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August 22, 2011

POTD: Playa Avellana, Costa Rica

The above photo was taken at Playa Avellana, during our last full day of our Costa Rica trip in February 2010. Amazingly, however, I almost did not make this trip to Costa Rica due to an airline mishap. Thankfully, however, I had purchased a travel insurance policy when I booked my trip, so that salvaged a bit of the trip.

Basically, the night before I was scheduled to fly to Costa Rica, American Airlines canceled my February 13th flight and notified me that they could not get me to Costa Rica until February 15th. They had also scheduled me for a 13 hour overnight layover at the Miami airport. As you could imagine, I was rather pissed off, but a quick call to my insurance company Cover-More confirmed that my $70 policy covered trip delays and interruptions, so I could expect to get some of my hotel and food expenses covered. When I arrived back in the U.S., I filed my claim and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the company was reimbursing me for my hotel and food expenses in DC and Miami as well as the two days of pre-paid lodging and surf lessons that I missed due to American Airlines’ inability to get me to Costa Rica on time. So, lesson learned, if you are traveling abroad, make sure you have travel insurance!

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February 21, 2011

POTD: Early morning at Playa Tamarindo

This photo was taken at Playa Tamarindo, a little after 6am. As you can see, the fishing boats and surfers are already out at this time, competing for the best seafood and waves, respectively.

Although many people complain that Tamarindo has become too crowded and “touristy”, I would tend to disagree. With a mere population of 3,500, Tamarindo is certainly no South Beach. It remains, for the most part, a small town with one main street that is dotted with small restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, and souvenir shops. I have visited Tamarindo in both the low and high season, and even during the high season, it was incredibly laid back and not at all overcrowded. You can always find a spot on the beach to spread out, and the surf lineup remains mellow (not at all like those found in my home state of California). Before heading to Tamarindo, however, be sure to purchase some sunglasses online, as the sun is out bright and early.

If you are heading to Tamarindo, I would highly recommend staying at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, which offers excellent packages that include lodging, surf lessons (or excursions for advanced surfers) and free breakfast. Or, if you are staying somewhere else in Tamarindo, definitely stop by the WRSC restaurant, Eat at Joe’s, for the amazing sushi and “Nachos as big as your ass” that you can wash down with a cold Imperial.

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October 23, 2010

POTD: Playa Tamarindo

playa tamarindo

playa tamarindo

For the past two years my friends and I have gone down to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Playa Tamarindo. This is the camp’s backyard. Not bad, eh?

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April 18, 2010

Travel insurance: Worth it?


Despite visiting some places that average person might consider “sketchy”, I rarely purchase travel insurance. In fact, the first time I ever purchased travel insurance was for my April 2009 trip to Costa Rica. I figured that since I would be spending most of my time surfing, the additional medical insurance might be worthwhile if I was injured. I was required to purchase travel insurance for my September 2009 trip to North Korea, in case I stumbled across a landmine or was injured on a roller coaster and needed to be evacuated out of the country. Thankfully, I never had to use that policy.

I did, however, finally get the chance to put my travel insurance policy to work this past February, when I went to Costa Rica. The night before I was scheduled to fly to Costa Rica, American Airlines canceled my February 13th flight and notified me that they could not get me to Costa Rica until February 15th. They had also scheduled me for a 13 hour overnight layover at the Miami airport. As you could imagine, I was rather pissed off, but a quick call to TravelGuard confirmed that my $70 policy covered trip delays and interruptions, so I could expect to get some of my hotel and food expenses covered.

Still, I’m a bit distrustful of insurance companies, so I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get reimbursed. As soon as I returned to the U.S. from Costa Rica, I called TravelGuard and filed a claim with one of their excellent customer service representatives. They asked me to send them several documents (trip itinerary, reason for flight cancellation, etc) and receipts. A few weeks later I received a check for $477.71, which covered my hotel and food expenses in DC and Miami as well as the two days of pre-paid lodging and surf lessons that I missed due to American Airlines’ inability to get me to Costa Rica on time. Again, I was pleasantly surprised because this was a higher amount than I was told to expect and I received the check several weeks earlier than I thought I would.

Overall, I was very pleased with TravelGuard and would definitely recommend them if you are thinking about insuring your travels.


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February 26, 2010

Costa Rica photos


Photos from my week at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica, with daytrips to the Arenal Volcano and Playa Avellana.








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February 12, 2010

Back to Costa Rica


After spending nine days in SoCal, I’m off to Costa Rica for another a week of surf, beer, and nachos at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. More on that trip (and North Korea, China, Central Europe, and London) when I return. In the meantime, I’ll be posting photos from Costa Rica on my Twitter account.


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August 30, 2009

Costa Rica: I’m here to surf, not overthrow your government

I didn’t have much to write about regarding my April trip to Costa Rica because it basically consisted of surfing, eating, and drinking. In fact, the only semi-funny thing that happened to me while in Costa Rica occurred when my flight landed at the Liberia airport.

The Costa Rican government requires that visitors fill out a landing card which you then submit to the immigration officer. It’s just some basic information, like name, date of birth, passport number, address, etc. For the occupation question I simply wrote “analyst” without identifying the organization I work for.

The queue at immigration was moving quickly, as the officers would take a cursory glance at each visitor’s passport, stamp it, and then promptly wave them towards the customs area. Except for me.

Despite having taken three years of Spanish in high school and being forced to spend part of my summer at Spanish camp in Minnesota (yeah, figure that one out) I really had no idea what the two officers were saying as they passed around my passport. The only word I recognized was “analista”, which the officers said repeatedly as they flipped through my passport pages, examining every visa.

“Hmmm…analista, analista, analista.”

Finally, one of the officers stamped my passport, handed it back to me, and smirked.

“Goodbye, analista político.”

And that was the only time in my life when I’ve wanted to say to someone, “No, no, you’ve got it all wrong, I work in the oil industry.”

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June 24, 2009

Costa Rica: Buena Vista Lodge

horseback riding buena vista costa rica


In addition to the zip line tour, we partook in a few other activities while at the Buena Vista Lodge.

 Costa Rica: Buena Vista Lodge
We went horseback riding. This is my horse. He was kind of a bully and would bite the other horses in our group.

 Costa Rica: Buena Vista Lodge
They made us wear these ridiculous helmets. Where I grew up, you only wore cowboy hats when riding horses, but whatev.

 Costa Rica: Buena Vista Lodge
In addition to being an eco-tourism center, Buena Vista is also a cattle ranch.

 Costa Rica: Buena Vista Lodge
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano
We rode our horses to the spa area, where we sat in a steam room and then slathered our bodies in volcanic mud. It’s supposed to be good for your pores or something.

 Costa Rica: Buena Vista Lodge
After the mud has dried, you then wash it off with a cold shower. A lot of the tourists were whining that the water was too cold, but after two to three weeks of taking ice cold showers in Moscow and Petersburg, this was nothing. Amateurs.

 Costa Rica: Buena Vista Lodge
After you have scrubbed off all the volcanic mud, you then proceed to hang out in the hot springs. Following that, you sit in the sun and drink beer. Not a bad day trip.

 Costa Rica: Buena Vista Lodge


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June 18, 2009

Costa Rica: Zip Line Canopy Tour



One of the most popular tourist activities in Costa Rica is the canopy tour, which entails clipping a carabiner to a steel cable that has been strung between two platforms and traveling to the next platform via this steel cable. We did the zip line at the Buena Vista Lodge, which had eleven platforms and ten cables.

Before heading to the zip line course, the employees fit you in a harness and give you a helmet and pair of construction gloves that are reinforced with an incredibly thick piece of leather across the palm. We then trudged through the jungle to the first platform, where they instructed us how to brake (pull down on the cable…ah, so that’s what those gloves are for) and what to do if you get stuck in between the platforms (uh, stuck?). And then we were off…for ten cables with incredible views of the rainforest.

It was fun, but I’m not sure if I really have any desire to do it again. I’m not that scared of heights, but it’s a bit different when you are standing on a creaky platform 100+ feet above the ground and angry monkeys are howling and baring there teeth five feet away from you. Also, all I could think of was that episode of The Office where Toby breaks his neck because of a zip line harness failure.

Here is a video of Sam on the zip line. Apologies for the poor camera work, but I was using a Flip MinoHD and was clinging to the tree for dear life (you’re always attached to some cable with the secondary safety line, but, uh, yeah…).





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June 15, 2009

Costa Rica: Surf Trip to Playa Avellanas

On Friday, our last full day in Costa Rica, we grabbed our surf gear, hopped on the Witch’s Rock Surf Camp bus at 6am and headed to Playa Avellanas, a few miles south of Tamarindo. Here are a few photos from that trip.










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