30 Jul Adventures in Costa Rica
I’ve made an annual tradition out of exploring unchartered territory for my birthday every June. It’s what I do! This year was no different as myself and two of my comrades ventured to San Jose Costa Rica in Central America. I had heard great things about this place ranging from beautiful landscapes to some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and believe me, there was no shortage of either. Even though I was excited to be heading to a new place there was still a slight bit of hesitancy in my heart because I don’t speak spanish and this is a completely hispanic culture. Grant it, I’ve been to other places where another language was spoken (Brazil, Dominican Republic) but I wanted to learn conversational spanish before my trip and I only managed to get a few of the basics down like ordering food and asking for directions.
I arrived in Costa Rica on a cloudy Friday morning around 11. My homies had arrived the previous night( I had a wedding to attend) so in anticipation of my arrival they sent a taxi to come and pick me up. It felt good to walk toward the exit and see a woman holding a sign with your name no it. It was definitely a more calming feeling that my Rio experience. It was a 25 minute drive from Alajuela where the airport is located to our hotel in downtown San Jose. The driver Keneth, who I’m still in contact with to this day, spoke very little English. Couple that with my high-school-freshman-esq Spanish and we had a pretty quiet trip for the first 10 minutes or so. Then I remembered about a travelers best friend: GOOGLE TRANSLATE. I opened up that bad boy and immediately started chatting with him about where he was from and more importantly, what were the jumping spots is San Jose. When he dropped me off at the hotel and I joined my comrades we quickly decided that the first thing on the agenda was procuring food. Whenever I travel I like to stay near the action so I purposely found a hotel within walking distance of the clubs and hotspots I found on the web. *Tip* Never stay at the most popular hotel as their usually too expensive. The spot we had was a short 8 min walk form the downtown area where all the locals work and dwell. I’ve found that the best experiences come from fraternizing with the locals of all income backgrounds. You can only get a true sense of the the authenticity of a place by interacting with those of simple means. As we started our walk to the main district we saw a beautiful park along with the classical architecture of the vintage buildings. My first meal was as at a small restaurant that came highly recommended by a few of the locals we passed. I think it should be noted that some of Costa Ricans are by far some of the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered and were very helpful pointing 3 gringos in the direction of delicious local fare.
After grub it was time to get drinks. It was still daylight and I didn’t feel like getting sloshed just yet so we opted to pick up some bottles of the local favorite Flor de Cana Rum, a 12 pack of Imperial beer and head back to the hotel to see what the hotel action was looking like. Another great thing about Costa Rica is that they are so US friendly that they take our money everywhere! The total was about 14,000 colons($26us). I politely gave the woman $30 US and she gave me my change in local currency. EASY PEESY. Anyway when we got back to the hotel we noticed a few ‘ladies lingering around the lobby so me being the inquisitive person that I am decided to strike up conversation. Now if you’ve heard anything about CR I know what you are thinking, they’re hookers you idiot! You are 100% correct. Although I don’t participate in the freaky stuff with strangers I pride myself on being friendly with everyone, despite their chosen occupation. I happen to say hello to a woman that spoke fluent English,a plus in their profession, and we started talking about everything from he economy to her kids. I let it be known out the gate that I wasn’t interest in paying her for sex but the conversation was well worth the free rum and coke I gave her. lol This conversation also taught me to not judge a book by its cover, This chick only works 3 days a week but makes enough to have a live in nanny/maid. Who knew selling your body paid so well!
After getting in a few drinks at the crib(hotel ) we shot out to explore the city a lil bit more on foot. Like most city’s they had a plethora of eateries, small shops selling trinkets, and several museums. San Jose is like a lot of cities in the US in many ways. There is a steady job market for skilled laborers and professionals of varying levels. I saw university student s roaming around flirting with each other and construction workers taking a quick nap in the cab of their state issued trucks. A big difference i noticed is the way that impoverished Ticos live versus their American counterparts. An old infrastructure coupled with less resources for the poor results in them living in houses that would be condemned by american standards. Oddly enough the people, even in the poorer neighborhoods, didn’t seem as mentally distraught as Americans of the same economic standing. I guess even in the midst of poverty they still have a sense of community and hope that extends beyond the intrinsic possessions they have. It makes you thankful for what you have but also shows you that happiness can’t be bought with strong economies.
Later that night we headed to a popular casino/bar called the Del Rey. Its a casino so one of my partners that plays black jack felt right at home and even managed to make a little money. After a few drinks art the Del Rey I opted to hit the club across the street called the key Largo where we were treated to a live salsa band in one room and a DJ in another room of the club playing all the Reggaeton hits!
One thing I must caution you about is picking the time of year you head to CR because the rainy season can be kind of gloomy at times. We went for my birthday in June which fell during the May-November rainy season. Although the actual rain held off 2 of the days there was a gloomy overcast that might not mend too well with your plans to sun bathe on the Beach. Although the weather forecast in any area is subject to change, make sure to look at daily rain and temperature averages for your particular region of Costa Rica before you plan your trip.
On our third day of our visit we woke up to a pounding thunderstorm in San Jose. Unfortunately that was the day that I planned to go ziplining through the rain forest. I had already set an appointment with the company (Vista Los Sueños) but i didnt know if we could still make the trip due to the storms. Enter Keneth! he had been our driver since we arrived and had agreed to take us on the 1 and a half hour journey to Jaco Beach on the central Pacific coast. Keneth and our hotel concierge made a few calls and realized that the heaviest rain was moving away from our rout so even though we might encounter some light rain on the way it should subside a great deal by the time we hit Jaco.
BOOM! We got to the zip line cite and were pleased that the rain turned into a drizzle and excited to be navigating the 14 lines that would lead us through the forrest! I would definitely recommend Vista Los Sueños as their staff members were fun, professional and made us feel safe the entire time. I attached my GoPro to the helmet and got some pretty awesome footage while meeting a cool group of ladies from Tampa that came down for a birthday retreat. After the zip lining we grabbed some grub at a beautiful seaside restaurant before doing a little shopping a t the local roadside shops.
I have a massive amount of respect and love for costa rica and the Ticas that inhabit this beautiful land. I have always been curious about the lifestyle available here as I have seen countless Americans retire here. Between the modern yet historic cities and the rain forrest filled mountain areas there is a diverse array of lifestyles that can be carved out in this vast central American country. I plan on revisiting CR and spending time in the Limón area, well know for its jamaican influence. I look forward to bringing that journey to the world.