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Eco Travel :: Tamarindo, Costa Rica ~ Saying No To Fear, Yes To Adventure

Amazing things happen when you combine rejuvenation and adventure.  When tranquility and adrenaline collide, worries seem to suspend.  When you leave behind digital communication you begin to comprehend that your body and mind seem to be better off without the constant influx.  It's amazing what you hear when you get rid of the noise.  You learn it's okay to stop checking a device every five minutes seconds and adore that you are a difficult to get a hold of.  You appreciate that you are  telling time by where the sun is and how your stomach feels. You stand taller and breathe more deeply. You go from smiling without showing teeth to smiling with teeth.  At least, that's how Costa Rica was for me.   

Day 1: Tamarindo, Costa Rica 

The entire day was spent traveling.  I met my good friend of 21 years in Houston during a layover before we flew into Liberia, Costa Rica together. 

The three hour flight went by very quickly as we were busy chatting up a storm.

By the time we got through customs and converted dollars to colones, baggage claim was deserted. Our driver was there to meet us as soon as we got our bags. He was very nice and helpful.


We had an hour long bus ride from the airport to Hotel Capitan Suizo, a hotel that prides itself on it's sustainability efforts. It was strange driving in the dark not being able to see where we were or where we were going. I silently hoped this Gift of Happiness thing wasn't an elaborate scam and that we weren't going to be kidnapped. I pushed fear aside.


We arrived to Tamarindo and saw restaurants, bars and hotels lit up and then the roads turned to dirt and our path was dark and bumpy as we drove through what looked to be the downtown area. Our tour bus pulled up to our hotel around 11:30 p.m. local time, which was very quite, dimly lit and seemed to be located off the beaten path. The lobby was completely open-air, it had a roof but the sides were open and we noticed a wonderful aroma wafting through the thick air.  We were checked in promptly and escorted to our room by a hotel security guard (since it was after hours) where we unloaded all of our things, sprayed bug spray on ourselves, the bed legs and sides of the mattresses and got ready for bed. Yes, I was a little paranoid about the potential insect situation. Don't worry, I used the natural stuff

When we woke the next morning we were anxious to see where we were and what our view was from our window.

We pulled back the curtain to our terrace to discover this amazing view.  I had to wipe the lens of the camera because it fogged up as soon as we stepped outside due to the humidity.

Our terrace was filled with the lovely scent of jasmine.  We took our sweet time getting dressed and strolled over to the hotel restaurant for a buffet breakfast that overlooked both the ocean and pool.

The restaurant was open air and there was a rather large cat curled up on one of the seats and a bird perched on top of chair visiting with hotel guests begging for food.  My chair faced the pool and my friend's faced the ocean.

We filled our plates and cups, sat down and took in the sights and sounds of tropical paradise.  We both had mirrored compulsion to check our phones for emails and texts whenever we'd sit down to eat - at least for the first couple days, but since we had no service they were left in our room. We weighed the pros and cons of going ahead with or cancelling the scheduled surf lessons that afternoon or just using the time to shop in town and explore. My friend was leaning towards shopping and I leaned towards saying yes to surfing because it was something I was practicing on this trip - saying yes. And I didn't think we should pass up the chance to surf in Costa Rica, even if the thought of it really freaked me out.  I decided to be more brave than normal and say "yes!" to things I normally wouldn't.

We stopped at the Concierge desk after breakfast to ask the best way to get to town.  While there we met the cutest little capuccin monkey, JoJo, who lived at the hotel.   

There were also baby howler monkeys right behind us at eye level that were just playing in the trees. 

The "Monkey Mama" at the hotel (as I called her) told us Jojo was very friendly and told us to hold out our arm to him to he could jump on. 

JoJo hopped on my friend first and quickly sat on her bag and before we knew it he had reached his little hand inside, grabbed her lip gloss and ran up a bookshelf and onto the roof with it before he started sucking on the end of it while looking at us with a "haha, you can't get me up here" look.


I was nervous at first not knowing what a monkey would do, but he was lighter than my cat and so funny and cute.  He reminded me of a little kid; toddler perhaps  Lots of energy, very silly and a little mischievous.

After playing with him for awhile we headed back to our room before strolling into town via the beach in front of our hotel.  JoJo wanted to come with us which of course we loved. 

We walked from the beach in front of our hotel to the town of Tamarindo.  We wanted to check out the shops and find some lunch before our scheduled surf lesson that afternoon.


We found a restaurant on the beach for lunch. I ordered tacos but it was more like a thin burrito.

View from our table.

Our beach walk back from town to hotel.

We rushed back to the hotel to change into swimsuits and waited for our surf instructor in the open air hotel lobby.  There was some confusion as to what time the travel agency told us to meet him in the lobby and the time he was told to be there but we didn't mind and he apologized profusely.  We just sat and chilled until he arrived. 

He gave us rash guards to wear and a 20 minute lesson on how to get up on our boards while they were still on the sand. We also learned he was a lifeguard which made me feel better. He was bossy (and funny) but for our own good.

Surfing was a truly amazing experience. It was scary, exhilarating and exhausting but in the end we were so glad we did it.  It helped me conquer my fear of the ocean.  Although usually quite scared, on this day I just kept putting one foot in front of the other until I was walking out into the water. For some reason I was determined to do it so I just took the necessary steps to do it and kept pushing my fear to the sidelines. 

This surf lesson was much more than learning a new activity -  it was a challenge and practice to say yes (my mantra for the trip) when I normally wouldn't and not letting fear win. 


Yes, I thought several times that I was going to die - but I didn't. Yes, I fell off my board - but I got back up. Yes, I got tossed around in the water and didn't know which way was up - but I came up for air and regained my bearings (a few times).  Wow, it's harder than it looks.  It was as if I'd done 100 neti pots and ran 100 miles. I was wiped out and worried I wouldn't have the energy to fight another wave or get pummeled by one so after several rounds of falling, tumbling and swallowing water I headed to shore with my board to sit on the sand, breathe and reflect.  I thought about our surf instructor's words and wondered if he knew he sounded more like a life coach:

>"It's about balance. You aren't balanced, you'll fall off."

>"Don't look down, look straight ahead - not where you are but where you want to go."

>"You are focusing on whether you'll fall rather than the ride."

>"Stop holding your breath...breathe!"

>"You aren't going to drown. You're capable of more than you think you are." 

I doubt he'll ever know how much the things he said while we were out in the ocean really stuck in my mind or that I'd think about them long after leaving Costa Rica.  Man, he was bossy. For good reason, of course.  His words were wise.  He was sure of himself.  We liked him. When I asked how long he had been surfing, he said "since I was 5, but technically since I was 6, so 20 years." Wow.

My friend who initially wasn't sure about proceeding with the lesson was a natural and rode waves longer and stayed in the water much longer than I.  I watched with amazement and pride as she glided gracefully across the waves. It was as if I was watching a metaphor of her life and how she has handled waves that seem difficult to imagine.  When we got in the water it was overcast and foggy, but eventually the sun shined down on us. I decided to walk back to the hotel to get her camera so I could capture this moment and she'd have proof this wasn't a dream.

I gained a whole new respect for surfers.  It takes a lot of strength, focus and discipline to ride waves.  It's like nothing I've ever done before and I used muscles I didn't know existed.

 "Do you scuba?" (quote from Along Came Polly)  Ha!

After thank yous and goodbyes we retreated to our room for showers and lounging before heading down to the pool bar to sip fresh fruit cocktails courtesy of the VitaMix.

We watched the sunset. We were so tired and content.

We took a cab about three minutes away to a restaurant recommended by the hotel, Dragonfly Bar & Grill.  It was open air, dimly lit, sparked with white lights and hanging paper lanterns in a garden setting. It was charming, quiet, casual and delicious. We drank, ate, conversed, laughed and cried over the course of a couple hours there. It was the perfect end to our amazing first day in Costa Rica.

We headed back to the hotel to pack up our things and get to bed as we had to be in the lobby the next morning at 6:00 a.m. to make our 7:10 a.m. flight to La Fortuna/Arenal.

And that was just Day 1.

Note: Our trip was a gift from the Tourism Board of Costa Rica, via a Gift of HappinessOur thoughts about our time there are our own and we're sharing our honest experience of our time there.