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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Surf and sun in Costa Rica

Surf and sun in Costa Rica |

As someone who has what many call the “travel bug,” scheming up new places to zip off to worldwide will always remain a hobby of mine. Even better, though, is when these little ploys actually become a reality. This happened to be the case when, after checking the calendar and peering into the bank account, my bucket list dream of learning how to surf began to take shape in the form of a booked trip to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.

Why Santa Teresa? After scanning the internet for information surrounding “the best places to surf,” and sending emails off to a few known surfaholics, the consensus came down to this tiny town. This decision was made based on Santa Teresa's consistent reputation of pumping out perfect sets of beginner waves, as well as remaining somewhat off the beaten path of the typical gringo vacation hub.

That is how I found myself boarding a Delta Airlines flight bound for San Jose, Costa Rica, with one goal in mind: to learn how to surf. 

Santa Teresa: Surfing is a way of life

A couple of plane rides later I found myself jostling up and down in my taxi seat as we, at last, made it to our destination. The mile-long strip through town consisted of a one-way dirt road riddled with potholes only 100 yards back from the beach. As always, I began to feel that thrill of being in a new place as we drove past colorful backpacker lodges and restaurants boasting fruit smoothies and local “casado” dishes (casado is your choice of meat coupled with an assortment of side dishes like beans, rice, lettuce and fried bananas). But it was when we drove past the multitude of quaint surf shops that my anticipation really started to grow.

The next morning I woke up early, walked into town, picked out the perfect surfboard, and began to learn what it takes to Hang Ten surf style. Needless to say, there was no “shredding the pipe” being done my first couple of days. It was more like learning how to eat it hard, hold my breath underwater and paddle through that relentless pounding break.

When I wasn't being absolutely demoralized by how tough surfing is to learn, I would wander through town aimlessly enjoying the local “vibe.” Vibe, meaning the people of Santa Teresa lead an exceptionally laid back lifestyle that embodies the surf-culture mantra. I have always been obsessed with this surf lifestyle, especially after watching documentaries about legends such as Greg Noll, Mark Foo, Eddie Aikau and Laird Hamilton. So to finally be immersed in this way of life made me super stoked.

This local vibe ranged from guys clad in board shorts cruising up and down the dirt road straddling bikes, to cafés stacked with surf magazines, to travelers chilling outside surf shops animatedly talking about yesterday's waves, to cars topped with surfboards bumping along. Everyone surfs, whether it is the local construction worker or the international backpacker. Surfing in Santa Teresa is a way of life. 

The perfect wave

The seventh day into my trip was the day that most distinctly sticks out in my mind because it was the day that the surf town of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, reminded me of the ski town Breckenridge, Colo.

I was standing on the sand shading my eyes from the sun's rays looking out at the waves, I was thinking about how I was going to paddle out through the unforgiving break. Along came a super-ripped Belgium surfer chick who noticed my hesitation. Before I knew it she was dragging me into the water saying, “follow me” and giving me pointers about how to paddle as well as how to “turtle roll” under waves.

I made it through the break, sat up on my board, and tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but really I just was trying to stay out of the pro surfers' way as they absolutely destroyed waves.

Bobbing up and down in the lineup I noticed a set coming in that looked perfect for me (not too big), so I pushed myself into position and began to paddle with all my might. I caught the wave and tried to drop in, but, bam, I ate it super hard, was flipped in the barrel and spit out into the foam. After that, my adrenaline was pumping and I felt a sudden urge that I HAD to ride a wave today. So, I grabbed my board, jumped on and with all my strength paddled back out through the break. Another glassy set rolled through as the locals pointed, “you look at wave, look at wave, paddle, paddle,” (they were really helpful) and this time, as I dropped in, I didn't fall. It was a moment of blissful clarity as I finally rode my first big wave. It petered out and I dropped back into the water with a huge grin on my face extremely fired up about what I'd just done.

I swam back out and happily drifted in the water watching the other surfers continue to rip waves. This was the moment when it dawned on me how similar the surf atmosphere is to the ski atmosphere. Meaning, everyone out in the water was so pumped about the sport of surfing and continually fed off of each other's energy and excitement.

Rewind to one of Breckenridge's epic powder days last year with everyone gathered at the base of the Imperial Chair waiting for it to open. When it finally did, you could hear the whoops and hollers from the lively crowd as the first chair took off leading the way for an unbelievable day of skiing. Everyone on the slopes was so thrilled to be shredding and you could just feel the electric energy as face shots were handed out galore.

Just as that amazingly-waist-deep powder turn left me giggling with glee as my heart raced with exhilaration, so did that perfectly-caught Costa Rican wave.

As I was flying back to the U.S., I pondered how cool it was that both Breckenridge and Santa Teresa were obsessed with the same thing: a lifestyle based around the outdoors and the love of a sport.

Tucker Burton, who hails from Breckenridge, graduated from Middlebury College in 2009 with a political science degree. Following graduation she headed to New York City where she had a job offer in the fashion industry. After being laid off due to the dismal economic climate, she decided to travel the world. This ranged from living and working in New Zealand to backpacking around Southeast Asia. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Costa Rica Fishing Report

Costa Rica should protect its sharks, not foreign fleet

Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - By Todd Staley
Marlin hitting lure
In the latest setback in conservationists’ fight against shark finning, the Costa Rican fisheries authority ruled it is acceptable for commercial fishing vessels to use the meat of sharks for bait and food, leaving only the valuable fins with spines attached.
More marlin may be around to hit lures as pictured above, now that the the Costa Rica Tourism Board has changed its Certification for Sustainable Tourism criteria to include removing species of tourist interest off participating hotels’ menus. Additionally, GESSA, the supermarket chain that owns Perimercados, Jumbo and Super Compro stores, has announced it will no longer sell sailfish and marlin in its stores.Courtesy of Crocodile Bay Resort
I wonder what happens after the last domino falls. Costa Rica just received another black eye on its international “green image” when the Customs Administration was forced to destroy more than 1,000 kilos of shark fins that were landed with only the spine of the shark attached. The law requires all sharks to be landed whole to deter the practice of shark finning.
Todd Staley
Todd Staley
Javier Catón, who represents the Pacific Coast Fishermen’s Union, says the group is tired of taking the blame for Costa Rica becoming the shark-finning capital of the world. The group also claims that foreign fleets landing in the Pacific port of Puntarenas are taking up to 70 percent of fish targeted by Costa Rica’s commercial boats. Tico boats are small-scale in comparison to the foreign factory boats.
The boat in the most recent incident landed with 50,000 kilos of shark and nearly 20,000 kilos of other species, including dorado, tuna and billfish. Catón claims the commercial fleet is forced to target species classified by law as species of tourist interest because the foreign fleets are taking most of the fish.
I do not contend that any type of nonselective fishing is sustainable, but the Costa Rican commercial fleet brings some good points to the table. The shark issue is one of them. The government has been lax with creating and then interpreting its own laws.
The marine conservation group Pretoma, headed by Randall Arauz, has been an advocate of sea turtle and shark conservation for many years in Costa Rica. Arauz and Enrique Ramírez, director of the Costa Rican Tourist Fishing Federation (FECOPT) representing the sportfishing sector, have been in direct contact with Catón about fishery issues. 
“We at FECOPT have joined efforts with [Pretoma], and we both are creating a common front to request the implementation of responsible fishing practices according to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) guidelines, which are mandatory but not executed by Incopesca (the Costa Rican fisheries authority),” Ramírez said.
Shark finning used to be a regular practice in Costa Rica, and Pretoma lobbied to have sharks landed with the fins attached. Then the foreign fleet began sewing fins from larger sharks to the bodies of smaller sharks, and Incopesca ruled that this was a legal practice according to its interpretation of the law. After an uproar, the practice was finally stopped, although the foreign fleet continued to unload at private docks where their actions could not be monitored effectively.
After Incopesca and the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry finally ruled in December 2010 that foreign fleets must unload at public docks subject to inspection, the first boat to unload was caught with illegal fins onboard. Shortly afterward, the fleet started showing up at the dock with only other species and no sharks. At the same time, huge shipments of shark fins began being imported to Costa Rica from Nicaragua. 
In this latest incident, of the 50,000 kilos of shark onboard, only 1,000 kilos were landed with just the spines and fins. The owner of the boat claimed that the meat of those sharks was used as bait to catch other sharks and as food for the crew. Incopesca ruled that this is an acceptable practice, opening the door to more uncontrolled landings of fins. 
Costa Rica and many nongovernmental organizations are now concentrating on a “blue agenda” concerning our oceans. Some 25 percent of terrestrial Costa Rica is protected, but only 1 percent of the country’s oceans is protected – and Costa Rica’s territorial waters are 11 times larger than its land mass. It is not the small-scale artisan fishermen or the sportfishermen doing most of the damage. When we create protected areas, we need to look past the horizon – that is where Costa Rica is losing and the foreign fleets are laughing all the way to the bank.
It is a domino effect. And what are we left with after the last domino falls? Nothing.
Fishing report, Oct. 13
I don’t think Christopher Columbus could have found Costa Rica in the weather we have had this week. The ocean kicked up enough in northern Guanacaste that a couple of charters turned back toward shore.
Before the front came in this week, there were still sails and marlin in the area and catch reports weren’t bad. At Los Sueños on the central Pacific coast, some sails have been biting and dorado have started to show.
On the Caribbean coast, the rains have been holding off until the afternoon up toward Tortuguero, and the tarpon bite is still really strong.
Good news is being spread regarding sailfish and marlin. Grupo Empresarial de Supermercados S.A. (GESSA) has announced it will no longer sell sailfish and marlin in its stores, which include Perimercados, Jumbo and Super Compro supermarkets. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has placed both types of billfish on a list of species overfished toward the point of extinction.
Also, the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) recently changed its Certification for Sustainable Tourism criteria to include removing species of tourist interest off the menus of all participating hotels. Sportfishing groups have lobbied the ICT to make the change. According to Costa Rican law, the species of interest include sailfish, blue marlin, black marlin, striped marlin and tarpon.
Sportfishing and conservation groups have applauded the move by GESSA and the ICT.
Skippers, operators and anglers are invited to email fishing reports by Wednesday of each week To post reports and photos on The Tico Times’ online fishing forum, go

Friday, October 7, 2011

Costa Rica's Million Dollar Gift of Happiness

Costa Rica's Million Dollar Gift of Happiness aimed at sharing Costa Rican experience with North American travelers via $1 million worth of trips

SAN JOSE, Costa RicaOct. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Costa Rica Tourism Board announced today the launch of its new advertising campaign in the United States and Canada, set to inspire visitors to explore the wide variety of offerings that have long made Costa Ricaone of the most popular travel, study abroad and second home destinations for Americans and Canadians.
Spanning from October 6, 2011 to February 5, 2012, the campaign, titled Costa Rica's Million Dollar Gift of Happiness, seeks to spread happiness by gifting US $1 million dollars worth of week-long Costa Rican vacations to people in the United States and Canada. North Americans can enter to win one of the highly-coveted trips via Visit Costa Rica's Facebook page, which will serve as the hub of the campaign. Twitter, influential blogs and popular news outlets are also being used as sources to find travelers who share Costa Rica's values, and who, of course, would benefit from a gift of happiness.
Recipients of the week-long Costa Rican vacations have the option of selecting a trip from a group of exciting themed travel packages, including Romantic Happiness (romance), Adventure Happiness (soft adventure), Wildlife Happiness (nature), Adrenaline Happiness (extreme adventure) and Authentic Happiness (culture). On the country's official Facebook page, fans of Costa Rica will be able to preview five videos corresponding to each trip experience. Thanks to a strong social media component, the campaign will encourage North American travelers to explore the country's natural beauty, thrill-seeking adventures and sustainable tourism practices, while also sharing these experiences with friends and family.
The campaign was inspired by Costa Rica's recognition as one of the happiest places in the world by the New Economic Foundation'sHappy Planet Index, which rates satisfaction based on a country's quality of life, life expectancy and carbon footprint.  The Gallup World Index's The World's Happiest Countries also named Costa Rica one of its happiest places in the world, ranking it as the happiest place in the Americas.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Costa Rica hosts World Rafting Championship

Dozens of teams from all over the world will do some mad paddling for the world title Oct. 4-10 on the renowned Río Pacuare.
The Costa Rican men’s national rafting team powers through the Río Pacuare course that will host the 2011 World Rafting Championship Oct. 4-10. Photo by Eve Morton
Hundreds of athletes from all over the world are set to descend on the white water of Costa Rica’s famous Río Pacuare this week for the 2011 World Rafting Championship. More than 50 teams from as far away as Chile, South Africa, the United States, Europe, Japan and New Zealand will challenge team Costa Rica on its home waters Oct. 4-10.
The biannual tournament represents the pinnacle of the rafting competition calendar. This will be the largest tournament in the 20-year history of the event – a reflection of the growing popularity of the sport worldwide. The four-race schedule is designed to test athletes’ rafting endurance and technical abilities. Previous world champions Brazil, Slovenia and Australia will be regarded as favorites, with serious contenders like Japan and Costa Rica out to challenge them for the trophy.
Costa Rica hosted the first World Rafting Championship in 1991, and played host again in 1998. Since then, host countries have included the U.S. in 2001, the Czech Republic in 2003, Ecuador in 2005, South Korea in 2007 and Bosnia in 2009. The International Rafting Federation, the world governing body for the sport of white-water rafting, chose the Río Pacuare on Costa Rica’s Caribbean slope for this year’s tournament in commemoration of the inaugural championship in 1991, and to promote sustainable ecotourism worthy of a world-class competition in a country noted for its green credentials. 
Rafael Gallo, president of the International Rafting Federation, said he hopes this event in his native Costa Rica will set the standard for future rafting competitions.
“To me it’s a pleasure to adapt what I’ve learned in adventure tourism and sustainability, and as event director it gives me great pride to incorporate these methods into the World Rafting Championship,” he said. “The pristine nature of the site allows me to promote a carbon-neutral event that will be a first in world championship races.”
Costa Rica is known for being the paddling mecca of Central America. The country boasts one of the highest ratios of rivers per square kilometer in the world, and the rafting industry supports a vast number of river professionals and commercial rafting operations. More than 60 competitors participated recently in the Costa Rican National Rafting Series to select the teams that would represent the country in the world championship.
“You learn a lot in other places, but we have world-class rivers here in Costa Rica that made for a very challenging series,” Manuel Segura, captain of the national men’s team, said of the national championship series. “We hope to continue to develop our training resources into the future.”
It has been a long road for Segura, who has represented Costa Rica in six world championships over 13 years. He is familiar with the course and the standard required for success. 
“This team has been preparing for more than 12 months now. We have the home-ground advantage and the support of family and friends here. This gives us the platform to be at our best,” Segura said. 
The white water of the Río Pacuare will play host to the World Rafting Championship Oct. 4-10. More than 50 teams from all over the world are expected to compete in the equivalent of the rafting Olympics. The Costa Rican men’s national team, pictured here, will have the home-river advantage. Courtesy of Eve Morton
Among the teams to beat will be the Japanese men’s team, one of the few professional rafting teams in the world. Team captain Takuya Ikeda told The Tico Times from his home near Tokyo, Japan, “These championships represent an opportunity to help restore Japanese confidence that was shattered by the earthquake. We are very focused on achieving the best result.”
Team Australia captain Graham Maifredi expressed a similar sentiment when summing up the significance of the event for his team during a phone interview from Queensland, Australia: “This is the opportunity of a lifetime. The cyclone destroyed our homes in February, and the support we have received from the community helps to boost our morale at a time when we need it most. We are going to make sure we give them something in return.”
In the women’s event, competition is expected to be fierce, but team Costa Rica remains undaunted. 
“Right now we are just focused on training,” said team member Catalina Elizondo. “We know we will need to be consistent over all the races in order to achieve our goal of a podium place.” 
Elizondo hopes success will provide a foundation of awareness for the team in Costa Rica that will inspire people to get involved. 
“If we can show the nation the rewards of participating in the wonderful sport of rafting, then Costa Rica will only become stronger at the international level,” she said. 
The stage is set. The eyes of the adventure rafting industry will be on Costa Rica this month to see if the country can produce a memorable competition and define the direction of rafting championships into the future. For those involved, the anticipation is building and expectations are high. 
“With so many strong teams, I see it as one of the closest competitions in the history of the championships,” Gallo said. “It will depend on who adapts better to the terrain.”
For team Costa Rica, the chances of success have never be better, as the 20-year anniversary of the inaugural World Rafting Championship affords them the opportunity to perform their best against the world, at home on the mighty Río Pacuare. 
For information on the 2011 World Rafting Championship, visit the event’s official website

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Osa Mountain Village

Part 1: Food Production

Part 2: Permaculture

Part 3: Business opportunities

Friday, March 25, 2011

Miss Costa Rica 2011 Beauty Pageant Tonight

This weekend is a big weekend in Costa Rica with the inauguration of the new National Stadium and tonight's (Friday) Miss Costa Rica 2011 beauty pageant, which is will be occurring across from the street of the National Stadium, in the studios of Teletica.

The Miss Costa Rica is an annual event that selects Costa Rica's representative for the Miss Universe pageant since 1954. The current titleholder is Marva Wright from San José. She won the title in a nationally televised event on April 16, 2010.

Women between the ages of 18-27, each representing a province, compete to represent Costa Rica for one year and participate in the annual Miss Universe international competition. Until 2006, the 1st runner-up of Miss Costa Rica would usually go to Miss World and until 1994, the first runner-up, the winner or a finalist would go to Miss International.

Tonight the 10 finalists compete for the crown.

Costa Rica has participated in the Miss Universe pageant since 1954 and has sent 56 representatives in the pageant's 60-year history. The event has been broadcast by Teletica since 1960.

During the years a total of 20 Miss Costa Rica titles have been won by candidates from San José, 7 from Cartago, 7 from Guanacaste, 6 from Heredia, 6 from Limón, 4 from Puntarenas and 5 from Alajuela.

Read more from Inside Costa Rica!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Retirement in Costa Rica v Ecuador: A comparison for potential expat retirees

By Jamie Douglas / Mar 11

Both Costa Rica and Ecuador have much to offer retired expats. I will start with the northernmost of the two: Costa Rica, which is much smaller, is more modern in North American/European terms.

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Retirement in Costa Rica v Ecuador: A comparison for potential expat retirees