Costa Rica is an absolutely beautiful country with astounding colors and abounding greenery. I realized I had the kind of trip that I would remember for a lifetime, so I gazed, stared, wondered, and allowed myself to have childlike amazement because God’s work was on full display, and I was there for it.
The Sights and Sounds
I traveled to a beautiful rainforest and hiked up and down Mistico Hanging Bridges. Oh yes, they hang, but those bridges also swing so make sure you are ready for the sway. If you go to Mistico Hanging Bridges, my suggestion is to make sure you have really supportive shoes; the trails are up and down and have a fair amount of cobbled stone.
In La Fortuna, you can see amazing views of the Arenal Volcano. The views of the volcano, whether from the rainforest or in other areas of the town, are inspiring, powerful, towering, and breathtaking.
I absolutely loved the surround sound of the rainforest…sounds like the cries of exotic birds, a rustling, bustling waterfall, and the subtle refreshing buzz of the air that surrounds it.
It’s quite amazing.
I was also fortunate enough to experience a safari wildlife boat tour on the Peñas Blancas River, where I caught several glimpses of toucans, monkeys, owls, and iguanas. We heard the monkeys from afar off and you couldn’t miss their tribal shouts. Oh my goodness! Is this for real?
The awesome doesn’t stop there. Believe it or not my group’s shuttle driver saw people huddled up and staring into trees. He’s no novice, so he pulled over, and it was certainly worth the detour. We were blessed with the elusive sight of a Mama and baby sloth cuddled up in the tree.
So that covers some of the sights and sounds, but there were definitely some incredible tastes to remember over my six-day stay.
I really wanted to make sure I experienced some authentic Costa Rican food. I’m big on that. I rarely want to eat American food while I’m in another country. So when in Costa Rica, I wanted to feel like a Tica, which is a term used for a local Costa Rican woman (Tico for men). I’m happy to say I achieved my mission. Between the conference I attended and my tour guide from Sunshine Surf Retreats, we managed to make Costa Rican cuisine a reality for me.
The Hotel AC by Marriott, Belen had an awesome breakfast buffet, where I was first introduced to the fact that beans and rice is a breakfast food. Later in the day, they had food trucks in their atrium, and I took the opportunity to support the local vendors. There wasn’t much in the way of a Costa Rican meal, but I had a very fresh fried fish sandwich on the prettiest blue bun you ever want to see.
They served all of their sandwiches on these electric blue, green, and purple buns. No complaints from me, the portions were plentiful and the meal was very satisfying. It came with a ridiculously delicious, sweet, passion fruit beverage that I could have had two more cups of if I didn’t think I’d start sweating sugar.
During the course of the trip, I experienced three organic farm-to-table restaurants, where I took a tour and saw coffee beans, cacao, turmeric, cinnamon, and heart of palm. At the Finca Luna Nueva restaurant, I fell in love with their fresh ice cream.
Oh my goodness! The ice cream I was served had a banana flavor—real bananas—not flavoring, and not at all overpowering. So good! Also, on one of the organic farm tours, the visitors were able to crank out juice from sugar cane. It wasn’t bad at all. Some on the tour imbibed with the sugar cane and moonshine. They went back for seconds so I assume they enjoyed it.
Each of the organic farm tours included lots of tangibles like tasting off of the branch, smelling the spices, and, of course, walking the land. We also learned how important it is to know the source of the ingredients used in our food. That was a huge sticking point.
Resources for Organic Farm Tour, Restaurant and Resort Info
Arenal Paraiso Resort Spa and Mineral Hot Springs
There was definitely some commentary, which encouraged the visitors to consider the source and understand that some Costa Rican farms treat their crops with chemicals. Organic farming is preferable. Tasing the difference between bananas and pineapples farmed naturally raises your expectations.
All weekend freshly squeezed pineapple juice was an offering at almost every breakfast table. So good, indeed.
San Ramon was definitely more urban. I followed my nose to the fresh smell of baked goods. I treated myself to two things from La Principal Bakery (panaderia). One was a Nutella frosted doughnut called Dona Nutella. (Yes, I see what they did there.) The second treat was pañuelos, which reminded me of a turnover with fruit filling. It was super rich, but certainly worth a try.
Others in my group stopped at one of several gelato shops. They seemed to really enjoy their choice as well.
I found myself fascinated with the oxcarts, which were prevalent throughout the country. These oxcarts have a storied history dating back to the 1800’s. The oxcarts, which are called “carretas” in Spanish, are the national symbol of Costa Rica. Once simple in design, artisans began distinguishing these oxcarts with intricate geometric designs in the late 1800’s.
Oxcarts were used to haul crops like coffee beans or sugar cane. These crude vehicles were useful for navigating over all types of terrain. Many used the oxcarts to travel to ports on the coast.
I just wanted to share a few of my thoughts and experiences from my travel. I had an awesome time, but what I definitely took back with me is the Costa Rican term “Pura Vida!” It’s a joyful term which translates from Spanish to English as “pure life.”
The first of many times someone said it to me was at dinner. The waiter helped me select what I wanted to order and then checked on me to see if I was enjoying it. I told him it was very good, and he smiled and said, “Pura Vida!”
The saying is used as a greeting of warmth, salutation, and overall good vibes. So, I say it to you: “Pura Vida!” Because couldn’t we all use a little more of that in our lives?