Costa RicaCosta Rica

Beach Breaks and a Canopy Tour

Destination: Playa Hermosa - Puntarenas

A 5:30 am alarm roused me from a deep sleep, so I decided to make the best of the early wake-up call with a few sunrise photographs of Playa Bejuco. The morning air was damp and cool as I wandered out to the empty beach. I watched one adventurous surfer tackle the waves, and plunked down in the deep, night-chilled sand to soak up the warm sunlight.

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After breakfast we drove north towards Playa Hermosa to check out one of the biggest beach breaks (after Dominical) on the country's Pacific Coast.

Just five kilometers south of Jaco, Playa Hermosa is a favorite spot among surfers, with seven distinct surf points along its 6.2-mile shore. The area is much less developed than neighboring Jaco, and attracts experienced surfers from around the world with its consistent waves and annual international surf contest.

Playa Hermosa, as its name implies, is a place of undeniable beauty -- its broad grey-sand beach contrasted by pounding white surf. A handful of surfers were out riding some respectable waves, which grow much larger during the rainy season.

The beach is also part of a wildlife refuge that protects nesting Olive Ridley sea turtles. Between the months of July and December, females come ashore to lay their eggs and begin the life cycle anew.

Driving north towards Jaco from Hermosa, an incredible vista gapes from the Costanera Highway. While taking a few photos of the rocky coastline, I was joined by two pairs of noisy scarlet macaws screeching overhead. In Jaco, I stopped at Bubba's Taco Stand for a simple but tasty lunch. You can't beat perfectly grilled and seasoned wahoo, especially when it's fresh off the boat.

Just after lunch, Rayna and I drove a few minutes outside of town to the Waterfalls Canopy Tour. No matter how many of these adrenaline-fueled tours I do, I still manage to get a little nervous when gearing up. We hiked up a trail through transitional rainforest to glimpse a waterfall before preparing ourselves for the first zip-line cable. Our guides kept the mood light with jokes as I clipped in for my first rush above the treetops.

The Waterfall Canopy Tour had seven zip-line cables, a Tarzan Swing, and a 90-foot rappel at the very end. Thankfully, the Tarzan Swing was short and sweet and didn't involve any sort of bungee cord, or our guides would have been carrying Rayna down a tree. As we zoomed from platform to platform, even the most terrified guests began to relax and have fun.

Our screams and laughter no doubt chased off any wildlife, but both toucans and scarlet macaws screamed back at us during the tour. There was even a three-story tree house, which allowed a bird's eye view of the surrounding forest.

For the final rappel, our guides belayed us, first slowly then in freefall from a platform some 90 feet above ground. Hearts pounding, we thanked our guides at Waterfall Canopy Tour for our afternoon adventure.

For our final two nights in Jaco, we stayed at the hotel Canciones del Mar, a lovely boutique hotel located right on the beach. Flourishing gardens dominate the hotel grounds, which are beautifully-landscaped with a pool and plenty of deck space for sunbathing.

Our cheerful room was equipped with a kitchen, A/C, safe and cable TV, and the entire hotel had free wireless internet.

The hotel also features two-bedroom condos and a honeymoon suite, which offer extra space and privacy. But the real draw of Canciones del Mar, which translates as "songs of the sea", is its prime location, just a few feet from the ocean.

Beach Breaks and a Canopy Tour in Pictures

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