14 things I love about Costa Rica

Well, I’ve been in Costa for nearly two straight months now — this is the longest continuous time I’ve ever spent outside of Canada — and I think it’s high time to answer the two most often-asked questions that I get: What do I like about Costa Rica, and what do I hate?

I’ll answer the latter in a separate post, but like all reviews, there’s reason to start with the positive stuff. Of course, these are not in any order whatsoever — they’re just as they come to mind.

The Food

It’s hard to go to any country and not enjoy eating differently than you do where you came from. Much of the food here is Spanish-influenced (kind of obvious), but draws heavily on Peruvian, Mexican, American (you wouldn’t believe the number of KFC outlets here), Italian, and then a hodge-podge of other cuisines. There’s a lot more seafood, especially when you’re on the coasts, and healthy portions of chicken and beef. And fresh fruit.

It’s not spicy, but there is a fair bit of fat as a result of oils, which is sometimes a bit hard to get by. But it’s fairly easy to avoid the deep-fried stuff.

Fresh Fruit

The biggest problem in Calgary when it comes to fruit is getting it fresh. And I mean fresh, as in the originating farm is less than 100 kms away. And here, it’s probably less than 10 kms. I’ve never had pineapple this fresh, papaya that is outstanding, and absolutely wonderful strawberries. And unlike back in Canada, there is no “season” — you get this fruit year-round.

The Beer…

It’s no Big Rock, no Sleemans, and certainly no Guinness. But in this heat, lighter beers are much more appreciated, anyway. Especially when they’re cheap. Your average bottle of Imperial (the most popular beer in Costa Rica) is 4.8% alcohol (by volume) and costs less than a dollar at the store. How can you go wrong with that?!

… And Getting It Anywhere

And wine, and liquor. No stupid rules like back in Canada — the grocery stores sell beer right next to the legs of lamb. Like it should be. The only place in Canada you can do that is in Quebec, which is a real shame as the heavy restructions on alcohol are likely part of the reason why people drink — it’s a taboo, rather than a normal part of life.

The only place you can’t get any alcohol is at the football games. It’s an absolute no-no, and searches for booze are pretty strict on entrance. But then, we North Americans aren’t used to seeing riot police in regular attendance, either.

Year-Round Green

A note on the weather: to a Canuck, the seasons don’t change much in Costa Rica. It goes from warm and dry to warm and wet. (Or hot and wet to hot and dry, or just plain hot and wet, depending on where you are in the country.) People here start to haul out jackets when the sun goes down, but I wear shorts as much as I can (only the air conditioning at the office makes me think otherwise) and I almost always wear sandals.

The heat, combined with the plentiful rain, means the leaves never fall from the trees, so the trees stay green year-round. (There is one tree I’ve seen that is losing its leaves, but there seem to be new green ones sprouting already.)

Costa Rican Coffee

Okay, I don’t drink coffee — yet (I’m determined to try, soon), but all I have to do is smell it to know the coffee here is outstanding. But this is also a coffee-growing country, so you have to expect it. All I do know is that Alex, Mark, and Jason have all raved about the coffee.

And yes, when I do get around to having my first cup of joe, I’ll be documenting it. You folks don’t wanna miss that…

The Beaches and the Ocean

We are about 90-100 kms from a the beach. Not just any beach — a good beach. Given, that 100 kms takes about 2.5 hours to drive, thanks to the rather poor road situation here (see the  Hate list for more info). The ocean is also warm, like a nice warm bath. Not like the oceans on either side of Canada, which will deliver a pretty decent chill up your spine, no matter what time of year it is.

Rainforests

There is nothing like walking under the thick canopies, listening to countless birds, monkeys, insects, and who-knows-what-else while rain trickles down from above. That is, if you can get past the creepy-crawly things that live there. Not everyone can hack the spiders, snakes, huge beetles, millipedes, and mosquitoes. Personally, I love it. The closest I’ve come are the coastal forests in British Columbia. But these are, well, foreign to me, and offer such a different experience.

The Birds

I’m used to magpies (which I hate), robins, sparrows, crows, hawks, and if I’m really lucky, we might get some finches. All fairly typical of western Canada.

Down here? Buzzards, toucans, birds of nearly every colour, and songs that we’ve never heard and that seem to change nearly every day. This is something I never tire of.

Crickets

I grew up with crickets chirping out my window at night. Alberta is devoid of crickets. Or at least where I am, there aren’t any to be heard. Once again, when the screen door is open (which is most nights), I can hear not only the chirping, but also the croaking of frogs out in the lago.

Monkeys!!!

I love monkeys. (Yeah, probably because I’m related to them. I’ve heard the joke. Next…) It is very easy to find wild monkeys in Costa Rica. Howlers are easy to hear at a distance, and if you’re lucky you’ll be chased by capuchins looking for a banana.

Relaxed Environment

No-one really rushes here. The insane drive that most North Americans are attuned to doesn’t exist down here. There is no urgency (which is also not a good thing), no heavy pressure, and a much more laid-back attitude. While you might hate it at first, you slowly get sucked into it. It’s actually nice, once you get used to it.

Storms

It rains here nearly every day (we’re in the rainy season at the moment), sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for hours. But at least once a week, we get a good thunderstorm. A rip-snorting one that rattles windows and knocks out power. I grew up to those kinds of storms, too, and Calgary just doesn’t get good thunderstorms.

Extreme Friendliness

It’s hard to find someone who’s a real jerk. (And you know it when you do!) Most people here smile on mere gaze, and if you’re carrying a cute baby (like we regularly do), you’ll have people walk right up to you and chat you right up as if you’re a local. They’ll even ask to pick your child up and show it off to whomever’s around. It’s a little odd, but it’s still a wonderful thing.

Things You Won’t See On The Hate List

These are things I don’t hate, but perhaps not necessarily love. Still, they’re worth calling out because — believe it or not — I’ve been asked about all of them.

  • Rain. Believe it or not, I actually don’t mind it here. It’s not cold, and even in the heaviest part of the year (which we’re in), it’s not really terrible as one might think.
  • Heat. I don’t dig heat, I admit that. But I’m acclimatising. I don’t sweat (as much) and I don’t complain about the heat (as much).
  • Lack of skilled help. This should drive me crazy, given that I need to find skilled help, but in the end I’m actually looking forward to the training aspect

9 Replies to “14 things I love about Costa Rica”

  1. I have lived here for two years and what I have observed is
    1. Costa Ricans will get over on you given any opportunity
    2. Typical Costa Rican food sucks..bland
    3. Costa Rican’s strive to be mediocre.
    4. Costa Rican men are the most sexist people on earth.
    5. Costa Rican’s will work 12 hours a day but accomplish nothing.
    6. Costa Rican educational system is terrible and anyone here who has a college degree would be on par to someone having only a high school degree in the US

  2. To Sparky here is a response:
    1.The Costa Rican educational system is one of the best in Latin America. Literacy rate is above 96%. We have more teachers than policemen.
    2. We don’t have the “Live to work” mentality we rather “Work to live”. Remember that when your kids(if you have any) turn out to be criminals or your partner leaves you because you are never around.
    3. Nothing to say on Sexist, that is kinda true unfortunately.
    4. Typical Costa Rican food is delicious. “American” food is bland, greasy and disgusting. And no, you can’t put Maple on everything!
    Finally, I challenge ignorant hick to compare knowledge with a educated Costa Rican and see how you do.

  3. 1. Costa Rican’s educational system is very good. Good Universities. I believe that at the HS level it may be better than the US but at the University level there is no comparison wtih the US (US wins hands down). Higher education is simply far better in the US….if you don’t believe just name the top Universities in the world and the US will come up more than any other country!

    2.I agree that Costa Rica’s workplace is far more relax but it is also far less efficient. Processes that should take hours or days take weeks or months.

    3. Crime in general is higher in Costa Rica than the US. In general, here in the US we do not experience home robberies, bajonasos, asaltos, etc. Costa Rica is peacefull when it comes to military conflict and in comparison to the rest of CA but you either have bars on your home or pay for security in the neighboorhood.

    4. Costa Rican food is excellent in my opinion.

  4. You obviously can’t compare Costa Rica to the US; it just doesn’t work that way. The US is better than Costa Rica in almost every aspect, but that doesn’t mean that the Costa Rican isn’t amazing either. It is. In fact, CR’s education system (as an example) is very good: especially considering the remarkable job it did of turning an agricultural and poorly educated 1940’s banana republic into one of the world’s top exporters of HiTech and one of Latin America’s best education systems. Public University education in costa rica is a lot cheaper than in the US and The University of Costa Rica is in the top 250 of the universities in the world.

    Costa Rica is actually very secure (at least outside of the Greater Metropolitan Area) meaning, San José. But, yet again, that is where the majority of the population lives.

    I highly doubt any tourist has really tasted typical costa rican food; mostly because you really can’t find it anywhere. There are many more dishes than the ones that tourists (or Urban costa ricans) are offered in restaurants, and those are found only in rural costa rican kitchens, sadly 😛

  5. Hi all, been here 15 years. The First few months was horrible until the culture shock passed. I have a love hate relationship. I love it my kids were born here. We live far away from any City near the rain forest at 4500ft. No nieghbors, have hydro so no power outages or bills. Food is great, do t be shy just try it. What i dont like, cost of basic items on a constant rise due to the auto inflation of the Colon which is not necassary. When fuel prices go up, everyone raises there prices and blames on fuel. When fuel prices go down, everyday items prices stay up. I think the locals only care about Futbol and mangos. Everything else is secondary to them. But i love the people and the Country. If you want to find honest hard working traditional Ticos. Goto Perez Zeledon. Everything is like the 70s and wild west. Most of them have worked illegally in the USA before and have a great work ethic.

  6. I came from palm beach but believe me for the cost, I would never compare Costa Rica w/ any part of palm beach. sucky air pollution 2xs palm beach, expensive food carne that you need a hack saw to cut. Are you for real pura vida? Cmon with all the delayed traffic and shitty roads. My trip into Nicaragua made this place suck even worse.

  7. move deep in too the mountains …….way the fuck up there where there are no gringos …..hang out with good church going machete wielding mountain ticos get your food from the ground or from your neighbors ………it is paradise i have none of these problems mountain ticos are the sweetest people in the world………theres no crime I’m a gringo and I’m telling you if you stay up in the mountains away from gringos its like eden ……..its fantasy land ………its wonderful

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