Our latest family visitors have arrived. Andy and I picked up my mom and his parents at Liberia airport last week, and Andy’s sister Stacey and her husband Matt landed a couple of days later. Everyone immediately fell in love with this special place and seemed to adopt the pura vida beach vibe, sprinkled with a few minor drops of culture shock involving the extreme humidity, the “no flush toilet paper rule”, the horrible pot-hole ridden steep mountain roads, and the herds of creepy crawly critters.
The first night was very interesting for Steve & Wendy, as they woke up several times during the night to find multiple dead bats on their bedroom floor. They eventually realized the bats were flying in through the open window, colliding with the fan, and landing on the floor and/or top of the bed canopy, for their final resting place. The caretaker quickly solved the problem by adding a screen over the window. (#costaricaproblems)
And my mom has not been left out of the creepy critter experiences! She killed a massive, quick-moving Costa Rican spider her first night. He was huge so it took a few tries before he went down. Two days later she startled a scorpion hiding under a rug…and she’s still here! (We must have broken our “scorpion seal” because after not seeing a single one during our first four months here, we’ve now seen four more since our first encounter with one earlier this month.)
We’ve already managed to spend a few days at the beach, doing nothing but floating in the salt water and swinging in hammocks. The definition of vacation should be having nothing to do, and all day in which to do it. Along with never knowing what day it is, or what time it is. Check, check and check.
We all agree Christmas is more enjoyable when you don’t have to deal with last-minute Christmas shopping crowds, icy roads, and going broke trying to prove you love someone. Although it does seem odd to see Christmas decorations in 90 degree weather, the holiday spirit is alive in Samara. We are looking forward to a low-key Christmas spent amongst palm trees, pina coladas and family. Removing ourselves from the American Christmas rat race has helped us to remember what this holiday is really supposed to be about: spending quality time eating, laughing, drinking (and sweating), surrounded by loved ones.
We have grand plans of waterfall trips, zipline adventures, fishing excursions, driving through rivers, drinking out of coconuts and multiple beach road trips during their stay. I should have many exciting adventures to write about by the end of their trip. Until then I am going to take some time off from blogging, while we’re busy making memories, so I can be more present for these special moments.
Feliz Navidad to all, but especially to our family members who are freezing back home in Oregon. We’ll try to send you some warm weather vibes, and will make sure to drink a few extra pina coladas in your honor. Cheers!
put down what distracts you, appreciate what surrounds you…
Life is so much simpler here. I never use the make-up I brought, or the hair dryer or curling iron. It’s so hot and muggy here that no one bothers to do their hair, a messy bun is acceptable for every female (and male) that walks this mellow beach town. You know what is prettier than a bunch of make-up? 12 hours of sleep, a natural tan and happiness. No amount of make-up can paint your face happy, well-rested and naturally sun-kissed.
I live in tank tops, shorts and flip flops. No wedding ring, no jewelry at all, no purse. I leave the house with nothing but myself. My purse, my cell phone, my camera all used to be my security blankets. Now I have nothing to mask myself from the world, the world can see me as I am and for what I have to offer, and not for what brand of purse I carry. It’s so refreshing to not need stuff anymore. The less I have, the happier I am.
The other day Andy and I were enjoying a drink at a beach bar called La Vela Latina, sitting up on a tall bench looking out at the ocean. I notice a couple below us, lounging in beach chairs. It’s obvious they are here on vacation by their sunburns, big camera, and overflowing beach bag. The afternoon sun is setting before them, the surfers just starting to trickle into the water to hunt their evening waves. Dogs run free, splashing in the surf. Horses trot up and down the beach. A gentle game of Frisbee lines the shore. I’m admiring the view the couple has in front of them, trying to think back to my first time witnessing these laid-back beach life scenes in Samara…
I turn to look at the couple, to analyze their appreciation for this experience, and notice they have each picked up their cell phones and appear to be scrolling through their facebook newsfeed. I watch them for 15 minutes, as they ignore each other, the setting sun and the beautiful beach scene painted before them, not once looking up from their gadgets. How sad to see them missing their right now, this moment they can never get back.
They probably saved for months for this ‘vacation of a lifetime’. And they are spending it laying on the beach, but not seeing the beach. They are spending it in a false technical world designed to make people monsters, consuming and not appreciating. Posting but not really living. Taking selfies but not being self-aware. I know because I recognize myself in them. When you dislike something about someone else, it is because it reminds you of something you don’t like about yourself.
In this moment I am so grateful to no longer have a purse, camera or a cell phone to distract me from the beauty of right now. Right now is all we have. I have the urge to share this notion with them…but I look down again and they are still absorbed in their cell phones so I know they wouldn’t be able to absorb the message. But I’d like to thank them for the reminder they gave me today. Gracias Gringos!
We are thoroughly enjoying our private outdoor sanctuary in our new Samara house. One of our hammocks now hangs in the corner, under shade. We also installed a hook for our hammock chair, out in the sun by the dipping pool. This is heaven and I am taking advantage of every moment I can in our outdoor paradise.
One afternoon I was swinging the day away in the hammock, thinking about how swinging in a hammock feels like the universe is rocking your soul, whispering through the breeze into your heart that (cue Bob Marley song) every little thing is gonna be alright. The sun shines on my face and the ocean wind whips the free strands of my hair in all directions, as I listen to the crash of the waves on the shore below. The sky begins to turn pink and I notice the sounds of the jungle transition to evening.
Suddenly I hear a commotion in the tree tops, and a deep, startling roar booms through the jungle air. I jump out of the hammock, alive with the excitement of our first monkey visit at our new house. Sophie barks furiously as the monkeys swarm the trees. Three sets of monkey families in three different sets of trees communicate back and forth, matching howl for howl.
I notice one monkey, sitting quietly in a tree, staring at me. I stare back. After a few minutes I win the stare-off and the monkey turns away. On her back I see a tiny monkey baby hanging on for dear life. His huge, wandering eyes bravely taking in his surroundings. He slowly climbs down his mother’s back, grabs onto the branch and peers at the jungle below.
His innocent, pure eyes meet mine, startled, as Sophie lets out a series of sharp barks. With my long camera lens I snap a million pictures. A larger monkey, with very big, noticeable monkey balls, appears out of nowhere and lets out a few shorts howls, letting me know this is his family and that I better check myself (and my little dog too).
I give this monkey family some space and wander over to photograph the next one. Thrilled to spot another mother and her baby, I fire off more photos. The jungle is alive with the sound of the howler monkey families, singing a chorus of monkey calls to each other. The sound is so incredibly loud, it echoes throughout the town. Eventually the monkeys quiet down, and making themselves comfortable they stretch out and lounge in the trees for an afternoon nap. Sophie continues to bark desperately, trying to engage a monkey, any monkey. Eventually I put her inside so the monkeys can nap in peace.
They, however, don’t extend me the same courtesy, showing up the next four mornings (and counting), at 4am, to scream and howl outside our window. A wonderful, startling jungle alarm clock that engages Sophie in a vicious pre-dawn barking war. It was pretty cute the first couple of mornings…but is quickly beginning to lose its appeal. (I know, I know, poor me!)
rules are made to be broken…
There are no rules here. The only rule is to enjoy yourself. In the states we make rules for everything: who can park where and when, check-in and check-out times, pool hours, speed limits, there are rules for everything! In Costa Rica there are no rules, or at least less enforcing of them. This leaves you with the feeling of freedom. You can do whatever you want (within reason).
What time does the pool close? NEVER! Swim at 3am if you want. What time is check in? NOW! What about check out? WHENEVER! It is so refreshing to not have the feeling of someone always watching you, counting the things you’re doing wrong and the rules you are breaking, waiting to give you a ticket or a fine or a tongue-lashing. Reverse psychology at its finest and it works! Tell someone they absolutely cannot do something, and they will want to do it. Remove the rules and it’s no longer as appealing to break them.
Life is different here, slower. In Costa Rica they will never bring you your check at a restaurant. They consider it disrespectful and instead allow you to enjoy your time with no feeling of rush. Even if you only order one $2 beer, you have the right to sit at that beach table and enjoy that beer all day long, if you feel like it. You have to ask for your check here, always.
In the states they are always rushing you out the door, shoving your check onto your table the second your food is delivered, wanting to turn the table over quickly. Treating you like a number, not a person. I remember nights where we spent $100 on fancy dinners, and 30 minutes after arriving we are being rushed out of the restaurant, wishing we could get our $100 and 30 minutes back. I love that the servers here encourage you to take your time. Enjoy the view. Let your food digest. Think about life. It used to be so rare for us to sit for an hour after our last sip of beer or bite of food, in pure, appreciative silence, just to enjoy the view. But it feels wonderful.
Costa Rica is trying to send the world a message: less rushing, more enjoying. The only rule is to enjoy yourself and to have fun. Are you listening? Are you ready to absorb the message? If not, no worries, the message will still be waiting when you’re finally ready. The message is clear and is repeated many times each day in this sleepy beach town:
My dad's timeshare in Playa Hermosa was a great spot to spend a few days. A nice sun deck with a two-person hammock and a private pool, central air conditioning, an ocean view breakfast buffet and swim-up bar…not a bad way to waste some time. Most of us got chewed up pretty bad by the mosquitoes though, because life can’t be all beaches and sunsets. But we got our fair share of beaches and sunsets too.
One evening we walked down to a beach restaurant called La Casita del Mariscos and enjoyed a delicious dinner as we watched the sunset and the waves roll in. Everyone’s food was incredible: seared tuna steak, shrimp and cheese stuffed dorado, whole red snapper…all freshly caught earlier that day. And to top it off the pina coladas with umbrellas were mouth-watering. A beach dinner for the record books.
The next day we load up the two cars and head to Playa Panama. We hang the hammocks and swim in the calm water. I was in the water for 10 minutes when my luck caught up with me once again. I was stung by some mysterious ocean animal, I didn’t stick around long enough to see what it was this time. I felt stings all around my thigh and instantly went into survival mode and high-tailed it out of the water and onto the shore. I’m sure I’ve never swam so fast or screamed so loud. I had little raised red bumps all over my leg that stung for over an hour, and itched for a few days. Maybe a jellyfish this time? Who knows. It hurt worse than the stingray encounter. I’m starting to wonder if the ocean and I are just not meant to be good friends…
Later that evening we had a Costa Rican 1st for us: a giant scorpion awaiting us in our bedroom. How the heck do you catch a scorpion? This is a task I want nothing to do with and a question I don’t want to know the answer to. Handy Dandy Andy to the rescue! He saved the day by grabbing a plastic cup and a butter knife, his trusty scorpion catching tools. He shooed the scorpion into the cup and toured him around the condo, introducing him to everyone and showing him off. I did not sleep very well that night, thinking about his little scorpion family most likely living in our baseboards. Check that one off the bucketlist!
Now we’re off on our next adventure. Hasta Luego Coco and Hermosa!
Back to Samara…
Arriving at our new rental in Samara is like walking into a sanctuary. We have a huge outdoor sun patio, with a nice dipping pool, surrounded by jungle trees. I can’t wait to waste days bird and monkey watching. Sophie is also excited to have some private outdoor space to enjoy the sun. The waves roar in the distance, and the beach is a 3 minute walk. Our favorite beach bar is about 5 minutes from our new home and we will get to know that walk well I’m sure.
Our guests arrive and we swim in the pool and then walk down to the beach. We stop at Lo Que Hay to enjoy some cocktails while the sun sets. Then we wander over to Arriba for a delicious dinner of angus burgers, chicken parmesan, jumbo garlic prawns, chicken wings and chiliguaro shots. Our guests instantly fall in love with Samara and wish they had more time to spend here. We decide to make the most of the days they do have here and plan a trip to Playa Barrigona the next day. This secret, hidden surfers beach is a great spot to spend a day doing nothing.
We start our day with breakfast and drinks at The Outback. The huevos rancheros (fried eggs over tortillas covered in salsa) with a side of gallo pinto (rice and black beans) and platanos (sweet plantains), is the new combo I love to order. Always accompanied by café con leche of course. Costa Rican breakfast has become my favorite meal.
Next we cram 10 people, 3 dogs, 2 hammocks, 2 coolers and 5 bags into 2 cars. The roads to Barrigona are some of the worst we’ve seen, so they finally get to experience 30 minutes of pothole-dodging. The clouds are out, which is a nice cover from the sun, and we spend the day swinging in hammocks, walking the beach, drinking beer and laying in the sun. That evening we head back to Lo Que Hay for tacos, which are delicious as usual. We order a combo of shredded pork, blackened fish, veggie, chorizo and shredded chicken tacos. Tacos taste better when you can eat them while watching the ocean, listening to the waves, and admiring the sunset.
Their final day in Samara is spent shopping for souvenirs, drinking at Arriba and lounging by the pool. But we have one last Costa Rican gem to show them before they head back to a wintery December in the states…
Sun of a Beach…
For their last night in Samara all elements naturally align as the sunset and low-tide occur simultaneously. We take them to our favorite and most frequented beach: Playa Carrillo. Andy and I have wasted entire weeks on this beach. On the drive there we take a detour up a bumpy, steep hill to Santo Domingo to admire the ocean view and snap some photos.
Doug taking a picture of Helen and Jackie:
Doug, dad and Andy:
We drive the entire shoreline of Playa Carrillo and admire this special palm tree littered stretch of paradise. The sky is painted bright pink as the sun melts into the ocean. Splashing in the waves, walking in the tidal pools and marveling over the incredible beauty is how we spend their final evening.
Saving the best for last, we send them off with a lasting "pura vida" memory of the perfect Costa Rican sunset over the perfect Costa Rican beach. They say this is their new favorite beach, which we’ve heard each time we take them to a new beach, but this time they say they really mean it.
The four of them swimming in the ocean at sunset:
This sunset will be hard to top...
pura vida, and that's all folks!
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.