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A day with my Tico: A Costa Rican Adventure

Posted on July 27 2016

By Christine Stahr --

Looking for the Best Costa Rica adventure? Look no further. Check out Cedar Ravine's travel blog to read about my June 2016 trip to the beaches and jungles of this magical place. Island cemeteries, motorcycles, and a dog named Skip included.

I woke up in a tiny A frame cottage by the sea. Monkeys were on one side of me hollering to rise and shine, while the ocean was on the other beckoning to rock me back to sleep. The monkeys happened to be louder.


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5:30 am. The sun was up. Costa Rica has a way in tricking you into being a morning person if you are not already. How can you not be when even the birds sound happy, the earth begins to sway, and the sun rays dance before the clock strikes 6. Probably helps that the coffee here is strong and delicious.

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I got into the little town of Cabuya late the night before. A sleepy fishing town close to the popular Montezuma. I happened to come during the rainy season and there wasn’t another gringo in sight here. I instantly fell in love as I took in my surroundings. The night before, I had come into town on a four wheeler; exhausted, slightly disoriented, wet and hungry. A sweet old lady, whom I began to refer to as Abuelita, took me in, served me an Imperial, and cooked a fresh snapper caught right out front. Once my belly was full and my mind relaxed, she pointed me in the way of the house I rented during my stay. From that point on I knew I was in good hands.  

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If you know me at all, there is one thing (well more than one, but especially this one particular thing) I am terrible at. Sitting still. Even if I find myself in the most relaxing and tranquil place, I have an urge to see, to experience, and to share. More often than not this leads to trouble or what I like to call good stories. 

So let’s go back to 5:30 am in Cabuya…..I spent sunrise on the beach in the company of calm waves tickling the shore of rich and vibrant jungles. A cup of coffee down the hatch and I was ready to go explore the town of Montezuma to chase some waterfalls about 10 miles away. 

The buses in Costa Rica go everywhere; back roads included. However, they are on tico time. Meaning Pura Vida, man - they come when they come. I was waiting outside the nearby place of my Abuelita waiting for the bus when two ticos pulled up on their motorcycle, which happens to be a normal form of transportation there. 

I smiled warmly and greeted them in Spanish and struck up a conversation. I was trying desperately to come as fluent as possible in the short month I had here, so any practice was good practice. Next thing I knew we were three to a bike cruising down the road. (BTW our hands free fanny pack is the perfect motorcycle accessory.)

The older one, Gabriel, took to me. He has gauges in his ears, a skater hat, and cell phone. He rides dirt bikes, and pops wheelies. Needless to say, we get along well. His English was a little touch and go and my Spanish was not much better. But, we were instant friends. He took me by the hand and led me to the trailhead. 

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Adventuring to Montezuma Falls is quite a slippery time. Rainy season deters crowds and allows for a more authentic experience. It also allows for a muddy experience. We jumped from rock to rock, waded through rivers, grabbed on to ropes to scale the river shore, and finally made it to the falls. 

“Muddy waters are best cleared by leaving them alone.”

I stood there. The sheer force of the fall making me take a step backwards. I breathed in the mist and breathed out heavily relaxed air. I settled into the lack of clarity of the water reflecting what my life was in this moment: muddled, forever moving, and anything but calm. With rain comes purification. During this process, things tend to get a little messy. I didn’t mind.

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"Lo siento amigo, la agua no está claro en este momento, no habido demasiada lluvia.” (“I am sorry the water isn’t clear right now there has been too much rain my friend”)


“I understand. It’s ok. This is perfect.”

We joked and laughed and taught each other words as we headed back to his bike. Putting his hat on my head backwards he laughed. 


“Tanto,” I replied.

We ripped and roared and I held on tight as we headed back to my A frame cottage on the sea. I said goodnight and we decided to adventure tomorrow to the island cemetery close to my house. The tides are so drastic here, that in low tide you can actually walk about a mile off shore to this strange little island. 

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5:30 am. The stray pup that so kindly decided to be my friend the day before awoke me with kisses. The monkeys hollered as the sun rose once again. I was ready for the next adventure. I named the pup Skippy. The tide was out and we skipped from tide pool to tide pool until my stomach was ready for breakfast. 

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I found an open restaurant and ate there while having Spanish lessons from a little girl.

Later Gabriel pulled up on his motorbike and we were off again.

Walking to the island he playfully gave me a noogie, while I teased him for calling it an “Iceland”. He joked back teasing me for calling a horse a head.  A lot of fishing happens on the island and it was only us, our laughter, and the fisherman out that day. I was taken aback on how black and sharp the rocks were, while the shells in contrast were glossy perfection.

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Costa Rica beams with life everywhere you look. Everything seems to vibrate with energy, and no matter where you look, if your eyes are open there is something living and breathing. A conch was discovered along the way. It has to be one of the oddest animals I have ever seen. Sluggish, and colorful, with a protective shell. A delicacy, but protected! It takes 50 years for one to mature. Being mindful of what and how we eat is critical to sustain this planet. Learn more about preserving this species and the history that surrounds it here!

By the time we go to the island we were drenched in sweat. We dove into the sea. I floated on my back and watched the clouds settle above me. Once our bodies cooled it was time to visit the dead, a small island where native ticos, if well liked, are buried here. A couple other gringos shared the space as well. 

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Gabriel told me stories of the pilot buried here. Of the two men who drowned right out front buried here. His respected grandfather, next to his sweet grandmother. It was quiet and a calmness encompassed us. We walked silently back to the mainland as the tide came rushing after us. 

Gabriel brought me into the village and I was introduced to his whole family. All had beautiful little homes next to each other and all beyond nice. Children laughed, sisters hugged, chickens and dogs bit at our heels. I had fresh pineapple and mango from the yard, Spanish lessons from aunts and uncles, and a sweet private concert from Gabriel on the guitar. A huge hug later it was time to part ways. 

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I am beyond grateful for Gabriel and his family. Their open arms and hearts took my breath away. It truly made this trip something special. The connection I had was a beautiful experience and part of my heart remains in that town, and with Gabriel. I hope to visit again soon. Until then, Pura Vida my friends!  And as Gabriel likes to say, “Costa Rica…WOW!”

Want to read more about co-founder, Christine Stahr’s adventures in Costa Rica? Tag along the next adventure into Turriabla!

Interested in going on your own Costa Rican adventure, but want an amazing and authentic experience without the fuss of planning? Check out True Nature, a travel company that has over 10 years of experience, to find your next global adventure.


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