Super Moons, Earthquakes and Thunderstorms on the Rich Coast

Rainy season in Costa RicaIt’s been a wild few weeks here in the sleepy little town of San Juanillo.  One rainy afternoon there was a lightning storm and we swear the bolt hit our main building.  We were sitting in the office and the zap of the light and A/C was a sound we’ve never heard before.  Then the power went out for about 18 hours.  From there, the internet really never came back on but the internet company never came out.  We had no internet for over 10 days!  Talk about going mental in the jungle!

And it should be noted that when the electricity goes out, so does the water.  So no electricity, no water, no internet.  I could probably do without electricity and water as long as I had internet.  God please don’t take away my internet!

Other incredible storms have passed through the last few days that have brought lightning every 15-20 seconds for what seems like hours on end!  You really begin to wonder if the rain is ever going to stop falling!

Then last weekend was the “Super Moon” and I did a little reading up on it a few days before.  The article I read said that it can cause earthquakes and other natural disasters and I thought…Nah, that’s not going to really happen.  But at 2 p.m. on the day of the Super Moon, we had two 5+ earthquakes plus several aftershocks centered about 30 miles from where I live.  All the while it was pouring down rain.  At one point, I could no longer tell if there was an aftershock or if it was just thunder shaking the open air building I was working in.

There’s a girl here teaching English to the Hacienda del Sol staff and local people in town who is from Australia.  After the second 5+ earthquake, she left her room and came up to the dining hall to find me and say…Wow, I nearly had a heart attack!  Coming from California, I forget how scary earthquakes can be for those who have never experienced them!  Especially when they successively hit within minutes of one another.  And you’re in a termite-ridden building that you’re not totally sure is structurally sound.

Living in Costa Rica is never dull…that’s for sure!

Pura vida…Chrissy

Traditional Costa Rican Empanadas

Making Costa Rican Empanadas 1During my travels last month, I had a 6 a.m. flight out of San Jose the morning I flew to Bocas del Toro in Panama.  So I arrived the day before and stayed at a friend’s house.  Which is when I had my first, freshly made Costa Rican empanada.  She told me that the empanadas I can get in Tamarindo are not the same as the ones she was preparing.  The ones in Tamarindo are made by people from Argentina and I think they differ because the traditional Costa Rican empanadas are made with corn flour and the ones from Argentina are made with wheat flour.

It seemed like within only a few minutes, she had mixed the ingredients together and was forming them into little balls that she then flattened out and filled with a basic white cheese (probably Turrialba cheese) and then folded them over in half and placed them in the pan that was lightly coated with oil.

And pronto, the empanadas were complete and we enjoyed them with a cup of tea. (Remember, it’s cold in San Jose – hot tea is a must when visiting there!).

Costa Rican Empanadas 2

Be sure to try a traditional empanada on your next Costa Rican vacation!

Pura vida…Chrissy

They Paved Paradise…

Entering Jaco, Costa Rica Joni Mitchell wrote in “Big Yellow Taxi”…

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

And every time I drive through or fly over Jaco on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast, this song’s lyrics always play over and over in my head.  Jaco and Tamarindo both have offensive coastlines…no wonder it’s rare to see a turtle hatching at either beach.Jaco Skyline

There’s a saying here in Costa Rica of “ask for forgiveness, not for permission“.  And it’s unfortunate, because had more time been taken to develop a city plan and had these buildings been constructed with less stories and painted to blend in with the environment, perhaps it wouldn’t have made for such an obnoxious skyline.  And maybe more turtles would come to lay their eggs above the high tide line.

And don’t even get me started on the Riu Hotel – completely disgusted by the construction of this atrocious hotel on Costa Rica’s Papagayo Peninsula.  When they built the hotel, they violated multiple environmental regulations and destroyed eco systems.  The little activist in me wants to go to their beach just so I can fight with the security guard when he tries to kick me out.  All beaches are public in Costa Rica but the Riu seems to think they own this one.

Riu hotel in Papagayo, Costa Rica

Pura vida…Chrissy

Leaving Neverland…Entering The Jungle Book

A few weeks ago, I moved from my two story loft condo in Playa Langosta to a bungalow at Hacienda del Sol in San Juanillo. Always I knew that the Tamarindo area would not be my permanent place of residence here in Costa Rica and when the opportunity arose to work with the owners at Hacienda del Sol in growing their Wellness Center, I knew this was what I had been waiting for.

Tamarindo is a party town with all kinds of ongoing drama – opposite of what my lifestyle actually is.  While I’m a super social person and love to be around people, I’m not into drinking or drugs or partying until the sun rises.  Which makes Hacienda del Sol the perfect place because it provides me with a weekly group of people who are coming to rejuvenate their bodies, minds and spirits.  There’s no alcohol, cigarettes or drugs on the property as people are here to heal and reconnect with themselves and others through healthy means.

Hacienda del Sol Wellness Center raw food

Every day, I’m provided with three delicious raw food meals and scrumptious raw desserts.  I’m able to interact with the staff and the guests and get to know so many different backgrounds and lives.  My entire work day is spent outside in the open air.  And when I want to rest, I can just walk a few feet to my bungalow and lounge on the hammock enjoying the howler monkeys and the peace and stillness of the natural world surrounding me.

Playa San Juanillo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Yes, it’s different living in the jungle but the small town of San Juanillo is only 1 km away and there are two beautiful beaches (one white sand and one black sand) within walking distance as well as many hiking trails.  Nosara/Playa Guiones is only a 30 minute drive (as long as the rivers are passable) and Ostional, where the turtle arribadas happen every year, is only 7km away.  This year, I’m for sure going to the arribada!

What’s a little bizarre is how my diverse background in yoga and wellness as well as property management and sustainability fits right into the needs of the Center.  I’m so excited for this new opportunity, it’s like all the puzzle pieces finally fit.

A new chapter now begins…and I’m excited to learn and grow in this beautiful, holistic and nurturing environment.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Swimming with Sharks and Other Snorkeling Tales of the Caribbean

DSC00889I love the gigantic redwoods and the monster waves at Mavericks, but the rich coral gardens located under the sea…I honestly don’t know if anything in the world can compare to their impressive beauty.  I think that Dr. Seuss must have been an avid snorkeler.  When I’m swimming around coral gardens, I always think of his stories and the wild, colorful characters he created and imagine that he took some of his inspiration from the coral reefs found in our planet’s tropical regions.

Like I mentioned in the last post, I was able to go snorkeling all 3 days that I was in Panama.  And fortunately, the weather held out for us and the sun even popped out a few times, making the water even that much more clear!

In the Bocas del Toro archipelago, there are 10 main islands and over 200 smaller islands.  There are also indigenous communities, one of which I visited on my first trip there.

We saw a vast array of fish swimming around us all three days, some small, some quite large…like the nursing shark that swam past me on our second day.  I was the only one in the water and I couldn’t decide if I should take the photo or get the heck out of the water.  But as you can see…I got the photo.  I would later find out that it’s rare for this type of shark to attack humans but of course, when you’re actually in the water and there’s no access to google, it’s probably better to err on the side of caution (so do as I say, not as I do!).

Nursing shark

The other guests were snorkeling pros and taught me about the types of coral and fish we were seeing. I loved the two types of parrot fish, the sea fan and the angel fish.  And I appreciated learning about the fire coral – not exactly a coral but if you touch it, it will sting and cause you great pain.  While I always try to avoid touching coral because it’s a living organism and touching can harm it, now I have even more of a reason to avoid it!

My favorite snorkeling spot in Bocas del Toro is Cayo Coral.  Stunning coral and fish exist there.  And because we’re in the low season, it was really only me and the two other guests for the most part!  We also went to a few other places that were interesting and different but really, I would have been happy if we had just stayed at Cayo Coral for all three days.  There was one location that we dropped in at that was much deeper than the other more shallow locations and it gave us a view of much larger fish and gigantic coral specimens.

There wasn’t much current in the Cay’s which is nice as you don’t really have to worry about being pushed into a reef and can instead just float/swim around at your leisure.  Since I don’t wear fins (or a snorkel for that matter), I was working extra hard to avoid scratching my feet along the reefs and was using my yoga breath to dive down a lot more than normal but it was worth it for the photos and videos I was able to get.  Visit my Facebook page to watch the video!

Snorkeling in the Caribbean is a truly awesome experience…highly recommend it for an underwater travel adventure!

Enjoy the slideshow…

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Pura vida…Chrissy

Adventures in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Dolphins in Bocas del Toro, PanamaIt’s been a super busy few weeks and so I’m going to have to play a little catch up to get you all up to speed!  First, I have to write about traveling to Panama as it was such a fun adventure!

I was only planning on staying two nights at Laguna Azul Eco-Boutique Hotel but after I arrived, the managers asked me to stay an additional two nights in order to assist them with some of their marketing needs.  It was a really productive few days – both from a business standpoint but also from the fun snorkeling that I was able to do all three days!  There was another couple from Belgium staying there as well who had literally traveled around the world snorkeling in some of the most amazing places (Maldives, Great Barrier, Seychelles, Red Sea, Belize to name a few)…And you know what?  They said that as far as soft coral goes, Bocas del Toro had the most incredible selection!

Exactly 3 years to the day of arriving, I had traveled to Bocas and wrote about that travel experience in my book.  While I didn’t have the best time there, I was willing to give it another try…at a different hotel though.  I’ve actually been dreaming about returning and snorkeling amongst the coral gardens there for the last 3 years – they are truly that spectacular!

And I was really fortunate to have picked Laguna Azul for the hotel as it’s a beautiful, 8 room lodge located on one of the archipelago islands, far outside of the actual town of Bocas.  I don’t really like Bocas – the town itself.  While the people are all friendly and it’s super small so you can easily get around on bike or foot, it’s also a very dirty town, lots of backpackers, hippies and it just doesn’t have the same peaceful energy that you get from being on the islands.

At the airport, there were 4 other people on the flight with me and I asked one of the airport staff where the luggage was from our flight.  He told me to “Just relax, it’ll be here. Welcome to Panama”…With a slightly sarcastic tone, trying to tell me that I needed to chill.  But after about 15 minutes of standing in the room where they check immigration and customs, we asked again and were told, “What are you still doing here?  Your luggage is outside”.  Yes…Welcome to Panama.  And even more crazy is that they’re still handwriting our passport information into their little logbook.  I really thought they would have upgraded to computers by this time!  Crazy, right?

Bocas del Toro immigration

But arriving at Laguna Azul, there was an immediate sense of stillness.  A peaceful atmosphere with no sounds other than those made by the natural world.  The birds nesting in the trees, the soft sounds of the water lapping over the mangroves and the occasional splash made by a flying school of fish.

All of the staff were very friendly and helpful.  But, in comparison to Tico Time, they take Island Time to a whole other level.  Which explains the guy’s response to me at the airport about our luggage!

The bartender, who mixed up great drinks all week, told me that he’s from one of the local islands and that they speak a kind of “spanglish” there.  Now, that’s my kind of place!  But he actually spoke very good english and I was able to also practice my spanish.

Every morning there, I was greeted by dolphins swimming by as I drank my morning coffee on the terrace.  Every night, we were provided with either a beautiful sunset or a spectacular lightning show.  Every meal was shared with the managers and we enjoyed many refreshing cocktails and hours of good conversation.

You can snorkel at the Lodge but really the best snorkeling takes place on the excursions…More to come on that in the next post.

Enjoy the slideshow…

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Pura vida…Chrissy

Note: While I am now paid and/or receive comped services at many of the places I visit, I will always offer my unbiased opinion to you, my readers. Fortunately, I almost always have experiences that exceed my expectations.