Costa Rica quickly went from a vacation destination to a second home. We didn’t discover “Alex on the Beach” the first time we set foot in beautiful Costa Rica. On that first trip, we booked two excursions; one through the hotel (to the rainforest) and one through another local company (to Palo Verde). Both were amazing and helped shape our love of the country and its people.
The next year, we returned, and having researched possible tours and excursions prior to arriving, were introduced to Alex on the Beach through their website. That visit, we came prepared with which tours we wanted to book; Palo Verde, Beach trekking and a Rainforest combination tour. We learned from the website that rather than searching for the representative on the beach, we could take a stroll down to The Monkey Bar and ask for one. While we waited, we were greeted by more of the famous Costa Rican hospitality and some delicious (and potent) drinks. This is also where we discovered Lizano Salsa, one of the most delicious condiments, that compliments almost anything. Sergio came to see us and we booked everything we wanted for the week in one go, all our questions answered.
Even if you don’t plan on booking anything with Alex, you should visit The Monkey Bar and support the local business. As you stroll down Playa Matapalo off of The Riu Palace or The Riu Guanacaste, you will find a small wooden arrow pointing to a trail off the beach. Half way down the train you will find The Money bar. They are so warm and welcoming. We got caught there once when a torrential downpour hit the area, but it was no bother, it fact it was quite romantic. The lights went out and they lit candles while we continued to enjoy our food and drinks. At one point, the owner sat with us and introduced us to some local liquors. If you walk down the path from the beach, passed The Monkey Bar, in the early morning, you will find white-faced monkeys eager to take fresh fruit from your hands. Experience this if you can, but go back when the bar is open, have a drink or two and leave a big tip. They are so worth it.
The following year, we returned again, this time for 2 weeks and with a much grander plan. We wanted to spend some time in the Cloud Forests of Monteverde, but needed a way to get there. We reached out to Alex and inquired about passage. We exchanged a few emails and arranged for a pick up from our hotel in Guanacaste to our hotel in Monteverde (a 4 hour drive). We also arranged for a few stops along the way. The year prior, on the Rainforest Combination Tour, we had the pleasure of visiting the Llanos del Cortes Waterfall. We loved it so much that we had to go back. Since it was on the way, Alex made a stop for us so we could climb down the rocky hills and dip ourselves once again in the majestic beauty of the Waterfall. When we stopped at a nearby supermarket to use the facilities to change into our swimsuits, we decided to pick up some snacks and discovered Chiky Cookies. If you ever have the opportunity to try these, do so, they are delicious morsels of chocolate and shortbread.
We also stopped for lunch at a small local restaurant, where a group of colourful Macaws had made their home in the nearby trees. Once our time came to an end in Monteverde, Alex had his drivers pick us up and drive us back to Guanacaste, complete with unexpected stops along the way. In addition to the Monteverde excursion, we also booked a Beach Tour and a fantastic day trip across the border to Nicaragua through Alex. We would not have been able to do this all in a two-week vacation if it wasn’t for Alex on the Beach.
The following year, we returned “home” again, and yet again booked excursions with Alex on the Beach. We snorkeled, booked another Combo Tour to the Rainforest, and spent some time in Ricon dela Vieja National Park. On this trip, we were lucky enough to see sea turtles, monkeys, iguanas, a plethora of birds and the elusive sloth. The wildlife in Costa Rica is nothing short of amazing, but do not go with specific expectations. Tour guides, no matter how knowledgeable, cannot coax an animal to magically appear. This seems logical, but we have had many a guide apologize profusely for not “seeing more” on a hike through the forest or a paddle down the river. We were always left dumbfounded when they tell us stories of clients who complain or demand a refund when they are not satisfied with the number of wildlife they happened upon. You’re stepping foot into the wild people; it is unpredictable. Be thankful for the opportunity and open to the possibility of seeing nothing more than beautiful landscape.
If you haven’t already noticed, we are planners. We research as much as we can in the hopes of experiencing everything possible in the short time we are visiting another country. On this trip, however, I inquired about doing something at the last minute and Alex on the Beach delivered beyond anything I could have hoped for.
A month before this particular visit to Costa Rica, my dad unexpectedly passed away. Having had the trip already fully booked, and needing the space to process life’s new normal, we hoped this vacation would help the healing process. By pure coincidence, Father’s Day would be celebrated both in Canada and Costa Rica (on the same day) while we were there. As we met Sergio on the beach before our snorkeling excursion, we explained the situation and asked if there was any chance I could plant a tree. It didn’t matter when or where, and I was not bothered by the type of tree, as long as it was native and could thrive. Sergio simply said “Let me see what I can do” and made a phone call. Within in a few short minutes, it was all arranged.
The next day, we were picked up by Oscar, who had already picked up a young sapling from a local store. It being Father’s Day, the store was closed for business, but he left them money and gathered the plant for us. He had chosen the tree himself; the Cortez Amarillo
(The Golden Trumpet Tree). It was a local variety that, when fully mature, produced vibrant yellow flowers that looked like little trumpets. As they fell, they created an amazing golden ring around the base of the tree. It was a perfect choice. On the way, he stopped at a local’s house to borrow a shovel, then he whisked us off to a spot he thought would be perfect. And it was. Halfway up the side of a hill was a small lookout point frequented by locals and tour guide who knew of its existence. Below, the cliff jets out onto a small grass-covered landing. We carefully climbed down and Oscar began to dig. He dug three or four holes before he found a spot that had the right soil. We planted the little sapling, watered the earth and hoped it would thrive.
It did thrive, and hopefully continues to do so. We visited the spot the following year and the sapling was growing. We hope to return again and again the future. My dad never had the opportunity to visit Costa Rica, but now his memory is there, overlooking the ocean. I don’t think I can possibly express in words what gratitude we attribute to Alex and his team for making this happen. It started a trend for us; since then, we find a way to plant trees wherever we visit. A little part of us left behind, in the form of something natural, which will benefit the area long after we are gone.