Article for The Spectrum Newspaper, written by Celece Seegmiller 6/7/15
There’s a little piece of paradise nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. While the distance is barely 200 miles, that area includes some of the most beautiful rainforests, volcanoes, rivers, mountains, beaches and biodiversity I’ve ever encountered. Of course I’m referring to Costa Rica which has officially been added to the list of my favorite vacations
It’s only been two weeks since I returned from this beautiful country and I can’t wait to go back again someday. It all started when I had to plan a college graduation trip for my daughter, Ashlie. Because of Ashlie’s love for the outdoors and adventure, I knew I had to find something that would not only be incredibly beautiful, but would provide a lot of excitement and outdoor activities. It also had to meet her goal of having a new passport stamp this year. Sitting on a beautiful beach or strolling through historical sites in Europe would not be an option for this trip. While Ashlie would have been grateful for any of those vacations, I wanted something that we could truly enjoy together. Since Costa Rica was on my bucket list and met all of the criteria for Ashlie, I decided that is where we would spend ten days following her graduation from the University of Utah.
Now that we are home, I’ve compiled my top five travel tips for Costa Rica
Move Around: For years I’ve heard my co-worker Lauren Baxter advise her clients to move around the country and not just stay in one resort. Now I know why. There is so much to see and do in Costa Rica! Travelers staying in one place would miss out on diverse scenery and a variety of activities and experiences. We stayed in Manuel Antonio for three nights, Arenal for three nights, and Guanacaste for three nights. While we had to pack and unpack, I was so happy we decided to see the different regions. I would have been very disappointed if I did not get the chance to experience the diversity this country offers.
Prepare for Rain:
There is a reason why this country is so lush and green: it rains! Because I was traveling from the red rocks of the desert, I welcomed the rain. Costa Rica has a dry season and a rainy season, but depending where you are in the country, it could rain at any time. Be sure to pack shoes that can get wet and clothes that dry fast.
Hire a Guide and Driver.When I informed my family Ashlie and I were taking this trip alone, the first thing they said was “You’re not driving, are you?” The questions arose because my brother lived in Costa Rica for two years. Twenty years ago, they took a little trip to see him and found that the road conditions at that time were less than favorable. Although I love a good adventure, I do not like to drive in foreign countries. To be honest, I really don’t like to drive in my own country. Hiring a guide and driver not only made our trip less stressful, it gave us inside knowledge about the country that we never would have known otherwise. Traveling from point to point means spending up to four and five hours in the car. Normally, I would have dreaded a long car ride, but this was different. I don’t think I’ve ever learned more about a country and it was all thanks to our friendly, knowledgeable tour guides and expert drivers. We stopped at hidden spots along the way to see everything from 20 foot Crocodiles to Red Macaws.
Savor the Flavor. The food in Costa Rica was delicioso! Upon arrival, our tour guide informed us our meals would consist of a choice of: Beans and Rice or Rice and Beans. Of course he was joking, but both versions were scrumptious! I found myself trying to savor one last serving at the airport before we flew home. In addition to the traditional rice and beans, we enjoyed local coffee, chocolate, fresh fish, fruits, and some of the best pineapple I’ve ever had. Eating pineapple will never be the same again. Of course, I can’t forget the traditional tres leches and flan we enjoyed every evening for dessert.
Be Active. I did not worry about all of the tres leches we were eating because we worked it off every day. Our activities consisted of horseback rides to waterfalls; nature walks through Manuel Antonio National Park; zip lining; hiking through rainforests; white water rafting; and rappelling down five 100 foot waterfalls. Some of our less-active tours included a chocolate tour where we made our own chocolate and a coffee demonstration. Costa Rica offers unique experiences for every activity level.
One more tip – you don’t need to set an alarm in the morning. My Costa Rican alarm clock consisted of colorful birds and the famous Howler monkeys. Every morning around 5:00, I would awaken to the fascinating creatures. I learned a Howler monkey could be heard as far away as 3 miles. Can you imagine what they sound like right outside your hotel room?
I highly recommend a vacation to Costa Rica to anyone who loves stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, and exciting adventures. The people (Ticos) are just as beautiful as the scenery. I’ll never forget the ten days I spent with Ashlie in Costa Rica – they were Pura Vida! (Pura Vida: The law of the land in Costa Rica. The expression is used in many forms, from a greeting, to a synonym for “excellent.” A synonym of “hakuna matata.” Life is wonderful; enjoy it.)