Days 82 – 89: Playa Samara, Costa Rica

Unbeknownst to us, there is a flaming torch that is carried by foot every year from Guatemala down through Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and into Costa Rica. Similar to the Olympic Torch, it celebrates the joint independence of those countries from Spanish rule on September 15, 1821. We also didn’t know that the torch would shut down border crossings and cause hours of backlogged traffic moving at a snail’s pace down Costa Rica’s main highway.

Can you picture the Seattle or LA closing down I-5 for an entire day? And now imagine that there aren’t any alternate roads to take. Zero. There are miles upon miles of slowly creeping cars following 50 schoolkids with a torch and a small retinue of flag-waving cars and bicycles.

Chris was completely chill during the entire ordeal (we got stuck behind La Torcha the following day too and I just about cried). We’d planned to spend the day exploring Playa Tamarindo but pulled into our hotel around 10pm, happy to be in Costa Rica but cursing our poor timing. Adventures! Sometimes they’re only interesting when things go wrong.

Happy Birthday, Costa Rica, hope it was a great one. We are thrilled to be here and enjoying  one of my very favorite countries on the planet.

We’d enrolled the kids in school in a small down on the Nicoya Peninsula called Playa Samara. Unfortunately, due to La Torcha, we missed out on the first day of school but we tucked ourselves into a sweet little rental house perched on the cliff above the beach and prepared to explore our new environs. Even better, a family from New York moved into the other half of our rental duplex and suddenly the kids were running around with their new buddies and having a grand ole time.

I’ll say it once (and then repeat a million times): meeting people and making personal connections has been by far the most satisfying part of this adventure. Despite traveling with our family, at times its been a bit of a lonely road.

We loved our little apartment and this was the first place where I would have joyfully put down roots for a few months.

Samara is a tiny, walkable town with a long beach, a guy selling fresh fruit out of his pickup, and a school that accepts visiting students. HEAVEN.

On the day we were checking out I kept having this horrible internal struggle: a desire to explore the rest of this beautiful country vs. feeling totally content to spend our entire three weeks planted firmly in this little piece of paradise. The only reason we eventually left was because I’d made non-refundable reservations in another town.


Time for a little overlanding honesty: my family spends a lot of time in their underwear, mostly because it’s too darn hot for anything else. And because doing laundry is a pain when living out of a suitcase. 🙂

Part of the reason we adored this house was because of the wealth of fauna that paraded by, including horses that came to visit us every evening. Actually, they didn’t much care about us (they even spurned our carrots), but they loved the acres of beautiful grass that surrounded the house. 

We also had night visits from two foxes that were no bigger than cats. I never got a successful picture of them as they were quite shy and stuck to the shadows. 

There were two iguanas that lived out front: we promptly dubbed them Iggy and Izzy.

And we had our first howler monkey experience!! The kids were thrilled. Howlers make enormously fearsome sounds – it’s almost unbelievable how a small monkey can create such a massive cacophony of hoots and bellows. Based on the noise level, you’d at least expect something gorilla-sized.

We went looking for howlers…and found a frog instead. Maybe not his best hiding spot.

The kids went to camp for four hours a day. They had a blast and made some great art projects. I thought Emma was going to have a rough time fitting in with the older kids but this little gal marched right in and made herself at home. That’s my girl.

Slime Day. 

Meanwhile, we parents had free time!!! 

We did some hiking and exploring around town. We are woefully out of shape; sitting in a car all day and then hanging around the campsite don’t make for fit adults.

Chris is a coconut chopping expert.

We brought a hatchet to Central American thinking we’d need it for firewood; it’s been re-purposed exclusively as a coco-opener.

Costa Rica has been lovely; however, it’s been tough on our traveling budget. This is the first time we’ve experienced prices similar to the United States, especially for big-ticket items such as lodging, restaurants, and activities.

Here’s an example: zip-lining in Nicaragua was $30usd/person; next door in Costa Rica it’s easily double or triple that price. In Mexico we could usually have dinner (at a casual restaurant) for about $15 for our family of four; here in Costa Rica it’s $35 and above (for three entrees, no drinks).

We’ve heard that Panama is slightly cheaper than Costa Rica; we’re also eager to see how South America compares as well.




AirBNB: House of G (We loved this place! One of my favorite AirBNBs to date)

School: Mareas Academy. Another gem. The teachers were very welcoming and our kids had a great time. Right in town close to the beach. They did fantastic art project every day.

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