San Juan del Sur in Splashes of Color

Red RoseIn addition to the relaxing atmosphere that has me calling it my happy place, and its status as a gateway to some pristine beaches in Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur is a charming little town in and of itself. I love the color splash, and there are loads of flowers on every block. Even though SJdS is tiny, all of the little details make walking around a fascinating afternoon. I’ve been so many times, thanks to it being where I headed for visa runs when I lived in Costa Rica, making it one of the few places that I haven’t lived yet I go again and again. More and more travelers are discovering this relaxing bay town as a more affordable alternative to some of the more touristy parts of Costa Rica, but it hasn’t been overcrowded yet.

I just love it!

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Daydream of the week: Diving in Costa Rica

Melissa Christensen diving in Costa Rica

Melissa and I were so happy to be out at sea!

It’s been a month since I very excitedly did my first dive with Diving Safaris in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica. But we had so much fun, and I had so many extra photos, that I couldn’t resist doing a Daydream of the Week on the experience. We were all so happy to be out on that boat! After a dream girls’ weekend at an amazing out-of-the-way Costa Rica resort, Melissa and I were beyond bubbly to be getting our first taste of diving, through the one-day DSD course. My friend Bobbi Jo had been trying to get me out there for three years (I’m embarrassed to say), and now that I’ve had a taste, I am on such a high that I can’t wait to get down there again and do my full certification. Obviously, it took me three years to buck up and try it, so I knew it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to learn all that you need to know to safely breathe underwater and be let loose in the ocean. But after my first try, I have even MORE respect for it.

And now I know I can do it!

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My first dive!

Diving School CocoLooking back at my year living in Costa Rica, there were lots of ups and downs (including when  Mario ransacked my little house, and fighting expat loneliness), but my only bona fide regret is that I didn’t go to diving school to get SCUBA-certified. So during my recent vacation, my friend Bobbi Jo easily talked me into doing the one-day DSD course at Diving Safaris. I tried not to think about it, and I’m glad I didn’t. If I had stopped to imagine being alone trying to do something so outside of my comfort zone, I know I would have chickened out. In the end, one of my friends agreed to go with me, and the excitement mounted. Yet even that didn’t prevent me from eventually chickening out

But then I redeemed myself!

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Mixed feelings on Coco’s growing up

Bird of ParadiseEvery time I go back to my old hometown of Coco, Costa Rica, I can’t help but run around and take notice of everything that’s changed. What a difference a year makes! This time, I had even more mixed feelings than usual. As I strolled the “boulevard” (the town’s main street), I noticed for the first time that two businesses had written their hours and basic information in English first and then Spanish. I know they’re trying to appeal to the Americans and Canadians who flock there on vacation, but we never used to be one of “those” Costa Rican pueblos, the surf towns that are awesome but that cater to tourists and expats, for better or for worse. But with the stomach churning, comes great changes.

Anyway, one of my favorite former haunts shows exactly what I mean…

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Big house, tiny private beach: girls’ weekend in Costa Rica

Abby Tegnelia

I was barely back in my imperfect paradise of Costa Rica, that special place I called home for a year, one day before being whisked away by seven of my girlfriends for a weekend in a dream five-bedroom beach house in a tiny town called Pan de Azucar. The Sugar Beach Hotel hideaway is near the more famous beaches Flamingo and Conchal. We had a blast! Nothing but walks on the beach, laying in the sun, fruity drinks, and good food… After months of hard work, this was my kind of vacation! When time flies while doing absolutely nothing, you know you’re around some very good friends. All you need is a few days at a Costa Rica resort to actually spend the time with them and recharge.

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Daydream of the Week: Pan de Azucar, Costa Rica

Sugar Beach Costa Rica resortThe morning after I landed in Costa Rica, I was off for a weekend adventure at a new (to me) beach, Pan de Azucar. It was about an hour from Coco, near many of the beaches I used to go to while I was living in Costa Rica: Playa Danta, Brasilito, Conchal, and Playa Flamingo, all on the Pacific coast. It was gorgeous! We had a stunning house overlooking the ocean at the adorable Sugar Beach Hotel, my new favorite Costa Rica resort. Eight, yes eight, of us drove up for a girls’ weekend. How often does that happen? I just might have more friends here in CR than I do in Las Vegas! We didn’t do much — snacks on our patio, walks on the beach, sunning at the pool. The lush grounds were just how I like them: dense trees and foliage that makes everything about the jungle beaches so peaceful. Enormous iguanas roamed the property, and the flowering trees were just as I remembered. Sun, blue skies, perfect sand, tons of friends…

I don’t call this country paradise for nothing!

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