A Week in Dreamy Nosara

After our 4 night stay in Santa Teresa, we headed to Nosara, which is farther north up the coast on the Nicoya Peninsula. You would think there would be a nice road along the coast, but no, this is remote Costa Rica folks. There is a coastal road, but you need 4-wheel drive (which we have) and even then, it’s really not advisable during rainy season (which it is now) as you would need to cross multiple rivers and the conditions really depend on the recent rainfall. We decided to take the longer and supposedly safer route back across the peninsula and then back again to the Pacific Coast. Well, it was still quite an adventure and took about 4 hours, and STILL we had to ford a few rivers. I can’t imagine what the other route would have looked like!

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Just as it started raining, we arrived here. Palmer waded into the water to make sure it didn’t go above knee level before we attempted the crossing. Thankfully all went smoothly and we were pretty proud of our crossing river savviness.

We enjoyed traveling through beautiful rural areas and the Tico towns of Jicaral and Nicoya. Lots of green and lots of hills!

We finally arrived at our little casita in Nosara as close as you can get to Playa Guiones and felt like we were in heaven! The beach is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen in all of Costa Rica. A long stretch of white sand beach backed by green foliage, with surfers bobbing in the water at all hours of the day. There is no development on the beach so there are a few short paths that take you from the road to the beach.

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One of the jungle paths to the beach
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And then you arrive here!

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We spent a full week here in Nosara and fell in love with the area. It was hot and humid, but when you wake up to howler monkeys almost every morning and the beach is a 5 minute walk away, what’s not to like?! The town of Nosara is actually located a few kilometers inland and is a typical Tico town which I appreciated as it seemed to retain its traditional feel. It felt a world away from the more developed beach areas of Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada which are increasingly popular with foreign tourists. The whole area still feels off the beaten track and it’s all dirt roads, but nice hotels, excellent restaurants and holiday homes are popping up in many areas along the beach or in the hills just a bit farther away so I expect a lot is going to change in the coming years.

Here are a few of our highlights from the week:

Surf Lessons and Boogie-Boarding at Playa Guiones

Surf is what Nosara is all about as it has such a consistent break, and what’s cool is that it’s for surfers of all levels! Oscar had a blast learning to surf with his new buddy Chico.

Hanging Out at Playa Pelada

Playa Pelada is another beach just north of Guiones and has more of a local flavor. It also has a couple of restaurants right on the beach which was great for lunch with a view to watch the surfers.

Snorkeling in Tide Pools at Playa Guiones

Tide pool are pretty awesome anywhere, but at low tide on Playa Guiones there are a couple of spots where you can actually snorkel in crystal clear water as it’s protected by some rocky areas. We even saw a couple of octopi!

Good Food (and drinks of course!)

There is something for everyone here: typical Costa Rican sodas, fish tacos, shrimp and avocado salads, pipa fría (cold coconut water), fresh fruit smoothies, pizza, bagels, burgers and even gelato. Prices are a bit steep and most prices in dollars 😦 but the quality overall was VERY good.

Searching for Sea Turtles

Our whole visit to Nosara was initially planned so that we could visit nearby Ostional Turtle Refuge and hopefully see an arribada of Olive Ridley sea turtles which arrive by the thousands (!!) to nest about once a month around the new moon from July through November. Well, we planned our trip accordingly but unfortunately the turtles arrived about a week early and we missed it. We were BUMMED, but we did still visit the beach and saw some baby leatherback turtles being released to the ocean by a volunteer group.

Fishing

Oscar and Palmer enjoyed a fishing adventure with a local fisherman and had a blast catching jacks and even a yellowfin tuna which we enjoyed as sashimi for dinner. YUM! Thanks boys!

Sunsets

Best time of the day!

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Colorful Cacao to Delectable Chocolate

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What better way to follow up a coffee tour blog than to post about CHOCOLATE (another of my staple indulgences)! Palmer and I went to a cool place called Choco Tour the other day located in La Garita, Costa Rica (about 20 minutes from both Atenas and the San José airport) which offers an informative hour and a half tour about the cacao plant and fruit, how the cacao is processed to produce chocolate and the history of chocolate dating from Pre-Columbian times.

We were the only ones for the 11am tour so we enjoyed a private tour with our guide Óscar who was very informative and passionate about everything chocolate related. He showed us some of the cacao plants, explained where they grow (i.e. rainy, tropical areas such as the Arenal and Limon regions of Costa Rica), and we then tasted the sweet white pulp surrounding the seeds of a mature cacao fruit. It was delicious!

He then explained how they dry the seeds which takes about 3 weeks before they are able to remove the skin and grind the cacao into a powder which is then used to make chocolate. We learned all about how chocolate evolved in Europe from a tasty beverage to bars of chocolate after being brought to the continent from the New World in the 16th century.

We then poured our own 75% cacao mix into molds and were able to choose our own ‘extras’ of almonds, sea salt and/or chile flakes, which we later enjoyed at the end of the tour. YUM!

In the final part of the tour, Óscar explained the ancient history of cacao, what it meant to the Mayans and Aztecs, and how they used it. The word ‘chocolate‘ is said to come from the Mayan word ‘xocolatl’ which means ‘bitter water.’ At that time, they did not have sugar to sweeten it so it was very bitter.

The Aztecs saw the cacao seed as a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. It was served as a drink, cold, and mixed with spices such as anise, vanilla, paprika, and pepper that only the rulers, shamans, warriors and honored guests were able to enjoy. In fact, cacao became so valuable in Aztec society, more than gold or silver, that the beans were used as a form of currency.

Of course Choco Tour sells some of their own chocolate bars and specialty items so we had to buy a few Costa Rican chocolate treats to take home. The sugar-coated toasted cacao seeds are especially unique and delicious!

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If you’re ever near San José or the airport and looking to fill a couple hours, check them out!

Chillin’ in Esterillos Oeste

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Soda Margarita

We spent a week on the Pacific Coast over Christmas at a beautiful home with mom and dad and Keith and Annie and enjoyed lots of pool and beach time and exploring a few nearby towns (Uvita and Manuel Antonio). The closest town to our rental home was Esterillos Oeste, a super chill small town laid out on dirt roads right along the beach with a few restaurants, a small grocery store and a couple places offering surfboard and boogie board rentals. It’s about 20 minutes south of the popular surf town of Jaco. We had stopped here once before a few months ago just to check it out quickly, but finally made it back this time to soak it all in.

At low tide, tide pools appear at the northern end of the beach along with La Sirena, a statue of a mermaid gazing out to sea..kind of random, but kind of cool. Supposedly, no one knows how it got there. The beach has some good waves but it’s shallow for a ways out so it’s fun for swimming and boogie boarding (we all had a ball trying to catch the waves – Oscar is quite a pro now!), and popular for surfing too (Keith was stoked to catch some rad barrels). Ha!

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Treasure hunting
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Ice cream and granizado (like a snow cone but better) vendor on the beach
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La Sirena

We also enjoyed a delicious lunch at Soda Margarita which came recommended by a local, but finding it was half the fun. After starting off along the road and then walking along the beach for awhile looking for a ‘little pathway’ just beyond ‘La Sirena’ statue, we had to stop and ask a few people along the way to find this hidden family-run place. We finally arrived after inadvertently crossing a few backyards and were pleasantly surprised by the casual and friendly atmosphere and delicious traditional meals, pescado entero (whole fish) and arroz con camarones (rice with shrimp) to name a few, along with their fresh fruit juices.  The kids were entertained trying to crack open a coconut they had found as well playing with all the animals (kittens, dogs and parrots) at the home.

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Pescado Entero (whole fish) with patacones (fried plantains), rice and salad
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A coconut entertaining the kids

More adventures from our Christmas week coming soon! Happy New Year!