“The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.”
― Christopher Paolini, Eragon
There’s something about the ocean that has the power to lift the soul. When we feel lost or confused or overwhelmed, simply being near the sea restores and replenishes us, inspires and heals us. I think it’s this need to be near the water that has us on an unconscious journey to discover the best beaches around the world. You can imagine that being in a place like Costa Rica is in many senses a dream come true.
When we arrived at the small neighborhood of Cocles Beach, we knew we had found a gem. Just a ten-minute bike ride outside the town of Puerto Viejo and the first in a strip of four beautiful beaches lining the coast, Cocles Beach encompasses a bit of everything we love.
In addition to its ideal location, the waves are perfect for surfing, especially when the legendary Salsa Brava sweeps through, beckoning surfers from every corner of the globe. Cocles is a quiet neighborhood, but its proximity to Puerto Viejo puts bars, restaurants, and shops right at your fingertips—without being in the center of the noise or seediness the town has a reputation for. But the best part about Cocles is easily the community feel that reverberates through it.
At the heart of the community is Om, a yoga studio and hostel. If it wasn’t for our stay at Om, we’re not sure we would have left Puerto Viejo with such strong feelings of attachment. The hostel is small, with three private rooms and one dormitory, and a fully equipped kitchen. Most of the people who stay at Om are there for the close proximity to the yoga classes offered twice daily on a gorgeous terrace overlooking the jungle and ocean.
On the first floor of Om is a separate but closely related establishment, Caribeans. If you’re not interested in yoga, this is reason enough to stay at Om. Caribeans has some of the best chocolate we’ve ever tasted, sourced from local raw cacao. Not only do all your orders come with a sliver of dark chocolate, you can also sample all their chocolate bar varieties in the free tasting room. What better way to end a class of yoga than that? In addition to the yoga classes, Om offers a variety of guided adventure activities, such as surfing and hiking.
We’ll be honest. We didn’t get to know a whole lot of the other travelers staying at the hostel. However, we did quickly become friends with Kristin, the owner of Om, as well as the work-exchange volunteers; they would be the ones to immediately accept us into the community and introduce us to its members. Kristin is an incredible woman, and her story is an inspiring one.
In her mid-twenties, Kristin felt compelled to move to Puerto Viejo and build Om from the ground up. It became the first fully functioning yoga and health center in Puerto Viejo at a time when the town was still largely considered the Wild West of Costa Rica.
Kristin will be the first to tell you that the journey hasn’t always been easy, but there’s no doubt that she is following her dharma. Joy radiates from Kirstin, and to see someone so fully pursuing her dreams is inspiring. What’s even better, Kristin has been influential in giving back to the local community. She has helped to organize a weekly organic produce pick-up from local farmers. She is in the process of creating a discounted yoga teacher-training program that local members of the community can actually afford. She hosts a weekly CommUNITY Karma Yoga Class, a donation-based class that goes entirely to a local, community-based project.
Kristin is the perfect example of what a difference a responsible business can make for the community when they take tangible steps to do so.
Traveling as a couple, sometimes we can find it a bit difficult to make friends. We typically don’t stay at hostels, and we certainly don’t go to bars looking to meet people. We have been fortunate that our blog has introduced us to many fellow travelers when our paths cross. Still, on a daily basis, we don’t interact with many other travelers or expats. Sometimes we are grateful for this as it allows us to interact more with the local culture. Other times we crave the friendships, relationships, and bonds that traveling forges.
In Puerto Viejo, we didn’t have a choice in the matter; the expat community immediately embraced us. Whether it was being invited to play trivia, being included in a birthday surprise party for Kristin, or simply people taking initiative to approach us and ask about our story, we were consistently taken aback by the genuine interest shown to us.
If you’re interesting in experiencing Om for yourself, Kristin offers a work exchange program. In exchange for part-time work, volunteers are given accommodation, a fully equipped kitchen, and free access to yoga classes. With an ‘office’ that looks out to the ocean, it doesn’t get much better than that!
If you’re headed to Puerto Viejo, we highly recommend staying at Cocles Beach. You’ll be closer to some of the more beautiful beaches down the main road, without giving up the amenities in the town of Puerto Viejo itself. You’ll also be just a stone’s throw from the amazing Jaguar Rescue Center – an absolute must visit whenever on the Caribbean!
For more on what to do in Puerto Viejo, we recommend this Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo, written by This American Girl. It has just about everything you could possibly want to know about the area!
Are you a beach or a mountain person? Have you stumbled across any small businesses giving back to the local community in a large way? Where in the world have you felt immediately accepted?
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Hi Casey – in terms of giving back, you might find it fun to visit us at El Puente. Community Kitchen 3 times a week, We are blessed with volunteers from all over the world – last year, we put 143 indigenous children in school. 32 microloans. 150 people a week come to our Community Kitchen. The government trade school has taught classes at our home. CNN did a report on us – see it at http://bit.ly/yQSVOZ Push CC for English subtitles. This is the time of year we’re suiting up kids for school, which starts in February. If you want to, you can go along with Nanci to Bribri as she “suits up” kids for school. Any questions? call us at 2750-0524 Barry & Nanci Stevens
Wow! Sounds like you guys are doing some amazing work there. If we are in the area we’ll be sure to give you a call. Thanks Barry!
Hey guys thanks so much for the shout out! I’m so glad you fell in love with Om and Cocles, it’s truly one of the most magical places in the world. Writing to you today from Gili Air, Lombok and wishing you all the best for 2014!! :)
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Ohh so lucky! We had a chance to stay on Gili Meno and loved it so much we skipped the other 2 :-p Lombok is pretty special as well. Hope you enjoy it look out for Malaria!
I love the yoga studio here, looks like a very peaceful place to meditate. I’m heading to Indonesia and the Philippines next month and I hope to experience something similar.
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You’ll have more than enough options for yoga in Indonesia! That’s where we first fell in love with it.
That sounds like our kind of place, small and not too crazy. We don’t use hostels all the time because we like CS and other options too, but when we do we like to choose the right hostel where we can actually feel comfortable and still enjoy our privacy. The yoga classes are becoming more and more interesting for me… maybe I should try?
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We tend to shy away from hostels as well because we enjoy our privacy and work space. Om Yoga was a great mix of community and comfort! We are pretty obsessed with yoga now so we recommend it to everyone, but especially travelers! You need minimal equipment and there are so many styles from aerobic to meditative so it’s perfect for anyone on the road.
I’m definitely not a beach person, but I’m TOTALLY a water/ocean person (which leaves me torn when I want to spend time in the water). It’s hard to bypass the beach altogether. But this explains my love for swimming and diving.
Kristen sounds amazing. I love meeting people like her when I travel. :)
I get exactly what you’re saying! Dan is the same. As long as he’s diving or surfing he’s considered a beach person :-p
This sounds 100% like my kinda place!
Anywhere that has a small, local feel to it, I’m in. The Om Yoga Studio and Hostel sounds amazing, that is definitely somewhere I would stay. You guys are making Costa Rica sound fabulous! I can’t wait to travel there one day…hopefully soon :)
All the best to you two in 2014.
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I love yoga and I really love to visit Costa Rica because of its beautiful nature and diversity. It’s going to be a perfect place for meditation. The studio is amazing.
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The nature in Costa Rica really is everywhere. We loved doing yoga while hearing the birds and howler monkeys in the surrounding jungle!
Wow! This sounds awesome! I am in need of a warm getaway and will be looking into this. Would you consider it safe as a solo woman traveler? Saving up for a family getaway and just looking to get away by myself as a sort of retreat.
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I found it quite safe despite the rumors! Of course you want to take cabs at night and always be aware of your surroundings but I never felt targeted.
That beach looks lovely! I’ve never done yoga but it sounds like a very relaxing and rejuvenating place to spend some time.
We’ve really started picking it up in the last couple of months, but yoga is so much fun!
Great info about Puerto Viejo. My husband and I have also considered picking up yoga but are still in the contemplation phase! Thanks for the inspiration.
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Our pleasure! Just a word of warning, yoga is addictive and known to cause happiness :-p
Hi, nice description it made me go there so bad!! I would love to do the work exchange program with the. Bit ie been trying to find how to contact them but o can’t find a way, I’ve messaged them on Facebook but they don’t seem to see it! Would you tell what’s the best way to contact them?
Thank you ;)
Thanks, Olga! I know they opened up a new studio in a new location so they might have a different name. Unfortunately I’m not sure how else to contact them, but I know Yoga Trade is a great place to look for other yoga volunteer opportunities around the world!
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