Tacos in touristy Tamarindo

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After a 16 hour flight, I finally landed in Costa Rica. This country has been on my bucket list for years, and I am beyond excited to be here. I am on a one month journey around this green, wild, exotic, paradise of a country. Right now it is high season in Costa Rica and the climate is hot and dry. My plan for this month is to travel down the westcoast, starting off in the Nicoya Peninsula.

As I am writing this my first week has come to an end. During this week I have made my way from Liberia Airport to Tamarindo.

Tamarindo is Costa Ricas top surf and party destination, welcoming backpackers and holiday tourists from all over the world. It is the most developed beach on the Nicoya Peninsula with plenty of shops, restaurants, hostels, bars and five star hotels.

The beach in Tamarindo is long, wide and beautiful. Here you will find surfers, families and Ticos(locals) enjoying the sun and the warm, turquoise water. Like most touristy beaches you will also find sunbeds, umbrellas and people selling various items on the beach. The beach is perfect for anyone who would like to learn to surf. With small, mellow waves and warm water you can learn to pop up with or without help from the many surf schools in town.

The amazing thing about Tamarindo, besides the colourful sunsets you will see every night, is the delicious food. I did not know that I was going to experience food like this in a small surftown in Costa Rica. Being vegetarian, it is sometimes difficult to find good food when traveling. This was certainly not the case in Tamarindo. I followed my lonely planet guidebook of Costa Rica and went to a restaurant they recommended called Green Papaya. This hidden gem is tucked away from the main street, and not the easiest to find. But make sure you look for it, because the tacos and tortillas they serve will blow your mind! If you are feeling thirsty, try their homemade lemonade.

My next meal turned out to be even better. Following my LP book I went to Falafel Bar. This little middle eastern bar/cafe served the best falafel I have ever had. I also tried their delicious homemade hummus and Pita bread roasted in garlic. The owner is super friendly and the vibe is chill.

In a country like Costa Rica, wildlife surrounds you and is present everywhere. Waking up in the morning to the sound of monkeys. Watching and listening to the amazing varieties of birds. Squirrels playing and jumping from tree to tree and huge lizards sprinting through the grass and scaring the tourists after dark. I am blown away by the number and variety of animals, even in a touristy place like Tamarindo. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this country has to offer.

For a first-timer to central America, Tamarindo was a great way to start off, but as I moved further south I realized that this peninsula and this country has much more to offer. To me Tamarindo felt like a lesser developed Kuta Beach, a little too touristy and missing the local charm that I have been reading so much about.

Do: Buy a coconut on the beach, helps you hydrate and tastes damn good!
Rent a big surfboard and have fun in the warm water.
Eat at Green Papaya or Falafel Bar.
Watch the sunset while having a drink at one of the restaurants on the
beach.

Surf and Turf in Santa Teresa

Pura Vida! Pura Vida! Pura Vida!
I have heard these two words several times a day during my stay here in Costa Rica. Pura Vida is directly translated "pure life" and is used in conversation and as a greeting everywhere. Whether I am buying a bottle of water, walking past someone or out in the surf lineup, these words are spoken with dignity, pride and a clever smile.

It makes sense to me now. These words actually are everything that Costa Rica is and how Ticos (locals) live their life. They are friendly, kind and laidback people and seem to be living a healthy lifestyle. Their food is organic, fresh and fabolous. No wonder people are happy in this country.

As I get on the bus to my next destination, the driver welcomes me with the magic words: "pura vida".

A four and a half hour bus ride takes me from Tamarindo to a small surf town on the south west corner of Peninsula de Nicoya. The dusty, dirty, rugged beachtown Santa Teresa is a favorite spot among surfers and yoga enthusiasts. Being both, I am sure this place is everything I have been dreaming about and more. It is more a long strip of dirt road with surrounding cafes, hotels and restaurants, than a city center. On the left side of the road you have jungle. On the other side of the jungle you will find miles and miles of pristine beach.

In Santa Teresa you will find more ATV's than cars and more surfers and "dirty" backpackers than package tourists. The beach is crowded with surfers and dogs, and the lack of restaurants, umbrellas and sunbeds makes this area feel less touristy and less explored than Tamarindo.

The wildlife is more visible and diverse here than in Tamarindo. I see and hear both white faced capuchins and howler monkeys everywhere. There are species of birds that I did not see further north and the iguanas are bigger and more colourful.

I am realizing that good food is the standard in this country, not the exception.

I start my days with a huge and healthy breakfast at the Zwart cafe. A cool, artsy, all white and dusty vegeterian/vegan/healthy cafe. This place has a variety of tasty smoothies and coffees. It is a bit pricy, but well worth it.

A big lunch after a long day of surfing is not just a luxury, it is a necessity. A short walk from Zwart cafe you will find a great burger joint called Rancho burger. This place makes amazing vegeterian, meat, shrimp and tuna steak burgers; just what you need after a long day in the water. The staff is super friendly and it is not too expensive.

Sushi! Sushi! Sushi! I would recommend to visit Santa Teresa for several reasons, one being the fresh fish and the excellent sushi. Emo sushi located in "town" serve a great lunch box for about ten dollars. The other sushi place is a bit harder to find. For the locals or anyone carrying a Lonely Planet book it is a well known spot. Kooji sushi is run by a Japanese surfer who makes sushi so good that he can have his restaurant in the middle of nowhere and still be fully booked every night. Dont miss this one!

Santa Teresa is not just for surfers. It is a great place to stay if you want a beach that feels untouched and not too touristy.

Do:
Get up early and take advantage of the wide and long beach. Bring your running shoes or yoga mat and exercise with a view.
Score cheap deals on accommodation and splurge on the amazing food.
Rent a surfboard and learn how to surf.
Watch the amazing sunsets from the beach.