We love having new beaches to explore and Costa Rica, the ‘Rich Coast’, is a land of many beaches. Around every bend in the road is a new, undiscovered beach. Some have no names, no roads or entrances, no human footprints of any kind. Pristine, untouched sandy shores and waters. Beaches of all kinds, colors, sizes and shapes.
Certain beaches are ideal for swimming, some for surfing, others for bodyboarding. Some beaches are known for their rich tidal pools and colorful snorkeling. Others are known for their lines of palm trees, lazy hammock spots and long stretches of sand perfect for a beach stroll. Some are known for their variety of shells and sand dollars, others are reputed for their sea turtle sightings, and others for their lucky fishing spots. There is a beach for anyone and everyone in the land of many beaches.
We’ve been itching to explore more of the Osa Peninsula, so we recently spent a whole day checking out Puerto Jimenez and the surrounding beaches that make up this deserted, rugged finger-shaped piece of jungle. The drive was breathtaking and we stopped to admire the gorgeous views along the way.
Our first stop was Playa Blanca, which is a Blue Flag beach (environmentally recognized for its clean sand and waters). It is a long stretch of rocky shore, with a parallel beach road, and a few small fishing boats that man the shoreline.
Driving through the small port town of Puerto Jimenez, we check out the shops, restaurants, bars and random mix of people wandering the streets. We pause to photograph a cruise ship docked near the beach.
Down the road a little further we come across Playa Platanores. This beach has some of the brightest turquoise water we’ve seen in all of Costa Rica. The entire stretch of coast is completely deserted with no sign of human life, we are the only souls for miles.
At the end of our day we hear the unmistakable screeching sound of scarlet macaws calling to each other. We follow our ears and end up beneath two trees that are overflowing with macaws. Time slips away from us as we once again get lost in a mind blowing, up-close encounter with these majestic creatures.
Heading in the opposite direction of the Osa Peninsula later in the week, we spend another day exploring more new beaches. Our first stop is Playa Tortuga, which is the closest beach to us. A long stretch of sand, this beach has many hang out spots to choose from, and a lush river that divides its two sections. The shore is lined with numerous trees that separate the light green water from the beach road.
The next beach we stop at is Playa Pinuelas, which has gorgeous, blue water and a flat, rocky shoreline. It is a part of the Marino Ballena National Park and we plan to waste future days here.
As we are driving we notice a sky full of parachutes, so we pull over at Playa Dominicalito to watch the sky divers land. Playa Dominicalito is beach we stayed at for a few nights on our first Costa Rica scouting trip. It is quiet and peaceful, with tidal pools and rocky sections perfect for exploring.
The last stop on our beach road trip is the famous Playa Uvita, home of the whale’s tail beach. This beach has a special place in our hearts, as it was one of the first Costa Rican beaches we fell in love with and is the first place we cut down and drank fresh coconuts. At low tide the whale’s tail is wide and visible. Here is an aerial photo of one side of the whale's tail that we took from a hotel high up in the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
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 us, the tide slowly creeps up on us from both directions, waiting to swallow the beach whole as soon as we turn our backs for a moment. This may not be the best place for a beach nap, but we love to spend time sitting on this skinny stretch of sand as it is eaten up by the sea.
Gracias, hasta luego and pura vida to all my beaches out there.
1st stop: Scarlet Macaws.
These rare and colorful massive birds are unmistakable as they dominate the sky with their oversized rainbow bodies and their high-pitched screeching calls. Macaws are the largest of the parrot family and their strong wings make their flight a noisy one. Between the loud, furious flapping of their wings and their ear-piercing shrieks, they are typically heard before they are seen.
Known as lapas in Costa Rica, the Scarlet Macaw has mostly scarlet colored plumage. Striped blue accents run along their tails and bright patches of yellow and blue cover their wings. They are loyal birds, as they are monogamous and mate for life, and it is unusual to spot one flying solo. These majestic birds can live up to 40 years or longer, and when one loses its mate it is not uncommon for the remaining macaw to die shortly after.
Two scarlet lovers sharing a sunset kiss:
Scarlet Macaws are endangered throughout much of their territory, as deforestation has negatively impacted their natural habitats. With such a reduction of areas for them to nest in, they stop laying eggs, and they begin to have a hard time finding food which results in a major population decline.
These well known and easily recognizable birds can only be seen in three small sections of Costa Rica. We just happen to be lucky enough to be currently living in one of these areas. We like to plan our day around what Andy and I call “bird hour”, the time between about 3:45pm-4:45pm when birds are most active, especially the macaws. Typically this is the only time of day we get to see them and we hate to miss it.
Just down the road from our village there is an abandoned animal sanctuary. Filled with empty, rusty cages that are being swallowed up by the jungle, it reminds me of a scene out of Jurassic Park. A winding path of steps leads down to a wooden hut that overlooks the jungle and valley below with a distant ocean view. This special place always seems to be abandoned and I’m convinced someone built this just for us.
The incredible ocean/valley/jungle view from our sunset platform:
Most evenings we head to our scarlet-macaw-watching-jungle-platform, loaded up with our camera, binoculars, bird book and occasionally a picnic dinner, some alcoholic beverages, and a hammock or two. We get to be spectators as the family of macaws that inhabit our neighborhood approach us, greet each other, tree-hop and share dinner.
The rainforest insects provide a steady buzz as the jungle turns from day to night. Booming howls fill the muggy air as competing packs of howler monkeys egotistically holler back and forth. We enjoy the incredible sun as it sets over the distant ocean, lighting up the jungle wall below us with a soothing, orange glow.
The loud, frantic flutter of the scarlet macaws wings slowly decrease, as they call it a night and disappear into the valley.
The Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica is over-flowing with abundant, exotic bird species. Every enthusiastic birder should put this area at the top of their list of places they must go. The scarlet macaws are just one of many unique and colorful bird species that regularly inhabit this section of the country. Each time we step outside our front door we are bombarded with new bird sightings.
One evening on our sunset-bird-hour-outing we immediately spot 6 Scarlet Macaws, 5 Black-mandibled Toucans, and a flock of Red-lored Parrots, all within 20 minutes. The toucans put on quite a show for us as they played follow-the-leader just a few feet above our heads. One Black-mandibled Toucan lands on a low, sturdy tree branch and slowly scans the scene below. He makes eye contact, tilts his head from side to side, analyzing our potential threat. After a few tense moments he decides we are harmless and turns his back. He takes a calculated, fluttered leap and soars over to the next tree, his shadow toucan trailing a moment behind.
How many toucans can you count in this tree?
Toucans are Neotropical birds readily recognized by their oversized beaks. The key to distinguishing between species is recognizing difference in bill coloration. These birds are typically seen feeding on fruit trees, or perched on branches calling to each other. Toucans are known predators as they steal eggs and nestlings of other birds.
Here is a Fiery-billed Aracari, only found in this area of Costa Rica. This member of the toucan family has a red-orange upper mandible in addition to a red belly band. It makes a high-pitched, two-note hiccup call.
Below is a Black-mandibled Toucan beside a Crested Guan in a tree:
The Crested Guan is a large, chicken-like bird that can fly well despite it's size. The white flecks on its chest and the red flap of skin on its throat makes this bird easy to identify.
Next up is the Summer Tanager, a glowing, bright red bird that is small in size. A common bird in Costa Rica, it can be found throughout the regions in almost any habitat.
Below is the Cherrie's Tanager, which is known for its bright orange backside and thick, light blue bill with a dark tip.
The Laughing Falcon is next on the list. He is identified by his broad black mask and feeds primarily on snakes (which is why I like him so much - he's good to have around, especially since there have been a few recent sightings of venomous snakes near our villa).
The last bird on our bird nerd tour is the Swallow-tailed Kite. A predatory bird known for its keen vision, this bird is graceful and classic during flight. The long, forked tail is the identifiable trait and they often travel in groups and consume their prey while in flight.
Hasta luego and pura vida fellow bird nerds :)
The cost of living on a steep, rugged Costa Rican mountain, at an organic farm in the jungle of the Osa Peninsula: TWO TIRES. The experience itself: PRICELESS.
Heavy and loaded with all of our belongings, our 20-year old Toyota 4runner barely chugs along up the steep, gravel road, its bald tires spinning, slipping and second guessing themselves with every slow inch of progression.
“Umm…what happens if the car just stops driving?” I ask, as I squeeze my eyes shut, afraid to watch, silently asking for help from someone, anyone.
“You don’t want to know,” Andy replies, his voice cool and steady, as his foot stomps the gas to the floor, his fingers turning white as he grips the wheel.
Just as we think we’ve almost made it, another mountain climb looms above us. I feel light-headed and realize I’ve been holding my breath. I remind myself to breathe. We have seen some death-defying Costa Rican roads in our 8 months exploring this country, but this one takes the grand champion ribbon.
I continuously glance in the rearview mirror, trying to inspect our tires. We needed new tires before we attempted to take our car mountain climbing. Thirty tense minutes into our drive we finally arrive at the top of the mountain, stopping to take in the beautiful ocean view as the sun is setting. The treacherous climb is already worth it. In Costa Rica, as in life, the worst roads lead to the most beautiful places:
We pull into Osa Mountain Village and the laid-back, positive energy instantly oozes into our car, flooding the tension, replacing it with peace. Exiting our car and leaving the recent stress in the past, we hear the distant whirl of a zipliner flying through the jungle, followed by a proud shriek of triumph. The rainforest around us is alive with the buzz of insects, the cries of howler monkeys and the calls of the macaws that inhabit the area. Our new home is a jungle paradise, surrounded by wildlife. Humans are the minority.
We unpack, settle in and begin to explore.
Our jungle view:
The pool gathering area, right behind our villa:
Fruit Tree Hill, where we can pick fresh fruit anytime:
Our fruit loot after our first hike up Fruit Tree Hill:
The expansive, diverse, overflowing vegetable garden:
Multiple majestic waterfalls are within hiking distance of the village:
Everything about this place is special, but I appreciate most the bi-weekly veggie drops. We place our empty basket out on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, and the next morning our basket is overflowing with a variety of fresh, colorful vegetables, greens, herbs and eggs.
My love for cooking has been dramatically reawakened in our short time here. Nothing is more inspiring than being handed an armload of delicious, bright vegetables and fruits, for FREE. My head spins with ideas, images of possible masterpieces dance across my kitchen. Cooking colorfully is a work of art and I am a non-starving artist.
Our new favorite meal is a freshly picked garden salad with homemade citrus dressing, using only organic ingredients grown here at Osa Mountain Village. Now that is ‘Farm to Table’:
Life is all about peaks and valleys, ebb and flow, the good with the bad and the high with the low. After the natural, overwhelming high of exploring our new piece of paradise, we notice that we have a flat tire. Andy gets out our jack, which he finds has mismatched parts and pieces that don’t fit together, but somehow still manages to change the tire. Thank God for Handy Dandy Andy.
We head down the mountain the next morning, our spare tire no longer a spare, and I jinx us by commenting that on roads like these we shouldn’t ever be driving without a spare tire. And, BOOM! Our spare tire explodes. I guess I asked for that one...
Luckily for us our new friends and neighbors, Brent & Mary, came to our rescue and picked us up. Having your spare tire explode in Costa Rica is not good. But having it explode a mile from a Firestone that just happens to be having a sale on mountain tires, is definitely not bad.
It’s been incredible exploring the grounds and getting to know our friendly, new neighbors. Osa Mountain Village is remote and secluded, but the people who live here have made it into a little village community. Everyone is genuinely welcoming and inviting.
Right away we are invited to potlucks, bird watching afternoons, numerous outings and sports games. For once it’s easy to remember what day of the week it is. Friday night is movie night, when everyone gathers to enjoy a movie on the big screen, while the community feline, Nacho Cat (he’s not mine either), lap-hops in search of the friendliest hands. Saturday morning is the farmer’s market and then the community softball game. Sunday is beach volleyball day. Sunday & Wednesday evenings are the nights we set out our compost to be picked up, as well as our veggie baskets to be filled. This makes Monday and Thursday mornings more exciting than Christmas morning, as we wake up to find out what the garden fairy has left for us.
Within a few days of arriving we are already discussing staying here for April as well. This is the perfect place for us to get even closer to nature, explore secret waterfalls, eat fresh and healthy food, save money on eating out, and to truly experience the real Costa Rica, for a fraction of the price we’ve been paying each month.
I can’t help but wonder…is this too good to be true?
...but then I remember the road.
These are a few of my favorite things...
A goodbye tour of our most favorite memories, meals and adventures during our month of happiness in Puerto Viejo:
1) Stashu's - The very first Caribbean meal we enjoyed was at Stashu's. It is a Thai, Caribbean, and Indian infusion restaurant with a delicious menu and beautiful, artistic plates. The ambience is funky, eclectic and unique. Every item on the menu is equally delicious, but our favorites are the Tandoori coconut chicken, the spicy red curry mussels, and the colorful butterfly salad that comes with the entrees. Stash, the friendly owner, can be seen wandering the restaurant, mingling with the patrons, and making sure everyone is enjoying their meal. If you ever visit Puerto Viejo this restaurant is a must-try.
2) Punta Uva - Our favorite spot to chill for the day at the beach is definitely Punta Uva, located just outside Puerto Viejo. A long, pristine stretch of white sand coastline that meets up with the vibrant blue sea. Many days can be wasted at this special spot, swinging in a hammock, napping in the shade of a palm tree, and swimming in the salt water. We like to pack up a cooler of pipa fria, ice cold coconuts, for a refreshing beverage break in between our naps and swims.
3) The Point - Another one of our favorite places to enjoy an unforgettable and flavorful Caribbean meal is at The Point. It is located on the quiet end of town, along the water. At first sight it appears to be an Americanized bar, but don't let that fool you. Their menu contains some special Caribbean treats. My personal favorite is the chicken fajitas. A pile of chicken, peppers, and onions cooked in a unique sauce, served on patacones (fried plantains) instead of tortillas, topped with a flavorful black bean sauce and spicy mango salsa. Incredibly unique and mouth-watering.
4) Our Jungle Waterfall - Right outside the town of Bribri, there is a secret waterfall hidden and buried in the jungle. Trekking through three rivers and up and down some steep jungle terrain, using vines to repel down the rocks, you eventually stumble onto this breathtaking waterfall and swimming hole.
5) TRITS - Through our friend Damion we have been introduced to one of the best desserts in all of Costa Rica: Trits! A crumbly, buttery graham cracker cookie crust, filled with delicate vanilla ice cream with a ribbon swirl of chocolate sauce, we have enjoyed many of these during our time in Puerto Viejo. Thanks Damion!
6) The Farmer's Market - We made sure to make the Saturday Farmer's Market a part of our weekly routine. Each Saturday we would arrive early and stock up on coconut biscuits, plantain chips, fruit, veggies and fresh chocolate from our friend Christina. This market is incredibly affordable with a large variety of items available. Make sure to add this to your agenda when you are in Puerto Viejo.
7) Banana Azul - This cozy beach resort, just down the road from our beach cabin, is the perfect spot to sit on the beach with a beverage while watching the waves, or to enjoy a delicious lunch while surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, decorated with overflowing ponds and rivers, filled with turtles, koi, frogs and lizards. Our favorite lunch items are the jerk chicken wrap and the chicken and waffles.
8) Happy hour 2 for 1 mojitos at The Lazy Mon - Another Puerto Viejo gem shared with us by our friend Damion, The Lazy Mon is a great spot to enjoy the sunset right along the shoreline. Their happy hour 2 for 1 mojitos are strong and delicious, and the staff is very laid-back and friendly. Two beach swings hang from a tree branch beside the water, which is a perfect spot to swing and enjoy the view.
9) Bread & Chocolate - A cozy and unique restaurant in Puerto Viejo that we fell in love with. A delicious spot for breakfast or lunch, their menu is filled with decadent items such as coconut pancakes, crispy waffles with fruit and flavorful jerk potatoes. The coffee is strong and aromatic, and the chocolates and desserts are incredible. If you're spending time in Puerto Viejo I recommend stopping by for breakfast and coffee at this adorable, quaint restaurant.
10) sloth encounters - The wildlife is abundant in this Caribbean town. Majestic sloths fill the trees along the beach and throughout the jungle. Seeing one in person is an experience that will be seared permanently into your memory. We've had many extremely up-close sloth encounters, which is one of the many reasons we fell in love with this part of Costa Rica.
11) street meat - As the sun sets in Puerto Viejo, the streets are lined with vendors selling what we call "street meat". Skewers stuffed with grilled meat and fresh veggies, covered in hot sauce and served with a warm corn tortilla that acts as your fork, for only $2 these make a great mini-meal.
12) The Birds - The Caribbean side of Costa Rica has a wide variety of bird species. We've spent our month here marking off many new bird species in our bird nerd book. We experienced numerous Toucan sightings, which was our favorite new bird encounter in Puerto Viejo. Toucan do it!
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.