If I said I never even dreamt of going to Costa Rica, it would be a lie. As a girl I must have watched a thousand programmes following wildlife explorers on Animal Planet venturing into lush green jungles and misty cloud forests in the hope of catching a glimpse of an elusive amphibian or the odd timid mammal.
However, I had never realised that this faraway, seemingly unreal place, is the home of half a million species, or in other words, nearly 4 % of all wildlife on our planet. For this, and many other reasons, I was absolutely ecstatic that I was boarding a plane that would take me on what was to be an unforgettable adventure.
10 hours and 8700km later …
We made it to Liberia airport, and after a short transfer we got to our hotel in the little town of Tamarindo, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
^ Me in the lobby, looking happy that the flight is over, and that it’s dinner time. We didn’t wander too far – we went straight for one of the hotel restaurants, Gallo Fino. It offers typical Costa Rican cuisine, and some funky atmosphere. In hindsight, it wasn’t my favourite meal, and it was slightly overpriced, but it was an experience of the local food and culture that we didn’t want to miss.
^Prawn, mango and avocado salad with plantains. You would do well to remember this word. These banana crisps are finger-licking good when served savoury or sweet, and luckily, they come with EVERY meal in Costa Rica – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And, as we were absolutely starving, we also ordered this monster of a mixed grill:
Keen to get some sun, I was up early the next day, and no force on earth, however great, could have pulled me from the beach, where I spent the day reading a book and enjoying the calming sound of the crashing waves.
^ Even when the sun had long sunk below the horizon, I didn’t want to stray too far from the beach front. This is how we found The Ocean, which was probably one of my favourite places to grab a bite in Tamarindo. This could be somewhat influenced by my obsession with seafood, as they make a grilled tuna steak like none other.
Now that we had regained our strength after the long flight, we thought it would be nice to venture a bit further afield, and try out one of the other beaches along the coast. We made our way to playa Conchal (‘Sea shell beach’), where we were really able to unwind and enjoy the fine sand under our feet, and a glorious massage by a local lady with a straw hat .
I took a little stroll towards a group of beach huts in search of a bathroom, and instead I came across this wildly sociable little guy.
Once we were back in Tamarindo, we had a few mojitos in the beach bar to cool down, and then made our way to the next dinner spot on our list – Nari, a pizzeria just across the street, offering excellent food and wine in a lovely setting, at a fairly reasonable price.
On the next day we decided to switch it up a bit and spend a day by the lagoon pool to really get that relaxing experience before we set out on the numerous adventures we had planned for the rest of the holiday. After a much needed morning yoga session under the palm trees I went in for a dip … or two, or three.
There were a couple of little guys who had also decided to spend their time basking in the sun. Each of them more elusive than the other, they made me run around the pool with my camera like a crazy woman, until I was finally able to snap a portrait of each one.
^ Me looking tired after the wild chase. I decided it was time to go for a relaxing walk around the lovely gardens of the hotel, and make it to the beach just in time to witness a glorious, golden sunset.
After a quick look up and down the high street, we didn’t need much time to consider our choice of restaurant for the night. We had been saving the best for last, so we dropped by the Flying Bull Steakhouse.
I had the gazpacho to start with, and followed up with the tenderloin steak, which was cooked to perfection, and garnished with mixed vegetables and a tangy peppercorn sauce.
We spent the next day on the high seas, aboard a catamaran which took us to a lovely little bay where we went snorkelling. I saw a number of Nemo’s and Dory’s, and even a curious pufferfish, which kept swimming right under me, but stayed in close proximity to the reef (thankfully, it didn’t get overly interested in me).
^Me on board looking content with the day’s activity, despite the sunburnt nose.
The day was slowly drawing to a beautiful close, but we weren’t ready to let go of it just yet. We put on our waterproof clothes and trekking boots, and made our way to the beach just in time for high tide. We still had another couple of hours’ wait ahead of us, but it was absolutely worth it. We got to witness a green ocean turtle laying its eggs, and we even came across tiny turtles that had just hatched further down the beach, and got to help them find their way to the water. It was an amazing feeling, and I would definitely recommend trying to get a glimpse of it if you can.
Follow me on my adventure-filled trip around the Costa Rican countryside in next week’s post, featuring some pretty amazing encounters with furry friends, and a rather smelly experience with volcanic mud!