We love exploring new places on our new adventure here in Costa Rica. We just came back from several days in Nosara with some good friends and wanted to share some of the highlights.

Nosara is a fairly well-known are among celebrities, evidently, given a large number of health, beauty and yoga retreats. You wouldn’t know it though. And no, we didn’t see any famous people 🙂 It is another great surfing area that is about 2 hours south of where we are in Playa Flamingo. Nosara is one of three towns that are all clustered together. Our friends stayed in Playa Guiones and we stayed in Playa Pelada.


Welcome to Nosara

We took the road to Nosara that follows the coast rather than travelling inland. It was beautiful in many places, especially when you could see the ocean. Mostly though, the roads were dirt and covered in potholes. It would have actually made a pretty good driving video game, but you really need the pounding shock action to help create some challenge in steering. Of course, what’s a road trip without our buds, the cows?

photo 2

Cows Always Have the Right of Way

The area is much more “jungly” than where we live. It was lush and beautiful. It was far more green and there was a lot more wildlife in and around town and the house we stayed in. This means that the bug population (“bichos”) was significantly higher as well – and we all felt it. It was more humid in the Nosara area and at times got to a “sauna” level. The Ticos call it “bochorno”.

The three towns themselves have a common, but very different feel compared to where we live up north. Deb liked the “vibe” a lot there.

Among the wildlife we saw was a family of howler monkeys. They get their name from their sounds, of course. Although, it is less of a “howl” and more of a very guttural “hoo”. The males are the ones who like to chat, and chat they did. I had quite a rousing conversation with one of the males one evening. I guess he enjoyed it so much that he came back early the next morning around 4am to have another one. I guess I didn’t mention that they were nocturnal.


Meet the Howlers

Howlers live in Guanacaste trees (the name also given to the state we live in in Costa Rica). We have the monkeys and the trees in our area up north, but not as close to where we live.

We saw a range of insects in Nosara as well. Many were different from Playa Flamingo. In some cases, that was great. For example, we saw this incredible red dragonfly. We see many as Deb seems to have a magical connection with them. We’ve never seen a red one though anywhere.

red dragonfly

A Red Dragonfly

Nosara has cicadas more the size that we expect from Chicago and Kansas. Strangely, in our tropical climate up north, our “micro” cicadas are about a third the size. Nosara is also home to a large number of biting, stinging, and otherwise onerous set of insects. One bit or stung me on the finger while I was sleeping and it is still red and swollen. Thankfully, the people of the Nosara area are far nicer!


A Cicada

It rained heavily for a little bit each day, but that is pretty typical for this time of year. We did get a torrential downpour on our way back to our house one night. It was a bit of white-knuckle driving on the dirt (well, now, mud) roads in the middle of the jungle in pouring rain. It was almost like the beginning of one of those horror movies where you get lost and find something evil. Fortunately, with GPS and Deb spotting in the shotgun seat, we made it!

There were many fun food places we tried while down there. We actually found a craft brewing company called Beer and Burgers in Playa Guiones which had wonderful, dark stouts and other brews. I wish I had grabbed a photo to compare to the ones I had in Seattle.

We had a great breakfast at the Beach Dog Café, also in Playa Guiones. Deb’s had these amazing tacos with panko fried avocado, with passion fruit-sriracha sauce. It was very close to the beach and had a memorable sign!


The Beach Dog Cafe

Another big hit was Robin’s. The ice cream was absolutely amazing. We had heard it was great, but sadly didn’t make it there until our last day. You have to try the “Wake the Dead Up Coffee” gelato.

Overall, the food was pretty consistently good wherever we went. Sometimes we paid tourist prices but mostly we didn’t have to.

Awhile back I described some things that were particular to Costa Rica, if not unique. One of them was this large tube you see on many SUVs. I had thought they might be portable “snorkels” for cars in the rainy season driving through ponds. It turns out that these are portable showers for after-surfing rinse down. I couldn’t find one before when I was trying to get pictures for the blog, but I spotted one in Nosara.


Portable Surfer Showers

The way back was less of a driving simulator; we took mostly main roads up through large towns like Nicoya and Santa Cruz. And when we arrived home, we had a beautiful sunset waiting for us.


Another Sunset at Casa Mariposa Amarilla

Pura Vida!


It is Sunday after Christmas week, leading into the New Year’s week. It’s a good time to reflect. It’s also a good time to share what we did over the holidays on our new adventure here in lovely Costa Rica.

I’ll start with a priceless thing that Aidan said. About two weeks ago we asked the young adults what they wanted for Christmas – a question I am sure everyone asks their kids at some point. Here is what the wise Aidan said: “How about having Christmas?” He had us rolling on the floor. It was such a great, unintended comment on the differences between our past Christmases with the young adults and this one.

Traditionally, Vie and Aidan have spent most Christmases in Seattle, with an occasional one in Kansas or the Bay Area. In Seattle, as our Seattle friends know well right now, it is cold and it often snows. That means of course snow men, snowball fights, sledding, and all the associated fun.

We get two trees. We get a small one for Aidan and Vie so that they can put up their odd assortment of ornaments. They decorate it with lights and a light up star as well. Then we have a big tree for the piano room (family room). Deb really has some strong tree design and decorating aesthetics that she tries to temper a bit since we had kids. What often emerged was a gorgeous green tree with white lights and a balanced set of hues of gold, silver and white ornaments.

Sometimes I put up Christmas lights. Deb loves them. To do it though, I need to take down the massive array of lights from Halloween. In most years, I kept the Halloween lights up – though they aren’t white and don’t match the Deb Christmas aesthetic.

One of our sets of parents usually fly in to stay with us for the Holidays. We make Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve day and decorate them (and ourselves!). I usually make something easy like Minestrone for Christmas Eve dinner and we open presents from the family that night. Santa has come in the past the next morning leaving a few more presents. To cap it all off, I make a huge dinner of rabbit and polenta that is a tradition in our family, using my Nona’s (grandmother’s) recipes. It takes most of the day to make and makes the house smell “like Christmas.”

Roll the clock forward a bit now to this year coming into Christmas week. The temperature is a balmy 90 degrees (F) here. As I noted last week, here was the forecast for the week.


In fact, it’s the forecast for this week and next week as well. I’m sure January will be the same. So, no snow or winter sports.

We have seen some Christmas trees here. Folks seem to get them in Liberia an hour away and we have seen several people bringing them back on the bus. Most of them are wrapped in a shrink-wrap type plastic and come with red ornaments already on them. We decided that we didn’t really need a tree.

We don’t have a Christmas stockings here – and, well, we have no fireplace to hang them on even if we did. We also don’t have an oven and so we couldn’t make Christmas cookies.

We could have gotten Christmas lights, but they are expensive and few houses have them. The most I saw was one string. We also didn’t have any boxed or wrapped presents (not that we had a tree to put it under). Shipping is very expensive and/or unreliable depending on the method, so our parents sent digital gifts. Deb and I didn’t think we needed more stuff, so we chose presents that were experiences for Vie and Aidan.

[SPOILER ALERT – scroll down to read or skip]




There is one more thing. Small ears should not hear this. Aidan and Vie knew already that Santa was not real but we loved the tradition of presents Christmas morning and so we kept it alive. Well, Santa didn’t make it to Central America this year. I do expect he’ll return next year when his familiar snow is blowing. I hear the reindeer hate the heat anyway J

Looking at the whole thing from the point of view of an eleven year-old boy, you can now understand why Aidan asked for “Christmas” for Christmas this year. We are here for a new adventure, however, and so we were determined to add some new experiences to Christmas for everyone.

We started down this path early in Christmas week with a shopping trip to the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) store in Liberia, an hour or more away. It is sort of like a Home Depot, Costco, Walmart, Furniture USA, and Best Buy all wrapped into one. And it is huge. It is about 4 football fields long and about 40-50 feet or so high. To give you a sense of scale, here is a photo of the ceiling fan (no air conditioning). Each of the 8 blades is about 14 feet long.


Prices were pretty good there for the most part. We got a light tube for under our counter so we can actually see when we cook. We also got a great deal on a printer and cartridges for unschooling. It was the one piece of technology we didn’t bring, thinking that we could order one cheaply from Amazon! We also got some harder to find items as well as a fire extinguisher and safety vest for Moose. These last items were the main reason we went. We have to carry these in a car and this was the closest place to get them.

Of course, we found a few items that were, we thought, ridiculously priced. Our favorite was this ice chest:


Notice the price. 48,000 colones. That is about $100 for an ice chest that Costco sells for maybe $15!

We also ramped up our yoga that week. Deb saw a yoga poster with three levels (basics, expanding, radical expansion). Evidently, most of the moves we have been doing, even the P90X moves, are beginner level. She described a “crazy” one (one of the radical expansion ones) called “dragonfly.” That really inspired me. There were two more levels of difficult moves I hadn’t discovered yet, so I went on a bit of a quest. I asked our yoga instructor, Colleen, how to do it and she is working our class up to the move now (a bit to the dismay of our classmates, it seems; it really works you). I’ll hopefully report a successful outcome this coming week. Meanwhile, I just had to geek out a bit and create a spreadsheet with all the poses (asanas). My goal now is to do each one over the course of this next year. I’m sure there will be a post on that sometime.

Most of Christmas Eve day we spent playing 7 Wonders as a family. We finally read through the complicated set of directions and tried it. It is a wonderful game and turned out to be one that all four of us like equally well. We played 4 games then and several more since. It was one of the best family events we’ve had.

Adding to our new Christmas experiences, one thing we have in Costa Rica that we don’t in the US is fireworks! Our nearest big grocery store had a stand outside and so I bought an odd assortment of roman candles, sparklers, and ground based fireworks. We shot about half of them off Christmas Eve and are saving the last few for the beach on New Year’s Day.

After dinner Christmas Eve, we “opened” presents. Aidan and Vie got cards and emails with money or digital gift certificates from their grandparents. I expect they’ll download some fun games on Steam. Aidan will enjoy Minecraft Homeschool. Deb and I gave Aidan a gift certificate to go out on a fishing expedition. He’s been wanting to fish for some big fish – and then bring them home and cook them! Vie got a gift certificate to fly home to Sakura-Con in April, a huge anime convention in Seattle that Vie goes to with a bunch of friends from Utah and other places in the world. It is a really important event to Vie. I get to be chaperone.

On Christmas Day, we had thought to have a new family experience. We went to a new beach, Playa Conchal, and went snorkeling in 84 degree (F) water!

playa conchal

The beach here is one of the best in Costa Rica. It is a fine white sand beach. Even during the holidays it was pretty uncrowded at the end we were at, unlike most of the other beaches. Deb was in striking form as usual!


Aidan loved snorkeling and now wants to learn to dive. I sense another possible future career for him J We plan on getting certified later in the year after all he tourists are gone.

We came back and I made our traditional (almost) Christmas dinner. I could not find rabbit anywhere, but substituted a chicken and it worked fine. I found everything else here, including polenta, so it was the closest thing to “traditional” Christmas elements as we got. And of course, we started with champagne (well, truthfully, it was a Prosecco).

We had a bit of a health scare that evening with my mom, but she is doing well now and is out of the hospital. It was scary but I’m so happy everything is better. It wasn’t anything major but we didn’t know that at the time. This was probably the most isolated I’ve felt since being here. I couldn’t get through to my dad on my Costa Rica phone and so had to get my Seattle phone and try him at the hospital with that. We just had to wait it out. Fortunately, everything is good and she just checked out of the hospital today. That’s the best Christmas present I could get.

We are heading now into a week where we basically will be “cocooning” at home. Evidently, this is the most crowded week in Guanacaste by the beaches. It’s not mostly tourists, per se, though. According to many of our friends here, thousands come from San Jose and camp on the beach for several says this week, leaving New Year’s Eve day. It is a week of major traffic, people sleeping on the beach, wild parties, noise, drunkenness, and a ton of litter to clean up. We expect to survive it with some movies, more 7 Wonders, Xbox, several bike outings, and lots of pool time.

To all of you, we wish you very Happy Holidays and pura vida!