Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 61
I always hear people say that they are concerned that they will be lonely and not have any friends if they move to Costa Rica. This is the farthest from the truth you can possibly be. The most common comment I hear from new Ex Pats, is that they have made more friends in their first 6 months than they had in 20 years back in Canada or the USA. You see, everyone was the “new guy” at one time or another; so people go out of their way when they meet a “freshie” to invite them to gatherings, and introduce them to everyone they know. Of course, then the next groups they meet want to do the same thing; and so on and so on, and before you know it, you have met hundreds of residents and made some incredible friendships. I promise you; you will have the greatest social life imaginable, unless you just happen to be the most boring human being on earth. The biggest problem you are going to have, is finding enough time to go to all these parties.
You will also be amazed at how well the Ticos will accept you; they are always very accommodating to Gringos, being extra patient and understanding with us. Costa Ricans are some of the nicest people I have ever met, and that is why I live here. Yes they are the happiest country on the earth, but they are also some of the friendliest too. In 12 years of being here I have never once felt that they didn’t want me or harbored any ill feelings towards me. It is actually the opposite, as they have opened their arms and hearts to so many foreigners, and I can honestly say I have dozens of them as friends. Treat them with kindness; respect their culture and values; be appreciative that they allow you to live in this paradise; give back to the community; leave all your negativity in your home country; and they will return the hospitality to you ten times over.
One of the other big misconceptions that people have about living here is that they won’t ever see their friends or family. They think that because they are so far away, no one will come and visit. It is actually the exact opposite, as you will turn them away in droves. I have heard people say, “I can’t get rid of them! They just keep coming and coming! Like Cockroaches.” LOL. Everybody wants to visit their friends in paradise; EVERYBODY. I actually have a rule; only one set of visitors a month and you cannot stay more than 7 days; period; no exceptions. Otherwise, I would never have a moment to myself. It is also one of the reasons I only have one spare bedroom, not 2 or 3 like some people. The biggest mistake you can make is buying or building a house with a bundle of places to sleep, because your friends and family will show up with everyone. Kids, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, they will even bring the soccer coach if you give them a bed to sleep on. Hell, they would charter a private plane and bring the whole darn team, if you have a big enough house. Even when my family comes to visit, I rent my neighbor Jerry’s house next door. This way, they can come over in the day, do all the cool stuff with Uncle Mike, but get the heck out of my hair come dark.
What people don’t realize is that it is actually a very short flight to Liberia International airport in Guanacaste Costa Rica. It is less than 5 hours from Toronto or New York; 3.5 from Atlanta or Texas; and just a blink over 2 from Miami. It actually only takes me 20 minutes longer to fly home to Denver to visit my family, than it did when I lived in South Florida. So unless you live in the Arctic Circle, you can be in Costa Rica by lunch time. You land at LIR airport, and 30 minutes later, you are having a cocktail and a bowl of ceviche on the beach. Trust me when I tell you, having friends and family come to visit is not going to be your problem; getting them to go home will be. When you live here, you actually sometimes get tired of people visiting, and it can be exhausting and overwhelming too. Of course, they are on vacation and expect you to just drop everything and tour them around every single day. You can only zip line and horseback ride so many times a year, before your lower back gives out, and drinking your face off every night with your visiting friends can be deadly to the health of your liver. So just like any thing in life, moderation is the key; hence my rule; one visitor per month.
But no matter who comes to visit, I always take them on my friend Bret’s Catamaran, the Marlin del Rey Sunset Tour. They actually have 3 boats, and it is one of the more popular trips around, and you can hear more about it here in his own voice.
It is my all-time favorite way to spend a day; cruising on the ocean, on a Million dollar craft. This is a First Class Sailing Vessel, the best in town, and there is not a better way to travel. Here is more info on his business.
Bret is a great example of what to do right when doing business in Costa Rica. Here is some advice from Bret if you are thinking about opening a business here and his take on life in Guanacaste
My best buddy Travis and his gorgeous wife Tanya came back to hang with me again just a few weeks ago. If you remember from some of my earlier Newsletters, Travis was with me on my very first trip to Costa Rica, 15 years ago. Now, I know what you are saying; that I have only gotten to Part 3 of “How I Came to Costa Rica”, but as you can tell from the last dozen articles or so, I have been quite busy and wanted to share these stories with you. But please have confidence in me, and don’t change the channel, because I will get to Parts 4 and 5 soon enough. I promise. The last couple months, I have had so many visitors, and experienced some incredible adventures, that I felt they were more pressing to write about. You really can have your cake and eat it too; I am the living proof, but you have to take control of your life and live for the day. As the famous sayings go; if you live in the past, you die in the past; yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift, and that is why they call it the PRESENT.
We loaded up at 1:30 pm and the boat took off shortly after that. The Catamaran that moors in Playas del Coco is actually the newest of the three, and it is just simply called the MARLIN; the other two are the MARLIN DEL REY and the MARLIN 3. It is a 65 foot beast, custom designed and specially equipped for their Sailing Tours. The design features multiple-seating areas, plus an enlarged salon roof, and feels more like a Yacht than a CAT, and the staff is exceptional. From the second you board the boat, you are treated like Kings and Queens, as the crew waits on you hand and foot. They have an open bar, with Premium liquors and imported beers, and about 6 blenders running all afternoon long, and you never once have to wait for a FuFu drink, as they keep them coming the entire day. One of the nicest qualities of a Catamaran is that they ride perfectly flat on the water. Unlike most sail boats, that rocks back and forth, a big 65 footer just cuts through the waves and the chop. So even if it is a windy or a rough day, you can count on smooth sailing the entire way; many people get seasick, but that won’t happen on the MARLIN, I promise.
As you leave the Bay of Coco and head north, the views from the deck are amazing. Every time I see our area from the water, it reinforces why I moved here, and why I sell real estate. The hills are dotted with some of the most impressive homes south of Texas, and the shoreline is spectacular. Huge peninsulas pour out into the Golfo de Papagayo, with bundles of tiny little coves and white sandy beaches; half a dozen islands, including the famous Monkey Head Rock, protrude from the sea. Staring you in the face, just as plain as day, you can see Rincon de la Vieja, Miravalles and Tenorio volcanoes, jetting into the clouds, so close you feel you can touch them. Off in the distance, the Santa Rosa National Park looms on the horizon, the first one established in Costa Rica in 1971; a total of 191 square miles. On a clear day, you can see Witches Rock, a white shadow against the backdrop, the most famous surf destination in the country and one of the top 5 in the world; and you can even see the Bat Islands, considered by many one of the best scuba dives on the planet. The Pacific Ocean is crystal clear, and nothing beats the smell of salt, spraying up and cooling you off. As we pass Playa Hermosa and Playa Panama, you can look back into the Bahia Culebra and see the Papagayo Marina and the Arnold Palmer Golf Course, and some of the nicest resorts in Latin America; Hyatt Andaz; Hilton Papagayo; Grand Occidental; and the small boutique hotel the El Mangroove. The Cat takes a sweeping turn around the Peninsula Papagayo, where the famous Four Seasons hotel and its luxury real estate come into view. Some of the most expensive homes ever built, seem to just hang off these cliffs, and the rumors always fly of the famous actors and musicians who have visited. Just a few months ago, U2 were relaxing here, and made it over to our side of the bay for some action. Spending time on a boat like this makes YOU feel like a rock star.
I have probably been on this tour 30 or 40 times, and I never get tired of it; ever. What I enjoy the best is the wide diversity of people that I meet, as it is one of the most highly recommended activities by the hotels. On this particular day, we had a wonderful crowd of about 35 people, and they were from all over North America and the world. The boat is actually licensed to hold 98 plus crew, but Bret never books more than 75 so that there is always room to roam. There were two couples on their honeymoons, one from Houston Texas and the other from New York City, and their entourage of friends accompanying them from Brooklyn. Travis and Tanya were especially excited, as they had gotten married here on Playa Hermosa beach a couple years earlier, and this was their first return trip since tying the knot. So you can imagine the chatter amongst the wives of how romantic it was to get married in paradise. Five college girls from Canada were just in awe of the scenery; living somewhere near the North Pole doesn’t quite have the same warm and fuzzy feeling I guess.
Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin were all represented that day, as well as Colorado, Florida, Washington DC and Nashville, Tennessee. There was a family from Oklahoma City, having their annual reunion, this time in a much more tropical environment, and even some International visitors; England, Germany and a cute little couple from Russia.
As the music played and the drinks were served, everyone found their little spot to relax. Some were on the front of the boat, sleeping on the tarp, working on their tans. Others were parked in various spots around the railings, soaking up the views of the ocean. A couple guys were at the back of the boat, fishing rods in hand, hoping to catch a Mahi Mahi or two as we motored across the Bay. The rest of us though, were dancing to the tunes, happy to be in paradise with a cocktail in our hands. I never get tired of Pina Coladas and Jimmy Buffett, and I always find myself thinking how lucky I am to live this inspiring lifestyle; 9 out of 10 of the most content countries in the world are in Latin America and of course Costa Rica is always near the top of every one of these lists. I truly believe Costa Rica “saved” me from the miserable grind that so many people have to deal with on a day to day basis. I was the only one on the boat, other than the crew, who wasn’t faced with the horrible reality of having to go back in a couple more days. Pura Vida!!!! My life rocks!!!
Some very good friends of mine had actually chartered this boat for an overnight trip a few months ago. They were celebrating a host of events, all in one trip, and had both their families camping on the deck, moored in the National Park, sleeping under the stars, a gathering they will be talking about for the rest of their lives I am sure. Check with Bret and I am positive he can set something up for you, if this is up your alley. He also books the boat for private tours like weddings and retreats.
We made one last turn, and approached our secret spot, and the crew dropped anchor and we came to a halt. We had arrived at Playa Huevos, a breathtaking little bay that can only be reached by water. There are dozens of hideaways like this, just a short hop from our beaches, where you can spend an afternoon and not see another single sole. Coming here always makes you feel like you are the only one who has ever stopped in this cove; like Sir Francis Drake on his voyage around the world. It reminds me of the lagoon in Gilligan’s Island, this majestic little Eden, with crystal clear visibility, and sand so fine it is as soft as flour. I LOVE THIS place, and I never get tired of coming here. Everyone headed into the water, each to their own little adventure. Personally, I didn’t waste any time, opening the railing and cannonballing into the sea. Others took the more political correct approach, with a short ride down the water slide off the back of the CAT. Bret’s boats have it all, and you can pick your passion so to speak. They have snorkel gear, fins and masks, and one of the crew leads you on a journey, over the reefs and around the rocks, diving down to bring up various sea creatures for everyone to see. There are octopus, and star fish, puffers and conch, and an array of thousands of colored fish right in front of your eyes. They have stand up paddle boards, where you can test your agility and balance, and this is the perfect place to try it for the first time. The horseshoe is like glass, smooth and calm, and no currents or waves to knock you off your feet.
I headed straight for the shore, the explorer that I am; ready to check out the jungle right as it meets the sea. We saw monkeys and birds, in just about every tree, and a family of crab eating raccoons, digging in the sand, along with its famous cousin, the coatimundi. As you walk across the beach, you can hear this grumble and rumble, almost like a growl, a small roar, and it gets louder and louder as you get closer to the rocks. Tucked in the hillside, is this massive hole; and you can see this cloud of spray shooting into the air every couple of seconds! As you climb down into the cave, you realize that there are actually two tunnels, each one going in different directions that cut completely through the peninsula and you can see all the way through to the raw ocean on the other side. If you are brave enough, or stupid enough, depending on your view (and I am), you can work your way into the middle of the caverns as the tide fills it up. It is like an amusement park ride, as thousands of gallons of salt water, explodes into the tube, smashing you against the rocks, forcing you to hold on for dear life. The current sucks back out again, and you have to grab the sides to keep from getting swallowed alive with the surge. Instantly, the force returns; the noise is deafening; the power is devouring. AWESOME! I adore this place!!!!
After about an hour or so of water time, everyone was corralled back on the boat for lunch. As is standard practice it seems in Costa Rica, the food is delicious; Savory BBQ chicken and fresh guacamole; a wide variety of local fruits, with piles of chips and pico de gallo; even good old Frito-Lay Cheetos; and a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies for desert. Another round of drinks, and we pulled anchor and headed out to sea. Coming here, we stayed close to the shore, so you could see the amazing rock formations and terrain. But for the return trip back, they headed west, out to the depths, and hoisted the huge sails in the air. The wind grabbed us tight and whisked us along, and we were cruising like we were competing for the Auld Mug. As we got into deeper waters, the marine life became more prevalent, and we were treated to a show worthy of a Jacques Cousteau documentary. A dozen Dolphins appeared out of nowhere, acting like little kids at a playground; dive bombing in and out of the wake, ducking under the front of the vessel; racing next to us, daring us to go faster. Costa Rica has 4 or 5 species of Dolphins, and you can just about guarantee you will see them when you are out on the water. Just 50 meters or so off the starboard side, a school of Eagle Rays was attempting to fly. They would literally leap out of the water, 6 or 7 feet in the air, twisting and turning, spinning and flapping, only to come crashing down again into the surf. They were like Olympic gymnasts, giving us our own personal show, each one trying to outdo the last, hoping for the Gold Medal. “Look! Over there!” someone shouted, and the boat came to a slow crawl and approached this lump in the water. There were two Leatherback Turtles, seriously getting busy; it was quite a scene, and we had the embarrassing feeling that we had interrupted their love fest. But like two exhibitionists, they thrived on the attention; not once missing a beat, putting on a show for the clicking of our cameras.
And then it appeared. Slowly at first, gradually getting bigger and bigger, it just kept coming and coming; I was positive it was a nuclear submarine. It seemed to consume the entire field of view, as this massive black bulge developed on the surface. It was a Sei Whale, the biggest I have personally ever seen, and it was almost as long as the boat; it was slowly breaching the chop, with its little baby calf just under its fin. It stayed for about 7 or 8 minutes, giving us all the thrill of a lifetime, shooting water from its blowholes, before disappearing to the depths, as its massive tail came crashing down, nowhere to be seen again. It is a kind of Baleen Whale; these creatures can grow to be over 60 feet long, and weigh 30 tons, and are regular visitors to the Papagayo Bay. I have been fortunate enough, to experience about 20 whale sightings in my time here in paradise, as Costa Rica is known as a migratory path. We get the smaller Pilot Whales as well as the Blue Whales and the Humpbacks, some of the biggest creatures on the world, and even families of the wild Orca; causing dive boats to scramble like fire trucks, off to the scene.
As we sailed back in to Playas del Coco, the sun was setting to the west; one of those explosive combinations of colors that only Costa Rica knows. It is like a giant box of Crayons, every color accounted for, smeared across the sky and it absolutely takes your breath away. There is no such thing as a bad sunset when you are here in paradise, and we all make an effort to see it every single night; but to view it a mile and a half out, with a group of new friends, after an afternoon on this craft, is priceless. I have to warn you though; this will rank as one of the most phenomenal days of your life, and you will never want to leave. Bring extra Tank Tops and Flip Flops because you will probably extend your trip.
We ended the perfect day at one of my all-time favorite restaurants; Donde Claudio; on the beach in Coco, with Lobster Fettuccine and a bottle of wine. I am sad to see Travis and Tanya go, but I know that they can’t stay away too long, this place always brings them back. Besides, their week is over, and I gotta get rested up, as next month’s reservation is already full.
Hope to see you soon. What is taking you so long?