Single Mom Traveling: Koss Art Gallery & Samara Beach

New York, N.Y. I’m a Single Mom; I traveled to Costa Rica with my 20 month old daughter Natalia for 35 days, exploring many parts of the country to see if we would like to settle there. We lived like locals, we adventured and we bonded and I’ve been writing all about it.   Although we visited many amazing places during our Costa Rica trip, one of our favorite towns in Costa Rica is Samara, on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

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During our ten day stay in Samara, we lived right next door to an amazing beach front art gallery called The Koss Art Gallery. It is one of three art galleries in Samara. Have you ever even heard of an art gallery right on the beach?   It was the first time for me, and I got to live right across the creek from it at the Bahia Restaurant and Cabinas property.   Natalia and I lived in a one bedroom apartment with a beautiful balcony facing the vibrant Pacific Ocean.

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I originally rented a place for us at the Shanna Apartments in town, not knowing that although the apartments are clean and nice, they are located in the shopping Pavilion with a bustling nightlife and Club Arriba pumping music until late hours of the night. The owner of Shanna Apartments warned me that it might get loud at night, but I did not realize it would be like ”˜living la vida loca’ loud. I highly recommend Shanna Apartments for single people who want to party non-stop, who want to meet new friends right away and who don’t need much sleep. But for a Single Mom with a toddler, it was a total faux pas on my part, as a mother to book that place. I should have listened to Shanna, but I could not find anything that sounded as good for the price on the internet, so I thought, “I’m from New York, I can handle a little noise and so can Natalia”. But this was more than a little noise, it was a party.

I don’t regret it though, I’m glad I stayed there for that one night. While Natalia was sleeping in our glass store front apartment, I had the curtains opened a little bit so I could keep my eye on her and I went right outside our ”˜store-apt’ to chat with my neighbor. He was a successful North American world-traveling vagabond. He lived at the Shanna Apartments for a while, loved to party and happened to know practically the entire town of Samara. The entire town of Samara stopped by his place that night and intermingled between our shared patio and Club Arriba next door before going out to the beach clubs.

I knew that tomorrow, Natalia and I were getting up early to go look for a new place but on my first night in Samara, I was grateful that I had already made new friends and met the unofficial “mayor”, and was getting to socialize.

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The next day, I went to speak to the owner at Shanna Apartments, who was more than understanding, and gave me the rest of my money back to go look for a new place. We asked around if anyone knew of an inexpensive place on the beach, and the local bakery shop owner told me to go to Bahia Restaurant and Cabinas. We walked along the beach to Bahia and thankfully our dream beach front apartment was available. I negotiated with the owner and we got a jaw dropping rate; it was $40 a day. We were so blessed that morning and like I always say, ‘You don’t have to be Donald Trump to travel and live well’.

If we wouldn’t have found Bahia, there would be many more inexpensive options for our accommodations that were not necessarily listed on-line. Samara is filled with apartment rentals, vacation rentals, villas, hotels, cabinas and other accommodations. I recommend that you book in advance, but once you arrive and you don’t like your accommodations, you can always go out and look for something new.

For couples or single travelers with or without kids, a great place to stay is Casa Brian, it is a Canadian owned Hostel on the beach with access to Brian’s beachfront hammocks. Although we did not stay at Casa Brian, we were still invited to hang out with Brian and his guests.   We also made it for his Saturday morning gluten-free pancakes, made with the finest wholesome ingredients by Brian himself.   For those who have a little extra cash, I really enjoyed visiting the Tree House Inn, where you get to live in a contemporary tree house, and for those who want to stay in a Resort, The Samara Resort just outside of town is quite popular.

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Life was good in Samara; filled with art, culture, long bike rides, numerous ocean dips, music, dancing, good food and a unique beach town community filled with locals, expats and tourists.   I also had the opportunity to spend some quality time with the artist at The Koss Art Gallery, Jaime Koss.     Jaime, of Ukrainian and Spanish decent, taught me a lot with his bright female-inspired oil on canvas images and with his insightful chats about life, love, women and today’s world. The Koss Art Gallery is a must-visit in Samara and Jaime is definitely a fascinating personality that makes up this wondrous beach town.

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Another unique quality to The Koss Art Gallery is that Jaime rents out a one bedroom house as well as a second floor studio above his place, designed with his art work. As I said, the accommodation options in Samara are abundant. Jaime’s properties are on the beach and have very reasonable rates. You can live surrounded by art, the beach, and the colors of blue, orange, red and yellow found in Jaime’s vibrant paintings, and in the natural scenery around. You can also see Jaime in action as he paints, and maybe you may be lucky enough to taste his mouthwatering chocolate cake.

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The gallery is right near the town of Samara, just a five minute walk along the beach, where there are cool and relaxed lounges, restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, boutique hotels and surf schools. Hot surfers with sun drenched dreads, but I digress; and friendly and welcoming smiles. My favorite Samara town highlights include getting fresh fish fillets or fresh lobster right from the Rasta fishermen in the small yellow house across from the Samara Shopping Pavilion. I also enjoyed chatting with all the local artists, selling their handmade crafts and jewelry in the daily open air market. Another activity that Natalia and I both looked forward to everyday was riding our bike in town and on the beach during the radiant Samara sunsets.

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Jaime always used to say, “The sun is so powerful in Samara”. Those living on the beach, even for a short time, get in tune with her cycles; they rise with her and go down with her too. Although Samara does have a powerful sun, the moon is just as powerful. The Samara nightlife is a seven day a week affair. I have heard many of my new Samara friends often revel in their all night long party stories. I may even have been a character in one or two of those stories. Oh, those unforgettable Samara nights. My favorite hang out spot, right on the beach was La Vela Latina. I would go there with Natalia for lunch, it’s is a kid-friendly place and it also has a great atmosphere at night. For music, I would go and listen to DJ Eduardo Junquera, one of my favorite DJ’s, playing blow-your-mind house music and beyond at Club Arriba.

Samara is also a safe and beautiful beach for kids, with lots of families around. The waves are quite powerful in one part of the beach, where all the surfers hang out, but if you go further down, the water becomes more tranquil. Most of the time, Natalia felt comfortable going in the water with me and if she didn’t feel like getting wet, she sat by the shore playing, while I went in for a refreshing dip. Samara also has plenty of surf camps and other beach activities for both kids and adults.

Samara has a wonderful day care in town with local and tourist kids, and a trusted babysitting service. I had peace of mind in Samara when it came to child care, and my much needed mommy free time. I enjoyed leisurely mornings on the beach or I went on interviews while Natalia played and learned at the local school/day care from 8:30am until 12:30pm. On some nights, Natalia would instantly fall asleep to the meditative sounds of the waves and I would call the babysitter from the day care.

I not only had   free time to take care of business and relax, but I also got to go out and experience some of the famed nightlife, with reggae nights, house music nights or just dinner with new friends. I met a wonderful Swiss actor friend in Samara.   He would dine with us, make delicious guacamole, play with Natalia and have late night chats with me on the balcony. Too bad he had to leave so soon. Looking back, those ten days seem like a long time to me, because I lived my life to the fullest in Samara.

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For me, a New Yorker who is used to events and entertainment at her fingertips, but who also likes her peace and quiet, Samara offers the best of both worlds. There is an abundance of progressive art and culture, including word class dining, in places like Gusto Creativo Italiano and a sophisticated and fun atmosphere with delectable drinks at Gusto Beach. We even got to see a Christmas show outdoors at the local school, with a play and a ballet performance for kids. Natalia loved the show so much that she jumped right on stage to do a little dance.

There is also a Spanish school right on the beach called InterCultura, where students can go to learn Spanish or prospective teachers can get their TEFL certification in Teaching English. Samara also boasts a famous and rigorous massage therapy school, with many friendly massage students willing to practice their skills with free massages.

Costa Rica is known for its esteemed education system, which is one of the reasons why it is the most prosperous country in Central America; their school system rocks. In Samara there is a pre-school, which would be perfect for Natalia to attend as well as a Ballet School for children, whose owner is a retired Ballerina from the Russian National Ballet Theatre.   Everywhere I went in Costa Rica, there were plenty of schools to choose from. This is one aspect of the country that I absolutely adore. For this reason and many other reasons, I am still contemplating about going back to Costa Rica with Natalia and living there for a year or two.

If I do go back, I will definitely settle in Samara Beach. Natalia would start the amazing bi-lingual school there, while I would teach ESL, do my writing and travel work, as well as dabble in some Real Estate. I recommend Samara to everyone, from honeymooners to retirees, to toddlers and twenty year olds; I think everyone will feel so good in Samara.

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For more about Samara beach check out http://samarabeach.com/

Learn more about the gallery and buy Jaime’s original works at  www.kossartgallery.com.

For more of my travels and lifestyle, check out my blog   www.ohmygosha.com

Gosia Hatak is an educator for over ten years in the United States and abroad. She is a lover of languages, culture, humanitarian efforts – and travel. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She may be contacted at gosiah@mail.com

The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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