When most people think of Costa Rica, the first images that come to mind are sun drenched beaches, tropical rain forests, rugged mountain peaks, and adventure. Because of the untamed, "adventurous" side of Costa Rica, many people mistakenly think the country is more suited for younger visitors.
It only stands to reason that older visitors to the country are only looking for real estate, 18 hole golf courses and a place to spend their golden years, watching the sunset, right?
My Nana, who is my father's mother and recently turned 84, made her first trip to Costa Rica blowing apart this stereo type, and set the bar high for what more mature visitors are enjoying about this diverse country.
As a family when we decided to make the big move to Costa Rica we were extremely excited. For us, the only real drawback would be missing our family and friends, especially my grandmother. I have been blessed with an amazing family and I give thanks for them everyday of my life. I am aware that the lessons they taught along with the morals and principles they showed me have help to shape the person I have become. I have always been very close to my grandmothers, all of which were strong, independent women. They had minds of their own, good values, and amazing work ethics. Most importantly they demonstrated to me and their families what a tender, loving mother and grandmother was, but with a firm hand. More often than not, they were not just our mothers and grandmothers but our fathers and grandfather's too!
I feel blessed and proud to say that I still have my Nana with me who is a spry, young 84 years of age. When I first announced that we would be moving to Costa Rica my family was sad, but they let me know that I had their support. From the very beginning my Nana wanted to come visit and explore Costa Rica which was not a surprise to me because she has always love to travel and always willing to try new things. She had heard many wonderful things about Costa Rica and was especially curious about the canopy tours (zip lines). Before leaving Florida everyone knew she would soon be zipping through the forest. Several people suggested that she reconsider given her mature age. As you can imagine that made her want to do it even more. There is a lesson to be learned here; never tell a determined grandmother that she can't do something!
A few years ago Nana, my two aunts, uncle and cousins had planned a vacation to Costa Rica but unforeseen circumstances caused the trip to be put on hold. Nana held strong and last week she arrived in Costa Rica with my cousin Debra, kicking off our first class, whirlwind tour of this exhilarating country that I now call home.
The day of Nana and Debra's arrival, my mother and I headed to the airport to pick up our guests. On the way home we made a stop in La Garita at one of our favorite digs, Fiesta del Maiz for a typical lunch of chicken and rice. During lunch we talked for several hours, catching up on old times and planning our coming week of adventures. I asked my Nana what she wanted to do, and the first thing on her list was the zip lines! We decided that it was a good idea to just take it easy the first afternoon and evening saving our energy for the adventurous week ahead. That first night I stayed up till midnight with everyone listening to and telling stories, gossiping and having a good time. Once I turned in the ladies continued talking and laughing like young girls.
Monday morning came and everyone was up bright and early, ready for the days adventures. We were in luck because the weather was perfect, only blue skies, sunshine and a cool, fresh breeze. The night before we had decided to go for "gold" on our first day with a visit to the Poas Volcano, La Paz waterfall, and of course a canopy tour at Colinas del Poas (www.colinasdelpoas.com)! Our first stop was the Poas Volcano. As we made our approach we had perfect visibility of the crater which is a steaming sulfur lake. It is a sight that always makes a lasting impression. We made our way down to the visitor center taking in the displays, history of the area and volcano. We then moved on to the gift shop where Nana and Debra bought an exportable Guaria Morada, the purple orchid which is the national flower of Costa Rica.
We left Poas and made our way down the hill to Fraijanes, a local village just before the entrance of Poas National Park, stopping along the way to purchase farm fresh strawberries and homemade sour cream. We decided to have a quick, typical breakfast, which was cooked on a wood burning stove, before making our way around the other side of Poas to Vara Blanca, for a photo op at the impressive La Paz waterfall. We made our way back around the volcano and were ready for the much anticipated canopy tour at Colina's del Poas, a beautiful nature park with canopy tours, nature trails, Tarzan swing, kayaks, trout pond and restaurant overlooking colorful gardens and a lovely lake.
We arrived a few minutes early for our 2 p.m. tour so we could have a look around at the gardens and lake. As we walked into the reception we were greeted by the friendly staff where one of the tour guides took a quick look at my Nana and a concerned look came across his face. Nana, with her quick witand a laugh in her voice, quickly replied to the young man "Don't look at me like that. Don't you have many older women who come up here to do zip lines?". He was speechless. We were quickly suited up and ready to go! Needless to say we had a BLAST. My cousin Debra, Nana and I were joined by a group of young Tico's who are tour operators and were visiting from the La Fortuna/Arenal area. They were impressed with Nana's courage and cheered her on every step of the way, giving her high fives at every platform! With each line we zipped across, I could see in my Nana's eyes she was going to take pleasure in saying to her nay sayers, I TOLD YOU I COULD DO IT!
On Tuesday morning we left Atenas, taking a road trip to our favorite Pacific coast beach town, Tamarindo. During the 3.5 hour drive we were able to continue our conversations and story telling. I have always loved hearing stories about times gone by and hearing my Nana tell them makes me feel as if I were actually there. My nana is a wonderful story teller, remembering things from way back with great detail, telling family stories with passion and humor the way only a grandmother could.
A few weeks before Nana's arrival I had called our great friend and We Love Costa Rica colleague Becky Clower to see what she had available for rent. She offered us an amazing 6th floor penthouse with spectacular ocean views in downtown Tamarindo. Needless to say, it was luxury at it's best. We spent the next few days enjoying each others company, watching the local monkeys hangout in the trees, shopping, eating wonderful food (Seasons by Shalomy is amazing), touring the near by beaches of Conchal and Flamingo as well as trying our luck at the local casino. We even took time out to drop in and see the progress of Becky's stunning new home overlooking the Pacific ocean near Pirates Bay!!
Thursday morning we said good by to Tamarindo and headed inland to be pampered at the world famous Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort (www.tabacon.com). Our tour took us around Lake Arenal, the area's impressive 33 square mile lake and the explosive Arenal volcano. Once again, the day could not have been better, with sunshine and blue skies. We were able to take in the sites of the beautiful lush countryside while stopping to marvel at the lake below and volcano in the distance. The drive was divine and the volcano completely visible which is not always the case. In my 8 years of visiting the Arenal area, this was only the second time I have been able to see the peak of Arenal!
At Tabacon we were greeted by a friendly, welcoming staff who offered fresh tropical juice while we waited for our rooms. Coco, one of the staff members, went above and beyond the call of duty to help accommodate my mother and Nana, making sure their every need was attended to. Once we settled in, we change into our bathing suits and headed to the hot springs to relax and benefit from the "healing" hot waters that are diverted from a local river that is heated by the volcano. In my humble opinion, these are the best, most natural looking springs in the area with beautiful garden paths and a world class spa. After our time in the hot springs, we were all totally relaxed and for the first and only time of the week, went to bed early.
When Friday morning dawned we headed back home to Atenas. The drive back between La Fortuna and San Ramon was magnificent, passing through the Los Angeles Cloud Forest. That night, back at home Nana and I prepared dinner for everyone with collard greens, fried green tomatoes and Nana's homemade biscuits! They were so delicious and flaky, that Gerardo ate 5! The girls (Nana, mom and Debra) were tired but not to tired to announce they wanted to spend the evening at the Fiesta Casino in Alajuela. They gave it there best shot and just after midnight threw in the towel, both my mother and Nana coming home with winnings in hand!
Saturday was the last full day before our week long adventure would come to an end. We took a tour around Atenas, looking at a few houses and visiting the central market. We sat peacefully inside our beautiful church, reflecting on the beauty of the architecture, wood work, hand carved and painted statues of Jesus and the Saints while talking about the detailed ceremonies of the Catholic faith. Earlier in the week new clients turned friends, Axel and Francina had invited us for a nice dinner and asked that we pick the time and place to celebrate. As it turned out, Saturday afternoon the Zephyr Palace (www.zephyrpalace.com) at Villa Caletas (www.hotelvillacaletas.com) was hosting the final concert of the season, featuring a Costa Rican composer Pilar Aguilar (piano) and her daughter Grace Marin (violin). The evening was divine as Pilar and Grace played with passion and grace. So much so that they brought Francina to tears. This is one of the jewels close to Atenas where we can find exquisite dining, a world class hotel and cultural experiences that rival any big city in the world.
After the concert we made our way to the hotel's exquisite restaurant, Mirador. The Mirador features traditional French cuisine with a tropical, Costa Rican infusion. The tables were elegantly set, place settings in the French style and white linen table cloths. The menu features a nice variety of starters, main courses and desserts without being overwhelming. There is an impressive wine list great for paring with your courses. Everyone was delighted with their meals which ranged from seared tuna, nut crusted duck breast, jumbo shrimp with a tamarind glaze, to homemade lobster ravioli with 3 sauces. I indulged and accompanied my crusted duck breast with a beautiful Pinot Noir. For desert you ask? Pears poached in red wine with homemade vanilla custard ice cream, tropical fruit tiramisu, and dark chocolate cake topped with ganache and stewed pineapple. The staff was more than accommodating, attending to every detail. Our hosts, Axel and Francina were lovely, keeping us amused with colorful stories that left us all with smiles and wanting more. The evening at Villa Caletas was the perfect ending to our week long adventure.
Throughout our week long journey together Nana had remarked that this had been a once in a lifetime trip. I could not agree with her more but can only hope it is the first of many. During the week I felt many emotions but more than anything I was proud that I could show my Nana the beautiful country that I now call home. Through the years she has sacrificed and given her family so much. I hope that I was able to show her how grateful I am for all her love, sacrifice and the lessons she has taught me. I hope this story will inspire others to take similar journeys with those you love. If you think Costa Rica is only for a younger crowd, my 84 year old Nana will beg to differ with you. Savor every single moment with your loved ones. They are the most valuable assets you have.
Costa Rica Realtors Chamber
Tours in Costa Rica
Pure Life Development of Atenas is a full service tour company. We feature full vacation packages and day trips for the family. Our tour director Nelson Conejo is very experienced and provides a personal service and attention to detail second to none in Costa Rica. Please write Nelson or give him a call to arrange your next Costa Rican vacation at (506)2446-0447 or
Retirement Living in Atenas
Interview with Pure Life Development co-founder and certified realtor Dennis Easters, about Costa Rica ranked by AARP as "one of the best places to retire abroad".