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Costa Rica yoga retreat - Iguana Lodge/Osa Peninsula

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#1
I just got back from my weeklong trip to Costa Rica around midnight Friday night. It was a bit of an adventure getting there - as you fly in to San Jose and then take a hopper flight to Puerto Jimenez - it's a 12 person plane, but they were never full, as they weigh the passengers and baggage. It was also a little exciting to be landing and looking out at this tiny little landing strip surrounded by trees, and even houses right on the side of the runway.

Anyway, the whole trip was utterly amazing. I was on a yoga retreat - actually yoga and dance. I've done almost no dancing in my life, but have been taking bellydance classes last year and my teacher was one of the women leading the retreat, so I signed up. It was so much fun. Not too much structured time, so we had lots of time for going on sunrise wildlife walks, swimming, just hanging out in hammocks, etc. One morning a few of us did a sunrise horseback ride on the beach.

Accommodations and food were amazing. I was on the second floor of a casita - no windows, just fully open and screened in, with a small deck and hammock in the shade. About 100 yards from the beach, so you could hear jungle noises and ocean surf at the same time. The whole thing felt like living in a happy zoo without cages. Or more accurately, a cage to keep yourself in at night. Haha. There were pairs of scarlet macaws all over the place, squawking and bickering with one another. I saw probably a dozen toucans, which seemed so surreal that I questioned if that's what I was seeing the first time. Probably unsurprisingly, since we were staying at the Iguana Lodge (near Puerto Jimenez), there were also iguanas all over the place. Smaller black ones on the ground, and large green ones with the bigger spines down their back up in the trees. There are a couple of Basilisks (aka Jesus Christ lizards, because they can run across water without sinking) that hung out near the main lodge where we ate breakfast.

We had a mostly free day on Tuesday, where I elected to do a boat tour where we started with watching dolphins (dozens of spotted dolphins - some even leaping out of the water, showing off for us), then proceeded to a wildlife preserve, where they mostly rehabilitate animals and release them back into the wild, so you can't see those. But they have a handful of animals that can't be released that are used for educational purposes that you can meet. A couple scarlet macaws, a toucan, a tayra (which is like a large weasel/wolverine type of animal) - this one had been a pet but never fed properly and was in such bad condition when they got it that they almost euthanized it. Now she's gorgeous and healthy, but too tame from being raised as a pet to be safe (they're normally extremely shy of humans). She'd probably head straight for civilization and eat people's chickens and cats and get herself shot as a pest. They had some capuchin monkeys, which can't be released unless they know for sure what troupe of monkeys they came from - otherwise the monkey troupes kill strange monkeys on sight. Also an ocelot that had been raised as a pet, improperly fed, etc. She was gorgeous, but she had escaped once and then they luckily found her again as skin and bones - she's lacking hunting skills and has some hip issues from a lack of calcium in her early life. My favorite was actually the porcupine, which is perfectly healthy at this point, but apparently "prefers room service" and just kept finding his way back when they tried releasing him. I got to pet him, because he's so chilled out and happy sitting in the hollow log in his cage, eating almonds. :smile: They also have a few sloths - apparently if they don't stay with their mother long enough, they don't learn what leaf combinations they need to eat and can't survive in the wild. At least you don't feel too bad for sloths in an enclosure, as they move so little! We also saw 2 wild spider monkeys up close that were hilarious to watch.

After that, we headed out to snorkel in a couple different places. I'm not very experienced with snorkeling, but this was definitely the best I've done. I think the coral was better in Hawaii, but the fish were fantastic here. Amazing starfish with neon blue, or black contrasting outlines and spikes. I saw a moray eel - that was a first for me in the wild. He was black and white and yellow in a gorgeous lacy pattern. Totally out in the open as he was digging a new burrow/den/whatever you call it. It was a smaller one, but so pretty. There were a few really neat areas where the gentle waves would come over the rocks, really aerating the water and in those areas there were just loads of tiny versions of the adult fish - fun to see the "nursery". We also saw a variety of small pufferfish and one just enormous one - probably close to 2' long (un-puffed). I didn't even realize they get that big. Anyway - probably snorkeled for several hours (VERY thankful I brought a white long sleeve rash guard!)

On our way back over to Puerto Jimenez, we saw something that looked like a rock floating in the water through the binoculars. Our captain stopped the tiny boat (there were only 4 of us on the tour) and cruised over and it was a huge green sea turtle. She eventually picked up her head and looked at us, then raised her flippers up and dove away. So amazing. And immediately after that, we saw a neon yellow sea snake. (Apparently the "xanthic" morph of the yellow bellied sea snake - usually they are only yellow on the bottom - this was solid canary yellow - it's pretty much unique to the Golfo Dulce). He was right on the surface - we had to talk one of the guys on our trip out of picking him up. I love snakes, but I do know sea snakes are generally highly venomous, even if they aren't that aggressive. Let's not find out, eh? Anyway, then we saw a bottlenose dolphin on our way back to the dock. (so 2 of the 3 dolphin species in the area) So cool!

After that, we headed back to the lodge, where we had yoga/dance class and then a bonfire and dinner on the beach in the evening. Followed by some extended skinny dipping in the ocean under the full moon. The water was something like 84 degrees - definitely a temperature that I felt like I could stay in comfortably virtually indefinitely. With gentle waves and soft sand (unusual for Costa Rica). Perfect.

They have a naturalist on staff, who was awesome and led bird walks at 6am daily. Sometimes it was a bigger group, other times just me and my binoculars. :smile: Lots of amazing birds - brown pelicans, magnificent frigate birds, gorgeous white terns that very dramatically dive straight into the shallow water. Loads of black vultures and even some turkey vultures (less common in that area). I saw hummingbirds, double toothed kites, cherrie's tanagers, red lored parrots, a variety of parakeets, a cuckoo, black hawks nesting, a pair of nesting white necked puffbirds (which nest on top of termite nests so the baby birds can eat termites), a golden naped woodpecker, a blue crowned manakin and red legged honeycreeper (which I never ever would have seen without our guide!), and a bright rumped attila - which had a gorgeous song, but was super hard to spot. Then once i found him, I couldn't figure out what it was without some help - as that one is pretty generic looking. I also never would have seen the green iguanas up in trees without his assistance - as they blend in very well and don't move while sunbathing.

I was also on a bit of a quest to find a snake (I love snakes), which, despite there being plenty of them out there, is generally not something most people see. It's dangerous to stray from the paths as you don't want to step on a viper hidden under the dry leaves, so I wasn't too optimistic, but finally happened on a really cool green parrot snake (I can't figure out why "parrot" as they are way too small to eat any kind of parrot). But anyway - absolutely gorgeous - bright green on top, white on the bottom - about 4-5' long and super skinny. They look very much like a vine and blend in when they sit still. I also saw crocodiles on both trips to and from the little airport.

continuing in the next post...
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#2
The yoga classes were excellent - lots of restorative classes and relaxation. The yoga classroom was a 2nd floor open air deck facing the ocean and overlooking their saltwater pool and garden. We were interrupted a few times by monkeys traversing the area that we all stopped practicing to watch. The first time they came through it was a huge troupe of squirrel monkeys (probably 50-60 of them)- the only ones that don't have a prehensile tail - they'd just throw themselves fearlessly from one tree into the next, sometimes dropping 15' or more before grabbing onto something and continuing one. Another day it was capuchin monkeys playing on the roof of the lodge owners house. (I saw spider monkeys while we were at the nature preserve, and heard howler monkeys, but the howlers were the only ones I didn't get to actually see on the trip!) Anyway, it was phenomenal to practice yoga/meditate/etc. while listening to nature and surf!

Food was, needless to say, amazing. The fruit and such is all local - just picked off of the trees at the lodge. I kept thinking of how expensive my gigantic plates of mango/papaya/pineapple/young coconut would be if I was buying them here... and I don't even know where I'd get fresh fried plantains. Most of our lunch and dinner meals featured tuna and mahi mahi with amazing vegetable combinations with lots of ginger and spices. It was heavenly. The bar over towards the beach made these ginger spritzers (after one day I decided I was so relaxed there was no point to alcoholic drinks) that they make by boiling down fresh grated ginger and sugar and then adding lime and seltzer water. I'm going to have to try that at home!

The whole group was fantastic - I didn't really know anyone before I went. I have taken classes from both of the instructors, and knew a few people who I regularly say hello to in yoga or bellydance class, but no one that I really knew beyond that. And now I have a bunch of new friends who I will get to see regularly. :smile:

Anyway - I'm still sorting through pictures and getting photos from other people there, but I'll add a few right now. It was so much fun. I'm definitely planning to head back again! Hopefully I can talk my husband into joining me next year. (He's not into yoga and definitely not into dance, but he could go out on tours and enjoy the whole thing anyway.)
 

MI-skier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
Sounds fantastic! Glad you had a wonderful time. I am thinking of doing a multi-generational trip to CR with my whole family and 76 yr old Dad. Your snorkeling sounds amazing. I could eat my weight in mangos.
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#7
Sounds fantastic! Glad you had a wonderful time. I am thinking of doing a multi-generational trip to CR with my whole family and 76 yr old Dad. Your snorkeling sounds amazing. I could eat my weight in mangos.
I think I did eat my weight in mangos. It was wonderful!

That and ginger spritzers. I'm boiling down ginger with honey to make my own syrup. ... yum!

And I think it would be a great place for a multi generational trip. Two women were there with their mothers. And the lodge owner is from Colorado originally and her 90 year old dad lives there with her. You'd never guess he is that old. :smile:
 

NewEnglandSkier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
Sounds like a fun trip. The lodge looks beautiful; love the setting.
There's a surf camp I have been wanting to do in Costa Rica and this made me want to go even more.
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#12
Sounds like a fun trip. The lodge looks beautiful; love the setting.
There's a surf camp I have been wanting to do in Costa Rica and this made me want to go even more.
That sounds awesome. Several of the women on this trip headed to other areas in CR this week to take surf lessons and extend their trips. I wish I had more time off from work!!
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#13
This might be the dreamiest photo - I got a massage while I was there. Open-air 2nd floor massage/spa area - just curtains to the jungle. Plus - the therapist was amazing and she's from SLC so I get to go see her again! :smile:

10487482_741189739263544_1822516908219344344_n.jpg
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#15
Was there mosquitoes?
Some, but it wasn't as bad as I expected. I brought organic citronella and essential oil type bug repellent and a little thing of 100% DEET just in case. Never used the DEET. I did get a few sand flea bites (or something) and a little spot on my leg where I hit a jellyfish (which wasn't bad), but I think virtually any bug repellent would have washed off with all the time I spent in the water. The insects away from the beach were pretty mild. Honestly, I see way more mosquitoes in Utah near water sources in summer.

I did have 2 house spiders that I had to remove from my room. Which, haha, I'm sure if I went and asked, a staff person would have done it for me, but I trapped them in a glass and covered it up and took them outside. I should also say "house spiders" in appearance but kind of on Jurassic Park scale. Yeesh. The one was the size of the palm of my hand - seriously juvenile tarantula sized, and barely fit in the mouth of the glass. Part of me was thinking that he's probably eating a ton of biting creepy crawlies, but still - no way I would have slept with that in the room. I generally did a check around the room with my headlamp before bed, and the only things I found all week were those two spiders.
 
#16
Now you can see that while I love my skiing and biking, tropical vacations do have their allure.
I would love to get my husband on board with this mindset. He has enjoyed Hawaii but it's just last on the list of kinds of vacations he likes, and there is so much overlap in the kinds of trips we both like that we just do those things. I clearly need friends that like tropical trips (and want travel buddies), as well as bunch more vacation time from work.
 

SkiBilly

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
Sounds (and looks) wonderful and kudos on being a spider catcher :smile:

If ever you are inclined to come to Australia there are amazing yoga retreats at Byron Bay.
 

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