Every trip has its great moments where all the good
stuff just seems to come together. Even the best planned sojourns
have those uncomfortable moments where somebody goofed or took a wrong
turn and things went awry. Then, there are the disasters that have
the potential of ruining it all.
Fortunately, Costa Rica in the winter of 2000, had
much more of the good than the bad. But there was some ugly too!
To begin, let's talk about nine days of sunshine and
eight starry moonlit nights and temperatures in the mid-80s in the
middle of February (winter for those of us from the North).
Rica is incredibly clean. We saw virtually no trash on the highway
or side roads. Even the area around the airport was pristine and
the smallest villages showed the pride "Ticos" have in their
country. This may be a "third world" country, but it's
definitely a First Class nation!
was fantastic. Offshore winds began about 8 a.m. and continued until
about 5 p.m. and held up wave faces. That makes the drop-in
difficult at times, but once you get it wired, zoom! As our boat
captain said on the way to Witch's Rock: "When clouds cover the
volcano, the wind blows." The peak of the volcano was hidden
Food was good, dishes from around the world. Prices
were excellent, about
$5.50 U.S. for a huge dinner.
Ticos are some of the nicest people I've dealt with any
place in the world. There was no "maņana" attitude and
they work hard making there homes and towns as pleasant as
Getting around Tamarindo is no problem. Walk.
It's only about a mile from one end of town to the other, there are only a
few cars bouncing down the bumpy oiled road and there's plenty of
lighting. I never felt insecure walking alone at night. I did
notice the women wisely walked in pairs. Walking off the main road
at night might not be a good idea, you never know what critters lurk
in the trees and shrubs.
El Coco was pretty much the same, but a little quieter at
night. There's a small plaza at the beach, a good place to watch the
locals do their thing. Only a few cars, a bit more than Tamarindo,
and the bar across the street from our hotel must have been a real hot
No problems converting $U.S. into colones. Put a 20
down to pay the tab, get your change in the local currency. The
exchange rate was 295 to 300 colones per dollar. But make sure your
dollars are not torn! I got stuck at one restaurant because the $10
bill I presented had a slight tear on the bottom edge. "Descompuesto,
Seņor," the waiter said. I couldn't figure out what he
meant. Was it because the bill wasn't a 20? It was
broken? Later I learned that local banks won't accept torn
dollars. Don't ask why, I don't know.
we only see in zoos run wild. We didn't see any crocodiles, but we
did see monkeys, snakes, iguanas, parrots and other interesting creatures.
We, naturally, are from the city and used to dogs, cats
and the occasional garden snake.
One of the reasons I don't like red-eye flights is that I
can't sleep well on an airplane. It's not that I have a fear of
flying, but I never have enough leg room in coach and I need to stretch
out to catch some shut eye. The Lacsa Airlines Airbus A320 was as
comfortable as a mid-size jet can be, but after nearly eight hours in the
air, my legs and back ached. Also, the airline wanted us at the
terminal three hours before the flight. That meant sitting around
the bar or cafeteria for at least two hours. Bor-ing!
When we cleared immigration and customs, we were attacked
luggage guys who grabbed the board bags and suitcases out of our
hands. This happened on our return too. Our rental car agency
provided a Toyota mini-van to take us to our 4x4s and the luggage guys
crammed all 12 boards into and onto one van. We started screaming at them
when they walked across the boards on the roof to fasten the
tie-downs. Unfortunately, they didn't understand the American phrase
"Get the )&*^&% off my board you @$*^%*%$ !" I
think that translates into Spanish as "Seņor, you are doing a
magnificent job of providing my surfboard with new concave points that
will surely help me ride it better."
Navigation in Costa Rica can be confusing.
Directional signs are too near the intersections or cut-offs. Read
the map carefully and be prepared to make your move quickly (but, of
course, safely). Signs were large and easy to read.
Traveler's checks were a bit of a problem, hotels and
larger restaurants accepted them, but not some of the smaller souvenir
shops or cafes. Waiting lines in banks were long and I was glad I'd
brought half my money as cash.
Although this was the dry season, there were still biting
bugs about. In Puerto Rico we called them mimis, in Florida they're
no-seeums. I doused my bare skin in the evening with Avon Skin So
Soft (no jokes, please!) and it worked great.
Roads vary in quality. The Pan American Highway (Hwy
1) was a decent two-lane road, but turn off it and it's potluck...or pothole
if you prefer! By the time we got from San Jose to Tamarindo our
kidneys needed serious evacuation! It took over six hours to make
the trek. There are some major holes in the road so it's not unusual
to see cars in front of you weaving from one side of the road to the other
to avoid suspension damage.
I was glad I brought a ding repair kit! My tail
block was smashed somewhere between LAX and Tamarindo. I had to fix
it about 9 p.m. and the resin was still tacky the next morning. I
surfed anyway. My quick fix held out the water and when I got back
home it cost me $50 for repairs.
Three things could have caused disaster. They
didn't, but the potential was there.
1. Twelve guys was too many for this kind of
trip. Four, six or eight would have been much better. It was a
logistical nightmare. We needed six rooms with two beds each, three
4x4s with racks for the boards and seating for a dozen at
restaurants. By the time we returned from El Coco to Tamarindo we
broke into small groups making surf spots less crowded and tables easier
to get in restaurants.
2. Our whole trip could have been ruined in the
first hour in Costa Rica. The car rental agency had only two 4x4s
with racks. We were still wearing our urban attitudes, were tired
from a long flight and a bit nervous about being in a strange
country. Heated discussions with the rental agents continued for
over two hours until a couple of other tourists showed up to return our
third truck with racks.
3. Confusion over whether we were
"couples" or individuals reared its ugly head at our hotel that
same night. Not only were we tired from the flight, from haggling
with the car rental agency and from more than six hours of rugged roads,
we were hungry. The hotel staff got us the proper mix of rooms,
soothed our swearing with a pleasant attitude and fed us well.
None of the problems proved fatal to our trip and we
finally settled into a fabulous week of waves.