Costa Rica Off the Beaten Path
Let me begin by imploring you to travel. Travel often, travel far, travel wide! Vacations are a great reset button. They grant us the fresh perspective and space we need to return to our daily lives with greater clarity and purpose. However, the more profound impact of traveling does not come from a week of relaxation on the beach. It's about expanding your understanding of how others live, learning to let go of expectations, and embracing the present moment. We so vividly create an image of a destination in our mind's eye- pieced together through the words and images of others. The mental picture becomes crystallized, expectations become precise. Then you arrive and not a thing is as you'd imagined. Gone are your expectations- now is the time for adventure!
Ojochal, Costa Rica
As foodie fate would have it, we began our trip in the incredible beachside town of Ojochal. Ojochal is a delightfully rare, off the beaten path destination. While the nearby town of Uvita has witnessed alarmingly rapid growth with an influx of commercial development, large hotels, and the resulting flock of tourists, Ojochal has yet to be inundated. Rather, it's a town of locals, an international community, and an exquisite culinary enclave.
Eating in Ojochal- Foodie Paradise
The dining experience in Ojochal was a major highlight of our time in Costa Rica. Costa Rica can hardly be considered a food destination, with a typical meal consisting of rice and beans. The global cuisine at a bevy of four-star restaurants scattered throughout the town was a welcome delight!
Our first night we enjoyed fresh sea bass in a white wine, saffron sauce and filet mignon in a guava reduction at Citrus. Another evening was spent at the even more exquisite Exotica, specializing in French-Indonesian cuisine. The passion fruit sorbet topped with freshly-made vanilla custard ice cream and drizzled with blackberry sauce easily made it's way into my dessert hall of fame!
Staying in Ojochal
My single favorite experience, if it could be described as such, was the time spent at our beautiful 5-acre property we rented through AirBnb. A cozy bungalow amidst a tropical garden, filled with fresh fruit for a morning smoothie and fragrant flowers that opened up every afternoon to perfume the air. The property could simply be described as a zen haven. The grounds themselves had a gorgeous outdoor yoga pavilion, and a mediation station which mostly served as my personal bird-watching post!
There are no shortage of beautiful, uncrowded beaches in the surrounding area of Ojochal. Playa Uvita is among one of the most astounding, wide-open expanses of the Pacific Coast I have ever seen. At low-tide the water recedes to form an island in the shape of a whale's tail, creating an incredible mirror-like image of the ocean. In the most surreal of experiences, waves lap up to your right and left as you make your way out to the tip of the tail!
In my first true test of letting go of expectations, our trip began with a torrential downpour as thunderstorms rolled along the Pacific coast. Given my expectation of a sunny beach vacation, I was immediately distraught- furious to say the least! After spending our second day on the empty, rainy beaches of Playa Tortuga watching a tree full of scarlet macaws at play, we proceeded to land a seat at one of the best restaurants in town due to the rain. The day turned to a cozy evening; curled up with a glass of wine and an excellent book as the rain beat down outside. It was among one of the finer lessons I have received about the beauty of going with the flow. Of course, the sun did return.
Serving up hand-crafted cocktails along with the best view in Ojochal, sunset drinks at Casa Azul are a must! Every afternoon we raced up the hill to enjoy poolside, sunset drinks at this gorgeous hotel bar.
Tilapias El Pavón is a great spot to enjoy an authentic, fresh-caught Costa Rican meal. In this tucked-away, jungle side restaurant, you catch your own lunch! The chef then preps the tilapia to your liking and serves with a delicious side of yucca fries and dipping sauce.
I could easily write a whole blog post on Costa Rican coffee! As a devout coffee lover, I eagerly anticipated a visit to a country which grows some of the best coffee beans in the world! The conditions for coffee production are near perfect- high altitude, a cool climate, and fertile soil. The abundance of fantastic coffee everywhere, from the street-side sodas to my favorite bakery, Pancito Café, made for a wonderfully caffeine-fueled vacation!
Drake Bay (Bahía Drake), Costa Rica
Continuing our jaunt off the beaten path, the trek to Drake Bay by car was an adventure in itself. Nine river crossings later and a joyous lack of water damage to the engine of our 4x4, we arrived at the beautiful grounds of Finca Maresia. The property is perched upon a beautiful hillside in the Osa Peninsula, complete with jungle bungalows, open-air rain showers, and a gorgeous communal deck overlooking the entire property. Each night the Spanish owners cook and serve dinner, including a delicious once-weekly paella!
Arriving in Drake Bay, I was certain that the beach hopping leg of our vacation was behind us, believing we were headed deep into the jungle as we made our way south from Ojochal. Rather surprisingly, Drake Bay is where we stumbled upon the most beautiful and isolated beach of our entire trip.
An excellent measure of how spectacular any given place in Costa Rica would prove to be was best indicated by how difficult it was to get there. Playa Rincón was no exception, as we willed our 4x4 up steep hills and through rocky dirt paths on a blistering hot day. Upon reaching the sandy shores of Playa Rincón, I was floored by its expansive beauty and isolation. To witness nature of this magnitude on our incredible earth is a truly enlightening experience.
Until next time, Costa Rica! Pura Vida!