Making T-Shirts in Costa Rica, living it up in the Caribbean and more….

Published: April 6th 2006
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Beth´s beans and rice dish! Fresh beans from the garden!
I never thought in my entire life I’d be making t-shirts. Well, not the t-shirts themselves as Hanes does do a pretty good job of it, rather, I’ve been making promotional t-shirts for the B&B. Yes, I actually did something that takes some physical dexterity! I have wanted to make or buy some promotional items for the B&B for some time now and I’m finally getting around to it. Who wouldn’t want to have an “Angel Valley Farm Bed & Breakfast” exclusive t-shirt (precision made in Malaysia!) to wear while you take out the garbage, cut the grass or even better, to dust the furniture with after a few years of wearing it! But the fact is, tourists love that stuff and the marketer that I am, I decided I needed to have some “takeaway items” for guests and friends. Several weeks ago I went into San Ramon to discuss getting t-shirts made with our logo and web site address on them and like things often are here, it became complicated. There were different types of t-shirts, different colors, types of typesetting onto the t-shirts, bulk order prices, etc., etc., and even having Karol with me and her speaking in Spanish to the store owner, I gave up and vowed I’d try it myself—though I was definitely not sure how in the heck to do it!

So, I was in Office Depot one day last week during our monthly trip to PriceSmart (aka Costco or Sam’s Club), and saw special paper for color printers in which you can print out your design and then iron the paper onto to t-shirts. Now that I could handle! I already had a design that I had made previously so it was just a matter of printing and ironing.

With fresh t-shirts in hand from PriceSmart, it was quite the scene watching me and Beth trying to iron my design onto a t-shirt. During our first attempt, when we peeled back the paper, the design did not take—iron not hot enough. The second time the design came out wrinkled—we apparently were not careful enough—and the third time, we hit it just about right but I put the design too low on the back of the t-shirt. It did work though! Trying to iron the logo onto my underwear did not work though! LOL! However, apparently Reina liked my new “Angel Valley Farm B&B” t-shirt as she slobbered all over it a few minutes later!

I’ve made up some designs for postcards too. That’s next week’s activity!

Ah, the Caribbean side of Costa Rica!!! Muy Rico!!

We took a short trip to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica this past week—me, Karol and Beth. We hadn’t been there yet and were curious as to what it was all about. We had heard many things about it from there are a lot of drugs to there is much crime to it is very poor, and more. I knew there were decent beaches and that was good enough for me!

The drive down was fairly nice actually and the roads weren’t too bad. We went from our house down to San Jose, east to Turrialba, farther east to Cartago, down to Limon and finally ended up far south of Limon near the Panamanian border in Puerto Viejo.

The Caribbean, as we had heard, is much different than the rest of the country (though not quite as different as I had expected). Some of the country’s remaining indigenous population lives near or on the Caribbean coast such as the Kekoldi, Bribrí, and others. What is striking compared to the rest of the country is the number of residents of African and Caribbean descent—particularly Jamaica—living there. You don’t see very many Africans in the rest of the country, and very few where I live. In fact, not so long ago residents of this area rarely went any farther west than Turrialba and were not particularly welcome in the rest of the country. It was almost a racial dividing line and similarly, Costa Ricans of “mestizo” descent, or the Ticos of European lineage, very rarely went to the Caribbean side. This I think today somewhat still exists however I did see more of a mix of Ticos and Africans than I expected. In fact, I had been told that “everyone” speaks English on the Caribbean but what I found was really a decent amount of English and a decent amount of Spanish.

We were not sure where we were going to stay once we reached Puerto Viejo and decided we’d use our guide books as reference and from there, just visit a number of small hotels in the area. Actually, a few of the hotels recommended in our guide books turned out not to be as nice as we had hoped so we began investigating hotels not in the books. Usually, I’d sit in the car and Beth and Karol would go in and investigate. I guess my attitude was: why bother to look at all of them until they found a good one!? On the second to last hotel we looked at, while Beth didn’t like this particular hotel, the owner gave us two suggestions for other hotels and we ended up at them. We wanted to, but never did get a chance to thank him for his excellent suggestions.

The first night we stayed at Bungalows Calalú, run by a French family. It was a terrific place! It was within walking distance of both the center of Puerto Viejo and the beach. It had five really well made and designed bungalows surrounded by a large variety of tropical trees and plants. The pool was very well done with interesting, large rocks all around the pool and the rest of the pool area was enclosed with tropical plants and shrubs, providing both an interesting enclave of sorts, and importantly, privacy. The price was reasonable and the best gauge of a hotel is that I slept well! The rate didn’t include breakfast but that wouldn’t stop us as we ate very well on this trip….

We found several terrific restaurants in the Puerto Viejo area. For breakfast, we found a couple of very cool, funky places. One was called “Bread & Chocolate.” I liked the feel of this place and the ex-pat owners and wait staff were very friendly. They made excellent coffee and I really enjoyed their eggs and potatoes. Café Rico, also run by ex-pats, was quite good as well. Beth asked me to mention that they make the best fried potatoes in Costa Rica. I agree! We also came home with a few bottles of their honey and Beth liked their ginger lemonade.

At lunch, there was a Mexican restaurant I really like and for dinner we ate a good deal of Italian, and even some Asian/fusion. In fact, one small dingy-looking restaurant sitting atop a small convenience store had excellent Italian food, prepared by what I would call a typical Italian mother—and as it turns out, she was from Roma! I think we were spoiled in the Caribbean because of the many food choices. While we love the San Ramon area, it is very typical Costa Rica and rice and beans are the staple with every meal. We were glad to get away from that for a few days. All and all, in this small Caribbean town we found great restaurants, fun shops, friendly people and more things to do than we could imagine—particularly hanging out at the stunning beaches. We’ll be back!

Punta Uva…wow!

We traveled down the coast towards Panama on our way to Manzanillo, the last “big” town before a national park that runs along the Panamanian border. We came across Punta Uva on our way. I’m not sure if it is actually a town, though I guess it is, as I did see it listed on my map. However, there wasn’t much here except a few convenience stores and one or two guest houses. As we were driving along, we peered to our left and saw a narrow dirt road heading to the ocean. So, always wanting to “take the road less traveled,” we headed down it and came upon the beach at Punta Uva. This is one of the nicest beaches I’ve seen in Costa Rica. White sand, clear water at just the right temperature—warm but not too warm—and a long beach front with barely anyone on it. I am not a good judge of distance but I would guess it was 1.5-2 miles long and I don’t think I counted more than 7 or 8 people on the whole expanse of beach. The beach angled out towards the ocean with a huge rock formation, covered in trees at its precipice, with the ocean wildly thrashing it.

Small world….

The second hotel we stayed at, again in Puerto Viejo, is called “Agapi” or Greek for “love.” Whenever I see something like that I know a Greek must be involved and being of Greek descent myself, we had to investigate. Agapi is an adorable hotel right off the main road (some parts paved, some parts not!) heading a few kilometers south of Puerto Viejo. Consisting of two wood buildings with a number of large rooms, some with kitchens, it was right on the beach. When we arrived we met a portly woman of African descent who was the co-owner. I’m always impressed with someone like her as she spoke Spanish, English, some French…and Greek! As it turns out, her husband is Greek and moved to the Caribbean five years ago, met her, and they got married. So, over the past five years, she’s learned Greek. I can hardly imagine a woman with a Jamaican/African background speaking Greek!

Even more interesting for me was that the husband was from the island of Lesbos where my grandparents (on my father’s side) were from! In fact, he lived in the same town as one of my grandparents and he had even heard of my last name. I couldn’t believe that in a small town on the coast of Costa Rica I’d meet someone who was from Greece, let alone Lesbos. Well, they say Costa Rica has a wide international appeal, and he was looking for “perpetual summer,” so there you have it! By the way, the hotel was very nice, inexpensive, clean and one cannot beat falling asleep to the sound of waves! I’d definitely recommend it to anyone traveling to this area.

Don’t blame it on me….

I’ve been getting quite a few emails these days from people who have “read my story” and are now strongly considering moving here either to retire and live a quiet life, or for those younger than retirement age, like me, to start a business. In fact, in a few of the emails I have received, I’ve been told that I “pushed them over the edge” in terms of their decision to move here. Some of my new friends want to open a B&B, others want to try doing massage therapy, and still others want to export products to the U.S. Whatever it is they want to do, I cannot be held responsible for their decision to move here and whether in retrospect, they think they’ve made the right decision! I tell people all the time that vacationing here is not the same thing as living here. Like living in the U.S., there are many day-to-day, mundane tasks that must be done such as paying bills, cleaning the house, going shopping, and waiting in line after line at government offices to handle seemingly simple matters. And for some of us, earning a living is important too—yes, we aren’t on vacation all the time! So, I wish these newcomers well and still being a newcomer myself—but apparently becoming a veteran—I hope they keep their eyes open to the possibilities that exist here, have a lot of patience, and take it one day at a time. If they do it right, they’ll be sitting in their hammocks on a Tuesday afternoon in no time!

There is a lot going on here with many guests and friends visiting over the Easter holiday week. I am curious to see what “semana” is all about here as apparently it is bigger than Christmas and I’m told everything shuts downs and Costa Ricans take holiday. A friend of mine is visiting and we plan to take a road trip for part of Easter week. I’m hoping the roads won’t be too crazy but if they are, we’ll just stop at local beach and relax for a few hours until we get to final destination: the beach!

Pura Vida!

New B&B phone number: (506) 456-4084


7th April 2006

Hope you have them available for us next week. See you in a few days!
7th April 2006

Gotta do Chirripo
Dude, you gotta climb Chirripo, there's no doubt about it.
7th April 2006

Frind of Beth's sister
My name is Paul and I have been reading all about you guys...sounds great I'm ready to come down for a visit with lynn beth's sister... Im getting tired of my life hear and if I sell my house I could maybe retire...or find some sort of home based business...see you soon...
8th April 2006

Hi there! Sounds like fun!
Hey-- Donna and Lauren are coming? I'm jealous! Can't wait to come visit, too! Great blog-- Thanks Andrew. Learn more from you than from Beth!!!!!
12th April 2006

Carribean side
Hi Andrew, I understand that there are two routes to the Carribean side. The old one goes through Cartago ,then Turrialba and the newer one (faster way?) runs thru Guapiles. Sounds like you took the old route. Do you think you might like to live on the Carribean side? I know where you are now is very beautiful and has cool weather. How does the beach at Uvita compare to Tamarindo area beaches and the nearest beaches to you (Playa Dona Ana or Caldera?)? Visitaste usted las playas de la peninsula nicoya todavia?
6th June 2006

Come stay with us Puerto Viejo
Hey Andrew, next time you are in Puerto, we have a nice comp room for you on the beach. Love your blog. I am surprised at how similiar our stories are. If you want, you can cheack out mine too at There is info on rooms there too. Cheers from Puerto Viejo
12th November 2007

these r amazing
your great at all u do from what i read and saw

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