Before we arrived in Costa Rica we only knew two things about it - it's comparatively expensive for Central America, and it has heaps of wildlife - an estimated 6% of the world's plant and animal species may live here.
We stayed in Tamarindo, which turned out to be quite a touristy beach town popular with Americans, especially during Spring Break which it is at the moment - and with prices to match the budgets of people on short luxury breaks, at first we were a bit put off but the room was lovely, it was really great to have a hot shower again (a rarity in Nicaragua) and the wildlife soon started to win us over - just a couple of streets back from the main buzz there are trees full of beautiful birds, large lizards roaming around and choruses of crickets. If you look up at the treetops for long enough, you can spot tiny hummingbirds going about their business, I'd never seen hummingbirds before and they're kind of lovely.
After a few days we realised there was a quieter beach just up the coast so we hopped (or at least stumbled) onto a water taxi and headed just a tiny bit north to Playa Grande, so close but so very far away (at least by road) and quite a mini-paradise. The beach is something quite special, it's a protected area so there's no development along the seafront, just lots of wild trees and bushes. It's part of the Las Baulas national park, an important nesting ground for leatherback turtles - unfortunately we have missed the nesting season by just a couple of weeks, but it does mean we're allowed onto the beach in the evening to watch the waves and beautiful sunsets. We took a surfing lesson, which was good fun but we ended up with raw knees (wetsuits are a great invention) and got quite a lot of the Pacific ocean up our noses.
We went ziplining for my birthday, you can do it in a rainforest but we went for a regular dry forest option with Pura Aventura since it was close by and convenient - we were picked up early and taken to a property a few miles from Tamarindo, then transported into the forest by a very bumpy truck and given helmets, harnesses and basic instructions before being sent off one by one down the first line. It's a little bit scary being so high up suspended by just a couple of metal cables and a bit of canvas, but we had safety lines, good instructions and the instructors made sure we were always attached to something when high up. We saw a tree full of monkeys at one point, and on one of the last zip lines we all went upside down with help from the instructors! It was a fun morning, and at the end of it we got to take away a DVD of pictures and videos from the session (which will be posted as soon as we have access to a DVD drive!)