After 2 years of traveling around Costa Rica we now have a spiderweb-like network of friends splattered across the world. We look forward to meeting up with as many of our new friends as possible, now that we have moved back to Oregon. So when we heard that our friend Charles Belk would be in Spokane, WA for a few days we decide to meet up for lunch in the charming town of Walla Walla, WA.
We love a good excuse for a road trip, especially if it means we get to meet "new roads". Having never been to Walla Walla, notorious for the colorful, rolling hills of one of the richest wine countries in the world, and home of the famous Walla Walla sweet onion, we hit the road. Crossing the bridge in Biggs over to Washington, our first stop is the breath-taking Maryhill Stonehenge. A replica of England's Stonehenge, it is the first memorial in the U.S. that honors the deceased of World War 1.
With sweeping, dramatic views of the Columbia River Gorge, surrounding wineries and lush agricultural land, and with powerful wind turbines keeping watch over the land, this is a special place that gives me a new appreciation for the immense beauty that surrounds us. Maybe there had to be a planet Earth...but it certainly did not have to be this beautiful. For that I am constantly overcome with gratitude.
Our next stop is to admire the John Day Dam, which is a concrete gravity run-of-the-river dam spanning the Columbia River. Featuring a navigation lock as well as fish ladders on both sides, the John Day Dam has the highest lift of any U.S. lock at 110 feet.
After a few hours we finally arrive at our destination. Walla Walla has experienced a dramatic boom in the wine industry in the last 10 years and today there are over 100 wineries in the area. Amavi Cellars was recommended to us and as we pull in we are silenced once again by the beauty. The Amavi Cellars tasting room provides panoramic views of the dramatic Blue Mountains, in addition to the surrounding Pepper Bridge Vineyard.
Sampling the wine menu we select a special bottle to take home for a celebratory occasion. Touring the grounds we learn more about Amavi Cellars and their wine philosophy.
Amavi Cellars believes it is important to sustain, improve and preserve Mother Earth for our future generations. They choose to build up the soil's health, instead of depleting it of nutrients. They prefer to use eco-friendly options, instead of fertilizers, herbicide and pesticides. The underlying values they focus on are quality, sustainability and hospitality, which is apparent from the moment you arrive.
To learn more about Amavi Cellars you can visit their website: http://www.amavicellars.com/
Our next stop is to meet our friend Charles and his friend Reggie for a late afternoon lunch in downtown Walla Walla. Walking the quaint, tree-lined streets we breeze past funky vintage shops, bookstores, cafes, tasting rooms, luxury wine shops, and a unique selection of restaurants. It is obvious why downtown Walla Walla has been recognized numerous times as one of the best small town Main Streets in the country.
We choose Mill Creek Brewpup for lunch, and we happen to arrive at the exact same moment as Charles. Spending the next few hours embracing, drinking beer, laughing, munching and story telling, we have an incredible time catching up with Charles, and meeting his friend Reggie.
Not wanting the day to be over quite yet, we decide to hit up a carnival just down the street. Purchasing our tickets to ride the ferris wheel, we are in a race against the weather and the violent storm that is blowing toward us. Just as we approach the ferris wheel, we are turned away due to bad weather. As it begins to pour, eventually morphing into pounding hail, we are now in a fight with a carnie to try to get our money back. (We sure ain't in Costa Rica anymore...).
Reggie and I run for the cars, leaving Charles and Andy to fight for their rights, while we fight for protection against the angry weather gods. It just wasn't meant to be today, so we share some departing hugs and part ways. Hasta Luego to our dear friend Charles, until we meet again. I love that every time we meet up it will be a Costa Rica/Osa Mountain Village reunion. Pura Vida Amigo!
The excitement of beginning a road trip is only matched by the excitement of returning to the familiar land we call home. Just as we see the Welcome to Oregon sign we are reminded that we are truly Oregonians at heart. And while it is special and humbling to explore this world from end to end, there really is no place quite like home.
After taking the last 6 weeks off from blogging to move from Costa Rica back to Oregon, I have a lot of updates as we close one significant chapter of our lives and begin a new one. Having no wifi our last few weeks in Costa Rica turned out to be a blessing, allowing us to be completely unplugged and immersed in the rugged nature enveloping us. (The only thing more addicting than being on Facebook, is NOT being on Facebook.)
Once we purchased our plane tickets home and our days became numbered, time seemed to melt, slipping manically and away from us, as if it were being sucked into a high-powered vacuum.
Spending our last 2 weeks at a beach house in Playa Hermosa (thanks Seth!), watching the sun melt into the ocean, and sunset cruising around Manuel Antonio (thanks Bill & JoAnne!), and snorkeling at Cano Island with some special amigos (thanks Jeff, Lindsay, Kellan, Randy, Bill and JoAnne!) and soaking up the sun at our favorite beaches, and bouncing around between our hammocks and going away parties (thanks Cheryl, Jimmy, Don, OMV and all our friends who came out to see us off), it was a whirlwind finale of Costa Rica's greatest hits and we are still processing the pure epic-ness of it all.
Almost two years after boarding the plane, with one-way tickets, to Costa Rica, we found ourselves headed back to the airport (thanks Bill & Lisa!) for our one-way flights back to Oregon.
Before we knew it we were walking out of PDX and into the beautiful, but freezing, state of Oregon. Plucked from Mother Nature's jungle, and dropped straight into God's country. From the land of warm oceans and cold showers, to the land of warm showers and cold oceans.
As we move our lives from one extreme to another, you would think the differences of each place would be magnified. But instead the similarities are most shocking. Driving through my small hometown in Oregon everyone waves as they pass, just like in Costa Rica.
There are no traffic jams, no stop lights, no hurries and no worries. We have no cable TV, or smart phones, or even a dishwasher, just like in Costa Rica. Less house, more home. We will wash our dishes by hand, and we won't waste hours in front of the television being brainwashed, or get sucked into our phones, missing the surreal beauty that surrounds us.
Life here is simple, peaceful, pure. Literally pura vida. And so we continue living la pura vida.
Jungle Andres has morphed into Farmer Andy. I'm pretty sure driving a tractor is every boy's dream job. And yes, I think his tractor is sexy.
And when rolling on a tractor, one must take an obligatory tractor selfie:
You can take us out of Costa Rica, but you can never take Costa Rica out of us...as you can see from our colorful indoor hammock. We are starting a new trend and keeping the pura vida spirit alive one hammock session at a time. So we shall never forget the beautiful art of doing nothing.
Swinging in our rainbow hammock, with Bob Marley whispering that every little thing is gonna be alright, and with the heat cranked...I can almost close my eyes and be back in Costa Rica. I keep reminding myself that vacation is a state of mind.
But with this breath-taking view of an ethereal snow-covered Mt. Hood from our window, we are slowly processing the fact that we are no longer in Costa Rica, and that we have simply traded one beautiful life for another.
Now that we are back home everyone asks what it feels like, and if it feels strange. But it doesn't. It feels normal. It feels familiar, like deja vu. Coming home, after being away, helps you to see your home with new eyes, and I don't think we could have chosen a more spectacular corner of the earth to come home to.
I want to say a special thanks to everyone who has supported us along our loco, gypsy travels. Our parents and families, who backed us up even when they may have thought we lost our minds. Thanks to our friends, old ones and new.
The beaches and animals of Costa Rica are surreal and mind-blowing, but what will change our lives the most are the people we met along our journey. Costa Rica is a land of pockets, containing some of our favorite people, our favorite stories, our favorite neighbors, who have all become our chosen family. We look forward to introducing each of them to the wild Pacific Northwest someday, and we also look forward to being called on whenever they need a reliable Costa Rica house-sitter.
And thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of my blog, all those who have been passengers on our journey through my words. Thanks to those who encourage me to stick with it and keep blogging. I have an ever-growing list of Costa Rica blogs I have yet to write, so I will continue to blog about our pura vida paradise, while transitioning into also blogging about local adventures around the Pacific Northwest.
Leaving home, and coming back, helps us realize that home is not a place. It is a feeling, a smell, the familiar taste of the air. From Oregon to Costa Rica, from Costa Rica to Oregon. Arguably two of the most spectacularly beautiful places on the planet.
And how lucky are we that we now get to call both our homes.
Peace. Gracias. OneLove. Pura Vida. Namaste.
Beginning our morning with a steaming pot of french-press coffee, my husband Andy and I sip the strong caffeine from our porch at Osa Mountain Village/Toucan Valley, as we enjoy the early morning bird action.
The earth-shattering, unmistakable shriek of the massive scarlet macaw pierces the sleepy jungle silence. Circling overhead, calling to each other, a pair of the rainbow-colored, eternal lovebirds come to a rest in our tree.
The familiar fluttering sound of a toucan's wings draws our attention from the macaws, and we switch to admiring a brightly-colored black-mandibled toucan, as he slowly scans a panoramic photo of his surroundings. After a pause he decides we are harmless and goes about his breakfast of munching on pods from our guarumo tree.
Packing up the car with hammocks, rope, and beach chairs, we head to Uvita for a beach day. Our first stop is for lunch at our new favorite restaurant in town, El Toro Loco. Texas-style BBQ, this is one of those rare gems in which you know every single menu item will be mouth-wateringly delicious.
The brisket and pulled pork are tender and flavorful, their cubano sandwich is easily one of the best I have ever eaten, the sweet tea tastes like home, the country ambience is refreshing, and their fresh kettle chips are crunchy and well-seasoned.
With a multitude of homemade sauces (my favorite is the mango ginger), and a smoked, pulled carrot sandwich with pineapple slaw for the vegetarians, there is something on the menu for everyone. Affordable prices, large portions, unique menu items, and friendly service are a few of the things that keep us coming back.
Located in downtown Uvita, across from the BM and BCR, you cannot miss this colorful new dining option. If you're in the Uvita area make sure to stop by El Toro Loco for a delicious meal.
Follow El Toro Loco's Facebook page to view their menu and to stay updated on their latest, delicious specials: https://www.facebook.com/eltorolocobbq/
Our next stop is Playa Chaman to hang our hammocks and walk the beach. As soon as we settle into our spot the booming roar of the howler monkeys rumble through the salty atmosphere. Directly above us the monkeys stretch out and lounge in the trees for a snooze, while a curious baby monkey tests his mom by venturing just beyond her grasp for some leaves to snack on.
Towering over the shore is a grouping of vibrant rainbow eucalyptus trees. Colorful Costa Rica always surprises me with the masterpieces that naturally occur in every direction. Each of these massive rainbow trees is a unique display of art.
The rainbow eucalyptus is a rapidly growing tropical tree that sheds it's outer layer to keep up with it's speedy growth. When the layer prepares to shed it begins to change colors from green, to blue, to purple, to orange, to maroon. Each section of the outer peeling layer is at a different stage in the exfoliation process, creating the magical rainbow effect.
The surfers catch our attention next, as they all begin to enter the ocean at the same moment. Patiently awaiting the right moment all day, a silent bell is now ringing, calling all surfers in the area. One surfer dominates, he reads the ocean best, and takes advantage of each swell that comes his way.
Ending our perfect day we head to Playa Pinuelas and set up our beach chairs to admire the melting sun. The tide is high and the cove is being pounded by the water rushing in. As one wave crashes and recedes back to the ocean, it meets another wave coming in, resulting in a powerful, dramatic splash as the two walls of water collide beneath the setting sun.
Just another perfect day in pura vida paradise...
As my husband and I travel around Costa Rica, we love to take advantage of all of the gorgeous ocean views we come across in our adventures. We are always on the lookout for the best view of the famous "Whale's Tail" formation, which is a stretch of exposed sand and rocks that forms the shape of a whale's tail at low-tide.
Recently we found a secluded gem of a resort, with some of the best views of the Pacific coastline we have seen in this area, at the Hotel Vista Ballena.
Perched on a mountain, above Uvita, you will find charming Hotel Vista Ballena. Overlooking the Whale's Tail formation, Vista Ballena provides sweeping, panoramic views of the Southern Pacific coast. A boutique with heart and soul, you will feel at home the moment you arrive.
Tucked into the wild jungle, surrounded by extreme biological diversity, there is no better location for renewing your body and soul. Begin your day in paradise with a sunrise meditation on the breath-taking yoga deck, or indulge in a healing, therapeutic massage.
Each of the 20 newly remodeled rooms features a private balcony overlooking the vibrant sunsets and the stunning ocean view. Each room is a peaceful oasis for rest and renewal. Spacious rooms, comfortable king size beds, A/C and ceiling fans, wifi, cable, refrigerator and mini bar, bathroom toiletries and a hair dryer. Every comfort is provided so that you can unwind and de-stress.
Treat yourself with a colorful meal at the open-air Mi Amore restaurant, while getting lost in the exquisite ocean view at dusk. Chef Danila Barantes prepares authentic, unique dishes for your heart and soul. Love is not only in the name of the restaurant, it is infused into the food. You can feel the love and passion cooked right into the talented chef's inventive dishes.
The ceviche is fresh, bright and bursting with flavor. It is easily some of the best ceviche we have eaten in our travels across the country.
My husband enjoyed a fresh, seared ahi tuna steak atop a bed of roasted potatoes and vegetables, while I chose the casado de pescado, because of how well it rolls off the tongue.
A casado is a typical and authentic Costa Rican meal of protein, rice, beans, salad, and plantains. The fish is flaky and seasoned well, the rice and beans perfectly cooked, and the delicate plantains melt in your mouth.
Relax, unwind and cool off by slipping beneath the water of the dual-level infinity pool, overlooking the ocean. Enjoy a tropical cocktail at the poolside bar, while taking in the fresh ocean breeze. Spend your evenings immersed in the soothing sounds of local musicians, with live music every Friday and Saturday night.
Meander down the winding, tropical path toward the Hart Center, a breath-taking infinity-style yoga/meditation deck. Take in the expansive, panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the Whale's Tail formation, as the vibrant sunset melts into the coastline. Get lost in the view, become one with nature, admire the majestic humpback whales known to breach just beyond the rocky shore below.
As soon as you enter the Hart Center infinity yoga deck, you feel peace and serenity wash over your soul. A special, healing place, that was built with an unbreakable foundation of love, it is too beautiful for words. This is a place you simply must experience in person.
Just as we are getting lost in the sweeping ocean view, we glimpse the majestic body of a humpback whale in the distance breaching dramatically from the ocean surface, and cascading back into the water with a massive splash. Two jets of water burst from the sea, as two whales simultaneously shoot a stream of water into the air.
In all our travels across Costa Rica over the last 2 years we have never experienced anything like this. It was surreal as the perfect moment in time unfolded before our eyes, a moment so much larger than us. I love the feeing of making a forever memory, living through a single second you know will be permanently seared into your soul.
I could not have written a better ending to our spectacular day at Vista Ballena...
For more information, or to book your stay at the lovely, charming Hotel Vista Ballena, please check out their website: http://www.vistaballenahotel.com/
And make sure to follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HotelVistaBallena/
Pura Vida Amigos!
Planning a trip to Costa Rica? Overwhelmed by all the hotels, resorts, hostels and lodging options? Look no further because we recently found the perfect place to stay while on vacation in Costa Rica.
Tucked into the Escalares mountain, on the Southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, lies a secluded, serene jungle paradise. With your first step onto the lush, tropical grounds of Tree of Life Cabinas, located perfectly between Uvita and Dominical, you will instantly feel your worries melting away.
An eco-friendly, luxury, romantic boutique bed and breakfast, Tree of Life Cabinas was designed with your peace and relaxation in mind. Nestled into 4 acres of pristine jungle, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the refreshing mountain breeze will keep you cool, while you watch the vibrant sun melt into the horizon.
Modern and tropical, each cabina is 480 square feet with luxury amenities, featuring orthopedic mattresses for comfortable, healing, rejuvenating sleep.
The cabinas include furniture hand-crafted by a local artisan, an indoor/outdoor shower with a rain showerhead, private toilet room, a terrace with a hammock, mini fridge, hair dryer, plush towels and luxury linens, and a stunning view of the pool and of the sun setting over the ocean.
A wise, old mango tree towers over the property, protecting it lovingly with it's impenetrable branches, while casting shade and shelter to all living things gathered beneath it's cover. This "Tree of Life" was the first thing the owners, Ben and Nate, noticed about this property. Naming the property "Tree of Life Cabinas", they designed their home and cabinas around this magical mango tree.
The Tree of Life is a symbol used and recognized throughout the world. Ben and Nate proudly gifted this name to their lovely, charming piece of land to represent their intent to live their lives connected to nature. Wandering their tropical oasis you can enjoy the winding pineapple garden, indigenous plants along with ornamental natives, a greenhouse, fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Speaking of fresh food, part of what makes Tree of Life Cabinas so special is that you can enjoy flavorful, local, gourmet dishes prepared and designed by Ben, who has over 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry. Taking full advantage of the abundant, overflowing gardens that border the property, Ben prepares the meals with fresh, seasonal ingredients picked right outside your bedroom door.
Surrounded by wildlife, you will wake to the howls of the howler monkeys, and the toucans calling across the jungle valley to each other. Lounge in the hammock on your private terrace, and admire the vibrant birds, butterflies and monkeys that call this paradise home. If you follow the charming walking paths around the grounds, you just may be lucky enough to meet the resident sloth.
While private and secluded, you are only a few minutes away from some of the most breath-taking beaches in all of Costa Rica, as well as some of the adrenaline-inducing activities this country is famous for. Ziplining, whale watching, horseback riding, beach hopping, waterfall rappelling, snorkeling, surfing...there are endless ways to spend your days in the Costa Ballena area. The famous Whale's Tail beach is a must-see, as well as the dramatic Nauyaca waterfalls.
Immersed in nature, this tropical oasis is the paradise your mind paints when daydreaming about a warm, healing, peaceful vacation. Relax by the pool, swing in your hammock, wander the tropical gardens, admire the wildlife, and enjoy a delicious, gourmet meal, while life's worries melt away. Soon you will forget what day it is, as you become one with this pristine pura vida paradise, Tree of Life Cabinas.
Check out their website: http://www.treeoflifecabinas.com/
Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Treeoflifecabinas/
Or e-mail them with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Costa Rica is a special place, as it has stunning beaches along both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, with over 800 miles of coastline, and over 300 unique beaches.
My husband Andy and I have spent the last 2 years traveling around Costa Rica, in search of our favorite beach. We prefer quiet, secluded, off-the-beaten-path type of beaches, so we avoid the abundantly popular touristy beaches, such as Playa Jaco, Playa Tamarindo, and the beaches inside the Manuel Antonio National Park.
Despite these over-populated, busy and well-known beach spots, a vast majority of the picturesque coastline of Costa Rica still remains deserted and unexplored. After 2 years of beach hopping, here is my collection of The Top 15 Best Beaches in Costa Rica:
1) PLAYA CONCHAL
One of the most breath-taking beaches we have set foot on in this country is Playa Conchal. The sand is made up of millions of crushed conch shells, which is how the beach was gifted it's name. You can hear this beach whispering your name, making the crystal, turquoise water impossible to avoid.
Snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, horseback riding, jet skis, catamaran cruises, fishing tours, there are endless activities at this beach. Located next to Playa Brasilito and Playa Flamingo, it is about 40 minutes from the popular beach town Playa del Coco. This dreamy, majestic beach is a must-see on your Costa Rican vacation.
2) PLAYA LINDA
Playa Linda, which means lovely or pretty beach, more than lives up to it's name. It is a secret, hidden gem, with no signs and just a small dirt road entrance, located just a few kilometers North of Dominical. Rows upon rows of manicured palm trees line the beach, creating hundreds of perfect hammock spots and plenty of cool shade to lounge in.
The volcanic sand of Playa Linda is packed and firm, the beach goes on for miles, without a single soul in sight. Untouched and pristine, this piece of beach is simply therapeutic. The seconds slip into hours, time ceases to exist, and it becomes difficult to remember what day it is.
3) PUNTA UVA
Five miles west of the popular Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo is a secluded beach named Punta Uva. We fell in love with this beach during our month on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Set back from the main road, and surrounded by jungle, this colorful beach is an ideal spot to waste a day, or two...or thirty.
The waves come in layers, and from all angles, but they are not overwhelming, making this beach a good spot for a swim or a kayak trip. You can hike out to the point where the two sections of beach meet up in a dramatic point, which the beach was named after. Or you can lounge on the shore and get lost in the mesmerizing sight of the vibrant water lapping against the warm sand, while drinking a coconut.
4) PLAYA PINUELAS
I am a sucker for calm ocean water, perfect for carefree floating and swimming, so Playa Pinuelas ranks high on my list. Just a few kilometers South of Uvita, located in the Marina Ballena National Park, this beach is peaceful and serene. The green water gently laps the sand, while the jungle and palm trees flourish right up to the shoreline.
Beach showers are provided, which is a rare treat in this area of Costa Rica, and the mellow surf creates a nice spot for a family picnic day. Playa Pinuelas has become a regular stop for us, it is a relaxing place to get in some beach therapy.
5) PLAYA HERMOSA
The first thing you need to know about Playa Hermosa, is that there are at least 4 beaches in Costa Rica named Playa Hermosa. The one I'm referring to is located in the province of Puntarenas, and is 5 kilometers south of Jaco. This Playa Hermosa is a dramatic stretch of pure, black sand, and is known for some of the most consistent surfing waves in the country.
The currents are incredibly strong at this beach, creating swift and powerful riptides, and it is not safe for swimming. The waves can be as high as 13 feet, which is why Playa Hermosa is a beach sought out by expert surfers from all over the world. The International Quicksilver Surf Championship is held here every August.
Playa Hermosa is the place to admire surfers, or lounge in the luxurious sand and get lost in the powerful waves as they pound the rich, black shore, silencing your worries.
6) PLAYA TORTUGA
Playa Tortuga, located in the town of Ojochal, is a long stretch of sand divided in two sections by a river. The shore is lined with numerous trees, there are rugged sea caves to explore at low tide, and the beach is typically deserted.
But the empty sand and caves are not the biggest draw for this beach. Instead it is known for the sea turtle rescue center, Reserva Tortuga, that inhabits the beach during turtle season. Reserva Tortuga is a non-profit biological research and education center formed in 2009, and they do important work for the sea turtles in the Costa Ballena area.
Baby sea turtles are released into the ocean here between the months of July and December, and if you're lucky enough you may get to witness this phenomenal experience while visiting Playa Tortuga.
7) PLAYA SAMARA
Located on the northern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Samara is a laid-back, friendly, bohemian beach town. Sleepy and slow-paced during the day, with nightlife bumping until 4am, this town has something for everyone. Samara is known for being full of happy people, as it is located in one of the five Blue Zone's in the world.
The best way to explore the area is to walk the 5 kilometer stretch of thick, brown sand. Protected by reefs, the horseshoe-shaped beach is known for it's mellow waves and calm currents, making it ideal for a surf lesson. Isla Chora lies just off shore, which is a beautiful kayak and snorkel destination.
The town of Samara has numerous beach bars and restaurants, so make sure to grab a pina colada and a rocking chair to watch the sunset, while making friends and swapping stories with some fellow gypsy wanderers. (But be warned! Many people who enter this beach town never end up leaving.)
8) PLAYA PAVONES
Famous for the world's longest left wave, and with a large and consistent surf and rocky shore, Playa Pavones is best left to experienced surfers. The best time of year to surf this break is between April and October, when the waves are at their peak and you can ride one for up to 3 minutes. Typical wave length here averages between 400-900 meters during these peak months.
Pavones is a charming, authentic Costa Rican town lacking the typical swarms of tourists that pack most popular destinations in this country. It is a small and remote surfing village, located along 10 miles of beaches which line the pure, crystal clear Golfo Dulce.
Playa Pavones is one of the most desolate and remote surfing destinations in Costa Rica, and takes hours to reach no matter where you begin. It is a special place, and maybe in part because it is so difficult to reach. The sand is untouched and exotic wildlife make up a majority of the population.
9) PLAYA OCOTAL
Known as one of Costa Rica's cleanest and most eco-friendly beaches, Playa Ocotal is our favorite snorkeling spot in the country. Located on the northern pacific coast in the Guanacaste province, Playa del Coco is the nearest town to Playa Ocotal, and is only about 10 minutes away.
The protected shoreline makes it a safe place to swim and relax, as there are no dangerous riptides or looming swells. The sand is a mix of black, white, and rocky sections, and the vibrant tidal pools overflowing with sea life are an interesting spot to spend a few hours exploring, at low-tide. A popular spot for sports fishing, the cove is lined with boats trolling the waters for dinner, which speaks to the immense variety of fish you will see swimming these clean waters.
10) PLAYA UVITA
Just 17km south of Dominical you will find Playa Uvita, a long, winding beach which is a part of the Marina Ballena National Park. Majestic humpback whales can be seen here during their migration between December and April, making this a popular spot for whale-watching tours.
You can stroll the famous Whale's Tail beach, which is an exposed stretch of sand that creates the shape of a whale's tail at low tide. The whale’s tail is a mysterious and unique place. I love the feeling of sitting on a stretch of sand that only exists for a few hours of each day. The ocean surrounds you, the tide slowly creeps up from both directions, waiting to swallow the beach whole as soon as you turn your back.
11) PLAYA BARRIGONA
Sometimes referred to as the secret surfer beach, Playa Barrigona is a secluded gem. Just 30 minutes north of Samara, down a bumpy, pot-hole-ridden road, this stunning beach is worth the bone-rattling trip. Mel Gibson owns 500 acres of jungle, surrounding Playa Barrigona, which can be yours for a cool $30 million.
An untouched stretch of beach, crawling with hermit crabs, and sparkling blue water, this special place looks like a dream painted onto a postcard. The beach is lined with a variety of trees, creating cozy hammock spots, and the waves are large and mesmerizing. The surfing here is best left to the professionals, but the rest of us can kill hours hunting for shells, swinging in hammocks, beach walking and lounging in the sun.
12) PLAYA VENTANAS
Playa Ventanas, also known as "Windows Beach", gets it's name from the rugged sea caves carved into the massive rock wall that lines the shore. Just off the Costanera Highway 34, outside of Ojochal, this is an easy beach to access, and a safe spot to waste the day.
Coconut palms line the beach and at low tide you can walk through the caves, exploring the dark caverns, and admiring the strange sea creatures stuck to the wall. At high tide the ocean barrels through the caves, building pressure which erupts with a "blowhole effect", spraying a salty, ocean mist high into the atmosphere.
Playa Ventanas is also known for its vibrant sunsets over the water. The sinking sun alights the ocean below with an orange fire, and it's like looking through a window, straight into heaven.
13) PLAYA SAN JOSECITO (CORCOVADO)
Tucked into the jungle along the Osa Peninsula lies Drake Bay. Of the numerous beaches surrounding Drake Bay, secluded Playa San Josecito is the most spectacular. A remote, desolate beach overflowing with monkeys and wildlife, this stretch of sand is reachable only by boat.
A coral cove, safe for snorkeling, is just off-shore, and the steamy sand and lively jungle make for an interesting day at the beach. Although it is quite an adventure just to reach this beach, the trip is worth it due to the panoramic views of Cano Island in the distance.
14) PLAYA ARCO
Playa Arco is one of the most isolated beaches along the Southern coast of Costa Rica, but also one of the most breathtaking. There are no roads to this hidden beach, making it only accessible by boat or by foot. This secluded stretch of sand only exists for a few hours each day, during low tide, until it is swallowed up once again by the steady waves.
To access this beach by foot you need to park your car at Playa Ballena and hike 2 kilometers to Playa Arco, paying close attention to the tide. A wide, expansive beach about 1 kilometer long, it is usually deserted. It is cocooned by steep, wooded, rocky cliffs covered in vibrant, dense jungle foliage, where the rainforest meets the sea.
The water is a glowing turquoise under the melting sun. The sand a smooth, sugary, crystal texture, reflecting the sky above. With sea caves for your exploring pleasure and a fresh waterfall to rinse off in after an ocean swim, Playa Arco is hard to beat.
15) PLAYA CARRILLO
Located just a 5 minute drive south of the town of Samara, Playa Carrillo is lined with endless palm trees, perfect for tying up a hammock or two, and is known for it's incredibly safe, calm swimming water and magnificent sunsets. We have wasted weeks at this beach, swinging in hammocks, drinking pipa frias (ice cold coconuts) and munching on fresh ceviche.
This deserted stretch of beach has no bars, restaurants or hotels, and the only businesses you will see are hand-pushed carts by locals selling shaved ice, coconuts, and fresh ceviche. Only crowded on weekends and holidays with local families, it isn't unusual to have this beach nearly to yourself on weekdays.
Kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, fishing, beach walking, shell hunting, tidal pool exploring, sunset gazing, this beach is a unique creation that everyone falls in love with at first sight. We have shared our favorite Costa Rican beach with numerous family, friends, and loved ones, and they all agree...there is no other place in the world quite like Playa Carrillo.
Peace Out Beaches!
Costa Rica may appear to be a small country, and in fact it is similar in size to West Virginia. But a common mistake that travelers make, when coming to Costa Rica, is assuming they can cover the whole country in a short time period.
The reality is that due to traffic and road conditions it can take more than a day to drive from one end of the country to the other. So instead of spending your entire vacation sitting in a car, driving over potholes, I recommend that you spend some time researching which part of Costa Rica you want to see, and focus your time in that area. Then conquer another section on your next trip.
My husband Andy and I originally came on a 4-week trip, before moving here, and we were still unable to explore the whole country in that time. In fact we left off the entire Osa Peninsula, and the Caribbean side, which were both places we later fell in love with.
We are often asked what is our favorite part of the country, and that is a hard question to answer. Each province of Costa Rica experiences different weather, contains different animals species and provides a variety of different types of beaches.
I wish I could combine my favorite things about each area that I love...but that is also part of what I love about this country, that each piece is unique and has something new to offer. After spending the last 2 years traveling around Costa Rica, we have become partial to three specific areas and they will forever remain at the top of our list of happy places on Earth.
1) NICOYA PENINSULA
The Nicoya Peninsula is on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, divided into the Guanacaste and Puntarenas provinces. Known for it's beaches, it has become a popular tourist destination. With some of the most beautiful, pristine beaches in the entire country, it is easy to see why many people are drawn to this area.
Playa Conchal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
The Nicoya Peninsula is considered one of the five Blue Zones around the world, where residents live active lives beyond 100 years of age due to a number of factors. The area of Nicoya is noted for the longevity and happiness of the people who inhabit this part of Costa Rica.
My husband and I lived in the small beach town of Samara for 6 months, and some of our fondest Costa Rican memories involve watching the surfers at our favorite beach bar amongst new forever friends, and swinging our days away in a hammock, while enjoying the sunset at our favorite beach: Playa Carrillo.
A colorful sunset at Playa Carrillo.
If you spend any amount of time in this part of the country, it doesn't take long to see why the people of Nicoya are known to be some of the happiest people in the world, as you easily adjust to the slow pace of life, forgetting what day it is. But no worries, this is why we have the saying "Siempre Domingo", because it is "Always Sunday" in pura vida land.
2) CARIBBEAN SIDE
We didn't make it to this piece of Costa Rica on our first 4-week trip, as we had heard many warnings about it being too dangerous. And while you don't want to walk alone on the beach at night, we never felt threatened or unsafe during our month living in Puerto Viejo.
As soon as you step foot onto the Caribbean sand you instantly feel the laid-back beach vibe that oozes through the salty air. It is a place where Bob Marley rules, where there are no hurries and no worries, and where the only jerk is a chicken.
On the Caribbean side of Costa Rica the food is as colorful as the rasta culture. Numerous sodas and restaurants display a bright, fresh, flavorful menu that will leave your taste buds singing.
Tandoori coconut chicken at Stashu's restaurant in Puerto Viejo.
With the only live coral in Costa Rica, this area is the most ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling amongst the vibrant sea life. The beaches are secluded and majestic. Punta Uva, just outside Puerto Viejo, is one of our favorite beaches in the country.
Dreamy, colorful Punta Uva.
The famous Salsa Brava wave breaks right off the beach in downtown Puerto Viejo, making a picturesque spot for surf competitions, as crowds gather to watch the surfers put in a day at the office.
A surfer riding the Salsa Brava wave break during a surf competition.
With mouth-watering food, breath-taking beaches, and a legendary wave break, the Caribbean side of Costa Rica is not to be missed. In fact it may be just what the doctor ordered...
3) UVITA/DOMINICAL/OSA PENINSULA
This is a large area I am covering because we were lucky enough to spend a year living 30 minutes south of Uvita, just on the edge of the entrance to the Osa Peninsula. This location allowed us to explore the Dominical/Uvita/Ojochal area extensively, as well as the rugged and lesser known Peninsula de Osa. And we have fallen in love with both pieces of paradise.
The Osa Peninsula is the most biodiverse place on the planet. Despite that, this special slice of Costa Rica is not very well-traveled by tourists, which is also a part of it's charm. In our beginning research of Costa Rica we did not read anything about this lesser known area.
In the last year we have managed to tour the Sierpe river mangroves, boat around the crystal clear Golfo Dulce with a pod of dolphins, and we have taken numerous road trips exploring the untouched beaches of the Osa. Mother nature is wild and abundant, and humans truly are the minority in this piece of the country that we refer to as the "Real Costa Rica".
A bluff overlooking the ocean on a road trip to Playa Pavones on the Osa Peninsula.
A bottle-nosed dolphin chasing our surf in the Golfo Dulce.
A relaxing sloth, reclining in a tree above the Sierpe river mangroves.
The Uvita area is a made up of pristine beach after beach, which together create the Marina Ballena National Park. Here you can walk the famous Whale's Tail beach, an exposed stretch of sand that creates the shape of a whale's tail at low tide.
A view of the Whale's Tail beach from the mountains above Uvita.
A few kilometers to the north of Uvita lies Dominical, a beach-front surfing town full of lively beach bars, surfers, hippies, and nomad gypsy travelers. And a few kilometers to the south lies Ojochal, a growing expat community with winding neighborhoods and exotic restaurants.
The extreme nature will blow your mind in this piece of the country. The Sierpe River is one of the world's largest mangroves, The Golfo Dulce is one of the world's deepest gulfs, and Playa Pavones is known as the world's longest left wave.
It is the only place in Costa Rica where you can witness all 4 monkey species in the wild, and one of the few places to see vibrant scarlet macaws flying overhead. You simply cannot miss this gem during your travels.
Two scarlet macaws flying in front of our balcony at Osa Mountain Village/Toucan Valley.
A baby howler monkey clinging to his mother's back while closely examining us.
That, folks, in a nutshell is what you will learn after traveling around Costa Rica for 2 years. And since not everyone can do that (although you certainly should), we decided to share our secret, priceless, insider knowledge with you...
...but now we will have to kill you. No worries amigo, I'm pretty sure I found heaven on a beach right here in Costa Rica. So you can just consider it a free vacation.
Tucked deep into the tropical rainforest in the Southern Pacific region of Costa Rica, about 20 minutes from Dominical, you will find the remote and breath-taking Nauyaca waterfalls.
In a wide valley canyon, Nauyaca is a dramatic series of cascading waterfalls, draped and framed with lush, jungle greenery.
You can choose to join a guided horseback tour to get to the falls, or you can do the hike yourself, which is about 5 miles roundtrip. It is moderately difficult, with a few steep hills, and can be slippery with mud during rainy season.
Once you arrive at the falls entrance you can choose between the upper or lower falls.
The upper falls are impressive, tumbling dramatically over a 140-foot cliff, cascading into the sheer rocks below.
The lower falls are mellow, the water meanders over a wide, 60-foot drop off, creating several large and refreshing pools for swimming beneath the falls.
Typically there is a local man who will bring his rope and help people climb about 20-feet up the lower falls, where they can bravely leap off the rocks, plunging into the deep, natural swimming pool below.
We have enjoyed many laughs over this next picture. It looks like my husband Andy pushed our friend Jimmy's lifeless body off the cliff.
You can also climb down beneath the lower falls to escape the crowds and relax in the river, or shade, while admiring the stunning view of both falls above.
Costa Rica is land of many waterfalls and the cascading Nauyaca waterfalls are a natural attraction which should not be missed on your vacation. My husband and I have spent time at many waterfalls in Costa Rica and we agree that Nauyaca is by far the most impressive.
There are numerous tour companies in the area, which you can arrange a trip to Nauyaca through, transportation included.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Driving from Dominical, turn right after the police checkpoint at the Rio Baru Bridge. Following signs for San Isidro, head 7 km up a winding road to the ticket booth on your right, you will see a large Nauyaca waterafall sign across the road.
Here you can purchase your ticket for $8-$9/person (depending on the season), and you will receive a wristband to show at the entrance. Park your car, take all valuables with you and begin your hike!
Remember to bring plenty of water, shoes with traction, sunscreen and a camera so you can capture some unforgettable waterfall memories.
Happy Exploring Amigos!
It's a bird...it's a plane...
Wait, it is a bird, the size of a plane (that happens to look like superman), and sounds like it's dying.
That is when you know you are in Costa Rica. A flash of brilliant red circling over head, a boisterous and ferocious squawk piercing the jungle silence, two determined wings delicately slicing through the salty ocean breeze.
Usually heard before they are seen, these vibrant scarlet macaws are the only macaws found on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. Giant rainbow birds, they display fire-engine red with a stroke of royal blue, and a dash of sunshine yellow, making quite a colorful display in the sky.
They are magnificently awesome and will make a birdwatcher out of anyone.
Scarlet Macaws are loyal and romantic birds, as they mate for life. Rarely will you see an odd number. Typically you will see them flying in pairs, or in groups, but in distinct sets of two.
They are the ultimate love birds.
Sometimes you may be lucky enough to see them traveling in small family groups, and at times they may even merge into large flocks of 25-50. My husband Andy and I have seen over 20 flying by at once, and here is a distant photo I managed to snap of 16 scarlet macaws circling the valley by our house.
Occasionally you will see a rare odd number. Typically the odd-man out may be a rebellious juvenile macaw who has yet to take on a life partner, and is still enjoying the bachelor life.
Macaws are the largest parrots in the Americas and can live to be up to 60 years old. Scarlet macaws were once nearly extinct in Costa Rica because of poaching, the illegal pet trade, and loss of habitat due to deforestation.
However in the last 12 years isolated populations of scarlet macaws have expanded into healthy flocks in Costa Rica. Today an estimated 1500+ scarlet macaws inhabit the tropical lowland forests along the Pacific coastline of the country. They can be seen from the Jaco/Manuel Antonio to the Carara National Park. Flocks can also be seen in abundance on the Osa Peninsula and along the Golfo Dulce region.
My husband and I are lucky enough to live in one of these unique areas. All of these photo were taken from our home in Osa Mountain Village/Toucan Valley. We spend hours each day, on our balcony, watching the macaws circle and soar above us. They groom each other while bickering, pausing only to munch on some almonds, or mingle with the toucans.
If you're not staying in one of the parts of Costa Rica that the macaws inhabit, you can still tour any animal rescue center or sanctuary to visit rescued macaws, and to experience a rare, up-close macaw encounter.
Or schedule a quick visit to Osa Mountain Village/Toucan Valley for an in-person macaw sighting in the wild: http://www.osamountainvillagecostarica.com/
The scarlet macaw is distinct and unmistakable. With long and pointed tail feathers, vibrantly-painted plumage, and an ear-piercing shriek, the macaw makes a life-long impression.
It is a pleasure to live amongst their presence, and to get to witness them in their natural habitat in the wild.
May you be lucky enough to one day experience these awesome creatures in person...
until then, pura vida amigos.
The indigenous Boruca (Brunka) people of Costa Rica, their famous hand-carved masks and the annual Festival de los Diablos.
Winding through the Talamanca mountains the sky is gleaming blue, wispy clouds float and swirl across the valley as our car climbs the steep ridge. Following the dusty road, with our family who was visiting for Christmas, we continue to climb and admire the beauty of the nature that surrounds us, as we head toward Boruca. The landscape looks like a painting.
The Boruca (or Brunka) are a tribe of indigenous people living in the Southern Pacific section of Costa Rica, in the Talamanca mountains, near the Panama border. The population of the tribe is over 2,000, mostly residing in the Reserva Boruca. The Reserva Boruca-Terraba was among the first indigenous reserves established in Costa Rica and has a colorful history.
Most indigenous tribes in Costa Rica were defeated by the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500's, but the Boruca were one of the few native tribes to survive the conflict with their community, village and tribe identity still in place. As soon as you enter the charming Borucan territory you can feel the pride they hold and share for their sense of culture, artistry and community.
The Borucan population's main source of income is from the sale of indigenous arts and crafts. The Brunka's handcrafts are a huge part of the community, holding both cultural and economic value. Nearly 80% of the population participates in the indigenous arts, selling their unique and colorful handmade creations to tourists and visitors.
The most well-known indigenous art in Boruca are the famous hand-painted masks, made for the annual Festival de los Diablitos, which are sold all over Costa Rica. The masks are made of balsa wood, or cedar, and are hand-painted using natural dyes. Most have the face of a devil and are worn by the Borucan men during the Juego de los Diablitos (The Dance of the Little Devils), their traditional New Years celebration.
After arriving in Boruca we head into the museum to admire the vibrant collection of masks hanging on display, and we learn about the background of the Brunka people and the tradition of their annual Festival de los Diablos.
A festival of many names, the annual Danza de los Diablitos is a three-day New Years fiesta, which typically takes place between Dec 31 - Jan 2, and has been celebrated every winter since early colonial times. The Danza ceremony is a reenactment of the resistance of the "Diablo", which symbolizes the victory of the Boruca people against the Spanish conquistadors.
Upon arrival to the area the Spanish people called the Brunka people devils because they were not baptized, and it was instead assumed they worshipped the devil. This is why the main characters in the annual festival are the devils, or "diablos", or little devils, "diablitos".
The devils dress up in these intricate hand-carved masks, as the masks represent the indigenous defeating the Spanish. The indigenous tribes only had natural weapons, facing the advanced weaponry of the Spanish, and believed in the power of animals for protection, like the jaguar.
Wandering the peaceful village, we make a few stops to chat with some local artists. Some are outside their homes, under shade, carving. Some are inside, putting the finishing touches on their masterpieces. Many artists sell from their living rooms and you may be invited inside to admire their collection.
After touring the village, we decide on our purchases. With so many intricate, detailed, colorful masks to choose from the decision is not an easy one. But we are happy with our choices and stop at a scenic view point on our way out to snap some photos and make some lasting Borucan memories.
I will be proud to hang our vibrant and unique Borucan mask on our wall, to forever watch over us and always remind us to stand up for what we believe in and to fight for what we stand for.
The Boruca people remind us that a community cannot be defeated if in fact their culture still remains alive today.
“We continue. We continue fighting because there are many things that strike us, that hit us and try to destroy us, but we continue to fight despite it all. We fight to maintain — to maintain our culture, to be united for the well-being of our culture.” – Damaris Morales, school teacher in Boruca
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.