Category Archives: Costa Rica

Our Ladies of Chachagua

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Chachagua. It sounds like the name of Chewbaca’s sister, but it’s actually a town in Costa Rica.  Despite its proximity to Arenal volcano, it’s a pass-through place and tourists seldom stop here. However, GreenSpot knows it’s a must-see for travelers looking to experience an authentic Costa Rican community.

When I found out I would be visiting Irene’s mother, Dona Mara, who lives in Chachagua, I was intrigued despite not being able to find it on any maps. Upon arriving late at night by bus, I was worried since I had no idea where Dona Mara lived or even her last name. But, perhaps the best thing about small towns is that everybody knows everybody. My worries disappeared after I asked four different people where Dona Mara lived, and each of them gave me the same directions. Across from the school and next to the yucca plant.

The best way to get to know a new place is to walk it, and that’s why I took Dona Mara up on her offer to join her and her lady friends on their morning walk around Chachagua. None of them speak English, but with my basic Spanish, I was able to find out that they walk every day of the week at 7am for ninety minutes.

No sooner then after we had turned down the old dirt road, Dona Mara began rambling. Five minutes later, it seemed she was still in the middle of a monologue. Naturally, I thought this was odd. Especially since there was little inflection in her voice, and the story she seemed to be telling was far from animated or interesting. Why didn’t the other ladies interrupt her and change the subject? Of course, I didn’t know what she was saying because it was in rapid Spanish. About the time she passed some beads to one of the other ladies who immediately launched into her own monologue, I realized that they were saying the rosary. Richard had told me to expect small town gossip during the walk, which admittedly I was looking forward to, but instead, the walk began with prayer.

 

It was a surreal sanctification of sorts—to be speedwalking in the Costa Rican countryside while praying in another language with three local women. It’s normal for them as they do this every day, but for this traveler, it was an honor and the highlight of my trip to tag along. While you won’t find the Rambling Mara in any guidebooks (yet), we would be happy to set you up with this enlightening experience/exercise on your next trip to Costa Rica.

 

 

 

 

(Photos: The Catholic church in Chachagua. Dona Mara has the keys & gave me a private tour. She was in charge of decorating the church for Lent. Bottom, the papaya plantation we passed on our walk. No surprise that our post-walk snack was very refreshing fruit!)

 

 

 

Better not propose at this beach

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Meaning “Cape White” Cabo Blanco beach on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica sounds like the perfect place to pop the question. But this serene, white sand beach located within a huge nature reserve is one of the worst places to propose. Here’s the logic: there is a 50/50 chance she’ll say no. That probability exists everywhere, but Cabo Blanco beach isn’t the place where you want to test it. Why not? Because it takes two hours of strenuous hiking in the jungle to reach it! I recently made my first trip to Cabo Blanco with a male friend of mine who is a tico*. At least I thought we were just friends. The hike was challenging, but thanks to a well-marked trail and the abundance of flora and fauna, it was well worth the work. Upon reaching the secluded beach, Jose cut to the chase and commented that this very spot would be the perfect place to ask his future wife to marry him. There may have been a wink involved, but before I could even blink, I blurted out that it was the worst idea ever because if she said no, he’d have two torturous hours of hiking back with her.

Crushed, Jose did not appreciate my candor, and there has been a substantial rift in our relationship ever since. That was two months ago, but yesterday I returned to Cabo Blanco solo and made the trek again. I couldn’t help but notice it was mostly couples I passed on the trail. Today being Valentine’s Day, I was toying with the idea of returning. Last night a local artisan was hard at work crafting ring bands at his table on the main street in nearby Montezuma. Although I’m working on having a more optimistic outlook on love, I wonder what his return policy is like.

 

 

Established in 1963, the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve was the first protected area in Costa Rica. It is still home to a diverse population of trees, birds, and many other species. If you’re interested in visiting Cabo Blanco, solo or as a couple, we’d be happy to provide more information and maybe, upon request, a few proposal tips.

 

 

 

 

The price for a *tico(a) to visit is only $2 compared to $10 for a foreigner.                                               Regardless, it’s a small price to pay to experience nature at its finest.

*Ticos or ticas if female, are the terms Costa Ricans use to refer to themselves. 

 

Solo at Cabo Blanco yesterday. Oh, the stories these trees could tell!

Our Favorite Hotel of the Week

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“Serenity and peace combined with stunning natural beauty” are the words that have been used to describe the setting of this eco resort.

Spot: Jicaro Island Ecolodge

Location: Granada Isletas, Nicaragua

The Good Stuff: Set on a private tropical island with only 9 two-story casitas, Jicaro Ecolodge is an upscale nature resort. An ideal setting for a variety of travelers who want to experience adventures, romance, and rejuvenation.

What We Love: A secluded island getaway, Jicaro is the perfect upscale alternative to hotels and resorts in downtown Granada.

 Green Cred: Water is heated with solar panels; focus on reduce, recycle, reuse; all staff are from the local area and food and other products such as food and furnishings are sourced locally as well. Use of organic and biodegradable soaps, cleaning detergents and spa products; Chlorine free systems to clean water in the pool, Energy efficient lighting and illumination throughout the island.

Monkey Poo in the Shower?

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Shady trees make the best beach umbrellas. Nestled among trees and lush vegetation on the secluded Santa Teresa Beach on the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, we found ourselves at Latitude 10. Sustainability is just given equal weight here as comfort and relaxation. We drove from the Arenal Area, through the long thin town of Puntarenas. A lazy ride on the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya, and finally an adventurously bumpy road towards Montezuma and past Mal Pais got us here to Santa Teresa Beach. The total length of the trip was around 6 and a half hours (we didn’t time our arrival at the ferry just right, being in no hurry, and we stopped and ate at a favorite restaurant at Hotel Tambor Tropical in Tambor).

 It was dark by the time we got to the road that runs up the coast through the little surf towns here. Surfers returning from their wavy day gave us a tropical welcome as we were looking for a sign for our hotel… Guess what? Latitude 10 is a Costa Rica beach hotel, very much a boutique property, striving to be as sustainable as possible. Low-key hominess in a beach-luxury atmosphere is also a goal. So there are no signs at all along the road. It’s a move that warms our hearts, as the overabundance of signs in some areas of Costa Rica and other tourism destinations detracts markedly from the experience. It did take us a little longer to get here, since basically the only way to find the hotel with the naked eye at night is to know where it is. Or get here during the day so you can see the small sign in the entrance. Our solution for arriving at night – stop at a friendly looking clapboard house and ask the locals how to get there. Two minutes later and we were here.

The beach right in front of the hotel has a soft strip of sand and then is rocky as you move out toward the ocean, creating some inviting pools with all kinds of marine life. An ideal beach scenario for the young kids with us.  Just two hundred yards down the beach is the wide expanse of sand known as Mal Pais, with a sprinkling of surfers and surf wannabe’s. Or just as inviting for those of us who love to run on the beach. Low tide lets you run for miles.

The area gets a little more crowded when Costa Rica surfing really kicks in after the middle of November. But on a glorious August day, there was just the ride balance of sun, surf, scenery and local beach scene flavor. After working up a lather running in the sun, there was an interesting surprise in the open-air shower of our huge bathroom.

Latitude 10 has done a wonderful job designing gigantic bathrooms for each of the detached units here. Instead of looking up at a white ceiling while showering, you look up at the canopy of the tropical forest. This does, however, create some unexpected housekeeping challenges. My post-run shower had to wait a few minutes while the attentive staff got the astonishingly large amount of Howler monkey scat cleaned out of the shower floor. Pretty sure it was the large male leader of the troupe, and as he swung by he decided to leave us that little gift to remind us that we’re in his domain.

Back inside our suite sitting on our private balcony facing the ocean, just a few yards from the beach, the friendly lizards, iguanas and some other rainforest insects stared at us curiously. With the high tide’s waves crashing on the rocky beach outside, feeling very much a part of the surrounding environment, I picked up the little hotel manual (printed on recycled paper).

Is Latitude 10 for you!? Read the four following hotel highlights below and decide for yourselves.

– Latitude 10 casitas are tucked amongst the native vegetation, the wooden structures have shades but no windows.

-There are no locks on the doors

– There’s no a/c

– The bathrooms are completely open-air with large hot water showers and gardens (and regular wildlife visits)

Overall my take is that it has an upscale feeling, but is not overdone.

Top Ten Enviromental Travel Blogs

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GreenSpot.travel’s blog is where you have the opportunity to share your travel endeavors in your voice, where we talk about your local experiences in the places we travel, like being part of a local soccer match, or learning how to make authentic tortillas at a local’s home. All of the fun conversations we have were just recognized with an award for one of the best environmental travel blogs out there.

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Snack Stops: an exceptional local guide stops the car at her family's working grape field on the way to the day's hike and let's you find red and white samples, full of taste and texture and juice, and brings a few for later.
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#Karpathos #greatguides #grapes
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14 hours ago  ·  

Being invited into a local family's home, like Evangelia's, to share in tradition creates the most lasting travel memories, doesn't it?
Yesterday we didn't know how to make Greek pasta, today we do (sort of).
It was delicious.
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2 days ago  ·