- This Country is Killing it in Carbs — The Active Times — November 2017
- Does Blowing Out Birthday Cake Candles Spread Germs? — TODAY.com, November 2017
- Best Cyber Monday Deals — TODAY.com
- Best Cyber Monday Deals on Amazon — TODAY.com
- Best Cyber Sunday Deals — TODAY.com, November 2017
- Best Cyber Saturday Deals — TODAY.com, November 2017
- Best Black Friday Deals — TODAY.com, November 2017
- 8 Tips to Find the Best Black Friday Deals — TODAY.com, November 2017
- Kristen Bells Top Holiday Entertaining Tips — TODAY.com, November 2017
- Josh Duhamel Reveals His Favorite Food to Cook for His Son — TODAY.com, November 2017
- 7 Amazing Frozen Food Finds… — TODAY.com, November 2017
- Luxury Hotels With Unique Value-Added Perks — USNews.com, November 2017
- This is the 1 Thing Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond Will Never Serve — TODAY.com, November 2017
- Why Kristen Bell Ditched a Strict Vegan Diet During Her First Pregnancy — TODAY.com, October 2017
- 9 Amazing Retreats Hosted by Professional Athletes — USNews.com, October 2017
- ‘Pioneer Woman’ Ree Drummond on Why She Doesn’t Do White in the Bedroom — TODAY.com, October 2017
- 10 Ways You’re Turning Off Prospective Buyers — FoxNews.com, September 2017
- Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free — TODAY.com, September 2017
- Target’s New Home Line is Affordable Chic — TODAY.com, September 2017
- 8 Home Storage Solutions We Can Learn from Apocalypse Preppers — FoxNews.com, August 2017
- The World’s Smartest Water Bottle Could Save Your Life — FoxNews.com, August 2017
- Hate Yard Work? 8 Ways to Achieve a Smarter Yard — FoxNews.com, August 2017
- Awair Smart Monitoring Device Helps Improve Indoor Air Quality — FoxNews.com, August 2017
- America’s Wackiest Roadside Attractions — FoxNews.com, August 2017
- Who’s There? Amazon’s Echo… — FoxNews.com, July 2017
- 8 Reasons to Visit the Canary Islands — US News & World Report, July 2017
- Columbus Under Construction to Become America’s First “Smart City” — FoxNews.com, July 2017
- Smart & Safe Tech: For cars, there’s safety in connectivity — FoxNews.com, July 2017
- 10 Things You Couldn’t Do in New York in 2010 — USNews.com, July 2017
- Where to Drink this Independence Day — FoxNews.com, July 2017
- All American Cowboy: 8 Must See Rodeos this Summer — FoxNews.com, June 2017
- Red Oxx: American-Made Luggage Handcrafted by Veterans — FoxNews.com, May 2017
- 9 Amazing Beaches You’ve Probably Never Heard Of — FoxNews.com, May 2017
- Backyard Barbecue Hacks Every Grill Master Needs to Know — FoxNews.com, May 2017
- 10 Ways Budget Airlines Save You Money — Yahoo, April 2017
- 6 Ways to Make Your Front Porch the Best in the Neighborhood — FoxNews.com, April 2017
- Mobile Home Masters: What it Takes to Live in a Van — FoxNews.com, March 2017
- The Best Rides Don’t Always Have Hills — Bicycling.com, March 2017
- 9 Reasons to Retreat to Miami Beach — US News & World Report, March 2017
- Edible Gardening: 5 Top Tips for Growing Your Own Food — FoxNews.com, March 2017
- How to Host Like a Real Housewife with Kristen Carroll Taekman — FoxNews.com, March 2017
- 7 Top New York City Hotels Outside of Manhattan — US News & World Report, March 2017
- 6 Landscaping Trends You’ll Want to Try in 2017 — Fox News, March 2017
- What is a house blessing and should you have one? — Fox News, March 2017
- The Revenant in Real Life: Vacation like a Five-Star Frontiersman — Fox News, February 2017
- Cleaning Help and Hacks from Hotel Housekeepers — Fox News, February 2017
- 9 Outrageous Fire Pits You Need — Fox News, February 2017
- From Dream Home to Reality with HGTV’s Scott McGillivray — Fox News, February 2017
- These 8 Home Gyms Will Make You Want to Work Out — Fox News, February 2017
- Illegal Adventures? 6 Places Our Parents Couldn’t Go — Fox News, January 2017
- Paradise in Peril? The Truth About Traveling to Tourist Hot Spot Bali — Fox News, January 2017
- Where to Travel During the Rainy Season — US News & World Report, December 2016
- House of Guards: Keep Your Home Secure at Any Budget — Fox News, December 2016
- Cruising Northwest Passage in the Lap of Luxury — The Australian, November 2016
- Looking for the Best Budget-Friendly Bike Vacation Ever? — Bicycling, December 2016
- Hide and Don’t Peek — Fox News, December 2016
- Always Hungry: Inside the Crazy Culture of Competitive Eating — Fox News, December 2016
- Cabin Fever: 10 Woodsy Cabins for Rent — Fox News, November, 2016
- 10 Things You Shouldn’t Do on a Cruise — US News & World Report, November 2016
- 10 Things You Shouldn’t Do on a Cruise — Yahoo, November 2016
- Drone Pizza Delivery is Just the Tip of the Robotic Food Revolution — NYPost.com, October 2016
- Farm-to-Robot-to-Table: Inside the Food Industry’s High Tech Future — Fox News, October 2016
- I Took on the Northwest Passage (In My Penthouse Suite) — The Sunday Times, September 2016
- 10 Top Tips to Up Your International Tinder Game — FoxNews.com, September 2016
- World’s Most Luxurious Cruise Takes on Northwest Passage — New York Post, September 2016
- NYC Hotels Where History Was Made — US News & World Report and Yahoo, September 2016
- Where Luxury Meets Danger: Inside the First Northwest Passage Cruise — FoxNews.com, August 2016
- Rome Tightens Colosseum Security — FoxNews.com, August 2016
- The Best Restaurants in Philadelphia — FoxNews.com, July 2016
- Cleveland’s Best Restaurants — FoxNews.com, July 2016
- 9 Ways to Get Kicked Off a Cruise — FoxNews.com, July 2016
- Zombelievable! — The Sun — TheSun.co.uk, June 2016
- Deck the Halls in Red, White and Blue — FoxNews.com, July 2016
- America’s Best July 4 Fireworks Displays — FoxNews.com, July 2016
- Super Rich Preppers Train for the Apocalypse at this 5-Star Resort — NYPost.com, June 2016
- Where Rich People Learn How to Survive the Apocalypse — FoxNews.com, June 2016
- The 5 Best New York City Hotels for Art Aficionados — FoxNews.com, June 2016
- Got ‘Cue America’s Ultimate BBQ Festivals — FoxNews.com, June 2016
- 10 Free Tips Interior Designers Charge a Lot For — FoxNews.com, May 2016
- Superyachting – Not Just for the Mega Wealthy — FoxNews.com, May 2016
- 7 Things You Should Never Do in Yellowstone — FoxNews.com, May 2016
- Most Eligible Bachelor Pads — FoxNews.com, May 2016
- Back to Bedrock: Stone Furniture — FoxNews.com, May 2016
- Home Sweet Gnome: Take Your Yard Decor from Tacky to Tasteful — FoxNews.com, May 2016
- Summer in the City: Where to Stay and Play in New York — US News & World Report, May 2016
- Home Office Do’s and Don’ts — FoxNews.com, April 2016
- Bring the Outdoors Inside: Horticulture in the Home — FoxNews.com, April 2016
- Expensive Ex: When Does a Breakup Warrant a Remodel? — FoxNews.com, April 2016
- Pablo Was Here: Inside the Real Colombia of Today — FoxNews.com, March 2016
- Don’t Call Them Bellboys — FoxNews.com, March 2016
- Don’t Call Them Trailer Trash — FoxNews.com, March 2016
- Back Yard Culture — Decorating Ideas from Around the World — FoxNews.com, March 2016
- DIY: Deconstruct to Decorate — FoxNews.com, March 2016
- Archaic Cooking in Your Yard — FoxNews.com, March 2016
- Man Sheds: Just the Right Amount of Distance Can Keep Couples Close — FoxNews.com, March 2016
- 10 of the Most Romantic Rides in the U.S. — Bicycling, February 2016
- Is Iceland the New New Zealand? — The Active Times, February 2016
- 7 Expeditions You Can Actually Join — Outside Online, January 2016
- America’s Best Archipelagos — FoxNews.com, January 2016
- Before They Were Boutiques — FoxNews.com, December 2015
- Take-home Toxin Tests — FoxNews.com, December 2015
- Top 5 Theme Cruises — US News & World Report, November 2015
- Dude Ranches You Have to Visit this Winter — Yahoo Travel, October 2015
- Tasteful Taxidermy: Yes, You Can Decorate with Dead Animals — FoxNews.com, October 2015
- How Legit is That Listing? Five Signs it’s a Fake — FoxNews.com, August 2015
- Meet Thousand Islands – New York’s Most Underrated Waterfront — The Active Times, August 2015
- Former War Zones Turned Into Vacation Paradises — FoxNews.com, August 2015
- Don’t DIY: When and Where to Try a Tour Operator — Huffington Post, July 2015
- Hottest (and Best) Tour Guides for Hire — FoxNews.com, July 2015
- Don’t DIY: When and Where to Try a Tour Operator — U.S. News & World Report, July 2015
- How Well Do You Know Our National Parks? — OutsideOnline, June 2015
- 5 Tiny Vacation Homes — OutsideOnline, June 2015
- The Best Waterfront Property is Your Tent — OutsideOnline, June 2015
- 6 Luxurious National Park Lodges — FoxNews.com, May 2015
- 5 New Brand BFFs that Benefit Travelers — Huffington Post, May 2015
- 5 New Brand BFFs that Benefit Travelers — U.S. News & World Report, May 2015
- Fat Biking for Beaches Too — OutsideOnline, May 2015
- Why You Should Care About the Find Your Park Campaign — OutsideOnline, April 2015
- 7 Summer Biking Vacations to Book Now — Yahoo Travel, April 2015
- 7 Stateside SUP Hubs — OutsideOnline, April 2015
- Meet America’s Most Extreme National Park — FoxNews.com, April 2015
- Double Up: How to See Two National Parks in One Trip — The Active Times, April 2015
- 7 Hikes Totally Worth Paying For — MSN Travel & The Active Times, March 2015
- 10 Beach Resort Spas for a Romantic Getaway — USAToday.com, February 2015
- Meet America’s Newest National Parks — OutsideOnline, February 2015
- 4 Budget-Friendly North American Destinations You Should Visit Before Traveling Abroad — The Active Times, February 2015
- Mammoth Lakes: Small Town Vibe, Big Time Adventure — The Active Times, November 2014
- This Northern City is Way More than Wings and Snow –The Active Times, November 2014
- Scary Beaches: 13 Shores to Bask in Fear — USAToday.com, October 2014
- The Evolution of Adventure Vacations –The Active Times, September 2014
- In Addition to Sweet Tea, This Southern City Serves Up Action and Adventure –The Active Times, September 2014
- 13 Reasons to Do Labor Day at the Beach –USAToday.com, August 2014
- Best Beach Resort Kids’ Clubs –USAToday.com, July 2014
- This Version of SUP Takes it to the Extreme –The Active Times, June 2014
- 11 Beaches Where History was Made –USAToday.com, June 2014
- This Bustling City is Actually an Outdoor Oasis –The Active Times, May 2014
- Hang Out at these Beaches on Memorial Day –USAToday.com, May 2014
- The Fittest Hotel in Florida –The Active Times, May 2014
- So You Think You Can SUP? –The Active Times, April 2014
- Green Gear –The Active Times, April 2014
- Hotel on a Hill –The Active Times, March 2014
- Night Hiking by Infrared Light –The Active Times, March 2014
- Meet Watsu: Your Body’s New Best Friend –The Active Times, March 2014
- A Retreat for Revamping Your Survival Skills –The Active Times, March 2014
- What’s in Your Weekend Bag? –The Active Times, February 2014
- 7 Ways to Improve Your Running Form –The Active Times, February 2014
- Slow Down: 5 Signs You’re Going Too Fast –The Active Times, February 2014
- 12 Ways to Stay Active While Traveling –USAToday.com, January 2014
- Top Adventure Travel Trips for 2014 –The Active Times, January 2014
- Wolf Watching Excursions in Yellowstone –The Active Times, January 2014
- Park Play –The Active Times, January 2014
- 32 Top Tropical Island Getaways — The Active Times, December 2013
- How to Stay Healthy While Traveling During Flu Season — The Active Times, December 2013
- 12 Ways to Stay Active While Traveling –AccuWeather.com, December 2013
- Holiday Gift Guide for Runners, Fitness Fanatics, Cyclists, And Anyone Who Likes Cool Gear — Yahoo Sports, December 2013
- 12 Days of Travel — The Active Times, December 2013
- The Active Times Holiday Gift Guide — The Active Times, November 2013
- A Very Coastal Christmas — SeeTheSouth.com, November 2013
- Secrets to a Longer Life: A Tico’s Take — The Active Times, November 2013
- Road Rules: Eating During Holiday Travel –The Active Times, November 2013
- 5 Reasons Why Traveling Solo Doesn’t Suck –The Active Times, October 2013
- Stuck at Managua’s August C. Sandino — StuckAtTheAirport.com, April 2013
- Navigating The “Gringo Price” in Nicaragua — Nicaragua Dispatch, April 2013
- 5 Tips for Crossing the Border by Bus— Nicaragua Dispatch, March 2013
- 4th of July – in airports — StuckAtTheAirport.com, July 2012
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Exclusive Interview: Esteban Tells All!
If there was a cutest animal competition in Costa Rica or Nicaragua, We’d bet our colones or cordobas on the sloth. That face. Those eyes. That button nose. Claws down, the white-faced monkey will have to settle for runner up. Here at Morgan’s Rock Eco-Lodge in Nicaragua, we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Esteban, a sloth that sleeps in a tree just outside the lobby.
Esteban before he gets his beauty sleep.
After months of nagging, today we finally landed an exclusive interview with Esteban! Here’s what went down:
Irene respects Esteban’s need for rest. Sloths sleep between 15-20 hours a day!
GS: Hola Esteban, thanks for agreeing to hang out & talk to us today. We can’t help but notice your heavy coat. Aren’t you hot? It’s 90 degrees here in San Juan Del Sur!
Esteban: Hola GreenSpot. If I’m going to do an interview, it’s going to be for GreenSpot travelers. ‘Nuff said. And this old thing? Well it’s not exactly “my coat.” In rainy season it’s home to a whole ecosystem. In fact, one of my buddies had 950 beetles living on him once! It’s because we have algae growing on us. I had to evict a few moths today. Yes. I’m hot which is why I asked that we do this in the shade of my favorite tree.
GS: Seriously? That’s wild. You seem so motionless all the time. We‘re actually surprised to see you’re not napping! What’s the occasion?
Esteban: (Asks if he can say this off the record. GS says no.) I’m just getting ready to take my weekly trip to the bathroom.
GS: Wow, you only go to the bathroom once a week?
Esteban: Yes. We’re not the fastest of creatures and spending time on ground is dangerous especially in the jungle where predators can be found. So we spend most of our time in trees and only go to the bathroom once a week. It also has to do with our diet.
GS: Oh, that’s interesting. Do you mind telling us what’s in your diet?
Esteban: Not at all. We eat leaves, fruit, and Twigs.
GS: You still eat Twigs? We thought Nabisco discontinued them years ago.
GS: Before you go back to sleep for another 18 hours, is there anything about your species that you want to share with GreenSpot travelers?
Esteban: Sure. We weren’t always small. Our ancestors were huge and some as big as elephants. Back then, thousands of years ago, we even lived on the ground. And not just in Latin America. We also were known to chill in North America. Go Yankees!
GS: That’s fascinating. And you like baseball?
Hang on a second! And just where do you think you’re going?
Esteban: Love it. It’s the national sport here in Nicaragua.
GS: That’s right. The national sport of Costa Rica is soccer, but you folks prefer baseball. Is it also true you follow the sport of swimming?
Esteban: That rumor IS true. Sloths are no good on the ground, but we’re great swimmers. Well, maybe not as great as Phelps & Lochte…
GS: Haha. Well, look we won’t keep you any longer from your weekly bathroom break, so thanks a bunch for sharing with GreenSpot travelers today. We hope to introduce many of them to you in person one day.
Esteban: That would be cool. Can’t wait. You know where to find me. Well, except that one day a week…
GS: True! And you know where to find us if you need anything. Twitter @GreenSpotTravel
No More Border Crossing Blues
Expect to see very long lines of semis and buses; we even saw a truck driver who had hung up his hammock beneath his rig to take a nap!
Last Saturday, over 15,000 Nicaraguans working in Costa Rica crossed the border back into Nicaragua. Over 50,000 more are expected to cross in the next few days to spend Semana Santa (Holy Week) with their families. Even when there aren’t thousands of people, border crossings by land make TSA screenings seem like a piece of cake. Still, they’re not so bad if you know what to expect. Below are a few tips based on our recent crossing by bus.
After boarding the bus & getting your passport checked by the driver, sit back, relax, and watch Lord of the Rings if your bus has TVs.
Our bus driver giving our passports back to us as we reload.
Come prepared. Obviously you’ll need your passport, but also have a pen handy to fill out forms. Sharing is caring, but it’s more efficient if you bring your own.
Know your number. At some point the bus driver will collect your passport, and sometimes he does this before you fill out your forms. Have a copy of your passport on hand and/or memorize your passport number. Otherwise you have to track the bus driver down and try to get it back from him. Yes, the bus driver WILL take your passport, but he will give it back!
Cash is king. You’ll need to have cash to pay the entry fees. To enter into Nicaragua, we paid 8,000 colones (about $16 USD) each, and the American couple sitting in front of us paid in USD. The bus driver should have plenty of change in both currencies as well as cordobas. The mysterious part is the amount you pay seems to vary according to the source. Try to have at least $20 USD or the equivalent in local currency easily accessible.
There’s a reason it’s called hand luggage. Keep your hand luggage in your hands at all times. Even if you unload the bus and are told to leave your big bags below, always carry your hand luggage with you. Never leave it on the bus unattended.
Mugshot and one of the immigration forms you’ll have to fill out on the bus.
Be prepared to be bombarded. “Cambio, cambio?” men will yell as soon as you step off the bus. Although they’re offering to conveniently change money for you as you wait, they may be ripping you off if you don’t know the current exchange rate. Also, your first welcome is likely to come from the many vendors that will approach you. They sell everything from snacks to sandals and cell phone cards. Others will straight up ask you for money, providing a toothless grin in return. As we understand, the men wearing navy blue vests are authorized to search your luggage, but they too can be aggressive and demand tips if they help you carry it.
Based on our experience, the border crossing into Costa Rica or Nicaragua at Penas Blancas takes at least two hours. Best of luck with your next border crossing, and if you have any experiences to share, please do. After all, sharing is caring~
Note: A version of this post was published in the The Nicaragua Dispatch & can be seen here.
Teach a Man to Say Fish
Ceviche can also be bought as street food. Here we are in Zarcero, shopping for a snack.
The same rule about not judging a book by the cover applies to food.
Tackling another language is tricky, so it’s smart to start with survival words. Teach a man to say fish, and voila! He has dinner. Well, technically he has to say the right word for fish otherwise he may be served something that’s still swimming. In Spanish the word for fish that is still breathing is pez and the word for the fish you probably prefer to have on your plate is pescado. It’s like pig and pork.
Pescado is one of the most memorable foods you’ll experience in Central America. It’s fresh, cheap, plentiful, and delicious. Menus everywhere feature fantastic fish dishes ranging from the appetizer of ceviche (like a cold fish soup/salsa) to the most epic of entrees, the pescado frito entero. It’s a mouthful all right! A mouthful of mind-blowingly tasty fresh fish which is fried to perfection and served on a plate alongside accompaniments like succulent tomato salsa, tostones that will make you forget all about french fries, and a slice of lime if your tongue takes pleasure in an added tang.
Family style is always a fun way to have a feast when you’re on vacation~
Eating it is labor intensive, but that doesn’t seem to stop the locals or the tourists who discover how much flavor is packed into each piece of meat that must be picked off the bone. Yes, picked. First timers may approach the dish with their fork, but it quickly becomes clear that fingers work best. Pescado frito entero can be prepared with a variety of fish—the only requirement is that it must be fresh, and in Central America, lack of fresh fish isn’t an issue.
At any beachfront restaurant in San Juan Del Sur, this dish featuring an entire fish will set you back about $10. You’ll have plenty of money left to souvenir shop in town and just enough room left for dessert. Maybe next week we’ll share our favorite Central American dessert. Well, not the dessert itself because that we do not share!
Start (planning) summer vacation with these tips
Remember when you were a kid, and you looked forward to summer like it was Santa coming at Christmas? That’s how stoked we want you to be for summer vacation 2013. Even though summer doesn’t officially start for another few months, planning early can pay off. Here are a few tips to get you started.
–Consult with the kids. This doesn’t have to mean a free-for-all or throwing darts at a map. Kids do best when you provide specific options. Give them a list of a few destinations to choose from, and they’ll feel you value their input. (If you must, use reverse psychology to get them to pick the place you want most.)
-Seek out a specialist. Once you have a destination in mind, consult with a specialist. Of course, as Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialist for Costa Rica for the past seven years, we’re partial to their list of Top Travel Specialists. Each year Condé Nast Traveler handpicks an elite list of travel designers who are experts on a particular destination or interest. Only the best in the industry make the cut, and they’re the ones who can help you plan your summer vacation sans stress.
-Do your not-home work. Even if you’ve been to your vacation destination before or are having a specialist help you plan your trip, it can be fun and interesting to research where you’re going even before you get there. Get eachfamily member involved and delegate duties. Big brother might like history, Dad may find the closest weird attractions like World’s Largest insert anything, and Mom always knows about the wildlife and when is the best time to view them.
-Save time with templates. If you have pets and/or plants, there’s no need to keep re-inventing the wheel with written lists of instructions. Use free templates like these by Microsoft Office and just fill them out with the information that your sitter needs. Email it to your sitter to save paper. The best part? They’re reusable. Just edit them as you accumulate more pets and plants!
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @GreenSpotTravel & let us know where you decide to go!
Photos: If the kids insist on throwing darts, feel free to use this map. Heading to Italy? Look up the history of pizza & try to make an authentic pie at home. Speaking of home, sorry Zoe, it looks like you’ll be staying home this trip!
El Sano Banano: Home of the Mocha Chiller
Two words describe my favorite thing to consume in Costa Rica, and they’re not “gallo” and “pinto.” Rather, “mocha” and “chiller.” I first read about the Mocha Chiller in a Costa Rican guide book, but by no means did I plan my first trip around trying one. After the first taste, I now plan my trips to Costa Rica around this delightful drink served at El Sano Banano in the small beach town of Montezuma. El Sano Banano translates into the healthy banana, and much of their food is healthy. I’m going to consider the Mocha Chiller to be a healthy alternative to a shake since it’s made with homemade frozen yogurt. I’m not yet privy to the exact recipe, but I’m told the other ingredients are espresso and homemade chocolate syrup.
In addition to their drinks El Sano Banano serves incredible food, and their menu is like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere in Costa Rica. In addition to the typical Costa Rican fare, they serve sushi, sandwiches made with fresh-baked brown bread, colorful salads, and desserts showcasing their homemade frozen yogurt and baked goods.
At El Sano Banano vegetarians can mingle with meat lovers while watching a free movie on their projector. Every night they play a movie, often new releases in English, but you’d better show up early if you want a seat. Otherwise, they have outdoor seating on their front and back decks where you can people-watch. Actually, you’re far more likely to be plate-watched as people passing by will do double takes at the sight of your food. For dessert, indulge in the Mocha Chiller or another one of their specialty drinks. In my dreams El Sano Banano has free refills…
Photos: A collage of a FEW of the MC photos in my extensive collection. The chicken sandwich served on homemade brown bread with homemade honey dijon mustard and homemade pickles! If you choose to sit on the back balcony, you’ll share the ocean view with the birds who like to help with breakfast service. Speaking of birds, the early bird gets a good seat at movie night to watch Argo.
Our Ladies of Chachagua
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
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.