Reflections from the Field – Casa Tucan & Safari Surf: Days 1-5

After flying Thursday morning from San Diego to Houston (3 hrs), then Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica (3 hrs), we finally arrived at Casa Tucan at 3am on Friday because Nosara is a six hour drive from San Jose. Luckily we had our own live karaoke in the van so the time flew by. Plus, Costa Rica is only an hour ahead of California this time of year so we weren’t jet lagged. We woke up a few hours later (6am) to go surf Playa Guiones, which was awesome. The water is about 80 degrees and the view from the surf is beautiful, jungle everywhere and steep cliff faces on the north and south ends of the beach, not to mention the huge houses on the hill overlooking the beach.  That morning session looked like the best day of the year at Pacific Beach…and it only got better over the next few days. After surfing we had lunch (the food here is amazing), and then Jess, Tyler, Tim and I got started on reviewing the hotel and surf camp’s operations. We worked the whole afternoon until dinner, which for me was some fresh lobster caught that afternoon.With plans of getting up at the crack of dawn to drive to Ostional, a black sand beach with a more powerful break that’s a half-hour’s drive from here, we went to bed early that night.We started the drive Saturday at 5:30am. You drive over Rio Nosara on the way to Ostional, which is beautiful but its “crocodiles galore” as Tim put it. Luckily, Rio Nosara does not end at Ostional so you don’t have to worry about saltwater crocodiles out in the surf. There are some other little river crossings, but they are all dried up this time of the year (Spring), one of which they are building a new bridge for, but one of the surf guides said they constructed the bridge path at the wrong angle so they’re trying to fix it before the rains come.

Farms and little tourist businesses dot the rest of the road before driving through the colorful little community of Ostional.

When we pulled up to the beach it looked like this:

Thousands of Green Turtles come lay their eggs at Ostional during the rainy season (September, October), and so you’re not allowed to surf during that time, but who would want to get hit in the head by a turtle when you duck dive anyways. I was told that its part of the “tico” culture (Costa Ricans) to eat the eggs as kind of a male virility enhancement, so they are allowed to take a small portion of the eggs at the beginning of the season, but then the local conservation organization, Minae, helps protect the eggs from ticos and predators for the rest of the season, and it seems to work since there has actually been an increase in the turtle population since this was implemented. After surfing a few hours we headed back to Casa Tucan for breakfast and then got back to the benchmarking work. For lunch, Tyler made us a pizza and the kitchen prepared the best nachos I’ve ever had (now I have them every day). Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Company has a decent red ale too.

We met with Bobbi Johnson who is part of the Nosara Civic Association (NCA), which is the unofficial local council for Nosara run by gringos who have been living here for the past 30 years or so.  Bobbi is also on the Nosara Sustainable  board, which is comprised of a few different other organizations in the area, working with local operators and the community to improve the livelihoods of its citizens. She is a great resource for finding all things sustainable in the area and she is very willing to help. We talked shop with her and learned heaps:

  • Two local Ticos started their own grease pick up business whereby they pick up the waste vegetable oil (WVO) from all the participating restaurants in the area and turn into biodiesel
  • A local company, Belca, is a large supplier of environmentally friendly products for operators, including biodegradable plastic bags, which is convenient for the people who sort through the trash at the local landfill for recyclables because they can easily see the contents of the bag (clear plastic) and they don’t have to physically open the bags to take the recyclables
  • is based in the U.S. and takes donations for distribution to the local beneficiaries here
  • Nosara Sustainable hosts various “community days” where they receive donations of paint and construction materials to improve the local schools. A few hundred people come out for these events to help paint and add new rooms to the local schools
  • By 2021, Costa Rica wants to be carbon neutral and plans to do it with their “Peace with Nature” program

CoffeeFollowing our informative meeting with Bobbi, we met the local coffee grower who comes to Casa Tucan with a kilo of his delicious coffee and sells it to guests as well as the hotel. After Jess bought some coffee, we went back to Tim’s room to continue our assessment of their operations with the help of Jeffrey (hotel manager who is earning is degree in hospitality currently) and John (who worked for the Harmony Hotel across the road for 3 years before returning back to Casa Tucan where he learned a lot about sustainable management because the Harmony is a sustainability focused hotel owned by Johnson & Johnson). Jeff and John will be helping us communicate our sustainability initiatives and their significance to the other employees who are not as well versed in the subject. These guys are stoked to be a part of it and I’m stoked to be working with them for the next couple of weeks. We did a sunset session, which was onshore, but still fun and a good way to end a work day. Tara (University for Peace) and her friend Anna (Rainforest Alliance) met us for dinner at Casa Tucan that night. Tara and Jess are coordinating a study abroad trip on sustainable surf tourism in Costa Rica so we talked business and it sounds awesome. That night was Alonzo’s (Safari Surf Instructor) birthday celebration so the instructors and I went to the local discoteca called Tropicana, which was decorated like a jungle on the walls and the bar with stars and comets hanging down from the ceiling.

The vibe here is so mellow, rustic, and laid back. I love it. Jess and Tim leave tomorrow, which is too bad because the surf forecast for this week looks stacked. The WiFi here is practically non-existent so I’m posting from the Harmony Hotel, but Casa Tucan is waiting on an expensive part to arrive that will fix the WiFi so hopefully I can be more active on this blog and get some videos up here. Safari Surf is doing a lot of great things for the community and the environment, but they still have plenty of room for improvement. I’ve got my work cut out for me the next couple weeks but I’m stoked to do it. Stay tuned! Pura vida!

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