Jake and I hitched a ride to Playa Avellanas from Tamarindo, Costa Rica yesterday, and weren’t robbed, kidnapped, or disappointed. What we discovered, and you should expect!
What to Expect on a Half-Day Trip to Playa Avellanas
Yesterday was the first time Jake and I went to Playa Avellanas, a beach about 30 minutes south of Tamarindo by car. We had been talking for a couple weeks now about taking a day trip to some of Tamarindo’s more remote surf spots.
There are shuttles that will take you to beaches like Playa Grande, Negra, and Avellanas, and they’re pretty cheap. The one that leaves from the Neptuno deli costs just $6 a person! However this was the first time since we got here that we’ve actually did it.
We originally woke up planning to head to Tamarindo beach, but I came down the stairs that morning to find Jake outside with our surfboards talking to a stranger.
I should mention we almost never talk to our neighbors except an “hola” here and there while leaving the house or retreating into our apartment. It was a first for us even to have a 10 minute conversation with one of them!
It turned out that Dave lived in the next apartment. He was in town to check on his investment property (but secretly also to surf) and was heading out to Playa Avellanas because he had Tamarindo Beach was not looking good.
He invited us to tag along with him since: we were geared up to surf anyway, we had never been to Avellanas, and there was room in his car for 2 more boards.
Here was the split second thought process that went through my head: We’ve known this guy for all of 11 minutes, and now we’re getting into his car? He could be taking us anywhere, we wouldn’t know! On the other hand, he seems so friendly, and he’s our neighbor! And he wasn’t wrong about how bad Tamarindo Beach has been this week.
Jake and I looked at each other and quickly agreed with our couples-telepathy. We ran inside to grab towels, water, wallet, sunscreen—anything we might need for a half-day surf trip—and loaded our boards on the top of his car. We were off!
We discovered on the half hour ride that our neighbor was well-traveled and knowledgeable about Tamarindo. He told us where we could go to get our bikes fixed, to get a haircut (Jake desperately needs one!), and where the best pizza in town was (La Baula, but we already knew that!).
He even showed us a picture of his wife and kids, the youngest of which was just 5 months old and told us about the family business they ran back in Canada. Whatever reservations we had about traveling with someone we just met vanished as we got to know each other.
How’s the Surf At Playa Avellanas?
Unlike Playa Negra, Playa Avellanas is friendly to beginners and advanced surfers alike, with powerful white water for those not ready to catch waves yet. And unlike Playa Tamarindo, the waves break consistently all the way down the beach so there’s no scarcity of places to “sit” in the water. Instead of having to crowd together around a few prime spots, surfers and stand-up paddlers (who don’t normally get along) can all claim a little ocean real estate for themselves!
Eat at Lola’s Right on Playa Avellanas
Lola’s was the place Dave told us about next to the parking lot that he loves to eat at with his family. If you come early, you can snag a piece of prime shade real estate right by the beach where the waiters will keep the cocktails, juices, and pricey but extremely yummy snacks flowing. (I recommend the Margherita pizza!)
We were told that Lola’s signature family-friendly attraction is the pig (Lola) that runs around the dining area, nuzzling guests and delighting children. Unfortunately, she made no appearance while we were there. However, there were a few stray dogs that were happy to play nicely with you in exchange for being allowed to lick your plate!
Enjoy the Journey, You’ll Live Longer
Driving out of Tamarindo to Playa Avellanas is like taking a ride into the country. You’ll see horses grazing by the road, and farmer’s markets right next to the farm the produce was grown on!
If you’ve heard of the term “Blue Zones” you know they’re geographic or demographic areas in the world with a high concentration of centenarians and/or people who live exceptionally long lives. (If you’d like to learn more about it, I highly recommend this TED talk by Dan Buettner!) Did you also know that where Tamarindo is, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, is one of them?
If you’re interested in longevity, it’s worth making note of the lifestyle in this area of the world. The Costa Ricans live close to nature, have a strong sense of community, and eat a mostly plant-based diet (with meat maybe twice a week). Plus, their daily lives also include lots of physical activity from manual labor, even into old age!
Consider giving someone a lift
On the way home, Dave spotted a woman walking with her baby girl, and we pulled over to ask if she would like a ride. Perhaps because we appeared friendly, or there was another woman in the car, she happily climbed in.
We dropped her off at her destination about 10 minutes down the road, and were pulling away when we noticed a young man on the other side of the car holding out his thumb to hitch a ride.
We asked Dave why we didn’t pick him up, and he explained that hitchhikers were very common around Costa Rica, and this area in particular is very communal. But while he’s happy to pick up the elderly or women with young children, he couldn’t risk the safety of himself or his family by taking chances with adult men.
To me, that is the essence of Costa Rica and pura vida. It’s sharing the earth and the community with one another, but not our possessions. It’s living the laid back “island” life, but not being naive enough to think your sandals won’t get stolen if you leave them on the beach!
Crime in Costa Rica is usually non-violent, and often a result of desperate people resorting to desperate measures. The ticos (Costa Rican locals) aren’t predatory on tourists, but many of them won’t hesitate to rob the house of someone flashing a Rolex or otherwise throwing around wealth.
You’ll find that you can avoid most crime if you just leave your flashy jewelry at home, are polite to the locals, and are diligent about protecting your things. That includes making sure doors and windows are locked, not keeping objects near windows, etc.
At the end of the day, Costa Rica is still a third-world country–one where the income disparity is so high that for some people, ripping you off may mean being able to feed their family–but one that has welcomed Americans into its country with open arms. Be careful, but if you get the chance, help out a local and experience what it’s like to be part of the community!
Would you ever consider picking up a local hitchhiker? Do you have a story about experiencing the pura vida lifestyle? Please share with us in the comment section!
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