Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I'm Back!

Whoah, what an awesome trip. Mimi and I flew first class for a change courtesy of Aeroplan so that was a great start to what usually is a rough first day - 8 hours to Costa Rica including stop over in Toronto. We headed out to Tamarindo, took about 4 hours this time by the Taiwan bridge so it wasn't so bad. The surf was 6' and glassy when we got there but we wanted to chill out so we didn't get geared up right away. The Best Western wasn't a great deal and wasn't especially bad or good. The cool thing about it was that there was an animal rehab center in the upper garden that had a whole bunch of parrots, tucans and a few monkeys. The howler monkeys were tame and one of them ran up to me, stuck his hand out and grabbed my hand. He sat there for a while and smiled, drooled and held my hand. It was a little weird but cool at the same time. We moved to the Diria which is probably the best hotel in Tamarindo, right on the beach. The surfing was great for the five next days. The waves were between 3-6' and pretty consistant. Playa Grande was going off 9'+ and Playa Negra was 10'-20' (whoah!). Of course being crap surfers, we stuck to Playa Tamarindo. This trip, we met tons and tons of cool people and hung out with them wherever we went. Whether it was surfing, drinking or eating, there was always a few buddies around. We made great friends with some dudes from Florida and a guy named Cameron from Whistler. The surf blew out by Fiday which was fine because we were off to Nosara for a couple of days.

Nosara is less developed but in some respects more up scale than Tamarindo. The beach is at least 3-10 miles long and has very few people around. The beach breaks in two places, 200 meters out and 100 feet out. The monsters break outside and the mellow waves break inside. Unfortunately, the surf was total crap while we were there so we couldn't get a ride in. The people were super friendly and chilled, we met a bunch of older retired Florida fellows who were on the lifetime program. There are lots of Americans who own villas there. Property isn't cheap though, an acre closest to the beach goes for over a million bucks US, without any house built on it.

On Sunday, it was off to the Arenal volcano. What a rough ride that was, the road from Nosara to Nicoya was what you'd expect a third world bombed out monsoon washed road to look like - complete with cows, chickens, dogs and vultures. Then, the drive around the lake leading to the volcano was endless, twisting, always wet and full of nasty cliff edge snake turns. After 6 hours, we finally made it to the Tabacon resort and sat our asses down in some hot springs with a bunch of tourists. After spending a couple of soulful days in Nosara, a fat tourist buffet spa was a real anti-climax. It was worth it though to see the volcano go off a tiny bit at night. It made the trip back to San Jose yesterday shorter and more scenic too, so that was an unexpected bonus.

For the record, San Jose airport is a great place to get drunk, every boutique has free booze samples and so do all of the duty free shops. Just do a couple of laps of the terminal and you'll be hammered gratis for a pleasant comatose flight home.

Great places to eat:
Tamarindo: Witches rock cafe, Stellas
Nosara: Cafe Tucan, Marlon Bills, Dolce Vita, Chez Olivier, Cafe Paris (French toast)

Great places to drink:
Tamarindo: Anywhere, Witches rock, Bablyon (thursday)
Nosara: Cafe Tucan, Marlon Bills

To stay:
Tamarindo: El Diria ($$$)
Nosara: Cafe Paris

Tamarindo Surf lessons: Find a tico named Dilbert at High Tide or surfing in front of the Diria, great guy, great longboard rider (2nd ranked in Costa Rica). Dilbert has dreads and is kind of balding on top.

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