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5 Weeks in Nosara, Costa Rica

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

Greetings from Costa Rica...or rather, Pura Vida!! As I write this I am sitting in an open-aired, straw-roofed restaurant looking at the ocean and listening to the rain.

This is where I am!

This (photo above) is actually Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. I spent 5 weeks in Nosara, and now I am in Santa Teresa, about 4 hours to the south. It's raining today, and I'm waiting to move from this lovely hotel (Nantipa), where I spent 4 nights, to a private VBRO condo, where I'll be for another 8 nights. I had about 90 minutes to spare before the condo's check-in time, so I decided to write a blog post and share a little about my trip.


The backstory of the trip is that at the end of 2019 I lost my beloved job at the Chopra Center in San Diego because the Center decided to close. I was very sad, as I truly loved working there (I did holistic psychiatry, Ayurveda, and astrology). I wanted to turn my loss into an opportunity, so I decided to use my unexpected freedom to travel the world. I gave away many belongings, found homes for my entire garden, and stored my most precious things in PODS. Then I drove across the country to spend time with family on St. Simons Island (near Savannah), Georgia for the holidays. In February 2020 I left on what was meant to be a 1-2 year trip around the world. Covid had already made itself known, but I was hopeful that it wouldn't be the problem it was. It was a problem though, so my trip got derailed. I was six weeks into my journey, in Costa Rica, and I ended up having to return to the US. (That was its own unique blessing, however! I enjoyed a precious, unexpected year with my family!)


I spent about 1.5-2 weeks in Nosara on my 2020 CR trip and completely fell in love. So, when Costa Rica opened its doors to tourism in 2021, I put Nosara on the top of my list. I wasn't planning to stay so long in Costa Rica in my original "round the world" plan, but since the rest of the world has been slow to open its borders, I returned here. I am grateful to be back and to stay longer than planned! The unique circumstances have given me the opportunity to really experience expat life!


Guiones Beach in Nosara

Costa Rica allows Americans to stay 3 months on a tourist visa, so I planned 5.5 weeks in Nosara, about 4.5 weeks in Santa Teresa (which I'd also visited on my previous trip and liked), and about 12 days that were open/unplanned. Since I had such an amazing time in Nosara during my 5.5 weeks there, I ended up booking 10 of those last 12 days BACK in Nosara! The remaining two will be spent at a cool botanic-garden hotel called Xandari that is in San Jose nearish to the airport.


The first 4 nights of my trip I booked into my favorite Nosara hotel, The Gilded Iguana. Basically, it's the center of the Nosara-verse, in my opinion. It's one of the oldest hotels in the area (if not the oldest), so it has a prime location in the center of the coolest part of town. There's a nice open air lobby and restaurant and a big grassy lawn. None of the hotels are really directly oceanfront in Nosara. That's one of the appealing things about Santa Teresa, actually... My hotel here was directly on the sand. In Nosara, you have to walk a little bit to reach the water because the entire oceanfront is a nature preserve/protected land. It is a little less convenient but it consequently is filled with the most magical thing: FIREFLIES!!!


The Gilded Iguana

Peek inside my room...
The pool area has a great vibe and cool design.

One key thing to know about Nosara is that it is very expensive. If you've never been there, you probably would be very surprised to know that the cost of living is at or above the cost of living in San Diego, LA, or NYC. Food costs the same (or more for imports), gas is more, clothes and all etceteras (coconut oil, the rare herbs or supplements you manage to find, toothpaste, a tea kettle) are more, and rent is more. Nice housing is in short supply and high demand. Plus, it's a vacation destination, so the nightly market is clearly appealing to landlords (a quality place to stay in the ideal area is about $250-400/night). You might get a small discount if you can find a place available for a month and attempt to negotiate. I did this, but it probably only worked because it was post-covid and a shoulder season (beginning of rainy times). It is nearly impossible to find cute and affordable longer-term housing in the prime part of town. Despite my small discount, I still paid the most I have ever paid for a month-long stay at a VRBO (including in LA, Santa Barbara, Ojai, Mill Valley, and San Diego), and it was not a posh place. It was, however, in the most perfect location. So, I splurged by US standards to live like a local in Costa Rica.


Living like a local...

This is the inside of my little treehouse apartment. You can see my makeshift workstation, complete with the portable sign I made in America and brought with me. This is where I did all my sessions for the month. Bedroom behind (there was only a/c in the bedroom, so I had to rely on air coming thru the slats to cool down the little den and kitchen area).

Astro Muse on the Loose!

I worked 3-4 days per week while I was there. This turned out pretty well about 70% of the time. On 3 different days in the month the power was out for multiple hours with no notice given to me. I had to go back to the Gilded Iguana and do my sessions from the open-air restaurant, which becomes a co-work space between meal times. The Iguana has a generator and their own satellite tower. So, they become super busy on the days when the power or internet goes out. Yes, the internet goes out, too, even when the power is on. The internet went out (town-wide) for six or more hours on another several days of my stay. And Americans cannot rely on their cell phones for backup. You can get cell service ($10/day with Verizon), but unless you get a local SIM card, you are limited to only a small amount of roaming data (0.5 GB/day). This is not enough to do a Zoom call. Unstable power and internet is def a hardship of living in Nosara. It reminds you, in case you forgot, that you are in a developing country ... in the middle of the jungle.

My workstation during power or internet outages...

Thankfully, it was hard to stay infrastructure-frustrated for long. My little treehouse had a charming little patio and was about 2 blocks from the beach and from the Gilded Iguana. When I finished work I could go surfing in the afternoons, if the tide was right and conditions weren't too choppy.

Getting ready for a surf...

I'm still a beginner surfer. Well, advanced beginner. I can surf pretty consistently on the front waves/white water. But I'm at this difficult point in my progress where I'm really too good for those broken waves, but the unbroken "green" waves in Nosara (and Santa Teresa) are sooo much bigger. They are really too big for me and give me anxiety when I see one of them coming behind me. It makes me laugh to write it, but it's true! So, I haven't focused on surfing as much as I was expecting on this trip. I ended up making Spanish fluency more of a priority. I have surfed some tho!

Here's one pic of me surfing at sunset on a small wave...😊

When I wasn't working or running errands thru the jungle, which was really entertaining (pic on my IG), I spent a lot of time studying lists of Spanish words I wrote in my phone for review. I am continuing this trend in Santa Teresa. Whenever I have a down moment, waiting for food or a taxi, I review vocab on my phone. I also study with a Spanish book I brought from the US, Pimsleur audio programs I loaded on my phone before leaving, and the Duolingo app. I have been speaking and studying Spanish off/on since high school. I really love it. It's so fun being able to communicate entirely in Spanish and actually understand about 90-95% of the conversations I have. I train myself to think in Spanish by seeing if I know how to say random thoughts in both English and Spanish. If I don't know a word or am unsure about the grammar of the sentence, then I'll look it up and add the new words or phrases to my list. I used the list method of studying in med school and college, and it really worked well for me. The difficult thing in Costa Rica is that so many people speak English, I have to try hard to find opportunities to practice. In my last week in Nosara I'm planning to take a week of private Spanish lessons/tutoring, which I primarily want in order to have some consistent conversations with someone who can correct my grammar, pronunciation, spelling, etc. I'll be heading to Mexico after Costa Rica, so Spanish school at the end of my trip is not entirely non-sensical!


Spanish words from my list!!


Two other great things about my trip--besides speaking Spanish, becoming more flexible with my work and living situations, and surfing--are the friends I've made and the yoga I've done. I really love yoga but have not had a regular studio-based practice in many years (since Kauai's Metamorphose Studio in 2012). It always seems that the studios I really love are not too convenient to my house. So, I maintain a daily home practice, but it's really not the same!! It was awesome to get to practice regularly at my second favorite hotel/resort in Nosara, The Bodhi Tree.

Me in the Oceana Shala

This is their amazing Oceana Shala where I was able to attend classes several times per week. So gorgeous!! And there's a great sense of community around the yoga center. Lots of locals hangout in the cafe there. There are loads of people from Canada and some from the US--all doing something similar to what I am doing--spending 3 months in Costa Rica. A handful of people I met are staying longer, renewing their visas by a formal application process or by leaving the country briefly and returning. And one of my friends has even bought property.


Friends from Canada at the yoga cafe


Friends from US and Canada celebrating sunset above Nosara

One thing everyone wants to know about anywhere is, "How is the food?". Well, the food was mostly great because Nosara is like a little Austin, TX in some ways. It's quirky, artsy, attracts cool people, and has delicious food trucks. And a coffee bus! There are several cool vegan restaurants, juice-bar trucks, and pipas (coconuts) on several corners. My favorite places were La Luna (ocean front), Tierra Magnifica (mountaintop), Olivia's (reasonably healthy vegetarian flatbread pizzas--when feeling like a splurge), Luv Burger (salads and vegan burgers), Howler's Tacos (vegan falafel tacos), and Le Bistro (delicious salads, incredible cappuccinos, and the most amazing handmade chocolates-omg).

La Luna with my beautiful friend from Hawaii

Tierra Magnifica with friends from Canada, Hawaii, and South Carolina

Le Bistro with my friend from Montreal

I'm thankful I had friends who wanted to go to all the spots!


Alright. I just arrived to my new VRBO for the week. Feels nice to be here. I am only staying 8 nights though because it was a bit expensive (less than Nosara though), and I was not sure of the area. Felt a bit nervous to commit to a month somewhere I had not vetted at least a little. This is why I'm hopping around more in Santa Teresa compared to Nosara. (I'll be in 3 hotels and 2 VBROs over 4.5 weeks.) In Nosara I knew where I wanted to be...near Juan Surfos, a cool little surf shop next to the taco stand that is basically the nightlife in Nosara (until 9pm, when there is a curfew due to covid). Normally, there's not much nightlife in Nosara anyway. It's an early to bed, early to surf kind of town. It was good for me because I can be a night owl. In Nosara, you can expect construction noise at 6:30am, so it really is best to be in bed by 10 whether you surf or not. There are yoga classes at 8:30 daily in the shala shown above. So, that was possible for me if I went to bed early. I did go surfing one day at 6am--just because "Dawn Patrol". Gotta do it at some point. It was really nice, energetically, and the waves were smoother. But, they were still too big. So, I ended up at morning yoga much more often than morning surfing.

Juan Surfo's & Howler's Tacos (peekaboo on the side). This was my street!

Shopping in Nosara. You can see the "coffee bus" in the back to the left.

You won't believe how long writing blog posts takes! I worked on this about 2 hours, and I'm not sure I've said anything too interesting!! But, if you wanted to know more about an expat or nomad's life on the road and specifically in Nosara, Costa Rica, perhaps it was worth the read. I did intend to write some travel posts when I started this blog a few years ago. This is the first one! Let me know if you enjoyed it!!


And may your wanderlust be stoked by these words from me!!

👣 ❤️ 🌊


Thank you Nosara!!!


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Most excellent read! Continue to enjoy your time and looking forward to your next blog post! Sending many blessings. Steve V.

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