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Pipas in Pavones

Destination: Pavones

I woke to the sound of rain and howler monkeys. After 14 days of waking up at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., opening my eyes at 7:15 a.m. was as close as it came to sleeping in.

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With squinting eyes trying to bring the world into focus, all I saw was wood, rainforest, and a panoramic view of Pavones. I thought for a millisecond "how in the world did I fall asleep in the middle of the jungle?" Then I remembered that I was in the swankiest suite at Castillo de Pavones. I was well-rested and excited about my private yoga session with Jamie at 7:30 a.m.

Halfway through the class, we were distracted by a scarlet macaw that flew right up to the balcony below us. We raced down the stairs to greet it. Jamie had affectionately named this particular bird Scratch because of a nick on its beak, and he was a common visitor at breakfast time.

"Hello, Castillo," Jamie said, encouraging it to mimic her speech. As a member of the area's scarlet macaw restoration program, the animal had a tag on its foot. Jamie has seen a select few without tags in the past year -- a sign that the initiative is working, at least on a small scale.

After a breakfast burrito, fresh fruit, and two cups of coffee, Aaron took us to see the local kite surf school. We munched on fresh mangoes and talked with one guest who was so hardcore that, at another beach, he kite surfed through swarms of jellyfish. I have never seen a swarm of jellyfish in Costa Rica, and almost didn't believe his story until he showed me the welts. The extent of his injuries was so severe that he had to go to the hospital for a shot of Benadryl. Once the drowsiness wore off, the dedicated sportsman went back out into the jellyfish cloud and continued surfing.

After trying -- and failing -- to remove the mango pulp from my teeth without dental floss, we decided to go on a walk down the Rio Claro. The spring-fed water is clear and shallow, originating from a volcanic plate in the rainforest, and empties directly into the Pacific Ocean. Steep cliffs border the path, and every now and then we would approach a sandy spot that begged we sit and enjoy it.

Aaron said that if we hiked far enough we would definitely see monkeys playing in the trees. There was no time, however, as we had to get back to the Castillo for dinner.

Back at the hotel, I made a friend with one of the younger guests named Jake; we were the only ones at the hotel with enough energy to check out the town's nightlife. The bars were busy, but not quite as alive as I had expected after observing the crowd at yesterday's demonstrations. Having had a late 10:00 p.m. start, we had missed the evening's live music and other festivities.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone drinking from a coconut shell. If there is one thing that I love most in life, it is the pipa. Pipas are young green coconuts that have delicious, electrolyte-rich sweet water inside them -- and I am convinced that they are nature's fountain of youth.

As Jake had never tasted one, we made pipa-hunting the night's mission. After several beers and multiple failed attempts to climb beachside coconut trees, we gave up and headed back to the hotel.

On the way back, we heard mysterious frogs lining the dirt road. They were croaking a song that sounded unbelievably similar to the siren of a car alarm. Jake did an uncanny impression, and the amphibians responded to it with return calls. Using a headlamp and detective skills learned from previous night hikes, I searched the fields expecting to find a bright, rare, and multicolored creature. Ten minutes later, I finally located the amphibian -- and its ordinary appearance was a bit of a letdown.

I returned to the castle around midnight, where my plush bed swallowed me up.

Pipas in Pavones in Pictures

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