Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 8: Canopy, Surfing and the Fresh Food Market

Destination: Jaco

My heart was racing a mile a minute. I had just zipped along the first cable through the rainforest canopy, and paused at the end to glance at my watch. How many people can say they have their adrenaline pumping this hard at 8:30 on a Friday morning?

Of Jaco's five canopy tours, Vista Los Suenos is best known for its environmentally friendly practices. All 15 platforms and 14 cables are as non-intrusive to surrounding plant and wildlife as possible, and 40 of the property's 80 acres are composed of primary forest.

suenos-canopy kid

In addition to the company's concern for Mother Nature, I also appreciated the safety brake system employed on particularly fast runs. Despite my experience with canopy tours throughout the country, I always brake too soon and inevitably get stranded in the middle of the line. The emergency stop gave me enough confidence to relax, knowing I would not slam into any trees.

We boarded a tractor for the 15-minute ride to the first cable, marveling at a flock of scarlet macaws in the distance. At the platform, I watched as everyone zipped across the cable in front of me. I waited my turn with a timid college student from California who wanted to overcome her fear of heights. I suggested she piggyback with the guide to feel more comfortable, but she wanted to do it herself out of principle.

When it was my turn, I soared to the second platform and waited for her. Nothing happened. After ten minutes of suspense, the cable finally began to wiggle. My new friend zoomed into focus, laughing and screaming at the top of her lungs. She landed smoothly, shaking slightly and beaming with self-satisfaction. Our entire group burst into applause (and we were so proud that we let her jump to the front of the line for the rest of the tour).

female surfer

After conquering several zip lines, we took a water break at a scenic hanging bridge. The guide reminded us to always watch for movement in the treetops, as chestnut-mandibled toucans and monkeys are common in the area. As if waiting for this cue, a family of adorable white-faced monkeys appeared in the distance.

We finished up the canopy tour with a series of riveting cables that were faster and longer than the rest -- my favorite spanned 2,400 feet across the treetops. As the wind blew through my hair 200 feet above the ground, I could think of absolutely nothing but the astounding scenery around me. It took me a solid minute afterward to regain my balance.

Back at the base camp, we boarded the mini-bus and returned to Jaco. After all of the morning's activity, I couldn't wait to get into the ocean. I rented a board from Jaco Surf School's beach tent, and took a quick lesson from Gustavo Castillo, former surf champion and owner of the establishment. He showed me his spin on the usual techniques, and I brushed up on the basics.

jaco-papaya

Twenty minutes later the waves had grown to intimidating proportions, so I decided to call it a day. Walking back to the hotel, I bumped into a friendly twenty-something couple from Chicago -- Katie and Peter. The three of us immediately hit it off, and they invited me to accompany them to the Jaco farmers' market, held every Friday during daylight hours.

Adjacent to the soccer field, we perused countless stalls of sarongs, handicrafts and clothing before reaching the best part of all: the food. We marveled at the rows upon rows of neatly stacked papayas, mangoes and bananas. If only I had access to a full kitchen! The mountains of eggplants, onions and carrots were terribly tempting, and we spent a great deal of time imagining the endless cooking possibilities.

hotel pool

On the way out, Katie grabbed an empanada from a man selling fresh brown eggs, homemade cheese and typical cornbread delicacies. I bought three large avocados from a neighboring vendor for two dollars. Stopping at a supermarket for salt to accompany the avocados, I came across an American snack from my childhood: Dunkaroos. I hadn't seen this sugary snack since I was ten years old! I picked up a box, astounded by Jaco's incredible shopping selection.

With dusk approaching, I invited my friends to Hotel Poseidon for a dip in the pool. Just before bed, I called the front desk to request a wake-up call for 6:30 a.m. "Ok. I'll wake you up at 3:30 in the morning," replied the endearing attendant at reception. "No! Not at 3:30 a.m., at 6:30 a.m.," I responded, worried. Pretending not to hear me, he repeated the early time. "Oh, ok. At 3:30 a.m.? That's REALLY early. What in the world will you be doing up at 3:30 a.m.?" This joke was his favorite, and he used it every night during my stay -- and it never failed to make me smile.

Day 8: Canopy, Surfing and the Fresh Food Market in Pictures