This time I want to share with you my latest travel experience. It is midsummer and it is time for vacation. So, for our vacation my friends and I chose the country famous for ecotourism, rainforest, volcanoes, monkeys, exotic birds, and many other fun and interesting things. The name of it is Costa Rica, where everything is Pura Vida! The phrase “Pura Vida!” can rightfully be called the country’s motto: you hear it and see it everywhere. The literal translation is pure life. But in essence it means everything is good, life is great, hooray! A very positive saying, I should say, and it reflects Costa Rican way of life. In a response to How are you? – You would always hear – Pura Vida!
Costa Rica is a Central American country that borders Nicaragua in the north and Panama in the southeast, and has Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. We started our journey in the place called Tamarindo, which is located on the northeast, Pacific side of the country, in Guanacaste county. Tamarindo is a little town, a true gem for those who like to surf or want to learn to surf; those who like to go for deep sea fishing or just take a boat out in the sea for a day and do some snorkeling in the open water. The beach in Tamarindo is pretty unique as it changes drastically depending on the tide, so in the morning we had to walk almost 100 meters (at least that’s how long it seemed to me) until we reached the water, and in the afternoon, there was barely any beach left. It was very interesting to watch.
One morning as we were walking on the beach, we saw a river that was cutting the beach in half, and a few boats. As we were walking by, the owners of the boats offered to take us on a river tour to see the wildlife and the biggest tourist attraction – the monkeys. Obviously, it did not take us too long to make a decision, we hopped on the boat and off we went to see some monkeys. About half an hour later we got off the boat to do some hiking into the jungle as, apparently, we would not have been able to see the monkeys otherwise. And just 5 minutes into our hiking, as our guide put it we were very lucky, we heard some noise coming from the top of the trees, and, there they were – a group of monkeys having their midday snack.
The monkeys are absolute vegetarians; they only eat leaves and fruits. It was a lot of fun watching them move briskly from tree to tree, peacefully enjoying their leaves, not paying any attention to the camera flashes and nosy tourists on the ground. Later on during our trip, we had another encounter with the monkeys, in a place where you would least expect to see wildlife – a roadside shopping plaza with a few restaurants, fast food places and a gas station. There were also a few mango trees there and the monkeys LOVE mangoes, so there they were, in the mangos trees, a family of three monkeys including a baby monkey being cared for by his mama, and his papa having a siesta on a tree nearby. It is not unusual to see the wildlife in most random spots in Costa Rica. I think this is what makes the country so beautiful and interesting to explore.
Tamarindo town was great for exploring, not only because of the gorgeous beach and the wildlife but also because of the local cuisine. I am very much of a foodie person that is why whenever I plan a trip I always research about the local cuisine, national dishes, and the best local restaurants. So, the two “must-try” dishes in Costa Rica are gallo pinto for breakfast, and casado – a national dish, typically served for lunch. Gallo Pinto is rice with black beans, and local spices, it is always served for breakfast along with plantain in a sweet sauce, eggs, and toasts. It was unusual to have rice for breakfast, but it was quite tasty, and, surprisingly, went well with fried eggs. Now, casado, which reminded me a lot of Colombian cuisine, consisted of white rice, black beans, fried plantain, fried yucca, and a choice of chicken, or beef, or fish. Quite a hearty meal and also very tasty!
What caught my attention was the number of pizzerias in town. I guess that can be explained by the fact that majority of tourists in Costa Rica come from the North America and local restaurants try to appeal to their taste buds. Remarkably enough, some of the best meals that we had in Costa Rica were from a French chef running a seafood restaurant right on the beach as part of a private beach club. Just like in other destinations similar to Costa Rica, we found a lot of foreign expatriates working in different areas of hospitality. What a great way to learn about a country, its language, customs and traditions, and to get an unforgettable work experience! No wonder, as a lot of international hotel chains are present in Costa Rica: Four Seasons, Marriott, Starwood, – just to name a few.
We spent three wonderful days in Tamarindo. It was sad to leave this welcoming town, but we had to take off for our next spot – Hacienda Pinilla – a “step” closer to the magnificent and mysterious Arenal Volcano. But I am going to leave this for the second part of my Pura Vida story. Until then take care and think of where your next travels might take you.
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