We had decided that we wanted to spend Christmas with our friends at Hotel Villa Amarilla in Tamarindo, Costa Rica (as we did two years ago). We had booked a shared shuttle all the way from Granada to Tamarindo, but we were the only passengers. Nice! We arrived at the border earlier than expected, but after crossing on foot we had to wait more than an hour before our Costa Rican shuttle turned up, so it took us 6 hours in total.
When we arrived we got a very warm welcome from TJ, Cinde and their family, guests and dogs. We bought some beer and got ready for a hotel tradition; watching the sunset together by the gate to the beach. Beautiful as always! The hotel itself looked even better than we remembered it; colorful, charming and fun with quite a few upgrades, better furniture, more hammocks, bananas and coconuts growing in the garden and new and beautiful paintings on the walls.
As planned we spent most of our time here in the garden, relaxing in the hammocks, talking to other guests, going for a swim or two, watching the surfers, having a massage, playing with the dogs and of course watching the sunset every night. After a week in warm cities this was truly paradise! A micro brewery (Volcano Brewing) had opened since our last visit, and of course we went there a couple of times. We also found a few other craft beers in stores and restaurants.
On Christmas eve we gathered in the garden to watch a couple of Christmas movies. We both called home using Skype, and it was nice to be able to say Merry Christmas to our families “face to face“. It was a very windy Christmas in Tamarindo, so the best surfers had a blast in the big waves. Great fun to watch as well. The Christmas dinner was a bit different from what we’re used to. We ordered pizza for everyone, and gathered around the ping pong table. We brought some Norwegian Aquavit from home, that we shared with everyone, thought them “God jul” and “Skål” and had a great evening. We smoked a couple of cigars bought at the factory in Nicaragua and Cinde had bought some sky lanterns where we all wrote some wishes and later went to the beach to release them in to the sky. Quite beautiful. We ended the evening in a local bar/night club at the beach.
On our last full day in Tamarindo we went on a scuba diving trip to Catalina Island (one of the best sites in the world for manta rays and other large rays). We were 5 people and an Italian instructor driving from Tamarindo to Playa Flamingo (25 minutes) where the boat was located. It turned out that they were renting space on a boat from another company, and there were several other groups joining us as well. Since everyone in our group were certified divers, we even ended up with a guide instead of the instructor. The skill level turned out to vary a lot though, so there was quite a bit of waiting involved. We actually “lost” a diver in both dives (it was rough conditions with wind and strong currents), and had to wait for the guide bringing them back to the group. We were diving in a thin, short wetsuit (not thick, full wetsuit as in the Galapagos), so the amount of weights needed was a guess, and Gunnhild didn’t have enough on the first dive. This was still the best dive of the day with a large group of huge stingrays swimming just below us, and some large eagle rays just above.
No manta rays though, since the season for them was just getting started. Too bad! On the second dive Fredrik and another diver spent most of their air trying to secure the anchor, so we didn’t have much time to explore. The boat trip back to the shore was really rough and the boat was not really built for waves like that, so heavy equipment started to move around. We spent the entire trip back holding scuba sylinders and other stuff in place while constantly getting showered by waves going over the boat. Not our best dives, but our first as certified divers, and a good confirmation that we have been trained well and can handle rough conditions.
The next morning we packed our bags so that we where ready for our next adventure. The trip to Tamarindo was a small detour, but we were both glad that we went back to Villa Amarilla. It’s still one of the few places where we can truly relax, and the location and the people are still superb. We were picked up at 11 am. It was sad to say goodbye, but we know that we are always welcome back, and of course it helps to have one more month of travelling to look forward to.