The first thing you notice as you arrive in Costa Rica is all the beautiful scenery. Traveling from San Jose to our host families we drove up and down mountains on winding roads, with lush, green rainforest surrounding us and steam slowly rising from the mountains.
I stayed with my host family in La Tigra (a small community). The entire yard was filled with an abundance of fruits, and other interesting plants and wildlife! The second day I was in Costa Rica my host sister helped me pick a coconut off one of the surrounding trees. She helped me use a giant knife (cuchillo) to get to the coconut water in the center. Once I drank that we sliced it open; inside is a thin layer of coconut meat which you can scoop out with a spoon, the meat has the consistency of jell-o but is clear and sweet, and delicious!
Time has a whole other meaning in Costa Rica- you’ll get there when you get there and rarely is there rushing for any reason. A common saying is “Pura Vida” literally meaning pure life but can also mean something like “don’t let the little things bother you.” The people of Costa Rica greet each other with the words Pura Vida often and have generally laid back personalities. It was a wonderful feeling to never be rushing.
La Tigra was only forty minutes from the most active volcano in Costa Rica; Arenal, near the city of La Fortuna. Around Arenal are natural hot springs; which are basically a really, really hot river. We visited one of the natural hot springs and it was a fun time! Since the river is shallow you can rest in it among the volcanic rocks. Both tourists and native Costa Ricans visit the hot springs.
Soccer is a huge part of the Costa Rican culture. No matter the size of the town, it will have a soccer field for the local kids to practice on. Going to a soccer game is a lot of fun, there are plenty of people, music, refreshments, and noise. They had a DJ and announcer at one of the games I went to, and that was a smaller tournament!
The most beautiful beach I visited while in Costa Rica was Playa Hermosa which was about an hour away from the city of Liberia. The giant cliffs that surround the beach make a stunning picture. El Coco is a cute little beach town that borders the Playa del Coco (another incredible beach) where there tends to be a little more action because the town is so close.
Some interesting foods worth trying while in Costa Rica are the fresh homemade corn tortillas (with butter!), and chicharrones with yuca which is fried pork and a starchy white vegetable. The staple food of Costa Rica is rice and black beans. For breakfast we ate a mix of the rice, beans and then have an egg, a slice of (homemade) cheese, and fruit on the side. Lunch and dinner were usually a variation on breakfast but with chorizo or other meat added. The food was one of the best things about Costa Rica, it was always delicious!
This was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone. I learned so many things, but one thing I will always remember while traveling is that it is the people that make a country amazing and unique, and that certainly holds true for Costa Rica. I am grateful to have been able to experience it, and will remember it forever.
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