Shh…don’t tell the eclectic, the famous and the secret society that they are Flamingo Beach’s 80%.
There are a couple of sayings that aim to sum up the eclectic mix of characters that call Flamingo home, even if only for only a few months out of the year. There is “a sunny place for shady people” the slogan for Tio’s Bar which was run by the Osbournes prior to 2008. The other is “80% of people in Flamingo are either wanted or unwanted.”
While some people may like to think they are in the other 20%, the reality is that Flamingo Beach draws people seeking a life outside the subtle or not-so-subtle norms and expectations of Western society. The sense of opportunity and freedom found in this little pocket of Costa Rica attracts a range of celebrities and colorful characters .
The glamour and wildness of Flamingo
One of the most unique things about Flamingo is that this community came into existence in the 1960’s with the intention of development for resorts and high-end residential properties. Even the method in which persons had to use to get into the area is synonymous with wealth – private planes. At first an airstrip was built behind what is now the Shogun Restaurant. When the short length of the landing strip proved too adrenaline inducing, persons had to take their private planes to Tamarindo. They would then have to wait a couple of hours to get picked up and driven on dirt roads up to Flamingo Beach – and that was if anyone even remembered they were flying in.
Flamingo Beach in the 1970’s
As Flamingo was built around the discovery of wildly abundant sport fishing, from the 1970’s the old Flamingo Marina was the hub of all activity. The result was a mixture of high-end resorts and residences in a rural, undeveloped landscape. With abundant game fishing and beautiful coastlines, Flamingo attracted wealthy anglers and business people looking for a place to get away and play.
The lure of sunny skies, a g r e e a b l e temperatures, and favorable sport fishing conditions also brought along a range of celebrity status personas.
Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first celebrities to visit Flamingo Beach when she stayed in the Seahorse House at the base of Flamingo’s south ridge. Julia Stiles has been one of the more contemporary celebrities to frequent Flamingo’s white sand beaches.
Poised for revival
In 2004, the Flamingo Marina was shut down for a complex combination of reasons. Boating activities continued but following the financial crises of 2008, building development slowed down and the buzz of activity in Flamingo mellowed.
However, as the global economy has been in recovery for the last two years, there is a sense that Flamingo is poised for a new wave of economic and social activity. With the anticipation of the new Marina Flamingo, there is a sense that Flamingo is on the cusp of revival. The in-progress developments of 360 Splendor del Pacifico on Flamingo’s north ridge, and Las Catalinas at Playa Danta, indicate that Flamingo and its surrounding areas are picking up pace.
Today, Flamingo is busy with activity during the tourist high season. With expansive and breathtaking homes to rent for long- and short-term stays, it still attracts visits from sports personalities, music artists and supermodels. There is an advantage to Flamingo not having been developed to its full potential. It has retained the seclusion and ease of- being that celebrities enjoyed more than 20 years ago. The difference is that now you can actually fly straight into Liberia airport rather than commandeer a private plane – though that option is still available to you if you so desire.
The eclectic but generous Flamingo community
Be it famous or anonymous, the community of permanent and seasonal residents of Flamingo shapes the social activities and traditions enjoyed in Flam
ingo. The most flamboyant of these is the Flamingo Beach Mardi Gras celebrations.
Organized by a secret society in true Mardi Gras style, the parade is the “best day of the year,” according to long-time resident and business owner Marie Yates. Spread over four days, the Mardi Gras celebrations are not to be missed. It is the Flamingo Beach tradition that encapsulates Flamingo’s eccentricity, goodwill and business community.
This event, in a bold and colorful manner, pulls together business, social and educational communities from its surrounding towns and villages. Marching bands from schools in Matapalo, Huacas, Brasilito and Potrero bring a loud and festive flare to the proceedings. The tour of the King and Queen is celebrated from Brasilito to Potrero with stops at the various bars and restaurants along the way. The dress-in-drag bar crawl adds even more revelry to the weekend’s celebrations.
Celebrated annually for the last 13 years, money raised throughout the Mardi Gras celebrations are used to fund various service needs and projects in the communities surrounding Flamingo Beach. Up to $12,000 are raised through the sale of beads, candies, event t-shirts, parade participation and donations from local residents and businesses.
As the Mardi Gras celebrations are organized by a secret society, we could not divulge the names of its members, even if we knew who they were.
However, if you would like to get involved or get more information you can contact Marie from Marie’s Restaurant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also find out more from the Flamingo Beach Association’s Facebook Page: The Flamingo Association [Costa Rica]
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