by: Darby Moore
When I first set my sights on the topics of Costa Rica, the outlook was hazy at best. An irresistibly cheap flight had lured my family and I, along with a handful of friends to the coastline. Despite the uncertainties that lie ahead, we were set to disembark our Florida home near the end of August. For those of you familiar with the Costa Rican climate, this meant we were arriving in the middle of the throes of the country’s rainy season. Spurred by our curiosity and a lust for lands unseen, we saw adventure in the unknown. In more ways than one, we couldn’t have been more right.
Our adventure started out with a purchase of a spontaneous flight...and didn’t extend far beyond that. After days and possibly even weeks of relentless research, a small town by the name of Santa Teresa caught our eyes. Located on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, the area had it all: seclusion, quality surf and an unmolested natural beauty beyond compare. But there was a catch: seclusion makes for some involved travel plans.
Without knowing quite what to expect, we rose with the sun and hit the road. A smooth flight took us from the Orlando International airport to San Jose, where the real adventure began. After securing our board bags, we were met with hurried shouts and bustling crowds in search of transportation in the stifled, warm air that hung outside the airport.
If you’ve ever driven in a Latin American country, you recognize the palatable borderline frenetic energy in the air. To make matters more interesting, while weaving in and out of cars jockeying for position among street side vendors, our friend behind the wheel revealed that he hadn’t driven a stick shift in years, and never had anywhere outside of Florida. Not exactly reassuring news when we looked out toward the lush mountain ranges that lie in the distance.
Following a shockingly smooth drive thanks to our even-tempered comrade behind the wheel, we arrived at one of my favorite legs of our journey: a ferry that took us over to the Nicoya Peninsula and one step closer to our destination. In my mind, this is when our trip truly began. There’s something about the sight of the sea that can bring you home, no matter how far away you may be. Slicing through the ocean breeze atop the deck of our crowded maritime ride, a seascape the likes of The Land Before Time sprawled out before our eyes.
Once we set foot on land again, I became aware of one of the many quirks of Costa Rican culture: there is a total absence of street addresses in the traditional sense. Here, everything is traversed by way of relative position, with directions along the lines of “we are located approximately 400 meters south of the soccer field”. You can see where this system could provide some difficulty to visitors, to say the least. With a bit of luck and a lot of faith placed in our sense of direction, we arrived at our destination. For the first time since the early hours of that morning, it was time to rest.
It’s a peculiar feeling waking up in a distant land and feeling as if you are home. But this is just how I felt stepping out onto our deck nestled in the treetops. Humid morning air clung to the treetops, as vibrant butterflies fluttered between the masses of flora and fauna sprawling before my eyes.
Adjacent to our jungle villa was our pathway to paradise. A short walk under a canopy of greenery led to the water’s edge, where 10-foot clear blue peelers rolled into the white sand beach. Well, I thought to myself, it looks like we’ve really made it. The days that followed were filled with all we’d wished for: clear skies, sunshine, amazing food and surf until our arms just wouldn’t paddle anymore. While we submersed ourselves in bliss, a storm was brewing back home.
In our time spent away, we’d grown more and more disconnected from home. Suddenly, a force of nature by the name of Dorian pulled us back to reality and sent our minds floating back toward our little town of St. Augustine. Seemingly overnight, a tropical storm had begun forming off of the coast of the Bahamas, with projections that placed our hometown and the northeast coast of Florida squarely in its path. Just as quickly, it became apparent that we weren’t making it home. Worse yet, we began to wonder if we’d have a home to return to after a storm of this caliber.
Soon after Dorian’s presence became known, all international flights through Orlando were cancelled. Though an extended stay in a tropical paradise may sound like any surfer’s dream, the imposing threat of a category 5 storm quickly dampens even the most adventurous spirits. Feeling helpless and removed, my companions and I worked alongside our friends and family to secure our home the best that we could from a world away.