The year is 1971. Terry and I are actively involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement and we’re sick of it and then, like a breath of fresh air, there it was in multicolored splendor in the New York Times – the iconic ad that attracted hundreds to the Beaches of Nosara in a lovely little country that had chosen to give up its army and declare peace. We knew nothing of Costa Rica except what the excellent copywriter described but, armed with the promise that we’d get a refund if we couldn’t come down within a year, we sent off $100 to reserve a piece of paradise. It came to pass that we could not come. While teaching at the NYU College of Dentistry I suffered a needle stick that brought me down with a long bout of hepatitis. Remarkably, our $100 was returned and we almost forgot about the Beaches of Nosara.
The year is 1972. One of my graduate students invited Terry and me and our three sons, aged 5, 10 and 12, to spend 2 weeks at his family’s beach house in El Salvador. It sounded like a great offer, but we arrived the day after just elected President Duarte has been deposed in a military coup. The place was an armed camp, our hotel’s coffee shop was the scene of the assassination of 3 American labor leaders and we were driven to a mess of a beach cabin by our very nervous host. Three or four days later, completely isolated, with guns regularly popping off, Terry and I looked at each other, no words being necessary, and citing an urgent need to change plans, asked our relieved host to drive us to the airport and said a happy goodby. We had absolutely no plan but the next plane out was headed to San Jose, Costa Rica and 2 hours later we had checked into the old Hotel Europa, where our 5 year old asked “why don’t the animals come out of the toilet like they did in El Salvador.”
I’m not sure how we contacted Alan Hutchinson, the Beaches of Nosara developer, but the next morning a single engine plane dropped us on the dirt Nosara airstrip where a friendly man in full safari gear named Ralph Peterson greeted and loaded us into his jeep as juke boxes celebrating the plane’s arrival boomed out loud music. As Ralph turned the jeep towards the dusty main drag, we briefly noted the beat up shack that was a combined air terminal, post office and jail. A bit further on, 2 cowboys enjoyed beers at a high bar designed so that they could imbibe without dismounting. We loved it. We were hooked.
Between the village and the beach there was nothing. Nada. Ralph dropped us at the Hotel Playas de Nosara and took off. No one was there so we just walked out on the deck and took in for the first time the matchless scene. The thatched roof wooden hotel was set on a high rise overlooking both Pelada and the rock walls separating Pelada from the expanse of Guiones to the north. Jutting out towards the ocean was a promenade deck and the overall effect could not have been more perfect. Ann Hutchinson showed up shortly, took us to our cabin, told us how meals were served family style, how the freezer was stocked with beer and sodas available on an honor code -our boys loved this! – when and for how long to expect electricity and how to keep safe in the tides.
The next day Alan took me and Terry to explore lots while the boys rode horses on the beach with the Hutchinson children. Later they spent a night at the Hutchinson family’s finca, we walked the beaches and sat around shooting the breeze with whomsoever working on the project came to the table at meal times. It was all quite perfect and by the time we left for New York we had bought some land, were thinking about building a house and knew for sure that this was a place we were going to be a part of for a long time.