Ok, We’ve been living in Costa Rica for two months now, and there’s so much to talk about—like getting sick and recovering…walking in the rain storms, enjoying the pure sunshine…being grateful for a home…Using our gifts to help others and being blessed in return.
We’ve also had the pleasure of making real local friends A.K.A our family here that we just love. There were days we constantly laugh (I mean like till the point I’m in tears rolled over), eat together, serve together, fuss, learn/practice our Spanish, teach/help with English and do it all over again.
We’ve seen plenty of tourist and backpackers come and go from all around the world. So with this in mind, there were so many things I’ve observed and learn while living in Costa Rica. I’d like to share a few things from my point of view on what to expect or do when traveling to Costa Rica.
NOTHING IS CHEAP. JUST THE SCENERY
This place will drain your wallet. The only thing free is the view. I would advise you on bringing some heavy dollars if you intend on having a good time. Do you know what the cost of living is like in LA and NY? Yeah, plan on bringing that kind of money with you. You gotta eat–so breakfast, lunch, and dinner will cost you. Essentials will cost you even more because of importation and the cost of transportation will eat you up. On the scenic side of Costa Rica– it’s beautiful. Full of charm, greenery, volcanoes, mountains, winding roads, nature, wildlife, and beaches. One beach I can vouch for is Punta Uva. It’s gorgeous!
If you want high-end chain hotels, real estate and charming views of the ocean with an American type of vibe try hitting up the west side of Costa Rica: Guanacaste Providence. It’s right next to the Pacific. Guanacaste is considered the tropical paradise of Costa Rica. This area is popular for diving, water sports, and surfing.
If you’re looking for culture, good red snapper, coconut trees, down to earth hipsters, laid back vibes, riding bikes, chilling with locals and soaking up the sun see the Caribbean side: Limon Providence. Limon is considered to be one of the most pristine and lush regions of Costa Rica. Limon remains as one of the least traveled regions in Costa Rica and is worth the visit. It’s a hidden treasure.
If you looking for Ticos, fresh mangos, mountains, hiking, hot springs, nature, wildlife, volcanoes and rivers go to the Rainforest: Alajuela Providence. Alajuela is the second-largest city in Costa Rica after the capital, San José. Their known for sloths, waterfalls and an array of thermal hot waters of the world.
Wherever you go just plan on spending money.
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. LEAVE THE ATTITUDE. When ordering food or doing anything in Costa Rica that requires help from a Tico to you and yours, please leave the American (or wherever you’re from) attitude at home. Especially when your being waited on. Yes—WE ALL want excellent service and want to feel important. Guess what? Nothing revolves around you when you’re out of the country. You are visiting a place that has an entirely different set of rules. You’re in Costa Rica. You’re on someone’s else’s turf where they eat, sleep and work. It’s not about you. Chill. It’s not right or fair for you to disrespect someone in a place you’re visiting – in their country (they take pride in) who is doing a service for you.
Be patient. Be kind. Be polite. If something is wrong –no problem. They’ll be more than happy to get it right. Leave the obnoxious attitude at home.
LEARN THE LANGUAGE
If you are planning on going anywhere outside the country, make it an effort to learn the language. You can start by learning just a few simple words or phrases to get started. It doesn’t have to be a long list but just something that you can understand when traveling. Like saying “bags” or “where is the hotel?” “How much is this?” One easy word you can practice now is Pura Vida. Pronounced like “Poorah-beedah.” It literally means: Pure life. In Costa Rica it’s an everyday slang that means everything is good. 🙂
Even tho there are English-speaking people available for you (not in every situation or places) you need to be in survival mode. What’s interesting to me is that others genuinely want to learn the English language and practice it daily so they can communicate with you. So it’s only fair to do the same right?
If you’re feeling afraid of the Spanish language, you can always use/take a small Spanish translator to help you get by. Remember not everyone speaks your language.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”- Nelson Mandela
EXCHANGE YOUR MONEY FOR COLONES.
Why? It’s fun, and you are not in America! Stop asking for American dollars and expecting our dollars to take us everywhere, learn about other dead presidents. One: The fees will be hella high when using the ATM (your paying double or triple to the bank) Two: It’s imperative to have some emergency cash on you (not everyone takes the dollar) Three: You’ll feel like a millionaire when counting colonies, 1 Mill, 2 Mill, 3 Mill, etc.
It may be a bit challenging at first but you’ll get the hang of it. There’s a great app I use called Converter. It’s easy and helpful.
BE MINDFUL. DON’T DEMAND. When dining in a Tico Restaurant (or anywhere) please do not whine, nag or complain about how long your food is going to be. It is called a Restaurant Right? So Rest. I’ve seen countless of people demanding and expecting food to be made quick fast and in a hurry. Not gon’ happen. It’s not cool to make arrangements to do a tour that starts at 10 am (that you’ve prepared for in advance) and you and your party of six decide to have breakfast at 9:30 am. Not only is it rude it’s inconsiderate. If you want something quick and “fast”, it’s called fast food. In Spanish: Comida Rápida. Do not expect fast service in an authentic Tico restaurant. Period. Your on their time. They’ll get to you when they can –and if you really wanna be rude and demanding? You should probably leave. No Bueno.
NOT ALL FOOD IS MADE LIKE YOURS I get it…you wanna keep living a healthy lifestyle. We all do. But remember your not home. Unless it’s truly Americanized meaning an American owned restaurant that has all the organic ingredients (shipped), top American chefs (all in the kitchen) and wonderful recipes (from LA) you want to have on vacation.
“Can you make my eggs with egg whites?” “Can you make me a green smoothie?” or “I want my eggs cooked with no oil.” You should probably just wait to go back home and order all of this and your tofu scrambled topped with soy bacon strip and vegan cheese. It’s not the “NORM” here. No one here understands that lingo—not even the gluten-free, wheat free, dairy free ish. So just stick the script and work with what you see. They might try to accommodate you but…just work with what you got. This is the home of good ass Tipicos (Costa Rican dish of rice and beans, fried plantains, fried egg) Chicharrones (fried pork) and Pollo Frito (fried chicken)!
You’ll be wasting precious time looking for vegan/vegetarian restaurants, soy meat, meatless burgers, and tofu. But what YOU will find will be tons of meat markets, fresh fruits and vegetables stands on every corner. If you’re picky about your food, you should probably pack a few goodies you like to have from home. There is only once place that we know of for sure that offers vegetarian options (and I’ll get to that later in my next post).
Hey, I love it all —makeup, clothes, shoes, accessories, etc., but it’s not necessary. The only thing you need is sunscreen. Unless you plan on doing a Photo shoot here, you don’t need anything. Just your pretty face and skin. But if you wanna get extra cute bring waterproof mascara, a brow filler and lip gloss but for sure no makeup. It’s waaaaay to hot for it. Besides you whole face would just come off.
The fashion here is very simple. Fewer clothes. Comfortable walking shoes. Flip flops. No makeup. Yep. All that extra stuff you think you need? You don’t. Hairstyles? Keep it simple. Braids and naturals are the way to go.