Riggin Family Goes to Costa Rica

As we entered the second floor of the place that we would call home for the next five days, the expansive view of expressive sky, craggy mountains, and lush greenery settled around us, just as the heat and the moist air, like a light shawl or a deep sigh.

I’d forgotten how ‘outside’ living in a tropical climate can be. For us in Maine, most days “outdoor living” means layers of clothing. Even in the summertime when we are sailing, our wool sweaters, down vests, and hand-knit cowls are not far from reach. But here, in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, not only were we without a single wool item or second layer, we looked out at three sides of a view though… nothing. No windows, no walls. While sheltered by the shade of the roof, the rest of the home was open on three sides to all kinds of weather. What happens if there’s a Nor’eater Jon thought? All day rain? Oh, right, not in Maine any longer. Right.

I’d forgotten the feeling of warm air on my skin, even as the sun goes down. Even as the sun is all the way down… no need for layers of clothing because the air is so warm. And no bugs like the Maine state bird (mosquitoes) ready to suck the life blood out of you. Just a couple of beetles and some moths drawn to the light of the night. (Although to be fair to the state of my heart, Maine does not have all sorts of snakes and bugs that can actually kill you.)

Jon and I spent three years in the Caribbean working on a yacht and moving up and down the Windward and Leeward Islands before we bought the Riggin. It’s been years since we’ve been back to a Caribbean climate and it didn’t take long for the sarongs, beach dried hair, and flip flops to feel like normal garb.

The impetus for this trip was to see where Chloe had spent the last 3 months of her studies. Based in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, she explored the country through the lens of environmental science, studying the climate and natural world of Costa Rica with all of its abundance and diversity.

 

Monteverde, Costa Rica airbnb
Where we stayed the first couple of nights in Monteverde.
Costa Rica travel
Climbing the inside of a ficus tree
Monteverde, Costa Rica airbnb
Monteverde view
Costa Rica travel
Chloe trying to remember the Latin name to everything on the trail

Costa Rica travel

Our first foray into the mountains of Costa Rica was a hike into the… woods? The sensation of hiking into tree-shrouded trails, feeling the earth beneath our feet, and the birds chirping above felt just like hiking at home, except…. The leaves on the forest floor were not oak and maple, but rather, unknown The trees had abutments, vines, and epiphytes that covered their trunks. The birds did not sound like the birds at home. It was the oddest sensation of the familiar and the not, as if in a dream where you know where you are, but then it shifts into the unknown.

A trip to this country is not complete without the experience of zip lining! I could have gone again and again. Initially created by scientists to study the forest canopy in the 80’s, zip lining has become a staple of the ecotourism trade. Sailing over the tree tops, the unspoiled views are priceless. Our first meal, at Taco Taco a favorite of locals and visitors alike, introduced us to the flavors of the region. And thus I began dancing with avocados, cilantro, and lime. Also there, we had a flight of local beers which were unexpectedly good.

After exploring Chloe’s homebase, we made our way to Santa Teresa, a quintessential beach town with rolling surf, international visitors, and yoga galore. At the southern tip of the Nicoya Pennisula, there is just enough panache in Santa Teresa to make it feel like a groovy destination rather than a distant outpost. That overdevelopment has remained largely in check is due in no small part to the state of the roads one must travel to get there. Not to belabor the point, but these dirt ditches, rivulets, ponds, rock walls, and steep grades are distant cousins to the paved roads of our towns at home and yet, by the end of the week we found ourselves feeling somewhat confident in our driving abilities and blessing the roads that keep Santa Teresa so idyllic and low-key.

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica vrbo
The view from our Santa Teresa home
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica vrbo
Playing around with local veggies and food for breakfast (and lunch and dinner)

Once ensconced in the open air vrbo, we hardly wanted to leave to adventure. And some days we didn’t. Other days we explored the town, the beach, a nature preserve, and of course did some yoga. Casa Zen, recommended by our host for yoga, is a dorm-like hotel attracting all sorts of hipsters and 20-somethings hanging out in hammocks and a community lounge. Pranamar is on the other end of the spectrum with individual cabins set in lush grounds and an open-air yoga studio right next to the meandering pool.

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica vrbo
Silly faces (and Ella, if you’d held still, you wouldn’t be fuzzy, so don’t give your Mama grief)
Beaches of Santa Teresa
The Capt. on vacation!

Costa Rica travel

Santa Teresa is known for its Pacific surf, which attracts surfers of all ages. I wanted to get into the water to play in the waves, but had to screw up my courage to make my way into the 10 to 12 foot surf. After riding the waves for a while, with my trusty captain keeping an eagle eye on me, I made my tuckered way to his side on the sand. That said, even after going out into the fray, I’m not sure I was ready to do it again. It might have almost taken even more courage to venture out a second time the strength of the waves was so impressive.

Where we ate:
Fishbar – delicious mojitos and every dish was delightful and well-balanced.
Habaneros – right on the beach, watched the sun set.  Skip the margaritas and go straight for the ceviche, homemade chips, and the specials of the day.
The Bakery – After 3 months of tortillas, rice, and beans, Chloe was craving a pastry. She found satisfaction at this little gem which albeit caters to its visiting international clientele.
Sodas – The Tico (local Costa Rican) version of a Maine diner. Perfect for a bite of local eats or a fresh juice.

Costa Rica food
One of my favorite things about traveling. The soap comes in a tub, the cream comes in a box, and the creme fraiche (ish) comes in a bag.

As we said ‘so long’ to Santa Teresa and made our way off the peninsula, we stopped at Montezuma for a quick hike up to a waterfall. A little bite at Soda Tipica Las Palmeras and we were off to meet the ferry. I swore I would not step foot on a boat while were on vacation, but saving 4 plus hours of driving seemed a small price to pay. The North Haven ferry pales in comparison to this behemoth.

Montezuma, Costa Rica
Montezuma waterfall

Our last meal in San Jose, a hidden gem called Café Rojo, found only after following the gps in what seemed like one-way devilry, was a delight. A Vietnamese restaurant, set next to a local bookstore and art installation, it felt as if we could have been sitting down to a meal in any city in world. It was the perfect segue back into our busier stateside life.

Thank you Costa Rice for the adventure and relaxation in equal measure. Pura Vida!

 

 

 

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