2021 was a transformational year for how Christine and I viewed ways we could integrate travel into our lives. With COVID seeming to have forever changed the world of work by delivering wide acceptance of working remotely, we set an intention to regularly seek new places to travel to and live during the year. The one wrinkle in all of this is the kids’ school education. Unlike in 2021, when both kids were still in preschool, starting in 2022 Bastiaan started school at San Domenico and with that began a new 15 year life chapter where one of our kids would be in school. So our best opportunity to travel in 2022 was the summer school break.
As Christine and I thought through places in the world we could go for summer, both of us had dreams of recreating our Hawaii like experience, with access to beaches, surfing and a laid back lifestyle. The other major consideration was being in a similar time zone as San Francisco, to align with our work schedules. This focused our attention on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. Pretty quickly Costa Rica became a top contender. Christine and I had both traveled there together and had fond memories. It is a spot that many of our friends loved too. A town in Costa Rica that would be a new experience for us, and that many people recommended, was Nosara, a village on the Nicoya Peninsula. Described as a laid back, yoga and surf spot, slightly developed but not yet totally overrun, it seemed like it fit the bill. Christine then went to work to organize the essentials (kids daycare and a house with reliable wifi) and pretty quickly we were in business.
As we were planning our trip, a few people pointed out to us that we would be staying in Nosara during the rainy season. Having lived through part of the rainy season in Oahu, we figured it would be fine. Tropical rain lasts typically just for a couple of hours and at least it would still be warm. But as prepared as we thought we were for rain, I have to admit that the rain cast a shadow over our first impressions of living in Nosara. In our first week, we did not see even a glimmer of sun. It rained for several hours each day and was overcast the rest of the time. One evening when returning home, Christine found our entire house to be flooded with water! Thank goodness this was not an uncommon experience and the maintenance staff quickly came to help in cleaning up the house and fixing the clog.
Fortunately by our second week in Nosara, the sun eventually came out and we felt our moods immediately lift. And even though we still had quite a bit more rain over the following 4 weeks there, I have to say that having settled into Nosara, we all started to appreciate how beautiful the area was and got into much more of a groove of enjoying life there.
As described, Nosara is very much a yoga and surf town. It feels like every second establishment is either a yoga studio or surf shop. This influences the types of people who are drawn to Nosara and the laid back vibe of the town. For better or worse, depending on who you ask, the infrastructure of the town is very basic. All dirt roads (which become particularly gnarly after downpours in the rainy season), brittle electricity lines, and rudimentary sewerage infrastructure (think septic tanks and cesspools). That said, development in the town is booming. Expats who we met who had been living there for several years described how much the town has changed even in the last few years, and with the amount of construction we could see in progress, we got the impression that Nosara would be vastly different in just a few more years.
Similar to Hawaii and Alaska, we lucked out with finding a great daycare option for Bastiaan and Lea. This time around, rather than enroll them in preschool, Christine found a great summer camp option, Nosara Day Camp, with different activities each day, from hiking, to beach excursion, horse riding, visits to local farms, tubing, and even riding banana boats! The kids loved it!
While the rain limited our beach time somewhat, we still managed to spend plenty of time at the beach each day and on the weekends. Our local beach, Playa Guiones, had a great beginner surf shore break and was also a fun place to take the kids to let their imaginations run free. We also did a couple of weekend trips to explore new beaches like Playa Negra and Playa San Juanillo, which were beautiful too.
Christine and I hit up a number of the recommended restaurants in the area. Our favorites being Coyol and Huacas at the Tierra Magnifica Hotel. Both had excellent food combined with stunning views. La Luna was another gem, in a beautiful setting right at the beach.
On one of our days off while the kids were in camp, Christine and I went ziplining. I have to say, this massively exceeded my expectations. I hadn’t anticipated how long you get to ride the zipline nor how high up you would be. Super cool!
Beyond the sun coming out, one of the biggest drivers of our moods lifting a week into our stay was making new friends. Coming home from camp one evening, Basti started giggling while telling us a story of the mischief that he and his new friend, Max, got up to at camp. Soon Max became a name we were regularly hearing at home in the evenings. This led us to connecting with Max’s parents, Chris and Lizzy, who then became our Nosara friends! Chris and Lizzy are a lovely expat couple from the UK who had moved to Nosara the year before. Chris had recently sold his media company and was now working on a project to build a new hotel in Nosara, while Lizzy runs her own footwear design agency and recently launched the conscious commerce store Alberka in Nosara. It was truly special getting to spend a few evening, nights and weekends hanging out Chris, Lizzy and their kids Max and Emilia.
Costa Rica is a beautiful country and Nosara is a very special place. Spending a month there reinforced how much we love beach living and how much we are inspired by nature centered settings. A good learning for us was how much sunshine impacts our moods and this will likely influence future travel plans. And maybe most importantly, having enjoyed spending time with Chris and Lizzy’s family, it was a great reminder how much having friendships and community drives your sense of happiness.