Blue starfish and massages under shade trees.
This is what Costa Rica is to me.
It is also surprises around the bend, and those bends may be sharp, narrow turns on Costa Rican roads, where you sometimes wonder if the van carrying you from the airport to your hotel will be able to squeeze through the light post on the side of the road and the oncoming car… or make it up the steep mountain road…audibly hearing the engine struggle with each gear, as if to say, “I think I can, I think I can”.
It’s no surprise Costa Rica is hot. Sweltering, to be totally honest.
It’s the bugs you’re probably not prepared for, especially on a sunset stroll where they easily coax you out of your romantic mood with more than a nibble on your skin.
But don’t let that deter you from a visit. Those sunsets are worth a bug bite or two.
The people here live and breathe their ‘Pura Vida’ mantra, embracing their version of ‘the good life’ with gusto.
Children here, including the community of ex-pats now calling Costa Rica home, frolic through the casual restaurants in bare feet, perfecting the game of tag with shrieks and giggles, oblivious to more serious business that may be underway around them.
They do not seem oblivious to the mentality that they are lucky to live in such a stunning setting so many others want to visit, and are happy to share their seashell-strewn beaches with guests from around the world.
The animals make it clear this is their home, too, with Caotis meandering about, oblivious to their impact on tourists who aren’t all crazy about their varmint-like appearance. The only way to describe these creatures is if you try to imagine what a raccoon who mated with an aardvark would produce. Monkeys shriek from the trees, producing what sounds more like the roar I remember hearing come from the mysterious creature in the sci-fi series LOST than the playful, seemingly sweet, swinging animals we see in our zoos.
The beaches feel different here, too, with sand packed with shattered shells that sometimes hurt your feet as you make your way to the water. In other sections of the country, the sand is much softer, but is solid black, created from volcanic ash. It shifts to a shade of grey as your foot makes impact, but almost immediately after, returns to its volcanic black coloring that leaves you wondering what kind of clay or mud you’ve now sunk your toes into.
The water is refreshing in the Costa Rican heat, and while I was visiting, was spectacular at night with phosphorescence dancing beneath the surface. You have to actually step into the water to see it, and the more of your body slicing through the water, the more phosphorescence you’ll discover. Some describe it as pixie dust while others say it resembles fireflies in neon green. It can’t be captured with a camera or I’d have a shot to share with you, but you’ll have to take my word for it when I say it’s nothing short of magical and really should not be missed.
Snorkeling by day is pretty spectacular, too. Aside from the peaceful catamaran trip to the cove where the crew will anchor and you’ll jump in, the actual snorkeling will reveal all kinds of underwater treats. We discovered a blue starfish (who knew they were blue?!), a baby octopus (which feels like it’s giving you a dozen hickies at once when it wraps its suction-packed arms around your own), puffer fish (which appear surprisingly poky) and much, much more during our quick hour investigating the world below. Check it out in the video below.
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Count on your drinks to be fruity and your meals to be spicy. A picky eater like myself will struggle to find basic options, but those with a more adventurous palate will believe they’ve hit the jackpot with all of the menu concoctions. Seafood is fresh and plentiful, with the catch of the day switching from Mahi Mahi to Talapia to Sailfish the three days that I dined at our resort.
The people of Costa Rica are eager to please. You’ll find a deep tissue massage for $20 under a shade tree on the beach. It’ll knock the socks off the massage you treat yourself to back home. Even at the airport you’ll find someone eager to help you fill out immigration forms…and he’s happy to point out he works for tips. These entrepreneurs are only a little annoying, more so if you forget you are on Costa Rican time now and your mind is meant to relax.
You’ll realize after a few days you may also be speaking the language, ‘Hola!’ and ‘Gracias’ rolling off your tongue as if you’ve been greeting others this way forever.
And as you pack it up to leave on your final day in the country, odds are you’ll be embracing a bit of ‘Pura Vida’, too.
(Note: I was in Costa Rica as part of the ROAR Retreat. You can find out more about that by clicking here.
This post is part of the Instagram Travel Thursday series. Please read the other travel articles that are part of this partnership below, especially the article on Skimbatico, the site that started it all. Enjoy! #IGTravelThursday #IGTT)