Posted tagged ‘quepos costa rica’

I’m “sweet” on Costa Rican Mangos! They’re everywhere you look!!

May 27, 2014

Mangos (or tropical peaches) are among the most widely produced and consumed fruits around the world.  Introduced to Costa Rica in 1796, limited exportation started in 1980, but this fruit still remains primarily grown for national consumption. Production estimates put mangoes between 40 and 50% of all the fruit in the world produced for juice, canning and fresh consumption. Originally cultivated on the Indian subcontinent, mangos are now produced along the equatorial band around the world, with Mexico currently holding the title as the largest exporter of fruit and Costa Rica boasting of a robust crop that is mostly enjoyed nationally.

The mango tree itself is a truly a remarkable work of Mother Nature, with cultivated specimens living for 300 years or more, and

reaching heights of 120 feet, with tap roots that can push 20 feet into the earth.  The fruit is also a wonder of tropical evolution with a large seed in the center, a thick protective exterior skin and a

juicy and wonderfully peach like flavor and texture.  Fruits with a more fibrous flesh often develop this less desirable texture when grown with hard water and/or chemical fertilizers.

To be permitted into the USA, fruit must undergo a process called Hot Water Quarantine Treatment to kill any fruit fly larva or mature insects. This is a process where the fruit is submerged in 115°F water for 55 to 100 minutes. This treatment process is ideal for the growing trade in organic mangos as it adds no artificial ingredients or chemicals to the post harvest process.  Some countries have opted for irradiation method instead, exposing the fruit to low levels of radiation to eradicate and possibility of existing fruit flies. These fruits will not qualify for the “organic” seal of approval.

There are dozens of cultivated varieties of mangos that fall into three broad

groups in a typical USA produce department. The smallest group is the green cooking mango, which is used primarily in Southeast Asian recipes, or “Ticos” enjoy these sliced and dipped in salt…apparently an acquired taste. There is also a reddish green skinned variety which is generally quite large, as well as bright yellow skinned smaller fruits, the latter two which will start green but change coloring when the fruit is ripe and ready to eat. One popular variety is known as the Hayden.  This reddish green skinned variety is plain in appearance externally but extremely flavorfully and less stringy and fibrous than most other varieties, so it is a top international seller.

Another popular variety of Mango is known as the Francique, common to the island of Haiti (Hispaniola). This yellow skinned

variety is common throughout Costa Rica, and has a smooth melon-like texture and is widely regarded as the sweetest of all mangos. Harvested green, the Francique turns full yellow as it ripens, and provides an outstanding aroma and flavor. Mangoes are a key element of sustainable agriculture, providing soil retention on land and/or  hillsides that are vulnerable to erosion, especially in challenging terrains like those found in Haiti.

When selecting a good mango you should take advantage of your senses. The fruit should be uniformly firm to the touch with no soft spots or visible bruises. When completely ripe, the yellow varieties will be a uniform yellowish red color with no remaining green

areas, while the green varieties will retain some green, with a purplish coloring indicating it’s level of ripeness.   For those that prefer a slightly tart Mango, the color does not need to be uniform from the stem to the flower end of the fruit, even the green coloring can provide a wonderful sweet surprise! The red blush on some varieties is due to direct exposure to sunlight and may not be a factor in the quality or ripeness of the fruit, so one has to learn which varieties suit them best and not just depend on color to pick the best mango. An important sense to engage when picking the perfect mango is the sense of smell.  A ripe mango has a full, sweet fragrance easily indicating its readiness for consumption. Keep in mind that most tropical fruits, mangos included, can discolor and lose much of its flavor if refrigerated, so it is recommended to keep them at room temperature.

Most people would likely consume more mangos if they were not so difficult to

peel.  The cubed method is the easiest for quick and clean preparation.  Slice the mango along the flat part of each side of the large elongated center seed. You will end up with the flat seed center and two shallow cup-shaped pieces from each side holding the bulk of the delicious flesh.  With a sharp knife, cut criss cross lines in the flesh of the mango, being careful to cut all the way to the skin, but not through it. You then invert the skin inside out, and the flesh will pop up in cubes making them easy to cut off of the skin or eat right from the skin by scraping with your teeth.

If you have the space, Mango trees make handsome landscape specimens and huge, efficient shade trees. They are erect

and fast growing and the canopy can be broad and rounded, even providing good overhead coverage in tropical zones inclined to sudden rainstorms. They are considered a rather large tree, often some 65 ft. across their canopy. The tree is long-lived with some specimens known to be over 300 years old and still fruiting. In deep soil the taproot descends to a depth of 20 ft, and the profuse, wide-spreading feeder roots also send down many anchor roots which penetrate for several feet and make this specimen very sturdy in otherwise normally unstable terrain.

The yellowish or reddish flowers of the Mango tree are borne in inflorescences, in dense clusters of up to 2000 tiny flowers. Pollinators are flies, hoverflies, and bees.  Normally only a few of the

flowers in each inflorescence are perfect, so most do not produce pollen and are not able to produce fruit.  Do not worry, these trees still produce an abundance of eatable fruit over a prolonged period of time.  Be warned though, these flowers often cause allergic and respiratory problems for sensitive persons, so this should always be taken into consideration if planning on growing your own mango tree (or when living near them).

Mango peel and sap contain urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy and poison sumac that can cause urushiol-induced contact dermatitis in susceptible people. Cross-reactions between mango contact allergens and urushiol have been observed. Those with a history of poison ivy or poison oak contact dermatitis may be most at risk for such an allergic reaction. Urushiol is also present in mango leaves and stems. During mango’s primary ripening season, it is the most common source of plant dermatitis.

To grow mangos from seed, remove the husk and plant the seed (before it dries out) with the hump at soil level. The

seeds normally germinate in two to four weeks, and will bloom and bear in only three to six years. Mango fruit matures in 100 to 150 days after flowering. The fruit will have the best flavor if allowed to ripen on the tree. Otherwise, the fruit ripens best if placed stem end down in trays at room temperature and covered with a dampened cloth to avoid shriveling. Mangos generally ripen in June from a January bloom, and October to November from an April bloom. The main nutrients in mangos are

Calcium, Copper, Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin A, B6 and C.  The fruit can either be eaten by itself or paired with light meats like pork, chicken or shrimp, or added into desserts. Mango is also a nice addition to fruit salads, juices and smoothies. Pureed mango tastes delicious in muffins and cookies and is popular as baby food as well. The mango is also famous for processing into chutney, so you can see that it has many many wonderful uses!

So the next time you find yourself wandering your local supermarket aisle, visiting your local farmers market, or even better, walking around Costa Rica at the right time of year……grab that mango and enjoy the world’s most popular fruit!   Happy eating, and remember that beauty can be more than skin deep!!

Enjoy this delicious and easy recipe from this local Costa Rican Hotel that keeps forever when well sealed in your freezer!

Simple Mango Sorbet
2 fresh, ripe mangos
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp lemon juice
About 1 cup whipping cream

Peel and deflesh the mangoes , chop roughly. Blend mango with sugar until well pureed. Add coconut milk and lemon juice. Remove from blender.  Pour whipping cream into blender and whirl until the cream forms  stiff peaks.  Add the mango puree and whirl for 10-20 seconds. Pour into container and freeze for 8 hours, stirring every 1/2 hour for the first 3 hours to prevent uneven freezing.

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years.  Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.  Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns and operates her own luxury Vacation Rental Home business Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.

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“Mamon Chino”, a Tasty Costa Rican Snack!

March 12, 2014


The “Mamon Chino”, also known as “Rambutan”, is a colorful and interesting exotic fruit found on medium-sized tropical trees producing one of the most popular convenience snacks found in Costa Rica. Thought to be native to Malaysia, this fruit is also commonly found in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. The Mamo Chino is closely related to several other edible tropical fruits including the Lychee, Longan, and Mamoncillo. The name rambutan came from the Malay word rambut, whose literal translation means hairy, logical when you see the distinctive “hair” that covers the skin of this small fruit.

Description:
A hearty tree growing to an average height of 30-60 feet, the flowers are small and emit a faintly sweet pleasant scent. Mature trees in fruition brim with oval shaped fruit bunches that grow in a loose hanging clusters of around 10-20 specimens. The rather thick and clean peeling skin is generally reddish, orange or yellow in color and is covered with a thick hairy texture, making this fruit easy to identify. The coveted flesh of the fruit is translucent, whitish or a very pale pink, with a sweet, slightly acidic flavor, similar to that of grapes, but with it’s own uniquely tropical flavor. Be careful not to ingest the large single seed found buried within the sweet fleshy part, as it can be mildly poisonous when raw, but can be eaten when cooked properly. (I have personally never tried that, so anyone who has, feel free to chime in on how that works!) The seed is also said to be high in certain fats and oils valuable for industrial uses, as well as the oils are used to manufacture soap products. Beyond that, the roots of the Rambutan tree, as well as the bark and leaves are touted to have various medicinal uses and have been used in the production of certain dyes and coloring compounds.

What to do with the fruit:
A mainstay at Farmer’s Markets countrywide, roadside fruit stands are another great place to find the freshest Mamon Chino. Traditionally eaten by easily peeling the fruit with your fingers (it practically peels itself into two pieces) or you can often see locals open them with a quick flick of their teeth, popping the fruit directly into their mouth. The sweet creamy pulp of the fruit is easily enjoyed by putting the whole fruit inside the mouth and sucking on the pulp, remembering not to swallow the large seed. Disposing of the seed takes a practiced spitting launch, or better educated friends discreetly discard it into their hand or the bag the fruits came in. Despite the light color of the fruit’s flesh, remember to be careful, as the juice will stain a dark brown color, the reason indigenous Indians used to use Rambutan to dye cloth. Though most commonly eaten fresh in Costa Rica, you can find Mamon Chino jams and jellies, and it is now even canned in some locations. It would be important for me to mention……when using the common Costa Rican name (Mamon Chino), its important to know that the word “mamón” in some Spanish-speaking countries can be slang for a “person who sucks”, or more commonly it can refer to a “large breast”. Just giving a fair warning to my friends before you go to the Farmers Market yelling “I want Mamones”!

Production:
When CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) was in negotiations throughout the region, Costa Rica noted that this new agreement presented an excellent opportunity to expand the production of this little known fruit to International markets. Costa Rica, having little actual data on the production of this fruit within the country had the government entity known as “MAG” (Ministerio de Agricultura), launch a nationwide in-depth study to find out more about the cultivators of this crop, with the hope of bringing them the economic benefits that would result from expansion to an International marketplace. The results of this extensive study, primarily conducted in Costa Rica’s “Brunca and Atlantic Región”, was the first stage of a strategic crop development plan conducted by Ingienero Leonte Llach Cordero for the National Program of Tropical Fruits, a division of MAG. The initial results are listed below:

Results of Study (Dec 2003)
• Total Cultivators 354
• Estimated Hectares in Production-720
• Approximate Total Production per year-5.5 millon kilos
• Number of Adult Trees (over 4 yrs)-46,365
• Number of Trees under 4 yrs-49,839
• Amount of Cultivators with less than 20 Hectars-350
• Amount of Cultivators with more than 20 Hectars-4
• Most productive season-July to September
• Percentage of Local Market Production-+90%
• Estimated number of trees per Hectar-100 trees

The results of this study were extremely helpful in furthering the development of this tropical fruit to be competitive in an international market. As the Ministerio de Agricultura (MAG) began a program to distribute some 40,000 tree starts to farmers, their enthusiasm, pioneer attitude and excellent farming practices, helped to dramatically increase overall production by a staggering 20% in only 6 yrs. This impressive number converted Costa Rica to be the top producer of Mamon Chino in all of Central America. Costa Rica now exports an incredible 1800 tons of this popular fruit yearly.

So my friends, the next time you see these cute little hairy fruits at your Costa Rica Hotel, the local Farmer’s Market, local “Pulperia” (market), or a roadside fruit stand…… Stop! Buy!! Eat!! Don’t be afraid of them!!! Not only are these tropical delights delicious and convenient to snack on, but they also have specific nutritional qualities, as well as ancient medicinal uses that might come in handy one day. Just please remember no yelling “I want Mamones!” while in Costa Rica when you go shopping, or you might end up with a black eye!!

Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns and operates her own Vacation Rental Home business Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.

Sources:
http://www.mag.go.cr/biblioteca_virtual_economia_desarr_sociolog/rambutan_censo.pdf
http://www.simas.org.ni/revistaenlace/articulo/1091
http://costaricahoy.info
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rambutan
http://nal.usda.gov

A Bug with a Chastity Belt? Costa Rica’s Walking Stick Insect!!

February 24, 2014

When visiting Costa Rica, it is always wise to double check anything before grabbing it! Bugs, snakes, plants…..all have potential for a dangerous encounter if you are not careful! However, one of the most popular discoveries, if you even notice it while hiking, are the ubiquitous Walking Stick insects. Generally found in varying hues of green or brown, with some 3000 different species found around the World, a few species are actually able to change color slowly as needed to blend into their environs. These unique bugs have one of the best camouflage systems available in the wild, since these insects resemble the twigs and branches among which

they live, providing it with one of the best natural camouflages found on Earth.
Found predominantly in the tropics and subtropics, stick insects thrive in forests and grasslands, where they feed on mostly leaves. Mainly nocturnal creatures, they spend much of their day motionless, hiding under plant leaves from the hot sun or the strong rains that can come suddenly in the Tropics.

Local Walking Sticks can be as small as 1″ and reach lengths of 4”s, with males generally smaller than the females. The largest

North American species can grow to lengths of 7 inches, and there are recorded tropical species that can reach a whopping 22 inches! The insect’s legs and wings are attached to the middle section, or thorax, comprising the majority of the body, but a Walking Stick that loses one of those delicate legs is actually able to regenerate it, either completely or partially at its next molting.

Nocturnal and a bit on the shy side, the Walking Stick grazes on leaves of forest trees and if an area is invaded by a plague of

these insects, they can actually do major damage. With their incredible ability to hide themselves, these bugs have two reasons to use their camouflage – to hide and to hunt. Although their natural physical appearance aids in protecting them, Walking Sticks also

practice “behavioral camouflage.” During the day these bugs will usually be found with their front legs extended, while they keep their rear legs to the fore and aft of their body and remain either motionless or they gently sway with the breeze helping them to appear like a “real” branch or twig. Despite Mother Nature’s incredible camouflage job, many predators aren’t fooled and these bugs can be eaten by a variety of birds, rodents and mantises. Several species of Walking Sticks have added chemical warfare as a form of passive defense, squirting a highly irritating liquid into the face of a potential predator that can burn and even blind their enemies. Others will drop their legs when a predator attacks, but can re-grow the appendages, while some winged species will flash their bright color patches under the wings to confuse their predators and aid in avoiding capture.

Not known for a particularly impressive Mother instinct, the female Walking Sticks will drop their eggs randomly on the forest floor with little care as to where the eggs end up. Before you think this to be too callous, the truth is this actually works to their

benefit, as if a predator should happen upon a batch of insect eggs, they will eat them all, but with the mother Walking Stick strategy, there is a much better chance that at least some of the young will survive. Also, because a portion of the outside of each egg is edible, some species of ants will actually carry these eggs to their nests below-ground. The ants will only nibble the exterior of the egg, leaving the rest of the egg intact, enabling the tiny insect hatchlings to exit the ant hill to begin their lifecycle. From there, the Walking Stick’s metamorphosis is rather simple – the newly-hatched young resemble the finished adult product, simply growing and adding adult parts as they molt and continue to grow in size.
Formerly classified along with the Mantises genre and listed in the grasshopper Order (Orthoptera), Walking Sticks are now in their own Order, the Stick Insects or “Phasmatodea”.

So if you’ve read this far, and are still curious about where is the bug with a chastity belt?……another interesting factoid

about the Walking Stick insect includes their sex life. Fidelity is rare in the insect world, and a strategy used by male Walking Sticks to ensure the object of their affections does not court others, is the male Walking Sticks will remain in the embrace of a female long after copulation, becoming what we would consider “living chastity belts”! In fact, the record for long lasting copulation in the insect world seems to be held by the Walking Sticks…….an incredible 79 days!!

In the end, little is actually known about stick insects, making it difficult to establish the vulnerability of their status in the

wild. The pet trade presents a potential threat, along with the popular practice of framing their carcasses, like butterflies, so if you find a Walking Stick around your Costa Rica Hotel, Vacation Rental Home, or while hiking on one of the many fun Costa Rica tours, please enjoy their unique appearance, take a few pictures to remember the encounter, but by all means move on and leave this beautiful creature to continue in its natural environment and living the life of Pura Vida! Mother Nature thanks you in advance!!

Some interesting additional Walking Stick facts:
1. Stick insects can shed and regenerate their limbs to escape attacks by predators.
Should a bird or other predator grab a stick insect’s leg, the stick insect simply gives up the leg, using a special muscle to break it off at the weaker joint. Juvenile stick insects will regenerate the missing limb at the next molt. In some cases, adult stick insects can even force themselves to molt again to regenerate a lost leg.
2. Stick insects can reproduce “parthenogenetically”, meaning without the need for males.
Stick insects are able to reproduce almost entirely without males. Unmated females produce eggs that will become more females. When a male actually does manage to mate with a female, there’s a 50/50 chance the offspring will be male. A female stick insect can produce hundreds of all-female offspring without ever mating and there are species for which scientists have never found any males.
3. Stick insects not only look like sticks, they act like them, too.
Stick insects are named for their highly effective camouflage among the varied plants where they feed. They’re typically brown, black, or green, with stick-shaped bodies that help them blend in as they perch on forest twigs and branches. Some even bear lichen-like markings to make their disguise even more effective. Stick insects often choose to imitate twigs by swaying in the wind and rocking back and forth to look more genuine.
4. Stick insect eggs resemble seeds scattered about the forest floor.
Stick insect mothers aren’t known for their maternal instincts. They typically drop their eggs randomly on the forest floor, leaving the youngsters to whatever fate awaits them. However, by spreading the eggs out, the female lessens the chance that a predator will find all of her offspring and eat them. Some stick insects will actually hide their eggs sticking them to leaves or bark, or placing them in the soil in an effort to thwart the predators.
5. Nymphs usually eat their molted skin.
Once a nymph (or juvenile walking stick) has molted, it’s even more vulnerable to predators until its new cuticle darkens and hardens. The castoff skin nearby is a blatant giveaway to their enemies, so the nymph will quickly consume the dried exoskeleton to remove the evidence. The stick insect nymph also gets the benefit of the protein by eating its molted skin.
6. Stick insects don’t bite, but they aren’t defenseless.
If threatened, a stick insect will use whatever means necessary to repel its attacker. Some will regurgitate a nasty substance that will put a bad taste in a hungry enemies mouth. Others have a reflex bleed, oozing a foul-smelling hemolymph from joints in their body. Some of the large, tropical stick insects can use their leg spines to repel the enemies, and others may even direct a chemical spray, much like tear gas, at repel the offender.
7. Stick insect eggs may attract ants, which then collect and store the eggs in their nests.
Stick insect eggs that resemble hard seeds have a special, fatty capsule called a capitulum at one end. Ants enjoy the nutritional boost provided by the capitulum, and carry the stick insect eggs back to their nests to enjoy as a meal. Once the ants finish feeding on the proteins and nutrients, they leave the eggs to one side where they continue to incubate safely away from potential predators. As the nymphs hatch, they then make their way out of the ant nest to begin their life.
8. Not all stick insects are boring brown.
Some stick insects can change color, like a chameleon, depending on the background where they reside. Stick insects may also wear bright colors on their wings, but keep these flamboyant features tucked away until needed. When a bird or other predator approaches, the stick insect will flash the vibrant wings, which serves to confuse the predator which then has trouble locating its target.
9. Stick insects can play dead.
When all else fails, why not play dead? A threatened stick insect will sometimes abruptly drop to the ground, and stay very still. This behavior, called thanatosis, can successfully discourage predators who prefer live prey. A bird or mouse may be unable to find the immobile insect that matches quite effectively into the ground, or other predators prefer living prey and will move on if they think the insect is already dead.
10. Stick insects hold the record for longest insects in the world.
In 2008, a newly discovered stick insect species from Borneo broke the record for longest insect (which had previously been held by another stick insect, Pharnacia serratipes). The Chan’s megastick, Phobaeticus chain, measures an incredible 22 inches when the legs are extended, with a body length of an average 14 inches. Ew!!!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns and manages her own Costa Rica Vacation Rental Home business Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.

Sportfishing in Costa Rica…..Some Hints to Finding the Fish!

January 12, 2014

With well over 750 miles of coastline to explore, anglers coming to Costa Rica have a multitude of options to try their luck for both inshore and offshore sport fishing in this marine rich part of the world. It’s a big ocean out there, and if you don’t know what you are doing you can spend a whole day driving around burning expensive gas and finding absolutely nothing to put a bite on a hook! The main key to a successful day of offshore or inshore fishing is frankly knowing where and how to find the fish!

Naturally, there is no substitute for local expertise when it comes to finding fish, they live and breath the sport and no one

wants you to have a good fishing day more than your Captain and First Mate, so count on them for the best results! Every good captain knows where to find the fish, but if you are out for a day on your own, or if you are practicing to become the next best fishing captain for your next lifetime, you may find the following information helpful while exploring some new (or old) fishing grounds.
The first and foremost important tip for finding the fish is watch for Variation. Variation can come in several forms, some of them very obvious and others more subtle, so here are some helpful hints for you in case you are headed out for a day of great fishing action!

Los Corrientes (The currents)
The most tried and true method to finding gamefish in Costa Rica is fishing in “los corrientes”. These currents can be

spotted by a subtle change in color and in the temperature of the water. Baitfish and predators tend to be more plentiful in these currents, so an experienced captain will generally work the edges of “los corrientes” to see how the action is going before moving on to other options. When fishing from the areas of Quepos, Jaco, or Herradura, charters will find “los corrientes” about twenty-five to thirty miles offshore during peak billfish season and will generally head that direction to start their day. For that reason, it is almost always recommended to plan at least a 3/4 to Full Day of fishing to allow enough time to get into the really thick action!

Ocean Floor Geography
Invisible to the naked eye, the underwater geopgraphic structures such as canyons, reefs and other natural formations can increase

the flow of ocean currents, increasing the chance of good angling or even extreme angling in particular areas. The rapidly moving currents can trap bait fish allowing the large game fish to move in seeking an easy feeding session on the trapped bait. Similar to the seasonal currents, these fish rich currents are often found by looking for subtle changes in the water color or surface ocean temperatures. Professional and experienced Sport Fishing Charter Captains for the Costa Rican shores will always have one eye on the bottom (think GPS) and one eye on the surface looking for those subtle changes that are going to lead them to their prize.

Floating Debris
The rainy season in Costa Rica may not be the favored months for hooking the larger Gamefish (though they are prevelent year round,

so don’t let the rainy season scare you away!), but it is the hottest time of year for Dorado, including Bull Dorado which can often times come in weighing over fifty pounds! Since the heavy rains in the mountains of Costa Rica run out the local rivers located in the Quepos, Jaco and

Herradura areas, the experienced fisherman knows that fish love structure and obstacles, even temporary formations resulting from debris washing out to sea from the rain swollen rivers, so its always a good idea to head that way. Fishing deep around areas such as weed lines, floating pallets, or logs can yield a great Dorado hit, meaning a possible great dinner will be on the table that night! Other game fish can be found beneath the debris as well, so this is an area that is especially worth an anglers undivided attention!!

Underwater Structure
Wrecks and reefs provide structure or should we say a vacation home getaway for large bottom fish including Cubera Snapper and Grouper. This so called structure is also home to plankton and other small organisms that serve to attract baitfish which in turn attract the bigger game fish on the prowl for an easy meal. Keep in mind…..the main structure area may be overfished, while potential surrounding “satellite” sites around the structure can often be teaming with life as well, so keep your eyes and your fishing lines open. Larger Gamefish often hang out at these quieter satellite sites, so work that whole area for best results.

Slicks

Its a big ocean out there, but sometimes you can see obvious “slicks” on the surface, so keep your eye out for any and all oily slicks on the water’s surface since these can often be a good sign for hungry for action anglers. Big game fish such as Dorado, Tuna, Marlin and Sailfish when feeding are chasing bait fish to the surface which releases fish oils, resulting in the “slicks” that you may witness. If you are lucky, this very slick could hold the trophy catch you have been seeking!

Birds

Offshore birds are always fishing in Costa Rica, so it is always a good idea to keep an eye on the sky as well! Searching for bait pods, tuna feeding, or trolling Billfish, pay particular attention to the many Frigate Birds who are great spotters, especially those that are circling in one particular location. The experienced fishing guide knows that even a lone Frigate Bird can lead you to a trophy Tuna, Marlin or Sailfish.

With prices high and time limited during a Costa Rica visit, when fishing offshore in our gamefish rich waters of Costa Rica, the

importance of local expertise cannot be overstated. Natural underwater geographic structures are consistent and well know and local Costa Rica Fishing Guides now have the ability to record the best fishing spots to GPS, giving them the edge when fishing for big game fish in these open waters…..something someone who does not live in the area is never going to know about. In addition, an experienced captain and mate will have developed keen eyes and experience, with some experienced Captains and First Mates able to spot schooling Tuna miles away just by looking for disturbed water and many of the other hints listed above.

So on your next Sportfish outing while fishing in Costa Rica (or wherever!), keep the above hints in mind for best results, and

be sure to find out more about Pacific fish species, fishing seasons, fishing reports, and the local weather conditions beforehand by checking out our link on fishing in the Quepos, Costa Rica area via your local Costa Rica Vacation House Rental or Costa Rica Hotel, where they are happy to steer you in the right direction for an unforgettable day of Game fishing in an area that still boasts some 17 IGFA World Records! You could be the next World Record Holder!! FISH ON!!!!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns and operates her own Costa Rica Vacation Rental Home business at Manuel Antonio Rental Homes!

Christmas Season Shopping in Costa Rica? Try the Golfito Duty Free Zone!

December 21, 2013

Don’t blame the messenger, but once again, Christmas is just around the corner. For those of you that have been lucky enough to survive another year of this slow economy and stagnant tourism numbers, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas shopping. If you are considering some big ticket items, the duty free zone of Golfito might be just the place for you!

A Little History:
Once a bustling banana port, from 1938 to 1985, Golfito was the headquarters of the banana operations for United Fruit in the southernmost part of Costa Rica. Creating an economy that had previously not existed, unfortunately the mid-1980s brought declining markets, higher export taxes, worker unrest and banana diseases forcing United Fruit’s departure from the area. Though some of the plantations successfully converted to the production of African Palm Oil, this move was not enough to sustain the job loss and economic blow caused when the company departed. Attracted by the World Class fishing within the Golfo Dulce region, Sport Fishermen have helped stimulate the development of new Costa Rica Hotels & Lodges, creating a flourishing tourist industry in the area. Nonetheless, the Golfo Dulce region and more specifically, the town of Golfito, have continued to struggle for survival, even after close to 20 years of economic stimulus in the form of a Duty Free Shopping Zone.

Government Incentives:
In the 1990’s, in an attempt to boost the region’s economy, the Costa Rica government approved a duty-free facility (déposito libre) in the northern part of the Golfo Dulce zone. Just the mention of the town of Golfito, brings the image of thousands of Ticos on any given day bustling around the rows of this fairly run down mega shopping complex, giving life to an otherwise dying town while shoppers hustle and hustlers shop. Keep in mind….the duty-free shopping is for Costa Rican Nationals and legal residents only, with the most popular purchases being the bigger ticket items. Unfortunately, as you will see below, this is not like a Sunday visit to the local mall, many restrictions apply which can complicate the shopping process, so be sure to read the details.

Rules and Regulations:
The Duty Free Zone was created to stimulate the economy and travel to the region by giving Costa Rican residents a tax free zone to shop for their purchases. To get the most out of these visitors, specific rules were established in order to legally make these tax free purchases. First, exemption from sales taxes is only valid twice a year, with a total purchase amount that cannot exceed $1000 per buyer, per trip. Second, you must stay overnight in Golfito before taking advantage of the tax-free shopping, a requirement enacted to support the area’s family owned “cabinas” and boutique hotels. Third, as a guarantee of your overnight stay, a shopping authorization card (TAC) must be requested at the Customs Offices the day prior to shopping. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 8am-8pm, Mondays from 1pm-8pm and shoppers are required to present their valid Costa Rican “cedula” (identification card) when applying.

Hours and Shopping Limits:
When you begin your shopping at Golfito, its recommended to start early and bring along plenty of patience. Stores open from 8am-4:30pm Tuesday-Saturday and 7am- 2pm on Sundays. Stores are closed on Mondays. When checking out, you will be required to show the store personnel your shopping authorization card, so keep that handy. Remember, one card gives you the right to make a purchase for up to $1,000, though you can combine two cards (no more) for a total of $2,000. The other card can only belong to first-degree relatives such as parents, children, siblings or spouses. Naturally, there are “gavilones” or “tipos” that hang around the area that can arrange that you have sufficient “TAC” cards from “family” to make as many purchases as you need while in the area. Of course, I don’t condone or recommend these services, though they are amazingly efficient and quite convenient:-).

Why go Duty Free?
Though Golfito is not just around the corner, so its a bit of a drive and the entire process is not exactly convenient for most people, keep in mind that products are not subject to most import taxes, nor the normal 13% Costa Rica sales tax, as well as most products are highly discounted, so thrifty shoppers from around the country can save up to 50% on certain items throughout the year. For those looking for smaller ticket items such as perfumes, cosmetics, liquor, cigarettes, small appliances, tires, computer items, and an assortment of household goods, you might want to save going thru some of these inconvenient restrictions and drive a little further South to the Costa Rica-Panama border. At the border crossing, shoppers can purchase duty-free goods on a mystery strip of shops located between the two borders in the town of Paso Canoas. (You enter one door on the Costa Rica side, and exit the other side of the store on the Panamanian side!) No restrictions apply in this area, and both duty free zones can provide affordable delivery of your purchases throughout the country, but be sure to negotiate the price first!

So if you are planning a shopping getaway to the port town of Golfito, consider making a short relaxing getaway out of the trip. (You’ll need it after the Golfito zoo.) With the new Costanera Sur highway, the drive is only around three hours from Manuel Antonio/Quepos Area Hotels, and the entire area offers small marinas, yachting and boating services, excellent sport fishing,
as well as easy access to some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful National Parks and protected areas. Although much of the tourism in the Golfito area focuses on the sport fishing industry, other water sports and beach activities are also popular pastimes, with incredible surfing beaches to the south of Golfito such as Playa Pavones; best known as home to one of Zancudo, Pilon and the famous the longest left hand breaking waves in the world. The friendly people of the area, and the fabulous natural wonders that abound make Golfito and the Golfo Dulce more than just a shopping excursion, the area is truly a
beautiful and relaxing place to stop and see more of fabulous Costa Rica! Happy Shopping!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns and manages her own Vacation Rental Home BusinessManuel Antonio Rental Homes.

Sources:
http://costarica.com
http://www.golfito-costarica.com/golfito/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golfito
http://depositodegolfito.com/dlcg/

Alert!! Don’t be a “Fool” this December when in Costa Rica!

November 29, 2013

Are you a fool every day, just on April fool’s Day, or surprise!…. you could be proven a fool while in Costa Rica in late December! December 28th in Costa Rica is “Dia de Los Inocentes” (Day of the Innocents), commonly considered “Fool’s Day”, which to us North Americans is customarily celebrated on April 1st, also commonly known as April Fool’s Day in the United States.

Did you fall for any pranks or jokes on December 28th? Did you get caught off guard?? Costa Rican’s love to pull off large and small pranks on their friends and family on this yearly day of tom-foolery. Everything from the simplest of jokes, to the common gesture of putting a sign on your back that might reads “kick me” or “looking for love”, to more vulgar jokes such as wrapping dog poop in toilet paper, lighting it on fire and waiting for the nearest “Innocent” to stomp out the fire, or another favorite in our humid climate, leaving a melting chocolate candy on someone’s seat so when they sit down, it later looks like they pooped in their pants when they rise. All pretty funny, as long as you are not the innocent fool!!

The history of “Dia de Los Inocentes” dates back some 2000 years. The origin of the “Day of the Innocent Saints” is very different in modern times from it’s previous inception as the day in which there was a slaughter of all male children of 2 years or younger. Ordered by King Herodes, he was voted King of the Jews by the Roman Senate, and was considered the Roman Client King of Israel. Not to be confused with his son, Herod Antipas, also of the Herodian dynasty, the elder Herod is known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and other parts of the ancient world, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple. He was described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.” Herod is reported in the Gospel of Matthew as personally ordering the Massacre of the Innocents. Most recent biographers do not actually regard this as an actual historical event, though the legend lives on and scripture has been found that could support the legend.

According to Matthew, shortly after the birth of Jesus, Magi (the three wise men) from the East visiting Herod to inquire as to the whereabouts of “the one having been born king of the Jews”, as they had seen his star in the East and therefore wanted to pay him homage. Herod, who himself was considered King of the Jews, was alarmed at the prospect of a newborn king possibly usurping his rule one day. In the story, Herod assembled the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the “Anointed One” was to be born. Their answer, Bethlehem. Herod then sent the Magi to Bethlehem, instructing them to search for the child and after finding him, to “report to me, so that I too may go and worship him”. However, after they had found Jesus, the Magi were warned in a dream not to report back to Herod. Upon realizing that they would not communicate the exact location of the birth of Jesus, an infuriated Herodes ordered the massacre of all boys two years and under in Bethlehem and its outlying areas.

In regards to the Massacre of the Innocents, although in reality Herod was certainly guilty of many brutal acts, including the killing of his wife and two of his sons, no other known source from that period makes any references to such a massacre. Since Bethlehem was a small village, the number of male children under the age of 2, would probably not have exceeded 20 or so. This could be one of the reasons for the lack of other sources for this questionable account of history, although Herod’s order in Matthew 2-16 includes those children in Bethlehem’s vicinity meaning the massacre area could have measured a significantly larger amount numerically and geographically more in the area of some 14,000 children. The infants, known in the Church as the Holy Innocents, have been claimed as the first Christian martyrs.

How this turned into an annual celebration of trickery remains a mystery. It is said that during the Middle Ages, pagan rites were introduced in to the celebration that for some time came to be known as the “Celebration of the Crazy People” (“Dia de Los Locos”).

It was celebrated between Christmas and New Year, a direct show of the significance of Jewish and Christian sentiments during the holy season. Out of this shift in sentiment, over time a new tradition began that combined the underlying pagan sentiment with and the light hearted Christian monks teachings, with the main purpose of the day being the moment to pull all types of pranks on unsuspecting family and friends. Pranks are known as “inocentadas” and their victims are called “inocentes”, or alternatively, the pranksters are the “inocentes” and the victims should not be angry at them, since they could not have committed any sin. It is still not understood how such a morbid historical event could be converted over the centuries to celebrate a completely opposite sentiment and will likely remain a mystery to all.

So if you find yourself in most any Latin American country on December 28th, don’t be surprised if you are the butt of someone’s joke. Be warned, the Costa Rican culture has a wonderful sense of humor, meaning no one is safe on this day FOOL!!

Author:: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns and operates her own Costa Rica Vacation Rental Homes business calledManuel Antonio Rental Homes.

Get out the Red, White & Blue….It’s Almost Costa Rica Independence Day!

September 10, 2013

It’s September again and in Costa Rica that means “Mes de La Patria” (Patriotic Month)! This colorful time finds the entire country in a month long celebration of their Independence from Spain with patriotic displays of their red, white and blue flag, colorful parades, thematic dances, concerts, the march of “Faroles” (more on that later) and any other number of celebrations throughout the country. Most events culminate around “Dia de Independencia” (Independence Day), which takes place on September 15th each year!

A country rich with national pride, Costa Rica encourages its citizens from a very young age to appreciate their Independence Day traditions which are to be celebrated and passed on to future generations. Schools plan elaborate patriotic displays and lively celebrations both the night of September 14th, as well as more parties, parades and civic marches on September 15th, an official National Holiday. For the school children, this month marks the culmination of many months of patriotic preparation, social studies on the importance of the date, as well as providing a special night to show off their artistic talents with the march of the “Feroles” (elaborate homemade paper lanterns).

Although September 15th is the official date to recognize Costa Rica’s independence from Spain in 1821, unlike independence battles common to many other countries, this actually wasn’t a particularly significant event for Costa Rica at the time, as the country had basically functioned independently for years from the Capitanía General of Guatemala. However, after the final Spanish defeat in the Mexican War of Independence (1810 to 1821), the authorities in Guatemala declared Independence for all of Central America. So, even though the official date of independence is in 1821, Costa Rica had basically been on it’s own for some time due to Spain’s lack of economical, political and even religious interest in this very poor region.

Nonetheless, the “Ticos” take a great sense of pride in their freedom and their official festivities actually begin on September 14th when a series of runners carry the “freedom” torch from Nicaragua (stopping for Costa Rica in the city of Cartago) and continue all the way to Panama. This is meant to be a re-enactment commemorating history when an official “news” runner ran from border to border of the then Federal Republic of Central America, notifying the people of the region of their official liberation. Costa Rica did not actually get the news until October 13th, 1821!

The runners, selected from local schools throughout Central America to carry the torch an average of 500 meters each, take on their task with great honor, as the mission serves as a great source of patriotic pride throughout the region. These runners cross the Nicaraguan border into Costa Rica each year on the eve of the day of independence arriving to the (then) capital city of Cartago, where the torch is usually welcomed by the acting president of the country, presently…. Laura Chinchilla. At this same time, most of the country grinds to a halt as almost all TV and radio stations broadcast the national anthem, with most citizens singing along whether they be young or old, home or standing on a street corner, whether riding a bus or driving a car, wherever they may find themselves, their enthusiastic patriotism is both humbling and contagious.

This impressive event is soon followed in even the smallest of pueblos and including the large cities by the sound of the local fire truck sirens that announce the beginning of the “Parade of Faroles”. These often elaborate homemade paper lanterns (with candle or light source inside) are meant to symbolize the original torch run and are proudly carried throughout the streets overhead on short poles by children, with their parents generally following closely along for safety purposes. The faroles are family projects and their design and size can vary greatly from child to child. Some resemble small “Tico” houses, others look like glittering globes, and others are elaborate “typical” scenes of churches or well known national symbols found in Costa Rica. The march of the faroles is often followed by a parade of children dancing traditional dances in adorable typical costumes….a sight that should not be missed!

Another daytime community parade takes place on the morning of September 15th which now includes the adults, important town functionaries, patriotic community members, and just about anyone who chooses to march along and show their pride for Costa Rica. Folks that live along the parade route generally have their houses and yards decked out with large Costa Rican flags and banners to celebrate the big day and they enthusiastically wave their flags as the parade marchers pass by.

So if you are lucky enough to live in or be visiting Costa Rica in the month of September, you are sure to take notice of the many festive displays of Tico pride and patriotism just about everywhere you go throughout the country. Therefore, don’t forget to join in and wear your own red, white and blue in celebration of Costa Rica’s “Mes de Patria”, the Ticos will welcome you with open arms and their usual big smiles will get even larger as the whole country celebrates Independence and Democracy!!

Sing along to the Costa Rica National Anthem!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.