Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Costa Rica: Day 6

Sunday was our first full day of the sunny, beach portion of our Costa Rican vacation. Right away, we had a tough decision to make: Beach or pool? Decisions, decisions ...

First things first -- Andi made Janie, the kids and I eggs, toast and fried potatoes for breakfast (we definitely missed the luxury of having breakfast prepared for us every morning!), then we pulled on our swimming suits and hit the beach. Costa Rica has been surprisingly uncrowded wherever we've been, and Piertra Beach is no exception. With low tide, we had the wide open beach practically to ourselves. The kids were giddy with excitement over the whole scene: sandcastles, water and sunshine.

Interestingly, we've hardly seen any international tourists in this area. All of the other houses at Villas Estival (there are 11 separate villas on the property) are occupied with vacationing Costa Rican families. It's perfectly fine, other than a stark reminder that our family needs to learn to Spanish if we're planning to travel extensively in this part of the world.     

The beach outside our villa, Playa Piertra, has beautiful black sand. The access road isn't clearly marked, so it's virtually private and in pristine condition. There are hardly any rocks or sticks in the sand, and the view is spectacular. We're fortunate to have such a great place to spend our days.

As a parent, I never grow tired of viewing Tory's signature or cute little drawings. She spent quite some time writing all of our names in the sand.

Down at one end of the beach, we spotted 11 howler monkeys eating leaves in a tree. They seemed too preoccupied with their meal time to care about us, and were hanging low enough for the kids to see them. I imagined seeing monkeys in the trees during our visit here, and I'm so happy we were able to view them in their natural habitat.

Andi, Janie, Tory, Aden and I headed back to the house around lunchtime. We made Aden peanut butter toast, buttered noodles and fresh fruit to eat; a quick meal was much needed before meltdown-mode set in. When Aden went down for an afternoon nap, Janie curled up on one of the big outdoors beds with a book and Andi and I took Tory into town for a little day date.

The three of us drove about 15 minutes away to Playa Flamingo. This area was much more toursty with hotels, shops and restaurants. The beach was packed with peddlers selling their trinkety treasures and both locals and travelers sunning themselves on the beach. It had a good beach vibe, street dogs ran wild and the roads were dirty and bumpy. This was like the Costa Rica I'd envisioned.

Andi picked Cafe del Manglar for lunch, and the three of us found a table under the shaded awning. We sipped our choice beverages (an orange juice smoothie for Tory and local Imperial beers for Andi and I) and listened to a Costa Rican musician serenade us on his guitar. For lunch, Andi and I dined on fresh ceviche with house-made fried plantain chips and a caprese salad while Tory enjoyed a hamburguesa and fries. The food was very good here, and the beach-view ambiance was excellent.

After lunch, we scoured the town to find a popular gelato shop the owner of our house at Villa Estival raved about in her communications with Andi. We finally found it in a deserted strip mall off the beaten path. The shop was called 0039 Heladeria Italiana and didn't look like much from the outside, but both the strawberry and Oreo cookie gelato were delicious. The three of us sat outside in the blistering sun and enjoyed our cool treat before heading back to the house to meet up with Aden and Grandma Janie. 

Aden woke up from his afternoon nap a few minutes after we arrived back home, so the five of us decided to head to the pool. The cool water felt amazing under the blazing hot sun! We brought the kids' Puddle Jumper life jackets along to use at the pool and the beach, and they proved to be well worth it. Prior to our trip, I was so worried about Aden having open access to water. He's taken swimming lessons for two years, but I was nervous one of us would take our eyes off him for one second, and .... anyway, life vests for both Tory and Aden gave everyone a boost of confidence around the water.

The five of us walked down to our very own Playa Piertra to catch another amazing sunset. This evening, I smartened up and kept Tory and Aden in their swimming suits after the pool. There's no casually strolling along the beach for them; Aden runs full-steam toward the ocean the minute he spots it. Tory's actually afraid of the ocean and refuses to go near the waves, but the black sand on Playa Piertra means every inch of us is dirty after a visit there.

As we walked along the beach admiring the setting sun, Tory and Aden made friends with a group of local children there. The locals ooh'd and ahh'd over Aden's blond hair, and started to whistle when one of the little girls came up to shake Aden's hand. The kids may not have been able to communicate by the same verbal language, but the smiles and laughter they exchanged was enough to get their message across.

Andi picked up take-out from Sol y Mar and brought it back to our place for dinner that night. Someday we'll have the chance to enjoy nice family dinners in restaurants, but for now it's much easier to get food to-go and eat in the comfort of our own house. Andi ordered fresh salad, grilled fish and chicken and roasted vegetables for all of us. We had to eat fast before Aden ate it all for himself!

Today was a wonderfully relaxing day at the beach. I thoroughly enjoyed our time near Lake Arenal in Costa Rica's rain forest, but I'm absolutely loving the sun and the sand in Potrero.

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