Morning Walks in Central America

There is something unusual and appealing about being outside early in the morning in Central America. For a number of years now, we have made it a practice to take a morning walk; (or bike ride) between 5:30 and 6:00 am each day. Most of those walks have been in Costa Rica, where we live; however, we’ve also taken them in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. While each country’s sounds and sights are a bit different, there is something shared that is hard to put your finger on. It’s a combination of fresh air, unique smells of barnyard, sweet-smelling flowering tree blossoms, the sweet smell in the air from an overnight rain, sometimes mixed with a bit of diesel if delivery trucks are around, and hot bread coming from the ovens of bakeries (panaderias). Sometimes in rural areas, it has been the aroma of fresh bread coming from outdoor stucco ovens. The bread cooked over the fire in this way exudes a smell that you will follow anywhere.

We have had some interesting experiences on our morning walks the last few years. We spend the majority of our time in Jaco, a Costa Rican beach town on the Central Pacific Ocean. Most of the time we walk the beach in the morning. Most of the time we see only two or three people on the beach. During holiday weekends, we see more people, usually from the city. Once in a while, we take our complete walk without seeing anyone. I usually search for sea glass and broken bits of colorful tile, while Brenda marvels at the cloud formations, looks for colorful shells or pieces of coral, and watches for sea turtle nests to disguise from poachers.

This morning was one of those golden banner mornings. I came across two large sand dollars. Normally, we don’t find sand dollars on our beach. The last couple of months, I have found some very small ones, but nothing like what I found today. I think it may be that the heavy rain and windstorm last night resulted in the waves being rougher than usual, depositing more on the beach. There was a lot of glass and tile on the shore this morning also.

But, back to the sand dollars. They are perfect specimens. One is 5 inches in diameter, and the other is 3.5 inches.

Often, we take a bike ride through town instead of walking on the beach. We love riding down Avenida Pastor Diaz (that’s the name of the main street). People are sweeping the sidewalks in front of their businesses, pulling up the metal security coverings over their storefronts, and chatting away with people walking by. The smell of fresh bread from Pachi’s Bakery draws us in, and sometimes we just have to get a warm loaf of French bread because – well, because it is so good.

Further down the street, we take some side streets that lead us to narrow paved paths that run along the shore, parallel to the beach. On these side streets, ladies are already sweeping their porches or sandy yards, while men stand with a cup of coffee, shirtless, greeting the new day.

There are usually people already sitting under the trees bordering the beach, staking their claims to a shady spot for the day of relaxation. A few surfers are riding the waves, and walkers on the beach enjoy a cup of coffee as they stroll bare-footed.

Another place we love to walk in the mornings is in our mountain cabin neighborhood in the foothills of Turrialba Volcano, in Cartago province. These walks are very different. No beach, no shells, no businesses coming to life. Instead, we walk on a narrow rural trail through flowering trees, palm trees, grand views of the mountains (even all the way to the Caribbean Sea some mornings), and our neighbors’ beautiful properties and Costa Rican style homes. Toucans and oropendolas fly overhead and perch in trees further down the trail, waiting for us to catch up. The long, hanging oropendola nests are busy with activity as the adults are either building the nests or feeding the young. Citrus trees with fallen fruit along with colorful rainbow eucalyptus trees add to the cool, refreshing tropical feel of the morning.

Bird snacking on a banana.

If you happen to visit Central America, be sure to take early morning walks. It just starts the day right. It also ignites our appetites for a hearty breakfast. It is usually gallo pinto (Costa Rican rice and bean dish), a fresh smoothie (pineapple, banana, mango, and papaya); or waffles with strawberries or mango (and whipped topping).

The sound of the rolling ocean waves is serenading me as I close this post. Early morning in Central America is the best time of the day.

Until next time . . . .

This is Paul, a Part-Time Expat turned Full-Time

Coming Soon: My new book that tells stories of our family’s years living in Honduras, The Cayman Islands, and Costa Rica. Watch for When Far Away Is Home, to be released soon.

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