Max (boyfriend) and I were excited for our trip to Costa Rica and intentionally planned a Tico journey in order to authentically explore the country and create our own adventures. Our trip started with a BANG….literally. As we were going to Fort Lauderdale from Baltimore, we flew over Cape Canaveral and had a breathtaking view of a rocket coming through the clouds and into space!
We landed in San Jose and stayed the night there after renting a car and getting a Tico GPS (your Garmin is no good here unless you download local maps in advance *expensive*). We didn’t want to drive anywhere in the middle of the night without directions so we stayed at a hotel near the car rental place. The next day, we drove around downtown San Jose, admiring the street markets, national stadium, and urban parks.
We then drove 1.5 hours west to Jaco, and settled in our apartment style hotel. This hotel was situated on a mountain, with a bumpy, unpaved, winding road leading up to it. It was comforting to meet the couple who lives upon and manages the hotel property, along with their young son, in laws, and dog Rubio. We took advice from them, as they knew local customs and hot spots. They didn’t have to tell us twice to get down to the beach!
Everyday we woke up with the sun and to the sound of the birds and monkeys screaming at each other. Our fire escape was literally a door that opened into the jungle. We’d typically eat breakfast with the other hotel guests and one the second day, decided to go surfing. We received “Tico surfing lessons” from a true Tico Surfer bro named Erly (pronounced ER-lee) who actually loved to sleep in late. Surfing was an amazing experience and pretty easy with Erly – it was my first time and surfing, and I used a longboard to cut through the white capped waves. That evening, we grilled at our aparthotel and enjoyed the mountain night life.
On Day 3, we decided to trek 90 minutes away to the Manuel Antonio National Park in Quepos. The national park was beautiful and we opted to forgo the personal guide like most tourists, but instead wandered through the Park keeping our eyes and ears open to spot animals on our own. We saw monkeys, deer, iguanas, salamanders, butterflies, huge spiders, lemurs, raccoons, and wild chickens. We also took a dip at the beach inside of the Park and the one outside of it. These beaches were even more serene than ours in Jaco. We then drank on a mountain overlooking the Park and beach at a spot called El Avion: a restaurant inside of an old cargo plane that the U.S. swears it never purchased and was a key link in the Iran-Contra Affair.
Our last evening, we hung out by the beach once again. We reheated up the bbq and in the humid heat, we ate with bull frogs and mosquitoes. As we watched the sun set on our Costa Rica adventure, we finally begin to fully understand the tico expression ‘¡Pura Vida!’ Literally translated, it means ‘pure life’ but after spending time with the very people who embody the phrase, we cherish the “simple joys” and know that ‘this is living.’
About the Author
Stephanie Ghoston – Midwestern roots, DC resident, inspired traveler. Stephanie is a lawyer and life coach, dedicated to extraordinary living. She’s a knowledge-seeker and values laughter and listening. She aspires to transform the legal and education systems and empower impacted communities.