For the better part of the past decade friends and family kept singing the virtues of Costa Rica. Michael, you’ve got to visit Costa Rica. Trust me one said, “You won’t want to leave.” The people are “so welcoming” said another. The beaches, “oh those beaches,” said someone else. Others mentioned the food. One of my outdoor enthusiast friends talked about the wildlife, especially the monkeys jumping around in the trees outside her hotel room.
I dreamt of Pura Vida—the “Good Life,” without ever setting foot in the country, thanks to my friends painting such a vivid picture to reflect on.
I’d already made up my mind that I didn’t want a city vacation. For this trip, San Jose, the capital and largest city would not be on my itinerary. I needed to unplug. I wanted to blend into the local culture and get lost.
The only question we (my girlfriend and I) needed to answer before our trip, did we want a Caribbean view or the Pacific Ocean? We decided on the Pacific for no other reason than it would satisfy our adventurous spirit to see something new.
Flying into Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, it was obvious almost none of us on this American Airlines flight had ever set foot in Costa Rica. It was eerily quiet save for the few oohs and aahs as we starred at the lush jungle vegetation below. Volcanoes dotted the landscape, the cone shape so obvious and distinct. I couldn’t tell if those were clouds or steam emanating from some active volcano, nor did I care. From the air this trip was already a huge success.
We touched down in the middle of a rainstorm and I loved every minute of it. I stepped off the plane onto the tarmac, where I brushed aside a flight attendants attempt to hand me an umbrella. The warm rains beat down on my head—I was soaked and loved every second of it. You must understand; I came here from Las Vegas where average annual rainfall is three inches a year. When I arrived inside the terminal I saw the ubiquitous Costa Rican slogan, “Pura Vida” everywhere I looked—billboards, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and we fully intended to honor the meaning of those words.
I snapped a quick picture outside the airport and posted it on Facebook—my way of letting everyone back home know we arrived safely, and maybe to foster a little jealously from my followers. Not ten seconds after that image posted, I received a call from one of best friends from California. He was in San Jose living in full Pura Vida mode. Lets hookup. I declined. My girlfriend and I were headed to Tamarindo, about an hour ride from the airport in the opposite direction.
From the ground, Costa Rica looked just as spectacular as it did from the air. The rain subsided revealing a tapestry of verdant beauty I’d never seen. By the time we arrived at the five-star Occidental Tamarindo we were convinced Costa Rica was a place we’d come back to sooner rather than later.
Tamarindo is in Guanacaste province on the Pacific Ocean tucked away in Costa Rica’s northwest corner. We were in our room about a minute when we opened our patio door to trees full of monkeys. I think they were howler monkeys, but I wasn’t certain. We couldn’t help but stare as they went about their business.
Nightfall was rapidly approaching and I wanted to see the beach before dark. I heard the surf from our room, but the trees blocked out view. What a sight! Tomorrow would be a good day.
We were up early, at least so we though. At 7am we had our first cup of Costa Rican coffee and were sitting on the beach watching as surfers descended upon the warm Pacific waters to take advantage of the fantastic surf. I surfed in my younger days living in Florida, but those waves were two feet. These waves were significantly larger—amateurs and weak swimmers need not apply.
For the next two days it was wash, rinse and repeat—up early to watch the monkeys, eat, sit on the beach drinking copious amounts of adult beverages mixed in with water to stay hydrated, walking, and reading my books.
Day 3, we decided it was time for a little adventure and arranged a trip to the Arenal Volcano, and one of Costa Rica’s top attractions the Arenal Hanging Bridges. The Hanging Bridges is a two-mile hike on a series of suspension bridges through the jungle and rainforest. What a site! There were views of the volcano, Lake Arenal, streams running below our feet and yes, a little Costa Rican wildlife were spectacular. I took about two hours from our hotel to the Arenal, but well worth it.
As for the Arenal Volcano, at just over 5,000, feet nothing takes your breath away more than a volcano with its cone shaped-peak silhouetted against a blue sky as it towers above you—impressive to say the least.
From there we headed to a restaurant in nearby La Fortuna for a little local cuisine. We spent the remainder of our day, on a day pass, at the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel and Spa in La Fortuna. After that hike and food I was ready for a nap. The property features 10 outdoor and 15 indoor thermal pools and waterfalls. We were totally immersed in the peace and tranquility of one of life’s pleasures.
After two more days, our trip was sadly over, but not before we ventured into the town of Tamarindo to buy some coffee and partake of some more wonderful food. Along the way we met so many expats who now call Costa Rica home. Some came from Europe, others from Canada and the United States. Many were retirees, but a significant number were Generation X and even a few Millennials who owned small businesses.
I was so impressed with Costa Rica I’m planning a trip to the Caribbean side, maybe Limon with a stop in San Jose. I’m even thinking about buying a vacation home in Costa Rica.