Ocean Science for Non-Science Majors | Part I: Tides

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You get into Tamarindo just before sunset. As you cruise through town, you notice the ocean is full of surfers riding fun-looking waves and people sitting around on the sand sipping drinks. You head to your Tamarindo vacation rental , unpack, get some dinner, watch a movie with the kids, and call it a night. In the morning, after breakfast, you pack up the fam and head down to the beach. And what a surprise! The water is gone! I mean, the water is still there in the bay, but a huge sandy expanse of beach sparkles in the sun. The waves are small and there aren’t any surfers. What in the world is going on?

Ocean Rocks

Welcome to the Tamarindo tides. The measure of difference between the highest and lowest tide points in this part of the world varies between 6 and 10 feet. It’s not the most drastic difference on the planet, but it makes itself noticed. High tide, low tide—what does it all mean? What time is high tide? Is it dangerous?

Here’s a little “Ocean Science for Non-Science Majors” to help you get your bearings.

First off, what makes the tides?

Tides are caused by the pull of the moon’s gravity. The sun helps too, but the moon does most of the work. You thought all those old-wives-tales about how the moon affects us are just myths? Ha ha. Wait till the tide sneaks in while you’re napping in the sun and steals your favorite sandals. That’ll make you a believer.

Ok. So, the moon creates tides. How?

The moon’s gravity, although you can’t feel it, pulls on the earth. It pulls on everything, with no visible effect on solid things like mountains, deserts, and the house you live in. Water, on the other hand, is another story.
The moon creates tides by causing the water in the oceans to “bulge” out toward it.

Tides Graphic

At full moon and new moon, when the sun and moon are more or less in a straight line with each other, they work together, and the water in earth’s oceans bulges more. These more dramatic tides are called “Spring Tides,”–unrelated to the season they share a name with. At quarter moons, when the sun and moon are at right angles to each other, the water still bulges, but less. These less dramatic tides are called Neap Tides. This is why, while we always have high tide and low tide, some weeks the tides are more drastic than others.

Moon Phases Graphic

I know. That’s heavy science for non-science majors. But wait, someone in the back row is raising a hand…

I understand that moon makes the high tides, but…what about low tides?

That’s an easy one.

The volume of water in the world is the same, so when it’s high tide in Tamarindo, it’s low tide somewhere else. As titanicbelfast.com explains, “Tides are caused by the gravity of both the moon and the sun “pulling” at the water in the sea. Because the Earth is constantly turning, the “pull” of gravity affects different places as each day goes on – so when the tide is “out” in your area, it is “in” somewhere else.

Beach Natural Pool

Ok great. But you still didn’t tell me what time high tide is.

In Tamarindo, every 24-hour period has two high tides and two low tides, so the tide is always going either in or out. The high and low tides are about 6 hours apart, (obviously!) but not exactly. The time between the high and low tides is roughly 5 hours and 45 minutes. The result of this is that the high/low tides tomorrow will always be an average of 45 minutes later than high/low tides today. Give or take. It’s cyclical like everything the moon does.

Maybe when you get to Tamarindo, you notice that the tide is high in the middle of the day. That’s great but don’t get too comfy. Five days later, the high tide will be in the late afternoon. Although change is constant, it’s very predictable, and tide charts, with the times of each day’s high and low tides and the anticipated tide height, are available a year or more in advance.

High Tide

And so is high tide dangerous? Is that when rip currents suck you under?

No, and no. At high tide the water is simply further up on the beach. The safety/danger of the ocean is not directly related to how high or low the tide is at any given moment. That’s a subject for another Ocean Science lesson. So, go for a swim. Have fun. Keep your sandals back from the water. Remember—the tide is always going out or in, so pay attention.

Now, you’re an expert. You’re a savvy, well-educated Costa Rican traveler who knows all about the tides. You pack up the youngsters, check out of your Tamarindo hotel, and head to the Caribbean side of the country, ready to surf the incoming high tide like you did here and…

What? How can this be? There are no tides! Or just barely, anyway. High tide and low tide look pretty much alike as far as you can tell. How in the world is this possible? Is something wrong with the moon?

No. The moon is fine. Follow closely:

Whereas the moon’s gravity creates the tides and determines at what time the high tide and low tide will occur, ocean geography is responsible for how much shift in water height occurs at any given beach. The Caribbean, it just so happens, is famous for extremely small tides. “Compressive geography,” (read, “tight spaces”), not the moon, is responsible for bigger tide ranges.
You don’t mean to be complicated, but you would have thought the curve of the Caribbean was more of a “closed” shape than the Pacific Ocean? This Ocean Science instructor concurs. And yet both of us would be wrong. Costa Rica’s west coast has a much bigger tidal range than the east coast.

World Tides Graphic

Your head is spinning. Is there going to be a test?

No, no test. But if you are assuming that high tide means big waves and low tide means little waves, you’d better make it to the next session of “Ocean Science for Non-Science Majors” class, because you still have lots to learn.

Ocean Tube

Four Mosquito-Borne Diseases, Which One You Should Worry About, and 7 Ways Not to Get It

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You’re coming to Costa Rica on vacation, planning to get a Tamarindo vacation rental home with your family, and hoping to spend a week relaxing in the lush tropical environment. But there’s this nagging fear in the back of your mind. You’ve heard of all the terrible diseases mosquitos can give you. And in the tropics, aren’t there a lot of mosquitos? Why is no one talking about this? Should you be worried?
We’re here to answer your questions and discuss the top 4 mosquito-borne illnesses, how prevalent they are (or are not) in the Tamarindo area, and what you can do to avoid them.


Bugs Repellent for Costa Rica Trip
Repellent makes you invisible to mosquitoes by confusing their sense of smell.


1. The Classic: Malaria
When most people think of mosquito-borne illnesses, malaria is the first thing comes to mind. Luckily for us, malaria is virtually unheard of in Costa Rica and is non-existent in Guanacaste. If anyone suggests that you need malaria-prevention medication for your trip to a Tamarindo Beach resort, please do not listen to him/her. You’d be better off taking something to prevent lightning strikes and Acts of God.

Malaria, unlike other mosquito-born illnesses, is a parasitic infection. It is carried by the night-biting mosquito called Anopheles. An infected Anopheles mosquito bites you, it injects wicked little protozoa into your blood stream with its saliva, the protozoa settle into your liver and there they start causing trouble. They mature, infect red blood cells, begin to multiply inside the red blood cells, and cause these red blood cells to burst. Bursting red blood cells are obviously bad news.
Malaria symptoms are similar to flu symptoms: fevers, chills, possible nausea and vomiting, head aches—and then if the disease continues to progress, things continue to fall apart. We won’t discuss that because none of us are going to get malaria. It’s a non-factor in Costa Rica.

2. The Recent Scare: Zika
The media loves the Zika virus because the media loves drama. We hate to be boring, but you aren’t going to get Zika in Costa Rica either. A few hundred cases were confirmed in the country in 2016, but the numbers have continually decreased, and the epidemic we heard so much about never materialized here. Thank goodness. We aren’t inviting it.
The Zika virus is carried by the day-biting Aades mosquito. Zika’s symptoms are a lot less dramatic than other mosquito-borne illnesses. Many people infected with the Zika virus experience no symptoms at all, or may briefly run a low-grade fever and experience tiredness. Again, easy to confuse with a touch of the flu. Doctors recommend rest and acetaminophen.
The problem with Zika is what happens when a pregnant woman gets it. The virus can spread from the mother’s bloodstream to the baby and can result in microcephaly, brain malformations, and other birth defects. This is obviously no joke. Zika is a terribly destructive virus. But you are not going to get Zika in Costa Rica, especially not in Guanacaste.

3. The Chicken Disease: Chikungunya
Because Chikungunya is hard to pronounce and sounds like it starts with a chicken. What it actually starts with is that same day-biting bad-boy that carries Zika: the Aades mosquito.

According to Wikipedia, your chances of dying from chikungunya are 1 in 1,000. Your chances of feeling like crap if you get it are 100%. About 10 days after an infectious bite, fevers begin, severe joint and muscle pains may occur, rashes, headaches… It lasts for about a week and then fades, leaving you tired but probably immune to future chikungunya infection. So there’s that.

We do have chikungunya in Costa Rica. There is no epidemic, but it does exist–we won’t lie. Honestly, though, the cause of your nausea and headaches is much more likely to be too much guaro than chikungunya. Luckily, it’s not deadly and if you suffer through it once, you will never have to worry about it again.

4. The Actual Concern: Dengue Fever
The actual concern in Costa Rica is dengue fever. Dengue is a virus carried by that infamous day-biting Aades Aegypti mosquito.


Prevent Dengue on your Costa Rica Trip
The Aades Aegypti mosquito has white stripes


Several strains of dengue fever exist, varying in severity and length of illness. A mild strain of dengue may cause a few days of fevers and chills with some headaches. A more dangerous strain of the virus may cause high fevers, severe headaches, intense bone and muscle pains, rashes, and potential internal hemorrhaging. In the very rarest of cases, dengue can be deadly, although so can the flu. One of the four strains of dengue provides lifetime immunity to that strain only, while the other strains not only provide no immunity, but can lead to complications if contracted a second time.
Dengue fever is the most common and mosquito-borne illness in Costa Rica and it does present potential danger. Are you in danger of getting it? Probably not, but it isn’t impossible. Cases of Dengue appear in all of Costa Rica’s provinces every year. Fatalities are so uncommon that the last one I can find record of occurred in 2013.

Where to Go If You Want To Get Dengue
Mosquitos need stagnant water to live and breed, therefore the rainiest regions of Costa Rica are the most prone to mosquito-borne illness. Guanacaste is Costa Rica’s driest region, and Tamarindo is arguably one of the driest parts of Guanacaste. Whew.
Dengue and chikungunya outbreaks are statistically linked to the poorest areas and neighborhoods where trash lying in yards and streets collects stagnant, dirty water. Mosquitos love it. More affluent areas with better hygiene practices and an emphasis on the aesthetically-pleasing (i.e. where it’s important to look pretty) have less trash laying around where water can collect, and mosquitos can breed.

Tamarindo isn’t perfect, but your Tamarindo hotel or vacation rental is kept clean and neat-looking in order to compete for your affections with its clean and neat-looking neighbors. This has the added benefit of giving nasty mosquito populations fewer places to thrive. And nobody gets sick. If you notice that mosquitos are biting you, you should take the following precautions, but don’t let fear of these tiny bloodsuckers ruin your vacation. Not every mosquito carries a disease. Most mosquito bites produce nothing more than an itchy welt.


Batman Mosquito


How to Minimize Mosquito Bites?
a) You could do something insane like refuse to go outside, but we don’t recommend it.
b) Protective clothing helps: long pants, long sleeves, shoes, and socks.
At the beach? Are we serious? Do people really do that? No. Not really. But you could.
c) Wear repellent, especially in the morning and evening hours or in shady areas. Yes, we know DEET is bad for you, but so is dengue. There are natural plant-based repellents without DEET, but they repel dollar bills better than they repel mosquitos. Just saying.
d) Keep the fans on. Mosquitoes can’t fly in the wind.

Fan vs Mosquito
Ceiling fans and floor fans are great for keeping insects of all kinds away.

e) Chill out. Mosquitoes are attracted to higher body temperatures and sweatier skin.
f) Have type A blood–that’s the mosquitos’ least-favorite flavor.
g) Spend as much time as possible surfing. One place nobody ever got a mosquito bite is out in the line-up. In case you wondered.

Now that you’re jungle-ready and have crossed Terror of Small Sharp-Toothed Insects off your list, get your bug repellent, your sunscreen, your flip flops, and get down here to your Tamarindo vacation rental or hotel!

Costa Rica Vacation: Easter vs Semana Santa

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 You’re going to celebrate Easter on April 1st . We’re going to experience Semana Santa the last week in March. Both celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but that’s where the similarities end. Easter is a holiday. Semana Santa is a cultural phenomena that lasts an entire week. We thought you might be interested in learning more.

 In Costa Rica, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a week of vacation. It has its own special foods, its own special tv shows, special rules, in Guanacaste it has lots of ancient native beliefs mixed in with Christian traditions, and everybody who has any means at all within their reach goes to the beach. What? You don’t associate Easter with trips to the beach? You’re obviously not from Costa Rica.

 Semana Santa starts rather unobtrusively on Monday. Schools are closed, but banks and most businesses are still open. Tuesday is pretty much the same. Grandmothers and their helpers here in the province of Guanacaste are busy preparing special foods that are mostly unique corn-based delicacies of indigenous descent, and sweet pudding-type treats made from fruit, sugar cane, and milk. The uncles are out back chopping down a coyol palm and cutting a hole in the trunk to collect palm wine, or “vino de coyol.” Harvested fresh, this is a sweet and pithy juice. Left to ferment, it is an instant hangover in a glass.

 You didn’t interpret “religious festival week” to mean “no alcohol” did you? Oh, good.

 By Wednesday, something is clearly going on. Fewer businesses are open. There’s no place to park at supermarkets which are crowded with people buying special Semana Santa beach supplies: soda crackers, canned tuna and sardines, coca cola, ice, rum, and lots of beer. There’s no place to park at the beach, either. Every car has their windows down and the music playing. Every available twig’s width of shade (because in Semana Santa there is not a leaf left on a tree) has a 3-generation family with picnic blankets, coolers and a few beach chairs parked under it. Maybe a few hammocks to string up somewhere so the babies can take naps.

 It’s festive. It’s lively. It’s overwhelming. It’s about to begin.

 On Thursday, the country, except for supermarkets and their delivery trucks, comes to a screaming halt. Even normal television programming is suspended and replace by days of Bible story-based films from the 1970s. And into the mix of local Costa Ricans from down the road, with Grandma, Aunt Maria and baby Jose, descends an astonishing influx of Costa Ricans from San Jose. This is a whole different population. They’re paler, more affluent, have fancier cars, louder stereos, funny accents, they forgot to bring trash bags again this year, and the young masculine segment of the population loves a bottle of rum and a good fight. It’s interesting.

 But not over. It’s only Thursday morning. The planes carrying the droves of foreigners who have spent big bucks on this peak week are just now beginning to circle the Liberia airport. They have no idea. They think they’re coming to a peaceful getaway. They do not expect to spend hours stuck in traffic in the middle of Tamarindo because the beer delivery truck is blocking traffic one way, the coke delivery truck is blocking traffic the other way, and some genius from San Jose tried to wedge his car through the middle and is now stuck. But hey. It’s Semana Santa. Anything is possible.

 Speaking of beer delivery, this is a novelty; a recent byproduct of the priority Costa Rica gives to Tourism as its major source of income. Until very recently, the sale of alcoholic beverages was strictly forbidden in all of Costa Rica on Thursday and Friday of Semana Santa. It is still forbidden in much of the country, but that is no longer the case in tourist-focused areas like Tamarindo. So, yes. At least the truck blocking the traffic is bringing the beer we all need by now.

 Costa Ricans old enough to carry a driver’s license remember not only when the whole country when dry for 2 days on Thursday and Friday, they remember when no stores would have been open anyway. They remember that on Holy Thursday and Friday there was no bus service in Costa Rica.

 Costa Ricans with children old enough to hold a driver’s license remember when it was highly frowned upon to use transportation of any type including a bicycle on Thursday and Friday. In those days, custom forbade people from going off into the forests to collect fruit and especially forbade them from climbing trees. They believed that evil-intentioned dwarves roamed the forest during the holiest days of Holy Week, and could take you away with them if they caught you. A person who climbed a tree might grow a tail and become a monkey-person. You laugh now and shake your head, but it wasn’t a joke and it wasn’t a bit funny.

 So back to lucky us in modern times, when we can climb a trees, purchase groceries and go to a bar in Semana Santa if we darn well please. But that’s where your purchase power stops. Groceries and souvenirs.

 Vacation rental managers like us have a special challenge in Semana Santa because not only are our homes filled with the most privileged clients (as in those choosing to pay the highest prices), but zero supply or service companies are open. No light bulbs for sale. No water heaters, toilet flush valves, air conditioner capacitors, coffee makers, universal remote controls, beach towels, hinges, blender jars, no way to replace a damaged window pane, no pillows, no new tanks of propane for the stove or bbq, and no locksmiths so for the love of God do not lose the key! We try to think of everything ahead of time but of course we never do. If the internet company needs to do a reset on their end to restore a service, we can call them on Monday along with everybody else.

 It’s amazing. It’s frenetic. It’s Semana Santa in Guanacaste. Pura vida!

 Friday is like Thursday, and Saturday is like Friday with one small exception. Folklore (think the dwarves in the forest) hold that on Holy Saturday, it always rains. I will interject an editorial comment here to counter that it does not always rain on Holy Saturday, but I can say that in my 23 Semana Santas, it has rained a surprising number of times. So just to be safe, stay out of the forest. And alcohol is now legal again, although it’s been flowing freely here at the beach the whole time, so the rest of the country tries to catch up with us.

 And on Sunday, Easter Sunday, the day for pretty dresses and bunnies and bonnets, pastel-painted eggs, ham, chocolate, lilies and maybe a mimosa, the party is over. A bleary, sandy, sunburned caravan of hangovers rumbles out of town toward San Jose or wherever they came from. On Monday, it’s back to work. Everybody in Guanacaste breathes a sigh of relief. The beach breathes a sigh of relief. Anybody with a conscience grabs a trash bag and pitches in.

 That’s Semana Santa, and this is what we do. See ya on the other side of it

Featured Resort: Crystal Sands Condominiums

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The Crystal Sands resort located just south of Tamarindo Costa Rica is a place where turquoise waters meet white sand beaches and exclusive vacation rental condominiums spare no luxury.  This is beachfront living at its finest.  Every residence within the Crystal Sands resort enjoys a 180-degree view of the Pacific horizon.  Generous terraces and living areas flooded with natural light provide the spaces you dream of finding, where you can relax with friends and family on your tropical vacation.

All accommodations at Crystal Sands are fully air conditioned, feature large gourmet kitchens with custom cabinetry, natural travertine floors, offer wifi service and cable television, and are comfortably furnished with top-quality modern furnishings.  Underground parking provides convenience and added safety.

Step out of your vacation rental and enjoy the refreshing resort pool, or soak in the sunshine on the breezy pool terrace, surrounded by greenery.  The beach, with the waves that makes Langosta the best local surf break, is waiting right in front of Crystal Sands resort.  If you’re not a surfer, take a leisurely beach walk or snorkel in the volcanic-rock tide pools.

The Langosta community is home to several bars, restaurants, and a small supermarket.  Five minutes down the road in Tamarindo, a lively collection of international restaurants, bars and shopping is guaranteed to fascinate and entertain.

We offer elite concierge services to assist you in reserving private transportation to and from the airport and arranging for all of your tours and rental vehicles.  Let’s build your vacation adventure package together.  Would you like a car or a golf cart to make getting around easier?  How about an afternoon of sailing, a kayak trip, a surf lesson for the kids, or a zip-line canopy tour to get your adrenaline flowing?  A Costa Rica vacation at The Crystal Sands resort is the perfect opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Crystal Sands Resort, Langosta, Costa Rica Crystal Sands Resort, Langosta, Costa Rica Crystal Sands Resort, Langosta, Costa Rica Crystal Sands Resort, Langosta, Costa Rica

Featured Resort: Naxos Condos

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The Naxos resort located in the Langosta Beach community just minutes south of Tamarindo, Costa Rica is a place where exclusive vacation rental condominiums spare no luxury and tropical relaxation is at its finest.  This the place where the turquoise Pacific meets pristine white sand, and the breathtaking coastline stretches for miles in both directions.  The residences within the Naxos resort enjoy vistas of the rolling hills of Guanacaste or the peaceful panorama of sky and sea.  Outdoor terraces and living areas flooded with natural light provide the spaces you dream of finding, where you can relax with friends and family on your tropical vacation.

All accommodations at Naxos are fully air conditioned, feature large chef-ready kitchens with top-quality appliances, tile floors and vaulted ceilings, offer wifi service and cable television, and are comfortably furnished with elegant modern furnishings.  Underground parking provides convenience and added safety.

Step out of your vacation rental and enjoy the refreshing resort pool with a trickling waterfall, or soak in the sunshine on the breezy pool terrace, surrounded by tropical gardens.  The beach, with the waves that make Langosta beach a renowned surf break, is within easy walking distance or a quick drive of the Naxos resort.  If you’re not a surfer, take a leisurely beach walk or snorkel in the volcanic-rock tide pools that line the coast.

The Langosta community is home to several bars, restaurants, and a small supermarket.  Five minutes down the road in Tamarindo, a vivacious collection of international restaurants, bars and shopping offers something for everyone.

Tamarindo Vacation Rentals offers an elite concierge services to assist you in reserving private airport transportation and arranging for all of your tours and rental vehicles.  Let’s build your vacation adventure package together.  Would you like a car or a golf cart to get around town?  How about an afternoon of on a sailboat, a kayak trip, a family surf lesson, or a zip-line canopy tour to get your adrenaline flowing?  A Costa Rica vacation at the Naxos resort is the perfect opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Naxos Resort, Langosta, Costa Rica Naxos Resort, Langosta, Costa Rica Naxos Resort, Langosta, Costa Rica