Words and Photos by Dick Dace
Costa Rica is a quick, three-hour, non-stop flight from Houston via Continental Airlines. With the right connections, one can turn a weekend jaunt into a trip of a lifetime.
On September 18, 1502, Christopher Columbus discovered Costa Rica during his third visit to the New World. Its rich vegetation, natural beauty and indigenous wildlife has inspired millions to explore its rainforests and pristine beaches. For those who want to experience “the wild in luxury,” they call upon Mead-Brown.
My impression of Costa Rica as a backpacker’s paradise was swept away by a cool Pacific breeze when I met Mark Mead and Michael Brown – the major domos of Costa Rica, who are conveniently located in the private resort of Los Suenos on Herradura Bay.
With more than forty years experience in the diplomatic corps between them, during which they planned and executed countless state visits for presidents, premieres and royalty, Mead-Brown have established themselves as the leading purveyors of private luxury vacations in
extraordinary villas, condos and apartments that become your home-away-from-home. Like the perfect hosts they are, they take care of every detail associated with your visit, from airport pickup and stocking your refrigerator and bar, to arranging a driver to help your explore the incredible beauty that is Costa Rica. But first you must choose your home.
Selecting the perfect home from their exclusive accommodations can be daunting. Safely ensconced behind the security gates of Los Suenos, where even the hedges are made of indigenous orchids, one can find a five bedroom, 9,500 sq ft Italianate villa with a live-in maid that is frequently visited by holler monkeys from the National Forrest next door; or Casa Mono Loco, a thatched three bedroom open-air compound perched on one of the highest mountains in Los Suenos and overlooking the 200 slip marina and the Pacific. Maybe a three bedroom, 3,500 sq ft modern condo in Jaco is more your style, situated in the heart of that international beach town known for its nightlife. Any and all of there properties are perfectly located to explore the surrounding natural beauty.
Mead-Brown had their kayak guides, Leonard Jimenez and Jose Ventura take us ocean kayaking off Playa Aqujas. The gentle waves made it easy for us to paddle past the surf and glide next to a flock of gray pelicans. We explored volcano caves and the craggy shoreline eye-level with Roseate Spoonbills and a fishing White Ibis. The adventure made us hungry, and we were most interested in exploring the local cuisine.
Our driver Rubier Chinchilla, who was with us during our entire visit, took us to one of his favorite lunch places, Soda Kathia. Ticos, as the Costa Ricans are called, enjoy small family-run cafes that cater to locals, and adventurous travelers. Their specialty is the working man’s lunch, or Casados, a marriage of food, consisting of plates of rice, beans, salad and a choice of pork stew, grilled fish or fried chicken. Today, it was the perfect fuel for flying through the treetops.
Recent government legistation has protected all indigenous and undomesticated plants and animals, thus ensuring the nation’s natural riches for generations to come, while at the same time, opening them up for exploration.
One ingenious way to allow visitors to explore the treetops of century old trees and their unique habitat, are zip lines. The “world’s longest” zip line, consists of sixteen interconnecting zip lines that zigzag down a mountain overlooking the Pacific. As one flies through the air at speeds that seem like 25 – 30 miles per hour, wild turkeys called for their mates, parrots made nests and iguanas seemed to laugh as we zipped passed. And there were butterflies, everywhere.
One morning while walking through the Carara Parque Nacional, we came upon one of the 1001 indigenous butterflies, the Morpho peleides. As it flew toward us, its’ brilliant, electric-blue wings would flap closed, and just for a moment, it would disappear, perfectly camouflaged to confuse its predators, then reappear. It was like watching a blinking light move about, and it was marvelous.
Another enjoyable adventure Mead-Brown sent us on was horseback riding with Lucasta Rogers, a Brit who came for a holiday and never returned to England. She led us on her runaway steed over mountains and across streams to where Scarlet Macaws made their home. They seemed to welcome us with their loud calls and lead us on an adventure as we followed them from tree to tree while they ate their breakfast. On the backs of our horses, we had an up close encounter with Costa Rica’s serene natural beauty. Osprey and Mangrove Black Hawks flew overhead as we gazed across valleys to the gentle surf of the Pacific.
With the help of Mead-Brown, we were able to understand what the Ticos meant when they would greet us by saying, ‘Pura Vida.’ Living in Costa Rica, if even for just a few days, is ‘the good life.’