Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica is a breathtakingly beautiful country that boasts lovingly-preserved biodiversity, a colorful culinary scene, astonishing active volcanos, some of the best coffee on the face of the planet, and an extremely healthy lust for life that’s known as the ‘Pura Vida’. Here are seven quintessential Costa Rican experiences you definitely don’t want to miss if you’re going in search of your ‘Pura Vida’…
You simply can’t go to Costa Rica and not try Gallo Pinto. Costa Rica’s national dish is a delicious mix of fried rice, black or red beans, onions, red peppers and cilantro served with eggs and bread and a cup of coffee or juice. The Gallo Pinto served up in the province of Limon, on the country’s Caribbean coast, is said to be the best, but wherever you may wander in Costa Rica, a piping hot plate of Gallo Pinto is the very best way to start the day.
Often voted one of the happiest countries on earth, in Costa Rica you’ll hear the phrase ‘Pura Vida!’ wherever you go. Used as a friendly greeting or an expression of happiness, the phrase literally means ‘Pure Life’, but it’s generally understood to mean ‘Full of Life’. In a country that boasts five percent of the world’s biodiversity—a place where volcanoes and rain forests rub shoulders with cloud forests and rivers—there is no arguing that Costa Rica is indeed ‘Full of Life’. And we’re very grateful that this enthusiasm for the beauty of life is alive and well with the people of Costa Rica.
Oozing neoclassical grandeur, San Jose—or ’Chepe’ as it’s affectionately known—is a pleasure to explore. Snack your way around the traditional Mercado Central, which dates back to 1880 and has some 200 shops and stalls to browse. Pay a visit to the Teatro Nacional, where you’ll find locals bursting with pride about their country’s most admired architectural jewel. In the evening, head to the hip neighborhood of Escalante to dine in the country’s coolest eateries, and if you want to party into the night, hop onto the La Caretta by Carpe Chepe nightlife shuttle. This party bus makes pit stops at around 30 of the capital’s most lively bars, and the journeys from bar to bar are great fun.
Just three hours from San Jose, the northern plains of Costa Rica are home to the country’s most famous volcano: Arenal. In Arenal National Park, the rangers carefully monitor the volcano’s activity each day, so there’s a safe area where you can go hiking. Jam-packed with rivers, thermal hot springs, waterfalls and wildlife, this park is a dream come true for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors, so grab your hiking boots. Alternatively, you can zip line through the treetops or relax in the hot springs.
If you’re looking for cheap, tasty eats in Coast Rica, go straight to a ‘Soda’. These inexpensive, mom and pop-style restaurants serve up traditional, homecooked dishes like Casado, a sublimely hearty dish made of rice, beans, salad and meat or fish with a vegetable side. Your taste buds will be tickled—and your bank account will be too.
Located in the country’s Pacific Coast, Manuel Antonio National Park is a small yet hugely diverse peninsula that tempts travelers with its stunning tropical shoreline. It’s where picture postcard stretches of sand sit right next door to lush, verdant rainforest, so you can chill out on an incredible beach and then head along a jungle hiking trail to meet squirrel monkeys, three-toed sloths, iguanas, pelicans, frogs and butterflies.
You just know it’s going to be good before you even lift the cup to your lips in Costa Rica… The country is the 13th largest coffee producer in the world—and get this— the country produces only the highest quality Arabica—by law. Yes, in it’s bid for true coffee-growing excellence, Costa Rica is the only country in the world where, if you try to produce anything less than 100 percent Arabica, you could find yourself in handcuffs. Bad coffee is actually against the law in Costa Rica—and we love it!
Do you dream of sipping coffee in San Jose? Of spotting squirrel monkeys in Manuel Antonio National Park? Of discovering your Pura Vida as you eat Gallo Pinto for breakfast? Yes? Then come with us to Costa Rica. Not only will you have the experience of a lifetime, but you will have a sophisticated itinerary that has been lovingly-created by Indus’ Costa Rica experts. To find out more about our tours to Costa Rica, please feel free to contact us at any time.
About the Writer: Vickie Sam Paget
Vickie is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver, BC. When she’s not creating dynamic travel or tech content, globetrotting or gazing at the North Shore Mountains, you can usually find her curled up with a good book or sipping a pint of the good stuff in her local Irish bar.