If you get a chance, one of the most inexpensive and beautiful places to travel to is Costa Rica. Although it is a poor country, it is very rich in what it has to offer an eager tourist in the way of natural, unspoiled beauty and exotic animals. I went to Costa Rica a few years ago on a spontaneous trip to meet up with my daughter, Sarah, who completed a 2 month foreign exchange study. We traveled there for 10 days.
Here are some of the things I remember:
1. Flowers and plants
The climate in Costa Rica is tropical, so all the plants and flowers are huge. I was amazed by the size of everything and the flowers were unparalleled in their vibrant colors and variety. I saw flower types that I didn’t know existed, such as Musaenda, Brunfelsia, and Parrot Flower.
2. Maniac bus drivers
Much of the transportation in the country is carried out by way of buses. But, beware, the tourist bus drivers are extremely over confident. Even though they are experienced, they drive very fast on windy narrow roads and I found myself holding my breath now and then when I was certain we would crash. I am such a chicken.
3. Competitive taxi drivers
When you arrive at the airport, you will discover that taxi drivers are insanely competitive with each other. They are willing and eager to pick up tourists because that is their livelihood. It is very confusing because they all drive red taxis. Their aggressiveness can be a bit unsettling for the inexperienced traveler.
4. Oceans and sunsets
The sunsets are truly the most amazing thing that I remember about Costa Rica. Nearly every night becomes a magical display of colors which will take your breath away. The warm water and sandy beaches are very soothing to the soul. Walking on the beach at night is wonderful because the temperature is so warm.
5. Humidity and makeup
For anyone who has never been in a tropical environment, you learn very quickly that wearing makeup is pointless. The reason is because it drips off your face due to the high heat and humidity. You simply can’t wear makeup, so you just get used to looking natural again. Local women have beautiful complexions in the tropics. Humidity does wonders for your skin.
6. Torrential rain
Warm weather can suddenly change without warning into a tropical downpour of amazing proportions. For any westerner it can be a shock to find out just how much water comes down in such a short time. I used to wonder why there were large canal type areas near the streets and now I know. Everything becomes a river and the water has to go somewhere! Houses are very open there to accommodate the humidity. Windows and walls are made so they can opened to let in the fresh air. Otherwise your clothing and towels would never dry out.
7. Hostels are cheap
One of the easiest ways to travel about in Costa Rica is to stay in local hostels. These are just people’s homes that are open to tourists. It can be very interesting to stay in a hostel, because you will meet up with a number of other travelers from other countries. Of course the sleeping conditions are variable, as well as the cleanliness of a hostel. Keep it simple and understand that you get what you pay for. Prices can be as low as $20. The locals make part of their income off tourists, so you should be friendly and respectful of them.
8. The taste of fruit
I feel like I never ate a banana until I had one fresh off the tree in Costa Rica. The taste was incredible and so enjoyable, I couldn’t get enough of them. There are many unusual types of fruit that grow in the tropics and it is fun to try new things. I discovered many new tastes and tried a few new fruits while I was there, such as guanabana, anona, caimito and mombin.
9. Open markets
I was somewhat shocked by the whole idea of open markets. There is limited refrigeration in poor countries, so much of the meat is butchered and sold on the spot. I just about fell over when I saw men carrying a large pig into a business to be slaughtered. There are many other natural fruits and vegetables that are sold daily in an open market, which is usually in the center of a town. There is a large variety of foods that are cooked fresh in these open markets and they are popular tourist attractions.
10. Howler monkeys
I had never heard of Howler monkeys before, so I was anxious to have a look at the sneaky animals. When we did find them, they were so camouflaged by the trees, they were almost impossible to see. The sounds they make are very strange and resemble a growling noise. For anyone who is afraid of bears, it was a little scary to hear them.
11. Rainforest noise
It can be a fascinating experience in the tropics to hear both the sound of the ocean and its crashing waves and also to listen at night to the rainforest sounds. There are so many different creatures that come alive at night and make their music, I was captivated by the nightly sounds. It was a part of my trip I will never forget.
12. An Ocelot encounter
On my visit to Costa Rica, I joined a tour group of about 10 other people and we set out on a hike down into the jungle below the Arenal Volcano. The experience surprised me because I discovered just how dark the rainforest can be because of all the plants in the canopy. But, as luck would have it, I was the first one in line as we moved forward on the trail and I just happened to be holding my film camera with a flash attachment.
Then suddenly, without warning an animal jumped out of the trees and flung itself to the ground right in front of me. Everyone gasped at the same time and as they all reached for their digital cameras, I fired off a shot with my flash and captured the animal perfectly. If it had been a gun, I would have killed it!
Later in the evening, when we all looked at our photos, everyone else caught a dark figure with reflective red eyes, so you couldn’t see much. I was very proud of my picture and it was one of the highlights of my trip to Costa Rica. What a cat! It was an Ocelot,(a member of the leopard family) fairly small, but with such distinctive markings, some stripes and some dots. It was purely magnificent, and it was one of the greatest moments from my trip. I would love to go back there someday, but my chances of capturing another cat up close like that is very unlikely.
I have many moments to treasure from my trip to Costa Rica and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to travel on a limited budget. My trip relaxed me more than any of my favorite stress relief products. I saw amazing things which made me look at life from a whole new perspective. The Spanish word for Costa Rica is “pura vida”, which in English means pure life. Among the pristine waters and rainforest canopies a person can definitely come away with a feeling of being purified.
About The Author:
Karen Bresnahan is a freelance journalist, photographer and artist from Boise, Idaho. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Photography from the University of Idaho and owns Idaho Naturals Desertscapes, KB Lifelines Positive Quotes, and Romantic Idaho Weddings. Karen enjoys writing about travel, health and fitness and relationships. You can see more of her writing at https://plus.google.com/u/2/+KarenBresnahan1111/posts or contact her on twitter @idaho1111.