jungle-pic-judyMy nine-day adventure to Costa Rica was absolutely wonderful. Each day was filled with adventure and I marveled at the beauty of this gorgeous country. My post will serve as a lovely way for me to hold onto sweet memories.

It’s easiest for me to share about my experience with pictures.

The day before my trip, Lupe shared a picture with me that I hadn’t seen. It was of us hiking together in 1988.

The day before my trip, Lupe shared a picture with me that I hadn’t seen before. It was of us hiking together in 1988.

I wasn’t at all familiar with the geography of Costa Rica. My first challenge was to pace myself for the flight there. Of course, I packed far too much stuff. I carried a heavy backpack with me, in addition to my old classical guitar.

I hadn’t anticipated that it would take two full days to arrive at our resort. Perhaps there was little choice since it was a last-minute booking. But I wish the travel agent had booked our flight to the airport in Liberia, which was only half an hour from our hotel.

But that hardly mattered, because I was so excited to meet Lupe again. In Mexico City, where my flight from Los Angeles had a 5-hour layover, I met her for the first time in 26 years. I departed on October 14th, which was actually my birthday. It was a very long day, but such a wonderful one.


It was so handy to have a friend who spoke Spanish. Lupe helped me go in front of a long line to check in my guitar for our connecting flight to Costa Rica. The baggage handler only needed her instructions and tip to do that.

The hours flew by as we ate lunch and caught up on our lives. Soon we boarded our flight that would take us to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. It was over an hour before the plane took off, however. We were told there was too much turbulence from the volcanic activity near the San Jose airport.

I have to admit, that made me slightly nervous! But the flight was fine and we had such nice conversations with the people around us.

After going through customs, we were both exhausted as we arrived at our hotel close to 2 a.m. The next day, we were to be transported to our resort in the early afternoon. Our hotel was named the Riu Palace and it was in the province of Guanacaste.

Before leaving, Lupe and I walked across the street from our hotel and ate lunch at a Mongolian restaurant. It was perfect for me because I was determined to eat healthy on this trip. Lupe really enjoyed her juice smoothie.

mongolian-bbq mongolian-food

The rest of that day was very exhausting. Our ride in a van on bumpy roads took almost six hours. There were long lines at five different toll roads.

Regardless, I still enjoyed looking at the beautiful jungles and vistas on that drive. Sometimes, a volcano could be seen in the distance. At one of our stops, I was able to see monkeys swinging and gorgeous parrots in the trees above. I was enthralled.

It was dark when the van pulled into our resort, the Riu Palace. My heart jumped to be staying in such a luxurious place. All of my fatigue was forgotten as Lupe and I entered the white expansive lobby. We were hungry and there were five restaurants to choose from.

We chose the buffet and it was wonderful. I was able to eat so many things I enjoyed without feeling like I was overeating. I simply avoided carbs and desserts.

The next morning, Lupe and I were up early to be ready for an excursion. We found one that was very close to the hotel; there was a zip-lining park only five minutes away. I was glad because I wasn’t up to another long van ride so soon.

It was nice to see the hotel in daylight and as the driver drove off, I took a picture of the hotel driveway.

Hotel arrival

Lupe had no idea what zip-lining was, but she trusted me when I told her it was safe and would be fun. I had never done it before, but was willing and ready. It turned out that we were about to experience the longest zip-line in all of Costa Rica.

It was called “Superman” and required a special harness like an apron. We would lie down and travel one mile across a valley at 60 miles per hour.

But first, we went on a few easier zip-lines to prepare us.

Ready to zip-line

Our white resort can be seen on the left side. It was paired with another beige resort on the right side.

Our white resort can be seen on the left side. It was paired with another beige resort on the right side.

We were loaded with heavy gear and I was sweating a lot. I pretended not to be nervous. My first experience was terrifying – especially as I approached the platform at breakneck speed. I clenched my teeth and prayed as my body came to a sudden halt with a big swing onto the platform. Whew!

A tractor drove us up to where the Superman zip-line was. We put on even heavier gear. Lupe was very nervous and announced she would go back down with the tractor and wait for me at the bottom.

ready to run Judy and Lupe before Superman

I was calm and reassuring to Lupe, but I was actually very nervous. Together we watched the other people ahead of us being “sent off.” Each time it took about five minutes or more to set them up for the ride.

When it was our turn, I felt resigned and knew there was no going back for me.

A professional photographer took these next pictures.


diamante-3 diamante-4

This was a completely different ride than the other zip-lines. I was hurtling fast and the wind was too powerful for me to keep my eyes open.

diamante-5 diamante-6

I was told to open my arms before my landing, but I was late doing that because my eyes were closed. My helmet thumped hard against the foam braking apparatus. It didn’t hurt, but it scared me. I was so grateful that it was over and I was safe.

Lupe was exhilarated and loved her experience. She did the optional bungee jump off that last platform. I was too wobbly to even consider it. It turned out she was the braver one in all of this.

hotel-beach-viewLater that day, Lupe and I explored the grounds of our resort. We relaxed in the pool, which was wonderful.

lupe-in-the-pool relaxing-in-the-pool

Our resort had a scuba diving hut and I walked over to talk to the man at the front desk. I had my certification card with me from 1980, 37 years ago! I discussed the diving options that were available because it was something I definitely wanted to do later in the week.

The man told me I could take a snorkel out to the beach for an hour. I was excited to jump into the ocean and check things out. There wasn’t much to see; the water was murky from recent rains. I was told the volcanic reef areas nearby were much clearer. But the water was warm and comfortable; I loved it.


Lupe enjoyed the zip-lining so much that we signed up for a longer excursion the next morning. It was called a “Canopy Tour” where we’d be zip-lining closer to the jungle. Our trip also included a water slide, hot springs with a mud treatment and horseback riding.

The tour guide explained that the area we were going to was named “Buena Vista.” It meant “good view” and we stopped to take some pictures on the way up.

Buena Vista View

It was interesting when our guide pointed out a tree that grew the parts used for Maracas!


I found the zip-lining experience on this particular excursion physically exhausting. The climb up the mountain to where it began wasn’t easy and I had to stop several times to catch my breath. I was embarrassed at how difficult it was for me to jump up so the guide could attach my harness to the rope. There were 10 zip-lines to sail down and I counted each and every one of them.


Lupe was relaxed now. When one of our guides showed off by hanging upside down, she asked if she could try that. I was amazed that she did that!


After zip-lining, I had the opportunity to go down a water slide. I decided to skip it because I would have to climb the same mountain I had struggled with earlier. Lupe did, too. She wasn’t a good swimmer, so that made sense.

I kept thinking how great it was that I had lost weight before this trip. Being fit was definitely a plus for these kinds of adventures. And I was excited knowing it was going to only get better in my future.


I was a little nervous getting on a horse because I had a traumatic experience on one when I was younger. But I put it behind me and stayed in my courageous mode.

My body used even more muscles riding to the hot springs area on horseback. The road was uneven, rocky and muddy. On the steeper parts, I held on tightly and prayed my horse wouldn’t slip.

The hot springs were incredible and just what my body needed. It was drizzling and the ground was very slippery and wet. I almost slipped several times and was grateful I hadn’t hurt myself. Our guide pointed out a boa that was slithering on the walkway behind us!

hiking-to-the-hotspring hotspring-area

I was sore for the next few days, but it was all worth it. That night, I relaxed in the hotel room and pulled out my guitar to play for Lupe.

It felt like Jason was with us. She reminded me of many memories, which brought him back to me in ways I hadn’t expected.

Lupe’s first plane ride had been with me on a trip to Lake Tahoe with Jason and my parents when he was only two years old.

As we talked about that trip, Lupe reminded me about the time she went into a casino with Jason in a backpack. We had gone out to dinner and had left her with Jason in the hotel room.

Lupe laughed as she reminisced. “I said, let’s go, Jason!” She said they walked into the casino and he was bouncing happily in his backpack. Lupe put a single quarter into a machine and it started ringing loudly. She won $300!

My parents and I were nearby and heard the jackpot. When I saw Lupe and Jason, I quickly ran over and told her she had to hurry out of there. A security man also told her to leave, but she was able to collect her $300.

As Lupe shared her wonderful memory, I was so happy. It was because all I had remembered about that vacation was how sick Jason was from the altitude there. His heart couldn’t handle the extra work and he cried constantly.


Now I wanted to play a few songs on my guitar for Lupe. But when I started singing “Beside Me Always,” I began to softly cry. It was too real now and I couldn’t sing that song.

My emotions surprised me but I understood them.

Lupe was lying on her bed and took a picture to post on Facebook. I was very touched by what she wrote.


© Judy Unger and 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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  1. Belinda O says:

    Goodness, this is Part One? How much more could you fit into one vacation? It looks like you had a wonderful time. So happy for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. beverlylever says:

    What a remarkable trip, You’re a lot braver than I’d ever be! I don’t think I could even handle a zip line, let alone with you did. And, it is wonderful that your guitar still brings you joy and solace. A great gift. Beverly

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Beverly, your comment made my day. I am so touched that you took the time to read my story and say such sweet and supportive words. Thank you!
      And just last week, Linda Shaff’s cousin found my story about her and left me a lovely comment. I’m so amazed how writing and opening my heart has led me to such beautiful connections. It’s great to hear from you and hope to see you on the tennis court again someday! Much love.


  3. Joni Lautman says:

    Thank you for sharing your vacation so vividly . glad you had such an amazing time it looks so fabulous. Glad you got out and experienced the world. and all those wonderful memories you made wow so happy for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Aw, thank you so much, Joni! I feel your love and happiness for me – I am blessed by our friendship. Hoping you and I will be traveling again someday and having new adventures. Love you dearly, my BFF. 🙂


  4. Looks like you had so many new experiences!


  5. jmgoyder says:

    How wonderful! You both look exactly the same! Thanks for sharing this incredible time with us, Judy xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Aw, Julie – make my day! Thank you so much. I’m writing the second part and having so much fun. Always thinking of you and sending love. Would love to adventure with you someday!

      Liked by 1 person

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