Our sailing adventures can be found at:
Our time here is winding down quickly. Next week we will leave our little beach town of Cahuita, and travel by rental car back up to the mountains of Monteverde to see Josh’s Aunt Lucky. Then it will be time to head back to Maine and our sailboat. The boys will have the hard task of saying goodbye to their classmates and teachers next week. They have been going to the Cahuita Escuela Excelencia primary school for 4 months now, and they loved every minute of it — but don’t take it from me, the boys will tell you more below!
Boy 1 is 9 yrs. old, and attending 3rd grade. He say’s, “Everyone is so nice in my class, I wish we had some bullies, like in Harry Potter.” On learning Spanish, “At first I had to just watch the other kids and do what they did, but now I get it.”
Boy 2 is 6 yrs. old, and in Kindergarten. “I really like the lunch and I figured out a trick to get seconds, you just say, MU RICOCHET! to the lunch ladies, and they fill your bowl to the brim!” On making friends at school, “They really like to touch my hair, but they are nice, so I let them.”
Boy 3 is 2 yrs. old, and briefly attended the public nursery school (oh so briefly, as in Mama had to come with him and “volunteer” or else he would protest. He got an A+ for volume and persistence and an F- for playing nicely, and giving his parents break time. His surf skills are on par though, so there is that 😃
The grades correlate with their grade levels in the states.
Before we traveled here the boys attended a one-room schoolhouse on Cliff Island in Maine — and um, cough, cough, had the best teachers in the whole, wide world… They have some awesome teachers here too, that they love.
The Costa Rican school year goes from Feb. until Dec.
So, want to know more about what it is like to go to public school in Costa Rica?
We asked all our island friends far and wide for some questions about school here.
They had some great ones, and the boys made a little blog to answer them #boy 2 even shares a few things you didn’t want to know! 🙊🙉🙈)
Let us know if you have more ❓ in the comments 📝
and a day in the life…
🌎 Big Adventures 🍃 Little Footprints 👣👣
We have decided to make it our goal to reduce our travel footprints while biggering our adventures. Yep, We want to get leaner, greener and meaner (ok maybe not meaner, boy 123 will tell you we’ve’ already got that one perfected), but leaner in terms of waste and greener in terms of being kind to our planet.
So here are some of the ways we have found to reduce our family’s footprint while traveling.
#1. PLASTIC STRAWS SUCK! Ha, ha, no really, we find them here there and everywhere! We are on a mission to eradicate them from our life. When we’re at a restaurant, the waitstaff always asumes junior is incapable of tipping a glass for a sip, but we try to say, “No straw please.” Or “no paja por favor”.
Coconuts are another story. Heidi and I can drink from them, but the boys lose a lot, as it dribbles down their tummies. We tried making bamboo straws, but we didn’t try very hard, so we failed. We tried paper straws, but they disintegrated faster than the boys could drink. Now we’ve found the ultimate — stainless steel straws! I expected these to be too flimsy for hardcore travel, and kid use. Boy was I wrong… These suckers are tough as nails, with a super thick gauge stainless steel, relative to their size. Shove it in the backpack, purse, ditch bag, and you’re good to go.
We’ve honestly only ever used these for pipas and the occasional fresh fruit juice, so not sure how they would handle a smoothie or a milk shake. As well or better than any straw is our guess?
Stainless steel straw links: <a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KGIANQ2/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00KGIANQ2&linkCode=as2&tag=boy123recomme-20&linkId=dd7bfa19f3e540a2e42413866f725619″>SipWell Stainless Steel Drinking Straws, Set of 4, Free Cleaning Brush Included</a><img src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=boy123recomme-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B00KGIANQ2″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />
#2. Ditch the single use plastic water bottles.
When Meme came to visit, she brought this nifty filter water bottle. She used it for months happily. It has a replaceable filter that takes out all the usual suspects. She nicely left it for us when she left. It was a big help in Panama where the tap water isn’t safe to drink, but sadly it isn’t toddler proof (or at least definitely not boy 3 wild animal proof), because he proceeded to bite the top off. We contacted the company and Katadyn agreed to replace the mouth piece and recommended a muzzle for our ferocious toddler.
This really does help cut down or eliminate single use plastic water bottle use. It’s great for refills on the go.
Katadyn water bottle💦🐟
<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008RT308A/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B008RT308A&linkCode=as2&tag=boy123recomme-20&linkId=d9fcd906a1bc092581a20bfa199b3940″>Katadyn – Mybottle Purifier – 24 – Blue Splash</a><img src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=boy123recomme-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B008RT308A” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />
#3 filter from your tap for safe drinking water anywhere
Culligan Tap Filter
We actually purchased this for our sailboat. It’s portable so we brought it along on our trip and we’re so happy we did. It is easy to install, so we attach it to the sink wherever we are staying, and voila! Contaminant free water! We haven’t had typhoid even once! Seriously though, this baby has brought us a lot of peace of mind and simplifies life, while eliminating the need for plastic, single use, water bottles. The mister did a lot of research before he chose this one and the Culligan was the most compact and efficient with great reviews.
<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TA532VU/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00TA532VU&linkCode=as2&tag=boy123recomme-20&linkId=d876875a4785a1dfc483f56ba284f0f4″>Culligan FM-15RA Faucet Filter Advanced</a><img src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=boy123recomme-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B00TA532VU” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />
#4. Bring your own reusable utensils
Chinese stainless steel soup spoons
We keep a couple of these spoons in our bags. They are always handy and help us avoid the single use plastic ones. Plus they are just awesome spoons. We use them at home a lot too. They are super easy for little hands and they can scoop coco meat like a ninja.
<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01K44NPHG/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01K44NPHG&linkCode=as2&tag=boy123recomme-20&linkId=34906c77d912cb34be2f2097b2b71fbb”>Zebra Thai Chinese Asian Stainless Steel Rice Soup Spoon (12 Pack), Silver</a><img src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=boy123recomme-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B01K44NPHG” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />
In addition to finding ways we can reduce our waste we have figured out a clever way to make a dime (or a nickel? ) 💰 Aren’t we clever? Yep, these are all affiliate links, so Amazon will give us approx. ¢5 if you buy those stainless spoons. Eureka! Make us rich. I dare ya. 😉🤑
And since we are already rolling with this full disclosure thing, I figure I should disclose that despite currently traveling in a tropical country and having three, fair skinned, tow headed children, we do not use much sunscreen. OK, settle down, I can hear you judging us, but despite this apparent negligence our children have never suffered a severe burn and don’t even resemble little cooked lobsters. We prefer good ol fashioned long sleeve sun shirts, hats, and natures best defense – shade. We tend to stay out of the direct sun during the worst sun hours (10-2), and so only wear sunscreen if it’s unavoidable. Traditional sunscreens have a lot of questionable ingredients and they can wreak havoc on the coral reefs. Good enough reason to avoid them. When sunscreen is absolutely necessary we are fans of the Badger brand. It is a mineral block and gives us that sexy glow (read: pasty white), but it doesn’t sink into our pores and play Jenga with our hormones n stuff. That’s a scientific explanation and I got it straight from the current press secretary.
<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003II0R7M/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B003II0R7M&linkCode=as2&tag=boy123recomme-20&linkId=280dac136108e868ba55348884f888d9″>Badger SPF 35 Plus Sunscreen All Season Face Stick Unscented — 0.65 oz</a><img src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=boy123recomme-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B003II0R7M” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />Sun shirts and hats, or embarrassing Disney themed fish suits that will haunt you into your college years and beyond, whatever works! Thanks Meme for the excellent future blackmail pics!
Do you have more ideas for us? Awesome possum. Please leave them in the comments below.
The cost of living in Costa Rica vs. the cost of traveling in Costa Rica…
Living in Costa Rica
We got a great question about costs that deserves a blogpost response. We are a family of 5, currently “living” in Costa Rica on about $30 a day, or under $1000 a month. That includes everything– rent (good place with pool, weekly maid service, and short walk to the beach), food (healthy, fresh, and abundant), the occasional restaurant meal, and the occasional bus trip.
I will break things down further:
Rent — We rent a cabina. It is not fancy, but it serves our needs well, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a dining area, and a kitchen. The kitchen is key for saving money — eating out can get expensive in Costa Rica.
Food — Stay away from imported items! You can easily spend $3 for a single avocado or mango from Mexico if you’re not paying attention. Our first day in Costa Rica we bought a small box of quinoa for $11– OUCH! We load up on fresh veggies and fruits at the local markets, and stop every fruit and vegetables truck that drives by. Eat like a local. Rice and beans are always cheap, and Ticos have many ways to create delicious and nutritious meals with these two staple items — i.e. gallo pinto and casado. Beans and rice, rice and beans, add fresh veggies, throw them in a tortilla and make a burrito, add cheese and make a quesadilla, stir fry them and call it gallo pinto. Anyway you fix them they are filling and delicious and gentle on the budget.
Restaurants — They can be very expensive for a family of five. That said, we do occasionally go out to eat at some of our favorite spots. The “casado” is a dish which literally means “married,” and comes with rice, beans, a meat, fried plantain, salad, and a refresco (fresh fruit juice drink). It costs about $6, everyone in our family loves it, so it’s the perfect budget option. Of course we times that by 5, so our dinner out comes to about $30.
Buses — They’re very cheap. You can get all over with a few dollars. They can also be very inconvenient… We used only buses to get from Tamarindo, Costa Rica to Nicaragua, and we spent more time waiting for buses than riding buses. Now we use rental cars for big moves, and buses for smaller stuff. Rental cars are not cheap, but I’ve been successful at talking the car companies way down on price — I usually act like I haven’t decided whether I want a rental car, or I’m eager to just take the bus.
Traveling in Costa Rica
That’s “living” in Costa Rica. Traveling is a much different beast, with so many variables. Sometimes we feel like we’re bleeding money. We have been successfully traveling on a $100 a day average. Here are some tips:
Accommodations — We check the websites “Booking” and “Trip Advisor” first to get an idea about prices. FlipKey and Airbnb are also resources. We avoid Homeaway due to a negative experience. We also always check the reviews! Trust us, we learned this the hard way! Read the reviews! Then we contact the hotels/rentals we’re interested in directly for discounts. We’ve done well by cutting out the middleman. Also time your travel to avoid peak season. Prices can double or triple when demand is high.
Food — There is a variety of well priced quick food available at “sodas,” when you’re on the move. Our kids enjoy enyucados, tamales, and empanadas. They are about $1 each. We hate to buy bottled water for so many reasons, so we travel with a filter bottle, reusable water bottles, and a Culligan filter that we can attach to a spigot or a hotel sink. The system has served us well, saved us a bundle, and helped preserve the environment.
Location — We had our hearts set on Nosara when we left the US. It seemed to have everything we were looking for surf, jungle, and great schools. We made two trips there to try to find accommodations, and realized we would need a small fortune and a car if we wanted to stay there. Combine that with the fact that it just didn’t live up to our expectations… Tamarindo was also expensive, but walkable, so we spent a month in that area living for the surf. We arrived in September and the rental prices all doubled or tripled for the months of December and January. That is when we decided to check out the less touristy Caribbean side. We found much better prices for accommodations, and fresh food more affordable and widely available. We do love the Caribbean side at this point!
Cauhita So Sweeeetah!!
Most of you, our loyal fans, ok just kidding, our parents and other poor suckers that our parents talked into reading this blog, know that we have been chillin like villains for the past 5 months in a little town called Cauhita.
Cauhita is on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and has a beautiful National Park.
stop right here and practice with me. Cow-Wheat-Ahh. Don’t sound like a dweeb (and by “dweeb” I mean us) and say Cah-heat-uh.
Nope. It’s cow, like the animal, wheat, like the plant and Ahhh, like well, ahh.
Now when you come to visit us, you will sound so cool, and people won’t look at you like you’re from another planet (speaking from experience here). Speaking of visitors, we’ve had Meme, twice. She grew to love Cauhita as much as us, and in March Pop pop came.
Poor Pop Pop never did get it, despite repeated Tutorials over FaceTime. Nevertheless, he persisted 😉 on pronouncing it Cow-heat-uh. But the local shuttle driver took pity on him and he made it all the way here for a fun filled visit! More on that later!
Cauhita has so much that we love. Unlimited coconuts, a plethora of wildlife and friendly locals. We are renting a small house walking/biking distance to everything. We have fruit trees galore and neighbor kids to play with. Boy 1 and 2 are attending the local, public elementary school and improving daily in their Spanish.
Here is a short video The Mister put together of our school experience:
I mentioned before about all the fruit trees around our house, we have plaintains, bananas, oranges, star fruit, mango and cacao fruit (did you know chcolate was a fruit?! Told you it was healthy!). But for other food needs we have some nice local shops and our local veggie/fruit truck and egg truck!
Thanks to the Mister who has has been getting pretty crafty, and made this clever little video of grocery shopping, Cauhita style.
This past week was Semana Santa, a big holiday here in Latin America. Boy 1 and 2 had a whole week off of school, which for normal kids, would mean they were doing the happy, happy dance, but our weirdos were totally bummed and did the mopey, mopey dance.
We celebrated Easter by coloring rocks and having Easter rock hunts with the neighbor girls, and as a first for us, we set a goal to have a zero waste Easter. We made (and by “we” I mean the mister) palm frond baskets and then we sent a serious ultimatum to the Easter Bunny, asking for no plastic or waste in our baskets, or else! And he complied! Total zero waste, zero melt down Easter. Okay, the zero melt down was a lie, but there were zero uncontrollable, “I didn’t get enough crap” crying fits. Total win!
This was a small step in our larger quest to be greener, cleaner, less wasteful adventurers!
More on that later!
Here is some pre-Easter prep pics:
And here is our master weaver at work
And the early (so, so early 😩) Easter Basket reveal with boy 123 and two very tired parents.
And because I’m nice here is some footage of a zombie apocalypse Pop pop’s visit. He really, really, enjoyed body surfing.
If you’ve done your blog homework then you know that while we were in Nicaraugua, we got to learn to make real, no extra junk, straight up, CHOCOLATE!!
Well, guess what chocolate nuts?! We rented our cute little house here in Cauhita town with part of an old cacao plantation right in the yard! Score! Boy3 is a huge fan of eating raw cacao seeds right from the pod — he has no time for chocolate making — he likes it straight up and begins many a morning by telling us he is going on a “cow hunt”. This means he will be heading out to look for ripe cacao pods. He then marches back triumphantly to the cabina to pester Boy 1 to open it with his machete. Then he sucks down the sweet mucilage and bean whole. That boy takes his antioxidants seriously.The rest of us like our chocolate a little more processed.
So, we decided to make our own chocolate (no easy task when a little minion was constantly scarfing down our main ingredient)
However we prevailed, and we made a video so you can learn to make chocolate too! Aren’t we the sweetest? after finishing the process we now understand why chocolate is expensive.
And why we won’t be opening the chocolate factory for online orders anytime soon.
It’s hard work.
We won’t share our chocolate, but we will share our movie: enjoy!
“A city! You’re taking us to a CITY” was the howling wolf cry of boy 1 & 2. Boy 2 pronounces city with a shhh sound. It works, and basically sums up our joint feelings on spending time in one, but this time I actually argued for it. Yes, we could have just headed straight for the easy hop of San Juan Del Sur and spent time at a little beach town and get some surf on…but…but we had just done that for a month, and as I pointed out to the Mister, we need some culture. Granada is oozing with culture and history and– more importantly–um, much more importantly…chocolate! So, I may have stumbled upon a little article about Museo de Chocolate being in Granada and that may have had a teeny, weeny, (ginormo) reason why I wanted to go there. I mean seriously?! A chocolate museum!! So yeah, bring it city. We got this.
Um. Er. Do we? It’s so loud and so many vehicles. We just want to climb a tree and jump in the ocean. Eek. Everyone is selling something and we can’t seem to scrub these dollar signs off our foreheads. “No, gracias” is our constant refrain. Boy 2 became an expert at it by the end of day 1 in the city. But, it was beautiful in it’s gritty, wethered way, with cultural and intrigue. We didn’t run for the nearest beach — besides there was no way in hockey sticks we were getting back on a bus! We found and checked into our little hotel with a center courtyard and a pool and we headed out to the city. Well, ok first Boy 1 climbed the coconut tree in the courtyard and we all cooled off in the pool. Ahhh. Better.
Then we headed out to explore the colonial city of Granada.
On day 2 We headed to the Museo de Chocolate for our chocolate making and history lesson.We learned a little about the history of chocolate from the Mayans to the Aztecs and sampled our way to cocoa heaven. We learned to make chocolate starting from the cacao pod right off the tree, followed by the raw beans, and straight through to the finished product. We made and sampled several different cacao drinks and then finished the experience with pouring and customizing our very own chocolate bars! I added cayenne pepper and vanilla to mine. Boy 1 added cinnamon and cayenne to his and Boy 2 got a little nutty and added almonds, cinnamon, and marshmallows. The Mister and Boy 3 did not join us for this tour — Boy 3 for obvious toddler reasons, and the mister due to a very, very (anaphylactic), severe dairy allergy. He can’t eat most chocolate — even dark chocolate that doesn’t have any milk listed in the ingredients is usually a problem, having touch something with dairy while being processed. However, this chocolate was so pure that he could eat it without problems. Uh oh! We had to eat ours fast or share! We chose fast!
Did you know chocolate makes your clothes shrink? Fact.
And we ventured out of the city for a visit to Apoya Lagoon. We likey, we likey, mucho gusto. Ancient crater lake filled with warm, crystal clear water and bordered by lush, verdant cliffs and black volcanic sand. We loved it! Like a lot. Boy1 & 2 loved free diving to the bottom by jumping off the swim platforms. They taught themselves how to pressurize their ears and freaked out all the other guests and locals by swimming heavy rocks out and jumping with them as weights to get to the bottom faster. Oh and Boy 2 may have made a few Cordoba (Nicaraguan money) by offering some nice women kayak rides before we realized what he was up to and shut down the business.
Here is a detailed description of the Crater Lagoon and some science and conservation info: https://vianica.com/go/specials/25-apoyo-lagoon-nicaragua.html
Heidi, Boy 1, 2, 3, and I were strolling through Cahuita, on our way to a friend’s house, when we came upon the long line of vehicles and a police checkpoint. A motorbike was being turned away, so we asked what was up. “El presidente está visitando el colegio,” was the response. Wow! Luis Guillermo Solís, the current president of Costa Rica, came to Cahuita to tour the new national park facilities, and was now speaking at the high school. “¿Podemos pasar, queremos visitar a nuestros amigos que viven allá?” I asked them. They told us we could go see our friends as long as we were on foot.
Santiago (5 year old friend of Boy 1, 2, and 3), Fanny (his mom), and a friend were hanging out on the porch when we arrived. There was a lot of chatter about el presidente visiting next door. The boys all began playing in the yard, and we meandered over to watch them. The yard bordered the high school property, and we could clearly see the president chatting with other officials. I also noticed a couple of secret service gentlemen hanging close, earpiece and coiled cord in place. A friend of Fanny’s friend came up and told us all to come on over through the hole in the barbed wire fence that separated the two properties.
Fanny and her friend crawled through, while I stayed with Santiago and the boys. Santiago immediately began sobbing for his mother, and the two women urged me to crawl through with Santiago and Boy 1 & 2. Heidi said she’d stay with Zevy, so against my better judgement, I crawled through with my 3 young accomplices. As soon as I had done it, I wished I could take it back. Visions of being deported back to Maine in February hit me — a veritable death sentence for one that no longer owns winter gear.
But there we were 200 ft from the president. We closed in, and as we did, I looked back at our escape route. Two police officers had positioned themselves in front of the hole in the fence. Paranoia set in — were they staring at me?
President Solís finished his discussion and began making his way past us. He spotted Kai, and walked up to him, extending his right hand. Kai recognized the gesture, and reached out to shake the president’s hand. President Solís saw me fumbling with my camera, and motioned for one of his staff to bring Cove over. The president of Costa Rica then removed his hat, squatted down, and held both boys in his arms.
That’s how it went down, and in Costa Rica it was Pura Vida!
Here’s the story broken down in photos — minus the illegal fence climbing part.
Ometepe–Oh My! So, if you have to turn two, you might as well do it on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaraugua with two volcanoes, right? I mean if you had the choice? Which technically boy 3 didn’t, but he went along with it anyway and turned two in serious Ometepe style! But more on that later! First we had to get to the island and that meant a mini bus and a ferry ride. Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes, Concepión, which is active and Maderas, which is dormant.
Safety first, people.
We stayed at a small, family run hotel called Hotel Nathalie in a village outside the main port town of Myogalpa. We ate our meals in the families’ outdoor dining room and shared most of our meals with the families three children, Franklin (11), Benjamin (9), Natahalie (7). We arrived the day before Halloween and although Nicaurauga doesn’t technically celebrate Halloween, we decided to have our mini-fiesta anyway. We handed out mustaches for costumes
and then Franklin unearthed a kit of face tattoos he had.
Boy2 was the only volunteer to test those out and I, as his mother made the executive decision that tattoos will never again be applied to the face. It took two weeks of looking at dirty, diseased face before I was able to completely claw scrub them off.
What even is this? We never found out, but we did have to look at it for weeks after.
We introduced them to one of our favorite games, Ghosts in the Graveyards or Fantasmas en el cementerio here. Then we did a little mini trick or treating candy hunt. Those who know me well will be surprised to hear that I handed out actual, kid approved, dentist discouraged, dye and corn syrup laden lollipops. Not a pencil or sticker in sight (this year). Did you hear that Eliza Jean Jellybean?! I finally made it off the lame list. I expect a certificate in the mail.
Anyhoo, we still had this turning two business to deal with. And deal with it we did. Well, okay I bought a cake and was going to call it good, but the sweet family of Nathalie Hotel totally one-upped me and provided a piñata and lots of frighteningly colored candies to go with it and even some presents. Fiesta!
Ok so the Cake was a little melty, but we had to hike 3 kilometers into to town to the one bakery and then hike it back on top of the stroller in the one box the bakery could find–an empty diaper box. It was 90 degrees and we had to walk barefoot in the snow. It’s a Miracle it made it. And the best part about two year olds is they don’t care.” Just let me put my face in it”
Apparently the piñata tradition is different in Nicarauga as they looked at us like we were a little off in the head when we tried to blind fold the children. Instead you just put on some mariachi music and dance while you politely take turns violently beating the piñata with a broken pipe. So much more civilized, but it really kills the excitement of which adult is going to get a good whap and gain a whole octave in their singing voice. Olé!
Our little family hotel was also right next to the village school and playground. We took lots of trips over to play and the older boys got to join in with school recess several days while we were there.
And then there were volcanoes. We did not hike any of the vocanoes, but we sure did enjoy the constant views. The volcanoes were steep and our baby is A GIANT. See all those pictures of Josh wearing the fancy baby hiking backpack– with NO baby in it? That is because he weighs a gabillion, zillion trillion pounds. Also, please note who is carrying him. Jus sayin…..
Thanks Ometepe. A great island to turn two, and make some new friends.