Culture Shock in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

I am in culture shock within the first few minutes of arriving in Tamarindo after having spent seven days in the secluded, lush and quiet hamlet of Guiones only fifty miles south, but a world apart. Paved roads, lines of traffic, dozens of pedestrians on the shoulders along any 100 meter stretch of the road. Barely a view to the beach – so jam packed is the beach-side street with stores, restaurants, hotels, hostels and outdoor markets. A pickup truck with a loudspeaker makes its way down the main drag – its prerecorded announcement shouting out the attractions of the newest bar in town. Nicaraguan peasants blow bird calls through hollowed out wooden whistles and hawk a collection of hand-made beads, bracelets and other ornaments to passers by. A man with a mostly full bottle of vodka in one hand and a cup of iced liquid in the other staggers and props himself against a telephone pole while muttering as I pass by. Shirtless young men strut their stuff, their board shorts pulled low below their navels all but inviting further investigation. Girls in sarongs cluster, stroll, shop but curiously pay no attention to the guys. Am I the only one taking notice?

I slept soundly in Guiones. The fourteen of us at the surf resort were crashed out and regenerating for a new day of surfing by 10pm each night. Last night, the fourteen or so other guests at the hostel in Tamarindo were awake and sharing and laughing well into the late hours of the night. The self proclaimed “Meanest Night Club in Tamarindo” next door blared music into the night air until 1:30am. I was dead tired for my 6:00am surf session. And it could have been a great session – out on the boat, anchored off shore at Playa Grande, head high waves, no crowd. Not even dunking into the ocean water helped. I found myself yawning as I waited for sets. A few waves, a few wipeouts, a lot of sitting on my board trying to rev up. It was not to be. I paddled back to the boat after only an hour. I struggled to stay alert as the boat driver kept trying to engage me in a back and forth. The one other guy who came out with us stayed out for a good while longer. I closed my eyes on and off wanting to nod off.

I had breakfast alone when I got back to shore.

I woke up so refreshed yesterday morning in sweet Guiones. I didn’t surf, thinking that one day off would reenergize me for these three days in Tamarindo. It’s noon here now. I’m going to put in the ear plugs, take a nap and perhaps drift back south.