Pure life in Costa Rica

Pure life In the northwest of Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula juts into the Pacific Ocean. This region is one of the largest blue zones in the world – here people live to be on average 90 or even 100 years old, and that in good health. Not surprising, because pure life is the ultimate motto here.

Respect for nature
About ten shields glisten in the morning sun on the beach. Traces of small pinball machines spread behind them, until another wave washed rinsing that takes the adventurers with them. I pay close attention to the fact that I stand behind the turtles that have just crawled out of their eggs, because the seawater constantly moves the rather helpless bugs.

I’m standing on tambor bay beach on the west coast of Costa Rica, where the young animals have just been evicted by volunteers from Tambor Bay Turtles. ‘It’s always a special moment to release them into the sea,’ says Iratxe Casado with a smile on her face. ‘It’s a nice conclusion to the efforts we’ve made. Now we can only hope that they will survive the dangers of the sea.’ The turtle project was set up by locals in the region who were concerned about the ever-shrinking population of sea turtles. Volunteers collect eggs from the nests on the beach at night before being eaten by other animals or even trafficked by humans. At a special hatchery (breeding ground) they can then hatch safely. This increases the turtles’ chances of survival from 10 percent to as much as 80 percent.

It is one of the many protection projects in the country; when you drive along the coast you will see signs with turtle rescue on the beach in many places. It says a lot about the respect and love that the people of Costa Rica have for their animals and nature. Sustainable living has been the norm for years and the country is happy to lead by example for the rest of the world: Costa Rica aims to be CO2 neutral by 2021.

Pura vida
The wind is good that morning and it turns out to be the perfect time to go surfing. Half an hour’s drive from Tambor Bay is the charming backpacker village of Montezuma, a former fishing village. In the late 1980s it was barely reachable due to the bad road to it, but now it is a popular destination for surfers. Why that has come soon becomes clear to me when I take a short walk along the wild coast of the Playa Grande with the local surf instructors to the best surf spot (for beginners): the route is beautiful. Lush palms rustle in the wind and colorful signs adorn the trees with lyrics such as: save the ocean, I

Arriving at the surf spot, one of the instructors climbs up the trunk of a palm tree with a smooth movement and begins to deftly chop off coconuts. Fresh fruit is prepared and a little later I already enjoy fresh coconut milk and juicy pineapple with my surf shirt. I understand very well that you can fall in love with this place, as happened with Laura Planus, the French owner of the surf school. ‘When I arrived here alone as a woman, I never felt unsafe,’ she said. ‘Everyone here is always friendly, helping each other and looking out for each other. It’s real life with the motto Pura Vida.’ in Costa Rica

Pura Vida. A statement you hear several times a day in Costa Rica. It does not translate well and can be used in multiple situations, but it means as much as ‘enjoy life’ and ‘seize the day’. Casual passersby greet each other this way, you shout it when you cheer or use it to answer the question ‘how are you?’ After lying in the water on my surfboard for an hour and resting on a tree stump with a new coconut in my hand, I feel the meaning of Pura Vida down to my toes.

To see more of the country it is inevitable to spend some hours in the car. Although the sun shines invitingly (despite the predicted tropical rain showers – which actually turn out to be unpredictable) I really enjoy the time on the road. The views are breathtaking and the nature along the asphalt beautiful. I dream away from white sandy beaches with swaying palm trees and the hilly and tree-covered meadows where colourful horses are quietly grazing in the shade.

The ride ends at the Tempisque River, where I board a tour boat near Ortega. The 144-metre long river runs through Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste Province and is the ideal spot for wildlife spotting. Today’s great mission: to see crocodiles.

Quietly we sail along the banks of the river and soon it is hit. Well camouflaged and motionless like a clay-sculpted statue, there are several crocodiles on the side of the water. They lie so still that it scares me when one of the animals suddenly closes his wide-open beak and the water runs out.

It is sometimes just as good to ting, but also in the trees there is a lot to see. Small black and white capuchin monkeys swing between the high peaks and make for an entertaining show. They move smoothly from tree to tree and make dizzying jumps. With binoculars pressed against my nose, I see languid iguanas sheltered in the branches of overhanging greenery and also a spoonful of a spoonful sits quietly between the leaves; a fruitful tour for animal lovers like me.

Traditional lunch
Lunch is almost ready when we return to Ortega. In the small village, the indigenous Chorotega culture is still alive and well – we drive past simple but brightly colored houses scattered among the cows and palm trees, where the laundry outside in the sun flutters on the line. The casado, as this extensive lunch is called, is prepared in a restaurant that has been run by the same family for seven generations and where the dishes are prepared in a traditional way. While enjoying a glass of refreshing fruit lemonade, I watch as the cook, a small woman with friendly, dark eyes, deftly grinds corn in a hand mill. She hands me a ball of dough, which I have to knead a flat tortilla from. Meanwhile, chicken is baked in a large pan and the tortillas also end up on the wood fire. The table is set with palm leaves that serve as plates and colorful bowls filled with delicious-smelling dishes. It says fried cheese, chicken with potato and egg, crispy fish, bean sauce, salad, fried banana and rice – of which the crunchy, fried leftovers from the pan are especially favourite. Enjoying all the rich flavors that are typical of the country, there is no doubt for me: in this way I also want to turn 100.

Make it happen
How to get thereFrom Amsterdam and Brussels you fly to Liberia (skyscanner.nl) with a stopover. From there it is about a 1.5 hour drive to the Nicoya Peninsula.

Pura vida
The wind is good that morning and it turns out to be the perfect time to go surfing. Half an hour’s drive from Tambor Bay is the charming backpacker village of Montezuma, a former fishing village. In the late 1980s it was barely reachable due to the bad road to it, but now it is a popular destination for surfers. Why that has come soon becomes clear to me when I take a short walk along the wild coast of the Playa Grande with the local surf instructors to the best surf spot (for beginners): the route is beautiful. Lush palms rustle in the wind and colorful signs adorn the trees with lyrics such as: save the ocean, I

Arriving at the surf spot, one of the instructors climbs up the trunk of a palm tree with a smooth movement and begins to deftly chop off coconuts. Fresh fruit is prepared and a little later I already enjoy fresh coconut milk and juicy pineapple with my surf shirt. I understand very well that you can fall in love with this place, as happened with Laura Planus, the French owner of the surf school. ‘When I arrived here alone as a woman, I never felt unsafe,’ she said. ‘Everyone here is always friendly, helping each other and looking out for each other. It’s real life with the motto Pura Vida.’

Pura Vida. A statement you hear several times a day in Costa Rica. It does not translate well and can be used in multiple situations, but it means as much as ‘enjoy life’ and ‘seize the day’. Casual passersby greet each other this way, you shout it when you cheer or use it to answer the question ‘how are you?’ After lying in the water on my surfboard for an hour and resting on a tree stump with a new coconut in my hand, I feel the meaning of Pura Vida down to my toes.

Pure life in Costa Rica© Hosted by Lonely Planet Pure Life in Costa Rica
Wildlife
To see more of the country it is inevitable to spend some hours in the car. Although the sun shines invitingly (despite the predicted tropical rain showers – which actually turn out to be unpredictable) I really enjoy the time on the road. The views are breathtaking and the nature along the asphalt beautiful. I dream away from white sandy beaches with swaying palm trees and the hilly and tree-covered meadows where colourful horses are quietly grazing in the shade.

The ride ends at the Tempisque River, where I board a tour boat near Ortega. The 144-metre long river runs through Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste Province and is the ideal spot for wildlife spotting. Today’s great mission: to see crocodiles.

Quietly we sail along the banks of the river and soon it is hit. Well camouflaged and motionless like a clay-sculpted statue, there are several crocodiles on the side of the water. They lie so still that it scares me when one of the animals suddenly closes his wide-open beak and the water runs out.

It is sometimes just as good to ting, but also in the trees there is a lot to see. Small black and white capuchin monkeys swing between the high peaks and make for an entertaining show. They move smoothly from tree to tree and make dizzying jumps. With binoculars pressed against my nose, I see languid iguanas sheltered in the branches of overhanging greenery and also a spoonful of a spoonful sits quietly between the leaves; a fruitful tour for animal lovers like me.

Traditional lunch
Lunch is almost ready when we return to Ortega. In the small village, the indigenous Chorotega culture is still alive and well – we drive past simple but brightly colored houses scattered among the cows and palm trees, where the laundry outside in the sun flutters on the line. The casado, as this extensive lunch is called, is prepared in a restaurant that has been run by the same family for seven generations and where the dishes are prepared in a traditional way. While enjoying a glass of refreshing fruit lemonade, I watch as the cook, a small woman with friendly, dark eyes, deftly grinds corn in a hand mill. She hands me a ball of dough, which I have to knead a flat tortilla from. Meanwhile, chicken is baked in a large pan and the tortillas also end up on the wood fire. The table is set with palm leaves that serve as plates and colorful bowls filled with delicious-smelling dishes. It says fried cheese, chicken with potato and egg, crispy fish, bean sauce, salad, fried banana and rice – of which the crunchy, fried leftovers from the pan are especially favourite. Enjoying all the rich flavors that are typical of the country, there is no doubt for me: in this way I also want to turn 100.

Make it happen
How to get thereFrom Amsterdam and Brussels you fly to Liberia (skyscanner.nl) with a stopover. From there it is about a 1.5 hour drive to the Nicoya Peninsula.

On-site transportationTo see more of the country, it is convenient to rent a car. Most roads are well maintained, but during the rainy season between June and November a 4×4 is recommended. Always pay close attention to wild animals that walk along the road. At Liberia Airport you will find several rental companies.

Travel tips At Surf School By the Wave in Montezuma you can take surf lessons in groups or with a private instructor. In addition to using a surfboard and shirt, fresh fruit is also included in the price (from €40; surfbythewave.com). The family-run Palo Verde Boat Tours offers boat tours of the Tempisque River with an experienced guide. Afterwards there is an extensive lunch ready in their restaurant in Ortega.

Learn moreOur guide Costa Rica provides inspiration and practical information to plan your trip. On visitcostarica.com you will find several suggestions for travel routes in the country

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