Tag Archives: Costa Rica

Costa Rican Surf Retreat

February 13, 2019 by
Photography by Jillian Dunn

Editor’s note: Neighborhood Offshore—a boutique board shop based in Omaha—takes retreat groups to Costa Rica for surfing and yoga every year.

Shop owner Kristen Macdissi invited Jillian Dunn (digital sales manager at Omaha Magazine) to join a May 2018 trip to the Nicoya Peninsula in northwestern Costa Rica.

Dunn didn’t know how to surf. Luckily, Macdissi had her covered. It’s not unusual for Neighborhood Offshore customers to learn how to surf during the trips.

Costa Rica is a small Central American nation—located between Nicaragua and Panama—with lush rainforests and coasts along both Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Costa Rica’s Pacific beaches, in particular, are famous for surfing.

The base rate for Neighborhood Offshore’s surf/yoga retreats cost $825 (for six nights and seven days) in the spring or fall. That includes yoga, surfing, a surf lesson with a local pro, surf gear rental, a welcome reception with food and drink, and a shared room. Essential travel within Costa Rica is covered, but international flights must be purchased individually. Popular add-ons include a meal package, children’s surf camp, and private accommodations.

Closer to home, Neighborhood Offshore also provides travel concierge services for retreats for Colorado camping and paddle retreats (rafting and stand-up paddleboarding) with local guides. These Colorado trips are coordinated at-cost for the shop to develop more local enthusiasm for paddleboarding in Omaha.

Here is Dunn’s travelogue from her May 2018 retreat to Costa Rica with Neighborhood Offshore. Personal scheduling limitations prevented her from staying for the full duration of the trip, which focused on surfing without the yoga sessions that are typically part of a Neighborhood Offshore surf retreat.


Read more about the shop’s owner in the article “Way, Way Offshore: Boarding with Kristen Macdissi.”


Day 1 (Tuesday, May 1):

My flight arrives in the northwestern Costa Rican city of Liberia around 1 p.m. After linking up with the Neighborhood Offshore crew, we take a two-and-a-half-hour van ride to a private house in Nosara, a tropical beachfront community in Guanacaste Province. En route, we stop to pick up fresh fruits, avocados, and local beers.

Our lodging looks like a giant tree fort. After checking in, we all pile into golf carts and drive to the beach for our first Costa Rican sunset. Next comes an authentic local dinner of fresh seafood with hosts Kristen and Adam Macdissi. A moonlit walk on the beach follows, and a noisy chorus of monkeys, frogs, and jungle creatures do their best to keep us up late into the night.

Day 2 (Wednesday, May 2):

The crew wakes early to enjoy the Costa Rican coffee. We make the short walk to Coconut Harry’s Surf Shop & Surf School, where we each pick out a surfboard and meet our instructor (a friend of the Macdissis). Who better to have a private lesson from than a local Costa Rican, Luigi Zuñiga, who grew up surfing?

After our one-hour lesson, we continue riding the waves until lunchtime. Back at the house, we take the golf carts into “downtown” Guiones—a sleepy main street near the beach—for lunch and fresh juice at Rosi’s Soda Tica. More surfing follows a lunch of chicken, beans, and rice, and the night brings another wonderful sunset with drinks and dinner near the surf shop.

Day 3 (Thursday, May 3):

We are at the beach by 7 a.m. The early morning waves are perfect for our beginner level, but the ocean grows rough by 10 a.m. The waves are tossing me. I am struggling to maintain balance on my board. I was riding every wave the day before. Maybe it was beginner’s luck?

Sore and ready for a break, a group of us take a golf cart to visit a cave on the seashore. We admire the beautiful rock formations. I try joining a few of our surfing companions at the beach in the evening, but the waves are still too choppy for me to get up on my board. 

Day 4 (Friday, May 4):

With another early morning, some of the novice surfers in our crew upgrade to smaller (more advanced) boards. I decide to keep on my beginner board, as I only had one more day to surf. The rest of the group had three more days in Nosara.

Around lunchtime, we jump in golf carts and buzz around town looking for a place to eat. But everywhere seems to be experiencing a power outage. After the electricity comes back, we return to the house for a siesta. A local friend of our hosts, Paulina Diaz, joins us for another traditional Costa Rican dinner. We invite our surf instructor friends to join, put on some beachy music, and Paulina teaches us how to make empanadas, baked fish, and homemade salsa. 

Day 5 (Saturday, May 5):

I’m getting used to the early morning routine. After a day of surfing, fresh coconut water on the beach, and an afternoon nap, we’re ready for a night of dancing and drinking with the locals. We grab some sangria to go and zip off in a golf cart looking for a restaurant with good music and fresh ceviche. Our choice features live music, hula hoops, foosball, and good food. We chat and reflect on our time in Costa Rica before my departure.

Day 6 (Sunday, May 6):

Time for me to catch my flight and head home. Make sure to plan for extra time getting to the airport. I wait about an hour for a hired van to pick me up. He is lost. Evidently, many houses in Costa Rica don’t have addresses (I’m not sure how anyone finds their way, but that is the system). When the driver finally finds me, we spend another 30 minutes searching for another traveler—but we end up leaving without him—before rushing to the airport. A cattle crossing stalls traffic en route, adding another delay to the 2.5-hour drive. Upon arriving at the airport, my flight is delayed four hours. So I sit back and relax before the four-hour flight to Dallas and onward home (6.5 hours of total airtime). 

Pura vida! It translates to “pure life” from Spanish. But this phrase is used by Costa Ricans as both “hello” and “goodbye.” I hope to someday visit Nosara again. Pura vida y hasta luego!

Jillian Dunn seaside in Costa Rica


Visit neighborhoodoffshore.com for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe. This online version has been modified from the print edition. 

Jillian Dunn with surfboard on beach

Mary Joseph’s Series of Fortunate Events

June 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ask Mary Joseph, owner of Tasty Pizza (formerly Tasty Pastry), how she wound up running a restaurant in Omaha, and be prepared for a story of fortunate coincidences. She has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Born in Jamaica and raised in Costa Rica, Joseph attended college in Massachusetts to study pre-med and international relations before moving back to Costa Rica to finish her degree. After a chance conversation struck up with a fellow passenger on a plane trip in 1997, she would eventually marry that fellow passenger—a man who just so happened to be from Omaha.

After moving to Nebraska, she attended a neighborhood party and met Dario Schicke and his wife Amy. The two women became friends. In a conversation about hobbies, Joseph mentioned she liked to bake and eventually baked a chocolate cake for the Schickes. When Dario later opened his restaurant—Dario’s Brasserie in Dundee—he asked Joseph to bring in her chocolate cakes for his customers.

Thus began her foray into cooking and baking as an occupation. “Dario was a huge inspiration—both him and his wife, Amy,” Joseph says.

Tasty Pizza, located at 5423 Leavenworth St., has been open for “about four years off and on,” Joseph says. It didn’t take her long to realize a pastry shop just wasn’t her cup of tea. “I knew the very first day,” she says, explaining that soup was quickly brought into the mix because being open lunch hours meant customers typically wanted lunch. “Soup was a hit,” she says, “but cooking good soup isn’t just about following recipes. It’s about food technology.” Soup proved too frantic a menu item to feature, with intricate preparation and last-minute adjustments making things stressful.

Not afraid of trying new things, Joseph and her staff played around with a few different ideas for a new focus. Once pizza appeared on the menu, Joseph was sold on the idea.

She liked the predictability and organization of running a pizza line. Patrons enjoyed the ability to customize their toppings or choose from artisanal pizzas that the staff created. Hence, Tasty Pastry evolved into Tasty Pizza.

Joseph attributes some of her success to other local restaurants near her that are willing to work as a community and share knowledge and advice. She also cites her staff as helpful and inspirational. “I’m lucky, I have to say,” she admits.

“I love to cook,” Joseph says, adding “I love Omaha.” Tasty Pizza, which she opened as something to do while her kids were at school, continues to thrive. She won’t predict what the future will hold, as she prefers to live in the moment.

Joseph is doing what she loves (in a place she loves) while enjoying the reciprocal love her customers give Tasty Pizza. It’s a story many years—and twists of fate—in the making.

Visit tastypizzaomaha.com for more information.

This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

When Life Gives You Lemons, They Might Actually Be Oranges

August 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This past summer, the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery hosted an artistic and cultural exchange with Sophia Wanamaker Gallery in San Jose, Costa Rica. Elisa Morera, a Costa Rican artist who splits time between Omaha and her native country, extended the invitation that became the exchange. The five traveling artists were Lori Elliott-Bartle, Cheri Ginsburg, Judith Anthony Johnston, Katrina Methot-Swanson, and Linda Hatfield.

Linda-Hatfield2The artists spent the first week visiting studios and setting up for their gallery opening in San Jose—resulting in an impressive turnout. The second week of the trip, the artists scattered throughout the country: A few stayed with San Jose locals, one traveled up to the east coast and rented a cottage, and the rest familiarized themselves with Costa Rica by taking a week-long tour around the country.

So, what happens when five artists venture to Costa Rica and separate for a week? Hatfield found a vibrant culture, a newfound love for ox carts, and a plate of oranges that stole the show—literally.

She says discussion of the exchange began a few years ago: “I had never even really thought seriously about going to Costa Rica. It was all sort of out of the blue, so I had no expectations.” But the most memorable part of the trip for Hatfield, an illustrator whose style tends toward the cartoony and colorful, was handmade, intricately painted ox carts: “When I first saw them, it felt like I had painted them myself.”

Linda-Hatfield3Hatfield proceeded to visit the longest-running ox cart shop in Sarchi, where the artists use waterpower rather than electricity to run their machines. “We ate lunch there, and I skipped and took the tour again, because it was so amazing,” says Hatfield. In an attempt to preserve her Costa Rican memories, Hatfield recorded her day-to-day activities in a doodle book. “I draw instead of write, so it’s all pictures,” explains Hatfield. “It’s almost better than writing.”

As the Costa Rican exchange came to a close, the artists convened at the family-owned Toledo Coffee Plantation for lunch. “The best photo—we all agreed out of everybody’s photos—was a picture someone took of a plate of oranges, which they call limons,” claims Hatfield. “I think four of us have already done an art piece based on the photo. So that plate of oranges will be prominent, I’m suspecting, at this show.”

The show (located at Hot Shops Art Center and open from Sept. 2-25) features 30 pieces from each artist. “They decided this over a lot of wine, in Costa Rica, on a mountaintop, by a pool,” laughs Hatfield, “So, that’s how that came to be!” The show includes a video to give guests a detailed overview of the whole experience.

Besides the plate of oranges (or lemons), Hatfield found a great deal to inspire her 30 pieces. “Every minute of it was just a learning experience, and that’s why the show is going to be so fun,” says Hatfield, “because all of us have a different take-away and different view, and really different
artistic styles.” Encounter

Visit hotshopsartcenter.com for more information.Linda-Hatfield1