What to Expect When You’re in Costa Rica: The Good, the Bad and the Funny
This is a collection of observations, a collection of the good, the bad and the funny of visiting Costa Rica. In one way, this post is meant to be helpful, as a light-hearted guide to let you know what you should (or might) expect while visiting the beautiful country of Costa Rica. And in another way, this article is a series of ha-ha (funny) moments, and aha (inspiring) moments. Here is what to expect when you’re in Costa Rica. Let’s go!
What are sugar bugs you ask? Well, if you’re from a cold climate, you know about the regular housefly, the potential of ant armies, and the occasional mosquito. They exist in the outside world, and rarely make their way into your home. When they do, you make a big fuss about it (I know I do) and quickly get rid of them. While in Costa Rica, I learned to coexist with sugar bugs (amongst others). These are bugs that are very, very small and get into your food (even what you think are sealed bags and containers). They hang out on the walls, making “trails” that you think are a tiny crack in the wall. It is not a tiny crack. Don’t look closer. It’s a trail of sugar bugs (yuck!). But hey, you’re the one who paid over a thousand dollars to stay in a studio in the middle of the jungle. You can’t expect to escape nature, now can ya? Really, these bugs are harmless and are just a part of daily life in Costa Rica.
Middle of the night howling
Howler monkeys – have you ever had the pleasure of being woken up by one in the middle of the night? The howler monkey is a harmless, adorable monkey which is just looking to chat with his friends and guard his mate, and in doing so, produces a very loud, strange and quite frightening howl. I am not kidding – you’ll think there is a monster right outside your door. You can hear the howler monkey’s howl up to 4 km away. And they tend to chat most during the night. Now that you’ve been warned, you don’t need to be afraid of what is lurking outside your studio – it’s just a howler monkey!
Photo by kansasphoto via Creative Commons
Because of Costa Rica’s proximity to the equator, the sunrise and sunset “window” are very brief. If you want to enjoy a romantic dinner while watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean (or Atlantic, depending on where you are in Costa Rica), be sure to check the time of the sunset on your weather app and get there early. Don’t blink or you might miss it! Okay, I’m exaggerating but you get the idea. I think during the 16 nights we spent in CR, we caught maybe 5 sunsets. Each was spectacular and completely worth having dinner at 5-something p.m. ;-P
Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world – and that means lots of delicious, exotic and fresh fruit. Upon visiting the local markets, you can pick up tons (literally) of fruit that you’ve never heard of. But sometimes, you can’t just eat a fruit raw or whole like you might an apple, or a plum. It’s best to get the name of the fruit you’re purchasing so you can find out what it is and how it is best consumed (whether it be raw, or in a smoothie, or even cooked!). Just because something looks like a fruit and smells like a fruit, doesn’t mean it is! I wrote about some of the exotic fruit I had in Costa Rica, and what you need to know here – I learned through experience and can only hope you do better than I did! What is great about fruit and produce in Costa Rica is that it is grown locally (mostly in people’s back or front yards), so there is an abundance of fresh, affordable fruit and veg.
Tropical raccoons are the only thieves I encountered while in Costa Rica. As I was planning my trip to Costa Rica, people kept telling me about theft in Costa Rica. I was told not once, but at least three times by three different people that I was going to be robbed in San Jose, “for sure”. Well, I’m happy to report that I did not get my wallet, my phone or my luggage stolen. However, I did almost have my lunch stolen by the thieves of Manuel Antonio beach – the raccoons! Who can blame them? Last night’s pizza was begging to be eaten. Luckily, my food bag was recovered by a friendly stranger, who seemed to be defending everyone’s property from the raccoons (thanks dude!) That’s not to say that most of the food wasn’t ruined and full of sand. My tip for you: be patient and take turns swimming and protecting the food, be it with “strangers” or your travel buddies. This will keep your food safe and sand-free.
The people/Pura vida
Costa Rica and its people are known for their way of life – pura vida –, which evokes optimism, gratitude and joy. While in Costa Rica, you will have the pleasure of being surrounded by this optimism, the fresh perspective and the genuine kindness of the locals. A beautiful example of this is an encounter my travel partner and I had with a Costa Rican boy who was about 10 or 11 years old. We were looking sort of lost (because we were) and this boy was unloading a truck filled with water bottles. As soon as he saw us and our puzzled expressions, he stopped and approached us. He asked us what we were looking for, where we wanted to go. We told him (Quepos Central) and he directed us to our destination. Who the heck would expect an 11-year-old boy to direct two, foreign adults? Well, he did and as we said goodbye, he bid us farewell with a shaka sign (aka the “surfer” hand gesture) and a “pura vida”. Just brilliant. I am still in awe of this young boy’s kind gesture, willingness to help a “stranger” and his open heart. I can’t say the same for myself at that age, or even today for that manner. Now, this is a culture that most will learn from!
Costa Rica was a truly eye opening, funny, and enlightening experience. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat – the good, the “bad” and especially the funny!