Wednesday, December 28, 2016


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 #HidingFromTheHolidays in search of #PuraVida

The mis-adventures of unlucky Melquiades Ledezma (played by Antonio Espino "Clavillazo") originates the popular Tico slogan "Pura Vida." Ever since, eternal optimism and blissful existence define the simply translated "pure life." Up for interpretation, the Costa Rican mantra bids that comparatively, there exists an alternative that reduces your misfortune to a vacation in paradise; consequently, man up and make the most of every moment. Seizing the opportunity to regroup from reality, Costa Rica becomes the desired destination to decompress. Keep reading to have a look at my adventures #HidingFromTheHolidays...  

Llanos de Cortez waterfall

Landing in Libera, the forests and fellowship of Costa Rica's Guanacaste province hails as "home" for 7 days. As a thoroughfare of tourism and the gateway to playas and parques nacional, the convenience is unmistakeable (though interestingly enough, the prices exceed other parts of the country). Nature replaces nagging and negotiating with an austere acceptance and happenstance curiosities. Hiking--through dry forest (Barra Honda), rain forest (Arenal Volcano) and cloud forest (Santa Elena / Monteverde)--helps ease a cluttered mind.

Hiking! (L-R) Park Nacional Barra Honda, Arenal Volcano,  Rio Celeste / Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio, Santa Elena / Monteverde Cloud Forest

Sunshine and seasides substitute Santa this holiday season. Acting as the autonomous anti-tourist, casados, café con leche, caves and catarans (waterfalls) loosely freckle an impulse-driven itinerary sans tours or guides. Absent the consumerism of Christmas, affordable adventures abound at the end of multi-hour drives. Along the way, cows and countryside showcase a surprisingly simple lifestyle. Unlike developed/ developing cities in Europe and Asia, the varied towns surrounding Liberia remain unabashedly unassuming; endless fields with assorted vegetation consume unpaved roads and mini-marts. Most towns maintain multiple churches; larger ones are grounded by a central park.

"Green Juice" at La Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena Cloud Forest 

Nestled within Costa Rica is a stress-free sanctuary of unexpected delights. Some highlights... 

1.) Amid the many establishments on the road to Arenal is Art Arenal Galerie & Café. Run from an artist's studio / home, the café is colorfully decorated and perfectly situated on a hill with a scenic view. The coffee is freshly prepared and the owner is kind and Amazing!

2.) Though not quite the white sand and light blue beaches of the Carribbean, the playas of Costa Rica's West Coast offer pure vide through variable terrain and an abundance of fish, birds and crabs. Large logs and leafy trees naturally shield the sun and rain without man-made materials. Fresh fruit and food is available for sale, prepared right on the beach!

3.) From a fashion front, Costa Ricas Ropas Americanas vend affordable thrift store items (likely shipped from the US). Similar to the Goodwill, these shops offer assorted finds at a variable range of pricing and quality. Common brands include Hollister, American Eagle, Aeropostale, Adidas, Forever 21, etc. Depending on the conversion, pricing ranges from $1/item to $10/item; some items are brand new

4.) Steering clear of McDonald's (except for an occasional ice-cream) and other gringo-geared restaurants, sodas carry the cuisine of choice with home cooked pintos (breakfast with rice + beans), casados (plate with rice +salad + beans + protein for lunch and dinner) and fresh fruit juices at very low prices!

As time away draws to a close, the return to reality will benefit from a continuation of pura vida. For 2017, my mantra becomes: Skip the line. Savor all moments. Make meaningful decisions. See you at the finish line!

Volcano Arenal

Sunset at Playa Sámara

Playa Ocotal black sand beach

Up close with the animals at Africa Safari Park, Guanacaste, courtesy of Natalia

Meeting some of the "locals"

Fried fish prepared live at the beach (L) // Casado (traditional dish with rice + beans + salad + plantain)... a.k.a "married man" (R)

Artist Studio in Art Arenal Galerie & Café; Awesome, and a bit hidden

Catedral de La Inmaculada Concepción, Libera, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Recurring theme... Sunshine + Clouds

Silent sign of hope + proverbial pot of gold, seen driving from Playa Coco Azul

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