Since returning to professional pickleball this year, after taking a long COVID hiatus, we (Anna Leigh and I) have been traveling the country for pickleball tournaments. But, one thing that we have not done in a really long time is take a family vacation... until now.
Our definition of a vacation is a trip that does not include a pickleball tournament. Tournaments for us are busy, hectic, sometimes stressful, and heavily scheduled. Of course, every pickleball tournament trip has some elements of a typical vacation, such as shopping, site seeing, and eating at the local restaurants. But, what pickleball tournament trips do not have is that feeling of total relaxation. You know that feeling... and, we rediscovered it, too, when we traveled to Costa Rica this July 2021.
Notice that I didn’t say that a perfect vacation means no pickleball. Quite the contrary in fact.
Ahead of our trip, I knew that parts of Costa Rica had pickleball courts, as friends of ours had just returned from Hacienda Pinilla and were so excited about the play there and couldn’t wait to return. So, I knew we would be on the courts playing at some point. What I didn’t realize is that there were two clubs in that area for pickleball, which both had very active play between the locals and tourists alike, and just how much fun the play would be.
The first half of our visit to beautiful Costa Rica brought us to Tamarindo, a surfing and beachside community. These were the beaches that Anna Leigh had her first surfing lesson and learned how to ride a wave. These waves were quite different from those we have on the east coast of Florida - much bigger! I, naturally as her mother, was a nervous wreck watching her out in the ocean diving under the huge crashing waves, but she was having the time of her life learning from a local instructor, who had been surfing that spot for over 30 years.
It was also here in Tamarindo that we found the 15-Love Club, which is a tennis and pickleball club. The pickleball locals and pros were so welcoming and played with us every morning during our stay. The play was solid and we found ourselves laughing, having fun, joking around, and truly enjoying pickleball for the awesome sport that it is. We had been training hard at home and on the pickleball tournament scene so much during this year, that it was so nice to get back to just loving the sport as a social game. Not to mention, we loved the monkeys that would travel across the trees over the pickleball courts from time to time! Some of them were even carrying babies on their backs and just sat in the trees and watched us play.
The second part of our trip took us to Hacienda Pinilla, which is large resort and living community about 20 minutes from Tamarindo. The racquet club inside the community, once again, featured tennis and pickleball. We were able to play pickleball with the pro and our new local pickleball friends. Coincidentally, a group of Americans were also there on a pickleball vacation... Imagine their surprise when they showed up to the courts and Anna Leigh and I were there drilling and playing rec games! We ended up having a blast mixing-in with everyone and giving them a few pointers along the way.
Again, it was so refreshing to be on the pickleball court for the fun of it - and making lasting memories together as a family and with perfect strangers who loved the sport as much as us. Having this love of pickleball in common made us fast friends with everyone on the court, which, as you all know, is a common trend found in our great sport.
If anyone had told me that I would play as much, or more, pickleball on my Costa Rican vacation than I do in Florida, I would have laughed. But, the Costa Rican pickleball scene is hopping, and I can see that it is only going to continue to grow among the locals and the tourists who find it magical to play pickleball in paradise. Our sport is definitely bringing different folks from all over the world together in a such a positive way. I am so happy that my family and I took the time for a much-needed vacation, and that pickleball was still such a huge part of the trip’s success!
As they say in Costa Rica, pura vida!
Follow Leigh's and Anna Leigh's journey on Instagram and Facebook, as well as in Pickler's FREE pickleball newsletter. Also, mark your calendars to watch Leigh and Anna Leigh compete in the PPA Takeya Shootout in Newport Beach, California, Thursday, August 5th through Sunday, August 8th! You can catch them in action on the PPA Tour's YouTube channel.