snorkeling at Playa Ocotal…
Last week, before our guests arrived, our neighbor told us that Playa Ocotal is one of the best snorkeling spots in the area, and it’s less than 10 minutes from our condo. So Andy and I load up with sunscreen and our snorkel gear and hit the beach for the day, arriving at low-tide.
Some of the most expensive houses in Costa Rica are built into the walls of jungle overlooking this spectacular beach. The sea is completely transparent, a looking glass into the underworld. I can imagine the view those millionaires must enjoy up there. I point out a miniature light house snuggled into the hill, most likely built by some rich guy who probably never uses it.
Playa Ocotal is a Blue Flag beach, which means it is certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education. This is awarded by the government of Costa Rica to the country’s cleanest and most eco-friendly beaches. People are committed to keeping the beach and the water in perfect condition. The sand is patrolled daily for litter and debris.
We snorkel around the rocks and admire the largest variety of fish we’ve seen while snorkeling. We’ve snorkeled in Mexico, Hawaii and Jamaica, but have never seen so many different kinds of fish as we do at this beach on this day. This free, unplanned last-minute snorkel day beats all the others.
Swimming amongst the surrounding sea life we admire trumpet fish, puffer fish, neon fish, clownfish, butterfly fish, snappers and so many more. In all shapes, sizes and colors. It is peaceful and thrilling, floating in the ocean, all senses dulled, vulnerable to the drift of the water and anything that may swim our way. Losing ourselves in the waves that envelop us and the fish that surround us. Swimming amongst mermaid kisses and starfish wishes…
Eventually we decide to take a break and walk to the other end of the beach, with our snorkel gear in hand. This end of the beach has vibrant green plants growing on the bottom of the ocean floor, making the snorkeling even better. We snorkel out to a small island, and then swim the entire coastline back to the opposite end of the beach. Along the way I spot a stingray swimming ahead of me and manage to hold it together and not flee the ocean in a panic. This one leaves me alone, no barb to the foot today.
It makes us sad that we only find this perfect snorkel spot during our last week in Coco. We promise ourselves we will come back at least once before we leave. We have fallen in love with this part of Costa Rica and don’t feel ready to leave quite yet. A month doesn’t feel long enough. There is still more exploring to do! The beauty about our new life is that our only plan is to have no plan. If we like a place, we can spend more time there and we’re discussing coming back to spend more time in this area. It’s hard to find a piece of Costa Rica that we don’t fall in love with.
50 beaches and counting…
Andy and I pull up a detailed Costa Rica map and decide to make note of every beach we’ve spent time at. We write down significant things about each beach, funny or memorable things that happened to us, our favorite things about each place. Some beaches we spent only 5 minutes at, some we have spent weeks at. Each one is special to us for a unique reason. I love the feeling of setting my eyes on a new beach. You can never see a beach again for the first time.
The entrance to Playa Ocotal:
We have driven by many more beaches, but we only add ones to our list that we have spent some time at and have some special memory of. The total of Costa Rican beaches we have been able to enjoy so far is exactly 50.
50 beaches in 5 months. An average of 10 new beaches each month. Not too shabby. I remember telling Andy that I want to leave here having seen every beach and we may just be able to pull that off. It will be a bittersweet day when we run out of new beaches to see for the first time…
if you ever see a Tico taking a picture...
The other day Andy came back from a beach walk and told me about a cool experience he had. During his walk he witnessed hundreds of pelicans and other birds gathered at one spot above the ocean, simultaneously diving down into the water. Their bodies were constantly piercing the surface of the ocean, like bird bombs being dropped from the heavens.
Andy stopped to admire the commotion. He said it was absolutely incredible and he wondered if this was a normal occurrence. Suddenly he notices a Tico man running down from the jungle, holding a camera, trying to recording the event. That’s when he knew this must be a rare and special event.
We laughed over this, because if you ever see a Tico taking a picture, stop what you are doing immediately and GO.GET.YOUR.DAMN.CAMERA. These people have seen it all, grown up in a lush, vibrant, jungle paradise, surrounded by the most spectacular beauty one can imagine. They are not numb to it, but they do laugh at us Americans as we take a million identical pictures of the howler monkeys, the pelicans diving and the gorgeous sunset over the ocean.
You rarely see a Tico taking a picture. But if you do, you are witnessing two rare events that are both worth documenting: a Tico taking a picture, and whatever the Tico is taking a picture of.
sharing our favorite things…
My dad and Jackie arrived, along with Doug and Helen. They rented a car and drove from San Jose, so they got to see a lot of the country while driving to Coco. We spent Thanksgiving Day at Llanos de Cortes waterfall, swimming in the water, jumping off rocks and exploring the bat cave. We are lucky and see monkeys at the waterfall entrance, so we can mark that off the list.
Llanos de Cortes Waterfall, you can see dad and Andy at the very top:
After the waterfall we head to Coconuts for an all-you-can-eat traditional American Thanksgiving dinner buffet. They served quite a feast of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, and every other Thanksgiving dish you can think of. We all agree that Thanksgiving dinner tastes better when you don’t have to cook it or clean it up after.
The next day we decide to hire a private boat to tour us around the shoreline. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day and the water is crystal blue. We stop at a spot to snorkel and explore more caves. Costa Rica puts on an incredible show for us. As we are out on the ocean we spot dolphins swimming beside us, two massive sea turtles making love, flying fish, two yellow-bellied sea snakes and manta rays jumping out of the water. Our camera battery died so we didn’t get any pictures, but that helped us to be more in the moment and to take permanent mental pictures.
We enjoy leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches while out on the water. Leftover Thanksgiving turkey tastes better on a boat in the middle of the ocean. And since it’s always necessary to spend a day doing nothing while on vacation, they spend their third full day laying by the pool and swinging in hammocks on Coco beach.
Day four is spent enjoying breakfast at Coconut’s Bar and then heading to Playa Ocotal for the day. It’s pretty windy and the waves are bigger than usual, but we still spend the day swimming, snorkeling, napping on the beach, drinking at the beach bar and building sand castles.
Now our houseguests are off to check into their timeshare, and we are getting ready to say goodbye to Coco and move back to Samara in a few days. It’s sad to leave Playa del Coco, but we’re excited to write the next chapter in our Costa Rican journey...
We’ve made good use of our time in Coco so far and have gone on quite a few road trips to explore the surrounding beaches. We recently spent a day at Playa Matapalo, where the Riu Palace is located. It is a mile-long stretch of calm water, the sand is a salt and pepper mix of black and white grains. The rich, vibrant, green jungle looms over the resort, like a scene out of Jurassic World.
The Riu Palace, Matapalo Beach and a wild horse:
The Riu Palace is known as a romantic resort, we stayed at the Riu in Jamaica, on our honeymoon. The beach radiates love, as couples sprinkle the shoreline. We walk up and down the stretch of sand, stopping halfway to take a dip in the quiet, blue water. We mark this beach in our minds as a good future spot to drive to with a cooler and Andy’s cornhole boards.
The next day we head to the edge of the Nicaraguan border to check out some quiet, unknown, out-of-the-way beaches that we notice on the map. We stop at a few viewpoints along the way to snap some incredible photos. I am continually amazed by the beauty that constantly surrounds us.
Playa Papaturro and Playa Junquillal are both gorgeous, pristine, deserted white sand beaches. The clear, blue water sparkles like something out of a painting. We stop and spend a bit of time at each special place, scoping out potential future wasted beach day spots and perfect hammock trees.
(I'm pretty sure only Care Bears live here:)
Our car gets stuck in the soft, sandy beach road at Playa Papaturro. I take advantage of the pause in our journey to jump out and snap pictures of this unbelievable beach, as Andy spins the car in circles behind me. The beautiful scenery in front of me helps me to forget our stuck car behind me, and the fact that no one is around to help this time...
Eventually Andy’s expert driving skills get us out of the deep, sandy ruts and we are off to finish our beach drive. He tells me, as we’re driving away, that we didn’t actually get “stuck”, since he got us out, and that I can’t write that we got stuck in my blog. I guess I’ll find out if he actually reads these posts now…
today is a lovely day to be a dragonfly…
Dragonflies have been on my mind lately. We spent an afternoon at the next beach over from Coco, Playa Hermosa. There are three beaches in the small country of Costa Rica that go by the name of Playa Hermosa. Since they seem to have run out of beach names I've chosen to rename this one 'Playa Dragonfly'. When we arrive we are surrounded by hundreds of beautiful, sparkling dragonflies. There are everywhere. As we walk down to the beach we realize they number in the thousands. They are circling the ocean, the sand, the trees and grass. We tie up our hammocks and dragonfly watch all afternoon. They are fascinating creatures.
There is also a gorgeous golden red dragonfly that lives at our pool. Every time we swim, he circles above us. He does his rounds, protecting the pool from any invasions. When another male dragonfly comes near, he chases him down, defending his territory. We can hear their little dragonfly bodies slamming against each other, as he protects his chosen home.
But recently I’ve noticed he has disappeared. I do a little research and find out that dragonflies only fly for a few months of their life, at most. I realize his time is probably up and he has moved onto the next life. My little dragonfly gypsy soul is off seeking his next big journey. It’s sad that our tiny protector is gone, but in my research I learn a lot of interesting things about dragonflies…
Having flown the Earth for 300 million years, dragonflies symbolize our ability to overcome times of hardship. They remind us to take time to reconnect with our own strength, courage and happiness. Dragonflies symbolize an understanding of the deeper meaning of life, they represent self discovery and removal of inhibitions. Dragonflies symbolize change in the perspective of self realization. Realizing your true potential in a way that also benefits other people, is the ultimate expression of the power of the dragonfly.
“Reflected in the dragonfly’s eye – mountains.” – Kobayashi Issa
Because they only get to fly for a few months, they know how to live life in the moment, and to the fullest. They live without regrets. They exhibit iridescence, and the magical property of iridescence is also related to discovering our abilities in life by removing doubts and revealing the real self in our sense of identity. The dragonfly brings dreams to reality and is the messenger of wisdom and enlightenment from other realms.
Dragonflies are thought to have been dragons at one point in history, which is how they got their name. They are simple, elegant, graceful, strong, and resilient. Dragonflies are a reminder that we are light, a reminder to embrace change and a reminder to live life to the fullest.
After being in a foreign country, away from family, friends, and familiar things, for the last four months, we are excited to be approaching the holidays and our scheduled family visits. First my dad and Jackie are coming for Thanksgiving, they fly in tomorrow evening and are staying for about 2 weeks. Then my mom, along with Andy's whole family, are all coming for Christmas. My mom is staying a month, while his family is staying for 2 weeks.
We cannot wait to see familiar faces and show our loved ones this incredibly special piece of Earth. We're busy making lists of all the must-see's, and counting down the days, as are they.
It will be our first Thanksgiving and Christmas ever spent away from Oregon, cold weather, and our lifelong family holiday traditions. Although this makes me a bit sad, I'm excited to start new traditions and make new holiday memories, with a background of white sand, palm trees, blue water, and pina coladas with little umbrellas.
Vamos Mi Familia! Rapido! The beach and umbrella drinks are impatiently awaiting your arrival...
time is precious, waste is wisely…
“Some people are old at 18, and some are young at 90…time is a concept that humans created.” – Yoko Ono
When we say ‘I don’t have time’, we are really saying ‘I don’t want to’. Time is our most precious possession. It is more valuable than money. You can always get more money, but not more time. It is all that matters. It is the greatest gift you can give someone, because when you give someone your time you’re giving them a portion of your life you will never get back.
“Time is free but it’s priceless. You can’t own it but you can use it. You can’t keep it but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” -Harvey Mackay
Time flies, but we are the pilot. Either you run the day, or the day runs you. Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. You will never find time for anything, you must make the time. Time always has a way of showing us what really matters.
“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” – Kevin Ngo
If you love life, stop wasting time because time is what life is made of. Spending today complaining about yesterday won’t make tomorrow better. Regret for wasted time, is only more time wasted. Sometimes there is no next time. It’s now or never.
The trouble is you think you have time. But time is perishable. We only have today.
The Monkey Farm…
We hear about a “Monkey Farm” about 15 minutes from us, and because of my obsession with monkeys I insist we check it out. The Monkey Farm is a group of international volunteers who are in the process of turning an old farm into an organic, sustainable farm that also acts as a monkey and wildlife rescue center. Volunteers fly in from all over the world to volunteer and live at the farm, located in Playa Ocotal.
We follow all of their colorful signs and pull into the farm. We’re off to an interesting start as a baby raccoon immediately sprints up to greet us, and runs in between my legs. I don’t know if I should scream and run or pick it up and cuddle it. We are greeted by a girl named Molly, ironically from Portland, OR, who tells us that Oliver, the baby raccoon, is harmless and just very curious.
Molly is at the farm volunteering for a month and gives us a tour. We spend a good 20 minutes entertained by Oliver playing with Heath, the baby howler monkey. They are best friends and tackle & wrestle each other constantly. Oliver seems to think he is a monkey too as he leaps onto the hammock and swings from the strings. Molly tells us they hate to be separated and howl for each other when they are apart. I could watch this all day and wonder how the volunteers get anything done with all this cuteness around them.
Heath & Oliver playing:
Heath, the baby howler monkey, flies across the outdoor kitchen and lands on the shoulders of a volunteer who is cutting up potatoes for lunch. She continues to cut the potatoes, seemingly unaware of the monkey now perched on her back.
“Oliver!! Stop that!” shouts Molly, as she runs over to keep Oliver out of the basket of fresh fruit, which is for the volunteers, sitting on the table behind us. He fights her off, tackling her ankles, trying furiously to get back to the basket. She tells us he can be a little rambunctious and rebellious and that keeping him out of everything is almost a full-time job, which is proven as she has to interrupt our tour a few more times to discipline baby Oliver.
Molly shows us the adorable baby goats that were born yesterday. We tour the aquaponics coy pond system, the rabbit pens, the hedgehog pen, the duck cage with baby ducks, the medicinal herb and plant garden. They also have a tea herb garden and Molly tells us she will be building a salsa garden on the roof of a shed this afternoon.
One of the baby goats:
We learn that the Monkey Farm gets day-old produce from all the local supermarkets for free, to feed their animals. They also are given used barley from the local craft brewery, Angry Goats Brewery, to feed to their goats and pigs. They are working on becoming self-sustainable by growing as much of their own food as possible.
We make a donation and they send us off with seeds from a Moringa tree, also known as the tree of life, and the miracle tree. The leaves of this tree are good to eat on a salad, or ground into a powder, or make into tea. They have more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more protein than yogurt, more potassium than bananas, and more vitamin A & C than any vegetable or fruit. She tells us we may need to hide them in a sock to get them on the flight home. I have a feeling when we finally leave Costa Rica that we’ll have suitcases of socks full of many different seeds.
The Monkey Farm was such a fulfilling and peaceful way to spend our morning. They also offer horseback riding tours on the beach. If you’re ever near Playa del Coco make sure to stop by the Monkey Farm. They have many fun volunteer options, long-term and short-term. Check out their website: http://themonkeyfarm.org/
Heath & Oliver send us off with a good message. Witnessing a baby monkey playing with a baby raccoon is a clear message that we should all get along. Be nice to your neighbor, even if they are different. We should all accept each other for who we are. With all the violence happening in the world around us, if more people were to act like Heath & Oliver, the world would know more peace. Peace isn’t something you pray for. It’s something you are, something you do, something you live, something you teach.
Open minds are the best kind…
“Try to keep your mind open to possibilities and your mouth closed on matters that you don’t know about. Limit your ‘always’ and your ‘nevers’.” – Amy Poehler
Don’t be afraid to be open-minded. Your brain isn’t going to fall out. Two of the hardest things to say in the human language are ‘I’m wrong’ and ‘I’m sorry’. Being open-minded means to embrace being wrong. It means taking advantage of the opportunity to own it, admit it, learn from it and become a better person because of it. The eyes are useless when the mind is blind. Spiritual awakening occurs only when narcissism is put to bed for good.
“Above all, remember that the most important thing you can take anywhere is not a Gucci bag or French-cut jeans; it’s an open mind.” – Gail Rubin Bereny
Close your mouth and open your mind. We have two ears and one mouth. Maybe we should take that to mean we are to listen twice as much as we are to speak. Open-minded people are free of illusions. They know nothing is impossible. Let your opinions change with new information. Never stop learning. Question everything, but deny nothing. Maybe there is no right or wrong, no normal or weird, but only different ways of seeing, different ways of being.
“Let yourself be open and life will be easier.” - Buddha
When you judge another, you don’t define them, you define yourself. When you open your mind, you open your life. So be open-minded. Things aren’t always what they seem to be. Don’t believe everything you think.
“Be curious, not judgmental” – Walt Whitman
We head to Playa Conchal for the day, with our snorkel gear, our hammocks and Sophie. Playa Conchal, we both agree, is the prettiest beach we have seen so far in Costa Rica, the same beach where we got stuck in the sand and the local teens had to come to our rescue. It is a pristine, white sand beach with see-through, clear, turquoise water. No snorkel gear is necessary, I immediately spot multiple fish in the water around my feet. A blue/green trumpet fish swims past me, on a wave. I point him out to Andy, but he is the color of the ocean and is hard to see through his natural camouflage.
The ocean looks like glass today and we can see all the way to the bottom. The water feels extra salty and buoyant, it is easier than ever to lay back and float effortlessly. The best feeling is having nothing to do, and all day in which to do it.
The clouds ripple past us above and melt into the horizon. The sky slowly paints itself grey and the scent of a storm hangs in the air. The rain suddenly envelops us, we are surrounded by raindrops meeting the ocean surface with a vengeance. A school of small fish jump into the air, on the hunt, mistaking the raindrops for bugs. We continue to float on our backs, the ocean supporting us from below while the rain cleanses us from above.
The storm eventually passes onto the next beach. Life begins again and souls reappear. Two identical Catamaran sailboats hover near the shore, dancing with the weather. Happy couples stroll up and down the shoreline, holding hands and taking pictures. Vacationers on jet skis rip through the water, laughing and screaming as they fly across the ocean surface. Two horses gracefully gallop down the white sand beach, one breaks off and runs into the ocean, splashing in the surf.
We spend hours floating in the ocean but eventually drag ourselves out of the perfect water. But we should all know by now that nothing is perfect in life, not even perfect Costa Rican beaches. As we dry off we are swarmed by tiny black bugs, which bite. The bites sting but the bugs are so small you don’t even see them. We dance around, swatting at the jerks, as we pack up and make our escape. But it is too late, we are both covered in bites (me more so than Andy) by the time we reach the car, and they turn out to be the itchiest bites of all time. I count 43 just on my legs. We spend the next 3 days itching constantly, which taints our memory of the perfect beach. If we do go back to this beach we will need full-body bugsuits.
Hang your worries out to dry…
“Don’t worry, about a thing. Every little thing is gonna be alright.” – Bob Marley
What worries you masters you. Worrying doesn’t stop bad things from happening, it only keeps you from enjoying the good. Worrying will never change the outcome. The more you worry, the more you complicate life. Don’t fill your head with worries or there won’t be room for anything else.
“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it’s due.” –William Ralph Inge
If you can solve your problem then what is the need of worrying? If you can’t solve your problem then what is the use of worrying? Worry gives a small thing a big shadow. It’s the same as betting against yourself. It doesn’t prevent disaster, it prevents joy. Don’t worry about things that don’t worry about you. If Plan A doesn’t work, stay cool. There are 25 other letters.
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” – Mark Twain
Worry is a misuse of your imagination. Worrying is your imagination creating things in your life that you don’t want. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Worry about why you’re worried about what others are doing.
“A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.” – John Lubbock
Say it with me, NOTE TO SELF: everything is going to be okay. Don’t worry, be happy. Smile more, worry less.
Take it from me. The girl who is scared of everything, the girl who gets stung by sting rays, the girl who gets 178 mosquito bites to your one. Shit happens, (mostly to me), so don’t worry.
I'm feeling beachy...
Our main requirement for finding a good hang-out beach is whether or not there are perfect hammock trees. On Playa Del Coco there are not many trees, but we do find a tiny section of perfect hammock trees, littered amongst a well manicured grassy area. We couldn’t have planned a better hammock spot if we built it ourselves. We claim this spot as our own and grumble if we ever show up and find tourists hogging our hammock trees.
We love to tie our hammocks up and people watch. One afternoon a group of local teens post up next to us. We watch them for hours as they play games in the sand. There is one American kid and they spend a good deal of time teaching him the art of kicking the soccer ball into the ocean. One Tico stands at the edge of the waves, acting as the goalie and protector of the sea. They take turns showing the American how to kick the ball. Everyone laughs at his first few pathetic attempts, but eventually he gets it down.
After he learns how to kick the soccer ball, he then gets out a rugby ball and teaches the Ticos how to play. They sprint up and down the hot stretch of black sand, tackling each other and laughing hysterically. After they tire of this, they all run into the ocean together, to end their perfect afternoon. We watch as one Tico dives through the tube of each wave that comes, showing others how to do the same. They end the afternoon by hoisting a couple of girls up on their shoulders to play chicken, and take turns shoving each other into the salty water.
The locals sure know how to have fun and how to enjoy an afternoon at the beach. Each person has an enormous, genuine smile plastered to their face the entire time, and we have never heard so much laughter. It is infectious. They are completely carefree, dancing in the sun and soaking in the freedom provided by the sea. It is impossible to be unhappy on a beach in Costa Rica. Time spent at the beach is never wasted.
For Andy’s 37th birthday we invited our friends Julie and Kalin, from Samara, to come and stay with us for the weekend in Playa Del Coco. During one of our beach walks we met a colorful Tico character, by the name of Johnny D, who convinces us that we need to book a sunset/snorkel/booze cruise. For $70 per person we were taken on a 4-hour all-inclusive boat trip to explore the surrounding coastline. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing the coast of Costa Rica, from the sparkling ocean, as the sun goes down.
Me, Andy, Julie and Kalin:
We started the boat trip with lemon drop shots (that were somehow pink and tasted like grenadine). We ordered all kinds of drinks, taking advantage of the all-you-can-drink part of the trip. Our new favorite cocktail is a Miami Vice, a mix of pina colada and strawberry daiquiri. Andy made his rounds, making friends with the crew members, tipping everyone with his bag of coins. Since he was the only one tipping he quickly became everyone’s favorite person.
Andy and the crew:
The ocean sparkled around us, as we cruised away from shore, as if the sea was made of diamonds. The Costa Rican reggae music set the vibe and the dramatic cloud cover made for spectacular photos. The crew took us to Huevos Island to snorkel, which is a private and secluded island known for crystal clear water and a dramatic variety of colorful fish. It was a beautiful place to snorkel. I saw my first trumpet fish, which looks like a miniature swordfish.
We snorkeled for quite a while, until they called us back to the boat for our dinner feast of sushi, salads, homemade pizza and chicken skewers. We then cruised by another, larger private island. The crew pointed out Michael Jordan’s house on the top of the highest peak of the island. We all waved, just incase he was standing on his balcony with binoculars, checking us out. Just below his house, on the same private island, the crew pointed to a very fancy, high-end resort, with a private beach. They said beers at this resort cost $15 and it is $2000/night to stay there. Um, no thanks.
We watched the sun go down, over the ocean, as the sky lit up like fireworks. We danced and took sunset photos on the rooftop deck, while meeting new friends. Being on a boat at sunset, in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by private islands and sparkling sea water is a special experience, one we will never forget. Sailing on a boat through the infinite ocean has a way of making your problems seem so small. It puts into perspective what is important and what is not. Life is simple, just add water.
You spend time on land, but you live life on water…
Some of the gorgeous scenery from our boat trip:
Booze Cruise Selfie:
I think it’s safe to say that Andy’s 37th birthday was one for the record books.
Monkey sh*t happens…
The next day we wake up and eat breakfast, then lounge by the pool for a while. We eventually venture out to try the Texas BBQ joint on the main strip of town. Next we head to Coconuts, which is a busy, redneck, country, football-watching bar where we feel at home. The bar was overflowing with loud, drunken Americans, especially Packers fans.
Suddenly 15 howler monkeys swarm the trees above the bar. They are eating leaves, swinging from limbs…and pooping and peeing on all the tourists below. Only in Costa Rica does a waitresses job duties include cleaning up monkey feces. Football bores me so it was nice to have my own, more entertaining version of television. Brought to you by Mother Nature herself. Watching drunken tourists dodge the bodily fluids from monkeys above is the best reality show. I have to admit, this is my favorite moment of our entire Costa Rican adventure so far.
Is it better to be pissed off or pissed on?
The monkeys tree-hop all afternoon, but keep everyone on their toes by returning to use the bar as their own personal urinal every 20 minutes or so. We keep jumping up to find cover under a tin roof, no one wants to ruin the day by getting peed on. Good thing the beer here already tastes like pee, as drops sprinkle down amongst the tables full of beers. Now we can say we drank monkey pee in Costa Rica.
We warn a guy who walks in to watch out for the monkey pile at the table he has chosen but he proceeds to step in it anyway. At least he’ll have a cool story to tell his friends. Better than stepping in boring old dog poop. Hey Gringo, you’re in Costa Rica, and monkey sh*t happens.
Please do not feed the fears…
Fear is temporary, but regret is forever. May you always do what you are afraid to do.
Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. Everything you want is on the other side of fear. If something scares you, you must do it. Fear is the brain’s way of saying there is something important you must overcome, see it as a compass pointing you toward the areas you need to grow.
Too many people are not living their dreams because they’re too busy living their fears. Sometimes the things you are the most afraid of are the things that make you the happiest. When you overcome fear, you behold wonder. Fear isn’t real. It’s the product of thoughts you create. Fear is a choice. It makes strangers of people who would be friends…
Do the thing you fear the most and the death of fear is certain.
I’m scared of everything. The ocean waves & rip currents, Costa Rican drivers, sting rays, sharks, spiders, putting my deepest thoughts out there, in writing, for the world to judge…but I also love to do things that scare me. I’m not fearless, I’m fearful. But I’m also brave. Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the facing of it.
Why am I so afraid of everything? Maybe because that makes life more fun…doing things that scare you every day. I may be afraid of many things, but I’ve also conquered many fears. I’ve jumped out of a plane, swam with sharks, ziplined through jungles, been stung by a stingray in Central America, and moved to a country I’d never been to, and couldn’t speak the native language of. For being so afraid, I’ve sure done a lot of scary sh*t.
Wipe your tears, face your fears.
“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” – Steven Pressfield
Bagpipes for Halloween...
Our last night in Samara was a lot of fun. We dressed up as “tourists” for Halloween, decked out in our matching Ranger Rick jungle hats, button-up safari shirts and cargo shorts, with cameras and binoculars around our necks. I wore socks and hiking boots, while Andy stole the night with his socks and Chaco sandals. We actually just dressed up as ourselves…six months ago. People arrive in Costa Rica decked out in their jungle-trekking gear, yet everyone ends up wearing the same tank top, pair of shorts and flip flops the entire time. You can always recognize the newcomers to this country by their fresh-off-the-boat-jungle-safari look.
Andy with our friends Larry and Mitch at Media Luna on Halloween:
A close-up of Andy's socks/sandals since I cut them out in the above photo:
We spend the evening going between the Halloween parties at Arriba and Media Luna. Andy’s night is made when an Irish Celtic band, made of Ticos, starts playing at Media Luna. Only in Samara can you see a shirtless, barefoot Tico wearing a kilt, playing in a band with bagpipes, an accordion and an Irish flute. Andy is now their #1 fan.
We end the night with drinks on the beach with our friends Kalin and Julie. It’s sad to say goodbye to them, but we will be seeing them soon enough. They’re planning to come stay with us in Playa del Coco to celebrate Andy’s 37th birthday this weekend. We’re hoping to do a sunset dinner booze cruise in the evening, and spend the day playing cornhole on the beach.
The next morning we say goodbye to our beach bungalow and hit the road. Our entire life is now packed into our Forerunner. Seeing all of your belongings crammed into one small space is satisfying. We have succeeded in downsizing and simplifying our lives. Now onto the next adventure!
Loco for Coco…
Our new condo is easy to find. It is three blocks from the beach and is located at the quiet end of town, which we prefer. There are two pools, air conditioning in every room, and cable TV. It feels like we’re on vacation…from our vacation. The first unit we check into doesn’t have wifi, but we eventually move into one that does.
There is a washer and dryer in the condo and I almost cry with happiness. I have never looked forward to doing laundry so much in my life. The first thing I do is load up the washing machine. We have been doing our laundry by hand for three months. I dance around to the sound of my clothes being thoroughly washed in hot water, it is music to my ears.
Pulling my hot, clean, fresh clothes from the dryer that evening is a feeling I will never forget. They smell like home. As I’m folding my clothes I cannot stop smiling. Doing laundry, something I used to hate and dread, has now become something I love and look forward to. In this moment I am grateful not only for the modern convenience of a washer and dryer, but also for being humbled for the last 90 days by not having access to something I had become accustomed to relying on. Going without something is a wonderful way to appreciate it again.
You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.
We hadn’t heard or read great things about Playa del Coco. It’s a bigger, busier town with a lot of tourists. We wake up and head out to check out the beach. The sparkly black sand shines in the morning sun. The beach is quiet, only a few people scatter the shoreline. Each side of the bay is surrounded by strips of land covered in lush, green jungle. The water is very calm and welcoming, small waves gently lap at the shore. A string of fishing boats line the bay, as if protecting us from an invasion. Classic rock plays quietly from one boat.
Playa del Coco at sunset:
We find a perfect hammock spot and Andy ties my hammock between a mango tree and a palm tree. I swing in the ocean breeze, watching the birds and the boats, taking in the new town. Three dogs chase each other down the beach, pausing only to play in the surf. Five pelicans soar together above the fishing boats, playing follow the leader, their patterns rhyming in the sky. I spot a Tico man spear fishing from a small rock in the middle of the bay. As the waves crash around him he thrusts his spear into the water repeatedly, trying to catch dinner for his family.
Fish for dinner, not compliments.
After our beach walk I lounge in the pool for a bit. There are two pools so there is always some sun and shade. I pick a shady spot and hang out in the water, watching an enormous golden red dragon fly circling above the my head, listening to the birds call to each other as they fly past me. I eventually move to the other pool to find some sun. The dragonfly follows…
I have to admit I do like Coco. It’s no Samara, but so far we have a good impression. It is still considered slow season here, so during the holidays it may feel like a different place. But for now it is peaceful and serene and we’re happy with our decision to stay here during November. People don’t greet each other when they pass on the street as often as in Samara, but I instantly like this town and this beach for what it does have to offer.
Walking into the AutoMercado for the first time though, is when I fell in love with Coco. It was like walking into a Fred Meyer…but better! Everything you need in one single store. Ingredients I recognize, things we miss eating. I’ve never been so happy to see English muffins and thick-sliced Canadian bacon. Fresh deli salame, gouda cheese, and crackers. Whole rotisserie chickens, rib-eye steaks, and thick pork chops. Fresh spinach, lettuce and veggies, and even blackberries and strawberries! I’m in heaven and would pay rent to live in this wonderful air-conditioned store if I could. Our first dinner in our new condo consists of grilled rib-eye steaks, herb baked potatoes, homemade garlic bread and a huge green salad with broccoli and homemade citrus dressing. I'm happy to be eating anything but chicken and rice at this point, but this dinner is special. I cranked the A/C while cooking and for once got to enjoy dinner while not soaked in sweat. I could get used to this.
Our car is Costa Rican dirty after our recent trips, so after dinner we find a small car wash down a dusty side road. For only $10 they clean and detail our entire car, inside and out. You could never find that deal in the states. We sit outside in lawn chairs, slapping at mosquitoes and watching the howler monkeys play in a tree, while the sun sets as the Tico man and his wife make our car look like new. Uh-oh, now we look even more American. I think we fit in better with a dirty car. Recently we’ve actually been mistaken as Ticos, probably because of our tans. My dark hair helps too. A few times Ticos will walk up to us and start speaking Spanish to me, assuming I’m a local. They figure it out the second I open my mouth though…
We will definitely enjoy the luxurious condo for the month of November. The washer and dryer, the pools, the A/C, the AutoMercado. But we didn’t move here to have all the same conveniences and comforts we have back home. What would we learn from that? The richest part of this experience is finding new ways, realizing you can make a home anywhere, go without things you used to need, and adapt to any circumstance. As humans we are flexible, evolving, resilient, always changing. Even if when we leave here all I take away from this experience is a new appreciation for a washing machine and clothes dryer, then I’ll be a better and more humble person than I was before.
P. S. After moving into the new unit with wifi, we have come to the conclusion that there are no comfortable couches in the entire country of Costa Rica. But maybe that’s for a reason. Maybe that’s Costa Rica’s way of saying get off your butt and go to the beach! So off we go on our first beach exploring adventure on this new section of beautiful coastline…
We load up the car and hit the road with a general plan of which new beaches we want to see. The roads are terrible and we adjust our plans as needed, but do manage to cross quite a few beaches off our “Costa Rican Beach Bucket List”. This section of coast contains some of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. The shoreline is rich and luxurious, peppered with quiet black and white sand beaches, and the water is a shade of blue that matches the sky.
A view from our beach drive:
We pull up to Hotel Sugar Beach and walk through the manicured grounds of the resort, down to the beach. The water is so bright, it reminds me of a Carribean beach. The sand is soft and lush, it feels like walking on sugar. We walk Sophie up and down the small strip of deserted beach, while taking pictures. Sugar Beach, or Pan de Azucar, is not on most Costa Rican maps. It is a small, unknown secluded beach that is absolutely breath-taking. It looks like something out of a movie.
Hotel Sugar Beach:
Getting back in the car, we spend the morning driving up and down the coast. We make stops at Playa Penca, Playa Portrero, Playa Ocotal, Playa Prieta, Pan de Azucar, Playa Flamingo, Playa Brasalito and Playa Conchal. I take note of which beaches have the best hammock trees and swimming waves so we can come back and waste whole days at each one of our favorites.
A few of the beaches we stopped at:
As we are leaving Playa Penca we notice what appears to be an albino squirrel crossing a barbed wire fence. We drive closer and stop to check him out. He is actually just a very old, grandpa squirrel whose hair has turned pure white. He slowly hobbles across the fence, taking his sweet time. He pauses to look at us, cocks his head while evaluating our intentions, then continues picking his way along…then BAM! Sophie has spotted the grandpa squirrel from my lap and has launched herself across the car, body slamming herself into Andy’s window. I worry she may have knocked herself out from the sheer impact, and am surprised to see the window didn’t shatter, but she continues attacking. I find this hilarious, but Andy is not amused by the dog drool marks that now cover his freshly hand-washed car window.
Pay It Forward…
On our beach drive we notice a Tico driving a small Toyota, hauling an empty kayak trailer. He drops a long bungee cord and fluorescent orange rope in the sandy road ahead of us. We stop to pick them up and follow him for a few kilometers, until we can get his attention. He is very grateful and thanks us twice for returning them. We say “Mucho Gusto” and drive off while waving.
Ticos are some of the nicest people and always jump in to help anyone in need. We’ve experienced their kindness and generosity many times and it’s always good to pay it forward. Today it’s evident that what goes around comes around, and we were thankful for the previous stacked up good karma, as we found ourselves in need of some ‘Tico Aid’ five minutes later…
Playa Conchal is incredibly gorgeous, one long never-ending stretch of pure white sand. There are tire tracks all over this beach, and it’s clear that this is a perfect place for a beach drive. Most of the sand is packed and easy to maneuver on. Andy has fun spinning cookies and driving in circles up and down the beach. Eventually we come to a thick, soft section of sand and get stuck. Before we can even roll our windows down, two Tico teenage boys who are fishing nearby drop their fishing poles and sprint over to give us a push. As Andy guns the gas pedal, they shout “faster, faster!” We eventually get enough traction and thank them profusely, while waving, as we shoot off to explore the rest of the beach.
The memory of those kids clapping, laughing and cheering us on, will forever remain in my heart. That situation sums up Costa Rica perfectly. You don't even have to ask for help here. People see someone in need and they immediately jump into action without thinking. It's feels incredible to be a part of this special place.
We eventually head home and make note of the beaches we still need to visit that we didn’t have time to hit today. They will still be there next week. Life's A Beach! Hasta Luego Mis Amigos!
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.