Costa Rica was never on my radar until Alaska Airlines sent me their flight specials email and it was super cheap to fly round trip to San Jose Costa Rica. When I found out I could swim with dolphins there I booked the trip and started planning the extra flight and accommodations to Drake Bay where I could go on a dolphin swim. Unfortunately, a storm hit right when we got there and didn't let up so the Dolphin swim got scratched. It was very disappointing. My time in Drake Bay was a sad mostly indoor adventure and the food there was nothing to write home about. Even the produce in the tiny store there was mostly rotten so my best meal there was half a papaya that I bought from a restaurant after seeing it in a fridge near the register. I love little critters, bugs and animals I've never seen so those are usually the highlights of traveling for me. I thought I was going to see dolphins in real life for the first time but at least I did get some critter interaction. I picked up a hermit crab near the beach and we saw hummingbirds and other cool birds from our deck as well as some capuchin monkeys when we were at the store (I didn't have my camera:( ) but mostly we just hung out in our room or in the hammock on the deck. It rained almost the entire time we were there. In addition to the dolphin swim we were supposed to go on a jungle hike and see all the animals and bugs that live there, so we took the worst boat ride ever to the beginning of the hiking trail in the pouring rain as our guide was hoping the rain would let up but it got worse and worse until they deemed it too dangerous; the creek at the head of the trail was overflowing. When we got back to our room we were drenched to the bone. The money that was inside my purse that was inside a backpack was wet, that's how bad it was. Unfortunately I can't really recommend anything about Drake Bay but I'm sure that would have been different if we'd been able to go on the jungle hike or swim with dolphins. The highlight of Drake Bay ended up being the blue butterfly that found respite from the rain under our awning. We also saw a tree full of parrots when our plane first arrived as we waited for a car to take us to our room. They were too far away to get good pictures.
We left Drake Bay a day early because of the rain so we ended up having an extra day that we spent overnight at a casino hotel and played poker all night and dined on room service from their great in house restaurant. Our room was on the top floor so we had a balcony and in the morning I woke up to a flock of birds circling between trees near us that they were landing in. It was so loud, it was like our starling and waxwing murmurs that we get in Alaska...turns out it was a flock of green parrots. What a special moment! The remainder of our trip we spent at an amazing hotsprings resort called Baldi hotsprings in La Fortuna. The entire thing was built on a mountain side out of beautiful stone. The whole place was like an art installation with 26 pools of varying temperature that were fed from the volcano just above the place. I saw so many hummingbirds, dragonflies, butterflies, and a toucan welcomed us when we first got there! It was definitely the highlight of our time in Costa Rica. The money there is colones; the bills are very artistic and beautiful and I caught a baby gecko in the gift shop.
One of my favorite places to visit is Southern California, and namely, LA. I love the fact that they have lots of vegan restaurants and even several raw food restaurants and don't forget the farmers markets. I especially like that within LA you can get out into nature on their trail system and state parks. Eaton Canyon is a favorite with lots of wildlife anf flora...catch lizards suntanning on the sides of the trail or snakes slithering off as you approach. I even saw a rattle snake crossing the trail there once. I waited a long time to go ahead and proceed along the trail, lol. I took my daughter for a hike to the waterfall in Eaton Canyon (about two hours round trip from the trail start to the waterfall and back) and saw lots of butterflies, hummingbirds (my favorite!), blue jays, a lizard hanging out by a bees nest snagging bees as they entered or excited, squirrels, and we even saw a bunny when we got back to the parking lot as it was getting dusky by the time we returned.
But probably my favorite thing to do in LA is go to the pier and see all the critters in the tidepools. I especially love little crabs and of course, if you are fast, you can catch the little sand fleas that wash up with each splash of the tide and bury themselves in the sand leaving little bubbles up in the sand as their evidence.
Since I had my daughter with me this time and we were staying two blocks from the wax museum we decided to pop in a see some celebrities...
Another stop you shouldn't miss is the Long Beach Aquarium. It not only has an incredible array of aquariums, large and small, from the giant floor to ceiling tank that you can sometimes catch the divers feeding the fish, it also has an outdoor area with sea birds, seals, penguins and a shallow skate tank where you are allows to pet the manna rays. There is also a walk in lorikeet cage where you can feed the birds sugar water and they will land on you. An amazing place for fellow bird lovers.
If you get a chance definitely stop by Au Lac, which now has an LA location (in addition to the original location near Orange County)...they have a full vegan menu and lots of raw vegan choices as well as a full bar. You still have to go to the original location for their raw vegan bread, but the new LA location downtown is beautiful and modern with even more of Chef Ito's flair for combining health with deliciousness.
Add in the sights, the architecture, beautiful weather, the raw food, the flora, fauna and especially the cool bugs and birds and you have one of my favorite places to be in the US