A little over one month ago I entered Costa Rica. My first true venture out-of-country (Canada doesn’t count and St. Thomas and St. John, though foreign-feeling are U.S. territories). And I’m so very glad that Costa Rica was my first introduction to the world. For if the world is like this…..she is a delightful place, indeed.
I know. The world isn’t like this. First of all, real world is never like vacation world, right? Whenever people ask me if I would move someplace, after I’ve expressed deep love and adoration for it (Kauai), my response is always, “No.” Because vacation world is very different than real world. And I don’t want to ruin vacation world with real world. Follow?
So, what do I love about Costa Rica? Let me count the ways.
Oh, wait, should I finish the story? Allow me to finish the story. I left off with Jardin de Mariposas. Went there. Did that. Took a bunch of photos. Returned to Arco de Iris and rushed down the street for our very last casado. So good.
As we sat on the second floor of the restaurant, looking down on downtown Santa Elena, we laughed at the lack of utter peace. Playa Hermosa…land of the sound of the ocean. La Fortuna…land of the sound of cicada and howler monkey. And then there was Santa Elena…land of the guy with the loudspeaker and motorcycles. The first sound you hear is some sort of advertisement blasted out of the speaker of a beat of SUV that would wind it’s way around the main part of town on a semi-regular basis. After that…the sound of motorcycles. And motorcycles. And more motorcycles
After lunch we were picked up by a van for the 3 hour drive back to Liberia. Still wondering why we elected not to drive from La Fortuna to Monteverde?
Narrow. Gravel for a good chunk. Hilly. Pot-holey. And, it was really nice to be able to sit back and relax.
We stopped for a little break along the way at a small cafe. The husband and I ordered coffee milkshakes that were essentially coffee ice cream, blenderized, on steroids (add chocolate syrup and whipped cream and you’re getting the right idea). As we headed back to the van our driver motioned us back behind the cafe, pointing into trees up above. Turns out they were huge mango trees. And sitting in the trees? Parrots! Like, fruit-flavored, rainbow-colored parrots! In real life!
We arrived in Liberia around 3:30. At the very American Hilton Garden Inn. Very American. Depressingly American. It made us sad. So, we won’t dwell on it. Let’s get back to what I loved about the experience.
Costa Rica is considered one of the safest countries in Central America, according to online sources. I can personally vouch for that. You know how there’s usually one time when you’re on vacation when you feel a little…hinky? I never felt that way in Costa Rica. Not once. Now, we were in before dark and didn’t put ourselves in situations that might lend themselves to hinky. But, even in normal situations…good vibes.
Costa Rica is a third world country. And, poverty was definitely evident, particularly when we drove across the countryside. Though, interestingly, even the most modest of homes had a big ol’ satellite dish on the roof (hey, man, football aka soccer is serious stuff there). But, I would argue that they are a very forward-thinking third-world country. This is the first place I’ve traveled to that offers recycling. We come from Western Washington, land of recycling. I feel guilty throwing paper, cardboard and plastic away.
They seem environmentally forward-thinking, in ways other than just recycling. There was one area we drove through, between Liberia and La Fortuna, that was filled with power-generating windmills. And, any number of guides informed us that they’ve declared most of the animals and birds to be protected. A couple of articles that I recently read stated that Costa Rica is among the most effective countries in the world at combating deforestation. Of course, before they instituted a ban on razing mature forests (1996) some significant damage had been done. But, it’s notable that changes have been made.
The beauty of Costa Rica speaks for itself. For that you only have to return to any of my posts about our adventures.
And, finally…last, but certainly not least, the people. Ticos, as they refer to themselves, are remarkably friendly and helpful. I mean, we’re two well-meaning tourists who always try to be respectful when we travel, but the fact that we don’t speak the language led to some moments of bumbling idiocy. Those we interacted with were always gracious and were willing to try to figure out what the heck we were talking about.
Family is obviously a big deal there, which we appreciate. The Easter Sunday that we spent on the beach at Playa Ocotal was one surrounded by Tico families. Though I do have a favorite story about that day. Remember the extended family that set up next to us? When the sand settled there sat a teenage girl in a lawn chair, focused on her cell phone (everyone in CR has cell phones. I won’t tell you the number of people I saw riding motorcycles whilst looking at a phone). The family was there for a number of hours and, with the exception of getting herself a plate of food, that teenager didn’t move from that chair or that phone. I imagine the morning exchange went something like this: “I don’t care what you want to do today…it’s Easter…you’re spending it with the family at the beach.”
And, how can you speak about the people without mentioning pura vida. The pure life. Costa Ricans may live in a third world country, but they’ve got something. They’ve got pura vida. They live pura vida. It seems, in our country of everything and glut and prosperity, that there is a lot we’re missing out on. Maybe that’s part of what enamored me so much with Costa Rica. There’s a sparkle there among the people, a pura vida that we most definitely are missing here in the US.
Thank you, Costa Rica. For sharing your beauty, your people, your zest for life. Pura vida.