Costa Rica – the happiest place on Earth

by Kayla Magazine
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1 month costa rica itinerary

We’ve just returned from Costa Rica, and today I will tell you about all the adventures and impressions we had there. Costa Rica is a country in Central America, south of Nicaragua and north of Panama. Here you can find the highest number of animal species. Jungle, volcanoes (5 are active), 27 national parks, everything is dedicated to wildlife. In Costa Rica, 98 percent of the electricity is generated by water, solar, geothermal and biomass sources. What a brilliant idea. Another interesting thing is that Costa Rica’s government gave up on the army.

Rainforest

Our trip to Costa Rica

We spent 27 days walking in Costa Rica. I’m sure that when the Creator began the creation of the earth, he started from Costa Rica. He created all the most beautiful things in one tiny piece of land – and then, as inspiration faded, he grew tired and divided everything into other countries. He gifted the most beautiful beaches to some, the mountains to others… Our theory is very much in line with the data of scientists who claim that this country is the only one in the world with such a rich and diverse ecosystem. That’s why, I’ll tell you more about nature. We aren’t botanists, but the beauty of nature here is breathtaking. I was blown away dozens of times a day.

Volcano

If you are a nature lover, here’s your Costa Rica itinerary

  1.  Arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport.
  2.  Heart of Corcovado National Park – Sirena Station (2 days)
  3.  Reserva forestal Golfo Dulce
  4.  Piedras Blancas National Park (2 days)
  5.  Las Cruces & Wilson Botanical Gardens in Sanvito (2 days)
  6.  La Amistad International Park ($10 day admission)
  7.  Cerro de la Muerte & Parque Nacional Los Quetzales (2 days)
  8.  La Cangreja National Park
  9.  Los Santos Forest Reserve (2 days)
  10.  Macho River Forest Reserve
  11.  Irazu Volcano National Park
  12.  Finca Tres Equis – Pacuare river rafting
  13. Refugio National Gandoca-Manzanillo
  14. Parque Nacional Cahuita
  15.  Parque Nacional Tortuguero (2 days)
  16.  Braulio Carillio National park
  17.   Grecia Forestal Reserve
  18.  La Cruz – Parque National Guanacaste (4 days)
  19.  Tamarindo (3 days)
  20. Flight home.

Our impressions

Costa Rica nature facts

Costa Rica is called the Rich Coast not because of wealthy tourists, high prices, or a tripled GDP. Actually the collision of two tectonic plates gave Costa Rica 17 different climate zones and an abundance of natural resources. You would not believe that Costa Rica’s forests and jungles are home to more than 3.5% of the world’s wildlife.

I was super happy that I finally found a place that had always been in my imagination. It lived up to the picture of the tropics, the colors, the images of paradise that I’ve dreamed of! Here are so many parrots. The size and bright colors of macaws are mesmerizing when they spread their wings. I was taking pictures of hummingbirds flying everywhere. The flight of Toucans would probably amuse the biggest snob. They fall down like broken planes and then suddenly rise up. It looks so funny!

We rented a car and drove above 1500 miles around the country. I saw animals everywhere and that made me very happy. I felt like I was spending my vacation in a big zoo. We even didn’t know the names of all the animals that bravely came up to us. Costa Ricans are really protective of nature, so the animals feel brave and safe here. We saw the most beautiful nature we’ve ever seen.

SlothslothtoucanparrothummingbirdAnteatersquirrelMonkey

Costa Rica – people

Costa Ricans are the happiest people, warm and friendly. I loved watching their relaxed faces and calmness. Every conversation in this country starts with phrase “PURA VIDA”, meaning pure, simple life. It’s a motto to stay optimistic, happy, and full of life, despite all the negative circumstances. Costa Ricans (Ticos) use it to say hello, goodbye, or even to let people know everything’s good! I heard this phrase so many times during the day, everywhere… when I was shopping at a store or asking a passer-by what time it is… Pura Vida is more than just a phrase, it is a way of life. In a paradise like this, it shouldn’t be any other way.

costa rica

Costa Rica food menu

Let’s talk about Costa Rica food menu. Their traditional dish has five components: rice, chicken, fried plantains, beans, vegetables. They eat this dish every day. You can get the best food for the cheapest price at the local Soda cafes. Here the seafood comes straight from the ocean. I’ve seen this many times. When you order the fish, the guy catches it right away and brings it to the kitchen. Prices vary a bit, depending on the area. It is cheaper in some places, but it is double in those that cater to tourists. We loved street food in Costa Rica.

costa rica food

Costa Rica resorts

It’s easy to get enchanted by the comforts of big luxury hotels, but they’re not going to tell you about the real outside world. All hotels in all countries are pretty much the same. If you are a wild soul like me – pack a backpack, rent a car and don’t stay in one place for a long time. This time, we stayed in local people’s houses using Airbnb. I’m happy about that. It was really cool to get to know their culture, nature and temperament. I was impressed by how attentive and pleasant they were to us. They cared about our well-being, our day plans, and gave us useful tips about the area. We felt like we were staying with family or good friends. It was a great experience. Perhaps we wouldn’t have been able to know the local people better if we hadn’t lived with them.

Is Costa Rica safe?

Costa Rica is the safest country in Central America, but the police warn tourists not to leave things in their cars with the windows open. I think bad things can happen in all countries. I felt safe here. We heard Costa Rica doesn’t have any nice cities, so we skipped them. Costa Rica is not densely populated. We spent most of our time in nature, visiting national parks and beaches. I connected with nature and charged to the max.

costa rica

It is save to drive in Costa Rica?

I loved driving and watching all the wild animals and nature. All the views were stunning. There are decent roads on all of the main highways, but in small villages the roads aren’t that good. Drivers are polite, they are not speeding and don’t drive like crazy like in some other countries.

If you plan to drive around the country, get a 4WD SUV. You should have seen my face when we arrived in Corcovado National Park with our new Mitsubishi Outlander. We couldn’t reach the Avatar Eco Lodge hotel reception and stopped in the middle of a huge gravel hill in total darkness. We got a front-wheel drive SUV instead of a all-wheel drive by mistake. I’m glad its base was high, because we found many rivers on the roads without bridges. There was a lot of sweat on my brow while driving around the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado Park, even though I’m not a sensitive driver. Automatic-transmission SUV had difficulty climbing steep slopes with large stones and hills. Later we found the gearbox retarder and that saved us.

car crossing river

Pacuare river rafting

Costa Rica has two sides, the Caribbean and the Pacific. We turned towards the Caribbean this time, because our destination was the Pacuare river. Pacuare River is the undisputed crown jewel of all the Costa Rican Rivers. Here lives thousands of exotic creatures such as sloths, monkeys, toucans, and the elusive jaguar. This lush paradise is accentuated by literally dozens of spectacular waterfalls crashing down into the blue-green waters of the Pacuare. National Geographic called the Pacuare one of the top three rafting rivers in the world.

We have planned a rafting trip down this mountain river. Dress code here is sporty: shorts, swim wear, rubber sandals.

A white water rafting trip on the Pacuare is one of the top 5 rafting rivers in the world. After two hours of driving and enjoying amazing views of the jungle, we arrived at our goal. Our accommodation was not far from the river. The local people were super friendly. They showed us their house, family photo albums and so on. We had a feeling that we were the most wanted guests. We enjoyed a tasty dinner before falling asleep.

Pacuare river rafting day trip

The sun rises at 5 a.m. in Costa Rica. We woke up, grabbed some snacks, hugged the hostess, and after a 15-minute drive we were in the place where we had to start our trip. After a quick registration we sat down for breakfast. Here we met more tourists and had breakfast together. About 40 people from all over the world came together. We climbed the mountain roads and made our way to the starting point. The views and the beauty of nature were breathtaking. Instructors were waiting for us there, the rafts were ready, and after a short briefing we started our trip.

We were 6 tourists and a guide on the boat. There were 19 miles of more than 36 class 3 and 4 rapids waiting for us. We started with the easiest class 2 and 3 rapids. After a few kilometers, we’ve got what we were looking for – a real rush of adrenaline. As we were dropping down the “double drop,” the smiles on our faces were turning to fright. Many people fell out of the boats, the instructors worked on them, and we worked with oars too. We spent this day in the middle of breathtaking, wild nature, jumping on the rafts up and down like crazy. I wished this trip would never end. Halfway through, we stopped for lunch with our new friends. We talked about all the exciting moments, and then we continued our journey. In the evening we felt tired, but very happy.

pacuare river

Kitesurfing on the Pacific side

The next morning, we hit the road towards the Pacific coast. We drove through national parks, valleys, lakes, volcanoes. We simply enjoyed nature and being here. The journey was long, but all roads were well-maintained. I would never get bored of driving around this area. Finally we arrived in La Cruz in the north of Costa Rica. It’s a perfect place for kitesurfing. The wind blows day and night here. We found a decent place to stay through Airbnb while we were driving. This area is surrounded by wild nature and very sparsely populated. There wasn’t much to choose from. All four days I spent kitesurfing. The ocean was full of wildlife: many fish and sea turtles. We enjoyed seafood in the local Soda cafes, walked on countless beaches. Each one was beautiful and wild. We haven’t met any people.

After 4 days, we headed to Tamarindo. Almost everyone in this town lives and breathes surfing. Here you can find rental shops, kitesurfing schools and surfers with long hair. All the beaches in this region are amazing, and the waves here are huge all the time, so lots of surfers come here to catch the wind and waves. Every day we explored a different beach, and we discovered new and even more beautiful ones. While we were bathing, sea turtles, rays and hundreds of fish circled right around my feet. The air and water was warm, the waves big and we felt like we were in paradise.

Costa Rica

costa rica

Costa Rica destinations

Costa Rica has endless national parks, volcanoes, valleys, canyons, beautiful beaches, hot thermal springs and exotic wildlife. At night you can watch how the big sea turtles come out to lay eggs. You will never feel bored in Costa Rica. I advise to have at least 3 weeks. Enjoy!

I was sad when I had to get on the plane. It’s hard to say “goodbye” to this amazing place, but I know I’ll come back here.

Love you, Costa Rica, see you soon.

Pura Vida!

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