Why did I opt for Tambor Tropical, located on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica? I wanted to visit the boutique resort not only for its secluded bay front setting, luxury accommodations, and eco adventures, but also because it offers a great volunteering opportunity for guests.
The Sansa Airlines charter flight I took over Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula to Tambor Tropical Hotel is just one of the regularly scheduled charter flights between San Jose International Airport and the Tambor airstrip. The flight provided dramatic views of the country's gorgeous tropical terrain and waterways.
Volunteering at the local school
The owners of Tambor Tropical helped build the private, bi-lingual Tambor Bay School and continue to assist it in various ways, including through a guest volunteer program. Children at the school range in age from 2 to 12 and are grouped into pre-K, pre-school and elementary classes. Many of the students are able to attend thanks to partial scholarships.
"We're in a rural area and the public school isn't a reliable way to educate our children, so some of us parents in the area banded together to help form the school," said Juan Carlos Cruz, general manager of Tambor Tropical. His daughter attends the school.
Tambor Tropical guests may read, share information about where they are from, and otherwise help the children practice their English. Typically guests volunteer three hours of their time from 9 a.m. to noon partnering with teachers in several grade levels. The school is about 10 minutes away from the resort and transportation is provided. School sessions begin in mid-February to July 1 and resume from July 16 to conclusion of the school year on November 30.
Before I began teaching the day I volunteered, the students shared presentations of what they had been learning with me. Then it was my turn. As I'm a big fan of animals, I decided to bring a children's picture book "Mammals of North America" to help connect with the children. First I worked with a class of older students, then a class of younger students.
Both groups were great to work with. Even the younger children knew quite a bit of English. One young boy was a huge fan of "Animal Planet" and pretty much knew every animal in my book. The animal-shaped rubber bands I brought to share with the students were also a hit. I had never tried "voluntourism" before, and must say it was both rewarding and fun. I'm planning on looking for other such opportunities.
Accommodations and dining
Tambor Tropical offers guests privacy and seclusion. Each of its 12 beachfront suites with well-equipped kitchenettes is spacious and inviting. The hardwood flooring and paneling provide rustic elegance to the comfortable accommodations. I particularly liked being able to open the windows and shutters in my suite to catch the fresh bay breezes.
General Manager Juan Carlos Cruz, his family and friendly staff immediately made me feel welcome. It's no wonder Tambor Tropical receives so many repeat visitors. I talked to a number of guest who had either visited previously or planned to come back. Like myself, they adored not only the setting but the tranquil intimacy of the resort.
A continental breakfast is included with room stays, which guests can enjoy outdoors beside Tambor Tropical blue mosaic-tiled pool. I had several meals at the poolside restaurant and was impressed by the fresh ingredients. Don't miss the Tambor Tropical ceviche if you're a ceviche fan. It's awesome. The resort is located directly across from the fishing village of Tambor so seafood is super fresh.
Things to do at the resort and in the Tambor area
The cloistered, open-air spa at Tambor Tropical is a great place to savor the sounds of tropical birds while enjoying a relaxing aromatherapy massage. Fresh air and the natural environment add something special to the treatment. My massage therapist was kind enough to send me off with some freshly fragrant frangipani.
During my visit I went kayaking with Seascape Kayak Tours at the Curu Wildlife Refuge. We saw a number of seabirds during the tour and then stopped on a pristine white sand beach for a fruit break. I also took a jungle walking tour and was thrilled to see a group of howler monkeys.
The timing of my visit coincided with a local fiesta and I had the opportunity to indulge in the national pastime of watching the running of the bulls. It's not quite Hemingway's Pamplona version, but requires just as much testosterone. During the theatrical free- for-all mostly young men tease and run away from bulls in a ring while folks in the stands cheer them on. Some of the better-known bulls seem to be more popular with the crowd than the crazy/brave young champions who often sport outlandish costumes. The sport is a bit like opera, in that you either love it or hate it. I have to admit I loved it.
Other options for fun and recreation in the area include taking a zip-line canopy tour, snorkeling, golf, beach combing, horse-back riding, taking an ATV tour or a farm visit.
Tambor Tropical is 3.5 miles from the Tambor airstrip. Tambor Tropical offers complimentary airport shuttle service.Tambor Tropical Hotel
Tambor Beach, Cóbano, Puntarenas
Telephone: (506) 2683-0011
Web site: www.tambortropical.com