The Real Costa Rica

More Than Just Ziplining and Beaches

Costa Rica is a beautiful country. If you ask anyone who has visited, you will hear them say the same thing. But, if you truly want to visit Costa Rica, then you have to step past "gringo" territory and obtain an accurate view of the country.


The People

To really get a feel for the country, you need to talk to the people. Obviously, that either requires an experienced translator or an experience in Spanish. Wandering around the country with no translator or ability to speak the language, you are going to miss some of the best stories. Those special treasures hidden in the country will become an unexplainable blur. If your Spanish is not perfect, you won't be teased. Many are just flattered that you are making an attempt to speak to them.


Once you have one of the above options, then have conversations with people. Talk to people in the stores, ask where they're from. They'll ask you, and you'll get the experience to meet some new people.


Ride the buses. Renting a car for a day or two can be helpful if you want to make a specific trip. But for getting around the city, riding the bus can give you multiple opportunities to really experience the culture and to meet more people.


The Events

You can look online and find recommendations for La Paz Waterfall Gardens or the Volcan Poas. Those are activities that you can find online, but you will find that a lot of them have been "gringified," a special term that means it has been altered for tourists and to accommodate English speakers. That's great, and you will have a memorable visit, but you won't get a real feel for the country.


Visit a fruit and vegetable market. Allow the ocean of people to brush past you. Smell the sweetness of mammon chino. Try new foods, foods you might not even be able to put a name to. These markets take place all over the country, usually on Saturdays but sometimes on other days of the week as well. 


If you are only visiting for a short time, consider scheduling your visit around when a "civic event" is happening. Costa Rica loves to throw parades for any and every reason. Their independence day is September 15th, but they also have a random holiday for some saint at the end of June. You'll be awoken at five in the morning to the sound of shouting and drums. The children learn dances from very young, and they will often participate, wearing typical clothes from the times before and performing their dances.


The Country

You need to get away from the cities and congestion of the touristy areas such as San Jose. Find someone who has a farm or who is renting space in the country. You will find that San Rafael, above Heredia, is a great place where you can do that. If you don't mind the heat, you can go up to Upala, which is northern Costa Rica, and you will find a number of farms with animals. You can have the chance to milk a goat and learn about the process for readying milk for sale. In some places, you may also be able to learn about growing chickens, recycling, and using aquaponics. 


While I was in Costa Rica, I got the chance to see some baby goats born. The one pictured above was actually a twin. That gift of life is something that I will never forget. Whatever you do, make sure you go off the beaten path. "And I took the one less traveled by- and that has made all the difference." Frost 


The People

To really get a feel for the country, you need to talk to the people. Obviously, that either requires an experienced translator or an experience in Spanish. Wandering around the country with no translator or ability to speak the language, you are going to miss some of the best stories. Those special treasures hidden in the country will become an unexplainable blur. If your Spanish is not perfect, you won't be teased. Many are just flattered that you are making an attempt to speak to them.

Once you have one of the above options, then have conversations with people. Talk to people in the stores, ask where they're from. They'll ask you, and you'll get the experience to meet some new people.

Ride the buses. Renting a car for a day or two can be helpful if you want to make a specific trip. But for getting around the city, riding the bus can give you multiple opportunities to really experience the culture and to meet more people.

The Events

You can look online and find recommendations for La Paz Waterfall Gardens or the Volcano Poas. Those are activities that you can find online, but you will find that a lot of them have been "gringified," a special term that means it has been altered for tourists and to accommodate English speakers. That's great, and you will have a memorable visit, but you won't get a real feel for the country.

Visit a fruit and vegetable market. Allow the ocean of people to brush past you. Smell the sweetness of mammon chino. Try new foods, foods you might not even be able to put a name to. These markets take place all over the country, usually on Saturdays but sometimes on other days of the week as well.

If you are only visiting for a short time, consider scheduling your visit around when a "civic event" is happening. Costa Rica loves to throw parades for any and every reason. One example is their independence day, which falls out on September 15th. You'll be awoken at five in the morning to the sound of shouting and drums. The children learn dances from very young, and they will often participate, wearing typical clothes from the times before and performing their dances.

The Country

You need to get away from the cities and congestion of the touristy areas such as San Jose. Find someone who has a farm or who is renting space in the country. You will find that San Rafael, above Heredia, is a great place where you can do that. If you don't mind the heat, you can go up to Upala, which is northern Costa Rica, and you will find a number of farms with animals. You can have the chance to milk a goat and learn about the process for readying milk for sale. In some places, you may also be able to learn about growing chickens, recycling, and using aquaponics.

While I was in Costa Rica, I got the chance to see some baby goats born. The one pictured above was actually a twin. That gift of life is something that I will never forget. Whatever you do, make sure you go off the beaten path. "And I took the one less traveled by- and that has made all the difference." Frost 

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The Real Costa Rica
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