Last fall I visited my good friend in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica. The trip was so great that I decided to go back in April 2017, and this time with a few of our mutual friends who we've known since middle school! We went for a week and spent half of our time in Santa Elena, and half in Meghan's town on the coast. We had a fantastic time reconnecting, especially during the drive from Coco to Santa Elena. This time, we rented a 4wd car (last time, we took Meghan’s old car AND took the wrong road, and had some scary moments on the mountainous road up to Monteverde…) The drive was beautiful, and we stopped a few times to take in the scenery. We stayed at Hotel El Bosque in Santa Elena for 2 nights, which was a really lovely hotel that provides a truly awesome breakfast. Although simple, it was probably my favorite meal of the trip. Something about wholesome breakfast with friends and delicious coffee…nothing beats it! Our first night, we took a night tour right from the hotel, during which we saw scorpions, tarantulas, and sleeping birds. The next day we visited Curi Cancha reserve, and took a hike with a guide named Christian. Christian was an excellent tour guide – he was very knowledgeable and passionate about the preserve, and even took us on an extended hike so we could see the quetzals. We were lucky enough to see 2 quetzals – 1 juvenile male, and 1 female. He worked really hard to give us a memorable experience, and we were so grateful!! We also saw a three-wattled bellbird, emerald toucanets, tinnamo, 2 pale billed woodpeckers, and a coati. The next day, we went to Santa Elena Reserve and walked the trails ourselves. We were lucky enough to see a female sloth and her baby hanging out in the trees! We also stopped by the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to check out the hummingbird gardens, which was one of my favorite stops last year. We saw many beautiful and colorful species of hummingbirds here – see the attached pictures! What a successful expedition this was! I would highly recommend Santa Elena Reserve and Curi Cancha Reserve, in addition to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Selvatura Adventure Park, both of which we visited last fall. Selvatura is the park with the “hanging bridges” that you often see photos of when researching Monteverde. I would also highly recommend Beso Café, for their locally sourced and in-house roasted coffee. We stopped here at least 3 times in a span of 2 days! Their coffee is totally delicious, and you can purchase very generous portions of coffee beans to bring home. I bought two bags to parcel up as souvenirs for friends and family back home. Trust me, this gift will be appreciated by all coffee lovers There is also great food to be had in Santa Elena, including Tico y Rico and The Green, both of which we visited this trip. And if you’re looking for souvenirs, there are plenty to be bought here. The ride back to Coco went smoothly, and we returned ready for some beach time. The weather was dry and hot on the Nicoya peninsula this time of year, so we spent a lot of time in the water snorkeling and trying to take underwater photos. We visited a few local beaches, including Coco beach and Ocotal, as well as another more remote beach that I can’t remember the name of. We saw many awesome sea creatures, including a school of needlefish, many parrot fish, and turtles, as well as a plethora of sea urchins! The water was beautiful blue and the weather was perfect for swimming. On our last day, we spent several hours on the water with a friend of Meghan’s who owns a small fishing boat, which he uses for leading fishing and snorkeling tours. He took us to a series of snorkel spots, a tidal cave, a mangrove, and a few isolated beaches. We saw such an assortment of wildlife, including black hawks, various herons, fish, and a killer whale! Even our guide was surprised to see this. We also caught a few blackfish off the back of the boat. This excursion was definitely a highlight, and something I will not soon forget. What a special time this was to spend with good friends in a beautiful location. I hope that we continue to travel together for many years to come!