Saturday, March 19, 2016

10 Reasons I why I love Costa Rica

If you love nature and long for a relaxing vacation, I highly recommend visiting Costa Rica!  In 2013, we went there for a belated honeymoon and I loved the culture and country.  When we decided we were overdue for a vacation, I researched other warm destinations; with Southwest Airlines offering "cheap" nonstop flights from Houston to Liberia, Costa Rica, it made staying at a fantastic resort near the Arenal Volcano a better deal than many other places.

Going back to Costa Rica and staying at the same resort broke my unspoken rule of visiting somewhere new.  We are not "beach" people and Costa Rica offers fantastic activities in the rain forest.  As we left C.R. and I thought of returning there for a third time in the future, I realized there are 10 reasons I love that country-- in no particular order.

1. "Pura Vida"
That phrase is heard constantly (at least by tourists).  It epitomizes the way of life --- slow down, enjoy life, relax.  Even the dogs wandering around their neighborhoods seem chill.  Everyone we encountered seemed happy and not as stressed as I see in the US.

"Pura Vida!"-- our cheer after making our way through tougher rapids!

2.  Hospitality
Maybe it was the resort where we stayed but even the Hilton Garden Inn staff seemed more welcoming that many hotel staff members in the US and other places I have visited.

3.  Peaceful
The country is beautiful and spending time in the rain forest is amazing.

Hiking Arenal Volcano

4.  Friendly people
Both trips we felt welcomed by everyone we met.  Being surrounded by smiling people saying "Pura Vida" makes your day that much better!

5.  Educational tours
Tour guides are required to hold a college degree or pass subject-matter tests in order to work as tour guides; many continue their education by taking specialized courses in order to be knowledgeable about the country and the types of things you will see during the tour.  Even our driver to the airport was able to explain how a reservoir we observed was connected to the country's hydroelectric power system.

One of the birds pointed out by our tour guide on a twilight safari float- zoom on camera made this shot possible

6. Work ethic
We noticed that the staff of the hotel seemed to be around nonstop and we asked one of them if she ever slept; she said she sleeps about 4 hours per night and works 6 days/week.  I am guessing that is the norm of many resort staff employees.  From what we heard about people employed in other industries, that strong work ethic is part of the Costa Rican culture.

7.  Educational priority
Everyone is required to attend school!  Wow.  College is free but it is very competitive to get in and there are many private universities.  The literacy rate is the 2nd highest in the world.  Driving through the country, you see schools in every town and they appear to be the heart of the community.

8.  Slower paced life
The speed limit is slower and people are not running each other over on the roads.  People sit and enjoy meals instead of rushing through them--- and we did not feel rushed to eat and leave our table as we often feel in the US.  On the drive to the airport, our driver spotted a sloth, stopped the car in the lane on a two lane highway and allowed us to see the slot and snap plenty of pictures-- crazy to see him motioning cars to slow down and their obeying!

Sloth hanging out on the lines above the road

9.  Safety
There is no national military but the police force has grown in size to make the country safer.  Every country has its rougher areas but we felt safe in every area we visited.

10.  Conservation of natural spaces
Costa Rica utilizes its resources for energy --- hydroelectic and wind power are huge!  Many areas around the volcanoes are established as conservation lands and the country does not allow developments in those areas.  They know that tourism is dependent upon their natural areas remaining natural and they make protecting those areas a priority.

We saw major improvements in infrastructure between 2013 and 2016 but I was thrilled that what I love about the country had not changed.  I would love to move there but I know that will not happen.  Instead, I hope to visit there again.  If you are looking for a beautiful country to visit for a reasonable cost, add Costa Rica to your travel plans!

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