The return of the scarlet macaws in Manuel Antonio

Lapas For about the last week I’ve been waking up to the sound of scarlet macaws but haven’t been able to see them (their sound is very distinct and unlike the bird itself, not very pretty sounding). One particular day this week, at least 5 pairs flew over my home. It was 5:45 and I wasn’t fully functioning to actually want to take the time to count them all but from the photos, there was at least 5 pairs.

The endangered macaws (called Lapas in Costa Rica) have recently returned to Manuel Antonio because a local group has been bringing them back to the area and releasing them into the wild. Their efforts seem to be working.  And while these photos were taken against a gray morning sky, seeing the red macaws fly over the green jungle landscape near my home is such a stunning sight.  It adds another dimension of pure grace to an already beautiful location.Macaws 3

They seem to have a flight path over my home at around 5:30 a.m. heading from the northern part of Quepos towards the National Park.

On one particular day, I sat outside on my terrace as the sun was just rising, creating gold highlights on the tips of the dark green jungle landscape. The squawking of the macaws was followed by the screeching of about 30 parakeets and then the melancholy sound of a pair of toucans. What a beautiful way to start the day.  Now if someone would just bring me my morning coffee, it would be like I was on vacation on the Osa Peninsula.

Here’s two more photos of when it got a little lighter…Absolutely incredible, isn’t it?

lapas 2



Costa Rica’s address system (Part 22?)

I don’t know how many times I’ve mentioned the postal system here but I know it’s a lot. Finally however, I have made some rhyme and reason of it all. Or at least I understand better the PO Box system.

My US bank debit card was about to expire and I had to find a way to get a new card mailed to me.  Knowing that the mailman would never be able to find my house, I asked my property owner if it would be okay if I used their PO Box at the Correos (post office) in order for my bank to send me the card.  She was happy to oblige and sent me the address.  I was super confused though as this is basically the gist of what she emailed me: Apartado: 123-4567 (I’ve changed it to protect her privacy).

I wrote her back and asked her if I should include her name above the address and the city/province below. She told me no, that was not necessary…and here’s why:

  • Name (not necessary)
  • 123 means the box that belongs to her husband at Correos
  • 4567 means Quepos, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

I’m still laughing thinking about that.  I mean really, there is no way I could have a PO Box in the United States and just give out the number with no name, city, state or zip code!

That’s what it’s like to live in a small town…and country. And a few weeks later, the new card had arrived.

Pura vida…Chrissy


A Visit to Santa Juana Lodge and Community

Recently when I wrote about visiting the Sábalo community, I posed the question of just how many other communities are there in Costa Rica that are dying out and not being seen or heard.  And as the universe often does, an opportunity to learn more about these small communities presented itself to me.

A few weeks ago I met Jim Damalas, owner of Hotel Si Como No in Manuel Antonio, at his new community project in Santa Juana.  Santa Juana Lodge is opening this month but in the past, the adventure agro-tourism tour in this rural village was already known as one of the top rated tours of the Central Coast.  Located in the Fila Chonta Mountain range of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Region, Santa Juana is a rural community with a population of just under 50 people.  It was only in the last few years that they actually got electricity installed. (take a moment and sit with that last sentence). They now have 5 children in their school and they are reforesting the area, reintroducing the endangered scarlet macaws while also protecting the valuable watershed which supplies Quepos and other nearby coastal cities with the precious resource of water.  Jim and his exceptional team have been working with the local people to teach them how to be guides, tour operators and hospitality staff, bringing more tourism into the area and revitalizing the community.

Costa Rica river

The adventure starts on the road to Santa Juana.  Located about one hour northwest of Manuel Antonio, you’ll drive through African palm plantations, cross over beautiful rivers and enter picturesque valleys, surrounded by lush green hillsides.  You can also travel from San Jose, through San Marcos de Tarrazu (one of Costa Rica’s best regions for coffee!).  Either way, it’s a beautiful drive that eventually lands you 500 meters up in the tropical mountains.  I say tropical as it was still a pleasant 80 degrees.  Knowing we were going to the mountains, I had worn capri pants that day (the extent of my “cold weather” clothes) thinking it would be cooler but was so happy to learn that was not the case.  Not only was it a mild temperature, it was also so fresh.  And even when it was cloudy in the afternoon and a light rain fell, the thermometer still read 80 degrees.

hammock at Santa Juana Lodge

Each of the casitas are large (I think they are larger than my house!) and exquisitely designed.  From the outside, they may appear simple (which is on purpose, in order to blend in with the environment) but once you step inside, you will feel a sense of tranquil comfort.  With gorgeous views of the Manuel Antonio coastline and the Fila Chonta ridgeline, it’s no wonder that Jim just happened to stop here one day on a drive and decide this was a perfect place for a rural tourism project.

Santa Juana, Costa Rica

When you visit, the experience is to understand Costa Rica, the real Costa Rica.  You will enjoy delicious, homestyle Tico food, learn about the traditions and culture of the community and experience a little of what the now developed Costa Rica was like many, many years ago.  It’s the perfect place for a yoga retreat, wedding ceremonies and receptions or just some time away from the daily grind of life.  And it’s all sustainable.  Jim is the founder of Greentique hotels so you can rest assured that staying at Santa Juana Lodge will have little impact on the environment but a huge (and positive) impact on the community.

It’s exciting for me to be able to work with projects like this and see the good that comes from it.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I didn’t move to Costa Rica to party or lead a mindless life.  I moved to Costa Rica to make a difference, in my life and the lives of others. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to do just that with the Santa Juana Lodge and community.

I’ll leave you with this: One of the things that Jim said that day has stuck with me…“these are cathedrals of nature…and we must protect them”.  I couldn’t agree more.

Enjoy the slideshow…









Birthday celebrations in Costa Rica

Last weekend was a number of celebrations… the “birthday” of Quepos/Aguirre County, followed by a private tour of Santa Juana Lodge, a new hotel just opening up (which I’ll write more about next week), and my birthday 🙂

fiestas in Costa Rica

October 30th is the day that Quepos/Aguirre County celebrates its founding and it was a fun-filled day of festivities.  It started at 8 am. and was supposed to go until 10 pm but we had a wild storm in the late afternoon and I have a feeling that the live bands either had to move indoors somewhere or maybe the festivities ceased… the storm really was that wild.  There was so much water that the stairs at my house became a waterfall with several inches of water flowing over them.  Not super fun walking down them in the dark.  But, as I had a friend visiting from Tamarindo and we had plans to go out, we managed the waterfall stairs (and ended up quite wet overall since our umbrellas were no match for the rain).

We had wanted to go for mojitos at Barba Roja but they were mysteriously closed so we went for happy hour at Arenas del Mar.  Since it was a Thursday, I thought I was safe from the dancing lessons they offer but no such luck, they had changed the day and I ended up on the dance floor with a few of the hotel team members.  Poor guys.  I wasn’t stepping on any toes but the only thing I can do with any expertise in either salsa or meringue is twirl and even then sometimes I twirl the wrong way.  But all in all, it was a fun night, crazy storm and all.

My actual birthday was a bit of a disaster but after nearly three years of living in Costa Rica, I don’t have very high expectations of things actually going the way I want them to.

The one thing that I did that day (that went totally right) was go for a hike with a friend who was in town from San Jose.  It was pretty rough terrain but totally worth it when we got down the mountain to the private little beach that only the cows (and a few bulls) seemed to know about.

Manuel Antonio beach with cows

Having a birthday during “transition” season means that a lot of places will be closed.  And that was the case with the restaurant in Dominical that I wanted to have lunch at.  They had a huge party the night before and to put it mildly, no one had cleaned up and the one team member that was there seemed quite hungover.  He invited us to return on Thursday when they’d reopen but not having a car makes getting to Dominical more difficult than it’s worth.

From there, the lunch place we found was just awful but it was sustenance.  We then traveled further south as I really wanted to go to Playa las Ventanas.  However when we arrived, the gates to the parking area at the private home were closed, the property owner wasn’t around and there was no place we could safely leave the rental car.  Ventanas is a beach that several friends have recommended as it has these really cool caves that you can walk through at low tide. But you can really only go when the property owner is there.


We tried a few other beaches but that area is a huge National Park and they wanted to charge me $11 to get access.  I’m not paying $11 to go to a beach so we ended up taking a walk on Dominicalito and then drove back to Manuel Antonio to enjoy the sunset.

sunset in Manuel Antonio

Just to add insult to injury, I also thought I had met a really nice guy that day, who seemed atypical to the guys that I normally go out with…only to find out that he was just like the rest of them.  He may not have had the surfer body but he definitely had the typical mentality which included a long-term girlfriend. (but that is a story for another day)

So while that was all a bit of a mess, I am really looking forward to this new year.  I’ve got lots of great things happening and I’m super excited to share them with you all in the coming weeks and months.

Enjoy the slideshow…