So You Want to Visit Cost Rica
As I sit down to write this post, I am feeling refreshed and energized. Turns out, a week in the lush Costa Rican rainforest snuggled up in a hammock with a good book was just what I needed.
We went to Costa Rica during rainy season. The dry season, considered summer by Costa Ricans, is from mid-November to April. Even in the rainy season, days often start sunny, with rain falling in the afternoon and evening, so if you are looking for a busy vacation with a list of activiites, I would highly recommend visiting during dry season. However, there were so many benefits to visiting during the "off season," like... no tourists and... no tourists (besides us)!
I know everyone is different, but I am not necessarily a resort person. When traveling, I enjoy blending into every day life as much as possible. We stayed in the most quant little town on the south side of the country called Esterillos Oestes. Our home was absolutely perfect. It was cozy and oh so Costa Rican. Our hosts, Brian and Jeni, lived right down the road and were so hospitable. We felt right at home.
Some things to mention about the homes in Costa Rica. Toilets are on septic systems. You can't flush toilet paper. I repeat, do not flush the toilet paper! The electricity tends to go in and out. Bring a couple flashlights just in case. Also, most of the stoves are hooked up to a tank of gas. Air conditioning is rare and most places are filled with high power fans (which totally do the job).
Our backyard was lush with a beautiful view. In fact, it made it really hard to leave our porch. Capuchin monkeys made an appearance one morning. Waking up to rain and birds chirping every morning felt a little bit like a dream. We had an outdoor shower that was absolutely amazing.
The black sand beach was just down a hill and there wasn't a soul on it besides a few local kiddos. The infamous Esterillos Mermaid projects out in the ocean off of the beach. During low tide, pools would form making for perfect swimming spots.
Let's talk about driving in Costa Rica. We rented a car, which I would highly recommend. There is a decent bus system, but the car gave us freedom to go wherever we pleased.
People drive one of two ways, super slow, or super fast and crazy. Motorcycles weave in and out of traffic everywhere you go. Expect to get passed and pass people (sometimes while rounding curves on cliffs), regardless if the road says to or not. Most of the roads were unmarked making driving at night incredibly difficult, especially in the rain. The main highways were paved and relatively easy to navigate, but getting to anything off the highway required passing through an endless amount of potholes and even a few scary trenches. Watch out for roaming cows, horses, wild dogs, and people.
There was tons to do within 30-40 minutes of our house. Because of the rain, we didn’t get out quite as much as we would have liked to do, but we did manage to fit in a beautiful hike. The trail was called Rainmaker, and it was obvious as to why. The hike was filled with rope bridges, waterfalls, and lush greenery. I don’t think my mind has ever felt more clear than the moment I rounded a corner on the trail with my walking stick (which I lost by the way).
We had planned to take a catamaran to snorkel on Tortuga Island, but the weather didn't permit the tour to go out. Another thing we would have liked to do was visit Emanuel National Park. The national parks in Costa Rica are supposedly amazing with great hiking and beaches.
One night we ventured into the tourist town of Jaco for dinner and margaritas. The town sits right along Jaco Beach where rain doesn't stop the surfers. The streets were rich and vibrant and the rain didn’t stop us from enjoying the culture. We even got an impromtu Costa Rican dance lesson from a bar owner.
Our hosts gave us an amazing list of local restaurants to try. Sad to say we only crossed one off of the list. Rancho Coral was amazing for breakfast. It was a homey little resort with amazing beach access. Down the road a little further was the Alma resort which served a wonderful dinner if you are in the mood to put on a sun dress.
This trip also taught me what a "soda" is. When we were driving in, I thought all these little spots along the road were serving soda, nope! A soda serves what is known as “typico” or the typical Costa Rica cuisine. The basic plate is called a “casado” which literally translates to “marriage”, and so it is. There is a “marriage” of rice, beans, a salad (usually with a base of cabbage) and then a meat of your choice.
Costa Rican currency is called colones. The exchange rate was around ¢570 to $1.00. The US dollar was accepted everywhere we went, but I regretted not bring more small bills because change will always come back in colones. We also weren't prepared to pay tolls on the road from the airport to our house. Tolls ranged from $1.00 - $4.00 and just coming into the country, we hadn't even figured out the exchange rate yet! Visa and American Express was accepted in many instances as well.
If it weren't for the very long list of places I would like to visit, I would most definitely return to Costa Rica. The vast expanse of greenery was so good for the soul. A week of purely being present was much needed. Time to brush up on Spanish in preparation for my next trip to Central America!