Costa Rica update: pura vida, “warm ocean”, dolphins and…school?!

It’s been a MONTH since I’ve posted any updates! I got an email from one of my grandmas last weekend, asking where the blog updates have been. I promised to have one up soon, so here I am!

In case you aren’t following us on Facebook, we’ve been in Costa Rica for about 3 weeks now, in a small and lovely beachside town. We spent our first week here getting to know the homeowners of the property we’re housesitting. They are the cutest, most fun Italian family you’ve ever met, and we were kind of sad to see them leave, even though that’s the whole reason we’re here!

Whale near Sámara, Costa Rica
Terrible picture of the whale we saw, but a gorgeous capture of the coast!

We spent another several days navigating healthcare here. The Entertainer came down with a really nasty swimmers ear infection two Sundays ago. There is one doctor in town, and he does not practice on Sundays. I spent the evening and late into the night trying to figure out what The Entertainer needed and how to get it for him. I got in touch with our teledoc from the States (meaning, I texted John’s brother the ER doc, who we might need to put on the payroll), and he told me what kind of medication to get. Someone from a local Facebook group informed me that I don’t need a prescription for most medications here. Unfortunately, the farmacía was already closed by that point. The Entertainer spent a miserable night in a lot of pain, getting pain meds every 3 hours, and I spent the night feeling like a terrible parent for not figuring all this out sooner.

First thing in the morning, I rode my bike to the farmacía and got the ear meds. He still needed pain meds for another 36 hours, but not as frequently. Then, 3 days later, he woke up in the night complaining of an itchy head. Sure enough, he had hives covering his entire head: allergic to the ear meds! I texted John’s brother again, who told me what to get to stop the reaction. Back to the farmacía, where we got steroids to stop the reaction, as well as a new kind of ear med to finish out the treatment. A week and a half later, I’m happy to report that The Entertainer is pain and hive free! And now we know what to do next time something like this happens. I’m just sorry one of the kids had to be the guinea pig. And I’m thankful it wasn’t anything worse, and that we really didn’t have anything else going on.

Speaking of not having anything else going on, if you’ve ever been to or even read about Costa Rica, I’m sure you’ve heard of “pura vida” (“pure life”). It’s basically code for “we pretty much do what we want, when we want, how we want, and it’s all good”. I’m sure this can be very frustrating in time-sensitive circumstances, but as we have no time-sensitive issues here, we have been free to embrace the pura vida lifestyle wholeheartedly (probably why I haven’t written a blog post for a month–pura vida!).

Pura vida at its finest
The Entertainer and Bird Nerd honing their pura vida skills at our wood-fired BBQ.

What pura vida has meant for us is that my kids have learned how to be beach bums. Before Costa Rica, my kids had never been swimming in the ocean. They’d only ever been to what they call the “cold ocean”, aka the Pacific Northwest of the USA. We told them tales of the “warm ocean” that’s like bathwater, except better and more fun, and I’m pretty sure they thought we were liars, or possibly just stupid. Now, they’ve been to the beach almost every day for 3 weeks (minus the days when The Entertainer was on a water hiatus for ear infection treatment), and have learned to bodysurf, swim with the waves, catch tiny crabs, build sandcastles, and all the beach things. They. are. loving it. And I love watching them out there, learning new skills and having an absolute blast. I have zero pictures of this, because we never take our phones to the beach, and that must be remedied. I vow here and now to get some photos the next time we go to the beach!

Tourism is Costa Rica’s main industry. That means stuff is more expensive than it should be. It also means there are some pretty amazing experiences to be had. We decided to participate in one of those amazing touristy experiences, and it was 1,000% worth it. We went on a “sea-fari”, which basically means we drove around in a boat in the ocean, looking for animals. And we found them! In addition to several sea turtles, who are shy, and dive deep almost as soon as you can see them from the boat, we saw a mama humpback whale with her calf, and the highlight of the adventure, a school of spotted dolphins. They were everything you think a school of dolphins would be–curious, beautiful, FAST, and just plain amazing!

Spotted dolphins near Sámara, Costa Rica
Spotted dolphins!

Spotted dolphin near Sámara, Costa Rica

While we really wanted to see dolphins, we also wanted to be very mindful of the type of excursion we took. Many of the “dolphin encounter”-type experiences sold to tourists are dolphins who are fed by the tour operators to encourage them to stay in the area. Or worse. If a tour company guarantees you will see dolphins, it’s almost certain that the company is feeding them when the tourists aren’t around. Sometimes they even feed them as part of the excursion, and have tourists feed them, as well. For many reasons, most of them pretty obvious, this is bad for the dolphins. We wanted to make sure we chose a company who does not do this, and we went with Sámara Adventure Company. They do not guarantee you will see anything, but because there is at least one type of dolphin in the waters here year-round, almost everyone ends up seeing some. We ended up having to go pretty far out to see dolphins, which we didn’t mind at all. The boat ride itself was a blast!

Seafari with Sámara Adventure Company
First open ocean boat ride for the kids, and they LOVED it!

We weren’t planning on it, but after a few weeks as homeschooled beach bums, we decided to enroll the kids in school here, in hopes to improve their Spanish. Sámara Pacific School is a tiny pre-K thru 6th grade school, conducted 50/50 in Spanish/English, with a couple of French classes per week thrown in. There are about a dozen kids in the pre-K/K, and about 40 in grades 1-6. Despite some initial hesitation, after only 3 days, all the kids are enjoying it. Bird Nerd is one of only 3 sixth graders, all of whom are boys. The Boss has already invited 2 girls over for a pool party. I never really know what The Entertainer is thinking, but he’s not fighting going to school, and he tells me it’s fun, so I guess that’s a win. Today, he taught me the name of Mercury en Español (Mercurio, in case you were wondering). We’re planning on having them attend for at least a month, but nothing’s set in stone and we’re pretty much winging it–pura vida!

Homeschooling at its finest
The only thing The Entertainer learned in his brief time as a homeschooled kid.

If you have any must-see/must-dos for Costa Rica, please share! We’re still figuring out what to do with our last few days here, after our housesit is over.

Any questions about Sámara Pacific School, Sámara Adventure Company, or anything else? Drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer them!


    • We love the slow travel! Yes, September is the beginning of one of the rainy seasons (there are two), but October is the big rain month. Or so we hear! Lots of businesses close for the month of October, especially those that rely mainly on tourist income. Where in CR are you thinking about visiting?


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