A few quick updates…

February came and went and I just realized I didn’t put out a single blog post…and now it’s already the middle of March!  A lot has been happening since the start of 2015 and I wanted to send you a few updates.

So I moved.  Again.  It was kind of a lateral move for me, some things are better, some things aren’t as great (ie I lost my calming ocean view and a patio full of sunshine).

The kittens are growing.  I would venture to say Sunshine is full grown at this point, Lluvia is still pretty small in comparison.  Sunshine is full of love and always wants to be pet.  Lluvia also gives lots of love… she loves to be pet but more often her love is shown in the way of killing giant cockroaches and bringing them to me in the middle of the night.  She’s definitely a mamma’s girl.  I have a friend’s son staying with me right now, Travis, and while he tries every day to pet her, she remains curious but aloof.

imageSince I now live on top of the Manuel Antonio hill (one of the not so great aspects of the move), I’m venturing out a bit more to the local restaurants.  I often wondered why Falafel Bar was #1 on TripAdvisor for awhile… I get it now.  Fast service, not outrageously priced and good food.

Also got to enjoy a Lost Coast IPA at Barba Roja.  They didn’t have Great White, but it was the Lost Coast brand…which is close enough!  Gotta take what you can get here.

My friend/awesome tour guide and birder Johan Chaves took Travis and I on a tour around Manuel Antonio National Park.  It was a picture perfect day and there were so many amazing creatures to be seen.  Always in awe of what Johan can find, the tiniest little creatures and he’s able to spot them in the dense forest!  Normally the tour ends at the beach but he invited us to continue and we hiked up to Cathedral Point which had stunning views.  Most of the photos I’ve seen in the past were foggy and grey.  But that day was beautiful blue skies and an abundance of sunshine.

Cathedral Point Manuel Antonio

Speaking of weather, it’s been an odd summer.  A lot more rain than normal in January and February  and we’re seeing a few clouds this month as well.  But it’s still 90 degrees every day so I’m definitely not complaining!

Manuel Antonio beach

In contrast, did a one night trip to the cloud forest a few weeks ago and stayed at Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel & Nature Reserve.  Cold, cold, cold (for this tropical beach girl).  But beautiful in its own way.  The mist floating through the tall trees, the warm fireplace and the view of the majestic Arenal volcano all create a quiet serenity.  The hotel is located outside of San Ramon, about 90 minutes from the airport in San Jose.  The local area reminded me very much of Sonoma County with green rolling hills and jersey cows (and as to be expected for the area, coatis everywhere…).

coatis in Costa Rica

So that’s been my life in a nutshell these last few weeks.  I’ll leave you with one last photo of some sweet monkeys playing in the trees…

monkeys in Manuel Antonio

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…

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Chrissy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Dominicalito

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…

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Chrissy

 

Costa Rica’s Whale’s Tail Park

Uvita Whales Tail aerial shotA few weeks ago, I took a trip down to Uvita and Marino Ballena National Park, a small town located between where I live in Manuel Antonio and the Osa Peninsula. This famous sandy beach has a gigantic reef that when at low tide, it’s shaped like the tail of a whale.  It is also a sanctuary for marine mammals including whales, dolphins and turtles.

Uvita whales tail

It’s a massive natural formation given to us by our beautiful earth. It’s quite stunning to see if flying over the area during low tide and on land, the rock formations are just as impressive as they come out of the shore at a diagonal angle (note: Teva mush flip flops are not recommended).

Teva mush sandals

You have to visit the park at very low tide if you want to walk on the tail as it’s covered in water the rest of the time and it’s about a 15 minute leisurely walk from the entrance to the tail (so give yourself time!).  The park has a palm tree-lined black sand beach and is set against a jungle landscape.  Just like in Manuel Antonio…where the rainforest meets the sea.

 

whale tail in costa rica

I’d like to explore this area a bit more and visit the primary rainforest in the park as well as the mangroves.  It’s also a great place in southwestern Costa Rica for birdwatchers.  There is also a beach further south called Playa Ventanas (Windows Beach), equally stunning with caves that one can explore during low tide.  So much to see and do here on the Rich Coast…

Pura vida…Chrissy

Surf Season in Costa Rica

surf season in Costa RicaWhen Maverick’s was happening in January, I have to admit I was missing California a little.  Having gone to the big wave site twice on a boat prior to moving to Costa Rica, there isn’t much else that can compare to getting up close and personal with 40-50 foot waves.  And 40-50 foot waves really don’t exist in Costa Rica.

Playa Espadilla, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

However, we are in the middle of our surf season in Costa Rica and there have been a few pretty decent swells this year that have come to our local beaches creating good size waves.  Last week was one of those swells and I went to both Dominical and Manuel Antonio to do a little surf photography as my team member Kevin was visiting.  Wave height was probably between 5-8 feet so while not the size of Maverick’s monster waves, the surf in Costa Rica was pretty decent and also really powerful as they crashed to shore.

Surfing in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

At one point, Kevin came back to shore to reapply sunscreen and asked me if I was bored.  No, I’m never bored when I’m at the beach. I get totally lost in the waves, especially when they’re that size.  It’s just mesmerizing to watch, one after another.  My favorite moment is the glassiness you see just before it starts to curl over and become white water.

Surf season in Dominical

Plus, the one thing that Northern California doesn’t have…warm, tropical, crystal clear water…

Surfing in Dominical, Costa Rica

Pura vida…Chrissy

A mini (working) vacation

Last month, I took 4 days to visit with clients and check out a new area (for me) in Costa Rica.  The first two nights were spent in Tamarindo, the second two were in Cerro de la Muerte.

Playa Langosta Costa RicaArriving in Tamarindo, I knew immediately this was not where I wanted to be.  It’s just not home.  Yes, I lived there for my first year of living in Costa Rica but no, this was not home.  And in a future post, I’ll write about the differences between Tamarindo and Manuel Antonio but for now, let’s focus on the good.

The afternoon that I arrived, I went out on my client’s catamaran and got to see my friends who work on the boat. Super fun day, warm tropical water and a much needed nap in the sunshine on the way home followed by a little salsa dancing!

I was staying at Sueno del Mar where several of my friends work so it was fun to catch up with them.  Plus, it was so nice to stay at this sweet beachfront bed and breakfast.  Before, while living in Langosta, I had enjoyed many delicious breakfasts there but staying there was even better.  I enjoyed a tranquil sunset from their beach chairs and loved the outdoor shower in my room.  And Lily, the hotel’s chef, made me a special breakfast on my first morning – their stuffed tortilla.  Mmmmm, so good!

breakfast at Sueno del Mar

I reconnected with the howlers (who are pretty much nonexistent in my area of Manuel Antonio)…and they kindly woke me up each morning at 4:30.  I even got a photo of the white squirrel…finally!

On the second night, I met with Kevin, my team member, for dinner.  It was great to catch up with him over a good meal at my favorite pizza place in town, Esquina.  And it was so nice to see the owners of the pizzeria and their growing family (they’re mentioned in my first travel book…which is now available on iBooks!).

I went to Lola’s for lunch on the second day and caught up with one of my awesome wellness clients, Bob Witty from Real Surf Trips.  While I don’t miss living in Tamarindo and the Guanacaste province, I will admit that seeing the good friends I made there was a nice bonus to the working trip.

Sunset in Cerro de la Muerte

From there, I traveled to the tall mountains southeast of San Jose.  Cerro de la Muerte (translated: Mountain of Death) is the highest mountain in Costa Rica that is accessible by car (Chirripo is the highest mountain) and is a part of the Inter-American Highway.  Our lodge was at 2,650 meters (8,694 feet) and at one point on the road, we reached almost 11,000 feet.  There are actually endemic pine trees and oak trees there…which of course requires a certain type of climate…

climate in Cerro de la Muerte

I was traveling with new friends and they warned me that it would be cold – like in the 40’s kind of cold.  Having forgotten what cold feels like, I wasn’t totally prepared…plus, I don’t own long pants!  But the beauty of the area was well worth the shivering teeth, the 5 blankets I slept with and the horrendous allergies that ensued.  Without a doubt, I have got to be allergic to the cold.  For the short time that the sun came out during my stay there, the allergies went away…But quickly returned as soon as the clouds came back and the cold returned.

quetzal in Tapanti National Park, Costa Rica

The highlight of this part of the trip, besides making new friends, was definitely seeing the elusive resplendent quetzal.  WOW.  What an incredible bird.  It’s height can measure, from head to tail, almost 3 feet!  And it’s colors are like no other bird…it’s truly remarkable.  And totally worth the cold.  When I posted a picture of it to Instagram, one of my followers wrote:

“Guatemala’s national bird, a symbol of hope, freedom, and my people’s strong heart.”

Such a beautiful sentiment.

As we left the wild avocado grove near the Tapanti National Park where the quetzals were spending their morning, our guide from the eco lodge, Paraiso Quetzal, thanked the birds for letting us be in their presence and to photograph them.  I smiled and nodded…I do the same thing any time I get a shot of wildlife, especially the ones who are a bit more difficult to photograph.

Sadly, I learned on this trip how there are still people who don’t appreciate (or respect) the loveliness of our world (*sigh*)…but alas that is another topic which I will someday post to my business blog at Social {media} Wellness.

For now…enjoy the slideshow…of our lovely world…

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Pura vida…Chrissy

A Day in San Jose

I despise San Jose.  Truly, it is possibly my least favorite city, next to Los Angeles.  It is dirty and cold and there are just way too many people, too many cars and too much concrete.  I don’t know why anyone lives there. (other than every person I talked with told me in Spanish: “too much heat in Quepos!”)

That being said, I did have to go there a few weeks ago. I purposefully booked a morning flight and an afternoon flight so I was only there for a few hours and did not have to stay overnight.  I had an appointment for a check up at Clinica Biblica in downtown San Jose (which is a $50 round trip taxi fare from San Jose International) and while I was there, the doctor I was seeing ordered some blood work and got me in to see a specialist.  He also gave me some medication, free of charge (always nice when they go into their cabinets and pull out free meds!).

The hospital itself was very nice, modern and clean.  The staff were all helpful and friendly and some spoke English.  Surprisingly, efficiency is definitely a strength.  Before I even got on the plane to return home, the blood work results had been emailed to me.  And a few days before I arrived, I received two text messages on my phone, reminding me of the appointment and asking me to confirm (it’s surprising that the country is capable of sending out messages like this but cannot get the voicemail function to work on cell phones).

From what I’m told from a friend, the cafeteria has good food (actually, she said they had really good and cheap empanadas) and there’s a hotel attached to the hospital for people who have to stay overnight for family or friends.  I didn’t go to the cafeteria as I really just wanted to get back to the airport.  Of course, at the airport, I found myself paying $9 for a veggie sandwich at Quiznos so I guess I should have eaten at the cafeteria.

It was an expensive, long and tiring day but all in all, the photos I got from the plane made it worthwhile. :-)  And I should also mention that my friend Michelle’s organization, Equilibrium, has hopes to create a more green San Jose, building gardens and parks in the more concrete-dense areas.  A good sign for the future of the city…

Costa Rica's Central Pacific Coast

Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast

Manuel Antonio view

Manuel Antonio view

Plane's shadow

Plane’s shadow

Quepos, Costa Rica

Quepos, Costa Rica

Pura vida…Chrissy

Pink Bananas!!

My first vacation in Costa Rica (almost 8 years ago now!), we went on a botanical garden tour near Cahuita and it was there that I saw pink bananas.  And I’ve come across them a number of times since…never in a store…always in the wild.  They’re just so random…and pink…and I can’t explain why but they always bring a smile to my face.

Maybe it’s that they’re a little bit weird and wild…it’s just one of the many reasons that makes Costa Rica so very special.

Pink Bananas in Costa Rica

Kevin and I came across this bunch while hiking up the hill from Playa Biesanz to Makanda by the Sea.  It was the perfect opportunity to stop and take a photo (and catch my breath!).

Pura vida…Chrissy

Turtle Traps at Playa Biesanz

Playa Biesanz Turtle Trap

So I need to start this blog off with kudos to Kevin because if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have gotten the photo of the traps.  And additional kudos since I dragged him down there when not only was he not feeling well but we also had to go at noon as that was when low tide was and the only time of the day when you can see these historic traps (which, of course, was the hottest point of the day).

Not only does it have to be at low tide but you also have to climb some volcanic rocks in order to see the “traps”.  And my rock climbing days are over ever since I slammed into a rock wall while rappelling down a waterfall.  Well, they’re over until I have health insurance again.  Then maybe I’ll consider trying out some new adventures.

So these turtle traps at Playa Biesanz are supposed to date back to the first century and the Boruca / Quepoa Indians.  To be honest, after seeing the photo, I don’t really understand how it works.  If anyone knows…please leave a comment!

And supposedly, Kevin tells me that there are also turtle traps in Tamarindo although I’ve walked that beach numerous times at low tide and never noticed any special rock formations.  Yes, there are rocks but none that seemed to be purposefully placed there!

Pura vida…Chrissy