Costa RicaCosta Rica

Rain, Rain, Papagayo-way

Destination: Papagayo

We awoke on the second day of our journey to a faint rainbow splayed across the morning sky. Unfamiliar birdsong drifted onto the balcony, and the sun slowly stretched its rays upward. It was a glorious morning, not a cloud to be seen.

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Cesar and I headed down the road for breakfast, and were treated to fruit, coffee and Costa Rican rice and beans while we watched the water sparkle under the brilliant sun. The Pacific Ocean had changed, trading its sapphire hue for a blue-green shade, almost mimicking the Caribbean's famous aquamarine color.

After breakfast, we walked to our hotel's reception, curious to discover what activities were offered. Without a car or a pre-planned, all-inclusive vacation package, Cesar and I were adrift in Papagayo. The small cove -- known as Snake Bay -- is isolated from surrounding towns, with miles between each self-sustaining resort and their public beaches. Therefore, sans car -- a decision I do not recommend -- our vacation was dictated by area tour operators, pricey on-call taxis, and our own two (in this case, four) legs.

Unfortunately, the knowledgable front desk clerk had not yet arrived, so we opted to further explore the hotel's grounds. Despite its many resorts, Papagayo is a haven for untamed flora and fauna, and a day's explorations are heavy on natural wonders. On this particular morning, white-throated magpie jays fought and played in the trees above, our howler friends roared in the distance, and a pack of mischievious, curious coatis happened along our path.

Before long, lunchtime rolled around, and we headed back to the onsite restaurant for a bit of sustenance. David, the resident spiny-tailed iguana, who we had met on our first day, waddled out from his underground hole, and we tossed him chunks of papaya and pineapple. As we all ate slowly, somber clouds began to roll in and the sky blackened. Without rain jackets or an umbrella between us, we finished quickly and rushed back to our room, just barely evading the downpour to come.

Torrential, crippling rains began around 1 p.m., trapping us inside our room. If you've never heard a Costa Rican downpour, the sound is unlike any other: giant raindrops race down from the sky, reducing visibility to less than a few feet, and create a ruckus so loud that you can hardly have a conversation.

We passed the rainy afternoon indoors, reading books and editing the previous day's sunset photos, hoping for a respite from the deluge. We itched to get out and explore, but the weather had clearly ruled against us. Though we didn't know it, rain would be an unfortunate theme throughout our trip, courtesy of Hurricanes Gustaf and Hanna, and though we would spend many hours indoors, these first days were particularly frustrating.

The Papagayo Gulf is located only 45 minutes from the Liberia International Airport, and is a popular destination for honeymooners and families alike. Area beaches are recognized for their good water visibility, beautiful views, and waterside wildlife that ranges from hooting howlers to melodic birds. Unfortunately, rainy season (May-November) is not the ideal time to visit, as the gulf sees daily downpours, especially during hurricane season.

At dusk, the cascading water had been reduced to a mere drizzle, and the sun set over the horizon, far tamer than the night before, but beautiful nonetheless. Photographs taken and nature appeased, we headed to the hotel restaurant, sloshing through deep puddles and sidestepping soggy grass. We arrived to a darkened building, not a waiter or cook in sight, and a guard told us that it had closed just 15 minutes before. We headed back to our room, stomachs growling for our lost dinner, the prospect of slogging through rainy, muddy roads too high a price for a restaurant meal down the road.

Rain, Rain, Papagayo-way in Pictures

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