Facial Soap in Costa Rica (or lack thereof)

niveaSo when I say “facial soap”, I’m not talking about Lancome, Clinique, Origins…I know that would be asking for WAY too much.  No, all I’d like is some specially formulated soap that I can use on my face.  Not bar soap, not shower gel, not liquid hand soap…Facial Soap.

I don’t know why it’s so difficult to find but then again, I know better than to ask why.

I finally found Cetaphil in one of the local pharmacies.  It was your average size, maybe 8-12 ounces at most.  And she told me it was $38.  WHAT??  $38 for Cetaphil?  She explained it was the brand but still, it’s just Cetaphil.  It’s not Lancome or Clinique!

I know I can go to San Jose’s Multiplaza in Escazu and purchase any of the above for twice what I’d pay in the States but I really just wanted a basic bottle of facial soap.  So finally, after looking in every possible store, I got a taxi to take me to Maxi Pali outside of town (AKA WalMart) and there I found 4 bottles of Nivea facial soap for about $8 each.

And I bought all of them.  Yes, I’ve become a hoarder of anything that I cannot find easily in town.  If anyone would like to buy a bottle, I’ll sell each for $15 ;-)

Pura vida…Chrissy

Mangos and Mangas

Did you know there is a difference between mangos and mangas?  Actually, a better question might be for most of my readers…did you know there is such a fruit called manga?  I get them confused all the time (so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) but at least here in Costa Rica, they call the big mangos you eat the States, “mangas” and then there is a smaller version that they call “mangos”. (or maybe it’s the other way around!)

We’ve got both types of trees on the property where I live but I will probably never get to enjoy them…the monkeys will be eating these sweet treats and dropping the pits to the ground long before I’ll ever get to them.

Here are photos of the two types plus the pretty flowers the trees create just before the fruit develops.

mango flowers

Mangos in Costa Rica

Young Mangos

manga fruit in Costa Rica

Young Mangas

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

A Visit to Makanda by the Sea

Makanda by the Sea Villa

Makanda by the Sea Villa

Surrounded by dense jungle with old growth bamboo and tall walking palms, our 950 sq ft villa at Makanda by the Sea in Manuel Antonio was a place of tranquil simplicity. We spent much of our time outside and there was ample seating options…the breakfast table, two comfortable lounge chairs or the hammock. Inside, we had a full kitchen, large living area, 4 poster bed with mosquito netting (it’s not really needed) and a modern bathroom with cut out block windows to the jungle.

We enjoyed lunches and dinner poolside with a stunning view of the ocean below.  During lunch we preferred the canopied area to shade us from the hot summer sun and at night we dined under the stars, the sound of crickets was louder than the music playing in the background. My favorite squirrel monkeys visited us during lunchtime and one of the servers showed us a half-asleep gladiator frog lounging poolside.

Returning late to our villa on our first night, the crickets had died down and we sat outside on the terrace lounge chairs, chatting quietly while enjoying the warm night air and listening to the waves crashing below us at Playa Biesanz.

Howler monkeys and birds (toucans, specifically) were our wake up call as the light shone through the curtain-less wall to wall terrace doors.  From the 4 poster bed, we could see the morning sunlight was just starting to kiss the jungle landscape and the ocean was a bright shade of blue.

We enjoyed a breakfast delivery each morning of gallo pinto (other options were also available) and freshly squeezed guanabana juice and mango juice.  And on our last night, after a very busy day, we decided to stay in and order room service for dinner.  Kevin enjoyed a steak topped with blue cheese along with mashed potatoes and veggies and I had a flatbread veggie pizza (that I’d love the recipe for!)

Each of the private bungalows at Makanda by the Sea have views of the ocean and are surrounded by lush jungle landscape. We never made it to Playa Makanda, a beach located below the 7,000 sq ft Casa Las Ventanas (a private vacation rental at Makanda) but we did hike down to Playa Biesanz, a white sand beach surrounded by tropical foliage and large volcanic rocks.  Kevin even got in a sunset surfing session at Playa Espadilla.

Makanda is an adults only hotel, located in the Manuel Antonio rainforest.  They’re known for “Romance in Nature” and while we were there for work, Kevin and I could both see that if traveling with someone else, that’s exactly the experience we would have had.

Enjoy the slideshow… (photos by both me and Kevin)

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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.

Life in Costa Rica: A look back at 2013

It’s truly been a remarkable year here, living in Costa Rica.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. And as we enter into the holiday season, I’ll be taking a short break from writing (unless some exceptional event occurs in my life that warrants an unscheduled post…you never know here!) and so I just wanted to leave you with this final blog: a look back at 2013.

For now, sit back and enjoy a photo/video montage of my incredible 2nd year on the Rich Coast…It’s a little longer than most of my videos but it goes fast and there’s lots of new, never before seen photos in it!

Pura vida…Chrissy

P.S. A side note about last week’s blog – if you only read it in your email box, you missed out on all the fun multimedia videos that I included!  So I highly recommend you check it out on my website, it’s a super fun interactive post!

No More Zoos in Costa Rica

Capuchin white faced monkey and baby in Manuel AntonioWow, to be honest with you, when this article (click here) came across my Facebook newsfeed this weekend, I thought…Is this for real?  Can it actually be possible that a country is taking steps to become more humane towards all living creatures on our planet?  Allowing them to live freely, in their natural state?

Well, to keep this post short and sweet…yes it is possible.  As of March 2014, there will be no more zoos in Costa Rica.  So totally proud to live in a country that understands the interconnections of our planet and that holding animals in captivity for the purpose of human entertainment is wrong and inhumane.

This is not our world to dominate…it is our world to share, learn from and love.  Let us hope that other countries will follow suit and we may all live in harmony together.

Pura vida para todos…Chrissy

My Costa Rican Easy Bake Oven

Yucca chips

So I’ve gone from having a tiny oven (which my Tica friends told me was actually large for Costa Rican standards) to a toaster oven.  I still can’t believe I’m trying to cook with a toaster oven.  And the stovetop was recently referred to by one of my neighbors as one that “you’d find in a winnebago”.

In the little oven at the old house, things seemed to cook differently… but it wasn’t like I was at a different elevation than I was in California and it was gas which I’ve cooked with in the past and not had any issues.  I’ve also got a temperature converter on my phone so that’s not a problem.  But nothing seemed to cook correctly and I was always have to make adjustments.

Now, in the toaster oven, I’m still faced with food cooking unevenly and everything taking so much longer since I can only do small batches.  It took me several hours to make cookies for my neighbors a few weeks ago and I can only make one pita at a time.  I’m also finding that having to leave the toaster oven on for so long really heats up my house, which considering it’s already 80 degrees inside, I don’t really need to make that worse by running the toaster oven for hours on end.

I like to cook and I’m a good cook (ask any of my neighbors!)…but I have to figure out a way to get some type of small oven in this house without breaking the bank.  I’m still hoping to find a convection oven like the one in the post a few weeks ago.  After all, I’m losing out on tanning time at the beach when I’m stuck indoors in front of a toaster oven all day! : )

Enjoy the slideshow…(and can you tell that I LOVE mango?)

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Pura vida…Chrissy

Home sweet home

I’d love to say getting through customs was a breeze but that wasn’t quite how it went.  Remember, I had 10 bags and a cat and the agents asked me to write down every single thing that was in the all 10 bags.  Really?  I couldn’t even remember what was in the bags at this point so I just starting writing down some generic things and eventually they gave up and let me through.  The commonly asked question by all the agents was…this is all yours?  I suppose they didn’t want me bringing in items to sell but yes, it was all mine, along with one entire box for Harmony.  Fortunately, getting Harmony through was a breeze.  The agent didn’t even look at him, just signed the paperwork and made a copy.

A friend was going to meet me at the airport but he had something come up so he sent another friend with a big sign that said, ‘Welcome Chrissy Gruninger’.  He had a big smile on his face and I knew…I was finally home.  The shuttle driver was also there so with help from a few guys, they loaded up the shuttle and we made our way to Playa Tamarindo.

After settling in Harmony, my friend and I got fruit drinks and headed out to the beach, which is about 20 feet from my room.

I’ll write more about where I’m staying and baby monkeys in my next post…

Pura vida…Chrissy