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 fr√≠a (cold coconut water), fresh fruit smoothies, pizza, bagels, burgers and even gelato. Prices are a bit steep and most prices in dollars ūüė¶ 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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Making Memories at Manuel Antonio National Park

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While we were staying near Playa Bejuco over the week of Christmas with the fam, we all decided to make the one hour drive and enjoy a day in Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (Manuel Antonio National Park), an extremely popular tourist destination in Costa Rica for lots of good reasons.

It’s actually the smallest national park in the country, but the most visited due to its beautiful white sand beaches and abundant wildlife that is often easy to spot. In fact, some of the monkeys are known for steeling bags and opening backpacks to get to the snacks which we saw happen. Apparently, Pringle cans are banned as the monkeys know what they contain and the park is trying to ensure that the monkeys stick to their normal diet.¬†The park is located two hours from San Jos√© on the Pacific Coast just south of the town of Quepos.

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White faced capuchin monkey

We opted to forego a local guide (we’d been here in January and discovered that as the park is so popular, there are large guided groups stopping everywhere to look at something), though they do often have a spotting scope which is very helpful because so it’s much easier to see the sloths and monkeys that are high up in the trees.

We walked to one of the four beaches in the park, Manuel Antonio Beach (also the most popular as it’s good for swimming and closest to the entrance), and spent some time relaxing on the beach and swimming. Oscar just learned to swim that week in the pool without any type of float or life jacket and he did an awesome job practicing in the ocean here with Uncle Keith, Auntie Annie and Grandpa. A couple of us also checked out Espadilla Sur Beach which is just behind Manuel Antonio Beach and much less busy. There are also other trails in the park which you can hike to see a waterfall and at least one of the other beaches, but we’ve yet to check them out (the heat and humidity and two little ones makes that tricky). ūüôā

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Beautiful Playa Manuel Antonio

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As far as wildlife, we saw lots of seemingly fearless capuchin monkeys, a couple of sloths,  two chestnut-mandibled toucans, parrots, red land crabs and Oscar found an interesting salamander-type animal on the edge of the path. We even saw one sloth moving from one tree to another right next to the path near the entrance and quite low to the ground so that was very special. And Oscar was happy to discover his favorite monkey, cute little squirrel monkeys, on our walk back to the car outside of the park.

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Oscar’s discovery

After enjoying our time in sun, we headed back but had to make a pit stop and enjoy some cool ‘pipa fr√≠a’ (cold coconut water) sold at many of the stands just outside the park, It was SO refreshing after the being in the sun for so long!

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Selfie success…with everyone except dad

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We then headed to El Avión, a cool restaurant built around a C-123 Fairchild cargo plane with amazing ocean views, for a well deserved lunch before heading back to our oasis up the coast.

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Oscar and Alice at the controls…hold on tight!

 

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!

Road Trip to the Caribbean!

We spent last weekend celebrating Dad’s birthday on the Caribbean coast¬†of Costa Rica in the relaxed beach town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and surrounding tiny coastal towns of Cahuita and Manzanillo.

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The 115 mile trip took us SIX HOURS (that included about an hour for lunch)! Yes, it is slowwwwwww going on these roads. We had to skirt around San José (yet still got caught in traffic) and then climb through the mountains and into the clouds of Braulio Carrillo National Park topping out at about 5,300 feet before heading down to the eastern lowlands,

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The blue bags protect the bananas from bugs and being damaged.

banana and pineapple plantations and finally arriving at the Caribbean coast. Most of the route is two lanes and it’s especially slow when you’re behind large semi trucks in the mountains and also going through a few mile very congested stretch of road just outside of the port city of Lim√≥n which is full of semis and commercial shipping / sea container yards (Chiquita and Del Monte among them). ¬†But we eventually made it to our lovely beach home for the weekend.

 

Our first adventure was to Cahuita National Park, Dad’s birthday choice, where we enjoyed a beautiful¬†hike that ran parallel to the coast and saw iguanas, sloths, beautiful flora and a picturesque coastline! We were hoping to swim and snorkel here but unfortunately the water was quite rough due to a coming storm so we really didn’t get to swim.

The tiny town of Cahuita had a very chill vibe with lots of local characters and color!

 

Puerto Viejo is one of the larger towns in the area and we were surprised at the number of tourists and expats that lived there, as well as all of the English spoken and prices in USD. That was quite a change from Atenas! ¬†We had some fabulous meals (Madre Tierra is a must for fancy tropical cocktails and dinner on the second floor, Chile Rojo had yummy sushi and Pan Pay offered delicious pastries) and enjoyed a little shopping here too as the weather wasn’t so conducive to outdoor activities.

 

We also visited the Jaguar Rescue Center¬†which was awesome and we highly recommend it for anyone traveling to the Puerto Viejo area. The center takes in injured or sick animals and their goal is to rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild.¬†There aren’t any jaguars there today, but the center began when a sick baby jaguar was brought to the home of the eventual founders after its mother had been killed by farmers. There are a lot of sad stories of injury and abuse (sadly, many stories due to humans) but most animals are eventually released. However, there are a few that are permanent residents including a margay (member of the cat family) and a crocodile that had been abused. The center is mostly volunteer run (with the exception of two veterinarians) and offers small group tours at 9:30 and 11:30am every day. We were able to see baby sloths and monkeys and get closeups of two types of toucans that live in Costa Rica, the Keel-billed Toucan and the Chestnut Mandibled Toucan.

 

We were hoping to spend some good time at the beaches, but with the storm and huge waves, we instead enjoyed quality time relaxing. We did drive south along the coast along some beautiful stretches of coast to the town at the end of the road, Manzanillo. I loved the feel of this town – authentic, colorful and laid-back! Hoping we’ll get back here one day to further explore the area and do some hiking in Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. Here are some of the colorful quaint homes in Manzanillo:

 

and a few more photos for good measure. ha!

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Special beverages!
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My sweet boy
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Coconut oil for sale was popular in the area. We had to stop of course!
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‘thatch for sale for roofs’

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First Impressions

Hey all, so this is our first post about our upcoming adventure. So Palmer and I have decided to quit our jobs and sell our house in the Boston area, and move our family (Oscar is almost 5 and Alice is 2) to Costa Rica for a year. ¬†Whoa…a little crazy, right? ¬†I thought so too at first, but it’s now so exciting and we’re well on our way to making it all happen. ¬†The countdown is on as we leave in just 11 days! Pretty surreal.

We first discovered Costa Rica as a family for a short visit in January 2017. ¬†We spent some time checking out some authentic Tico towns in the Central Valley before heading to the Pacific Coast and exploring Manuel Antonio National Park. What an amazing few days it was – from unique mountain towns surrounded by coffee and banana plantations and beautiful vistas at every turn to the warm waters of the coast with forests filled with monkeys, sloths and scarlet macaws. ¬†This experience confirmed our decision that Costa Rica was definitely the place where we wanted to spend at least a year being immersed in a new culture, spending more time together as a family and slowing down the pace of our hectic lives. It was of course just a short vacation, but we are so excited to experience a deeper connection, improve our Spanish, watch the kids grow and be part of a different culture, and be active members of a local community. ¬†See below a bunch of photos from our exploratory trip. ¬†Stay tuned for what we’ve done since January to prepare for taking the big leap!