By some strange twist of fate, I have been to Australia nearly 20 times, the same for England and probably closer to 100 times to Mexico. (Before you work yourself into a lather with overwrought envy, I will remind you that long ago I quite consciously traded treasure for travel, i.e. paltry money, powerful memories. (See Memories Are Made Of This.) Until this past week, however, I had never been to Costa Rica. No doubt, were it not for my dear friends at Funjet Vacations, that would still be the case. Thankfully, and to many of you shockingly I am sure, I was invited along with a hundred or so of my closest friends to spend a few magical days there.
Costa Rica translates into English as rich coast. As my title suggest, however, the coast is far from the only aspect of Costa Rica that is opulent. Just gaze upon this sunset for a moment. I took this picture at the Pacifico Beach Club just before one of our evening dinners. It looks even more magnificent with a rum and coke in one hand. It became immediately apparent, even to someone as certifiably clueless as me, why this venue was selected!
Just so you don’t embarrass yourself by attempting to swim around it, Costa Rica is not an island. It is a Central American country that, like the US has an eastern and western coast. There are several distinct tourist areas including Guanacaste, Arenal, Monteverde, Tortuguero, Central Pacific and San Jose. Our excellent destination management company, CATours (as in Central American Tours but pronounced Cat Tours) has an excellent site with good information about various options.
One of the most alluring attractions of Costa Rica is the incredible diversity of flora and fauna. I have no idea what flora and fauna is, I just like saying it. (Good thing I had never heard of those terms when I was struggling to name my two daughters.) Just kidding, I really do know that it means plant and wildlife . . . or is it wildlife and plants? Anyway, let’s not get lost wandering around that little tropical rain forest.
As one of my devoted readers, you must know by know I am an avid golfer. Even so, this was my first experience trying to putt out with mantled howler monkeys lounging on the branches above me. And in case you are wondering, they do howl . . . especially on your backswing. This particular species apparently has a rather fiendish sense of humor. According to a website called The Real Costa Rica, “Though Costa Rica covers only 0.03% of the surface of the earth, Costa Rica has approximately almost 6% of the world’s bio diversity.” Click on the link above to read about Costa Rica’s 12 different climatic zones.
Guanacaste is not nearly so developed as many other resort destinations. As an example, the ride from our hotel, the Riu Palace, to the Reserva Conchal Golf Course at the Westin Resort and Spa was an hour and twenty-minute ride over winding, narrow roads. However, I was not in the least off put by that fact. As an avid golfer, I would have walked that far to play another beautiful golf course (provided I had a caddie, of course).
More importantly, I viewed it as an opportunity to see the countryside. OK, a lot of countryside. Being my first trip, the last thing I wanted to do was spend the entire time at the resort, nice though it was.
We were able to see lots of representative homes, schools and stores, etc. When we completed the round (the course record is still intact for those of you snarky enough to bring up my score), we had the option of heading directly back or visiting a little village called Tamarindo. Forunately the driver had the good sense not to tell us it was in the opposite direction from our resort.
I would say Tamarindo is best described as a bohemian enclave populated by lost souls from the four corners of the world in search of inner serenity either through contemplation or puffing on various hand rolled medicinal fibers. There are dive shops offering surfing lessons and, for the less adventurous, cafes with frothy cappuccinos and yummy flavors of ice cream. I thought the Monkey ‘n Croc, pictured above, captured the ambiance nicely, even if by Tamarindo standards it is no doubt considered a bit haughty and pretentious.
Speaking of coffee, if you drink it by the barrel as I am prone to do (Starbucks should be sending me my stock certificates any day) the coffee is worth the price of the trip alone. The reputation Costa Rica has for their coffee is, to say the least, well deserved. My only complaint is that the word coffee should be feminine in Spanish, making the parallelism in my title ever so much more tidy!
One thing the Riu Palace resorts all seem to do well is put on a party. For the closing event they transformed the Papagaya Steakhouse into a Costa Rican rain forest. You wouldn’t believe the size of the butterflies in Costa Rica by the way! Below are a couple of more pictures to give you a sense of the beauty of the property.
On my aforementioned coach ride to the golf course, we passed a small fenced-in school yard and I could not help but notice the handwritten sign, “Orgulloso de Ser Guanacastecos” . . . proud to be from Guanacaste. Having now traveled to Costa Rica, I have no difficulty understanding that sentiment perfectly. I would be “orgulloso” too!