Weekending: Playa Bejuco

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We just discovered a new little slice of heaven after a fun-filled weekend and thought we should share. Playa Bejuco is located on the Central Pacific Coast about 2 hours from San José or 1.5 hours from Atenas (if traffic is moving – we hit a major accident and it took us much longer than expected) and halfway in between the major tourist areas of Jacó Beach and Manuel Antonio National Park. We didn’t know anything about it beforehand, but we found a place on AirBnB that looked great and was located right near the beach so we thought we’d give it a try.

And wow, we were blown away by how awesome it was – away from the big touristy beach areas, it offers an almost deserted wide and long sandy beach that is great for boogie boarding (though you still have to be careful of dangerous rip currents), shelling, making sand castles and gorgeous sunsets.

We did see a few surfers as well, but it seems that the beaches north of there are better for surfing. We joined the Ticos and pulled our car right up to the beach under the palm trees and based ourselves there for the better part of the morning. No need to lug a cooler and food, towels, sunscreen and toys a mile down the boardwalk! There are a couple small hotels, but virtually no other services except for the occasional ‘pipa fria’ (cold coconut water) or ‘granizado’ (snow cone) vendor, unless you head out to the main road, Route 34, so we brought our snacks and bevies with us. Exiting onto Route 34, there’s a little shopping complex called Esterillos Town Center which along with a grocery store and a few Tico restaurants also offers a pizza place and a middle eastern restaurant that also has live music on certain days.

We also checked out the tiny town of Esterillos Oeste also located on a beautiful beach just a few miles north of Bejuco and discovered a quaint laid-back Tico town complete with a few nice-looking outdoor restaurants, surf shops, grocery store, a few lodging options, church and soccer field. What else do you need?!

We can’t wait to go back and explore this area a bit more. Perhaps we’ll enjoy some horseback riding on the beach, a surf lesson and a day trip down to Manuel Antonio.

Pura Vida!

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Cultural Immersion 101 – Día de Independencia

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We seemed to have arrived at a great time of year as we have celebrated a number of very special cultural events in the last month. The first event we experienced was Día de Independencia which was September 15th. It is an important holiday here celebrated with parades (traditional dance troops and bands), activities in town, and special school events.

At Oscar’s school, each student brought a ‘farol’ (lantern) to school and many of them were handmade with traditional symbols of Costa Rica (casa típica, oxcart, jungle animals, etc.). The symbolism of the farol comes from a woman named Dolores Bedoya who carried a lantern through the streets of Guatemala on the evening of September 14th, 1821 to urge people to support independence from Spain. All of Central America was still under Spanish rule at that time. The message that independence was granted didn’t arrive in Costa Rica until October 13th, but all of Central America celebrates September 15th, 1821 as their independence from Spain.

We went the cheapo route and bought Oscar’s farol at the store not realizing how families value putting the time in to find (or make) a meaningful farol. Now we know. 🙂

Alice’s teachers also asked each student to bring a farol made of recycled materials. I am very proud to say that Palmer took this very seriously and Alice/Palmer WON the contest for having the farol with the most recycled materials. I think the teachers had a good laugh. It wasn’t the prettiest and the ‘theme’ was very vague, but he got the job done. We now know what we’re in for next year and working on our ideas already. Alice’s school also held a special ‘acto’ (ceremony or special event) for Día de Independencia for the families of the students complete with traditional dances, special outfits for the kids, a small parade, typical food and singing of the national anthem. It was amazing how much thought went into each aspect of the event and how passionate each of the teachers were in making it a success.

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Oscar and classmates with their ‘faroles’ getting ready to parade around school.
Scene from Oscar’s school.
Parades around the main square in town

Special ceremony at Alice’s school

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A not-so-happy Alice and classmates parading with instruments
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Mrs. Karen (director of Alice’s school) doing a traditional dance.
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Alice’s winning ‘farol’ – hahaha!

La Casa Rosada

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Our new pad!

For the first month, we were in an AirBnB house, so we waited to find something more long term until we arrived and had a better lay of the land.  Well, after much online searching and talking to people in town as well as real estate agents, we found “La Casa Rosada” about a mile from Atenas centro and with lovely views of the surrounding hills. We moved in a week ago and are adjusting well to our new neighborhood, but I will admit there was some panic after the first day when we discovered that there is no water upstairs for most of the day, I blew out the very temperamental electric shower head (the only hot water in the house) img_1774

because of said lack of water and Alice woke up covered in red marks that we initially thought was a rash but actually turned out to be mosquito bites (no screens in windows). 😦  Thankfully we’ve made some adjustments and the water pressure issue is fixed as our landlord has put in a pump so we now have water throughout the day.

We have a family with a horse on one side of the house and Oscar loves to chase the rooster and chickens that wander our yard.  We also discovered a nice playground about a half a block away so we are starting to get to know some of the families in this little area.

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Our backyard with some fruit trees (bananas, guanábana (soursop) and limón)
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Front patio and mountain views!
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Second floor views
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Our kitchen and mini fridge

 

Watching the rains come in from the front patio

Roadtripping…Arenal and La Fortuna

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We’ve been busy moving into a new house and a few visits with the doctors but things are settling down now, so I wanted to share a bit of our trip over the Costa Rican Independence Day (September 15th) long weekend. We are hoping to visit many different parts of the country while we’re here, and so this first adventure took us to the Arenal area which includes the town of La Fortuna located at the base of Arenal Volcano. I had been there a couple of times before on previous trips as it’s quite a popular tourist area, but it was a first for the rest of the family, and it did not disappoint!  It was about a 2 and a 1/2 hour drive north of Atenas along narrow windy mountain roads with beautiful vistas at each turn…though also sometimes harrowing with cars trying to pass each other on these hilly roads.  The area offers fantastic hiking, horseback riding, zip lining and canopy tours, wildlife viewing, hot springs and more!

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La Fortuna waterfall

Our AirBnB house was about 3km out of town on a dirt road with views of the volcano from our front porch. It was perfect…and our hosts Lidiana and Eddie were the sweetest couple and made sure we were making the most of our time.

The first night Eddie invited us to come watch the sloth he had rescued (which they named “bodoque” which in this part of the world roughly translates to ‘small cute round thing’) come down from the tree and eat her dinner. It was AMAZING!  Who gets to see a sloth in the wild lumber slowly from her comfy spot up in the tree down the branch and hang out directly in front of us to eat her dinner?!  I think the sloth seems a pretty good representation of the Tico culture – very chill. The kids were excited to learn that sloths only go to the ground to pee and poop so that was the topic of conservation for most of the remainder of the night. We also found a bunch of frogs and toads with Eddie’s help in our little yard (Oscar was thrilled), and he even went and found a Red Eyed Tree Frog and brought it to the house to show us.  I didn’t realize how camouflaged they are when they are not moving – we had to wake him up to see the red eyes and feet.  It seemed like we were in an infomercial for visiting Costa Rica!

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Two toed sloth “Bodoque” enjoying flowers for dinner

 

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Red Eyed Tree Frog!
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Sleepy red eyed tree frog

The next day we visited La Fortuna Waterfall and hiked all the way to the bottom and enjoyed a dip in the refreshing pool at the base of the falls. You could even see trout in the water it was so clear. I was impressed by how beautiful the park was and how well-maintained the trail was, and even more impressed that Oscar hiked back UP the 500 steps without needing any piggy back rides. Even Alice hiked most of the way back up! People, these are major milestones for us! We are excited that they enjoy hiking and being in nature…though Alice does get freaked out about ‘buggies’ every now and then.

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Our little hiker wanted a picture taken of herself.

Our last adventure for the weekend was a visit to the natural hot springs.  With the volcano nearby, there are many hot springs in the area and some beautiful hot spring resorts that you can pay to visit and enjoy (i.e. Baldi, Tabacón) hopping from pool to pool figuring out which temperature suits you best. They are super nice and most offer lunch or dinner as well so people can spend the majority of a day there. Many of the hotels even pipe in the warm water to their pools. However, we opted for the free hot springs across the street from Tabacón rather than shelling out about $100 for the four of us to spend an hour or two swimming at one of the nicer places. What a little gem this was! We went in without any expectations and found a little oasis of mostly Tico families enjoying a lazy Sunday wading and relaxing in the river that conveniently offers tons of small pools for everyone to have their now little slice of relaxation. Next time, we’ll bring lunch and some cold beverages so we can spend a bit more time there!

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La Fortuna – parque
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Majestic Arenal
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Chilaxin in the natural hot springs

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Explorer in training
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Oscar named his new friends “nippy” and “fluffy”

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