Playa Hermosa Surf

Playa Hermosa Surf

Pictured: Image of current wave conditions in Playa Hermosa. Lele Usuna from Argentina as well as surfers from more than 30 countries are enjoying them. Pic: Manino/ISA

Final preparations underway at Playa Hermosa with good surf conditions predicted for the week

Just two days before the opening parade, excitement around the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games is everywhere. Scheduled to be held in July 31st through August 8th 2009 in Costa Rica it will be the biggest surfing championship in history to date.

“Surfers are arriving from every corner of the globe,” say ISA President Fernando Aguerre. “Teams from Germany, Nicaragua, Ireland, Tahiti and Jamaica are attending this year, making it an Olympic-style event.”

The Swiss team arrived in the pouring rain, their board bags doubling in weight on the way from the airport. The American team almost lost their top female when she was charged excess baggage at the airlines and didn’t have the money to pay for them. The French and Australian teams brought top performers from the ASP world tour looking to take home the gold, while Mexico is just hoping to place in the top ten. With teams from as far away as Austria, Japan, New Zealand and Great Britain, and Hawaii as well as nations as unlikely as Barbados, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago attending, it is sure to be a World Cup style event.

Guanacaste Folklore

Guanacaste Folklore

By: Chrissie Long
The Tico Times Staff

Costa Rica’s upper arm on the Pacific, known for its expansive beaches and steep volcanoes, is celebrating the day it became part of Costa Rica this weekend.

Replete with lively folk dances, cattle fairs and traditional food such as atoles, chorreadas, and elotes, Guanacaste’s Annexation is always described as a “fiesta.”

In 1824, leaders of the Nicoya Peninsula voted to secede from Nicaragua and join Costa Rica. The region had just gained independence from Spain three years earlier.

But it wasn’t until 1848 that the 4,015 square mile area became the province of Guanacaste, named for a distinctive tree in the area.

In honor of the 185th anniversary, Liberia, the provincial capital, is hosting an evening road race on Friday, a running of the bulls at 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, a concert at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 6 p.m. on Sunday and a series of livestock events such as a horse parade on Saturday. (For more information visit

In Nicoya, 5,000 people are expected for the Grand March for Dignity, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on the outskirts of the city, marching toward the central park.

Participants in the march are planning to demonstrate their support for the Coastal Community Law designed to prevent the extinction of coastal and fishing towns. According to the preamble to the bill, these communities face destruction and exploitation of natural ecosystems, poverty and lack of opportunity, among other negatives.

“It’s a day that we celebrate our annexation, a decision that brought much peace and tranquility to the region,” said Wilmar Matarrita, president of the Ecumenical Forum for Alternative Development in Guanacaste ( FEDEAGUA).

“But in reality, we have become one of the most poor and abandoned provinces in the country. Most of the country’s resources are invested in the center, leaving Guanacaste in a poor state,” he added, explaining the reason for the march.

On Saturday, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias will travel to the region and inaugurate a series of public works, including an aqueduct in Maguenco, bridges over the Perioco and Grande rivers and housing projects in Nicoya and Santa Cruz.

He’ll be in Nicoya at 11 a.m. Saturday for the celebration of Annexation Day.

Baby Leatherbacks heading out to sea...

Baby Leatherbacks heading out to sea...

Tamarindo News
By Patricia Duran K.

The area currently occupied by Las Baulas Marine National Park could be reduced by an executive bill encouraged by the government, which is currently under study at the Environment Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

Although the Sala Cuarta orders the State to protect the environment and in spite of the studies in which such reduction is not justified, the government insists on this initiative, which, according to the deputies of the political party Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), only seeks to benefit large developers.

Playa Langosta and  the area of Cerro El Morro, located north from Las Baulas Park, are the sites that would remain outside the protection zone for real estate development, but this time within the national park area.

According to Congressman Sergio Alfaro, such legal reform proposes the creation of refuge of mixed ownership to allow the construction of urban systems, hotels, tourism development and recreational areas, as well as public and private infrastructure and even ecotourism, by leaving aside the hydro-geological study of the National Ground Water, Irrigation and Drainage Service (SENARA, for its acronym in Spanish), which qualifies the park as of “extreme vulnerability,” meaning that no development of any kind, not even as eco-friendly as it could be, could be developed here.

Alfaro said that SENARA study concluded that that there is an aquifer under that area that could be seriously affected. “The project is awash with private benefits seeking for the reduction of this area to benefit them even more. The turtles, the water, everything else are taking a second place,” he said.
The leatherbacks are an endangered species of turtles that come to Guanacaste to lay their eggs. Over the past 20 years, its population has decreased by 90%; according to projections from the World Conservation Union, if it continues like this, it will completely disappear in about ten years.
Randall Arauz, Executive Director of Sea Turtle Restoration Program, said that if the development of infrastructure at the National Marine Park Las Baulas is permitted, the turtles will be seriously affected because the lights disorient the hatchlings on their way to the sea and discourage the female adults from nesting.

Arauz strongly criticized the executive branch for promoting itself abroad as a protector of the environment, and for doing something completely different locally, and stressed on the fact that we are missing politicians who will to protect the environment.

The Executive Branch of Costa Rica submitted to the Legislative Assembly  the Executive Bill named “Law for the rectification of boundaries of the Las Baulas Marine National Park and the Creation of Las Baulas National Wildlife Refuge of mixed ownership” (file 17.383).

The Political party Acción Ciudadana (PAC) reported that the project is just the newest presentation of the same group of interests that have been already submitted to them in three other projects, which have also been rejected by the Legislative Assembly.

He recalled that those projects, like this new initiative, were seeking to exclude the areas of greatest interest for the regional property and tourist market from Las Baulas Park, especially Cerro El Morro, Cerro Ventanas, and part of the territorial sea of Capitán and Verde Islands, among others.

Two of the resolutions of the Constitutional Court (No. 2008007549 and No. 2008-18529) are still waiting for its application to consolidate the boundaries of the park and make the necessary expropriations.
On the other hand, as of last December, there is SENARA’s statement, compulsory technical criteria describing the state of “extreme vulnerability” of Huacas-Tamarindo aquifer, particularly in Playa Grande.

This project excludes those private areas that the Sala Cuarta has ordered to expropriate. Without any scientific study that allowing it, it authorizes the development of single-family homes, multifamily home, tourist residences, and recreational facilities in what is now the National Park.

Due to this new issue, PAC’s representatives announced they will defend the current boundaries of the Park, the decision of the Constitutional Court and the expropriations necessary to help to the survival of the leatherback turtle.

“PAC shares this concern with many local and environmental organizations such as Pretoma (Sea Turtle Restoration Program) and the Association for the Preservation and Protection of the Natural and Cultural Resources of the Province of Guanacaste, and we demand the government to consolidate the Park,” he added.

The Leatherback case is just an example of what is happening in all the coastal areas of our country. Ratifying the executive bill would set a negative precedent for our environmental policy and the international prestige of Costa Rica. Las Baulas Park is located in the epicenter of the Guanacaste tourist and real estate maelstrom.

A publication of a group of congress people from PAC states, “There is no doubt then that they are playing here not only with the future of the populations of leatherbacks, now in danger of extinction. This confirms that there is a serious mismatch between reality and the declarations of Costa Rican environmental diplomacy, national laws and the reputation of the country in terms of conservation.”

All smiles living here...simply "Pura Vida"

All smiles living here...simply "Pura Vida"

The Happy Planet Index 2.0 reveals a surprising picture of the relative wealth and progress of nations.

The second global ranking of well-being and environmental impact shows that: Costa Rica comes top of the Happy Planet Index 2.0. Costa Ricans report the highest life satisfaction in the world, have the second-highest average life expectancy of the Americas (second only to Canada) and have an ecological footprint that means that the country only narrowly fails to achieve the goal of ‘one-planet living’: consuming its fair share of the Earth’s natural resources.

Latin America dominates the top of the index. Nine of the ten top-scoring nations on the Index are in Latin America. The highest-ranking G20 country in terms of HPI is Brazil, in 9th place out of 143 nations.

      Analysis of HPI data over time reveals that:

      OECD nations’ HPI scores plummeted between 1960 and the late 1970s. Although there have been some gains since then, HPI scores were still higher in 1961 than in 2005. Life satisfaction and life expectancy combined have increased 15 per cent over the 45-year period, but it has come at an earth-shattering cost – an increase in ecological footprint per head of 72 per cent.

      Of a group of 36 major nations it was possible to track over time in detail, around two-thirds increased their HPI scores marginally between 1990 and 2005, but the three largest countries in the world China, India and the USA (all aggressively pursuing growth-based development models) have all seen their HPI scores drop in that time.

        Who stopped the Rain?

        July 4, 2009

        Guanacaste Tree

        Guanacaste Tree

        The Howler Mag
        By: Tom Peifer

        The truth is that it is not raining much this year in Guanacaste. Depending on your area, perspective or source of data, we may be 80% below last year. Recent national forecasts say we’ll get something substantial in September and October. Maybe corn farmers will have better luck with their late-season planting.

        The truth is, we don’t know if this is just a dry year after two wet years, or the beginning of a new pattern. Climate change models show Guanacaste becoming 30% drier but even that misses the point. They have long predicted that rainfall would come in more intense ‘events’. When that happens, more water ends up running off to the ocean, less goes into the ground. Thirty percent less rain may well translate into fifty percent drier. Nobody knows for sure.

        Over the years in these columns we have explored ways to adapt your home, your farm or garden, to the realities of a changing world. A well-placed bump here and an infiltration zone there and, bingo, you have an area where your plants could swear they were living in the humid tropics. But, as Mark Twain wryly noted, common sense appears to be a very uncommon thing.

        Let that thought hang there while considering that a dry year for Guanacaste may lead to lower levels in Lake Arenal and reduced electricity generation in one of the biggest hydropower installations of the country. Might have been a good idea for someone to ponder that variable before developing a surfeit of energy guzzling, air-conditioned, tourist industry infrastructure. Ditto for the proposed massive diversion of ground water and river flows to keep the lawns and golf courses green.

        An ironic fact is that the current weakness of the whole edifice of the tourism-related economy is due to ‘other’ reasons. Inquiring minds can now follow the paper trail and see how the twin towers of tourism and related construction were erected on the less-than-stable subsoil of the expanding US real estate and financial bubble. Both evidence and testimony would appear to demonstrate that that bubble was blown to resuscitate the moribund US economy after the bubble popped.

        Let’s cut to the chase here. What’s the next bubble? Trillions of dollars have been poured into rescue efforts. Many observers are skeptical that the future will rock steady to the tune of “Let the good times roll.” A recent conference in Russia—with US observers politely refused—is seen as a first step away from the dollar-based international monetary system. The truth is that there is a massive historical shift occurring and we are living through it.

        The expression “living in a bubble” describes someone protected or isolated from reality. In the financial realm–which for many millions now impacts access to things like jobs, food, and shelter in addition to flights to Costa Rica—we can now observe the collective letdown of a return to stark reality. Let’s run with the analogy a bit.

        I recently saw an article with a series of graphs that depict man’s increasing impact on nature. Statistics freaks call the form of the exponential rise of the curve from flat to vertical a “hockey stick.” Pick your favorite area of concern. It was there. Over-fishing of the oceans, depletion of forests, use of groundwater, species extinction, fertilizer consumption, use of fossil fuels, McDonald’s restaurants, air travel, CO2 in the atmosphere, extraction of minerals from the earth’s crust. Hockey sticks galore.

        The truth is that the human race has benefited from a series of bubbles conveniently blown by the forces of nature. You can thank your lucky stars that we just happen to enjoy life in an atmosphere that conveniently affords protection from the inhospitable void of space and a nice convenient breathable gas called oxygen that conveniently comes out of plants that conveniently turn solar energy into stuff we can use. All in all, it has been a quite comfy place for the human race to hang its hat for a while—considering the alternatives. But, it would appear that humanity has been busily bursting the bubbles with the hockey stick curve of exponential economic growth and the collateral damage of resource consumption and its consequences.

        Now they may not be hockey fans, but mainstream economists want to get back to exponential growth ASAP. Most are wont to entrust our fate to the workings of the invisible guiding hand that is supposedly able to replace anything with something else as long as the price is right.  Like they found the secret force which passes from the hand of God on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and puts the spark of life into the lifeless clay of a recently moulded Adam. Inquiring minds can mull over the likelihood of market forces solving the shortage of rainfall in time for this year’s corn crop in Guanacaste, or next year’s electrical outages if Lake Arenal doesn’t fill up.

        The truth is that even the White House recently released a report saying that localities need to prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change based on what we now know. We’re not talking more research. We’re talking adaptation—concrete action steps around the certainty, as we now know it. No more head in the clouds, head in the sand or pie in the sky. The stuff is comin’ down so people get ready. Like the Guanacaste proverb: hombre prevenido vale por dos (a well-prepared man is worth double…)

        There are plenty of ‘baby steps’ you can take to prepare your home, garden or farm for a drier Guanacaste.

        As a country, Costa Rica is several giant steps ahead of the pack in terms of coping with the vicissitudes of a future largely defined by climate change and both energy and water issues. Unfortunately the powers that be don’t realize what a comparative advantage they enjoy, or how to make best use of it.

        As observed above, “The truth is tough,” but it may not resonate well with those whose power depends on adherence to the norms of yore. One of my favorite songs admonishes us to “tell the children the truth.” They may in fact be more receptive. After all, the ‘sins of their fathers’ are going to be visited unfairly on their heads, leaving them with far fewer bubbles to enjoy.

        It bears remembering that most organisms survived by the luck of the genetic draw in the sudden-death casino of natural selection. If your genes moved in the right direction, you evolved fast enough to adapt, to keep up with the changin’ times. Homo sapiens, at least in theory, is a breed apart. We have the ability to see which way the wind is blowing and set the sails accordingly.

        You can do your own kids a big favor. Tell them the truth and provide them with the knowledge and the tools to make a difference. Take the time—and effort–to blow some life back into the real bubbles, the natural ones that sustain us all and give us the gift of Pura Vida.

        And yes, enjoy the fiesta time wonders that float, drift and rise like glittering spherical rainbows and make the children run, clapping their hands into the future with exuberance and happines.