Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Riu in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Last October we were looking at our Costa Rica must visit list, one we created once we were settled in our home in Costa Rica. We noticed we had yet to visit the Guanacaste region and being we are West Coast natives that grew up a short 10 minute walk from the Pacific Ocean we were definitely longing for some beach time.

After much research we finally decided we would take a small weekend trip to the Guanacaste area and stay at decided on staying at an all inclusive resort as we would only be staying for one night, we were able to find a great deal at the Riu Guanacaste Resort and booked it. We drove out of San Jose area early in the morning and were arriving by noon at our destination. 

It was definitely a great decision to stay at the Riu Guanacaste, it is a large property that has the Riu Palace right next door and is a 5 star resort. It is all inclusive, which means all meals and drinks are included with your stay. The property is located on Sardinal-Matapalo Beach, personally I wasn't impressed with the beach which has black sand and at times rip currents. It didn't look like the beach I was definitely looking forward to, perhaps it was due to it being rain season and the sky at times was gloomy. I was looking forward to turquoise blue waters.

The hotel is equipped with a large swimming pool that features a swim up bar, a hot water jacuzzi {due to Costa Rica's tropical weather it is not common to have the jacuzzi water hot, locals prefer to have it run on cool water}. The pool staff has a small pool house with books, boardgames and other pool appropriate gear; you can enjoy all of this and several activities organized by the pool staff. There is also a fully equipped gym, sauna and a spa.

There are 3 restaurants to chose from, one of which is a steakhouse that requires reservation due to its popularity. This is key information, since we arrived at noon when reservations for the steakhouse restaurant closes we were unable to enjoy dinner at this restaurant, so if you plan on staying at an all inclusive resort in Costa Rica it is wise to reserve your dinner as soon as you arrive at the hotel. We enjoyed most of our meals at the buffet style restaurant that featured different cuisines from around the globe, it is also family friendly with indoor and outdoor dining and live music at dinner. 

Rooms are spacious and most -if not all of them- feature an ocean view.

As most all inclusive resorts, this one has an entertainment theatre with a nightly family friendly variety show. During our stay we chose to go back up to our room after dinner and play boardgames we had brought along. 

This is the perfect resort if you are looking for five star quality accommodations and experience for your family. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Saying goodbye to life as expats...

We are just a few days away from boarding our flight out of Costa Rica, leaving the expat life behind and moving onto exciting new adventures back in the Bay Area. Living in Costa Rica for the past 18 months has been an experience that has forever changed us. We are certainly not the same family that left family and friends and moved to Central America. Thinking back on these past 18 months there are several things that I'm definitely going to miss when we move back home:

1.- Listening at the crickets chirp, the frogs from the river croak and the wind rustling the leaves on the trees at nighttime. 

2.- Radio Urbana, it's a radio station that plays reggae, calypso, roots, dancehall and more all day every single day. It's where we discovered our new favorite Spanish reggae bands and other reggae artists we hadn't heard of. In addition it's the radio station that we will be able to continue to listen online. 

3.- Our neighbors/Costa Rica family/friends, they are truly amazing! Their kindness makes me smile every day and thank the Lord we chose this house over the others. Last Saturday they surprised us with a party, everyone was there and we all had a great day making new memories and sharing our best experiences from the past 18 months.

4.- Calling something in all the different ways I've learned that it is called to see which way the person I'm talking with will understand what I'm saying. Example: The mop is in the laundry room/ the thing you use to clean the floor is in the laundry room/ what you use to clean the floor that is a stick with some textile material at the end is in the room where we wash the clothes {now picture it in Spanish but with the different words that mean the mop!} "La mopa esta en el cuarto de pilas/ el palo de piso esta en el cuarto de lavar/ el coleto se encuentra en el closet de lavado/ el gancho esta en el cuarto de pilas/ trapeador esta en el cuarto de lavadora/ la fregona esta en el cuarto de servicio".

5.-  The fruit! definitely the fruitI am now a pineapple fan, I've developed a taste for starfruit and soursop is so delicious and has an interesting texture I can't explain. Passion Fruit is out of this world.

6.- The green lush views anywhere you go and this also includes the science class that is our backyard.

7.- The rain and I don't mean light rain, but tropical rainstorms with lightning and thunder!

A video posted by Maribel R (@themaribelreyes) on

We can't wait to see our family, we are excited for this new chapter we are about to begin. Stay tuned as we continue to share our experiences in Costa Rica {oh yes, I have many more posts to share with you} mixed in with our new life experiences in the Bay Area. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A guide to Costa Rica's 7 provinces.

San Jose.

Located in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica is the province of San Jose. It is where the country's capital since 1823 and where all economical and industrial activities are located. It has the largest population of the country appoximately 1.7 million inhabitants. 

This province is one of the two that don't have volcanoes in its region. San Jose is surrounded by 5 out of the 7 provinces, to put this into perspective there is a cross street where 3 differences provinces meet. It is both interesting and confusing at this corner if you are not familiar with this fact, the province of Alajuela, San Jose and Heredia meet at said corner and it is also one of the most driven by streets of Costa Rica. 

San Jose is the largest province of the country with 20 different cantons {think cities}. This region has the some of the coolest temperatures, it has only 2 seasons throughout the year: rainy season and dry season. Locals call rain season "winter" and dry season "summer". San Jose has the most rivers running throughout its territory, one of which is used the most to generate electricity this river is called Virilla. Even though it is the most utilized river, the Virilla river is also the most contaminated of the country. 

San Jose is home to many multinational companies: Intel, HP, Walmart, IBM, Amazon to name a few. It is also home to 2 national parks: Parque Nacional Chirripo which has the highest peak of the country and Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo. The Downtown area of San Jose is the perfect area for you to shop for beautiful artisan made souvenirs. 


Guanacaste is the second largest province of Costa Rica, it is also the westernmost state of the country. The province features lovely beaches and plains. Due to its prolonged dry season, this region is perfect for agriculture amongst the most important crops are rice, sugar cane as well as other grains and cattle farms.  

It is part of Costa Rica since 1824, when the Nicoya and Santa Cruz region {aka Partido de Nicoya} decided to voluntarily annex since it was not clear if the territory was part of Nicaragua or Costa Rica. This resulted in major growth in population and land for Costa Rica. In addition with the annex, the access to ports and tourism grew, positioning the country amongst the top beaches of the world. 

Culturally Guanacaste is rich in music and folk dances and tales that are now part of Costa Rican culture and history such is the case of the marimba. 

As you travel through the roads of Guanacaste you can't help but notice the differences it has to the central valley region, for starters it is much warmer and drier even though it is mostly bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean. The main road connects through mountains to the most beautiful, most of them hidden from each other. In fact at most beaches you will see local touring companies offering daily 2-3 hours boat trips to see several beaches that may only be accessed by sea. 


It is one of the three provinces that is bordered by Nicaragua, it has 15 different cantons {cities} within it. It has just a little under a million inhabitants. Alajuela is home 2 active volcanoes: Poas which is 2,737 meters above sea level and Arenal 1,633 meters above sea level. 

Alajuela has the most varied weather, it is has cooler temperatures in the Poas Volcano and Zarcero region. Warmer weather and rainy in the northern plains, dry and hot weather in the Northern Pacific and hot in the central region. 

The Alajuela province is mostly an agricultural region, amongst the most important agriculture is: rice, beans, tobacco, sugar cane, sorghum and fruits. It is also a milk producing and cattle growing province. 

It is home to the main airport of the country, Juan Santamaria, although locals will always have an open debate if the airport belongs to San Jose or Alajuela since it is located in both provinces. 


Cartago is a historical province, it was the first one to receive news of Costa Rica's independence and it was the first capital of Costa Rica. It has suffered several natural disasters, due to this it has several ruins in its region. It is the coldest region in the country and by cold I mean temperatures average 60-70ºF year round. 

Cartago is home to the "Basílica de los Angeles", a catholic temple with Costa Rica's patron virgin "La Virgen de los Angeles" aka "La Negrita". Every August the "romeria" takes place, this is a major religious event in which people near and far pilgrimage to the temple some walking on their feet, others walking on the knees to pay homage to the Virgin. 

The Irazú volcano one of the tallest volcanoes of the country standing high at 3,432 meters above sea level, is also located in Cartago. The Orosi Valley is also part of this lovely province, just a few miles South of the downtown area you will find hidden between the mountains the oldest standing church of the country.

Recently, Cartago has begun exporting tropical flowers to other countries, due to its weather and location you will find many different types of flora in many colors. 


It is the smallest province of Costa Rica, it has roughly 500,000 inhabitants. Home to the Barva volcano with a height of  2,906 meters above sea level. It is considered the perfect location for healthier living in the country due to its moderate temperatures.

The largest coffee producer Britt is located in this province as well as many other coffee producers. Next time you shop for Costa Rican coffee and see the word Barva -as in the Barva volcano- included in the name, you'll know it is from the Heredia province.

Most flower producers and exporters are also located in this lovely province, which is why it is called "flower country". 


It is the longest province of the country, home to one of the main import/export ports: Caldera. Before the Spaniards arrived it didn't exist, as it is the result of a geomorphic process {between rain, humidity, earthquakes, etc.}. It is bordered by Panama to the South and the provinces of Limon, San Jose, Alajuela and Guanacaste.

Puntarenas' name means sand point or in Spanish "Punta de Arenas" because it is mostly a coast. It is made up of peninsulas, mountains, valleys, ports and Islands. 

3 major seaports are in Puntarenas: Caldera, Golfito and Quepos. Caldera is used mostly for container shipment meaning imports/exports of goods, Quepos is mostly a recreational port. There are also many islands that are part of this province: Bejuco, Venado, San Lucas, El Caño, Los Negritos, Guayabo, Los Pajaros, Cabo Blanco, El Coco, Cedros y Chira. 

In Puntarenas you will find Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, this national park is one of the top best places to visit while in Costa Rica. It is rich in flora and fauna, you will see sloths, vipers, basilisk and more! It is one of our favorite beaches in Costa Rica. Parque Nacional Corcovado is another national park in Puntarenas. 


It is the least populated province of Costa Rica, with a little over 400,000 habitants. In 1502 this province received the first visit of Christopher Columbus, it was the fourth trip to America. Limon which means lemon in English is the only region in the country with indigenous groups, the main group is called Bribri and they are found in the Talamanca region. They were able to avoid colonization by staying deep in the jungles. 

It is the only province of Costa Rica in the Caribbean and bordered by the two neighboring countries of Panama to the South and Nicaragua to the North. It is the most humid and rainy region of the country, due to the caribbean winds that bring in the moisture of the ocean. 

Limon has two very important national parks: Tortuguero, which is located in the most rainy area and is where you will find the most turtle population in the country and Cahuita National Park which was the first official national park and it is the only one with a coral reef that is protected by the government. Most of the beaches of Limon have white sands as opposed to the black sand on the Pacific Coast. 

Within Limon is Guapiles which is a banana producing region, all of the exported bananas, pineapples, cacao and coconut come from this area. It is also a petroleum rich area. Limon has a big afro-caribbean influence in its culture, it is where you can enjoy delicious rice and beans, pati {like an empanada} and live reggae/calypso music. 

Limon is beautiful because of its Caribbean beaches, however it is the poorest province of Costa Rica.