Category Archives: Jaco

A Busy End To Summer Break…

vistaserena

I know for most of you North Americanos there’s alot of head scratching goin on with the title of this blog. The summer school break here in Costa Rica begins around the third week of November and ends next week. The time off of babysitting has flown by. I’ll be able to extend it, though, by connecting¬†with friends who are visiting, and I’ll actually be acting as a tourist myself.

My first visit will be with friends from my last job in North America. They’re staying at the Los Suenos Marriot, located on the central pacific…

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As you can see, they won’t be suffering too much. It’s one of the premier 5 star resorts in the country.

Then, a couple of days later a friend arrives and we have a week of scheduled touristy delights to savor.. first stop: double decker bus tour of downtown San Jose…

San_Jose-Costa_Rica

I’m really looking forward to jumping on and off the bus during the day to see sights I haven’t gotten to yet, plus share those that I love… here’s one I haven’t been to: The Jade Museum, which is supposed to have the world’s largest collection of jade objects.

jade-museum-costa-rica

The next day is devoted to the LaPaz Waterfall Gardens, where we’ll see seven different large waterfalls, butterfly gardens, hold toucans and hummingbirds, and get alot of strenuous hill climbing back up the hill.

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Third day we’ll take a 4-hour bus trip to Manuel Antonio where the beaches in the park are supposed to be the most beautiful and clean in the country:

Manuel-Antonio-National-Park-Costa-Rica-11

The park is located at a particular geographic area called The Whales Tail:

Manuel-Antonio-Park

Fourth day we’ll begin our trek back home, stopping in Jaco for one night so my friend can go out and listen to live music and hang with the locals:

jaco_4

I can hardly wait to finally begin my time as a tourist in this beautiful country. So much of these past (almost) three years have been spent settling in, really. Every three months until I get my residency I’ve been on Visa Runs (leaving the country for Panama or Nicaragua) in order to receive another 3 month stamp. So, these Runs have been my opportunity to see a little bit of the country up until now…. and to get acquainted a bit with those two other countries as well (my fave is Nica land). If it weren’t for my familia here

favefamilia

and the opportunity to babysit my lovely granddaughters, I wouldn’t be as grounded as I’ve become… grounded enough to allow myself to be a tourist!

Staying Busy in Costa Rica – Coffee Coasters

There’s alot of time on your hands when you retire, so finding a hobby or an activity that not only fills up the time but can actually feel like time doesn’t exist when you are doing it is imperative. I create coffee coasters.

Finished coasters

Finished coasters

A couple of people have asked how to make them, so today I’m sharing a step by step tutorial.

Supplies: poster board, paints, brushes, straight edge, ruler and lotsa patience

I use both tempera and acrylic paints

I use both tempera and acrylic paints

You will need a straight edge, ruler, a sized template for final product

You will need a straight edge, ruler, a sized template for final product

To get started, you need to paint the poster board, deciding whether you want a plain background or a colorful one. I do a colorful one, allowing the paint to thoroughly dry between each layer. I also use sponge brushes for this initial process, doing up to six layers of different colors.

In progress, this medium sized poster board has 4 layers of colors, but more to come.

In progress, this medium sized poster board has 4 layers of colors, but more to come.

Once the paint gets to where you want the background to be and it is totally dry, you’ll cut the poster board into strips, and then into individual coasters.

Here I'm showing you how a finished coaster is used to line up the ruler to cut a strip of painted poster board. Since these are handmade there are going to be some differences in final sizes.

Here I’m showing you how a finished coaster is used to line up the ruler to cut a strip of painted poster board. Since these are handmade there are going to be some differences in final sizes.

Use your primary template to line up your ruler, then very intentionally and with great concentration use the straight edge to cut a strip of poster board from the main painted piece. You then cut each individual coaster from that strip.

Use your primary template to line up your ruler, then very intentionally and with great concentration use the straight edge to cut a strip of poster board from the main painted piece. You then cut each individual coaster from that strip.

Determine now if you are ready to waterproof each coaster, or go onto the next step, which is drawing/tracing images onto each one.

Trace the outline of your image onto the backside of a cold cereal box and then cut it out and use a permanent marker around the edges.

Trace the outline of your image onto the backside of a cold cereal box and then cut it out and use a permanent marker around the edges on the coaster.

Use carbon paper to trace the images onto your coaster if your background is light enough or just one color.

Or use carbon paper to trace the images onto your coaster if your background is light enough or just one color.

Use your cardboard cutout and a permanent marker to outline the image.

Use your cardboard cutout and a permanent marker to outline the image.

This is your traced butterfly ready for decorating.

This is your traced butterfly ready for decorating.

Decorating the traced object is fun for me – and just like decorating Christmas Cookies, there are never two that turn out the same.

To finish the coasters I use the sponge brush again to paint around the coaster to give the illusion of a frame. Then I use a large brush to cover one side and then the other with polyurethane to waterproof them. Be sure and let them really, really dry at this point. You’re done! Be sure and look for my coasters in the Tico Pod Art Store when you’re next in Jaco!

A Quick Tour of Beaches…

Jaco beyond the rocky shore

Jaco beyond the rocky shore

Last weekend I went to the beach and the weather cooperated in the midst of the rainy season…. which is actually a misnomer because during the rainy or green season the world is lush and breathtaking and it usually only rains for an hour or two in the afternoons, so the mornings and late afternoons are brilliant, sparkling and not to be missed.

I’d booked a tour with my friend Roberto, who does tours all over the country. He’s a gentleman with a fantastic sense of humor and gracious sensibiilty. If you need help creating an itinerary, or a pickup from the airport and/or transfers throughout the country, you couldn’t do better. And he speaks English fluently!

Tour Captain Roberto (roberto76543@yahoo.com)

Tour Captain Roberto (roberto76543@yahoo.com)

We were supposed to meet up early and go to Quepos, but my bus connections were slower than usual so I missed the first bus, the second bus was sold out standing room only and packed to the gills, so I waited for the third bus, which got me into Jaco too late to go as far as Quepos from Jaco within the time we had. So we went to Esterillos instead…

Esterillos beach - miles of beach and no one there

Esterillos beach – miles of beach and no one there

I took the pictures in this post and if you don’t agree this is a wonderful vision, then you’re not a tropical person… Esterillos comes in three different locations, actually and this place was the first we visited. It’s MILES of beach… deserted beach. It gets really busy during countrywide vacations when Tico families arrive to camp along the beachfront, and during surfing competitions. This is a pretty good place to surf if you know what you’re doing. The breaks are long here.

Esterillos beach, looking the other way

Esterillos beach, looking the other way

With a gleam in his eyes Roberto told me he wanted to show me The Mermaid of Esterillos, a very prestigious sight as it was only second to the mermaid found in one of the Netherland countries. He was very excited to show it to me. So, we drove for about a half hour or so, taking turns onto dirt roads and climbing and descending potholed sections with chickens in the way and macaws flying overhead, parrots screeching and the smell of salt air wafting around us, and ended up here:

My first introduction to the mermaid in Osterillos

My first introduction to the mermaid in Esterillos

Roberto had gone on and on about this mermaid and how excited he was to show it to me. How important it was to the community and a sight to behold and remember forever…. and this was IT? I have to admit that my first impulse was to hit the guy for tricking me into this seeming ridiculousness, but he just didn’t get it, he was so proud of the mermaid that I just couldn’t say ‘you’ve got to be kidding me, right?’¬† Well…. actually I did clowningly hit him on the arm and let him know I got the joke. ‘Since we’re here, let’s take a look at the beach,’ he said, so we parked and got out of the car and turned to the beach…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd there she was.

Evidently there was a sculptor who lived with his family here in town. He sculpted out of natural rock in the location in which it was found. He was working on a huge sculpture further down the beach when one day his daughter, who was around 16 or so, died in an accident. His way of grieving and honoring her was to create this sculpture of her. Her face is distinctive as it’s a true rendition of her beauty in life. Originally it was plated in brass and filled with concrete. Very impressive and poignant.

Me with the mermaid in Esterillos.

Me with the mermaid in Esterillos .Last look at Esterillos before going back up north to Herradura and Los Suenos Resort:

Where's the pilot?

Where’s the pilot?

Although the beach had lots of beautiful white sand, it was pocked with tidepools and rocky outcroppings easily walked along. Many hermit crabs and plant life and little fishes in the tide pools. There was even one large enough to accommodate a family who was using it like a swimming pool… which it was. The beauty of this part of the coast was incredible. The little burgs adjacent to the ocean were very very low key. But remember, these two spots were rural compared to the third Esterillos that had many hotels, bars and restaurants. We were in Esterillos West (I think… might have been East) and Esterillos Center.

Next we went to Los Suenos Resort and let me tell ya, it was a resort you could find almost anywhere in the world. It was put together like a village and was on rolling hills that went right into the bay. Very picturesque, very populated with wealthy people. Everything was top notch looking, including the harbor which catered to many many largish boats with on-board captains who saw their owners a couple of times a year… what a life, huh?

Los Suenos Harbor

Los Suenos Harbor

And then to Herradura Beach, which is on the other side of the bay from Los Suenos. Herradura is populated mainly by Ticos who work at resorts or hotels in Jaco and Los Suenos, or those who prefer the less glitzy access to the beauty of the area. We had lunch at a soda immediately across from the local beach lined with palm trees. It’s a safe place to swim, no undertow, no surfing; the bus stop is right there, and the food was delicious and very reasonably priced.

Herradura Beach

Herradura Beach

Another look at the beach before heading back to Jaco..

Herradura beach with Los Suenos across the bay

Herradura beach with Los Suenos across the bay

I’d built a blog for Roberto to advertise his tours of the country (robertoscostaricatours.wordpress.com) and invited him to come over to Hotel Catalina to review how to utilize it the next day. After meeting and shopping for lunch items we arrived back at the hotel and were told he couldn’t stay because the hotel didn’t allow guests or visitors on the property (!) Alas, that ends my enchantment with this hotel which is a real shame cuz I loved staying there, but as I’m making friends and wanting to share time with them there in Jaco, it’s just not a fit that works for management or for me… so, I must discover another wonderful place in Jaco to enjoy relaxing, and rejoicing, in paradise.

Early, early morning in Jaco... saying goodbye to Hotel Catalino

Early, early morning in Jaco… saying goodbye to Hotel Catalina

My Favorites in Jaco, Costa Rica!

JacopicSurfMy Number 1 favorite thing about Jaco is the beach… surfers, waves…. just listening to the waves crashing is a powerful experience… and then sitting on the beach watching the surfers is a component that simply lulls you into hours of relaxation filled with laughter and gasps. Pure entertainment…. unless you’d like to learn to surf yourself? They’ve got it all here!

Jacopic2A picture of the south end of this 2.5 mile long beach… looks like morning.

Jacopic3NorthAnd here’s a picture of the north end of the beach. This end has quite a few high rise condominium projects. As you can see, the city has been careful to retain the ‘green’ of the natural geography and that lends to the marvelously laid back morning vibe of this little town.

JacoPic1Here’s a picture of the middle of the beach, where you’ll find a nice little park with benches and some tables, plus a nice play structure for the kids.

Around ten it begins to get busy with lots of tourists doing touristy things, or getting ready to be touristy, at any rate.

And speaking of getting touristy, there are lots of things to see and do around Jaco. Since Jaco is only an hour and a half from the capital – San Jose – you’re not far away from zip lining, river rafting, national parks, deep sea fishing… you name it… And that leads me to my second favorite thing about Jaco…

JacoRobertoAn absolutely fabulous tour guide who can chauffeur you around the entire country if you like. Roberto has had 12 years of experience doing just that and as a Costa Rican knows this country very well indeed. What’s special about Roberto is his fantastic attitude, knowledge, willingness to help you out, and total English fluency! I’ve been in this country for a year and a half now and he is by far – in my experience – the person I recommend and trust to make sure my visitors have a relaxing and enjoyable trip. You can reach him via his email at roberto76543@yahoo.com.

So, now we come to my third favorite thing about Jaco…

JacoCatalinaGateLa Catalina Hotel. This is their front gate. As you can see, it is immediately on the beach! It’s on the southern end where the beach is quieter, but still right next to a surf school, so the scene, while quiet, is still fun to watch. They have units with complete kitchens totally stocked with dishes, pots and pans, regular sized refrigerator… and the price is fantastic!

hotelcatalinacr.com – 506-2643-1237

JacoHotelCatalinaThere is a road right in front of the gate. Little restaurants to the right and left. You can walk the beach to the shops in town, or wander through the meandering streets and check out interesting housing choices. At the far south end of the beach a bit beyond the hotel is a rock outcrop where the locals throw nets, hopeful of catching fresh lobster for local restaurants. Do you see the lounge chairs in this picture? Well, here’s your final photo treat… exactly what you see while sitting in them passing the time of day…

JacoCatalinaBeach

Can it get much better than this ? I think not. This is my oasis in the midst of an oasis… my home away from home… my respite from the city… my favorite walking routes… my favorite views. Hope you can come and enjoy it with me sometime soon!

Jaco, Costa Rica…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s the beginning of my trip to Jaco, Costa Rica from downtown San Jose. Traveling with my sis who’d never been out of the US, much less into an area that was so incredibly foreign (!!) in terms of cultural differences. We caught a public bus in the Coca Cola station pictured above for less than $10 for a 4-hour round trip. I’d not been to the beach myself since I’d moved here a year ago – primarily because it’s much hotter and more humid at the beach than inland where I live. But my sis needed an ocean ‘fix’ and off we adventured. The public buses are very inexpensive because about half the population, maybe even more, don’t have cars and need to get all over the country. So many users make up for the low prices! Usually the buses that are less expensive don’t have a/c, but they do have very comfortable seating that reclines and large open windows to allow the mountain breezes to intrude on the heat and humidity, thus making the ride – even if it’s hours long – a comfortable one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a shot of the buses lined up waiting to depart. As you can see, they are all big and comfortable. The schedules are posted online, but you really need to go to the individual terminal you’ll be using and check those prices as well as the actual location of the terminal beforehand. Things change here and websites and guidebooks are usually behind the eightball with updates…

My sis wanted a native experience, so we went the tico route with this terminal and travel. Much cheaper than taking an ‘executive’ type of bus or shuttle. There are taxi drivers/cabs that will act as guides for tours of the country, and I’ve got a couple of recommendations if you chose to do it that way. They’ll show you the ‘real’ Costa Rica and are usually bilingual to boot, and much less expensive than shuttles or private tours. The guys I know are honest, sincere, and friendly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ocean was a compelling reason for this adventure… and here it is. This photo was taken as the sun was going down. The location? Immediately adjacent to the hotel’s backyard. An absolutely and incredible location – Hotel Club Del Mar – 506.643.3194. Notice the surfers! Jaco is known for good waves and a pleasant place to learn to surf. It’s also known for being a party town at night. We weren’t interested in that aspect of the town, but we did wander down the beach to the downtown area and do souvenir shopping that was pretty eye-opening as everything we looked at was really inexpensive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHotel Club Del Mar photo taken from the same spot I took the ocean picture above – I just turned around. Fantastic place! So incredibly welcoming, inexpensive for the luxury offered, great food options, full separate bar, huge swimming pool, hotel rooms plus one and two bedroom fully furnished condos available. The staff was very attentive when you wanted them to be. There were lots of kids and people of all ages and from all areas of the globe staying here. Very comfortable, beachy, laid back vibe.

Costa Rica 030See the ocean beyond the pool? How cool is that???

Costa Rica 033And this is the view from the restaurant.

If you’re looking for a great walking beach, a fantastic hotel, a quaint downtown area, and peace and quiet (during the day at least), this is the place to be. It’s the closest beach to San Jose a 1.5-2 hour drive.

I’ve followed up this trip with my sis with a day trip alone, walking along the beach, sitting and watching the surfers, and wandering the little town in discovery of a different type of lifestyle. Have to tell ya that during each trip I think I lost 2 pounds just sweating – but the heat is like a cast iron stove; it warms your insides and made me feel like a rainy day in Portland, OR – I simply had to sit back, enjoy the opportunity to do nothing, and smile for hours at the fact that I was in paradise enjoying the bounty of nature for very little money. What a life, huh?