Its been a good while since I travelled. After an unexpected break up, bouts of whoa is me associated with said break up….I decided on a snowy February day that I would travel somewhere warm…for my birthday in April. And on this snowy afternoon, began the thoughts of what will become my most memorable adventure and where I truly healed by broken heart.
I went to work and casually mentioned to a colleague that I was wanting to take off to a warm place…should I go to Cuba or Mexico or Jamaica…but none really appealed to me since I had been before. He said to me “you would love Costa Rica” and mentioned a place called Tamarindo….I started researching it right away….yes…at my at work…oops.
On the weekend, I picked up my daughter to go for lunch and I told her that I had a placed booked in Tamarindo and was set to go in April. I mentioned how great it would be if she was coming with me…and then, Melanie, aka my daughter said…”I will go”. I was shocked…Mel has never travelled anywhere before and didn’t ever express an interest to do so. I am so happy that she decided to come.
At lunch we begin to make a list of what we needed for the trip and create timelines for things to get done. Yes, I am spontaneous, but this trip did require a little organization. With our schedule in place, the first thing we need is passports…mine to be renewed and Mel needs a passport.
Over the next few weeks we get busy, passports, packing, money exchanged to US dollars, and I get things booked online…confirmation of accomodations, shuttle service and once the passports were in, booking our flights. I booked us on a flight that left early Friday morning from Toronto, Ontario with a 1 hour layover in Dallas/Fort Worth and then landing in Liberia, Costa Rica around noon. The return flight left the following Friday morning from Liberia, with a 2 hour layover in Miami and then landing in Toronto at 9 pm. When I hit that submit button, I was elated. This is the first time I had ever booked a flight for a trip…probably room for improvement but I didn’t care.
The day to leave finally arrives. Our plan is to leave around 1 pm, drive to Barrie, Ontario and have something to eat and then head to Toronto. We have a park and fly hotel room booked there, but are planning to check in, park the car and then head over to the airport and just hang out there until its time to board the plane. Sounds perfect.
I get home from work at 12:30…and…omg…what is that smell? I look all over the house and then discover that my little schnauzer, Barkley, who is very old, had decided to spend the day on my bed, but had also had diarrhea all over my bed…ugggggggh. I can’t get mad at the little love, so I clean him up, clean up my bed, throw out my duvet and pack my bags in the car. I let Mel know I will be late and why…she still laughs to this day as to why I was late. By 3 pm we hit the road…latin music paying loud and we are singing along as if we know the words.
Half way to Barrie we stop for some gas and a leg stretch. We did step into the little mall for a quick walk around and Mel took a pic of me boarding our plane….
We hit the road again, and soon we are in Barrie, Ontario. Here we decide to stop for a bite to eat and we soon find a little restaurant. We laugh and talk about what we might experience on our trip and are just generally annoyingly loud and happy, much to the chagrin of the other patrons. We eat up and head out again….next stop…Toronto.
We check into our park and fly hotel, get our reservation set to stay there the following Friday night and then take the hotel shuttle to the airport, a mere 10 minutes away. Once at the airport we have to wait 6 hours before the gates open for us to check in and board the plane. This was the most tiring part of the trip. We have been up since 5 am and now we need to sit on the floor, our luggage or the uncomfortable seats at the airport. None of the stores or restaurants are open, so we hunker down and sleep in weird positions off and on and try to put in our time. Finally, the coffee shops open at 6 am…thank you coffee for being in my life…and we grab a quick brew and snack and head to the check in. Everything was automated which was new to me, so thankfully Melanie could figure things out. And there was quite a bit of scrutinizing since we were travelling to the USA…safety precautions on their part and understandable. At last we board the plane and our excitement levels peak…again. We are off…Costa Rica here we come!
We take off, enjoy the breakfast we are served, watch a movie and soon we land for our 1 hour layover in Dallas/Fort Worth. I love this airport. It is massive, but well laid out. Once you leave your plane you hop onto a monorail that travels the circumference of the airport. You disembark at the stop for the gate you need for boarding your connecting flight. It is fast and makes walking in an unfamiliar airport so easy. Oh, and we were so happy when as we board the flight to Liberia, Costa Rica, because the stewardess greets us in espanol…..hola!
The flight is only a couple of hours, first over the southern US states, and them over the Pacific Ocean….absolutely gorgeous. On the plane they ask if anyone would like to order a beverage and we order two mini champagnes to toast to our adventure. As we are clinking bottles, a stewardess comes over and hands us another bottle and says…”this one is on me ladies…this is my last flight before I retire…enjoy your trip and Costa Rica”. Wow, how cool was that. She was all smiles because she could see how grateful and excited we both were. Happy retirement to you wherever you are.
We soon fly over Guatamala, Nicaraqua, and then…Costa Rica. We fly over such magnificent mountains and greenery…the likes of which I have never seen before in all of my travels. And finally we land at the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport. This airport is really the tourist hub for travellers visiting the Pacific coast and western Costa Rica. It is named after the man who served as President of Costa Rica from 1974 to 1978 to honor his work for the province of Guanacaste. The airport receives over 1,146,000 passengers a year and it has expanded greatly over the past 15 years. It has a contemporary look and feel and in kind with the hospitality in Costa Rica, it has a beautiful area just outside the main building for folks to walk their travel weary pets.
Out of the plane we go and into the airport. We grab our luggage, fill in the required forms and head to the check point to exit the airport. It almost looks like a grocery store checkout…manned by the policia (police). Melanie puts her carry on on the scanner and he waves her through…I start walking right through at which point the policeman says…”no, place your backpack on the counter”….oh my…I was so excited to get going I forget to follow the process. Thinking I would for certain be pulled aside, investigated, interrogated, sniffed by dogs and detained…the policeman behind the counter took my bag, handed it to me and was smiling…he knew I was just overly excited. “Pura Vida and welcome to Costa Rica” he says….and out of the airport we go.
Immediately the heat hits you and takes a moment to adjust….we have just left snow in Canada so its a pleasant shock. Once you are on the sidewalk you are swarmed by shuttle drivers and cab drivers….some legit and some not. I am looking on my phone for the name of the shuttle company I have booked and these folks keep at us, offering us rides and they are unrelenting. And then this man walks over with a big smile and says “Jan?”. He has a sign with my name on it and his shirt is from the shuttle company I booked…he is our man. I booked online with Tamarindo Tours Shuttles. The process was quick and easy and they were responsive to my questions and to processing and confirming my booking and providing all details. I would highly recommend them. The cost was only $30.00 US each, and that was for a private shuttle, which is a great price. tamarindoshuttle.com
He walks us over to our van and we are his only passengers. We leave the airport and check out the scenery. We have about an hours drive to Tamarindo. He makes a stop at a little store and asks if we want to grab some water, which we do. He doesn’t speak English well, and we are too tired to try out our limited Spanish just yet, but none the less it was a great ride.
The countryside was a little dry as Costa Rica was at the end of its dry season, but it was amazing none the less…mountains, farmland, small villages, colorful houses….just beautiful.
The ride was uneventful but for two small moments. The first was a small stop by the police…in the middle of the road. They had several vehicles stopped and pulled over, and eventually waved us through. This is a normal occurance here as the police are looking for illegal taxis and shuttle drivers. Not sure what would happen if you were in an illegal cab….but I highly recommend booking a with a legitimate company always.
The second moment was a little more exciting. As we rounded a corner on the road, we saw sparks flying and fire coming out of…a hydro pole. And the workers were perched precariously on a ladder trying to fix it. Mel and I are shocked but as in all things in Costa Rica…just chill and relax. We casually drive on by like it was just a little welcoming fireworks display…just for us. Wow.
We reach Tamarindo and let me just say it did not disappoint. It is a surfer, expat and party town but it has such an immediate charm.
Tamarindo is in Guanacaste province and is on the Pacific Ocean. It was a originally a fishing village but now is known for surfing and ecotourism. With a population of approximately 6500 people, Tamarindo offers all of the amenities one could ask for, 5 supermercados (grocery stores), 3 bankos (banks), an airport for regional flights and many shops, bars, restaurants and sodas (mom and pop authentic restaurants). It is bustling but the pace is slow and easy in Costa Rica, so you never feel rushed, or anxious about waiting in a line. It is a good place to have a fun but chill vacation.
I have booked our accommodations for the week at the Tamarindo Diria. It is a beachfront hotel on one side of the street (which is where we stayed) and a newer section across the street which includes three separate pool areas, condos, beautiful hotel rooms, and a casino. Both areas are accessible to all Diria guests and offers something for singles, families or couples. The breakfast is included with the oceanfront hotel rooms and let me just say…yummmmmy….delicious, plentiful and many items purely Costa Rican. The staff are so very hospitable and kind and humourus and always smiling. I highly recommend staying here if you go to Tamarindo. http://www.tamarindodiria.com.
Check in was easy, as was booking the Diria. A wonderful man named Randall carried our bags to our second floor room….and then…we swung open the balcony door…and just hugged each other and took it all in.
Pura Vida has begun…and so has our night…but thats for the next blog.
Stayed tuned for our adventures and some amazing places you must see in beautiful Costa Rica.
Live your Life. Jan