About 4 days ago I arrived home from spending a few weeks in Costa Rica with my husband and sister-in-law. The three of us travel exceptionally well together… something about our trifecta dynamic just works – her and I are friends who can hang without him, and yet she’s also independent enough to do her own thing and give us some time together when needed. They also have a great brother-sister relationship as well which makes it all that much better. We are all equally easy going and adventurous.. so landing in a foreign-language country and taking their sketchy public transportation is fun for us… so is eating weird things. Try everything once we say!

We spent a few weeks travelling around Costa Rica – the first time for any of us visiting Central America. First we visited the Arenal Volcano in the La Fortuna area (4 days). We spent these four days staying at a ‘Hostel Resort’ (which I was super skeptical about at first – but it turned out to be awesome) and doing crazy adventures by day. We rappelled down waterfalls, hiking alongside the volcano, rode horses through the jungle and did mineral mud facials in the natural hot springs after dark. The Arenal area is awesome.

On day 4 we took a very tiny plane down to the beach community of Manuel Antonio. This area reminded us all a lot of Koh Samui in Thailand – lush,dense jungle, super steep and winding roads with hotels and restaurants spotted along the shores. The beaches in Costa Rica were beautiful and the water felt like a heated pool. We visited the Manuel Antonio National Park ($16 USD per person for admission btw – wtf)… and saw lots of monkeys, sloths and birds. Oh the BIRDS are ah-mazing! There were tons of people vacationing in Costa Rica for bird-watching. At first I didn’t understand this, but by the end of the trip I, too, had turned into a crazy bird-chaser.. hearing the parakeets and macaws and trying to chase them down for a visual. They truly are amazing.

After spending 4 additional days in Manuel Antonio, we were headed to Bahia Drake (Drake Bay) in the remote South-west corner of the country to live in a ‘tree-house’ and explore the Corcovado National Park – renowned for the vast collection of wildlife and untouched surroundings. With a daily limit of 75 visitors, the Park is one of the most natural and mesmerizing places I’ve been. We saw toucans, crocodiles, tapirs and all the different species of monkey (there are only 4 in this region – 4/4 score!). To see these animals that many people either a.) never see in their lifetime or b.) only ever see in a zoo, was so humbling. Our guide, José, used his telescope to find us some amazing birds and even helped us capture their photos through the lense. He was super nerdy with huge bifocals and toting all of his bird-watching gear – but he was by far my favourite guide we met on our entire trip!

Once our 4 days in Bahia Drake were done, we made the trek to the local airport (quite literally – we carried bags above our heads and crossed a waist-deep river) to take our flight back to San José. For the first time in weeks we had a clean, cock-roach free room with HOT water and laundry service – we were three very happy campers.

Overall Costa Rica was amazing. I get the appeal now – I understand why it’s such a popular destination for Canadians (and Americans) to visit and live. The people are so friendly, the surroundings are gorgeous and the climate is consistently hot year-round. I would have to say the ONLY thing that I didn’t like about Costa Rica was the cost of living. Even without staying in nice hotels or eating out at restaurants every day, the groceries alone were comparable to Canadian prices, and yet the hourly and daily wages the people make down there are incredibly low. For instance, an average grocery shop (which would last us about 2 days) would cost $14-15,000 colones (about $30 USD, or closer to $40 at the current CDN exchange rate)… which was manageable for us as visitors – but the locals make an average of $2/hour. It’s hard to understand how they make do… but I guess you get resourceful when you don’t have a choice.

Overall, I would go back if I were, say, going with my Dad or my little sisters… so that I had an understanding of the culture, the language and the ways around. It’s a great destination with beautiful people. 8/10 – Would Visit Again.