With our friend from Oregon visiting a few weeks ago, we decided to explore some new Costa Rican territory. My husband Andy and I have driven most of this country in the last 18 months, so we get excited at the thought of new roads. Packing up the car, the bumpy adventure begins and we head toward the town of Golfito.
Golfito, meaning "Little Gulf", is a port town in the Southern Pacific section of the country, near the Panama border. It is located within the larger Golfo Dulce, and the only thing separating this town from the open Pacific Coast is the Osa Peninsula. Famous for it's remote beaches, this area of Costa Rica is a surfer's paradise. Once you pass the town of Golfito you can choose between two beach destinations: Playa Pavones or Playa Zancudo.
Choosing Playa Pavones, known for being the longest left wave in the world, we only pause to admire the glowing, blue water and lush, green jungle along our drive.
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.
Parking our car in front of the police station, we stop to admire a pair of macaws munching on almonds in a tree above us. The "policia" stare at us with amusement, just as we stare at the macaws.
Off in the distance, not far from the police station, a surfer slowly puffs on a joint while evaluating the waves, his surfboard resting under his arm. We lazily stroll along a paved, winding path through a rustic, wooded beachfront park, peacefully absorbing the super chill vibe of this laid-back beach town.
Exploring the streets, we marvel over the vibrant works of art on every corner. I fall in love with a unique hand-painted mural of the local wildlife. I want to step inside and live there forever...
And a colorful, crafty sign of the small town of Pavones is too adorable not to stop and photograph.
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 humans are the minority.
With a large and consistent surf, and a rocky shore, this famous, world class wave break is best left to the professionals. 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.
Parking our car along the shore, we get sucked into a time vortex. The minutes melt into hours, as we are mesmerized by the young surfers ripping up the legendary wave.
A big wave break can result in big falls, resulting in some killer wipeout photos.
As the surfers tire, so do we. We move on with our road trip and as the late afternoon sun blankets the world in a magical glow, we pull into one last photo spot. A rocky cliff, with rugged stairs leading to the top, brings you to a breath-taking view point, nestled between two palm trees.
The sweeping, panoramic ocean view from the top of the rock is surreal, and life looks like a painting...
Our last stop is to photograph a sign that makes us all smile and gives us an appropriate reminder.
"Siempre Domingo" means "Always Sunday", which is a way of life in Costa Rica, and another way of saying "Pura Vida". No one knows what day it is around here, so every day is treated like Sunday.
With the sun beginning to descend, we turn around and head home. A wonderful day of exploring new beaches, towns and scenery, shared with good company, now behind us in the rearview mirror, but forever inside our souls.
Just another Sunday in the land of pura vida...
Tucked into the mountains, just above the entrance to the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, lies a quaint, peaceful community that goes by the name of Osa Mountain Village, also known as Toucan Valley.
Located in an extremely biologically diverse section of the Earth, this jungle paradise is packed full of abundant wildlife, vibrant flora and fauna, dense jungle, serene waterfalls, friendly faces and overflowing fruit and vegetable gardens.
If you want a "typical tourist" experience when visiting this country, then you will be satisfied with crowded places like Jaco, Tamarindo, or even Manuel Antonio. But for those of you wanting to experience the "real", true, authentic Costa Rica, you will be much more satisfied at a place like this: immersed in nature, surrounded by lush, rugged jungle. Where humans truly are the minority.
The high elevation results in comfortable temperatures all year, and creates breath-taking views of the Pacific Ocean and Cano Island. We spend many evenings watching the vibrant, colorful sunsets over the water from our balcony.
After climbing the mountain road, about 7 km off the Costanera Highway and 40 minutes south of Uvita, the winding entrance to the village is inviting. The resident banana box, where you can always find fresh bananas, is usually our first stop.
Rows of villas line the streets, some located near the pool/bar/community center. Others, with more privacy, are located down at the bottom of the hill. They all feature balconies with spectacular views of the jungle cayon, and the sound of a waterfall raging in the distance.
The saltwater pool is expansive, with a swim-up bar and plenty of lounging chairs around the area. The bar has a TV with cable, a pool table, a ping pong table, and a set of cornhole boards.
Numerous refreshing waterfalls are within a short hike from the village, varying in size and difficulty. The largest is over 300 feet tall and is impressive from close up, and from afar, especially during rainy season.
With upper and lower garden areas, you have access to a seemingly endless supply of fresh vegetables for your meals. I love going shopping for dinner in the gardens.
Bi-weekly veggie baskets are filled with a variety of exotic fruits, fresh vegetables and herbs, and farm-fresh eggs. It is always exciting waking up to see what the garden fairy has left for us in our basket.
When you visit the lower garden, make sure to wander deeper into the jungle, and stop by the volunteer center. Say hi to Jose and check out the legendary pizza oven, which makes the best pizza we've had in Costa Rica.
If you're lucky, sometime during your stay, you may receive an invitation to attend a famous "OMV pizza night". "OMV Pizza Nights" are like Vegas...what happens there, stays there. (Except the leftover pizza. If you're extra lucky you may find yourself eating some for breakfast the next morning.)
If you're feeling adventurous while here there is a canopy zipline tour that goes through the village, which includes 10 zipline courses, an extension bridge, and ends with a Tarzan swing out over the jungle valley.
The wildlife is mind-blowing in this area. At our home we have had visits from three species of monkeys: white-faced capuchin monkeys, tiny squirrel monkeys, and howler monkeys.
And it is named Toucan Valley for a reason, Toucans are everywhere here! Here are some toucan photos taken from our yard.
Scarlet Macaws are only found in a few small parts of this country. We see them nearly every day at our house, and we have seen up to 20 of them fly by at one time.
Osa Mountain Village is a bird-watcher's paradise. Here are some other colorful bird photos taken from our house.
There are plenty of deserted and breath-taking beaches nearby to spend the day at. The nearest beach is Playa Tortuga. But our favorite beaches are secret, hidden Playa Arco, as well as Playa Linda outside Dominical, and the famous whale's tail beach at Playa Uvita. All of these spectacular beaches are within an hour from Osa Mountain Village.
The location is perfect, up high in the hills, just far enough from town to feel like your own secluded slice of nature, but not lacking the modern conveniences you are used to. Most villas and homes are equipped with wifi, A/C, hot water, granite counters, modern appliances, and much more.
The village has a community feel to it, and pot lucks are planned, and birthday parties or holiday gatherings at the bar. It is a place that feels like home the second you step foot onto the colorful, peaceful grounds. The laid-back vibe oozes into your soul within seconds. Osa Mountain Village/Toucan Valley is a place your feet may leave, but never your heart.
If this sounds like a place you could call home for a week, a month, a year or forever, then check out their website. There are empty lots for purchase, or completed homes with more privacy within a short drive of the village. There are villas for sale, or for rent. It is very affordable to rent a place here for a week, or a month or two, if you just need to escape the stress of life.
But be careful! Many people who show up here, never end up leaving. My husband and I arrived here, planning to rent for one month, and nine months later we are still here, and happier than ever. Osa Mountain Village/Toucan Valley has become our home, our family, a new way of life.
Take a look at their website to see what is available. Think less, jump more. What are you waiting for? Claim your own piece of paradise! Right now is all we have, so stop waiting to live...
Watching this nightmare of an election from afar in Costa Rica has given me a new perspective. It is like a puppet show…but it is yet to be determined who exactly plays the role of the puppets, the audience, or the puppet master. It depends who you ask I guess. We all have a different answer to this question, a different opinion…yet none of us are wrong.
It has occurred to me many times recently: What if politics is just a big scam? A massive distraction, pulling us away from what truly is important in the world? What if it isn't real? What if it is only an illusion?
I grew up in a small, conservative farming community in Eastern Oregon. A tight-knit area where everybody knows your name. A simple, but hard life. A community of hard-working farmers, with dirt under their fingernails and weathered skin from years of working outside amongst the elements. It's a good life, a satisfying life. An ideal place to raise a family. I credit the simple life and the small town I was raised in as a major contributing factor to my character today.
But at 18, I knew I was ready to get out into the world and see more. The thought of moving to a place where no one knew me, was thrilling. I could walk down the street and not have every person I passed by know my life history. It felt like freedom. I was young and naïve and had no idea about anything in life. I was oblivious to politics, the world's largest reality show. Sometimes I wish I could return to that naïve bubble of not knowing, not caring, back to the peace of mind of oblivion.
When I began college at the University of Oregon it was like going from one extreme to another. Living in a large city, surrounded by a diverse, liberal crowd of people. Everyone looked different, everyone dressed different. Everyone was so accepting of each other, and our differences were celebrated. In this open-minded environment I began to pay attention to what was happening in the world around me. And I also credit this open environment as another major contributing factor to my character today.
And now here I stand, 17 years later, stuck in the middle. I have a farming community of family and friends on one side of the fence, fighting for what they feel is right. I have another group of loved ones on the other side, afraid for their future for reasons I understand. Somehow, I see both sides. I recognize everyone's right to feel the way they do, for their own reasons. And I respect and support their points of view, and their right to express them.
That is supposed to be what makes America so great. We should be able to celebrate each other's differences and accept people for who they are and acknowledge their right to feel that way, whether we agree with them or not.
We all have different paths up this mountain we call life. The only people doing it wrong are those of us running around at the bottom of the mountain, yelling at everyone else that they are choosing the wrong path. Allow people the freedom and space in life to be who they are and to carve their own path.
We all have different reasons for voting the way we do, or for not voting. I don't care who you voted for. If you're nice to me, I will be nice to you. If you're an asshole to me, I will still try to be nice to you, because you obviously need it the most. And because I'm not an asshole, even to assholes. (Don't push me though.)
What I do know is that money, status, wealth…these things do not make you who you are. It is the content of your character that matters. When we leave this Earth, and this life, we don't get to take our stuff with us, our houses, and cars, our diplomas and degrees, our trophies, our victories, our jewelry, our guns, or who we voted for. The only thing we get to take with us when we leave is the person we are, the good we did while here, and the way we made others feel.
What if I told you this truly is all that matters in life? Would you believe me? Or would you go back to yelling in all caps on your "facebook friend's" timeline about what an idiot they are and how they are the problem with the world? If those last hateful words, and the way they made someone feel, were all you could take with you when you leave, would you still say them?
Remember you can never un-say words. You can never take away how your words made someone feel. But you can apologize. Two of the hardest things to say in the human language are "I was wrong" and "I am sorry". Being able to recognize your wrongs, own them and apologize for them, says a lot more about your character than your lashing out in anger does. It's never too late to be the person you want to be.
I ask you to stop what you are doing right now. Turn off your thoughts, dial down your hate and turn up the love. Close your eyes, clear your head. Take deep breaths. Imagine you are moving to a tropical, deserted island. You will have all the fresh food, water, shelter, and basic items you need to survive. You can bring 5 things with you, any 5 items in the world that your heart desires. Any 5 things that will make the rest of your days, on this tropical island, happy ones.
Let us assume your loved ones can come and visit you as they please, but which 5 things would you want/need there with you every day. Stop and think about it. Picture your life there, what you would do every day, how you would spend your hours and pass the time?
It's hard isn't it? To put all material needs aside and dig down to the core of who you are. Your true values. Maybe the answers to these questions are much simpler than you can comprehend at the moment. But after some thought I hope you are able to answer. These 5 things are all you need in life to be happy. And happiness should be our only goal.
Here are my 5 items:
1) my husband
2) a dog or cat
2) a hammock
3) a laptop for writing (but no facebooking allowed)
4) my favorite book so I can read it over and over
And if I'm being honest it was difficult for me to come up with 5 things. I could be happy with 2 or 3. When you truly put life into perspective like this, you see what is important, what is meaningful, and what is complete B.S.
My heart is breaking for America. Not because of who won the election, but because of how viciously we are all turning on each other. No matter who was elected, they will not be responsible for making America great again. That is on you, and on me. And it begins with love and kindness. If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another. So let's get back to the core of life, the reason for it, the golden rule. Treat others as you want to be treated. Sprinkle drops of kindness wherever you go. Be the person your dog thinks you are.
I have seen way too much hate and judgement recently. But I also see sparkling glimmers of hope behind the smoke. There is a heavy, negative, suffocating energy lingering in the atmosphere right now and I hope we all have the decency and courage inside our souls to join hands, light some sage, and burn that toxic shit to the ground.
Peace. Gracias. Namaste. OneLove. Pura Vida.
Our friend Jessica recently visited us in Costa Rica, all the way from Oregon. Through Osa Mountain Village we were able to get a great deal on a boat rental for the day. (Thanks John Magee!) Gathering a special group of friends, we began our day boating down the Sierpe river, or Rio Sierpe, through the lush mangroves, to meet up with the Pacific Ocean, on the Lobo Del Mar.
The sleepy town of Sierpe, tucked into the picturesque Diquis Valley, is the main access point for people wanting to explore the Corcovado National Park, Drake Bay, or Cano Island. The mouths of the Sierpe and Terraba rivers join together, forming the Terraba-Sierpe National Wetlands, which are some of the largest mangroves on Earth.
Overflowing with diverse wildlife, our boat tour along the winding Sierpe river, through the rugged mangroves, was thrilling. Within seconds our captain spots a mammoth-sized crocodile sunning himself on the muddy shore and pulls up so we can admire his striking beauty.
Around every bend, more wildlife awaits. The eyes of our Tico captain and deckhand are impressive as they spot a troop of squirrel monkeys from across the river and navigate us over to watch them pluck ripe berries from a tree, while chirping excitedly amongst each other.
The riverbed is brimming with elegant, colorful birds, and as we float by a sand bar I manage to snap a photo of a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron standing near a Little Blue Heron.
Our goal was to spend the day at Cano Island, but our captain is cautious due to the powerful waves that are breaking between us and the Pacific Ocean. He decides to pull up to a deserted beach to wait out the weather.
Walking the untouched shore we explore the pristine beauty, as a pack of howler monkeys howl at us from a tree on the beach and a family of 6 vibrant Scarlet Macaws noisily fly overhead. The deserted shore takes our breath away with its perfection.
The sand is a mix of sparkling black and deep tan. A bubbling creek, trickling down from the jungle and meeting with the ocean, mixes the two colors into a brilliant pattern. A painting by Mother Nature herself.
Back at the boat our captain expresses hesitation about crossing the wave breakers to get closer to Cano Island. Recently a boat similar in size to ours had capsized in these waves, so he wants to make sure the conditions are safe for us.
He pulls up in front of the breakers, observing the patterns, reading the ocean like a book, waiting for the perfect, friendly lull. As the waves build and come at us in all directions, he expertly navigates the boat into and around each one. It is clear he is a skilled captain, as he circles around several times, awaiting the right moment.
The deckhand discreetly begins to grab life jackets and hands them out to all aboard. He places the last one at his feet, which is when I realize how serious this situation is. I quickly pull my lifejacket over my head, secure it, grab onto the sides of the boat and start praying.
Jessica tells me that we are not too far from shore, so if we do capsize it will be a short swim and at least we won't be stuck out at sea for days…somehow this observation does not make me feel any better. I have had a few near-drowning experiences in my life and I have a lot of respect for the ocean. As these devastating waves crash around us, I do not want to picture myself outside the boat, in these waves, struggling to survive.
As a travel blogger, my last thought before we plow forward at full speed, directly into the waves, is that if we do capsize and I survive, at least it will make for an interesting blog post….as all my near-death experiences in Costa Rica usually do.
The captain seizes the moment, guns the gas and carves his path into the water. He sees what others cannot, using years of instinct and expert navigational skills, maneuvering around one wave, and into another. He uses our momentum, bobs and weaves, dodges and ducks each wave until the clearing opens in front of us that he was waiting for, and we finally speed to safety, leaving all the deadly breakers in our dust.
The boat erupts with applause, the Ticos cheer and high-five each other, smiling gleefully at their success. "Pura Vidas!" are shared amongst us all, the chilling silence is replaced by excited chatter and shouts as we marvel over our terrifying encounter with the angry sea.
Continuing on our route we eventually see Cano Island in the distance, and notice an intense storm quickly approaching the shore.
So instead we pull into Playa San Josecito, located along the edge of the Corcovado National Park, to spend some time snorkeling and lounging on the beach, happy to be alive and not wanting to gamble with the sea again.
Due to a wet landing and having to swim to shore I was not able to bring my camera with us, so of course we had the most epic monkey encounter of our lives once on land. Sneaking up on a pack of white-faced capucin monkeys we observed them for what felt like hours, as they foraged on the ground for snacks.
Andy and I laughed as one of the monkeys lifted up a heavy coconut, nearly his size, and walks off, upright, like a human, carrying it above his head. He gingerly walks up a bending tree trunk, finding the perfect spot. He dramatically lifts the coconut high in the air and slams it onto the tree branch, trying to get to the sweet water inside.
We eventually have to pull ourselves away from our monkey meeting, and pile back onto the boat to head back before dark. The waves have calmed down and the return trip is peaceful and calm. The scenery in the late afternoon light leaves us speechless once again.
The animals are not done putting on a show for us just yet. From the front of the boat Andy spots a sloth hanging from a tree over the riverbed, munching on leaves. The captain pulls up beneath him so we can snap photos, and notices two other sloths lounging in the trees nearby.
The evening sun starts to fade and night descends. We are happy to be alive. The sunset-colored sky is mirrored in the water below, and our magical boat day of exploring the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica ties itself up into a perfect, pink package.
Pura Vida to all, and to all a good night...
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.