Costa Rica: Landing, Part 1 of 3

“Magic,” my daughter whispered, gazing wistfully at the moonlit sea. “I knew fairy dust was real!”

Her older sister shoved her bare feet deeper into the day’s sand castle, readying to provide the scientific explanation for the sparkling water.  With a gentle but quick hand on her shoulder, she caught my look.  Don’t interrupt this moment of wonder, my eyes implored.  Let her be.

And so that is why the three of us, dressed in breezy linen blouses and sarongs on a warm evening, leaned back on damp towels on the inner curve of a long, palm-tree lined beach in Tamarindo, Costa Rica:  to catch the next sighting of fairies scattering twinkling dust across the ocean waves, gently lapping at the shore. 

Fairy dust at work

Fairy dust at work

Stepping off the plane yesterday was falling into a warm bread oven baking wavy green grasses and umbrella-shaped Guanacaste trees.  Heaven.  

The girls and I had been guided to a long customs queue where one or, occasionally, two “Tico” immigration officials languorously processed our arrivals – a test of patience after two flights and rumbling stomachs.  A stamp and a genuine bienvenidas about an hour later, we wound our way to the waiting baggage and tasted the smoky heat as we burst through automated doors and into an abrupt cacophony of Spanish and diesel fumes and bustling crowds.  Gesturing arms scurried around us, darting-eyed taxi drivers clutched name placards, and entire families held silver balloons and even a cake, hollering excitedly “hay esta!” or “donde, donde?”  Somehow spying our name, we made our way to our driver – pre-arranged through the girls’ Costa Rican Spanish school – and thankfully stepped out of the milling crowd and fell into an air-conditioned van with plush purple velvet walls and red velour seats.  My girls turned to say:  paraiso.

In quieting darkness, the van whipped through narrow exit roads and onto a two-lane paved highway buttressed by thin forests of bean pole trees, acres of wild grasses, and occasional monkeys leaping from one branch to the next, which brought a round of giggles from the girls.  My nose picked up the salty air emanating from the Pacific, a mere 15 miles away until we veered south for the one-hour drive to Tamarindo Beach, an international low key hang-out town full of expats pursuing dreams of beach life, and locals carving out an existence around tourism. 

Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica

Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica

Our destination was Villas Macondo, a typical Latin American-style of basic lodging consisting of mustard yellow one- and two-bedroom casitas and more humble single rooms all surrounding a bean shaped pool, plenty of lounge chairs, and swaying towering palms.  Pulling up to the main gate on a dirt road, a night watchman/receptionist welcomed our motley crew.  He showed us our two-bedroom casita, which included a living area, two bathrooms, and plenty of ants scoping out the kitchen.  Grumpy, tired, and suddenly convinced bugs were about to wreck this vacation, the girls struggled upstairs and tumbled into bed, soothed by tales of anteaters and promises of ice cream tomorrow.  Outside, the palm branches rustled insistently on the screen of my open window, echoed by the deep-throated cry of the howler monkeys leaping from one leafy tree to another, inviting us to play.

Sure enough, as we looked for unicorns in the stars while fairies spread their magic on the warm ocean, the play had already begun.


~ Stephanie Aculasek