Gregory Angulo – A Bright Future

When you own a vacation home in a foreign country it’s hard to remember that not everyone is taking a break from the office.  In fact most folks you see walking around are going about their every day lives – going to work, and going to school.  Nary an umbrella-garnished beverage in sight.

The La Paz Community School in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

The La Paz Community School in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Last year we were asked by Carolyn Herman if we would like to donate to the La Paz Community School, which her children were attending.  We obviously weren’t familiar with the School but it seemed like a worthwhile organization.  Upon further research on the School’s curriculum and programs we agreed and made a donation.  The La Paz Community School is an International bi-lingual non-profit organization offering experiential education to grades pre-school through high school to expat and local children.

Shortly after sending in our donation we received a packet of information from La Paz.  Our donation was not simply that, but was also being used to fund a scholarship for a local young man named Gregory Angulo.  A packet of information was sent to us detailing Gregory’s accomplishments in school and on the soccer field.  It seemed to us a great use of the money and it was nice to have a name and a face to go with it.

This year we renewed our commitment this year and today received our update on Gregory’s progress.  Two of his teachers talked about Gary as a student and a member of the La Paz community and what a pleasure it is to have him in both the classroom and on the playing field.  In addition a handwritten letter from his mother (translated by the School) also expressed her pride in Gregory’s contributions to the family and growth as a young man.

Visitor leaving the Liberia airport driving to the Villa pass several areas designated “Escuela” (School) and often times groups of young people in their school uniforms can be spotted walking alongside of the road.  It’s gratifying for us to know that we are help one of these young people even in a small way.  Our hope is that when Gregory grows up he too will be able to support the efforts of someone just like himself.

If you’re interested in making a donation to the La Paz Community School click here.

9 Days in Paradise Day 9

So this is it. Last day. It couldn’t have been more perfect. The weather was beautiful, cloudless sky, with a healthy dose of wind. Saw our friends from #7 off, after enjoying a delicious egg breakfast made by Galit. Hopefully they will get home without too much of a delay. Lots of snow in New York with temperatures in the single digits!

For lunch we finished up the fresh tuna with some mango and avocado. Got in a little swimming and a nice walk on the beach. Threw in a load of laundry. As we did last time we are going to leave our clothes down here. That was we don’t have bring clothes down the next time we come.

I totally enjoyed my first pair of board shorts and plan on buying a pair or two more on our next trip. Everyone eears them and I can see why. If you come down here you should buy a pair , they’re so comfortable. The good thing about Costa Rica is that nothing is really dressy, so you don’t really ever need to pack a lot.

For dinner we went to Wok N Roll again. Really great food and reasonably priced. The owners Candce and Roman are very friendly and welcoming, too!

Our flight tomorrow isn’t until 2:55, so we can have a leisurely morning before heading off to the airport.

9 Days in Paradise Day 8

So it’s starting to become clear that our vacation is nearing then end. My thoughts turn to snow (which Hudson is apparently getting a bit of today) and less of surf. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is over by any stretch of the imagination. The reason for my mood comes from the fact that our new friends from #7 had their flight from Houston to Newark cancelled due to the weather. We told them last night that, since they have renters in their unit they should feel welcome to come back here and stay with us. As predicted it did (flight got cancelled) and they did (came back and are staying with us tonight).

They really weren’t here very long before they headed out for a day at homerightthe beach. So, we hung out and had lunch – leftover ceviche and tuna tartare. I don’t know how but the stuff gets better with time!

We also met today with Richard Mueller, the original architect for the Villas Cerca Del Mar complex, to discuss spending the upstairs front bathroom to make it the master. He’s a very nice guy and should be a pleasure to work with. A lazy afternoon by the pool included some reading and a swim.

We enjoyed dinner tonight with our property management owners Carolyn and Kevin Herman and their great kids Grace and Charlie at Schlomy’s. Really great.

Home for a nightcap before facing our last day.

9 Days in Paradise Day 7

Tomorrow marks one week here.  Time to make sure we enjoy the remaining days to he fullest, so today started…with a great cup of coffee! The wind is back, but so nice to wake up to all the fresh air in the morning. Caught up on yesterday’s blog post and put it up.

imageI really wanted to get a raft for the pool yesterday, which didn’t happen, so today a float is totally in the cards. Lunch of the fresh seabass ceviche hit the spot. Heard it’s snowing at home, so that made lunch that more delicious!

We were invited to a neighbor’s for sunset drinks. What a imagesunset! What a FABULOUS home right on the beach, and Sandy our hostess couldn’t be more gracious. We are so glad to have met her! She has great stories of happenings since she fist bought her home 11 years ago.

Back home for a fresh beet salad with goat cheese, cold grilled chicken breasts with sesame green beans. Chilling’ out before bed. Then some good zzzz’s.

9 Days in Paradise Day 6

It’s Sunday.  A day, yet another, of rest.  We’ve gotten into our routine, a blissful and casual easing into the day. A quick swim and then lunch of grilled burgers and left over rice salad and fresh sliced tomatoes. Such healthy eating…what happens when we get home?

I had looked for our rafts for the pool to float around on today, but none were in the pool house. I wonder if, like the mysterious wine glasses that have evidently emigrated here from #7 from a previous renter’s enthusiasm, our rafts have drifted over there. Since it’s Sunday a lot of the stores in Tamarindo are closed, so a replacement may not be attainable today.

Another package of the fresh sea bass was turned into a ceviche with fresh local limes (called mandarins, due to the flesh resembling that of the orange), jalapeño, cilantro, red onion, and garlic. A dash of hot sauce and it gets to sit overnight for lunch tomorrow.

imageA leisurely afternoon was followed by a shower and a drink. We invited our neighbor from #7 and her daughter down before dinner. As it turns out we were planning on going to the same place – La Palapa, the restaurant we tried to go to earlier. We got a table for four, and when we went to order our FAVORITE dish, the whole fried red snapper, our waiter told us they were out of it. Ugh. We were there a little late, so it may have been partially due to that. Our dinner was good none the less.

Then back tithe Villa, a friendly “good night” and off to sleep.

9 Days in Paradise Day 5

Yes. We awoke to yet another stunning day! Saturday here when you’re on vacation just means you get to CONTINUE to relax. We had our breakfast of a freshly baked cinnamon sugar muffin and strong Costa Rican coffee. Then we were off to the weekly Tamarindo Farmer’s Market.

imageNot your typical FM. Just a handful of vendors selling their wares from home grown vegetables to jams and preserves. We bought a bag of what we think are limes (although we’re not sure), a very large mango (to use up the rest of the lovely tuna in a tuna tartare), an even larger beet (the size of a large softball) for a goat cheese and beet salad..We even bought a small package of sliced smoked tuna to enjoy with cocktails.

Back to the Villa (we’re certainly getting a lot of walking in on this trip!) for a quick “dip” and lunch. Afterwards there was a knock on the door and we had the pleasure of meeting one of the other owners Linda and Steve from #9. They are the first we have met, although we’ve spoken to the owners of #7 previously. Very nice folks who come down for a few months each year, but also have homes in The Hamptons and Miami. They were one of the original owners at Villas Cerca del Mar. We agreed to visit their home for a drink later, which we did.

We headed off to a new restaurant, Lilly’s Langosta, and had an imageexcellent dinner (check out my review on Trip Advisor), during which we ran into the owners of #7 and #5 VCDM. So in the course of one day we went from knowing none of the other owners to knowing three. Go figure!

After dinner it was home for a glass of wine. Tomorrow is another day!

9 Days in Paradise Day 4

The day started great, with a dragonfly landing on my toe.  The sun was shining (naturally).  The beauty ofimage being down here , besides the beauty down here, is that you can do as much or as little as you want.  After coffee and a muffin we decided to take a long walk on the beach.

We started by slathering suntan lotion all over.  Best way to ruin a imagevacation?  Get a grade 5 sunburn! It was a great walk with our toes in the surf as we got to forget about any worries and just enjoy the day. Then back to the Villa for lunch – no grocery store shopping today!

Our housekeeper Jucilla arrived and got all the new sheets and towels in the wash. After a year of pretty heavy use some of the old ones needed replacing. We had a great catch up meeting with UR property management owner, Carolyn. Things here are going really well, and their rental business is very strong. Good to know.

9 Days in Paradise Day 3

WOW! Overnight the wind really picked up, which for us is great – we aren’t big fans of air conditioning. Yes, the Villa is fully air conditioned, but we prefer the fresh air, which is plentiful where we are. But last night the “fan” got turned up.

We woke up this morning and had to secure some of the windows and doors, but the sun is shining and it’s going to be another beautiful day. Duncan whipped up a batch of fresh blackberry muffins. We had some workmen here touching up the stucco. We didn’t have to ask them twice if they’d like a muffin and coffee!

image Took  a walk into Tamarindo to buy a pair of board shorts. Since surfing is the #1 sport here I thought I’d try to blend in. So many to choose from! Got back in time for lunch; leftovers from our dinner at Wok N Roll. A leisurely afternoon was followed by an evening swim and shower before heading out to dinner.

We decided to stop for a drink at the Langosta Beach Club and ran into Darryl, one of the Club’s owners. Chatted with him for a bit then walked the rest of the way into town.

We intended on having dinner at La Palapa, one of our favorites for fried whole red snapper. Unfortunately they were having a wedding event. We spent the next 45 minutes wandering around and ended up at Dragonfly, a continental restaurant off the beaten path. It was very good – steak for both of us with tuna tartare and mahi mahi fish cakes for starters.

Walked back home passing by Lilly’s (I thought it was Milly’s) and were happy to see they were pretty busy. Then off to bed.

9 Days in Paradise Day 2

Nothing beats a night’s sleep!  Woke this morning to a beautiful day.  After some great local coffee and Duncan’s fresh baked cheese muffins we just hang out by the pool.  Shortly we head back to buy some lunch meats which we forgot yesterday.  We decide to try a new store, Mega Super.  Duncan feels their meat prices are better than Auto Mercado.

I also had to get stuff to make Ina Garten’s tuna tartare, which meant we had to go to AM any way.  Back to the Villa for sandwiches by the pool.  I started dinner and got the tuna tartare all done, only using half of what we ordered.  Then I made a cold black bean and rice salad for a side.

It was pretty toasty warm so I took a swim then sat by the pool and read.  D meanwhile continued on his new needlepoint piece.  Before you knew it it was 5:00 and time to get showered.  The plan was to have a drink at the Villa then journey over to the Beach Club for a drink.  We decided to stay in for the night instead.  There’ll be plenty of time to go to the LBC.

Our “exciting night” ended with a few games of Angry Birds, then to bed.

9 Days in Paradise Day 1

So we often get asked what it’s like to spend a week in Costa Rica.  Well for the next 9 days we’re going to post our comings and goings, finding new places to shop, eat and explore.  Come along as we share our slice of paradise.

Day 1: Travel from JFK.  Jet Blue #1691 was delayed due to rain and a missing flight crew.  After an hour we finally boarded.  If you take this flight, or any others, invest in the “extra legroom” upgrade – for the 5 hour flight it is so worth it.

We arrived just around 3:00 local time.  After securing our rental car from Adobe we got to the Villa around 4:15 (got behind some slow drivers!).  We did make a stop at RPM Services, our property management company to pick up some fresh fish we ordered the day before.  Fresh tuna and sea bass tastes better in Costa Rica!

Once we dropped off our bags we headed off to Auto Mercado for our first grocery shop of the trip.  This. Trip tends to be the biggest as we are stocking up on the basics.  Auto Mercado is just like a grocery store we have at home.  They accept all credit cards and US$.

Back to the Villa to unpack everything. On the ride home we decided to have our first dinner out. There is a place in Tamarindo I had been wanting to try called Wok N Roll. Ignoring the kitschy name we went for dinner around 7:30, after having a drink at home.

Wok N Roll offers Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines, and everything we had was excellent. We had the pleasure of meeting the owners, who were very pleasant and happy to hear we enjoyed ourselves. We both agreed that WNR was worth another visit before we went home.

We walked the 20 minutes back to the Villa. We had passed a new place called Milly’s in a spot that had closed just after we bought the Villa 2 years ago. We decided to stop in for a nightcap. The bartender was very energetic and the creative mind behind some of their cocktails. D stayed with his standard, but I tried one of the bartender’s creations: a gin and tonic made with fresh fruit and black pepper infused gin. It was actually really good.

As for the menu, it looks sort of standard, but I think we might try it to support the new business.

Back home and to bed after a rather long day.

The Wall

IMG_1687While neither a classic album by Pink Floyd nor a setting for adventures in “Game of Thrones”, our wall is still pretty special to us.

For those of you who have yet to join us down in Costa Rica, both the exterior and interior walls of The Villa aren’t actually painted.  They’re stucco.  So the color used in the stucco creates the colors throughout The Villa.  On the inside, we kept the same bright yellow that historically has created a great tropical feeling.  On the outside, we kept (and updated) the Terra Cotta color that plays so well off the greens of our gardens and the blue of the private pool.

And our Wall is the backdrop against which all of this wonderful color happens.  It’s also the last piece of The Villa to get its new stucco…so with it, the entire Villa is back to its original appearance.  This has been a long project, lasting over several months between renters.  But we couldn’t be happier with the finished product and can’t wait to show it off to all of our new renters.

How about coming down and visiting us and seeing our Wall?

Maintaining our Beautiful Villa

IMG_0001 IMG_0005

When you’re located only 150 yards from the ocean and the beach, the exterior of your property constantly needs to be maintained.  Some owners prefer to take a “deferred maintenance” approach, where repairs and replacements are made only after failure.  However, we believe that preventive maintenance not only enhances the overall property, but that it also extends useful life of the various components.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve intentionally scheduled some “down time” from our rental schedule to do some of this preventive maintenance.  During this time, we’ve sanded, painted and sealed  the exterior beams that enhance the pool area and rear gardens of The Villa.  As you can see from the photos, the beams have been totally refurbished and are now ready to last for another 10+ years.  And they look great!

We’ll have more photos of the new glass ceilings in the living room and second bedroom next week, so make sure to check back!

So what exactly IS the rainy season?

The “rainy season” is a period in late summer early fall when Costa Rica experiences a great deal of rain.  In actuality the Tico’s call this the “green season” since during this time areas that are normally arid the rest of the year become lush and verdant.  Our second visit to Villa Encantada was during this time and all we can tell you is we LOVED it!

“Does it rain all day?”  No.  MuchIonian Thunderstorm like other tropical areas the rain on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica arrives in the late afternoon or early evening, after a glorious sunny day, and usually falls for about an hour or slightly more.  But when it rains, it rains!  The storms are usually pretty intense but don’t last long and before you know it the rain has stopped and the storm has moved out to sea.


If you’re lucky enough to be outside you’ll be treated to one of Mother Nature’s best light shows as the storms light up the sky – really beautiful.

This time of year is also a slower period for Playa Langosta, Tamarindo, and nearby towns.  Vacation rental rates are typically at their lowest.  Most restaurants have open availability, shops are eager for business and local activities are readily available.

So don’t be put off when you hear it’s the “rainy season” but instead take the opportunity to see Costa Rica at its greenest!


A Taste of Costa Rica

Quick Pickled Shrimp

Quick Pickled Shrimp

When we’re in Costa Rica eating out, whether lunch or dinner, one of our favorite dishes is ceviche.  Now a lot of people shy away from the dish because the seafood with which it is prepared is “cooked” in a base of lemon juice and/or vinegar and various herbs and spices and has to cure for hours.  We found this recipe for Quick Pickled Shrimp and wanted to give it a try.  In only 40 minutes we had a ceviche which was as close to the the slow “cooked” version as you will find.  Par boiling the shrimp beforehand cuts WAY down on the wait time and the combination of onions, garlic and jalapeno gave the dish just the right pizzazz.

So if you want to try a taste of Costa Rica at home, this is the one to try.


After a short hiatus

We’re back.  It’s not like we really went anywhere it was just that we haven’t had any renters in a few weeks.  This was actually great because it allowed some work to be done to “spruce up” the Villa including new stucco throughout and the installation of a riverock floor in part of the Living Room.

Our next guests are scheduled to arrive tomorrow and we hope they like the new enhancements.

All Roads Lead to ….

Many of our guests experience the “rustic” nature of the roads in the Tamarindo area.  You get used to it.

But now the province of Guanacaste actually DOING something about it!  The video below shows the road heading out of Tamarindo towards Playa Langosta (where the Villa is located) being paved.

Very exciting!  The government is investing in the infrastructure of the area, which is a very positive sign.


The best laid plans

So my intent was to write a daily journal of our adventures at the Villa.  Quite frankly we got too caught up in them to remember to write it down!

We had an amazing time with our friends and family, though.  Ziplining (a first for two of our party) was a big hit.  The Langosta Beach Club set up an amazing table on the beach for my birthday celebration dinner.  Food everywhere we went was fantastic.  It seems everyone fell in love with, and took home a bottle or two of, the Lizano Salsa – an amazing Costa Rican sauce that goes on EVERYTHING!

We tried some new restaurants as well as going back to some of our favorites.  One of the new places included La Palapa (incredible whole fried red snapper), a great spot on the beach that had a live fire eaters/acrobats perform.  Lots of fun.  Went back to Nogui’s, Tiki and The Flying Bull – all totally great!

Lots of sun.  Lots of laughs.

The week went by and before we knew it we were headed back to Liberia.  We’re already looking forward to November.  As we went our separate ways each of asked, “Same time next year?”

Day 2

So, we made it!

Flight etc was easy.  Love Jet Blue.

Yesterday was spent getting settled in, dinner was at Tiki, sans steak tartare.

Today sun and fun.  Grilling tonight.




Packin’ up

So when most people go on vacation they try not to overpack.  For us, that is impossible.  Oh – not with clothes, mind you.  With stuff.

LED light bulbs, new post cards, some knick-knacks from our house we thought might look good at the Villa have our suitcases at close to maximum.  That’s not to forget the two sets of track lighting we’re also bringing down.

As far as clothes go?  Some shorts, tees, polo shirts and undies.  Oh, can’t forget the bathing suit!

So we’re ready to head out.  Just hope our bags make it!

Headed to the Villa!


Thursday morning.  3 a.m.  On the road by 4 a.m.  JFK Long Term Parking.  Jet Blue Flight 1691 arrives 12:52 p.m local time (CST).

Then heaven!

We’re off to the Villa with friends and family for a week.  So we decided to (try to) post to the blog every day to recount our adventures, explorations, dining/cooking findings, etc.

So check back every day for the latest “LIVE” update and send us any questions!

Pura Vida!

The Reviews Keep on Comin’!

When you own a vacation rental a goal is always to ensure that the property you are “selling” meets the needs and, more importantly, the expectations of the guests.  If you undersell the property you risk turning people away, since they don’t get the feeling that the place is that good.  If you oversell the property guests arrive expecting the moon and the stars and instead feel disappointed and “sold a bill of goods”.

So how does an owner know they have the right balance?  Guest reviews.

The best publicity for the Villa, aside from the website, are the “real life” experiences of the people who have rented the place.  Sure, as owners, we think Villa Encantada is phenomenal.  Heck, that’s why we bought it.  When paying guests have such a positive experience, however, and feel compelled to share that experience with potential future renters is when our efforts are rewarded.

So if you’re reading this and considering renting our Enchanted Villa, check out what prior guests have to say.  19 people can’t be wrong!

We couldn’t have said it better

Thanks to Laura F. who, with her family, spent the Thanksgiving holidays at Villa Encantada.

Check out the review here:


Costa Rican wildlife (in its smallest form!)

Baby Hummingbird!

When we were at the Villa two weeks ago we noticed something on the plant just outside the Master Bathroom.  Not really sure what it was Duncan took a closer look, but couldn’t figure it out.  It was small and looked somehow attached to the plant’s branch.

The next day he was out on the verandah just off the Master Bedroom and he saw something flying in the vicinity of the mysterious object.  It turns out the object was a baby Hummingbird in a tiny nest and the flying “object” was one of the baby’s parents coming to feed it.

Totally cool!

If you build it they will come!

No.  We’re not building a new Villa!  What I was referring to was data that was provided to us from Chris Simmons, the real estate broker who sold us Villa Encantada.

The data provided information regarding the number of passengers that passed through Daniel Ouber International Airport (LIR) in Liberia, the primary airport that services the Villa.  September 2012 saw a 53.3% increase over 2011.  19,126 passengers arrived at the newly opened airport!

The other interesting factoid is that eight major airlines offer direct service to LIR from 12 different airports.  LIR is serviced from: Atlanta, Miami, JFK, Newark, Chicago, Minneapolis, Toronto, Montreal, Charlotte, Denver, Dallas and Houston.  This is even greater proof that Costa Rica is becoming an even stronger tourist destination and that trend is only going to continue.

Exclusive Rental Car Special

Guests of the Villa are offered a special package by Adobe Car Rental, the only Costa Rican owned and operated car rental agency. The package includes a discounted rate on any of over 180 new cars and SUV’s , including basic collision insurance, and complimentary use of a pre-paid cell phone. Adobe makes renting with them effortless by providing complimentary pick-up and drop-off at the Liberia Airport.