit with them, literally, from dawn to dusk. The more I allowed these thoughts, feelings and emotions to blossom, the more at peace I became.
It was such a gift to have these three days to really connect with my true self, rather than my phone and all the negative emotions that come along with it (like comparing myself to others). I lived in the present moment and started being comfortable with discomfort, which in turn, helped me heal.
The forest heals
Lapa Rios is on a 1,000-acre private reserve and there are so many ways to tour the grounds. Best of all, most activities are included in your rate. Every day, I’d check the board to see what tours were being offered. I decided to skip the more challenging hikes and instead opt for the more immersive tours that I might not have the opportunity to do elsewhere.
I took their early morning bird walk—after all, there are more than 360 species of birds living in the Osa Peninsula. I also did a night walk where I saw all sorts of frogs, insects and even snakes. My favorite experience was the Matapalo Tour, which takes you to three sprawling beaches. Along the way I saw dozens of monkeys and scarlet macaws.
Love surrounds you
While I’ve always respected myself, I haven’t always loved myself. It’s something that I’m working on day by day and for those of you who have a strong inner critic, you’ll know it’s no easy task.
My stay at Lapa Rios also coincided with what would have been my dad’s 69th birthday. I really wanted to go somewhere to honor him on this day; after all, he loved that I loved traveling. In many ways, it was tough being alone and disconnected from my family and friends back home. But in a way, I felt more connected to him here than I probably would have at home.
Costa Rica is a place my dad would never have thought to travel to, but I know he would have loved it if he had. I decided to plant a tree in his honor, one of several programs that Lapa Rios offers guests. Now, a part of him will always be in Costa Rica and this tree will help nourish the forest, just as he’s nourished me my whole life.
I also felt so loved by the staff and that was such an unexpected blessing. The people here are so kind, so genuine and so ready to give. For someone who often feels so unworthy of love, it surrounded me like a hug.
You’ll find your spirit animal
Seeing the animals of Costa Rica wild and free also gave me hope that my own life can be as full. They seem to be everywhere you look and yet, the glee of spotting one never left me. The excitement of it all never got old.
One of my favorite birds of Costa Rica is the famous scarlet macaw. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they have a fascinating life pattern. When they are about five (they can live into their late seventies), they find a mate and they stay with this mate their whole lives. That’s why you always see these birds flying in pairs.
The tragedy of this is that sometimes one scarlet macaw will die earlier than expected and, like clockwork, the partner dies of a broken heart within six months. These colorful birds might not be my spirit animal but I related to them so deeply in their quest for love, and their life cycle of loss.
There’s beauty in being small
I’ve written about this before, but there’s a special beauty about being small. After living in cities for over a decade, it’s so easy to forget that we don’t rule the world. Nature has always been stronger and more powerful than us, and that’s okay. Being back in Costa Rica reminded me that I need to respect the forests, the oceans, and all the animals that live there.
It’s also a good lesson in perspective. Even though we’re small, we can do big things. I’m still on my own path to find out what exactly I’m meant to do in this world but whatever it is, it will make an impact, however small.
What destination sparked the magic within? Tell me in the comments below!
This post is in collaboration with the Costa Rican Vacations. All opinions are my own.
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