Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pura Vida, Baby!

Greetings from Costa Rica!

Well, technically I should say "greetings from an airplane quickly carrying me away from Costa Rica."

As with most of my well-laid plans, my intention to blog during my vacation to Costa Rica quickly got lost in the ether of too much relaxation and pure laziness. So you're going to have to make due with my days later recollections. But I have my handy guidebook to help me with all the details and I promise to show you lots of fun pictures to make up for any lapse in memory.

This trip kind of occurred by accident--as much as a week-long vacation to Costa Rica can be said to take place by "accident." Basically what I mean is the trip wasn't a result of months of planning by me as per usual, but instead I was invited along with a friend and his parents. Turns out some friends of theirs had built a house in Costa Rice by Playa Hermosa ("beautiful beach") and they were able to rent the home at a great price. Since there were only three of them planning to go, they were kind enough to extend the invite to include me.

We set out on a freezing Wednesday morning from DC and after two three hour flights (with a connection in Miama) we arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica around noon. I spent most of those flights reminding myself of all the reasons why taking a flight at 6 in the morning had been a good idea. It was hardest at 3:45 in the morning when the alarm clock went off. But in any event, we arrived safe and sound, and the weather was a sunny and balmy 85 degrees. A strong breeze kept it from getting too hot and I liked this place already.

Before I get into details of where we stayed, how about some basic info on Costa Rica? The unofficial national motto is "Pura vida" which means pure life. It refers to taking enjoyment in every aspect of life, especially simple and relaxing things like a cold beer on a hot day or a goal scored by your favorite sports team.

Costa Rica is the most stable of all Latin American countries; it has no standing army (exxxxcellent) and has had a stable democratic government for over 100 years. It has a high standard of living compared to most Latin American countries. The people here are all friendly and really helpful, and at least in the areas we travelled, everyone spoke English. In fact, most of the restaurants and shops had prices listed in dollars and accepted American money. Basically, it's really easy to be an American tourist.

The area we stayed in is called the Guanacaste region (or Gold Coast) and gets its name from the large indigenous tree, the Guanacaste (duh). It's located in the north west part of the country, across the border from Nicaragua and has beautiful beaches on the Pacific Ocean. It also has a lot of volcanoes, and next time I visit (trust me, there will be a next time) I want to do some hiking in the volcanic national parks.

We traveled here during the dry season (November-April) and had no rain. In fact each day was pretty much the same; bright sun, little clouds, and temperatures getting up to 90--but with a strong breeze that kept you from getting too hot. It was perfect beach weather, and we took advantage of it by visiting five separate beaches.

Alrighty, now that you know some of the basics, let's talk about our house. It was called Casa de Viento (House of the Winds) and was built on a large hill-top overlooking Playa Hermosa, the Pacific, and Nicaragua. You could even see the chain of volcanoes in the distance, although their tops were shrouded in clouds.

The view from the front of the house

Casa de Viento!

The house was part of a gated community of similar vacation homes. It was about 30 minutes from the airport and only 5 minutes from the small town of Playa Hermosa. About 10 minutes down the road was the larger town and beach of Playa de Coco where we made almost daily trips to the large supermarket (auto merkado). Hey, you almost always need another bottle of wine or another box of Kraft mac and cheese, right?

The house was thoroughly modern, with AC, nice bathrooms, a two story back deck, and a nice little pool that was cold but felt amazing after being in the sun all day. Our first and last day we spent being completely lazy; laying around the pool, soaking in the sun, and reading. There was a nice tv and DVD hook-up, but to be honest we spent most of the time reading rather than watching tv. There were only about 4 english stations--but never fear, I managed to find Law and Order.

It was almost surprising how little time it took us to get acclimated to the laid-back lifestyle. Coming from DC where everything is go go go, you would think that we might need some time to learn how to slow down, but nope. As soon as we walked into the house it was like we all let out a collective sigh and immediately relaxed. When in Rome, er Costa Rica...Pura Vida!

Side view of the pool with some really neat cactus.

Sunset at Playa de Coco.

Coming up next: Playa de Conchal and Playa de Coco!

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