They say Costa Rica is the happiest place on the planet. Of course, never having been to Costa Rica, I didn’t know whether to believe the hype or not,but, I was intrigued. I had to see for myself.

I knew upon arriving in the airport that this was different from any other so-called developing country I had ever been too.  I’ve been to some airports that look like if a strong wind blew, they’d be no more but not this one. It was clean, nicely built and well organized. I’d probably say it was one of the better airport experiences I’ve ever had, be it international or domestic. The people were very friendly and welcoming. The locals have a really happy, content demeanor and always respond to you by saying , pura vida, which translates to “pure life”.

After exiting immigration, the shuttle driver was waiting for me by the baggage claim area and advised me that the drive over to the hotel would be about 25-30 minutes. Once we began driving, I was shocked at the civility of it all. Living in NYC and having spent a lot of time in Ghana, West Africa over the last few months, you sort of get use to the over crowded streets, blaring car horns, road rage and near death experiences, but, this was nothing like that. Now, it was 2 pm in the day, but it was just a calm, cool and collected ride. Wait, I will say this, they have these crazy narrow winding roads and they (Costa Rican drivers) drive FAST however, they seem to know what they are doing so just close your eyes and mind your business.

The Hotel

I arrived at the Riu Guanacaste safe and all in one piece. I then was promptly greeted by a member of the Riu staff taking my bags and offering me a drink. Gold star for them. I immediately noticed how large the resort was and that it was aesthetically pleasing to the eye. For some reason it kept giving me the Africa scene from coming to America.

And I have NO CLUE why I didn’t take pics of my room, well, yes I do. Because I rarely spent any time in it, the weather was perfection. It was San Diego weather, you know, crisp, clear sunshine, no humidity and a nice breeze off the ocean.  But, the room was really lovely. I had a balcony with a crazy view facing the ocean, deep sunken tub, fully stocked fridge and mini bar (It was too stocked actually, a lushes dream!). My bad y’all, if you want to see official pics of the room click here.

Basically, this hotel is totally self-contained. Of course they have the usual hotel-ish things, a full service gym, spa, several strategically placed bars (including one in the pool), a sports bar, 5 different themed restaurants (buffet, Asian, Italian, Steak House, and Gourmet), and a kid’s center. But, also located on the compound is, a discotheca, casino, supermarket, wedding chapel (although you can get married on the beach too), medical center, art store, a photography studio and best of all, a beautiful private beach that allows you to watch amazing sunsets.

To be honest, if I did nothing but lounge at the hotel/beach the whole time, I wouldn’t have been too mad. The weather was perfection and being that the resort was all-inclusive, there was a vast number of activities to participate in from dance, fitness and Spanish classes, water sports, golf, massages on the beach and plenty of shows. It was sorta like Disneyland for adults.

However, I had read too much about this country to not get and explore. AND, one can only take so much resort food. Notice, I haven’t mentioned much about the food here? It wasn’t horrible; it was just typical resort/cruise ship food, plentiful…quantity over quality. I mean there were SOOOO many different selections; fresh, fruits and vegetables, sweet and savory dishes, vegetarian items, and for the carnivore, a plethora of meats. But after a while everything just starts to taste the same. But, I ventured out….

Best Time to Go

While the country is beautiful year round, they do receive approximately 150-200 inches of rainfall a year. Rainy season begins about mid May and last 6 months until late October. However, if you are coming from a place that has a cold winter climate, then it’s perfect place to fly south for the winter. Apparently, the saturday after Thanksgiving is one of the best times to go, I hit the jackpot!!!!

The weather and view I woke up to daily….



Who it’s For

While anyone can visit The Riu, this particular resort is geared towards the family. Of course there were singles and couples varying in age, however, this place is packed full of children. Something to keep in mind when planning your trip depending on your tolerance level.

The Food

The national dish of Costa Rica is a Gallo Pinto (meaning spotted rooster in Spanish). It’s rice and black beans. While they are cooked separate, they don’t actually become Gallo Pinto until they are mixed together and fried. Although, they use different beans, they are just another variation of Dominican moro de habichuelas, Jamaican rice and peas or Ghanaian waakye. Based on the research I had done, I knew it was the national dish but what I didn’t know was, it was served breakfast, lunch and dinner. Actually, there were a few things I noticed that were served every meal, gallo pinto, fried plantains, mashed potatoes and some type of fried egg. As someone that was raised on legumes and still eats them a few times a week, I still had to venture out.

Because of the diverse population, be it people born and raised there or that migrated, they have a surprisingly eclectic selection of food choices. At the intersection of the Pan-American Highway, they have what they call American Corner, and of course, that includes a McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Papa John’s, Tropical Chicken and Mobil gas station. But, NO ONE goes to another country to eat American fast food when they have such cool stuff as calamansi limes (a lime that is orange on the inside).

Places To See 

Playa del Coco: Coco Beach

This was the first place I went to outside the resort. One of the resort staff, Princess, was telling me this was the best place to go for the freshest seafood and it was only about 25 minutes away. But of course, because I was a tourist a cab would probably try to charge me an exorbitant rate. She said the city bus was only about $2 and perfectly safe….Uhhhh yeah, I’m scared of the city bus in NYC so no. I did get a private transportation/limo service called LARS to take me roundtrip for $15, which was perfect.

Coco Beach is quaint little beach town that has an abundance of shops, restaurants, sports bars, a couple of casinos and other attractions where the tourist frequent. While you may see tourist there, it doesn’t come off as a touristy but rather an authentic place where locals live everyday life. You see everything from teenage boys skateboarding, artist sketching pictures or performing, people playing soccer or jogging, to couples just taking a leisurely stroll on the beach. It has an eccentric vibe going on, imagine the Village (NYC), meets Venice Beach (Los Angles).

Day Trip: Arenal, Costa Rica

One the things Costa Rica is most famous for is their volcanoes. Currently, they are one of the most sustainable countries in the world using 90% renewable energy.  And, 60% of energy the country uses is from Arenal Volcano and Lake (geo-thermal and hydro) and wind assets. Along the drive to the volcano, we were able to see the windmills and really take in the natural beauty of the country.

They even recycle plastic to make some of their money…DSC_2089

Toad Hall

This spot is nestled in the forest and overlooks Arenal Lake. It serves as a restaurant-slash-private villas-slash-general store-slash-bird refuge. Yes, you read that last part right. They have a variety of birds from toucans’, talking parrots, as well as endangered species.  They give them a safe place to breed or heal, until they are ready to go back into the wild. You may also see other random wildlife around. But no need to fret, you leave them alone, they leave you alone. We had a good lunch there.


Arenal Volcano and Lake

Because the volcano is still active, they do not allow you to get too close but the view is amazing!DSC_1998


Rainforest Skywalk

Once you get to the rainforest, you have the option exploring it two ways, either by foot or zip-line. As someone who is deathly afraid of heights, I chose by foot. Upon entering the rain forest they give you a few caveats; as a tourist you are unaware of what type of reaction you will/will not have to the different plant life, so DON’T touch anything, if you see any animals, DON’T panic and last but not least, stay with the group, DON’T wander off. They didn’t have to tell me twice, I follow instructions!!!

All was good until we got to the hanging bridges. They were SOOO high and have this hard plastic footing and mesh siding. We had to cross 4 of them. I prayed the whole time and had to force myself NOT to have a panic attack. If I did, I knew I was going to fall for sure. I made it! Also, the hollering monkeys’ don’t help. The sound they make is a cross between a huge bear and large angry dog. What you don’t realize is, it’s coming from a little pint-sized monkey.

Orchard Gardens and Butterfly Den

Costa Rica really believes in preserving its natural habitats but, they also want people to have a chance to view them up close and personal. Orchards and Butterflies are a big part of this.


Hot Springs

There are several hot springs located in the various rainforest. In Arenal, it sits at the foot of the volcano. Because the water temperatures can get extremely hot, they build spas’ on them to regulate the heat. All that being said, some of the pools and caves still got very hot, almost to the point of being unbearable.


Dinner at the Volcano

A special dinner was prepared for us after we were done at the hot springs…

Overall, this was one of the most fulfilling trips I have ever taken. I would say that it is close to being in my number one spot but Jamaica edges it because I have better grasp on the country having been there several times and KNOW where to get the good stuff. But it’s definitely on the come up!

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2 comments on “Costa Rica: Pura Vida

  1. It’s ggoing to be end of mine day, but before ending I am reading this enormous piece of writing
    to increase my know-how.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on somatodrol. Regards

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