The moment we booked the flights for our great escape, many months before our departure date, I remember wondering what kind of advance planning would be required before setting off for a year long trip. The strange little organisation freak who lives somewhere deep inside my brain was starting to pace up and down, wanting to book hostels and transport links way before necessary.
In the end our pre-planning was reduced to looking at a map of Costa Rica about 2 weeks before our trip and googling ‘best beach in Costa Rica’. It was March and we’d just endured the peak of the British winter. We wanted beach and we wanted it now.
On Google’s trusty advice we headed straight for the Nicoya coast which is peppered with sandy beaches and eye-lashed with palm trees blinking over fresh waves rolling in off the Pacific ocean.
The first beach to be treated to our ghostly white half-naked limbs was Tamarindo.
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It soon became obvious that we weren’t the only sunshine starved tourists to follow the gospel of Google as Tamarindo is one of the most popular Costa Rican destinations for westerners, being nicknamed ‘TamaGRINGO’ by locals – ‘Gringo’ being the questionably affectionate name for tourists across all of Central and South America.
Despite having to share the town with A LOT of very over excited spring-breakers, Google was correct and we did indeed find a gorgeous beach right opposite our hostel which had plenty of the required white sand and a very blue sea full of consistent easy waves, perfect for beginner surfers.
It also became apparent that English was spoken all over town, which ruined the charm of being the other side of the world a little, but also made for a very easy start to our travels as we were taken by the hand and lead into life in Central America like children on their first day of school.
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WHERE WE KIPPED
We stayed at the perfectly located Blue Trailz hostel, which spoiled us straight away with air-con, a decently equipped kitchen and relatively clean rooms for $15 each a night. We didn’t mind sleeping in bunk beds at this stage as the novelty of travelling was still fresh… however… we soon realised that when you are a boy-girl pair sleeping in separate single beds in a dorm your room-mates will understandably assume that you are either platonic or worse – related. As a result we quickly learned Travelling Lesson #1: freaking people out by snogging your ‘sibling’ on a night out doesn’t win you many travel mates.
The hostel doubles up as surf school, so we embraced the adventurous travelling spirit and decided to take our first ever surf lesson with a guy who turned out to be the most patient Costa Rican of all time. I feel so awful that I now can’t remember his name, as he must have shouted mine about 10,000 times over the duration of our three hour lesson.
Whilst Darren was standing up on his board within about 10 minutes of getting in the water, I was close to tears from feeling personally attacked by every wave which mercilessly smacked me in the face. To add injury to insult, the board also gave my legs a hugely unattractive rash from repeatedly clambering onto the beginner-friendly grippy surface.
I absolutely adore the sea, but desperately trying to ‘get out’ into it with a gigantic floating cheese grater roped to your ankle whilst salty water is projectiled up your nose is my idea of hell.
“Go on Suzie! GO ON SUZIE!!” our instructor shouted every time I tried to stand up on the board, just like he’d shown us on the lovely safe dry sand. Unfortunately, no amount of cheerleading was going to save me from the dispute I was having with the face-smacking sea, however desperate I was to ‘GO ON’.
I ended up retreating back to the beach to allow our instructor to give Darren some worthwhile instruction rather than wasting time trying to coach me out of a newly discovered fear of the waves.
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[The first of a thousand food photos whilst travelling]
As soon as our bags were set down my award winningly patient boyfriend and I ventured out for the first of many, many, grocery shopping quests.
It only took us ten paces next door to realise that we had arrived in SUPERFOOD HEAVEN. From the outside the corner shop closest to our hostel resembled most dimly lit equivalents in London which are stocked only with 100’s of different brands of fags, 54 varieties of chocolate bar and countless obscure ales and ciders, all destined to wind up half-empty and alone at the bottom of house-party-wrecked gardens across Zones 2-4.
But this was Costa Rica, where corner-shops are stocked to the ceilings with bargain chia seeds, multiple varieties of almond milk and, of course, ALL the fruit.
As a general rule while travelling you can be pretty sure that where there is surf there is yoga, where there is yoga there are health bunnies, and where there are health bunnies there are ALL the superfoods and a variety of dairy free milks.
[ Darren getting brownie points for finding 2 different types of almond milk]
Grown in South America, chia seeds and quinoa are easy to come by across all of Costa Rica, with joyously low price tags.
It also goes without saying that the beautiful fruits in Costa Rica are plentiful and taste like a mouthful of sunshine. BEWARE however, even though you can get giant mangoes and multiple varieties of passion fruit for pennies – an innocent looking apple is probably imported from the states and thus can set you back over a dollar a piece. I try to buy things which are actually grown in the country I’m eating it in, and an apple which is better travelled than me freaks me out a bit. I’m going to need to remind myself this when I’m back at home buying bananas which have travelled from Panama.
There are plenty of eateries in Tamarindo where you’ll find something healthy, veggie friendly and fresh – salad bars, juiceries and even a couple of Sushi restaurants. It’ll cost you though. Generally eating out in Costa Rica wasn’t cheap, so we preferred saving a bit of cash and making our food in hostel kitchens whenever possible.
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In Tamarindo it took all of about 4 minutes to stumble upon some yoga – and I chose to get my fix at Mermaids and Sailors Yoga Studio. It’s an absolute yogi’s paradise with a softly lit pretty little studio and dangerously tempting shop at the front stocked with jewellery, accessories and every yogi’s biggest weakness – rails of funky printed leggings. Similarly priced to such temptations back at home, I’d luckily become a pro at resisting such temptations – otherwise the travelling budget would have been blown instantly and we’d have been home within a week.
[photo from mermaids-and-sailors.com]
I did purchase a two-class pass for $29, similar to what I was used to paying back in London, but worth it for a slow flow candle-lit restorative class and a core strength building class which was more than enough to shut me up from pining for the yoga burn for a few days.
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