Close your eyes. Imagine the most beautiful beach you can think of. The stretch of sand is shaped like a crescent moon and ringed by palm trees and green cliffs. Now, take away all the people, so there´s only about twenty shadows walking the beach. I´m guessing the sand is white, so turn it the color of volcanic ash. Despite the darker color, the sand is just as warm and soft as its counterpart. The water is colder and darker than it is on the Caribbean side, as this beach is on the western Pacific Coast. However, due to your proximity to the equator, the water is still warm enough to let the tide wash over your feet and ankles. The light hits the cliffs, bathing the fishing boats in a golden glow. The sun shines a brilliant yellow and then pink as it hit the clouds above. As I walked the length of Playa Hermosa, at sunset, I must confess I had a moment. I don´t go to church or believe in an organized religion, but I would call it a spiritual moment. I stared at the incredible landscape and tried to take it all in. I closed my eyes, did a few yoga stretches, and a tear ran down my cheek. Now that´s the type of image I want to think about when it comes time for the end. I stopped to recover my senses and quickly dried my tears.
Playa Hermosa, translated simply as “beautiful beach”, was my favorite stop on the itinerary. Our four days at Arenal felt like an eternity, because I was desperately trying to keep my ear dry in the dampness of the rain forest. Finally we drove to Liberia Airport to pick up Jim and Sandi. Jon was very anxious about picking up his parents on time, so we arrived at the airport about two hours early. Since we were sick of rice and beans, I looked up the best restaurants in Liberia. Trip Advisor came up with a German beer hall near the airport. Although fried meat was a far cry from what I would call tasty food, Jon and I were happy to have something a little different. We met up with Jon´s parents at the airport in our trusty, dusty Toyota RAV4 (I totally want one now), and Jon drove the 17 km to Playa Hermosa. Famous for its spectacular snorkeling, diving, and fishing on the Golfo de Papagayo, Coco and Hermosa are largely expat towns. Foreigners, mostly older Americans, Canadians, and celebrities, rent condos there for several weeks or buy vacation homes so they can snowbird in Costa Rica during the cold, winter months. Despite its reputation as an expat hangout, I preferred Hermosa to Coco because it is a tiny blip of a beach, and therefore, pretty authentic. Also, the town also had some great restaurants that I couldn´t wait to try out.
We stayed at Villa del Sueño, a quaint, colonial, boutique hotel. In addition to its well-landscaped grounds, the hotel had two pools for guests and a beautiful garden restaurant where we dined on Costa Rican food that wasn´t that bad. The four of us played the card game, Euchre, before dinner and listened to some live Latin music while eating. It was a great atmosphere! The first day we were supposed to take Sandi snorkeling for the first time and see some really cool fish. However, when I woke up, the liquid from my ear hadn´t gotten any better, and in fact, was heavier and full of blood again. So I numbed the ear up with painkillers and decided a relaxing day of tanning by the pool and watching the sunset at the beach was much better than snorkeling. That night we ate a delicious Asian tapas meal at Ginger Bar and Grill. The seared tuna with ginger slaw was delicious, as was just about everything we ate. Jim met up with some friends he hadn´t seen since college, and it was a lively evening.
The second day we took Jim and Sandi on a wildlife river-cruise in Palo Verde National Park. The tour was very similar to the one we took at Caño Negro, but I was glad that Jon´s parents were able to see some of the animals that we saw on the other trip. We also were a lot closer to most of them including the white-faced capuchins and howler monkeys. There were also many crocodiles in the water: 342 reptiles for every 2 miles. Make sure you don´t go swimming or fall in the river!
The last night in Hermosa was pretty magical. We found a beachfront restaurant called Aqua Sports Bar. Upon hearing the name spokenout loud, it doesn´t sound so magical but it was complete with sand, boardwalk, and a live band playing 90s music like Dave Mathews, Counting Crows, and REM, among others. Also the singer had a really good voice, so our last night in Hermosa was quite idyllic. The food tasted better, especially the seafood and the burgers. Sandi and I both had fresh mint mojito slushies with the national liquor, Cacique, a sweet alcohol made from sugar cane. Along with being quite large, the mojitos might have been the tastiest drink I´ve ever had. The whole experience is highly recommended!