jaunt chats: costa rica

recently my best friend, kim, travelled with her family and her friend, nikki, to costa rica, a place hyped for its pura vida and lush landscapes. she was gracious enough to fill me in when she returned by answering a few questions and sharing some photos.

jaunt: why did your family decide to travel to costa rica?
kim: my family had planned a belated family christmas vacation in january, and wanted to go off the beaten path. we’d all had friends who’d given us rave reviews of costa rica. costa rica is easy to get to (direct flight from denver, where i live) and is much closer than hawaii, which is where my parents usually like to go in the winter. also, it’s in the same time zone and is relatively safe.

jaunt: how did you plan for your trip? any good sites or books you’d recommend?
kim: honestly, as someone who loves to plan everything in advance, it was kind of hard to arrange things prior to arrival. accommodations were recommended from a friend, but otherwise we played it by ear. i had a lonely planet tour book borrowed from a friend, but we booked most activities once we arrived.

jaunt: tell us about your favorite moments on your trip. what do you remember most?
kim: costa rica is BIG into surfing! one of my more simple pleasures was walking along the beach at the end of the day with my family, watching the many surfers catch some waves. a boy with a cooler full of coconuts walked up and asked if we’d like a pipa (coconut). i had read about this and most definitely did! he took one out, along with his machete, cropped off some of the top and made a small hole in the coconut, inserted a little bendy straw and i had a lovely little coconut drink for the rest of the walk [see photo below]. costa rica was a lot less commercial than i’d expected and buying a coconut off the beach from a local really made me happy.

jaunt: if i were to visit costa rica, what are the three things i must do or see?
kim: 1. arenal volcano- loved the hot springs at tabacon! it is one of the top hot springs spas in the world. i recommend the day spa package- spa treatments, lunch and a day pass to their beautiful rainforest hot springs. there are also canopy tours, hanging bridge tours, volcano hikes and more.
2. rainforest zipline tours- can be done in monteverde (more difficult to access- see below) or around arenal volcano (and probably a lot of other places of which i’m unaware)
3. watching the sunset from the pacific coast with a cocktail in hand. paradise. :)

jaunt: this is sounding pretty great. what was the funniest/craziest thing that happened on your trip?
kim: we took a ‘day’ trip from guanacaste peninsula to monteverde for ziplines and rainforest tours. As we were driving, i was reading to the group about the quakers who immigrated there during the korean war as a pacifist protest and have made monteverde very difficult to access by not paving any roads. well, what was supposed to be a 3.5 hour drive turned into a 5.5 hour drive after we discovered that the whole ‘no paved roads’ thing was indeed true. we were basically off-roading over mountain passes for about three hours with my dad at the helm. also, there were no mile markers or road signs for quite a while and we got lost for at least an hour. we missed our specified ‘zip line’ time, but luckily the costa ricans are pretty laid back so they let us go later.

jaunt: ha! sounds like a good time, and nice to know about the quaker pacifists. so what is the overall vibe of this trip?
kim: the overall vibe is ‘pura vida’ which is something costa ricans say to each other and everyone else as a greeting, send-off or in answer to how are you if things are good (and they always are in costa rica, apparently).

jaunt: any travel tips for others taking this trip? any must-pack items?
kim: bring sunscreen, variable footwear (hiking shoes and flip flops), dry fit clothes if you plan on doing outdoor/adventure activities, possibly a light rain jacket, hat and swimsuit. maybe a sundress for a dinner out, but that would be about the dressiest. if you’re headed to the rainforest- bring layers as it can get cool.

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all photos taken and provided by kim, and are subject to the terms and conditions of this site.