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Costa Rica: The Land of Beautiful Scenery, Wonderful People, and Bar El Cruce

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By George Horning

Ok, so I got back from Costa Rica about 3 weeks ago, and I have been meaning to write about our trip since then. The first week I spent recovering from my vacation hangover and crying in my beer because I wasn’t still in Costa Rica. Excuse #1. Then I spent the last week and a half being sick and not feeling like doing anything. Excuse #2. I didn’t want to try and justify an Excuse #3, so here I am, sitting inside on a nice, sunny afternoon, reminiscing about our vacation and giving you guys some of the highlights (well, beer related highlights, at least). First of all, let’s be very clear about one thing. Costa Rica is the most wonderful and welcoming place I have ever been.

Granted, I haven’t been to a lot of places outside of the United States, but I have been a lot of places in the U.S., and I have never been so awestruck. We were there at the end of the dry season, so it was a little more brown than it normally is, but it is still more green by a long shot than anywhere is Southern California. And when it did rain a little towards the end of our trip, everything turned noticeably greener. We were visiting the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica in the Northwest corner of the country, very close to the Nicaragua border. We didn’t have much of an itinerary, other than to just get out and see as much as we could in the short amount of time we had there.

guanacaste surf map

guanacaste surf map

Coincidentally, a girl my girlfriend works with was with her husband, also on vacation in the area, so we decided to give it a go together and explore the area. First stop, Tamarindo. Tamarindo is a small beach town, with a few very popular surf breaks. Since no one in our group surfs, this wasn’t our reason for visiting. We had just heard this was a fun place to hang out, and our traveling companions have family that lives in town that they wanted to visit. So we made our way to Tamarindo, which was a little over an hour away from our hotel by car. Not bad at all. The roads are paved and easy to drive. Now, signage to keep you on the correct road is another thing altogether, but if you are paying attention (or have GPS, like we did), you can get where you want to go fairly easily.

Volcano Brewing Co.

Volcano Brewing Co.

I had heard there was a brewery here, but I had no idea what to expect, and now, almost a month later, I’m still not quite sure if we actually drank at the brewery. I’m guessing no, but one of you might be able to help me out on this. The doors were locked to the brewery, but just to the left of us, looking at the picture above, was an outdoor bar, that had a couple of beers on tap. The tap handles had the names of the beers on them, but not the actually name of the brewery they came from. They actually had these beers on tap at our hotel, but again, no brewery name on the handles. The few people that were working there were wearing Volcano Brewing t-shirts, so, one might think we were at the right place, but I’m not convinced. I did a little research after we got home, and the beers they had on tap were not the ones that Volcano lists as theirs. The ones we were drinking were Segua Red Ale and Libertas Tropical Golden Ale, both made by Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Company. Here’s a couple of pictures below of where we were hanging out next to the brewery. They’re a little blurry, but you get the idea.

The temperature in Tamarindo that day had to be over 85 degrees, and the humidity somewhere over 70%. That equals hot and sticky. It was hard to get the beer down fast enough to have it not be pretty warm by the end. I could live with this problem, since I was here for the lifestyle and the weather, much more than I was here for the beer. I drank it because it is what was available, and I wanted to give it a shot. Is it as good as the stuff I can get at home? Nope. Is it good because you can drink it on the beach, in near perfect weather with your friends? Yep. I certainly wasn’t complaining, and if I was lucky enough to live in Costa Rica, I would have no problem drinking it every day. We screwed around in town for the day, and eventually ended up back at the hotel. It was a great day with new friends, and it is one I will never forget.

Bar El Cruce

Bar El Cruce

Now, by our hotel, there is not much going on. The hotel is out a road that dead ends into the hotel and the surrounding properties. There are locals houses along the road, but there are no stores, no restaurants, and only one bar, but for my girlfriend and I, we thought it was THE bar. Bar El Cruce. The Cross. A truly local establishment, with only locals in it (if anyone was there at all). We stopped here on the way to the hotel the first day, to ask for directions, because this road seemed like it was going nowhere, and we didn’t have the luxury of GPS in our little rental SUV (which was a total piece of crap that left us stranded multiple times, but I won’t get into that). They weren’t open when we stopped, but the guy that was there did his best to tell us we were on the right road to the hotel. He even sold us a couple of Imperial’s. We took a couple of pictures, and decided this was the right way to start a trip and was exactly what we both wanted.

This place quickly became our go to spot to get off the hotel property and go drink cheap beer and hang out with locals that didn’t speak a lick of English. This was also another place that the car wouldn’t start, and the local guys that were at the bar with us couldn’t have jumped up any faster to help us. That was how everyone was on our entire trip. It was almost like they were waiting to help you, and would spend their whole day helping you if that is what it took to get the job done. I can’t say enough about how great everyone we encountered was. This truly is a special country, full of extremely kind and generous people. We can’t wait to go back.

Raining at Bar El Cruce

Raining at Bar El Cruce

We spent our last two evenings at Bar El Cruce, attempting to talk to the people inside, and watching thunderstorms pass over us. Dogs, cats, and chickens roamed freely, never straying too far from the bar. We drank $2 Imperial’s and $3 shots of Jose Cuervo. We sat and talked. We walked around the property. The locals smiled and shook our hands when they stopped in. All the time we were there, the only people we saw were locals, which is what we wanted. They’d come and go. They’d stop in to talk with the owners of the place, just to chit chat and relax. We thought it was perfect. It was the first place we stopped after we landed, and the last place we stopped before we took off. I do hope I get back there one day, hopefully sooner than later. Pura Vida!

A moment of reflection. I had many on this trip.

A moment of reflection. I had many on this trip.

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