Depending on who you ask, they may give you a different description of a tropical wonderland. For me, it’s lazy days on the beach, working with animals in my spare time, teaching some English as needed, and having the availability of endless outdoor trails to explore, like this one! Hence, our next retirement exploration trip: Costa Rica. We leave for Costa Rica for one week in November. We’ve heard it’s a fabulous paradise in Central America and hopefully it will be considered in the running for our retirement wonderland.
What are we planning for this exploration trip?
We aren’t doing the usual tourist traps of zip-lining in Monteverde cloud forest or hiking Arenal’s volcano. Instead, we are spending our days in the sleepy beach town of Nosara and it’s neighbor to the north, the more touristy Tamarindo. Both cities are on Costa Rica’s northwestern coast (near scuba diving!), just a few hours south of the Nicaraguan border. Nosara is a sleepy, yoga-friendly beach touch and Tamarindo is a touristy surfer’s paradise. We figure we won’t be playing tourist all the time in our adopted country, so we might as well plan to live like a local.
We figure we should try out two very different cities in the same area to get a feel of which fits our needs and wants better. Nosara will make for a relaxing time. We plan to do yoga while we are there. Then we will head north to Tamarindo and get a feel for what it’s like to live in a tourist town. It’s a bit more lively than Nosara and has a main drag that is known to have partying surfers in the bars until late into the evening. The one thing these two cities have in common is that they are both near jungle hiking trails that meet the sea.By exploring two uniquely different cities, it’ll give us a view of the different types of life available in Costa Rica.
What will we do there?
Even without partaking in the typical tourist activities, we will find many things that peak our interest. My love of animals will be easily fulfilled in this area. There are plenty of Animal sanctuaries near both Tamarindo and Nosara. Nosara is home to the SIBUSanctuary, which helps rehabilitate native animals in Costa Rica and release them back into the jungle. One of their big initiatives is the SHOCK Save program, which helps educate locals on how to save howler monkeys from electric shocks from power lines.
Just north of Nosara, is the Ostinal Wildlife Reserve, aka the Ostinal Turtle refuge. During the rainy season in Costa Rica from August through December (when we will be there!) the mama turtles come to nest on the beach here. They bury their eggs and then every few days, under the light of the moon, the baby turtles hatch and swim out to the sea. Ostinal Wildlife Reserve protects the area around the turtle’s nesting grounds and allows people to safely observe the hatching.
Tamarindo has unique adventures all its own. And those adventures are all water-based. Surfing is a popular activity in Tamarindo and we plan to try it out when we are there. We’ve done it once before on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, in the town of Luquillo. We hired a private guide and spent two hours as his only two students. It was amazing when we actually rode a wave (which appeared much smaller in pictures than they seemed in real life) and needless to say, we were exhausted after our 2 hours in the water!
Is that all there is?
There’s also some fabulous scuba diving about 45 minute off Tamarindo’s coast near the Catalina Islands. The Catalina Islands are home to many sharks and turtles, two of my favorite undersea animals. (The seal is still my favorite but they don’t live here!) I plan to dive there and enjoy the surroundings. My eventual plan for scuba diving is to get my dive master and be able to teach in retirement. I’m half way there with my advanced certification from Belize!
Since Tamarindo is also a more touristy town, there’s a few more modern amenities, such as the local brewery. Volcano Brewing, is the only microbrew in Tamarindo. It has only three beers on tap, but I’ll take it. One of the beers is even an IPA, which makes me so happy since I have never seen an IPA around the equator, even though they are perfect for the weather.
Finally, in both Nosara and Tamarindo, the hiking in and around both areas is supposed to be amazing. One of the recommended hiking places is the Nosara Biological Reserve. The reserve is supposed to be littered with howler monkeys and other splendid wildlife. The locals apparently find the howler monkeys annoying because of their incessant high-pitched howling. But I think for people who have never had monkeys in their presence, that it will be exciting and fascinating. It’s probably what some people, who have never heard them before, think of coyotes. I find their howling annoying, but a visitor may find it charming.
Where are we staying?
I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear we are staying at an Airbnb. I am in love with that site since I’ve only had great experiences using it. Maybe someday that will change but I hope it never does.
I have chosen two very different types of Airbnbs for our stays. In Nosara, we are staying 5 miles outside of the town center and the beach, in a bunglaow in the jungle for less thand $80 US dollars per night. It’s adorable, reasonably priced, and has its own private and secluded pool. I’ve never stayed in a jungle bungalow before and I’m excited about the possibilities of seeing some of the animals like jaguars, monkeys, and exotic birds. The roads to and from Nosara are supposed to be rough, to say the least, so it’ll be fun to get used to what it’s like driving on the roads there.
In Tamarindo, it’s again an Airbnb for $75 US dollars per night. This time it’s a studio, located in a large complex, just a couple of blocks from the beach. There’s no pool at this one, so we will be using the beach to beat the heat. With this Airbnb, we can walk downtown and won’t even need a car. So very different from our first stay where we will be riding the rough roads in Nosara.
Interestedly enough, both Airbnb’s we are staying at are owned by American ex-pats who now call Costa Rica home. We are hoping to chat with them. We want to learn what they love and also don’t love about their new, adopted homeland.
Why even consider Costa Rica?
the list is pretty long on why Costa Rica made it as an option:
- It’s a pretty safe country. So safe that Costa Rica was able to disband their military and put all that money towards education instead. Yes, that means they rely on their neighbors, like the US, if they ever get into conflict. However, right now, that is highly unlikely.
- Flights to and from Costa Rica are pretty easy to find from almost anywhere in the US. There are direct flights from many main hubs including Houston, Miami, and Los Angeles. When we go in November, we will by flying from Denver to Houston to Liberia. It’s less than 5 hours total flying time, which makes for a relatively short and easy trip.
- Climate. It’s on the equator, need I say more?
- Healthcare is top-notch as many ex-pat physicians have chosen to work part-time here and enjoy a less stressful life. I love that I can get equal healthcare.
- Americans can make easy side cash teaching English. We are studying Spanish right now and hoping to put that to good use in our new home!
Wish us luck on our upcoming adventure and hope that Costa Rica is our retirement wonderland! I’ll keep you updated on what we find in a few weeks!