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  >  Blog   >  Off to See la Pura Vida; 10 Less Common Words of Advice to Hear Before Traveling to Costa Rica

 

 

Post Date: May 17th, 2020

Author: Marie Elena

 

Ah! Pura Vida! Costa Rica is one of the very few countries in the world that actually has a designated phrase to sum up its inhabitants’ ways of life. It is the phrase you’ll find written on every unnecessarily purchased overpriced t-shirt, shot glass and jumbo package of coffee that ended up spilling all over your carry on before you even made it to the airport.

 

You know what I’m talking about, right?

 

Asking hypothetically for a friend.

 

The phrase is written on the welcome sign to that tiny obscure coastal town off the main road enroute to that next waterfall on your itinerary and it’s on the front cover of the guide book you purchased that you totally forgot to bring.

 

At least you remembered your Sudoku book for the plane!

 

Not that you remembered to use it… 

 

                      Arenal Volcano

Yes, this familiar ubiquitous phrase can be found stamped on anything and everything pertaining to the unspoiled and untainted country that is Costa Rica.

 

And well…it should be! Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful and serene countries I’ve ever visited.

 

“Pura Vida” quite simply means “simple life” or “pure life.” For native Costa Ricans, who are sometimes referred to as Ticos, it is a way of life characterized by a worry-free attitude and general sense of calmness and tranquility. Ticos take home the gold medal as some of the highest ranked in the happiness and longevity departments. Even mother nature seems to be content and has made Costa Rica home to over 500,000 species of plants and animals making it one of the top biodiversity hotspots on the planet!

 

And to top it all off? It’s really not all that expensive nor time consuming to fly to Costa Rica from the US!

 

Flight times, especially from southern states, are relatively short and inexpensive.

 

Unless, of course, you had a few flight delays, cancellations and a subsequent missed bus ride due to debacles at border patrol…

 

airport luggage GIF by Gymshark

 

which consequently lead you to a sprint down the street after said bus driver…

 

homer simpson episode 3 GIF

 

who was ignoring you…

 

bus driver judging you GIF

and ultimately landed you on an Amtrak train for the first time ever.

 

You know. Hypothetically speaking!

 

Inside my first Amtrak train in Fort Lauderdale! Not to shabby, eh?!

Did I mention I’ve yet to live a single normal day in my life? I can’t make this stuff up, folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me explain here that the primary reason for my visit to Costa Rica was to obtain information needed to organize my first international organized group trip. I knew that reading conflicting information online and not looking at that guidebook I forgot to pack anyway wasn’t going to ultimately give me the understanding of what to expect that I needed. I needed to go there myself and “work out all the kinks!”

 

And also, I needed coffee.

 

And plantains.

 

And beans, rice and hot sauce for breakfast.

 

And a suntan.

 

Fine. Sunburn.

 

 

So my albino self gathered up my laptop, my residual mental Spanish word bank from high school, my remote speech therapy work materials, my bag of snacks, my other bag of snacks, some clothes I definitely didn’t need and the other stow away bag of snacks I forgot about crunched up at the bottom of my purse that warranted me an extra search at security.

 

Oh, and my father who decided to tag along at the last minute so I didn’t end up dead in a ditch somewhere (or having some type of caffeine overdose in a random coffee shop) which was a valid rationale. He has heard my solo travel stories!

 

 

I was excited to hop on a plane to initiate the trial itinerary that I created for myself and my poor unsuspecting father who might have enjoyed a little more leisure time and possibly a little less physical activity. I had only nine days and a lot of ground to cover….mostly by foot!

 

Sorry, dad.

 

 

I decided to write this post because every one of those nine days I spent in the country, at some point, I found myself saying something along the lines of “Boy, thank God I know THAT” or “How would I have EVER known that had I not taken this trip?” or “That’s my third helping of beans and rice within the hour!”

 

So I give to you the highlights of my learning experiences which I accrued during my “work-out-the-kinks” trip. Today we’ll talk about some useful bits of information and helpful hints that I may or may not have learned the hard way and just my observations in general. Of course, you’ll have to visit yourself to really get a feel for the country.

 

But at least for now, you can walk away from this post with a few major words of advice as well as some less talked about and more obscure ideas about what to expect without having to browse 20 different blog articles in conjunction with that guide book you not only forgot to bring but now lost and have to go buy a duplicate of just to have on your bookshelf to prove that you went there!

 

So enjoy this list…

 

with a half-caf ground of coffee, of course:

 

Travel gear from USOutdoor.com

 

Let’s start with the big one: DRIVING.

 

Wait, no. Let’s start with road conditions. No, wait. I want to begin with clarifying the information about the mandatory car insurance package if you’re going to rent a car. Actually, hold on. I first need to explain the driving situation in the city of San José! OK, I think it’s safe to say I have a lot of ground to cover on this one (by car this time).

 

I better break this one up into multiple points!

 

 

 

1. Here is the scoop on the mandatory car rental insurance you may have heard about..

 

Let me begin by telling you that there are certainly many ways to get around Costa Rica without driving. There are a variety of cheap as well as more all-inclusive bus options which are popular among tourists looking to travel around the country. But renting a car is also a nice option which is what we did. Having a car will allow you complete flexibility as to where you visit or end up for the night and when all is said and done, I am glad we had one. That being said, I’m sure many of you have heard the rumor that there is also a law in Costa Rica which mandates the purchase of an insurance package along with a car rental. There is bad news and good news about this.

 

The bad news is that this is not a rumor.

 

The good news is that there is definitely a reason they require insurance! About five seconds after leaving the rental lot you’ll realize why insurance is not optional and you’ll immediately have peace of mind that you won’t have to sell your left leg to pay for any damage to your vehicle, which becomes exponentially more possible with every passing second spent behind the wheel.

 

So here is the low down on the insurance:

 

We were given three options which included a cheaper and less inclusive option (around $20 USD per day), a moderately priced option (around $32 USD per day) covering a few more items or a most expensive option (around $45-50 per day) which included anything and everything that could be dished up on the busy city streets or the gravel pothole-filled mountainous roads which surely awaited.

 

But the kicker? If you planned to have more than one driver, they were prepared to attach an additional fee onto the total cost which could be waived by purchasing the most expensive option. This meant that if you were going to have multiple drivers, the moderate and most expensive options would have cost the same amount, but the moderate option would have covered less. Basic math, anyone?

 

So the real choice came down to the least expensive or the most expensive insurances. My dad insisted on the more expensive one and let me tell you. The peace of mind was BEYOND worth it.

 

Renting a car in Costa Rica is a great decision but just be prepared to add this additional cost into your budget when initially planning your trip so that there are no surprises! You’ll have enough of those when you get there!

 

 

 

2. If you CAN avoid driving too much around San José itself, do it at all costs! But if you must drive there, here’s what you should know:

 

Do you remember those video arcade games where you were driving around in a car that seemingly was going 500 miles an hour and obstacles were popping out from every which direction causing you to undoubtedly crash into something every five seconds?

 

I feel like that game existed in several different forms!

 

Anyway, imagine for a second that you were not safely behind a computer or TV screen but, in fact, physically present in the scene and protected only by the thin glass windshield on your car. That is what it’s like to drive in San José.

 

But at least this time your top speed is only like 10 mph max!

 

 

Traffic Jam GIF by memecandy

 

Now, this being said, driving IS doable and likely unavoidable for at least a small portion of your trip. But hopefully after reading this blog post, you’ll at least be more prepared than we were for any real-life booby traps and erratic driving behaviors only imaginable previously in virtual reality.

 

San Jose’s residents seem to really value that “worry free” Pura Vida attitude, especially when it comes to operating cars or designing roads!

 

 

So what CAN you expect? First off, keep in mind that capital city San José  is the most populous city in Costa Rica and also the most dense. There are a LOT of cars on narrow roads that one might expect to be found outside a small farming village instead of the largest city in the country. The logical solution? Why, naturally, that is to cram as many cars into the given surface area as possible! Following distance? Pshh. That’s for wimps (and foreigners)!

 

AirWander - Flight Hacking Made Easy

Don’t worry! I have another solution for you! If you rotate cars around on a single direction road, you’ll find that you can cover more space by turning cars in varying directions. Who cares which direction you’re facing as long as you have a full allotment of space for your vehicle’s mass! Lanes? Who needs ’em?! T-bones? Bring ’em on!

 

But wait! There’s more!

 

There is a lot of rain in San José so what about the drainage system? Ah! Another solution! Two large ditches on either side of the road which take up at LEAST half the width of the aforementioned narrow driving space. Don’t worry. You won’t end up stuck in one when you go to turn left as a bus from the two lanes to your right decides to also turn left…into YOUR lane! 

 

But if you DO end up stuck in one of these ditches…remember that “a la derecha” means “to the right” and “a la izquierda” means “to the left” when passerbys are trying to help you direct your steering wheel as they work on pushing your car upwards and out! 

 

Just stating this in a sort of hypothetical way. You know. Just in case.

 

You’ll need this information for the potholes too. 

 

 

Oh, and one more thing. Don’t be surprised when lanes just disappear on some roads. Naturally, the only logical solution is to insert random and suddenly-occurring metal road separators and physical elevation changes in the middle of other roads to physically limit lane changes to make up for this. Safety first, right?

 

I have one more flashing red light warning for you to explain and then I promise I’ll move on. The warning is that ACTUAL flashing red lights mean to stop and STAY stopped. There is a train coming. And you should NOT move on if you’re in a car. 

 

Also, don’t get trapped under the “do not cross because a train is coming” gate sticks! Those things hit hard on your car roof!

 

Hypothetically, anyway.

 

The best picture I could manage to find from the traffic in San José . I’ll do better next time!

 

OK, moving on!

 

Safely in this post, that is!

 

Booking.com

 

3. Yay! You’ve made it OUTSIDE of San José! You’re alive and you’re still thankful for that full priced insurance! Here’s what you should know about driving everywhere ELSE in the country:

 

Before I get into this one, I must make a point that driving around the beautiful countryside of Costa Rica is a truly mind-altering zen experience (outside of San José that is). One of my favorite memories I have of our trip was just observing the hills, the trees, the oceans, the lakes and the shades of green that I honestly didn’t even know existed as my eyes gazed in awe out the car window (the passenger one, don’t worry!). Nothing will top my memories of passing through tiny villages with not a tourist to be sighted as I observed local community members walking to church, playing “futball” or walking to or from one of the 8 million “escuelas” (schools) to be observed in the range of about 10 km. By driving around in our own car I was able to experience Costa Rica far beyond the sights I had purposely planned to go visit.

 

So let’s talk about some sights you DON’T plan to visit like those gravel and mud roads, revenge of the potholes, nearly invisible speed bumps and nighttime fog! 

 

Keep in mind that just because you are following your phone GPS and Google Maps indicates “main routes” the whole way, this does NOT mean the roads will be paved or even particularly safe to drive on. Take caution when driving on ANY road because the conditions could change at any given second without warning. Ah, so THAT is why your maps indicate that your next destination is only about 80 km away but the ETA says three hours from now!

 

Yes, roads are windy and often very uneven and unpredictable so my advice is to take your time and look forward to better roads ahead! Literally!

 

  Random stop on the side of the road!

 

But if you do start to feel confident in your driving skills and want to pick up the pace a bit, it’s totally acceptable to pass the car (or truck filled with spilling loose gravel if you’re us) in front of you at any given time. Everyone does it, even in the presence of double lines. Just be sure you’ve done your due diligence in scoping out that oncoming traffic lane to make sure it’s clear of cars (unless you’re still in San José and you already know the answer to that without even having to look).

 

Just to give you a visual of the gravel truck in front of us. Imagine background music of Spanish songs being sung by the Chipmunks and then you’ll really be present in this scene!

Oh and remember when I talked about the green of Costa Rica? Well, with green comes rain! Keep in mind that the rainy season falls between May and November and during this time, rainfall may increase significantly. Consider renting a 4X4 if you plan to do a lot of driving. During this rainy season, roads may have a greater likelihood of becoming impassible due to floods or mudslides, so definitely factor this in when you are thinking about your itinerary. That being said, we did not have a 4X4 during the dry season this past February and March so your rental decision may hinge upon your dates of travel.

 

One final point to consider is the time at which you drive. Bear in mind that Costa Rica generally gets dark around 6pm all year round. Driving in the dark there is not like driving in the dark at home. Because of elevation and temperature changes as well as the relatively moist climate, you’re almost guaranteed to hit some fog at least during SOME point of your trip and that time is most commonly at night. Costa Rican fog and nighttime hours don’t exactly get along, especially when lanes may end without warning in complete darkness.

 

Again, plan ahead to try to arrive to your destination by dusk if you can. Don’t have a nightly near death experience because you waited too late to leave your previous location.

 

Hypothetically, of course. Still thinking of that friend!

 

Hypothetically could we be done with talk about driving?!

 

 

 

4. Let’s talk National Parks:

 

Ah! Finally out of the car! Time to visit one of Costa Rica’s AMAZING national parks that you’ve read about in countless Google searches, travel blogs and travel advice forums. Costa Rica is filled with endless natural beauty, rainforests, jungles, volcanoes, swimming coves, hot springs and just about every other natural wonder mother nature could dish up!

 

Every national park is distinctly unique from one another and you will definitely not return home starved for adventure or a sense of well-being. Some of my favorite national park highlights that we visited included Monteverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano, Rincón de la Vieja, Tortorguero National Park, Corcovado National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park. Let me tell you that even though Costa Rica is a relatively small country, the area is vast and the terrains are all-encompassing!

 

            Monteverde Cloud Forest

You’ve got about 8 million national parks, all separated by only about 2-3 hours of drive time. But let’s talk about a few minor things you should know ahead of time before visiting these parks if you want to avoid some more “less-than-ideal” surprises.

 

OK, so you’ve got your park itinerary planned for the day. No driving involved past getting there! You get to just park your car and get out for a long day’s worth of hiking or hop on a boat and let someone else do the driving for once, right?! 

 

Well yes, that’s correct! But only if you do your homework ahead of time and you’re sure that’s possible.

 

Let’s first talk about parks involving water and boats like Corcovado National Park or Tortuguero National Park as examples. Both of these parks appear seemingly accessible by through roads upon looking at a map. But in this case, what you see is not exactly what you get.

 

So THAT’S why your GPS says “no route found!”

 

Don’t hypothetically ignore this warning, by the way.

 

The most popular way to visit more remote national parks like these is to take a boat.

 

Let’s talk about Corcovado National Park. You can theoretically pay an arm and a leg to fly there if you’re not concerned about cost. You can also conceivably drive yourself to Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula and tag on an extra four hours one way on some pretty perilous and “iffy roads” (this is definitely a time you’d need one of those 4X4 vehicles we talked about). But once you get to the Osa Peninsula, you’ll still wind up on a boat to reach the park. There are also buses you can take to various boat ports around the peninsula to reach the park but you’d still need to get on a boat eventually and the bus ride may be up to 11 hours depending on your origin.

 

So really unless you’re rich, looking to get stranded or have unlimited time, driving to the boat port yourself or getting a tour which will provide transportation are your best bets. Oh, and by the way…you have to have a guide anyway if you’re even going to visit Corcovado so you’d still have to pay for a tour regardless. It took me awhile to figure out the true logistics for this one. For some reason, it is really difficult to find definitive streamline information regarding how to get to this particular park online!

 

When all is said and done, I recommend either driving to the Sierpe port yourself (only about an hour drive from Uvita or 2.5 hour drive from Jaco) or booking a day trip ahead of time which may include transportation to the boat port, the boat ride itself and your day’s worth of activities. Guides can pick you up from many origins for an extra charge so if you don’t have a car, no worries there.

 

This all seems very complicated, but it’s not. Things you find online just ARE really complicated! But regardless, I recommend booking a tour ahead of time for Corcovado National Park because spots may sell out months in advance!

 

 

But if the tours ARE sold out, hypothetically use WhatsApp to text the tour company on the drive there on the morning of the tour to get a spot.

 

And be prepared to be on a boat at some point!

 

               Corcovado National Park

 

Now how about Tortuguero? This park is another one only accessible by boat or plane. You don’t NEED to book a tour for this one but you do need to book a boat (unless you’re still rich and still booking flights).

 

But here’s the lowdown on boats. They operate at specific hours of the day. Since most national parks around Costa Rica tend to close early (by around 3 or 4pm), if you took a boat to get there and want to return in the same day, you’ll want to leave on the earliest outbound boat in the morning (usually around 7-7:30am) because the latest boat you can take back will be around 3:30 or 4pm.

 

But if you do want to stay longer in Tortuguero, there are numerous hotels and hostels there. This “national park” is also sort of a beach-side village.

 

IF you book a hotel IN Tortuguero, you will be IN the national park and you WILL need a boat to get to your hotel. For some reason this is NOT written in BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS everywhere online for you to necessarily know about in advance and your phone GPS WILL go along with the fun and give you driving directions to your inaccessible-by-car hotel anyway just to add to the confusion!

 

Booking.com

 

This time in the hypothetical world, don’t book a Tortuguero hotel for the evening before with plans to explore the park the next day unless you arrive there midday by boat. You won’t be able to get to your accommodations past midday (whenever the last boat to get there leaves from either La Pavona or Moin). 

 

The GPS says the hotel is under 1 km away…hmmm

 

And hypothetically, don’t follow dashed lined roads on Google Maps down a disintegrating dirt road taken over by cows and grass no one has mowed in years in the pitch darkness and realize that you, in fact, need to cross water in a boat in order to get to your accommodations and in fact, those boats stopped running for the day over 5 hours ago.

 

But if you do wind up in an imaginary situation such as this one, a potential solution is to just drive to the nearby local town known as Cariari Pococí, about 30 minutes away, to stay the night and catch the morning boat to Totuguero. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to make friends with a lot of locals in that town that same evening, have trouble with your Spanish at a local restaurant there and then get confused about the currency when paying the bill! 

 

Never a dull moment in that hypothetical life, right?!

 

 

You see, visiting national parks in Costa Rica are a bit different than you might expect. Even the parks that are easier to get to may throw some curve balls at you. For example, if you visit Monteverde Cloud Forest, they will stop you from driving to the entrance and prompt you to park your car and pay to take a 2 minute shuttle ride to actual the park entrance. Why? No clue. 

 

By the way, national park fees are usually NOT all-inclusive. In most of them, you have to pay a separate admission for various attractions or trails such as at the Arenal Volcano or Rincón de la Vieja

 

This brings me to my next point…

 

 

 

5. Despite what you hear, traveling to Costa Rica as an average tourist is NOT cheap but DEFINITELY worth it!

 

I’m sorry to burst your bubble on this one. I’m not really sure where the idea that Costa Rica is cheap came from. Don’t get me wrong. You can absolutely travel here as a budget-friendly backpacker and there are many ways to cut down on costs like eating at local Soda restaurants for meals (they’re AMAZING), staying in hostels and taking local transportation. If you really want to do Costa Rica on a budget, it IS doable.

 

But if you’re an average tourist visiting for a shorter period, saving money in this beautiful country may be more difficult. After all, one of the main reasons you want to visit are to get to the natural wonders and landmarks that you’ve heard about!

 

Well, the tourism industry has also heard about YOU and knows what you’re coming to see and do! 

 

 

So what are the most expensive costs in Costa Rica?

 

 

Unfortunately, park admissions are major ones. And like I mentioned, many “admission fees” are for only one or two attractions. Many Costa Rican National Parks treat sites and points of interest as sort of “a la carte.” For example, if you are headed to Arenal Volcano, you can pay $15 USD for the admission to hike, but if you want to visit the infamous Fortuna waterfall, you’ll pay another $18. Headed to the hanging bridges? That’ll be $26 more. 

 

 

 

Oh, and you DEFINITELY will need to visit the infamous Baldi Hot Springs everyone recommends at the end of your long day of hiking! But just be prepared that this “day pass” for your 2 hours spent in the evening will be another $40 per person without fees and if you want a drink at the swim up bar, $10 will do justice for that.

One of the hot water falls at Baldi Hot Springs

 

Same deal at Rincón de la Vieja. Every trail or specific attraction is a separate expense.

 

 

The funny part is that park admissions cost next to nothing for locals. But as a foreigner, which I’m guessing most of you reading this are, just be prepared to allot most of your money to the sites you specifically came to visit. 

 

And speaking of locals and money, although US Dollars are widely accepted and even often preferred, try to use colóns (Costa Rican currency) when at all possible. Your exchange rate will generally be better. Also, if you plan to drive, keep a hand full of colóns (in coin form) available for the toll booths you’ll likely encounter basically every 5 km!

 

Let’s talk about food and drinks. Sadly, you can expect to spend about the same amount of money that you might in the US for that delicious casado (more on what this is later), rich coffee or cold Imperial beer at a standard restaurant. But these are expenses you CAN cut back on by visiting the local grocery store to stock up on grub, cold brewskies or coffee (just don’t spill it!).

 

You can also visit one of those local “Soda” restaurants I mentioned. Sodas are a great way to eat local food WITH more locals and WITHOUT going bankrupt on dinner.

 

 

At least tipping is not expected (but an optional nice gesture) in this country, so there’s that!

 

Again, my point of this post is NOT to deter you from visiting one of the most magnificent places on the planet. I would go back and do what I did again and again 10 fold! Just be prepared and in the know before you go. The fewer unpleasant surprises you can have, the more welcomed surprises you can enjoy when you’re there!

 

I’ll end this cost point on a positive note. There IS one thing that is pretty cheap in Costa Rica and that is your nightly accommodations. Hostels, hotels and B&Bs are VERY cost-friendly and some of them even hook you up with a free smoothie or a discounted drink when you arrive, so Pura Vida to THAT, right?!

 

Booking.com

 

 

 

6. Beware of fake parking attendant scammers at Manuel Antonio National Park!

 

OK, I know this point is still about national parks but I felt like this was an important point worth special attention since you’ll almost undoubtedly make a stop here.

 

Manuel Antonio was, by far, the most touristy park we visited when we were in Costa Rica. That being said, it is touristy for a reason! It is a beautiful area filled with wildlife, pristine beaches, swimming spots, viewpoints, hiking trails and an entire area of shops, bars and restaurants. 

 

 

But with popular tourist stops comes the ever-so-popular scammers looking to make a few dollars off of unsuspecting visitors who don’t know any better!

SANDALS Resorts (160 x 600)

 

Parking for Manuel Antonio is a little confusing. There isn’t just one centralized parking lot but there are lots that are right outside the main gates and admissions station. As you make your way to the park, from at least 10 km away up all the way through to the real park entrance, you will find pushy overbearing parking attendant imposers wearing reflective vests and even official-looking badges blowing whistles while darting out in front of your car and pointing to parking locations. It may feel like you’re “ignoring authority” by maneuvering yourself around these scammers and avoiding eye contact with them, but those people don’t actually work for the park! They will charge you a lot of money to park in a location which is far away from where you actually want to be.

 

The real parking attendants will be near the entrance in sight and they won’t be barking orders at you while barricading your poor vehicle that’s already been through enough!

 

By the way, this was a hypothetical scenario that did we did NOT fall victim to thanks to the guidebook that my dad did NOT forget to bring! So in case you forget yours, at least you read my blog post!

 

This scene is another story for another time (remember when I said I’ve yet to live a dull moment?). But here’s the guidebook we DID have!

Side note that when you DO finally park, don’t forget to leave those crumpled up bags of snacks you always forget about in the car! Food is not permitted in this particular park and they will check! But if you do need to bring snacks, just fill our bag with other junk and burry that “one small granola bar” far beneath the chaos that is your “day pack”/purse!

 

 

Now that we’ve cleared the air on some of more serious points to remember, let’s talk about some interesting fun facts about Costa Rica that’ll have you chuckling when you encounter these things and remember this post!

 

 

 

7. Paper towels like aren’t really a thing in Costa Rica.

 

Cue piles and piles of wash cloths instead!

 

GIF by moodman

 

 

 

8. The food in Costa Rica is some of the best you’ll ever eat.

 

Let’s talk about that one I mentioned before: casado! Casado is, hands down, the best dish you will ever eat and it should be eaten for every meal possible. No joke.

 

 

Casado literally means “married man” and it’s basically a plate of several different staple piles of sides like black beans, rice, fried plantains, some type of salad, sometimes a fried egg, often some other delicious surprises in there and some kind of meat or fish. Sometimes it is also served with a tortilla. 

 

Casado varies drastically depending on where you get it from but I swear that every time you eat it, you are convinced that THIS is the best casado you’ve ever had. Tomorrow when you have it again somewhere else, that one will be the one!

 

 

Another popular dish ordered mostly by locals and less known to tourists is chifrijo. It is harder to find but definitely recommended by Tico natives. In a nutshell (or shall I say…in a bowl) the dish is basically comprised of rice and beans, spices, pico de gallo and pork bits and it is often served with tortilla chips. Try to find this dish at least once while you’re there!

 

And speaking of rice and beans, expect to have it with every meal. Even at breakfast! “Gallo pinto” will have you loving life!

 

 

You know what else will have you loving life? This green salsa that you’ll LITERALLY find everywhere. Don’t sit there and wonder what it is and where you can buy some to bring home every time you have it. Know right now that it is called Lizano Salsa. My advice? Grab a bottle from every convenient store you visit starting on day one so you’ll be sure not to run out in the first month you return home!

 

Or hypothetically….on day one…maybe.

 

 

By the way, butter is basically orange there and cheese slices may be served at breakfast buffets so you may have difficulty determining which is which. Don’t worry. This will be revealed when you hypothetically bite into one and try to spread the other on your toast! 

 

Notice mysterious orangish-yellow slabs on right side of breakfast buffet picture

 

 

 

9. The ocean water temperature is IDEAL!

 

Unlike the oceans of the US which, to me, are still mostly freezing even in the summertime, the waters of Costa Rica are absolutely perfect temperature! 

 

Now, mind you that I run about 40 degrees colder than the average human and am basically a lizard, so some of you may be thinking “I could swim at Siesta Key Beach in Florida for hours and hours and not be cold.” If that’s the case, ignore this point. But there is something nice to be said about entering water that feels like a heated pool at a beach that looks like it belongs in a National Geographic magazine while the sun is going down.

 

Want an idea? Walk along the beach and swim in the water at Uvita Beach at sunset and you WON’T be sorry. Trust me.

 

Nomatic

 

 

 

10. Cell reception is generally pretty good, even in the most unlikely places! But download offline maps for your GPS ahead of time anyway so you you’re never TRULY lost!

 

OK, I realize that was a bit of a bold statement. I myself am truly lost most of the time I go ANYWHERE. But having downloaded offline maps before I landed in Costa Rica really helped me not HAVE to pay to use my cell service. But if I was using my cell signal that day and I did stumble into an area with no reception, at least I had my directions!

 

Even if they WERE dashed lines leading me into the ocean enroute to a national park only accessible by boat!

 

Remember this picture? And this was BEFORE the cows came into the picture and the road actually disappeared!

But luckily during that same fiasco evening, SOMEHOW my phone signal still managed to work on that previously mentioned cow and grass-covered disintegrating dirt road and I was able to call the hostel we had booked on the other side of the water to clarify that we were indeed NOT going to be arriving that evening.

 

Where there was a cell tower anywhere within 100 km of that location is beyond me! 

 

Unlike many foreign countries in which your home cell phone only works about 25% of the time, in Costa Rica, if you have your phone signal on, it’s likely to work almost as good as it would at home. Cell towers are abundant even in the more rural areas of the country. So if you get lost and you’re completely without directions or a way to look something up, all you have to do is drive a ways up the road and those bars will likely reappear.

 

Finishing work at the gas station next to a cell tower? Don’t mind if I do!

11. Just kidding! There’s no number 11!  Well, I mean I’m sure there is but I won’t take the fun out of your visit and ruin ALL of the surprises! After all, isn’t one of the best parts about traveling really just seeing and experiencing things first hand?

 

Enjoy your time in Costa Rica and really live and breathe the magic of the country. There truly is no place on the planet quite like this one, so soak up every moment and live your Pura Vida days to the fullest. Embrace both the expected and unexpected surprises that I forgot to tell you about ahead of time.

 

My motto is that life is not a blog or book to be read but a story to be written and told. So go explore, experience and then return home with all of your own “hypothetical” memories to share in your own blog post. You will always be able to have it to go back to if you want to relive some of your happiest moments and to take a trip down ol’ memory lane.

 

Or no lane.

 

Or dirt and grass disintegrating road lane.

 

Or ending lane.

 

Whichever road you end up on, buckle up and get ready for one wild car ride, boat trip, hike, Amtrak venture or delayed plane trip.

 

Hypothetically, at least, you’re already there.

 

 

 

Comments:

  • REBECCA HOLSTEIN

    May 17, 2020

    It looks gorgeous! I love the sound of so many national parks….good to know ahead of time that some require a boat to arrive at your hotel! Wow! The food sounds right up my alley too. I can’t wait to visit Costa Rica!!!! PURA VIDA, what a great motto to live by!

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  • Tom

    May 18, 2020

    wow… you did and saw a lot. I’d wanna do that “water slide” down the canyon… Lots of Nice pics. Especially of the old, angry-looking guy in the winter clothing.

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  • Denise Hawk

    May 18, 2020

    I loved your blog. It brought back many many memories to me as I have visited Costa Rica three times and was in awe every time. La Fortuna waterfall is not to be missed. It’s quite a hike to get down to the actually falls and a hike back up, but so breathtaking and a beautiful memory awaits. They allow swimming in the falls so I recommend taking full advantage of it!
    The cloud Forest was beautiful, hot springs are incredible (never enough time),

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