72. Tamarindo, Costa Rica - The Guanacaste Real Estate Boom

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July 15, 2007

When I did a fly-in/fly-out vacation in Costa Rica a few years back I enjoyed the beautiful scenery but found the country to be a bit culturally bland.

It was no Mexico, a country whose vibrant colours, fiesta music and tasty cuisine I can’t seem to get enough of.

But this time around, after six months on the VW van/road-trip/camping circuit, and after the austere conditions in Nicaragua, Costa Rica immediately felt like a little taste of paradise.

It has good roads, friendly cops, well-stocked grocery stores, fast Net connections, and the Groovy 91.1 radio station (which puts anything we have in Vancouver to shame).

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After breezing through the two police checkpoints on the Inter-American Highway between the Nicarguan border and Liberia, we headed to Tamarindo on the northern Pacific coast, about a two hour drive in total.

Fueled in large part by the opening of the international airport in Liberia in 1995, and the influx of foreign investment, the entire Guanacaste region is experiencing an unbelievable real estate boom.

When we there, American Online co-founder Steve Case announced plans for a $800 million eco-friendly resort.

And Tamarindo, with lots of tourists and higher-end shops, felt like a beach-town version of Whistler, the world-class ski resort we have in British Columbia.

Yet the town still has enough rawness (dirt roads that flood when it rains, kebabs being grilled on the side of the road, etc.) and natural beauty (a gorgeous, never ending beach, which has great bath-water warm surf for boogie-boarding) to neutralize the mono-culture aspects of the development boom (like Subway and Pizza Hut).

Although we didn't stay there, we made a note for next time of the Tamarindo Daria Beach & Golf Resort, which is right on the beach and where the guests looked like they were being pampered.

Perhaps because of all this development, finding a place to camp in Tamarindo is a bit tricky.

After being rejected at many places, the kind owner of JC & Friends Hostel allowed us to set up camp on the front lawn, on a one-off basis.

This makeshift site was a one-minute walk, in one direction, from the beach and a one-minute walk, in the other direction, to the best stocked grocery store (fresh baguettes, imported cheese, etc.) that we had seen since Mexico.

Key Facts & Figures:

-JC & Friends Hostel front lawn: $14/night