It’s hard to believe it’s already been 10 years since we first set foot in Tamarindo, but then I look back at the photos from that first year and realize how long ago that actually was. Oh my, how we have changed. The kids were so little back in 2011. SO little. I wasn’t quite as grey or wrinkled (i.e. distinguished!). We didn’t have a dog. Erin was a fairly new yoga instructor. We didn’t have a YouTube business. I’d never taken a single real estate photograph. We spoke zero Spanish. The list goes on and on. We had no idea how embedded into Tamarindo we would become during those first few months. We dreamt about calling it home but had no idea if that could become the reality. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could live here half the year and back in Colorado for the other half?” Fun to dream about, but the reality is a whole different story. Or so we thought. Needless to say, with a lot of hard work, sacrifice, dedication, compromise, drive, and passion, we were able to turn that dream into a reality.
All 5 of us have had to make big decisions each year, we had to know what we were sacrificing and in turn, what we were gaining. We renewed and reviewed our decisions every year to make sure we all continued to agree about the path we were on and whether it was still the right plan for the entire family as a whole. Some years it was a no-brainer and some years we had to really evaluate things to make the final decision.
School was always one of the biggest factors in the annual debate about spending another semester in Tamarindo and leaving Colorado (both in favor of leaving and the benefits of staying). Our kids have never experienced a Homecoming. They’re rarely in the yearbook since most content comes from the first semester. Some years they have learned different content in Costa Rica than in the States and the start of the second semester can be challenging to get caught up. They know Central America’s geography and history better than US Geography and history.
We have always made it back to Tamarindo each year though, and for that, we are all grateful. Each one of us can confidently say that we would be very different people today had we not spent the last 10 years going back and forth between Tamarindo and Colorado. We’ve been changed.
The town and the community have changed as well. A lot. We’ve only been here for 10 years, many of our friends have been here much longer than us, but 10 years is plenty of time to see things change, that’s for sure. Tamarindo was a fairly sleepy town a decade ago.
When we rolled into town, we flew into Liberia and landed at a large Red Barn airport. There were no jetways, food courts, fancy customs processing, or even baggage carousels. It was simple, hot, crowded, and a little overwhelming. The new airport opened during our first 8 months here but you can still see the red barn on the Liberia airport property. The only paved road in Tamarindo was the road entering the town and going to the rotunda. Nothing else was paved. I remember all the dust at the restaurants that faced the main dirt street.
The entire town was empty when we arrived in early December of 2011. There were virtually no tourists so it was strangely quiet. We could walk down the beach any time of the day and see maybe a total of 15-25 people the entire time. We stood out around town and we started to be referred to as “The Family / La Familia” because there were no other visiting families of 5 at that time of year. We didn’t have a kitchen for the first 2 months, so we ate out at restaurants that were open in December and made many friends with the staff and owners. People were curious about us. It was a really fun time to be in Tamarindo. We are still friends with a number of those people and have watched their kids grow up right before our eyes. Throughout the years we’ve made so many friends, many of whom have since left Tamarindo and returned back to their native countries and locations. Some are still here though, all these years later. The population changes constantly down here, but there is a core group of people that are consistent and part of our life down here.
The infrastructure has also evolved in a massive way since those early days. The power would go out multiple times per week during our first year in town, the water would run out for hours or even days at a time and the internet was so unreliable it was almost too frustrating to try. When the holiday crowds came in for a few weeks, the power was constantly out, the cell phone service never worked and the internet basically quit functioning. Things are so very different now. While I don’t love all of the changes and evolutions the town has gone through, the improvements in utilities and services have been extremely welcome. Our internet in Tamarindo is now twice as fast as our internet in Colorado! We’ve had one short power outage over the last 3 months and the water is always working to some capacity at least. More and more roads have been paved and that is both good and bad. It helps prevent the monster pot-holes that the rainy season creates which is great, but it also seems to be a pass for many drivers to increase their speeds and fly through town. Our quiet corner leading to the beach was very mellow 10 years ago, now we might wait for minutes at a time while the traffic passes from all directions before we can walk across the street safely.
Construction is going on everywhere these days. Tamarindo is clearly no longer a sleepy beach town, it’s become a thriving destination and the housing, retail, and restaurant industries have seen a huge gain. There is a road behind our house that we call the “back road”. It used to be the magical road to nowhere with lush greenery, huge trees, and calm and quiet air making it a great place for a walk. We filmed a short film back there (The Chase) and the setting was as if it was the middle of the jungle. We have taken 3 of our recent Holiday Card photos back there because it was so stunning. Sadly none of those photos would be possible today because of the development and growth. There are entire neighborhoods being built back there. The huge tree that was the focus of our short film isn’t even there anymore. Now it’s just a trunk. And the noise. Our walks are not nearly as relaxing back there these days with the increased traffic and the construction noise everywhere. But that’s part of the deal. The flip side is that our home in Tamarindo, which is a vacation rental during the portions of the year we are not in town, is booking very well and is thriving with the increased growth and popularity of Tamarindo. There are always two sides to every coin.
The energy in town is another element that has changed so much in the last 10 years. It was very easy to know what season we were in by looking at the activity in town. The crowds would grow during the holidays and then level off until Spring Break and then they’d lower substantially until summer was in full swing. The Fall was almost empty and the cycle would start over again as mid-December approached. These days the tourism cycle seems to be running in full swing year-round. There has not been much of a drop in crowds this Fall and the energy in town has remained high and vibrant. Additionally, there seem to be a substantial amount of families that have relocated here for a fixed period of time to try something different, just like we did all those years ago. There are a lot of them now though. We have met countless numbers of families that have moved here for 6 to 12 months to try it out, and most of them love it. Long-term rentals are almost impossible to find this year and every school around the area has a waiting list to get in. The energy in town has shifted to include both a tourism element as well as a family-friendly vibe. Of course, that also leads to more traffic, less parking, and more crowds, but that’s to be expected in a place as desirable as Tamarindo. I will be curious to see how much of the recent spike in both tourism and families coming to town for a year is related directly to Covid and how much is the new normal. I’m not sure at this point, but for now, it’s certainly the reality.
Tamarindo is a living organism, and just like our family over the last 10 years, the town has grown up and changed. And it will continue to grow and evolve, as will our family. I’m so grateful that we have those memories to look back on and reflect upon when the kids were young and the town was small, I will always hold those near to my heart. I’m excited to see where we all go in the future and I’m glad we’re along for the ride. Thanks for 10 years, Tamarindo. Cheers to the next 10!