Monday, January 9, 2012

Our Costa Rica Gift Of Happiness: Day 6, Harmony Hotel And Horseback Riding

Deb: Never has a hotel been so aptly named. It truly reflects grounded peace, decadent service, and the cradling of our planet. We were awed when we walked through the door. The greeting, both human and earthly, was simple green elegance.

Colin: I burnt my feet. Why can’t I remember to put sunblock on the tops of my feet? WHY???

Barbara: Both El Silencio and The Harmony evoke this new ideal I’ve discovered of the “hotel experience”. It’s not just about sleeping comfortably and eating well (both of which we’ve done to an utmost degree here), but about embracing a true eco-living experience. At El Silencio, it was the 3-hour hike through the rainforest. Here it was the 3-hour horseback ride on the beach and through a nature reserve, spying birds, monkeys, more quati, and an armadillo. Not to mention the 3-hour walk along the beach first thing this morning, traveling across 8 kilometers of pristine sand and water at low-tide.

Deb: The Harmony offers a free “sustainability tour” and “garden tour” where the guests learn up-close how much they respect their environment and use/re-use every single amenity they possess. It not only encourages you to do the same, it makes you wish that every hotel offered a similar experience. Because the truth is, despite environmental consciousness, we are lacking for nothing here.

Barbara: We have outdoor showers off the back of our rooms—I know I said it before, but can I just emphasize again how utterly delicious it is to wash yourself clean in the warm fresh air, looking at lush greenery during the day (above the privacy fence), or at the stars at night.

Colin: I think I showered with one of you today.

Phil: It was me, Colin. They say everyone sounds great when they sing in the shower. Not true.

Barbara: Oh, and PS, the private gardens also have a hammock! Yup, there we were last night, Phil and I in our hammock calling across to Deb and Colin in their hammock, “Can you see Cassiopeia?! There’s the Big Dipper!”

Deb: And … the sexy factor? Through the roof!

Phil: After 3-hours of horseback riding, I have calluses where no man should have calluses.

Barbara: But we saw a sunset that rivals my best memories of sunsets. The pics are great—but they don’t quite capture the fire-orange and deep red that saturated the sky.

Deb: I had not been on a horse since I was ten (during my one year of lessons) and Colin has never been on a horse. Barb and Phil have done it many times! And yet, God bless my husband, there he was, out in front all on his own. His horse had plans for him and those plans included seducing him into the world of horseback riding. Even though at one point his horse lost his footing and Colin almost lost his lunch.

Colin: Only through my expert horsemanship and the fact that my soiled pants glued me to the saddle did I not fall to my certain death.

Barbara: All this to say, we had another awe-inspiring day filled with gentle adventure and utter beauty. I can’t sigh off without mentioning the food again—the food here is sublime. Fresh and complex, familiar and yet unusual, local, with a twist. The Harmony knows its way around a meal!

Deb and Barbara: Don't forget you can still enter to win your own Gift of Happiness here--the site is now over 100,000 strong! Tomorrow we have something very special coming up for you—stay tuned!!

So many of our meals have been authentic Costa Rican, but each place gives it its own twist.

To the left: the pool. To the right: our rooms.

Cowgirl Deb.

Our genial guide, Juan. 


  1. That iguana by the pool - his pretty green self posing all reptile supermodel - I have named him Skippy.

    Ummm, it looks like Colin enjoyed Deb mounting.

    (Sorry, I should've resisted the joke. But, in the end, I couldn't.)

    Y'all know what? I'll be more coherent tomorrow. For now, I just have one more thing to say:

    ROLL TIDE!!!

  2. Let me know how everyone's butt is tomorrow? Looks gorgeous and once again seems very quiet. The hotel is beautiful. What an adventure. Love this. Might have to go to Costa Rica now.

  3. I just keep scrolling through to look at the amazing photos. I especially love the seagulls walking through the water and the meal!!
    The meal is so colorful! not to mention it looks yummy!
    The Ocean water.....or sea, I guess, depending on what coast you guys are sooooo blue!
    Here in Jersey our ocean water looks nothing like that. It looks refreshing where you guys are.
    Best wishes for your continuing vacation.

  4. Outdoor showers!
    Horsies! (How did a brand new rider get a real horse? I was put on one I named "Doorstop." He was only going to follow the horse in front of me and didn't give a crap about what I tried to tell him. Safety, sure, but DAMN!)
    CLEAN Ocean!
    Clean BLUE Ocean! (We have ocean, but that's it.)
    Drinks! (They don't taste the same when not being sipped on beach by Clean, Blue Ocean, or near it.)
    Surfer!! (Colin, you rode the horse. That would have impressed us quite enough, but this, too?? You should write a book!)
    Pictures!! (Phil, you continue to rock. Love the "I seeee you, little iguana..." picture. And all the others.)

    Gals, I burn easily, so I wear a t-shirt over my suit, so as to protect my shoulders and arms. Yeah.... that's why I wear the shirt. *is jealous of comfortable people* ;)

    Colin, even *I* know to put lotion on the tops of my feet, and you're at least a shade or two lighter than me. Tsk tsk.


    Should have started ^^^^ here. Would have saved several sentences. :)

    LOVE that you're still enjoying it! That it's still enjoyable. That your enthusiasm and wonder and fun and blogging haven't waned. That Costa Rica is indeed showing off her ability to give folks Happiness, of all types. That you all are happy. xx

    I'd also like to proudly let you know that I, too, am happy, and have been since Friday. Not ELATED or HIGH...happy. Heck of way to be. Trying to get used to it, but the waters are welcoming, so yeah, it's a good thing. I am happy. xx

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  6. Wow....Still looking at the wonderful sunset....looks like one of my paintings :D

    Rigel you said it ;)...Looks like Colin enjoyed Deb mounting :P (I wasnt gonna write it but I read Rigel's comment and couldnt resist either :P)
    Barb you look reaallllly great in the third pix ....oh my god !!!!
    I loved the picture of Colin and Deb ...awwwh they look so cute together !!!! Deb honey you look gorgeous...And Colin you look really HANDSOME !!!!!(In whose line I never realized you were Tall :P)
    The pix of the meal is delicious !
    That little pup on the beach is so cute......
    And horseback riding....Gosh I miss it ! Ive done it for years....

    When I read "Colin: I think I showered with one of you today.
    Phil: It was me, Colin. They say everyone sounds great when they sing in the shower. Not true."
    Lemme tell ya it took a long time, a few very disturbing thoughts and Barb's post that you guys had adjoining rooms to realize what you REALLY meant !!!! lol
    Anyway loved all the pictures.....again Great work Phil...And Kudos to you and your Canon DSLR!!!!!

    Something special for us huh ????? Can't wait !!
    Wow...this really sounds like a dream trip !!
    keep having fun.....and 3 hour horse-back riding......take a lotta rest !!!!! :)

    LOVE YOU ALL....xoxo

    (Phew....Ok I'll stop writing now !)

  7. Been sunburnt on the tops of my feet too. It sucks. LOVE the horse-back riding pics!!!!

    Root canal update: HORRIBLE night. Been awake since 4:45 feeling sick to my stomach. Can't keep anything down. Seeing a doc around 8:00 today (when the college's health services opens).

    Sorry to bore you all, but I know some of you have been asking. :]

  8. What a wonderful trip you are having, so many different experiences. I love the horseback riding on the beach (riding is my passion, I just got a new horse) Good for you Colin, it can be scary when the horse "takes" you for his own idea of a ride. The beach looks beautiful and such a sunset!! Phil, your photos are amazing! Imagine lying in a hammock gazing at the stars after a lovely relaxing day. Can't wait for the surprise!!! Re-entry to the North will not be easy for you all after this trip. Have another great day!!!

  9. Dear Colin,

    Good morning! Please don't forget to put sunblock on the tops of your feet this morning.

    Love and hugs,

  10. Oh, Kelly! :( *careful hugs* Poor girl! I hope you can get lots of rest and feel better today.

    BTW, it may be the pain killers that are upsetting your stomach.

    Please, please, please stay hydrated!!!

  11. Bad morning. Will explain (in blog form) later. Feeling better now though; able to keep food and stuff down! :D Just going to not do much today (already called work and have the day off) and try to feel better.

  12. Been a crazy morning for both of us...all is well now!

    I LOVE the horseback pictures, especially the one with Colin! It looks like it could be in a movie poster or something. Deb, please explain the ADORABLE puppy! :)

  13. that looks so wonderful would love to know more about the hotel, sort of place i would love to stay at, and that puppy - no not colin - the younger one - it was adorable.
    glad you had such a wonderful trip.
    if you want another place with a fantastic private shower overlooking a waterhole check out one of the bungalows at Shamwari reserve in South Africa, you want excitement in the bush - its guaranteed !!!!! if you know what i mean . enjoy

  14. I'm currently writing very angry letters to various Media today (don't ask) but not to bring you all down with the dasterdly malicousness of great jackasses the world over I won't get into it here.

    Took a break to see what your guys day held and wow, just wow, the pics, the hotel, the horses, the water, the sunset, wow and the puppy, awwww. Forget going back to Mexico our next trip were going to Costa Rica!

    Colin my hubby did the same thing this past summer put lotion on then took of his socks and burnt his feet to an absolute crisp. Hope you didn't burn quite as bad as he did, makes for a miserable next day.

    Kelly feel better!

  15. Oh my, that puppy! AWWW... How adorable!

    Colin, take care of those feet, they tend to be a neccesity.

    I love the pic with Colin, Deb, and Barb on the chairs. Colin's face just made me laugh for some reason. All of the pics are fantastic!

    Something I noticed in your post: you like to do things that take 3 hours: walk, horseback ride etc.

    Glad you all are having fun!

  16. Did I tell you that I'm jealous? I love riding ( horses). Haven' t done it for a while ( so I guess you're sore now). It had always been my dream to ride on the beach. Deb, aren't you mounting ( or being pushed up) from the wrong side?
    Barbara, you look like a model :D beautiful!
    Love this so much.

  17. Since I'm feeling kahoots better, I will actually contribute appropriately: Didn't even notice the iguana by the pool (this is why I skim these posts multiple times). That hotel reminds me of the one I stayed at in Nicaragua; soooo pretty!

    One thing I have always wanted to do is go horse back riding on the beach; been horseback riding before...just never on a beach. Looks like you all are having a smashing time!

  18. Lovely photos . . . all around . . . but goodness, you guys need to get Phil in these photos too! Take that iPhone away from him and take photos of him relaxing to the max! :-)

    Sounds like an ah-MAZING trip. I have been to Costa Rica (in 2010) have visited many of the sites you are seeing (and having also stayed at the same hotel in Arenal!) . . . I know for a fact that you are all having a super grand time.

    And omg . . . the food? Right? THE FOOD!

    Laura in ATL

  19. And yes . . . please explain that adorable puppy! I hope he wasnt a poor stray, all alone . . . I hope he has a Human Poppa or a Momma to care for him.

    If not? Snatch the little guy and take him home! He looks intelligent and can probably quickly learn to understand English. ;-)

    Laura in ATL

  20. brilliant diary entry and pictures as usual. i love the idea of a hammock but cam imagine my clumsy self falling off it while trying to get in .you guys must have a superior sense of balance . you have been to some brilliant looking places i must say .

    Colin i sympathize with you sun burning your feet . it is the one place people think will never get sunburnt , usually because of wearing shoes , and always does . don;t forget to put sun cream on them in future
    , though i suspect after getting them sunburnt you won't.

    like dawn i too have to wear a t shirt when i swim on holiday . added bonus is as a large lady it prevents me from getting arrested for bringing the human form into disrepute !

    Kelly i am so sorry to hear about your bad morning . get well soon . i hope your root canal is sorted out.

    the following comments are for Rigel:
    your comment about Colin enjoying deb mounting should , i feel , have a if you know what i mean following it , if you know what i mean :-)

    as far as i am aware the Irish police carry handcuffs and pepper spray . i am not sure if tazers are legal here . in fact i doubt it . there is not a huge amount of gun crime here . you are more likely to face a knife or a needle . to compare Ireland to America is not easy as we are a much smaller country with a much smaller population plus 6 of our 32 counties are governed form Britain . it can get more then a bit confusing.

    thanks for the explanation of American college football . what we call football here is called soccer with you guys . you need to watch dsome rugby . American football with less rules and no pads ! congrats on your college doing well by the way .

  21. I just have to ask, Linda (p.s. yay for April 9th birthdays!!!!!!!!!!!!!), but do you live in the United Kingdom?

    I was there this summer and LOVED it.

  22. Oh wow , love this post today. It made me laugh. Deb Love the pics of you with the puppy. It was so cute. Love the horse back riding photos . I use to ride horses when I was little but haven't in a while. But I think my favorite photo was The very last one. I melted when I seen that orange sky. Awwww how I wish I could have seen that sky that you all seen.

    You know, it's amazing to me how the sky can have some if the most amazing art work in it. . I just melted when I seen that pic . Thanks for posting it. It my very stressed out week a little easier .

    Glad you all are having an amazing time. This trip that you all are on will be like a memory album in your head. And those are always great.

  23. What gorgeous photos! I love that horseback riding trail.

    This post is a hoot. The trip sounds like a delight.

  24. Hi, it´s Glenda... I can totally relate to Deb about the iguanas. Under the influence of Gravol or not, huge monstrous macho iguanas are intimidating. Hope you do not find if I share a short story experience with iguanas while I was photographing . It started off with the cutest green baby iguana, sitting as if posing so peacefully and camouflaged within the green foliage.The little critter was so well- behaved and cute , I was so happy that I had all the time in the world to focus and get good shoots. I continued to snap away until suddenly things took a turn. I guess it had enough of me or I had ticked it off because it slowly turned and gave me THE LOOK. Baby Iguana or not, I heeded and backed-off. I knew I would freak out if it jumped on my face or camera lens. As I turned, I looked up and saw a monster of a macho iguana eyeing me from above. Horrors, I was in the mist of “iguana- land.” It was time to leave; besides, the sun was setting and the iguana was amongst a zillion branches, so I told the guide “let’s go.” He insisted I make one last effort, so he tried to position the iguana by climbing the tree and rocking the branches. This only agitated the iguana to the point that it lifted his head in alert, turned around, and paused as if contemplating what to do next. I have learned, the hard way, to read an animals’ body language, so this was a sure sign for me to back-off. I was in the process of executing my escape route when my guide shouted, “Get your camera ready!” I screamed to the guide “NO, NO, DON´T rock the iguana.” I knew it would either leap on me or close to me and I wanted no part of either situation. Oblivious to my plea, the guide continued rocking. While all the shouting and commotion was in full force, the iguana decided he had enough, and to my horror, he suddenly took a superman style leap into the air. He landed within a few feet of me .The huge iguana ran in one direction and I, with camera hanging around my neck, ran in the opposite direction. I headed back while my guide was still in the tree and probably laughing.

  25. I'm glad you guys are having such a great time. And those pictures are just marvellous! :)

  26. Those pictures are gorgeous! That sunset reminds me of a summer's eve out on the prairie... :) I saw that one and *poof* all the frustration about being sick vanished just looking at it.

    Colin, I hope you packed Vitamin E. Poor feet.

    In a fevered induced glance, I first thought it was Phil being hoisted onto the horse by Colin. But then I read the caption.

    Keep enjoying Costa Rica. :)

  27. Oh, I do so wonder what our intrepid 4 are up to today! Their trip in ending :( , but I hope they are going out with an extra special day!!!

    (BTW, Linda, oh yes, I am aware of the muddy, bloody sport of rugby which makes UK men sooooo sexy! LOL)

  28. Oh my...somebody is gonna have a really sore butt and legs tomorrow from riding the horse (I really felt the need to complete that sentence because of "this crowd" up in here.)
    I don't think I'd feel as comfortable showering outside. I'd probably wear a tshirt and shorts and the very LEAST. ;)
    Colin and their input to the blog. They are just as funny as they are handsome.
    Nice that you actually got to see what you were having for dinner. That iguana was mighty green. It's good to eat your greens. I have to mention that I would rather eat iguana than avocado-no-you-didn't-put-that-shite-on-my-plate. ;)
    Can't sign off without mentioning you ladies look simply fabulous in your swimsuits. Hate you/love you. :)
    Colin, ask for some aloe vera. It would help your burn. I would think the place you're staying would have some, or some kind of burn ointment that would at least ease the tenderness of the burn (another sentence I had to write carefully)
    Enjoy tomorrow, guys n gals. Can't wait to find out what our surprise is.
    Hugs n Heaven,
    P.S. I really am worried about Colin's ass after riding a horse for the first time. I think his new wild west nickname will be Limpy Grumpkins.

  29. Rigel i think Skippy is a splendid name for a supermodel iguana! Madge, no sore butts here which is surprising given the fact that it was a 3 hour tour...a three hour tour. Kelly from NJ you are so riight about the water. Bluer than blue! And yes I love watching little birds walk on their teeny chopstik legs. How do they do it? Dawn I loved all your comments but I especially loved the fact that you said you were just plain happy. Ride that happy train baby!

  30. Hey Shalaka , he was quite the gentleman, wasn't he? I don't think I could have made it on to my horse without Colin's help, and my horse was the shortest one! Didn't I look elegant getting on that horse????
    Kelly I am so sorry to hear about your root canal issues. I hope as I type this, you are already feeling better! Mary-Jo, a new horse???? Colour and name por favor? Rigel thanks for your concern. Colin has sunblock in the day and aloe at night. Getting better. Kelly BOO! That is so awful. Barb's daughter is ill too. That time of year huh?

  31. Holly I KNOW!!!! The puppy was a little beagle three months old who belonged to a local family who had a little girl. I could have put him in my pocket I tell you! Nicky I know what you mean wink wink. If you click on Harmony hotel mentioned in our blog it will take you right to the site. We have done that with everything we have seen. Erin what a drag dealing with rude gits! Good luck with that. I am so glad if the blog could take you away from all that, even for just a few minutes.

  32. Steph that is so funny. Well maybe it's me! 3 is my favourite and lucky number. Becki I SWEAR that is what I was thinking. I did take horseback riding as a kid but didn't want to say anything!!! Yeah Kelly the beachf element of the horseback riding made it seem like we were in a movie. Laura Phil is in a very special photo in tomorrow's blog. Linda the balance risk was worth it I must say. But whenever I get into a hammock I always think it's going to do the cartoon thing of spinning around and cocooning us.

  33. Oh Dawn. That's awful! *hugs* Hope you get well, soon! Had to go to the dentist last year. It hurt so much...unbelievable!

    I have a nasty headache today...and I'm feeling dizzy. Will try to sleep now (it's 11pm here).

    Thank you for sharing your adventures and experiences with us. Makes me happy.

  34. Now I wounder what towmorrys blog will be . I love it. Cant hardly wait for more pics towmorry. Yeahh

  35. Deb, new horse's name is Milwaukee, his nickname it RED, and yes he is red...a chestnut gelding warm blood. He is LOVELY!!! I am amazed that you all weren't sore after 3 hours of riding!!! Yeah group!! I agree, we need more pictures of Phil and I keep checking to see if you have posted ...I am so curious about your surprise. You are all so wonderful to share your vacation with us .....kind of feels like we are all there with you!!

  36. "Special" blog tomorrow?? :)


  37. Becki,
    I appreciate the dental sympathy. However, it is Kelly, not I, who has the root canal issues. I feel bad for her, but I'm happy it's not me. :)

    Thank you, Deb. The train is rolling along and, even if it turns into a chug ga chug ga, I have back-up: New England Patriots' defensive line. (WHOOO!!!) LOL j/k Real support. Love you guys. x

  38. As y'all're flying home, when y'all are over the South in the United States, if your path takes you such that you can look down and see the Mississippi River, please wave down and say hi to me. I'm here:

    Scroll down to 2nd pair of photos. I'm in the bottom 1/3 of those photos ever so slightly to the west of the river.

    I'll be praying mightily for travelling mercies for y'all.

  39. Hi, Glenda, here…I know where you have been, more or less, but not sure where you are going , how long you will stay or who is your Tour agency, only because I recently discovered your blog on the Gift of Happiness page and I confess, I have not read the very beginning of your blog . However, I have certainly enjoyed viewing the posted photos and seeing all your smiles and happy faces. There are thousands of things to do and visit in this beautiful country, isthmus, and I hope you return often so you can continue to enjoy them. I have been here 40 plus years and I still have not see it all, but I am now in the process of doing so. Most visitors, the young and the young at heart, who come for vacations, return to Costa Rica to live, retire, invest and even for medical procedures.The OSA Peninsula, Corcovado, although HOURS away from San Jose, has the most incredible jungle experiences. You would have a ball there, roughing it in paradise. Everyone, at least once in their lives must visit Corcovado. The Nosara beach area is gorgeous and hours away as well, but both are worth it. Also, thank you all for caring and “ packing for a purpose” by giving the soccer balls to the tribal children. Most of the indigenous live in such remote areas, that they are often forgotten , even by the costarricans. Hope … no… I KNOW , you will continue to enjoy your trip and laugh a thousand times over. By the photos it is evident you embraced the Pura Vida concept.

  40. hi holly . i am actually form Dublin Ireland , though i guess i could claim some englishness as my dad was born in Manchester in the north of England . i have a good deal of family there .i love London too . been there 4 times since 2005 , mostly for rock concerts that i can't see here in Ireland .

    i am sorry to say my ability at calculating went up the spout when i read the post you made about your birthday . my birthday is actually 9th march not April . i was never any good at maths !

    i have to say i am surprised that you know rugby Rigel . how did you get to know it . by the way if you ever watch the 6 nations rugby championships i hope you will give the occasional cheer for the Irish team :-)

    holy Mary it is almost 00-30 here now . time fly when you are trying to write !

  41. Oh Lyndsie you will be so thrilled. Am I building it up too much? I hope not. Oh Mary-Jo-RED! Love it and I also love his official name Milwukee! Would love to meet his fine self. We WILL wave Rigel, we will wave! Glenda what a lovely post. Pura Vida does not even begin to cover it. We ARE coming back! We talked about it today. Not every lovely place I visit calls me back but Costa Rica does.

  42. Deb -

    I'm loving you so much right this second that I think I'm gonna burst!!! I'm thrilled down to my toes to hear such thorough relaxation, happiness, destressing, joy, comfort, and revitalization in your "voice." This trip has been a miracle medicine for you! Absolutely perfect timing of a perfect thing. (Sneaking suspicion God may have been involved, eh? :> )

    *bear hugs!*

    Love and hugs,

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  44. @ Linda: Oh, Dublin sounds lovely!!! Will have to make a trip to Ireland someday. I LOVED London, I want to go back! :)

    @ Deb and Barb: In other news, I'm about sick to death of all this election junk and I'm about to pack up and move to beautiful Canada and co-write this lovely blog with you ladies! Geesh. Give it a rest with (Oven) Mitt freaking ROmney already!

    Sorry. Just needed to get that out.

  45. Deb, you can absolutely meet his fine self "RED" and have a ride on his fine self if you'd like. He is in King, so not far, just email me. Come on "up"!! :)

  46. Great photos again Deb!
    They remind me of a walk by the Thames at sundown (if the Thames had beautiful scenery, exotic wildlife, nice people, healthy food and great weather!)

  47. Whoops. Sorry Dawn! I was a little bit off yesterday. Hope your teeth are still fine. ;)

    Kelly, hope you get well, soon! Know how the pain's awful!


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