Arenas Del Mar
” Every day is a GREAT Day”
Manuel Antonio Costa Rica.
The owners of Arenas Del Mar graciously donated an off-peak week at their spectacular hotel to The Healing Consciousness Awaken to Healing event in 2012. My neighbors Topper and Betty bid on the week and we were fortunate to be chosen as their travel mates. What an Amazing slice of heaven we found at this “carbon zero” “five sustainability leaf” award-winning rainforest beach resort. Truly nature in balance with business of tourism!
I needed a break from my day-to-day hectic life. My summer was far more trying than I had ever bargained for, but a week in Costa Rica was just what the doctor ordered. I hadn’t really done my vacation homework so I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived. It was almost nice to not have preconceived expectations about a destination and just go with the flow and live in the moment.
Arenas Del Mar is gently nestled into the Costa Rican rainforest that abuts the ocean. From the beach, the resort is barely perceptible. You can see just the top of building seven, which gives that building the bird’s eye view of the spectacular beach. This is not just a resort tucked away in the jungle, it is a magical place where the people who tend to your needs while on vacation, treat you more like family and friends than customers or clients. My health system, Holy Redeemer, is in the process of reevaluating every service we provide in health care focusing on providing an exceptional experience for our patients.
The staff at Arenas Del Mar takes customer service to a whole new level. Jorge Arietta, the general manager, is an amazing individual who is respected and revered by his staff and his employers. You can tell when someone leads by example and makes his employees want to be the best they can be. He made sure that each and everyone who was staying at the resort received personalized attention. One evening I commented on our way to dinner that the candles around the pool were such a nice touch. That evening upon our return to our room, the bell boy had filled out jacuzzi tub and outfitted the room with candles and flowers creating an amazing ambiance. I don’t know who overheard the comment and who was truly responsible for that surprise at our room, but I suspect that all of the staff work relentlessly to make each persons stay individualized and special. Kudos to Jorge for being the leader and role model that he is!
Apparently trip advisor is how most people come upon Arenas Del Mar and from talking to the other guests the reviews were spot on. Several of our friends from VMS, (Vaughn Hebron’s workout group in Newtown, had visited the resort in August. They had “formally” initiated the manager Jorge and naturalist Ersel to “the workout”. My family, friends and patients know that Joe and I have been doing “the workout” with Vaughn for nearly 6 years now. I usually exercise on vacation, but this week we used the hills and the fabulous beaches to crank up the workout just a notch.
On the afternoon of our first day, we had just gotten into our room when we ran in to Jorge heading up “heart attack hill” to workout. (The hills are workout enough for those who are not fit. Thank God they had the ‘jitney’s’ , aka golf carts, for Topper and Betty as the hills got old fast for them) Jorge invited us to workout and I joined them day numero uno and the rest is history. Joe became out VMS leader and his buddy Dave emailed us the new workout from PA so that we could stay on track. Somehow we managed to work around the rain and we were able to get 5 full VMS workouts during our week. (two warm ups on the hills and that means exponential expenditure of energy and massive pain in your legs for 48 hours)
So what is there to do at this place???
EAT,EAT and EAT
We were fortunate to be present for one of the resorts celebrity chef events. Top Chef contender Jason Chicinoski of Ela in Philadelphia provided three evenings of delicious and artfully presented dishes. Don’t know how he did it as he was on the beach in the afternoon and by 7 we were eating 5 course gourmet meals. He visited the local markets and Villa Vanilla, an organic spice farm and intertwined the delicacies of Costa Rica into his dishes. I could live on his lobster bisque! Had I not been walking the hills, beaches and doing the VMS workout, I likely would be returning to the USA with a few more pounds on board. We cannot wait to go to Ela upon our return to Philadelphia and I encourage you to try it too. I hear the Sunday brunch is a great way to become introduced to Ela!
We did three day trips and they were all spectacular. My workout buddy Claudie highly recommended the Organic Spice farm. Giselle gave is an all-encompassing educational tour of Villa Vanilla. The property was started by a Peace Corp volunteer on the 1970’s and has developed into a sustainable ecosystem with flora and fauna that were simply divine. If you are in the area, you need to take the time to visit. I purchased spices for my sons for Christmas as they are both chef’s in their own right in the kitchen.
The dance of the huge walking stick was a bonus on the tour and the tasting was over the top as you could truly enjoy each of the ingredients from the Ceylon cinnamon tea to the vanilla ice-cream and chocolate candy. ( No carbohydrate watching that day). I must have returned from the trip with palpable enthusiasm as one of the owners of the resort planned a trip the next afternoon with his own chef’s and celebrity chef Jason. They were not disappointed.
We then had the opportunity to learn how to make sea bass ceviche from one of the resort chefs. In addition to the cooking lesson, we were entertained by the howler monkey and the raccoons who live in harmony with Arenas Del Mar. Joe had a particularly special end to his day with rum tasting. (The day before we did coffee tasting and that too was a value added bonus to staying at ADM)
This trip was planned months in advance when I found out that Comprehensive Breast Care Surgeon’s as well as The Healing Consciousness Foundation were being honored by Professional Women’s Roundtable for making a difference in the lives of women.
The PoWeR of Connections
Stacy and Catherine represented our group and Lauren and Lauren represented The Healing Consciousness Foundation.I returned home to another beautiful glass award to adorn my office shelf.
“Rainmaker Rainforest Hanging Bridges and Water fall experience”
Our workout buddy Ersel Aguilar did have a real job besides making us sweat in the early AM. He is the naturalist for the resort and apparently his name is all over trip advisor as one of the highlights of an ADM visit. He was perpetually bird watching or educating the visitors.
When we left the resort it was raining on the coast so I assumed we would be walking in the rain.
The day that we went to the rainforest was magical as we were the ONLY ones there and we had sun during our entire trip and the rain began upon our return to the pavilion for a delicious local lunch. Topper and Betty did not join us as Betty hates bridges and we had to cross several hanging rope and cable bridges. The waterfalls, birds and wildlife were awe-inspiring. Ersel even got us to eat a termite. ( Spicy yet satisfying! Good protein and they come packed with flavor)
The hike concluded with a waterfall back and shoulder massage.
(Second only in comparison with the massage that I received by Priscilla at the resort (Muy relajado)
I have to say that in all of my years of travel and people who I have met, Ersel is hands down the nicest most genuinely happy individual on the planet. His love of life, his passion for the planet and all of its creatures is so inspiring. His knowledge of Costa Rica and its many ecosystems makes him indispensable to Arenas Del Mar. This 26 yo has truly learned to live in the moment. He started every morning 6:30 AM workout with his declaration that “Everyday is a great day!” and from his heart of hearts he means it. I cannot wait to have him spend time with our sons when we return to Costa Rica. I hope he gets a Visa soon so that we can return the favor when he comes to the USA!
Zip Lining with MidWorld Costa Rica
Topper had zip lining on his bucket list and we crossed it off in the rainforest. Betty hates heights so she was out and Joe is recovering from a finger injury so it was Topper and I off for an adventure. Again we lucked out as it was off-season and we had a personalized zip line with Freddie and Marshall. Freddie picked us up from the hotel and we stopped in town to sign the waiver in case of death or limb loss. Freddie is a 20 yo who was not only our guide, but lives on the road to the zip line and helped build this Costa Rican Adventure. We saw his grandmother sitting on the porch of his house as we drove past. Everyone has a story and if you don’t make the time to listen to theirs, you are missing out on a piece of life that is rich and real. His english is amazing for someone who has never studied out of the country. Freddie was wise beyond his years and another wealth on knowledge about the ecosystem of the rainforest.
In healthcare we live in a culture of safely. We have a call daily at Holy Redeemer to discuss our opportunities for improvement and to go over any events that were deemed to be near misses or potentially harmful. At MidWorld Costa Rica they do the same type of process. The cables are inspected first thing in the AM and Freddie was one of the inspectors so we felt safe in his company. After our safety lecture, Topper and I were loaded into the king cab truck bed that was shipped to Costa Rica from Cheyenne Wyoming. That’s when the rain began and the cold set in. I was single-handedly wining the wet “T-shirt” contest as I was the only woman in our group. Luckily Topper was distracted by his mounting fear and anxiety about what he had gotten himself into.
I had at one time a fear of heights. (Unless of course I was the one flying the plane) Some sort of control issue I think but I could be wrong. Zip lining is a let go and let God experience. Once you are convinced of the safety of the double cable system and the triple safety line ,all you need to do is sit back and LET GO!! For those of you who know me letting go is not so easy, but something in the rainforest of Costa Rica allowed me to have Zero Fear and total trust in being in the moment. Despite the torrential pelting rain for half of the tour, it was exhilarating and exciting. Topper called it exhilarating and frightening wrapped up in one exceptional experience.
After our second repel out of the trees, we were once again treated to a spectacular lunch of sea bass, rice beans and squash as well as a dry towel. The food was simple divine and the hospitality of the Costa Rican people was over the top. During high season they have upwards of 100 people Zip lining and we have the auspicious honor of being there by ourselves, how cool was that.
All of our wait staff was exceptional. Luis’s story is one worth sharing. Luis is in his mid 50’s. He was always pleasant, attentive and so eager to make your experience special. He had once had a farm on the border near Nicaragua and due to forces beyond his control, his land was lost and he is now a full-time waiter at ADM. In his youth, he was in contention for the Costa Rica’s Olympic Team. (We found this out from one of the other ADM employees) One evening at dinner we asked him about it and the passion and animation of his story was priceless. I should have taped it for you to hear in his words but thankfully I will always have in my heart. Luis ran the 800. I a particular race, he was told by his couch that despite his swiftness, it was not his time to win. Thankfully he disregarded the coach and took off in a race that he so animatedly shared with us. His arm gestures and word inflection as he recounted the race where he would pass the guy on the curves and be overtaken on the straight away were memorable. He recounted the two lap race turn by turn second by second and 1 min and 55 seconds later he won the race. His pride was palpable and his smile from ear to ear. (I actually think it took him 5 minutes to tell us the 1 min 55 second story). Unfortunately he never did get to represent Costa Rica in the Olympics due to lack of funding, but for us he is a GOLD medalist!
Imaging the number of people who you meet in life who have a story as compelling and thrilling as Luis that you never hear about because you do not take the time to listen.
Walking up and down the hills and up and down the hills again to end up on a stretch of beach sprinkled with volcanic rock structures at the edge of the rainforest preserve IS heaven on earth.
Living in balance and harmony with the white-faced monkeys, iguanas, poisonous dart frogs, squirrel monkeys and so many beautiful and harmonious birds is a true testament to the visionaries of Arenas Del Mar. They have created a sanctuary for humans to live in equilibrium with nature.