Introduction to Pura Vida

The husband and I arrived at Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica on Saturday, April 15th.  The trip there was long (fly from Seattle to LA, change planes, travel from LA to Liberia, CR, pick up rental car, drive from Liberia to Playa Hermosa), but uneventful.  We like those kinds of beginnings.  That first evening we drank in the warm, tropical air, gaped at the sunset and enjoyed a beach side BBQ (ribs for the husband, red snapper for me) at our hotel, Hotel El Velero.

Did I mention that our hotel was right on the beach?  Like, literally, right on the beach? As in, lay in bed at night and listen to the waves crash right on the beach?  Yeah.  It was good.  And, to think that I hadn’t originally intended for us to stay at the beach at all.

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I am the travel planner in the family.  I love it.  Digging around for great places to stay, fantastic things to do and see…it floats my boat.  The planning is almost as much fun as going.  It’s like my pre-vacation to the real vacation.  When we decided on Costa Rica I was all about the jungle…the rainforest.  Yeah, yeah, Costa Rica has a whole lot of coastline (it is bordered by the Pacific on one side, the Caribbean on the other), but I wasn’t going for the beach.  Nope!  It was all about the birds and the monkeys and the tangle of green.  Then, I heard a small voice ask, “So….we’re goin’ to the beach, right?”

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The husband.  My Idaho boy.  Who loves nothing more than a good scamper on the beach followed by a long sit, staring at the waves.  Well, that was that.  Of course we were going to the beach!  And, not only are we going to the beach, but we’re going to stay right on the beach.  He was dazzled.

We awoke early our first full day in Costa Rica and, after a stroll on the beach and breakfast at the hotel (where we were introduced to gallo pinto, which the husband then ate for every single breakfast while in CR) we headed out to Playa Ocotal, a black sand beach.

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We arrived early enough to grab a good spot under a shade tree and watched the families roll in.  It was Easter Sunday.  The week leading up to Easter is a major holiday time in Costa Rica and many families were vacationing on the coast.  We watched a small truck roll up on the sand near us and children and adults clamor out of it, grabbing coolers and chairs and bags and bowls.  We were half-hoping for an invitation to lunch, as whatever they grilled and scooped and piled onto plates looked and smelled awfully good.

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We strolled along the beach, admiring the view, enjoying the warm water, marveling at our extraordinary pasty whiteness.  Costa Rica was just introducing herself to us, and we were already liking what we saw.

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As the heat increased we watched a man with a cart roll by and set up shop just down the way from us.  Once I realized he was selling snow cones on the beach I was swift to join the kids in line for mine.  To serve, he would roll back the top of the cart and hand shave ice from a large block.  He topped it with your choice of syrup, some kind of powdered stuff and….sweetened condensed milk.  It was amazing!  Just me and the kids…eating snow cones on the beach.

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We spent most of the day on the beach, stopping at the one beach side bar on Playa Ocotal for large adult beverages on our way back to the car.  We stopped in Playa Coco, a touristy area filled with shops and restaurants, on our way back to Playa Hermosa for another adult beverage (this time a local beer.  Eh.  Not great, but we bought some cool pint glasses with their logo) and a grocery store stop.

The grocery store was dazzling.  I should mention that we don’t speak Spanish.  Well, I took Spanish in college, but that one year too many years ago to count was not real helpful.  So, part of what made the store so very bright and shiny was the fact that we couldn’t read most of the labels (and there were many unfamiliar brands).  And, did you know that soda is sold in 3 liter containers in Costa Rica?  And often packaged in twos, paired with some fruit-esque juice?  And, that they have grape Fanta?  Actually, I didn’t discover that little factoid this early in the trip.  That came later.  But, still…grape Fanta. Graaaaaaape  Faaaaaaanta.  Not just orange (which is also superb), but grape.  Let’s just say I drank my fair share while there.

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After returning to the hotel we enjoyed beers (Imperial, because how can you drink anything but a beer who’s slogan pronounces that they are the cerveza of Costa Rica?) on the outdoor patio, another sunset on the beach and dinner at a magnificent restaurant called Ginger.  Ginger sits on high decks in the trees and serves “tropical Asian fusion” style small plates.   It was one of the best meals we have had in a very long time. Firecracker shrimp, beef short ribs, pot stickers and, for dessert, a pavlova filled with tropical fruits.  If we could have crammed more into our bellies we would have.  And, if we had stayed in the area longer we most definitely would have gone back.  We wanted to lick the plates.  It was that good.

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We strolled back to our room, watching the final masses roll out of our little beach town as their holiday came to an end.  Content in the knowledge that our holiday was just beginning.


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