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In the remote rain forest of Costa Rica, beauty awakens the soul

PACUARE RIVER, Costa Rica

As we turned the corner at the peak of the hill and saw the narrow, winding, bumpy road below, my husband, Kit, and I looked at each other with the same nervous eyes that we had when we booked our honeymoon months before: What were we doing?

I began to see how easily our 1970s van could tumble over into the rapids we were about to subject ourselves to and decided it was best to close my eyes. I'm such a big talker on not being afraid to take risks, but when push comes to shove, I'd almost always rather be the person holding the purses at the bottom of the roller coaster than the one sitting in the front row.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

The suite was filled with candlelight at night and our canopy bed was surrounded by mosquito netting to keep the bugs out. It's amazing how well you're able to sleep when you're not looking at your phone before going to bed.

Sure, we rock climb and love to travel, but we also really like our iPhones, electricity and dry clothing. So, we had to reassure ourselves a few times when we booked the first leg of our honeymoon for two nights at an ecolodge without internet, electricity or air conditioning. Did I mention it was in the middle of the rain forest, only accessible by whitewater rafting?

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

My favorite part of our stay was being so close to the river. Growing up in the Midwest, my family would spend our summers visiting rivers and lakes and hiking. I felt like I was transported back to those memories being surrounded by so much beauty in nature.

We climbed into our boat with four strangers who were supposed to become our immediate teammates and held on for dear life. I soon became too distracted to hear my heartbeat by all the beauty surrounding us. Vines that Tarzan might swing from hung over our heads as we passed waterfalls highlighted by rays of golden light. It felt like a scene out of The Jungle Book.

Our destination, the Pacuare Lodge in the Limón Province of Costa Rica, was ranked one of the top ecolodges in the world by National Geographic. From the moment we got there, we drank the Kool-Aid of the off-the-grid lifestyle. Well, it's more like the cocktail they handed us after the whitewater rafting journey, but you get the idea.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

One of Kit's favorite parts of the suite was the hammock on the porch that allowed us to watch the river pass by. Each morning we were able to be lazy before our adventures, as breakfast was brought to our room.

After months of stress at work and wedding planning, we needed to unplug a lot more than we realized. We left our phones in airplane mode and only used them to snap photos. To our surprise, what we thought would be primitive lodging was actually the nicest accommodations you could imagine in the middle of the jungle.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

We were pretty nervous about going outside of our comfort zone in a country we had never been in, but it was the best decision we made. This was after we found a secret waterfall while hiking on our last day at the lodge.

Our ecolodge suite was surrounded by other cabins less than 20 feet away from the Pacuare River. While there were several other couples around, the cabins were spaced out far enough that you felt like you were alone. If this had been our only stop in Costa Rica, I would have dropped some serious cash on the canopy suite, which comes with its own private, natural swimming pool and rope suspension bridge. Our suite came with an indoor and outdoor shower and massive porch hammock that we used most days.

As a photographer, I was in awe at the beauty. I threw my hands up after the first day because I knew no photo I took could do this experience justice. The sounds of the tropical birds, the mist coming off the river after sunrise, the exotic perfumes of flowers I had never heard of before, all were lost in still image.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

One of our favorite parts of the trip was zip lining through the jungle on a canopy tour at the Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica. I'm usually terrified of heights, but I was too distracted by the paintinglike views I was whizzing by to be scared. Here, Kit takes his turn on the zip line.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Near the end of our zip lining adventure, I surprised Kit by zip lining into a tree for lunch above the rooftops at the Pacuare Lodge. The Nest sits on a platform 60 feet in the air and gave us an incredible view of the jungle surrounding the lodge.

We kept busy during our stay with waterfall rappelling, zip lining and three-course meals served in tree houses, but we also enjoyed our downtime. Kit and I made good use of our hiking shoes, splashing through the waterfalls and climbing steep trails. We listened to calming sounds from the river, read and simply took time to pause. Our final day, we hiked to a secret waterfall and had dinner by a bonfire under a blanket of brightly shining stars. I knew there was nowhere I would rather be and no one I would rather be with.

I'm the first to admit that I am an iPhone addict, but I was reminded on this trip how much time I waste on that 4.7-inch display. With my nose buried in Facebook updates and Instagram notifications, I'm missing out. It's a constant battle, but more often than not now, I'm putting my phone down, to be present, and I have a beautiful river in the middle of the Costa Rican rain forest to thank for that.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

At dinner on our last night, we had to hold back our tears because we didn't want to leave. Our dinner was on the river by a bonfire surrounded by candles, stuff we do every day back in St. Petersburg. Totally normal.

Contact Eve Edelheit at eedelheit@tampabay.com. Follow @Eve_Edelheit.

.If you go

Pacuare Lodge

The Pacuare Lodge in the remote rain forest of Limón Province in Costa Rica is accessible only by rafting tour. (Okay, if you chicken out, there's a 4x4 off-road vehicle.) A suite stay runs from $800 to $4,400 depending on length of stay and time of year. Dry season is December through April. Learn more at pacuarelodge.com.

In the remote rain forest of Costa Rica, beauty awakens the soul 01/25/17 [Last modified: Sunday, January 29, 2017 4:56pm]
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