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Playas del Coco, oh how you’ve changed!

As non-residents of Nicaragua every 6 months Elisha & I are required to leave the country to renew our tourist visas.  Since Elisha’s parents were here visiting and we had friends from Calgary staying at Ocotal beach in Costa Rica the timing for this renewal was great. 

Entering Costa Rica on foot!

Playa Ocotal is the beach where we got married 5 1/2 years ago and Playas del Coco was the place that inspired Elisha & I to move south – so as you can imagine we were quite excited about a return visit.  

Father Rooster Restaurant where we held our wedding 5 1/2 years ago!

When we arrived the changes we saw in the town of a Playa del Coco were more than we had expected.  Once a quaint one-road fishing village with a few restaurants and shops Coco now has a luxury gated community that resembles what you would see in a Canadian or American golf course community.

Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

Although many of the same restaurants from our last visit are still there, most have been “gringo-ized”.  Gone are the rough support posts and corrugated roofs that used to be the norm for beach bars.  Everything is more polished now, including the waterfront.  The row of buildings that used to be on the beach has been demolished and replaced with a boardwalk and park area.  The changes are nice, but Coco now lacks some of that rugged charm we so fondly remember.

The new Malecon

The Lizard Lounge by day…

…and by night!

While in Coco we saw more tourists and expats than locals and with the prices in the area I understand why.  Food and drink costs are pretty much on par with what you expect to pay in Canada.

One afternoon we had lunch at Father Rooster.  It’s the one and only beachfront restaurant in Playa Ocotal and the place where held our wedding reception.  We had an appy to share, 4 meals and 6 beer and our bill came to a whopping $96 USD. 

The portions were large, but unfortunately so was our bill!

Two days later we had a similar lunch at Henry’s Iguana Beach Bar & Restaurant in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.  The damage for this one?  Just under $40 USD. I noticed a pizza place in Coco advertising $2.50 USD beer – like it’s a deal. Hardly!  I rarely pay more than $1 USD for beer in Nica.

Oddly enough the prices of accommodations in Playas del Coco and surrounding area are similar to those in Nicaragua.  I suspect it’s probably due to overbuilding and subsequent saturation of the rental market.  We chose a large, beautiful two bedroom apartment over looking Ocotal Bay as our place to call home for 3 days.  We were very comfortable at La Loma del Atardecer.

Pools at La Loma del Atardecer

The view of Ocotol Bay from our apartment

It was a 200 meter walk down the hill to the beach where we spent some time relaxing and snorkelling.

Sharing the beach with a lizard.

One thing that hasn’t changed  in Playa Ocotal is the snorkelling.  Right off the shore, a few feet into the water you can see a plethora of fun sea creatures.  3 out of the 4 times I went into the water I was lucky to be able to swim with some eagle rays.

Unfortunately the one time I didn’t see the rays was when I took our friend Beverly out for her 1st ever snorkelling adventure. Although we weren’t able to see the eagle rays we still saw a good assortment of sea life.

A speckled eel

The six of us sitting around our apartment in the evening playing Scrabble felt a little surreal to me.  It was almost like being back in Canada…until I looked out the window.  

Elisha’s parents take the game of Scrabble very seriously. Since her arrival in Nica Elisha’s mom, Rose had been trash talking about winning the first game on our new Scrabble board.  To her surprise Beverly handed out a crushing defeat! Wanting to go out on a high note, Beverly didn’t play the next night which meant Willard and Rose didn’t even have a chance to vanquish their defeat.

Torey pulled out a big pointer – oh & ho!

Good times with friends & family

It was a good trip.  It was great to see Beverly & Torey and nice to check out the area again, but I have to say it sure feels great to be back home to Nica!

Cinco Aniversario

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Elisha and I were married on Playa Ocotal in Costa Rica on January 8th, which just happens to be five years ago, so it was time to celebrate! We decided to celebrate our anniversary the same way we would in Canada, with a great meal and a nice bottle of wine.

Having lived in Calgary for 10 years we had a list of favourite places we liked to go, many of which were through recommendations from friends.  In Nicaragua it happens to be a bit of a different story. First of all, we have no dining out experience and secondly, we have only one local friend to rely on for recommendations. Although Carlos from Hostel El Pulpo is a wealth of knowledge, romantic dinners out aren’t really his specialty, so onto Trip Advisor I went. Meson Real (a Spanish influenced tapas bar) turned up as the number one rated restaurant in Leon and appeared to be “right up our alley” so the plan was agreed upon – Meson Real it was!

Maybe I have a little Nica blood in me because I didn’t even realize our travel plans were a little odd until Elisha pointed out the fact that this was the first time that we had ever hitch-hiked to a date. Wearing a button up shirt for the first time since being here is what I was noticing, much more so than our mode of transportation. Thankfully a nice Nica/Russian guy with his daughter and grandson picked us up and dropped us off within a few blocks of the restaurant.

This was our first time in Leon at night and it turned out to be just as lively at night as it is during the day. There were many more food stands around and people were making their way to social commitments instead of work. It being Sunday evening all of the churches were in full swing. On one street Elisha and I thought a band was playing live music at a club until we noticed all the lights on. When we peaked in the window it ended up being evangelical church rocking it out.

We made our way to Meson Real and to our surprise it is only one block away from the house we are moving to later this week and unfortunately to our disappointment it was closed. I guess our next purchase should be a cell phone so that we can avoid this in the future. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get a car after that? But lets not get too far ahead of ourselves. With no way to check for the next best ranked restaurant on Trip Advisor we chose a place that is right beside our future home. After taking a quick look at the menu we decided that Mediterraneo-Terraza would be just fine.

Once seated I immediately flipped to the wine list to see what kind of night we were going to have. If you’ve been to Nicaragua you will know that 90% of the wines here come from Chile or Argentina. I have found that these wines range in category from very drinkable to gasoline. Nicas don’t have a big wine culture, so it seems like they will import whatever is the best price which makes the gasoline easiest to find. To my delight there was a nice Italian Valpolicella on the menu for $417 cordobas ($18.29 USD). That made the next decision to order up a couple of steaks more than natural.

We enjoyed a great dinner with two appies, two steaks with all the fixings, a very nice bottle of wine and dessert for a whopping $1069 cordobas ($46.89 USD). This by far has been our most expensive dinner in Nica.  No complaints here though – the food, the wine and more importantly the company were excellent.

After dinner we walked hand in hand around some of parks and huge Catholic churches. Due to the fact that it was Sunday night we were unable to find any live music. We did, however find out that Barbaro doesn’t slow down on a Sunday though. This pub we’d previously visited was full and “just a rocking'” to a DJ playing crazy Spanish music videos.

We stayed for one drink and then hopped in a cab and headed back to our quiet little town of Poneloya. On the way home we decided to have a date night like this monthly. Maybe we can go to Meson Real next.

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