“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl
As we inched up the gravel road at a snail’s speed, we admired the sensational beauty of our surroundings. Lake Arenal was off in the horizon, and the farm was surrounded by lush, thick jungle. The sounds of birds and a group of dogs greeted our arrival while a group of distant howler monkeys warded off their turf with their deep throaty howls. The masterpiece of all however was the piercing view of Arenal Volcano. It was literally right in your face begging not be ignored. As we unpacked our bags, we knew that this was going to be one place that we would never forget. A place of dreams and fairytales. A place of magical mystique.
We had found the Parrot Hill Ranch through good friends of ours back home in Minneapolis who had stayed at this remote Air B&B property back in February. They have children the same age as ours – 10 and 12- and informed us that the farm was quite a memorable, unique experience. It was an opportunity for the kids to fully integrate and immerse themselves with Costa Rican life and stay at a very different kind of lodging on a working farm. I secretly liked as well that this is the way to travel sustainably. To support the local community and get a taste of their culture. It would not at all be luxurious like our last place however it would certainly be unique.
There are three different rental units at Parrot Hill Ranch. You can rent a large one bedroom suite on top that affords a magnificent sunset view of Lake Arenal and the lush green hills below or you can rent the neighboring upstairs unit which is tiny and without a kitchen. Lastly, you can rent the bottom basement two bedroom unit which is also equip with a kitchen but a bit dark. We had the bottom unit which wasn’t the best choice however we were able to enjoy evenings up on the upper deck for sunset.
As we pulled up to park, we were instantly greeted by a charismatic young Tico named Eduardo who has taken over the family business after the tragic passing of his American father Charlie. Eduardo and his family all live on the property in a house near the pasture and barn so we would be getting the real Costa Rican experience. Over the course of our stay we met the entire family, their pets and all the animals that lived on the farm as well as several of the neighbors. It was an open door policy for Parrot Hill Ranch’s three cats and four dogs who at any chance they got, would quickly enter our unit and try to sleep in our beds! They had goats, chickens, cows, and pigs as well on the farm. We grew particularly fond of their dog named Bobby, a tiny Chihuahua with a big dog personality and a lot of love. Bobby especially adored my kids and followed us around everywhere even on hikes into the jungle! I often wondered if he was our snake bait yet despite his minuscule size his bark and attitude would hopefully ward off any unwanted danger.
As we settled in, my daughter instantly found some Tica friends to play with in the jungle. They didn’t speak English nor does my daughter speak Spanish however children’s play doesn’t need a common language. I tried to translate before they went off having fun.
Meanwhile, my son Max and I took a short walk and discovered a hammock with a beautiful view of the volcano. Unfortunately it was nearing sunset so a swarm of ravenous mosquitos had discovered our bare skin. We didn’t spend much time on the hammock. Only enough for a picture or two. It wasn’t worth the risk of being covered in itchy mosquito bites.
After a family shot (my favorite of the entire trip) we had a little bit of time to explore before sunset. I couldn’t resist taking some shots of the Reina de la Noche (Queen of the Night) flowers. They are one of my favorite flowers for their mystical appearance however apparently they are also used as a narcotic. They grow all over Costa Rica especially near the jungle and I found them irresistibly beautiful.
Before I knew it, the sun had begun its magical decent and it was time to get up on the deck and catch it. With a bottle of red wine in hand, and a couple of root beers for the kids we headed up to the balcony. I was in awe at how much beauty surrounded me. It almost felt spiritual. I can see why Charlie found this divine property decades ago when he hiked up the top of the mountain and saw this view. What an incredible place to live and experience the “pura vida”.
This brief clip will give you a taste of serenity….
“Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.” – unknown
Alas by 5:45 pm the sun had nearly set. I couldn’t think of a more divine place. We were looking forward to the day ahead of adventure exploring our surroundings near Arenal.
Author’s note: This is a continuation on our spring break family trip to Costa Rica. To read the previous post in this series, click here.
Absolutely beautiful. Wonderful pictures! 🙂
Thank you so much! 😌
There, the jungle is waiting to take over, it grows fast and has to be continually cut back. How do your hosts manage and protect their livestock and pets from predators, including extremely venomous snakes (also, including constructors.) Beautiful country. Thanks for sharing with pictures and words.
Good question! I know they have jaguars but from what I’ve heard they stay deep inside the jungle. The snakes can be a problem as I’ve seen dogs and cows with snake wounds. Honestly I guess it is just a part of life there. I was quite nervous hiking in the jungle after we saw a few vipers hidden in the trees at a park and pointed out by a naturalist. They are there so you have to be careful! Thanks for the comment!
Ah, the beauty of Arenal! That’s so great that everyone had such a great relaxing time, full of beautiful views and experiences in a fairy-tale setting! The Angel’s Trumpet/Brugmansia is one of my favorites as well, though I am always a bit cautious when I take flowers inside and paint them in the night. So far,no drugged reactions!
Your children will treasure the memories of that trip – forever!
I loved this area Lisa! So verdant and so beautiful. Staying at this farm was by far a highlight. I would love to go back someday!
I suspect they will love having you there too. Once I joined other tourists and rode horses from Monteverde down to the lake and then we were transferred to La Fortuna by van.. One day I’ll tell you the long version in person!
That sounds fantastic Lisa! I bet that was quite a trip! Also I am certain you have so many amazing stories to tell. I would love to hear them all someday in person! 🙂 I will get to Ecuador!
I wouldn’t need any Reina de la Noche flowers to find this place magical. What a wonderful adventure you and your family are having! Thank you for letting us (virtually) tag along.
Thank you! This trip happened actually two months ago but I am just finally writing about it now. Wish I was still there!
I’m glad I’m not the only one with a two-month delay in writing about my travels. 😉 And although I can empathize with you “wish I was still there” sentiment, isn’t it cool to live in an age when we can revisit our travels anytime we want through our photos and videos?
I love writing about my travels after the fact as it lets me relive them in a way. It is lots of fun. 🙂 And yes I am so grateful for digital cameras and video! So many of my travels and I’m sure yours too are just remembered inside my head. 🙂
Such an amazing family adventure Nicole. I have loved seeing the photos here and some on Facebook and Instagram too. Hopefully the beginning of many more family adventures!
Thanks Sue! I sure hope so! 😌
Gorgeous photographs Nicole, and what a beautiful place you found. It sounds like magic.
Thanks Alison! It was very special! 🙂
My favorite thing about this post is you daughter and her new friends, who do not share a common language, loving each other’s company. If only the world would learn from children! Beautiful captures in a beautiful spot Nicole.
Oh thanks Tina. Yes me too. It was such a wonderful experience. I’m excited to travel more with them and continue to do more engaging trips like this.
Hi!! I just wanted to say that I follow your blog quite closely, and love all your adventure stories! I recently created a travel blog challenge, and wondered if you would be interested in joining me! https://wanderingoutsidethebox.wordpress.com/2017/06/03/17-weeks-travel-blogging-challenge/
This sounds awesome! Are you doing this challenge then? I’m not sure I can participate now as I’m a bit behind in my writing but would love to read your blog if you do this challenge. Let me know. Great ideas and topics for posts! Thanks for thinking of me! 🙂
This brought back such wonderful memories Nicole! I love that family shot. I can’t believe how tall your son is getting.
Wonderful LuAnn! And yes my son is almost 5’10″” at 12 years old! He is a couple of inches taller than me now! Time is going too fast. 🙂
Glad you enjoyed LuAnn!
What a wonderful opportunity for your children Nicole. The photos are spectacular. It really sounds like an adventure in the best sense of the word. 🙂🙂
Thanks Di! Hard to believe it was already almost three months ago! I am going to work on writing another piece on Costa Rica today.