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Exploring the 'Pearl of the Pacific' in Costa Rica

LYSA ALLMAN-BALDWIN | 4/5/2013, 1:34 p.m.
Exploring the 'Pearl of the Pacific' in Costa Rica

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Exploring the 'Pearl of the Pacific' in Costa Rica

In part one of this series, morning had just broken and we were breathing in our first taste of Costa Rica at the Parador Resort & Spa, an award-winning hotel and Costa Rica's premier eco-luxury resort.

The resort is located in the Puntarenas region, Costa Rica's largest province, also known as the "Pearl of the Pacific," spanning over 500 miles of stunning coastline hugging the country's curvaceous western, Pacific Ocean boundary, all the way down to the Panamanian boarder.

The province is so large, it is distinguished as North Puntarenas and South Puntarenas, both offering amazing beaches, incredible forests and mangroves, hundreds of wildlife and exotic plant species, beautiful national parks and ecological reserves, white water rapids, stunning bays and peninsulas and so much more. With all that diversity, it's no wonder that whether you enjoy active sports like surfing, hiking or fishing or slower paced diversions like beach combing or sunbathing, you will find it here.

A COSTA RICA ORIGINAL

Our first full day out was the one adventure I was really looking forward to-zip-lining through the rain forest. I had done it twice before in my life--the first time to break out of my acrophobic comfort zone--on what would probably be called a beginner course. I loved it so much that I zipped again a couple of years later--higher, more challenging and still loads of fun.

But zip-lining in Costa Rica, where it is said that zip-lining was first created, is considered by many to be the best in the world, and I was definitely not going to miss out on that! So off we went in a van with "Big Al," our very outgoing and entertaining host, picking up several others lodging in various accommodations along the way--a professional couple from New York City and three mid-30s girls from Texas--for the 10-minute drive into town to the main office.

Once there, we hopped off briefly to sign our paperwork and were joined by a baby boomer from Colorado and three Costa Ricans (two early-20s and a 40s-something mother of three) who lived in other parts of the country.

The approximately 45-minute ride traversed a flat two-lane highway for a spell, suddenly veering off onto rutted gravel roads that revealed wide expanses of thick scrubland countryside populated by groves of dense trees are far as the eye could see.

As we jutted off in all directions without a landmark or sign to be had, Big Al pointed out the history of the area, the workers equipped with six-foot long branch and fruit cluster cutters and, at one point, had the driver stop the bus to pluck a broad leaf from a henna plant. As we jostled along, he demonstrated how to rip, roll and squeeze a piece just so to extract the crimson liquid to mark our skin. Several on the bus now adorned with dots, crosses and their names in henna--we continued on through what eventually transformed into a hilly, picturesque area sparsely peppered with tiny rustic homes and roadside convenience shacks.