Tamarindo, Costa Rica — a surf town / tourist village on the northern coast of Guanacaste. A co-worker and good friend of mine had been several times and was willing to show me around so I could have the non-tourist tourist experience that we all want. Because we booked the trip some six months in advance, I didn’t prepare at all. It was only on the flight from Miami to Liberia, CR that it occurred to me that learning a few phrases in Spanish might have been helpful.
Not researching Costa Rica was a deliberate, if futile, attempt to vacation. I had just wrapped up a stressful couple of months working on projects that I couldn’t leave at the office on the weekends, and I knew after this break, I’d jump right back into it for another several months. I didn’t realize how easy it was going to be to leave it all behind. Tamarindo is one of several little towns dotting the coastline. A quick drive in any direction lead us down mostly potholed roads — some unpaved (as the bumpy jaunt into Playa Avellana) and some paved with thick cement (as the hilly drive into Playa Danta) – to incredible beaches and small towns not entirely overrun with tourists and resorts.
I was surprised at the number of expats who’d travelled to Costa Rica on the pretense of surfing and never left. In a single day, I too joined the masses in search of Costa Rica’s legendary pura vida – “the good life.” It was, admittedly, easy because we had no agenda. We had a car, money from decent American jobs to pay for local and imported food, and seemingly limitless time to bask on beaches, give people carrying heavy bags a ride from town to town, indulge local attraction-offerers with our undivided attention and watch Orange Is the New Black at night when the rain kept us from attempting the rocky and incredibly muddy journey into town. It’s a privilege to be a tourist in a place like Central America, where only a few hundred miles away, my co-worker had recently completed mission work.
We stayed at an incredible at a studio-style complex called Casa Bambora, owned and operated by an American expat named Joey. I search for words to describe it other than “incredible” and am at a loss – the views (a 360 view of mountains and beaches), the pool and outdoor kitchen, the hammocks and private balconies were unlike any place I’ve stayed before and on days with the rainy season would cast a shadow over our outdoor excursions, we filled up bags at the Auto Mercado, and cooked and talked with our neighbors all night.
On the day we decided to trek out to the Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio (10°40′23″N 85°0′54″W) it was rainy and a little muggy, allegedly perfect weather for volcano hiking. Although we were ready to hike, we had an ulterior motive: to see the famed Rio Celeste, a river that has literally turned blue due to the chemical reaction of sulfur (from the volcano) and calcium carbonate (precipitation from rain). The Buena Vista and Roble rivers merge at Borbollones, where the newly blue river flows over rocks and an incredible catarata, or waterfall.
It was easily the most extensive hike I’ve ever been on and exactly as breath-taking as we thought it would be – excellent, considering our little rental car barely made it up the steep and rocky road to the ranger’s lodge and we turned down a guide (an extra $30) to take on the muddy path on our own. Needless to say, at the end of our hike (3 hours+), we were tired, hungry and ready for a day at the beach.
Part II to come…