There is a first time for everything. My trip to Costa Rica marked my first time doing several things. For starters, it was my first time ever traveling outside of the United States.
I got my passport specially for this trip and for me, that was an accomplishment in of itself. I love new experiences, but I was not always this eager to step outside of my comfort zone. Like Rumi said, "When you step out on the way, the way appears." I find this to be true.
After my experience not only do I want to share it with you, but also let you in on the things to do when you go to Costa Rica, particularly the Province of Guanacaste. Let's talk food, culture, activities and so much more.
Before arriving, I was so excited for the culture and change of pace. Well, I got exactly what I was looking for. They have a little saying there called "Pura Vida" and they use it as a greeting or farewell. It's like saying, "take it easy" or "take care." It's direct translation is "pure life." I learned that the phrase originated from a film titled Pura Vida that came to Costa Rica from Mexico in 1956. In the movie, there is a character who has eternal optimism even though he can not seem to do anything right. My interpretation of the phrase is to live simply and no matter what your situation may be, embrace it, love it, be gracious, and ultimately overflow with gratitude and optimism and everything will be fine. The people of the country emanate this. They are so chill and relaxed all of the time. It's as if nothing bothers them; as if they know, it will, in fact all be fine. They live a simple and pure life and accept things as they come. It is, I believe, a very powerful tool. This trip alone has reshaped my mind and I have experienced first hand how others around the world live life and how it compares to me as an American. When the focus is materials we may never feel like we have enough, especially when we get to comparing ourselves to others. When visiting another country, it feels like you have too much, for me and for some others who I have talked to.
Costa Ricans mostly eat sweet fried plantains and what they call "gallo pinto" (rice & beans) - I don't know why they call it this when "gallo" means rooster, but they do. While I did enjoy a lot of the traditional foods, staying in Tamarindo also exposed me to a lot of restaurants with less traditional foods and a more "L.A. beach vibe."
The Ocean Restaurant turned out to be the perfect every day spot. It is conveniently situated directly on the beach and it's the perfect way to get some WiFi and shade while still enjoying the sand and ocean. The ceviche was so good. After ordering it the first time, I had to go back for more the next day. The Strawberry Daiquiri and the Strawberry Bellini were my go-to. Give me more pretty please, with a star fruit on top?
We waited here out looking the Pacific Ocean until the horses came by so we could meet them for the first time and take them for a trot on the beach. We rode them to Playa Langosta and back. Tamarindo is 2.1 kilometers from Langosta, so almost a mile and a half. Horseback riding specifically on the beach has always been a dream of mine. Being an LA Native, I do not really get the chance to do that very often. I was so lucky to be able to spend time with the horses on three separate occasions. It was everything I had imagined and more. A horseback ride from a local man in Tamarindo will only cost you $20 for an hour. Imagine that.
And while you lay out in the hot sun make sure you grab one of the guys walking around to buy a coconut from - so refreshing!
Also, Green Papaya is such a cute spot. Swing on the swings while you eat your lunch and sip lavender mint lemonade and tangerine beer too!
Grab a bite to eat and drink at Tamarindo's best bar hands down, Wild Panda. the blackberry frozen mojito and the watermelon frozen mojito are everything. 2 for 1 happy hour.. As for food, I had the cilantro sea bass with veggies and coconut rice - a winner in my book; true sweet & savory dish with a nice blend of flavors. After a chugging brain freeze challenge with your friend go for a sunset horseback stroll in the mountains. So much fun and so beautiful.
I enjoyed my very first time on a sail boat with Marlin Del Rey Sailing Tours. We got the tickets same day and the boat boarded right out of Tamarindo Beach. Super easy. The sunset tour is from 1:30 PM - 6:00 PM and we shared the boat with about 15 others while we danced, ate, and drank. Open bar and lunch - uhh yes! score! I was loving my mojitos. We met a really cool couple from London, shout out Kate and Daryl! Also, I got the chance to see a huge Manta Ray. For an hour and a half the boat stops and allows for swimming and snorkeling. We did not get to snorkel due to high winds, but it was a beautiful boat tour nonetheless.
It was nice to venture outside of Tamarindo and experience the authenticity of Costa Rica. Often on our drives we stopped to buy fruit, look at the pottery for sale, and ask for directions So we got lost a few times, no biggie. The locals were always very polite and willing to help right away despite the language barrier.
Playa Conchal is a 45 minute drive north of Tamarindo. It is a beach with much more privacy. My favorite was seeing the ceramic talavera tiles that were layed.
Don't forget to stop at a local authentic food joint. I wish I had more than once. Great huevos rancheros and the fresca soda was a delight. The food spot happened to belong to a wife and husband who we met the night before in their souvenir shop. Really genuine -great people.
If you can, head to Nicoya and attend a fiesta with the locals to watch bull riding, enjoy food, and dance to the music.
The local bakery spot is where everyone stops before they go to school and work. It's like our Starbucks. They had some really yummy sweets there and coffee. The smell still lingers when I think about it. Mmmm!
Home sweet home. Can't forget our little condo that was located dead center of the Tamarindo Village of shops, restaurants, and bars. Pueblo Del Mar was the perfect Airbnb! Also available on VRBO/Homeaway. Thank you to our host Courtney!
The shops are really cool. Some of the handmade things I came back with for my family are shark tooth necklaces for my brothers, a bongo for my mother, which is sentimental, because her dad would play the bongos in the house when she was growing up. I bought a domino set for my father. I got rain sticks for my nieces and a bowl, para mi. Both which are made of cocobolo - A tropical hardwood of Central American trees.
Annnnd... Tamarindo is the best beach in Costa Rica for surf lessons due to the gentle waves. An hour lesson will only cost you $20. Thanks to our instructor JC, and I quote, "not like the rapper."
Rincon De La Vieja National Park - this place is basically a natural water park. I'm talking Six Flags, Disneyland, and Raging Waters combined. When we arrived, we went straight to zip lining. We skipped rock climbing and we sat down to have a beautiful lunch prepared by the staff members with gallo pinto, fish, salad, sweet plantains, soup, and watermelon agua fresca. From lunch we were led to the horses where we were taken for yet another horseback ride, which led us to our two wonderful river rafting tour guides who took us on an amazing journey through the rapids. The river led us to our next activity where we stepped foot into the sauna room and then covered our bodies in mud, and relaxed in the hot springs. All of this for only $75 per person. Thanks again to surfing instructor JC for the low cost. Ahh-ma-zing!