Hola amigos! From the people to the food to the tranquil beauty and traditions, Costa Rica is truly a place to visit! It’s not only a rainforested Central American country with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific but also has beaches, volcanoes, and monkeys. Roughly a quarter of its area comprises protected jungle and wildlife, including spider monkeys and quetzal birds.
Did you know that Costa Ricans refer to themselves as “Ticos” (males) and “Ticas” (females)? Foreigners are often called “Gringos” (males) and “Gringas” (females). These words are a term of fondness or affection towards others!
If you are planning your next getaway to Costa Rica, one term you should be familiar with is “Pura Vida” (pronounces poo-rah vee-dah). Plan your next getaway to Costa Rica; one term you should be familiar with is “Pura Vida” (pronouncing translated, it means “simple life” or “pure life,” but in Costa Rica, it is more than just a saying—it is a way of life.
Why do Costa Ricans say Pura Vida? Costa Ricans use this term to say hello and goodbye; everything's fantastic. But it truly defines the way that Costa Ricans live. They have a very relaxed, simplistic, no-worried way of life. It means not dwelling on the negative and staying focused on the positive. Thus, so many come here to find their zen and inner peace!
Food: One of the best ways to enjoy this country is to eat like a local. Most meals are made from scratch with a lot of TLC. A typical breakfast can include a plate of beans, eggs, homemade corn tortillas, sweet plantains, and local cheese. Of course, it wouldn’t be a day in Costa Rica without some delicious rice and beans. Costa Rica is also well-known for its gourmet coffee beans, with the famous Tarrazú considered among the finest beans in the world. Coffee is one of the most famous Costa Rican exports!
Drink: You would be remiss visiting Costa Rica without trying the national drink, the Jaguar Colada (also known as the guaro sour). It’s a refreshing, yummy drink that compares to a vodka lemonade (depending on how it’s made). Every Latin American country has its cane liquor. It is similar to vodka but with a lower alcohol content. In Costa Rica, that cane liquor is called guaro. The critical ingredient is cane sugar. The legal drinking age in Costa Rica is 18. The law provides an exception for anyone 16 or 17 years of age who consumes a fermented alcoholic drink with a meal in a part of a licensed premises that serves meals and is not a bar.
Family Traditions: It is not uncommon for individuals to come home for lunch, including children from school. Family is an essential component of Costa Rican culture.
Places To See: Guanacaste, spanning the northwestern corner of Costa Rica, is one of my favorite places to visit. The surfer town of Tamarindo offers surfing lessons, beaches, and a hippie vibe. Hike the volcanoes, spend time in the Cloud Forest, walk on hanging bridges, and see the waterfalls. For the outdoors enthusiast, this place is a nature wonderland. If you are a yoga lover, enjoy some namaste amidst the lush greenery. There is so much biodiversity around you everywhere you look. You would be remiss if you didn’t check out Arenal Volcano National Park, combining history and biodiversity. One of the trails offers the opportunity to walk through an ancient lava flow that originated from a big eruption in 1992. You can gather amazing pictures of Arenal Lake and Volcano from the base. If you prefer a spa day, head to one of the many hot springs in the area and see the beautiful scenery around you! If you like adventure...zipline, ATV, horseback riding, even a natural, artificial water slide awaits you!
Driving On The Roads: In Costa Rica, you only need a valid driver’s license from your home country to operate a vehicle. Ensure your passport or a copy is handy in case you get pulled over. There is no requirement for an international driver’s license. However, driving in Costa Rica can be intimidating for a first- or even-time visitor. If you are a first-time visitor, I suggest you hire a private guide or take a bus or shuttle to where you want to go. Enforcement is another issue. The rules are bent everywhere you go. For example, it’s prevalent in rural areas to see entire families on motorcycles with kids at a young age riding sandwiched between mom and dad.
Roads vary from well-paved two-lane highways to pothole-ridden dirt roads with treacherous river crossings. Many roads have been worked on, but conditions can change a lot once you get out of the city. Costa Rica’s topography is highly diverse, from lofty mountains and low-visibility cloud forests to flat plains and farm fields. While many areas are accessible without four-wheel drive, many are not. Expect a very bumpy ride anywhere you go. And what may be only 30 miles away may take you a couple of hours.
Weather Permitting: If you’re traveling in the rainy season (May to November), washouts and landslides are something to watch out for. Forecasting the weather in Costa Rica is a complicated job. Because this country is so close to the equator, it’s nestled between two oceans and several mountain ranges, making weather forecasting unpredictable.
Costa Rica has two seasons: the dry and rainy or “green” seasons. During the months of December to April, the dry season, much of the country experiences little if any rain. The truth is that when it rains in Costa Rica, it can come down very hard, but it usually doesn’t last for too long. A typical day in the rainy season starts beautiful and sunny, with clouds beginning to build around mid-day, and then heavy rain or thunderstorms come in the late afternoon or evening. A storm might last only an hour or two but could dump a couple of inches in that time. Other times, it can be cloudy and try to rain all day, but it never really amounts to a storm.
Travel Tip: Be flexible with your plans. Don’t schedule all your activities in advance if they are weather-dependent. That way, if it’s pouring rain, you can swap out a day at the beach for a visit to a waterfall, which is just as lovely in the rain. Oh, and get in your activities in the morning when it is far less likely to rain.
Currency: While US dollars are widely accepted throughout the country, having some local currency with you is not a bad idea. The currency is the Costa Ricans colones. It is about 566.9 colones for every dollar.
Health Tip: Tap water in Costa Rica is drinkable and quite good in many areas of the country. However, if you have a sensitive stomach, you should refrain from drinking the tap water in most beach destinations. To play it safe, visit any supermarket and buy bottled water. Most hotel properties have bottled water readily available to help you stay hydrated!
Financial Wellness Tip: Plan to purchase extra insurance if you plan to vacation here. A separate travel insurance policy might be a good idea if something happens. Your regular health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, will not be accepted and will not pay for any care you need in Costa Rica. So check with your local travel agent to inquire about the policies that cover trip cancellation, lost baggage, medical costs, and emergency evacuation. After all, your health is your most considerable wealth!
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