My friends and family can attest to the fact that I have a hard time relaxing. I define “Type A” personality and just generally high strung. Whatever, we have have our faults. One of the only places I can truly relax is at the beach. Cushion-y sand beneath me, sun rays like a warm blanket. Or better yet, playing in the water. Floating, diving down, rolling in waves. Water has always been a key element in my happiness. I spent a good portion of my childhood and teen years smelling like chlorine. Swim practice during the school year and life guarding in the summer, pools were my favorite spots. Even now my first question when picking a hotel or visiting a friends for a weekend, “do they have a pool?” Growing up in a beach town also helped foster my connection to the water. As an adult I have found ways to connect with water other than the town beach or town pool. Although I need to brush up on my skills and find a new dive buddy, SCUBA was an amazing way for me to effortlessly explore underwater. I prefer snorkeling, as I get to swim more actively and the swallow waters always offer so much color and life. But one of my favorite new ways to connect with water provides a fun athletic challenge while allowing me to have a somewhat spiritual connection with water simultaneously. Surfing is good for your body and your soul.
To celebrate my birthday this year, I somehow convinced my mom to accompany me to Nosara in the Gaunacaste province of Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast. This is a huge accomplishment in itself because my 64 year-old mom has never surfed, barely travels without my dad, definitely doesn’t leave the country without my dad, and speaks absolutely no Spanish. I was so grateful for the company and know I will always cherish this “mother-daughter” trip. So off to Nosara we went. This sleepy little tourist town is a surfer’s paradise with endless warm days and consistent beach breaks. The jungle extends right to the beach and in the morning you are always greeted loudly by the howler monkeys. The days are hot and bright, perfect for surfing and then napping by (and in) the pool.
Traveling and exploring are great, as you always learn more about yourself as you learn more about our world. A”leave no trace” mentality should always be practiced, as I firmly believe we should leave only footprints as we visit other’s communities. Nosara is one of the most eco-friendly places I’ve visited, with a strong emphasis on preservation of natural resources. There’s no development along the beach, as fate led to declaring the beach-front jungle as protected land. We surfed with Safari Surf School, a company immersed in this Costa Rican community. Jeffrey and his team were amazing and made sure we had a great vacation. All of their surf instructors are well-trained and professional, and all hail from the area. Every instructor seems to share the same sentiment, they live in paradise and get to surf for a living, what else can you ask for? Safari Surf School is housed within Olas Verde which is not only one of the most beautiful little hotels I’ve stayed at, but definitely the most environmental friendly hotel I’ve ever seen. We were incredibly spoiled here, gorgeous pool, delicious food, short trail through the jungle to the beach. Loved it.
Safari Surf partners with local organizations and a portion of our vacation cost went to one such organization, Refuge for Wildlife. We had an opportunity to visit one morning. The founder, Brenda Bombard, gave us an educational tour. She works tirelessly to rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, especially howler monkeys, in Costa Rica. I was incredibly impressed by her work and of course, loved getting to see all the monkeys. If you are interested in volunteering with Refuge for Wildlife, Brenda and her staff welcome volunteers who can commit at least a month (just be ready to get covered in monkey excrement,naturally). My mom and I learned a lot about howler monkeys and how humans have threatened them in Costa Rica and other communities, and what can be done to help out.
As an athlete, I always strove for perfection. I wasn’t the fastest swimmer on my team, but my technique was on point. Even when I swam at full speed, my stroke never wavered. I don’t like doing things that I’m not good at, hence I hate dancing as I struggle with choreography (my friends can attest, I’m only dancing after a number of drinks). At first I was obsessed with my surf technique, working so hard on the mechanics that I got frustrated easily. Once I learned that nothing else beats the feeling of riding a wave, I abandoned that need for perfection and stopped caring about a sloppy pop-up. Sure, practice will help. But I’m more interested in getting up than how I look. That’s been a nice lesson from surfing, who cares what you look like when it’s really about how you feel.
Oh, of course we went zip-lining. I’m sure they won’t let you out of Costa Rica without zip-lining. As you can see from the photo below, we loved it (this photo was taken by one of our Miss Sky Canopy guides who said, “Give me your camera on this run, trust me”). This might be my favorite picture from our trip!
If you’re heading to Nosara, we ate/drank/etc at some great places. Shoot me a message for more recommendations, but off the top of my head we loved:
Gilded Iguana for drinks and live music
Harbor Reef for smoothies and swim-up pool bar
Tica Massage for well, massage
Beach Dog Cafe for snacks, quick meals and drinks
KayaSol for nachos (because every trip should have nachos)
Dolce Vita for Italian (yes, the New Yorker is recommending an Italian place in Central America. This place was cute, food was great, they had live music and dancing. I didn’t dance, but I enjoyed watching others dance.)
We didn’t get to La Luna, but everyone raves about dining there at sunset. Sunsets in Nosara are magnificent.