Costa Rica: The Month in Review

We have arrived in Bocas Town, Bocas del Torro Province, Panama.  Our new one bedroom condo is air conditioned and bug free, a welcomed luxury.  I am in the small living room watching the girls turn the two sets of bunkbeds, that are also in the living room, into forts.  My mind drifts back to the cabina that we left in Costa Rica.  I am missing the peaceful solitude of our jungle bungalow and the sounds of nature all around.  Bocas Town is way more lively and seems to be preparing for some sort of festival, a story I am sure we will share in the coming week.

This morning I am reflecting on the first month of our year long adventure.  We had our last few days in Costa Rica planned out so well.  We would spend Monday doing errands in Puerto Viejo, a hot 40 min bike ride (I’m sure if you weren’t lugging two kids you could go faster), and enjoy lunch at Lidia’s Place, a highly recommended lunch spot to get the local dish of Casado. Tuesday we would go to our favorite beach spot and Wednesday we planned to do laundry (most of which needs to be air dried), slowly start to pack and then enjoy one last dinner at our favorite spot, Pita Bonita.

Mackenzie in a waterfall

Quinn holding a green parrotWell…this isn’t how it all ended up working out.  Monday we rode into town as planned, at the peak of hunger, pulled up in front of Lidia’s only to find it closed.  Dang! Now what?  Feeling hot and hungry the moans of disappointment from the girls in the background, Jacob and I looked at each other pleadingly for the other to think of plan B.  Luckily, Jacob remembered that our Spanish teacher Matías recommended a place called Como en mi Casa.  Jacob remembered this place because about out a week earlier he misunderstood the meeting location that Matías  told him for one of their Spanish lessons. Jacob thought Matías said to meet him at his home but instead Matías meant for them to meet at this restaurant.  Oops! Anyway, there we were hot, hungry and cranky.

Como en Mi Casa serves a vegetarian and vegan menu of locally grown, organic products ironically located above a butcher on the second floor of the building.  We rode up and saw several patrons sitting at the bar on the balcony enjoying their lunches.  Hooray, crisis averted!  The ambience was beautiful.  Great music, friendly staff and the owner’s art dots the walls.  She requested the girls draw her a picture to put on display.  The food was amazing.  Jacob’s Pinto Gallo was beautifully spiced and came with a delicious salsa. I had an amazing Mediterranean garden burger with fresh made bread topped with sun dried tomatoes and perfectly ripe avocados (which normally give me stomach problems when I eat them but somehow in Costa Rica it doesn’t effect me as much).  The girls shared a goat cheese and cracker plate and some fresh made hummus.  Fantastic.  Hypnotized by the girls’ cuteness, the owner gave them each a house-made, vegan chocolate cookie made from local chocolate.

Tuesday came and after a lazy morning we lathered on our sunscreen, donned our swimsuits and mounted our bikes to head to the favorite beach spot.  From our house you take the second road to the Arrecife beach, named after the restaurant that is located there.  The bumpy, rocky road leads you along the ocean where you can pick from a series of little private coves.  The water is calm and a perfect depth for Quinn to feel safe playing a little further out from the shore. Plenty of beach to lay your towel and some shade from the overhanging palm trees make this a great spot.  Because Mackenzie helps me pedal, we tend to go much faster than Jacob pulling Quinn in the trailer.  We bumped on ahead and scouted out our spot. “Man, the wind has really picked up today”, I thought “and the tide is high” (cue Blondie’s song The Tide is High here).  We waited for Jacob and Quinn to catch up, assessed the conditions and decided to look further down.  This pattern would happen over and over again for the next 30 minutes until a decision was made to go back to Punta Uva cove where we know it to be calmer waters as it is protected by the point.  (English translation is Grape Point, odd since we didn’t see grapes in that area).  We rode up, parked our bikes and realized that the conditions were the same. Choppy water and not much dry beach due to the high tide.  We made the best of it.  Jacob and I floated out in the waves and the girls dug holes, built castles and drew sea turtles in the sand.

I imagine by now you are getting the sense that we had the saying “the best laid plans…” going around in our heads. Really it is not until now, that I realize none of our final-days-plans worked out as we hoped. We just rolled with it so to speak, figured it out and made the best of it, discovering jewels we would otherwise have missed.  Not to say it wasn’t devoid of feelings of frustration and whining, I don’t want to paint the picture that every moment is magical.  So it was not surprising that the same pattern happened on Wednesday too.  I saved laundry for our last day so as to optimize our clean clothes for our next destination.  We woke to cloudy skies but with high hopes I started the laundry after attending my final yoga class (lovely).  As I hung it out on the line, the clouds loomed.  Yep, after about an hour on the line, the rain came and I sprinted back to the “laundry grove” to save the almost dry clothes.  Clothes retrieved and rehung on a line on our porch our thoughts drifted to dinner.  Jacob decided he better look up Pita Bonita to “make sure it’s open” because on his way back from a bike ride, he noticed the cerrado sign hanging on the door.  Internet said it was supposed to be open but when I called….NOOOOOOOO!  Closed. This was the biggest bummer of the week and one that was not so easy from which to bounce back.  Now what?  Well, Jungle Love is not too far down the road but it is a dark on the road at night and this made us both very nervous.  Website said open, lights attached to the bikes,  let’s go.

“No, we do not have a reservation” we said forlornly to the hostess.  “I can’t get you in until 7:30pm” she said “most places are closed on Wednesdays” she went on. (now 7:30 was an hour and a half away. Some of you might be thinking 7:30 is reasonable, why don’t you just wait? If your thinking that, I’m guessing you don’t have kids).  Ok, well, there is the super expensive place up the road that may not have anything that the kids will like, we can look at the menu.  Oh, wait, they don’t take cards and we have spent all of our Costa Rican Colones and didn’t bring any US dollars (most places will accept dollars). Ok…What now?

All this time Jacob and I were debating, Mackenzie was jumping up and down trying to get us to listen to her that she had seen a place up the road that was open.  At this point, we are all starving and it is starting to rain again.  After checking a couple more places with the same “no cards” response, we finally listened to Mackenzie.  We landed at a place called Resturante Wandha.  The restaurant was part of a larger resort and therefore we paid resort prices.  The food was ok, I had a tropical sea bass dish. The fish was steamed in a ginger broth inside a banana leaf.  Jacob had a curried shrimp dish.  The waiter was very nice and ambience was great but I wouldn’t go back. It was no Pita Bonita.

While we waited for our meal, I asked Jacob and the girls for their top three favorite things over the last month.  Here were the responses:


  1. Trying new foods
  2. Seeing Howler Monkeys
  3. Taking hikes


  1.  Seeing pretty flowers
  2. Trying new foods
  3. Going to the beach


  1. The delicious squash dish at the organic farm on Punta Mona
  2. Spending time together as a family
  3. All the friendly people


  1. The sound of Howler Monkeys
  2.  The hike at La Ceiba
  3.  The dining experience at Como en Mi Casa

There were many more amazing things we could all add to our list.  Returning to this place some time in the future to really become fluent in Spanish and  immerse in life there could be a possibility.  On our way to Bocas, we met a very nice man from Germany who has paused for a year of travel twice in his life.  He said the first time he went it took a bit to adjust to the realization that he had time.  Time to explore at whatever pace he wanted and yet, it still was not enough to go everywhere he wished.  As I look forward to the next leg of our travels, I realize I am doing the same adjustment.  My brain has moments of panic that we need to “get it all in”.  It may look like “vacationing” on the outside and granted some of it is that but I feel more like we have given ourselves the gift of time, togetherness and learning. There are hard days.  The girls are not always so cooperative and Jacob and I bite at each other some but in the long run, this time together, time to explore new locations is precious.

Amy and Jacob selfie. Amy with red lips and Jacob with "war paint"

We are living on a tight budget to make this happen, having many discussions of what our “work” looks like now and in the future.  As predicted, Costa Rica was a great landing spot for our first destination. Taking a month to establish our travel/school routine, exploration and togetherness proved to be a great decision. For the next 5-6 weeks we will be more on the move.  8 days in Bocas then to Lima, Peru for 3 before heading out on our exploration of the southern half of Peru. Bouncing around to new locations each week we are there.  This will be a good test of our communication, parenting and emotion regulation skills.  So… Here we go!