Costa Rica, Tamarindo

Family Jumpy Pic (minus one)

As always, Miko creates the family a packing list for our adventures! She makes copies for everyone and places them on our beds to help us get our acts together! See below for her recommendations for this trip! We will unpack what we would have done differently later on in this post.

Costa Rica Packing List – Reef Safe Sunscreen

ROCKONLIVING TIP: Sunscreens can be super overpriced in certain countries and we rarely need an entire can of sunscreen for a week. We purchase travel sizes before leaving and always still have more than enough, for half the cost as well! Don’t forget if you will be in the ocean or waters that are a natural habitat to others, to pay a little more for the ocean/reef safe sunscreens!

We knew it was inevitable. But, as we were disembarking our plane upon arrival to Costa Rica we had a hiccup of time when we all were waiting for Quinn to take down our five suitcases from our overhead storage so we could begin our adventure…but there were only four. Insert sad face with tears.

Our oldest Rockonliving family member, Kayah is in college now and her spring break and the rest of our family’s spring break did not coincide. Leaving on an adventure without her felt off. Traveling with our family began as soon as our munchkins were placed in their newborn buckets for extended road trips and airplane travel. Although they do not recall most of their travels before the age of four, Quinn and I like to believe that one of the reasons they are all such good travelers now began with these earlier times of learning how to sit still, patience, waiting and adapting to new experiences at a squat tall age.

Recently, someone shared with Quinn and I a beautiful reel circulating on social media – perhaps you have seen it? It is a beautiful video of a dad outdoors in the woods and playing in streams with his young children.  There is nostalgic vibe music playing with his voice over saying, “you get four years…” he went on to reflect how OUR time with our children is brief, we will not get a do-over, a re-do or another opportunity when your smaller sacred circles of family is just yours…time…so fleeting and precious. If we could share any wisdom with anyone with small children, whatever your “thing” is (ours is travel) DO IT NOW as often as possible with your people. They will be young adults with their own lives, obligations, significant others and preferences on how they wish to spend their time. This is how we believe it should be. And, although we had so much time with Kayah, we wish had had more, no kidding.

Going from a family of five to four was a sad moment for our family but was also just one more first for a family with children transitioning into young adulthood and parents into middle age.

This trip was also different in a few other key areas. Normally, our adventures are a mix of chilling and experiences. With any of our trips, we always set intentions for our adventures. This trip the four of us had different goals. Quinn ad Miko wanted to surf. Kira wanted to chill, write music, journal and spend time on beach/ocean. I wanted to rest, read, reflect, dream and write. I also wanted some time to continue conversations with my man on our future. One thing our family loves to do on our trips, is have a nice place to gather to cook, eat slowly together and unpack our day with one another. Quinn took all our intentions into consideration when selecting our lodging and experiences and put together a week where everyone’s needs were met, and then some.

Another difference was we DID NOT DRIVE. If you followed our last trip to Costa Rica, we had a rental car and in the week there were involved in not one, but two car accidents. Costa Rica is a beautiful country but driving there requires some major adjustments in expectations and anticipation of what others will do. Rules truly seem like suggestions and there are mopeds, bikes and motorcycles everywhere following their own set of rules. Due to the fact we were staying in one location the entire time, we arranged a shuttle with a driver for our family to and from the airport. This was a nice change as it allowed my family not suffer my insane anxiety about driving in a foreign country at times and everyone could enjoy taking in the sites during the hour and half drive to Tamarindo, Costa Rica. This time, I was able to witness and take note of the driving customs and practices of Costa Rica which I believe will give me more confidence when we return here again.

Why Tamarindo? One word. Surfing. Okay, two words, surfing and scouting. Quinn and I are spending a lot of time right now dreaming and planning for the next half of our lives together. In many ways I have felt like our next half has been difficult for me to see. I used the metaphor of being out in the ocean when the water is cloudy and you cannot see the bottom. You may feel things with your feet, but unsure what these items are. Eventually, the water settles and the sand settles and you begin to see shapes and edges of distinct objects that once enough time has passed you can clearly make out as coral, shells, rocks or sea life.

In many ways our entry to midlife feels the same – cloudy but starting to take some shape and form. Quinn really loves the Pura Vida lifestyle and surfing so scouting out the surfing town of Tamarindo was also a constant backdrop to this visit.

Last year we visited Jaco and Arenal, Costa Rica. While there are some similarities between these two surf towns, we all agreed we would prefer a second home in Tamarindo. This town is more family friendly with larger/wider beaches. The sand in Tamarindo is not as dirty as Jaco which allows for more time enjoying the beach. This was the first real spring break for many countries since the easing up of Covid restrictions so the beach was busy as it was Spring break for many in the United States. As a matter of fact, there were no testing requirements to enter Costa Rica, but still mandatory to reenter USA. Face masks are still required for airports, shuttles and airplane. Like any place, there were seedy areas of the walk-to-anything-you-need town, I felt safe alone walking to grocery store, shopping or on beach. People were very friendly and generally bilingual-enough.

Our last trip was into to Jaco to the San Jose airport.   San Jose is the capital city and much larger than the small airport we arrived in this time. This trip left Raleigh to Miami to Liberia, Costa Rica. This airport is super small, clean and easy to navigate. The shuttle ride from the airport to Tamarindo was about 1.5 hours. The currency of Costa Rica is the colones. Aside from some beach vendors and some walk up restaurants, most places accepted credit cards, American dollars or colones for payment.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: We always bring some of a country’s currency with us when traveling. Go to your bank weeks before trip as sometimes the bank needs time to secure the currency of country you are traveling to. Also, let your credit card and bank know your travel plans so expenses are not flagged as potentially fraudulent or denied.

We stayed at the Sunrise Tamarindo Condominiums. These condos are in excellent condition, well maintained, have beautiful landscaping, and offers a relaxing pool with large rock featured waterfall. The condo is very family friendly and just a walk across a very small street to the beach. If you rent a condo on the third floor or above you will be able to see the ocean, too. There is 24-hour security and our unit had whole house AC, not easy to always find in Costa Rica. Our condo had a beautiful, private patio with a ceiling fan, grill and gorgeous table for eating overlooking the courtyard and pool. This condo has quiet hours from 10pm to 10am. Tamarindo faces West so 5:30 sunset is an event. Everyone packs up snacks, drinks, and heads down to the water for the show every single night. For the first time I can ever remember, we saw purple in the sunsets!

Waterfall Pool in Courtyard

ROCKONLIVING TIP: Use caution walking the streets of Tamarindo! They are very uneven and contain many small concrete drainage ditches that if you are not looking would be very easy to twist an ankle or fall.

Life in Costa Rica is stunning juxtaposition of extreme poverty and abundance. Poverty in money, abundance in simplicity and life. When you drive around Costa Rica you can see extreme poverty in the form of economic and by our Western standards, living. Many homes in Costa Rica are sparsely decorated, many do not have windows or door, some have dirt floors. However, at the same time, these homes are full of family, laundry hanging on clotheslines, abundant yards of fresh fruit and food. Although farms do exist, you see trees, plants and shrubs everywhere growing fresh, edible food in abundance. Many of the homes have barbwire or gates on the front. I am assuming this is for safety. Safety from whom, I am not sure.

Costa Rica does not have four seasons, they have two – summer and winter.  These seasons are not temperature dependent, but precipitation based. Summer is their rainy season.  Although we had no rain while we were there, the country was just entering Summer. Their Winter season is dry.

Quinn and Miko have surfed in number of places. This would be their second surfing experience in Costa Rica. Quinn hired a surfing instructor for the week and chose this particular company because of the philosophy they weaved into the surfing experience on their website. This experience was different from ones of the past as they really got more in-depth training in more technical aspects of surfing (turning, weight distribution, etc) and growing their understanding of the ocean, waves and currents. While all of this information is essential to grow to the next level of becoming a surfer, it seemed to weigh down on them a little more than past surfing experiences as you see them “thinking” much more in water. As with almost anything that requires skills to perform, there is a phase of learning that is more theory based, technique based that needs to occur before a much more intuitive based relationship can develop over time.

Leandro (way cool instructor originally from Argentina) reviewing video with Quinn

This surfing trip also included instruction out of water at a skateboard park and reviewing videoing their instructor Leandro from https://www.surfeverydayacademy.com and done of Quinn and Miko. He spent time with each of them individually reviewing what they were doing well and where they could improve. They both found these experiences helpful in growing their skills on their boards.

FUN FACT: like the saying in life, “things come in threes” waves are the same – most times surf waves come in sets of three and learning how to read them before they take form or shape is one skill that takes some time to develop.

If you follow the rockonliving IG account, you know I enjoy taking a daily morning walk and look to nature for answers, inspiration, insight and peace. Most days I post an image that catches my eye as a “morning walk delight.” I have an app that I use to help me identify plants, flowers, and trees. This app also has a fun feature I enjoy that includes folklore or symbolism associated with the particular species. So many times, the symbolism of a plant, flower or tree are a message I find myself in need of hearing or understanding. Nature has a way of providing context for life that way.

On our first day in Costa Rica, I awoke before others and made myself a big cup of coffee and sat on our patio. Costa Rica has the most diverse and unique sounding birds of any places we have visited. I quickly noticed several pots of healthy growing plants on our patio I had never seen before. I pulled out my app to identify the first plant and it was called “the Devil’s backbone.” Okay, interesting…it symbolized persistence.  Then, I scanned the other plant that was growing right next to the Devil and it had a very spiky stem and when its name appeared I felt an immediate sense of mystery and awe – it is known as “Christ’s Crown.” Scholars believe this is the plant that was used to make the thorny crown Christ wore on his head on the cross. Here these two plants were side-by-side in pots and in one pot the two were actually growing together. I should mention we are visiting the week of Easter. I listen deep when I experience something like this and am still unpacking what felt like a very personal, sacred experience.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: Costa Rica makes really good coffee. I think coffee creamer may be an insult to their beans. If you are a creamer kinda gal like myself, prepare to get creative. I found a vanilla flavored milk I used on this trip.

My goals of reading, resting and writing were accomplished. I finished a book called Church of the Wild by Victoria Loorz and when we left to return home I was more than half way through a new book by Kenneth Follett titled The Evening and the Morning – the prequel to one of my favorite trilogies ever (Pillars of Earth Saga.) The prequel takes place in 900’s CE and is just as engaging as Follett’s epic trilogy. This book, like the trilogy, is graphic, violent and contains foul language that at times can be hard to read. I think considering the time period and the violence of Viking raids Follett does an excellent job making the reader feel the brutality of living during those times, especially if you were a woman.

Every time we come home from one of our experiences, I try to bring pieces of our experience home to incorporate or add to our way of living or doing life. On this trip, I will bringing two souvenirs – one in spirit and the other more tangible.  

First, I hope to bring a little more Pura Vida, or the pure life (simple life, full life…) into our second half of life. In Costa Rica, Pura Vida isn’t just a cool slogan, but a spirit, a way of living, being. I am committed to honoring the gift of this life by tending to the simple pleasures and people in my little world, respecting all life around me and being a better steward of our resources.

Second, I will be buying a new broom. The broom we used in Costa Rica was the Bomb-Diggity-Bomb. It had a fat soft bristle head that did an excellent job capturing everything from fine sand to bigger messes. Every time I use the broom, I will think of our time in Costa Rica.

Every trip we share some of the things we maybe overpacked or would have done differently, kind of learn from our mistakes? For this trip, we each brought a carry-on suitcase and small under seat bag.

We all agreed we overpacked and brought too many warm items for evenings that were NOT necessary at all (ask Kira.)

Remember to reapply sunscreen every single place the sun touches often, the sun in Costa Rica is INTENSE (ask Miko).

 Bring smaller denominations of money for tipping/spending.

Never buy bottled water in airport in Costa Rica – ask for tap. A bottle of water cost $11 USA dollars (ask Vickie.) 

And, finally do not eat at a food truck the night before you have a long day of flying ahead of you (ask Quinn.)

Have gratitude for the fun little surprises in life. Due to the high number of flight cancellations on our way home, American Airlines upgraded us (no charge) to first class to accommodate more passengers on standby! We didn’t even ask, we were just randomly selected! How fun is that??

I have also committed to writing up our travel blogs much sooner (I am on airplane home right now) while our experiences are fresh in heart and mind. I am also in the beginning stages of toying with the idea of recording a podcast that reflects on the more philosophical aspects of travel and how our Rockonliving family uses this medium as a tool for connection and growth. Stay tuned…

Until then, Rock on LIVING friends, xxoo

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