7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Costa Rica

Like always, all good things must come to an end, and alas that is happening now with my time in Costa Rica. Before coming here, I was extremely nervous because I was worried that two months was going to be too long of a time to live here, but now it seems like that time was too short. I was also nervous beforehand because all I knew about San Ramon was that the weather app thinks it rains there 24/7, and that one retiree thought others should not live there because it had “strange weather”. After spending almost two months here, I debunked both of those stories and found out many retirees live here, to the point that they have their own nonprofit organization, and that the weather app is a liar. These are just two examples of things that I found out to be different once I arrived here, but there were many more. Therefore, I would like to share with everyone a couple of things I wish I knew before coming to Costa Rica.

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Volcano hike in the pouring rain, so worth it.
  1. Even though it is the rainy season, that doesn’t mean it rains 24/7.

As I said earlier, my weather app made me think that I would not be able to leave the house any day. So, I bought new rainboots, a backpack cover, and rain pants. Once I got here, I only ended up using the rainboots once. I found out that if it does rain, its only for a short period of the day. I also realized that the rain is refreshing and not to be afraid of it. If you have the chance, go for a swim when it’s raining, I loved doing that here.

  1. Timing is difficult

If you’ve heard of island time, a similar thing exists in Costa Rica. It makes it a little difficult to make plans because people will either show up 15 minutes early, on time, or an hour late, and you don’t know which one it will be. The view of time in Costa Rica becomes especially tricky when traveling by bus, because there is no exact time that the bus comes at every time. So, I found the best way to deal with this difference is to always be early.

  1. Getting around by bus is quite time consuming even though the country is so small

As I mentioned before, there is no exact bus schedule which is one of the reasons traveling in Costa Rica is a little difficult. The other reason is that there are barely any direct busses, and this can make a trip that would take 4 hours in a car be 7 hours in a bus. This is mainly because of transfers and stops. Therefore, I wouldn’t say to avoid the busses, but to take into account that it can take you a full day to travel across Costa Rica.

P.S. If you are considering renting a car, it does bring the time down, but it costs around $80-100 a day.

  1. Get ready to eat a lot of rice.IMG_2116

Rice is a staple in the Costa Rican diet, so get ready to eat it in some kind of form for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert.

  1. San Jose is not somewhere you want to spend a lot of time

Unlike most capitals of countries, San Jose is not one that has many tourist attractions. The main places to visit there are museums and the soccer stadium, which even then, that can be done in a day.

  1. Ask locals for recommendations

Locals are the best tour guides! They will be able to tell you where the best places are, how much they cost, and even recommendations for places that tourists don’t go. I got the chance to visit many viewpoints and waterfalls near San Ramon because of this. Best part was that all of these attractions were free, and had no tourists.

  1. Solo traveling is not that scary.

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    Old and new friends 

As I mentioned at the beginning I was really scared about moving to San Ramon for two months without ever meeting anyone there. I am from a big city (Chicago), so I was convinced that I would be miserable in such a small town. But, I found out that the size of the town helped me make more friends, and ended up being an advantage.
I was also nervous about making friends while here. But, I ended up learning that to make friends I had to put myself out there and when I would travel over the weekend to stay in hostels. I met some of the coolest people while in hostels, and from all over the world.

Overall, I learned a lot during my time here, but the most important thing that I was reminded of while here is that life is short, so we don’t have time to stress too much, we have to enjoy what we have while we do.  I am not too surprised that I learned this here since this is the country of ‘pura vida. ’

Hasta Luego Costa Rica!

 

 

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Why Visiting Manuel Antonio is a Must While in Costa Rica

This past Sunday my mother flew into Costa Rica to spend time with me for a bit in this new country. We’ve spent some time in San Ramon, but we also strayed away from a cultural experience and became tourists this past weekend. We went to Manuel Antonio National Park with hopes to see sloths and a beautiful beach. Luckily, we got the best of both worlds, and saw both of those!

It took me forever to decide somewhere to go with my mom, as she did not care where we went, but eventually I chose Manuel Antonio. I ended up picking it as our destination for the weekend because it had both wildlife and a beach. These two things, along with a special restaurant, are the reasons why you must also visit Manuel Antonio/ Quepos while visiting Costa Rica.

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Playa Espadilla/ Espadilla Beach

After being in the car for about 2 and a half hours, we turned another corner on the never-ending winding highway from San Ramon to Quepos and saw the panoramic view of the beach. I’ve been to many beautiful beaches in my life, and this one left me speechless. Before going, I knew that it is renowned as one the best beaches of the world, and it was used to film scenes of Jurassic Park, but I had no idea how close the jungle and the beach were. The tall dark green luscious jungle trees were arching over the beach, and the waves were always hitting some tall rock that was also covered in these amazing trees. It looked like a picture straight out of a travel magazine. I’ve also heard that on the beach in Manuel Antonio park there is a treehouse, and many monkeys if you are looking for that kind of experience.

The other reason you must visit Manuel Antonio is because of the wildlife. This is kind of an obvious one, but it is the greatest reason to visit. Nowhere else in Costa Rica are you able to see such a variety of animals. While on our tour, we saw monkeys, sloths, dragonflies, lizards, iguanas, spiders (eek), and so many more animals. It felt like a modern day jungle book, except I was not Tarzan, and the animals didn’t talk. Here are some pictures of the animals we saw, but don’t let these pictures be enough, go see these animals for yourself!

 

Side Note: I have heard some people say not to get a tour guide, as you can just follow the groups and then look at the animals that they point out. This is true, but I would still recommend getting a guide because they have binoculars that will let you see the animal’s cute little faces, I’m mainly talking about the sloths faces.

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This restaurant is also great for the amazing sunset views!

Lastly, Manuel Antonio is a must on your list when traveling Costa Rica because of the restaurant called el Avion (The airplane). As I said last week, I love food, so wherever I go, I always look on trip advisor for the best restaurants in the area. This one stood out immediately because I had never heard of anything like it. The restaurant is either an abandoned or old airplane that has been transformed into a two story restaurant and a pub. In order to enter the bar, you have to go in through a small door, and it is located within the cock pit of the plane. If I just heard a description of this restaurant, I probably would have not have thought it was classy, but the way that this place is set up, exceeded my expectations.  On top of the amazing atmosphere, this place has great food. I ended up getting grilled chicken with passionfruit sauce, and it was deliciousss! The prices of the restaurant are more on the higher side, but so are most restaurants in Manuel Antonio.

 

Thank you all for reading, and I hope that once you visit the country of Pura Vida you also visit Manuel Antonio!

If you guys do visit, use our hashtag #CRFreeka when posting on Instagram or Facebook so we can see your adventures and cultural experiences!

Pura Vida in San Ramon

Hello everyone!

I am Julia (get to know me a little more here) and I am going to be a junior when I get back to my university in the Fall. I am currently here in interning for this awesome organization as the Social Media and Marketing manager. So far, I am loving the ‘Pura Vida’ culture. The food is amazing, the nature is breathtaking, and the language is just a tad bit difficult. Nevertheless, this past week I have already gotten the chance to see such a large chunk of the culture. I’ve visited many of the non-profit organizations in the area, the city center, airport, restaurants, schools, banks, and anything else you can think of.

So far there are quite a bit of differences that I have noticed while living here, but I will only discuss the two most important, food and school.

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Two volunteers, from Britain, found a mango this size in the grocery store!

I swear I am one of the biggest foodies, so every time I travel I always look to the food culture, whether that be by trying a new dish, or learning how to cook a traditional dish (fingers crossed I learn one here). This being so, I’ve gone to many restaurants so far, and had a couple of home-cooked meals, as well.  The first thing I immediately noticed here is that Ticos love their rice and beans. Here at least one of your meals in the day have to include beans and rice, and sometimes it might even be breakfast! Another staple to the Costa Rican diet are plantains, fried or raw. They have made grocery shopping a little bit confusing because I want to buy them,  thinking they are huge bananas. But I’ve made that mistake twice, and I never want to willingly bite into a raw plantain again.  Plantains are not the only fruit that humongous here, but so are avocados and mangos

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The school’s geese

Another cultural difference I’ve noticed is in the schools. I’ve gotten the opportunity to observe these differences because two volunteers arrived this week to work for a high school here. Firstly, this school is so different from public high schools in the U.S. due to the fact that it only provides specialized tracks. Most of them are focused around agriculture, but there is also one track that is English for working at call centers. This being so, there are many animals at the school, both farm and wild.

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Talking to a class about the differences between England and Costa Rica.

Within the classroom, the biggest difference I noticed was the way the class learning was structured. The best way to explain it would be as a friendly conversation between students, rather than a lecture or class. It also seems as if there is also never a moment where no chit chat is going on. Compared to the U.S. , and even to England, this seemed crazy to me! I am so used to strict teachers, and a zero whispering rule in elementary or high school classrooms. But, I can see the benefits to the style in Costa Rica. Their teaching style allows them to create better relationships with their teachers, and not be afraid to ask them for help. I know that when I was in high school, I would always be scared of the strictest teachers, but here that is less of a problem. Personally, I know that transitioning to this kind of school would be difficult, but I think it is necessary that I saw this difference. It is these kinds of differences that traveling and cultural immersion experiences give you, that make you grow the most as a person, and learn the most about yourself.

 

 

Before coming here, I took an online accelerated summer course about intercultural communication, and if I were to have walked away with only one lesson it would have been that immersing yourself in a different culture is the best way to learn about yourself, and others. Already during my short time here, I’ve noticed this. Therefore, I am excited to see what other differences I see during my time in this beautiful country and the to feel the effect they will have on my identity and knowledge of Latin American countries’ cultures.

¡Hasta la próxima semana!