The sun rises early here and the mist still sits over the water. I usually roll over a few times and try to stay in bed, but there are no curtains on the windows and the bright tropical light is the daily alarm clock around here. It’s good. I like it.
I come downstairs and pour a cup of coffee and walk outside to look over the ocean. I don’t know why I feel I need to know its state every day, but I do, and I look over it with rapt interest and speculate what the waves must be doing over on Playa Colorado, even if I have no intention of going over there to surf them.
It’s week 6 and I’m still catching up as you all know from our last post. I sit here on the balcony at 6:30 am writing and watching the birds eat our fruit plate. Yes we now have two birds. A conure by the name of Pablo Escobar and a green parrot by the name of Teresa Mendoza Chavez, two infamous outlaws who even in this moment persist in their outlawish ways by eating my fruit and knocking my coffee over. Once a criminal always a criminal I say.
In weeks 3 / 4 we decided we needed to head down to Costa Rica. We really wanted to understand what’s happening down there as it’s the pinnacle of development for this area and obviously the most successful in terms of bringing in foreign capital and foreign buyers to its shores. This is evidenced as soon as you cross the border and begin to see Church’s Chicken and McDonalds on every corner. I wouldn’t say that’s a good thing per se as most people who are moving to such places are running from McDonalds, not towards them, but it’s an unfortunate indicator of “progress” whatever that means.
Anyway, another form of progress is crime and ironically Costa Rica suffers much more from crime than its neighboring Nicaragua, however, if you speak to the average American, we are all still convinced you are going to get shot by some Sandinistas in the war against the Contras. Never mind the fact that it was us arming the Contras, supporting the previous malevolent dictator, and encouraging the war! Sorry this little damning tangent was a bit over the top. Costa Rica is great. It is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve been and we had a great time there the entire time. I just hear all the time from people who do not even know on a map where Nicaragua is, how dangerous it is, when that is the farthest thing from the truth. Statistically, it is the second safest country in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Canada and its sparsely populated rural country side houses some of the most helpful kindest people you will ever met. I still have yet to drive more than one mile without picking up some family or some workers walking/hitchhiking their way to work. The local school kids here wake up at 4 to start walking to school and literally walk for hours each morning and picking up people on my way to and fro has become one of my favorite past times here.
So we crossed the border at Costa on foot and rented a car at the local Budget Car Rental. It was a trusty Toyota Yaris and we stopped on the side of the road to have an Imperial beer to celebrate another country we have visited. Imperial is damn good beer and that’s the thing about these Latin countries, they all have good beer and it’s that refreshing light variety which my American palate likes. I know Europeans love to give us a hard time about how bad our beer is, but I’ll be honest, on a hot day give me a Coors Light, a Dos Equis, a Tona, a Tecate any day over a pint of Guiness that requires a nap after consumption. No offense to my Irish friends out there and other hops and barley connoisseurs!
We carried on to a town called Tamarindo. It was all right. Very developed, crowded, and to be honest, I just didn’t care much for it, but I could see how it could appeal to some. We stayed one night and then left for Jaco and Playa Hermosa. I loved Playa Hermosa. The surf was fantastic and we had a great little spot on the water for 15 bucks a night. It was still expensive to eat out in Jaco, but that’s par of the course for Costa.
From here we were able to visit Los Suenos, which was a goal of ours, as we had both heard so much about this famous marina project. It’s an amazing place. The marina was second-to-none and as bill fish season was just kicking off there was tons of activity on the docks as lines were being put on heavy rods and teak was being varnished on sport fishing boats. I don’t even fish and I still got caught up in the fever and wanted nothing more than to throw the lines off one of these boats and head out to sea.
Los Suenos itself was also beautiful, but, in my opinion, the rustic beauty of Rancho Santana in Nicaragua, at a fraction the cost, exceeds it. Los Suenos was just a bit too manicured for our tastes, but I’m sure it appeals to its buyers as evidenced by its success in the sales department. Its selling point, without a doubt, is the marina and when the development going up in Nicaragua now called, Guacalito de la Isla gets up and running with its marina, I think you will see some choosing this more pristine and rustic environment. Unfortunately or fortunately, Nicaragua just doesn’t have it yet.
Next we headed to a place called Manuel Antonio. This was our favorite spot by far. We only stayed the day but it’s mountainous and as we drove up and down the windy hills it reminded me of the Hollywood Hills, oddly enough. If you go to Costa Rica and are in the vicinity of this place, GO.
After that we headed to San Jose for a bit of night life action. We met up with a friend Kristin Wilson who sells real estate in the Escazu area. We stayed at a great little place called the Costa Verde Hotel for 50 bucks a night. It was cool up in the mountains overlooking San Jose and the couple who ran this place even had a fire going, which we sat by and had a glass of wine before heading down into town for dinner. Escazu is one of the nicest neighborhoods I’ve ever seen. The homes rival those of Malibu or Beverly Hills and sit on these lofty heights overlooking the blinking lights of this city. San Jose is a place I could easily live. There was so much going on, so much to do and with access to all Costa Rica’s beaches and mountains, one could have a great work/life balance here. Kristin took us out with a ton of her friends and having been living the quiet life for a while we took full advantage of the night life. Thanks Kristin.
The next day we went to Arenal. We had heard good things and there are hot springs there and we figured our alcohol soaked bodies could use the R&R. The drive from San Jose to Arenal is stunning. You pass over suspension bridges and through valleys lined with coffee farms towered over by volcanoes. Arenal was beautiful but left one with a feeling of having been hoodwinked. It’s a bit of a tourist trap there and it’s unfortunate that this has occurred and one can only hope that the same does not occur one day to similar places in Nicaragua.
The next day we drove back to the border. We needed to be at the border by 5 pm to return the rental car, lest we get stuck sitting there until the following morning to return it, and as we pushed forward through the day northward, we realized that we were cutting it real close. The roads in that part of Costa turn to dirt and I pushed that poor Yaris to the breaking point. Susannah has said she has ultimate faith in my driving as I was driving all of us around in my jeep CJ-7 at 15 years old, off road with 10 teenagers hanging off the roll bar, so as I took drifting turns at Rally Car speeds and we caught air off small lips leaving clouds of dust in our wake, she seemed none too concerned. I have been criticized often by family for driving too aggressively, so it’s refreshing to have someone who appreciates controlled chaos behind the wheel :). It paid off as we pulled up at 4:57 and the lady at the car rental place was literally locking the door to go home. We came in just under the wire. Now all that was required was another boarding crossing which was hilarious given the unofficial nature of the whole thing. We were stopped by some guy sitting under a tree in the dark to see our passports and, as he couldn’t see our passport, he yelled at the woods behind him and a beam of light came from the bushes, where I guess his partner was parked. We both looked at each other with a smile and thought it was just another Nica moment.