Month: February 2021

Country Profile: Costa Rica

Pura Vida!

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States

Visas: No visa required for up to 90 days, however you must have proof of health insurance and complete the online Health Pass.

Currency: 1 CAD = 483.06 colones (Costa Rican colón)

Things to Read:

A Kid’s Guide to Costa Rica by Jack L. Roberts

The Umbrella by Jan Brett

Pura Vida Mae! by Buffie Biddle

Cocorí by Joaquín Gutiérrez

The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure by Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini

Fernando’s Gift / El Regalo de Fernando by Douglas Keister

Famous authors of Costa Rica:

You will recognize Carmen Lyra from her place on the twenty thousand colones! She was the first prominent female writer in Costa Rica, the founder of the first Montessori school in Costa Rica, and the co-founder of the Communist Party in Costa Rica. She fought against the monopoly of the fruit companies.

Manuel Arguello Mora, Joaquin Garcia Monge, Carmen Naranjo, and Carlos Luis Fallas are other prominent Costa Rican authors.

Phrases to Know:

Pura Vida! – Translates to “pure life,” used as greeting, as thanks, or a way to describe a relaxed situation

Ticos – Costa Ricans

Mae – dude, or friendly name between friends

Soda – Not a soft drink! This means a lunch spot serving typical Tico food.

Tuanis – Awesome, cool

Detras del palo – Literally translates to “behind the tree,” means “you don’t know what you are talking about!”

Miando fuera del tarro – “taking the pee out of the can” (?!?) Used the same as above ^_^

Que pega – “hat a stick,” annoying

Lava huevos – “wash the eggs,” suck up to somebody

Tico Spanish differs from México or España! Find more Tico slang on My Tan Feet.

Stuff to See:

Costa Rica is famous for its incredibly diverse ecosystems, its beautiful beaches, its excellent surfing conditions and extreme sports, its commitment to green energy, and for its friendly culture.

Tourism has become a significant contributor to the economy of Costa Rica! Therefore, tourists from around the world will find a range of activities and accommodations to meet their interests.

We travelled to Costa Rica for a two-week trip about five years ago. We spent a week on the Caribbean coast in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and the following week in Arenal. Puerto Viejo is a small, laid-back town with beaches that are black from the volcanic rocks. We stayed at Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge. They had several cabanas with closed-in bedrooms but open “rancho” style kitchens and living spaces decorated in unique nature themes. It has changed ownership now and is primarily for yoga classes and retreats (AmaSer). Fantastic space though! We enjoyed eating at Bread & Chocolate regularly and at the amazing restaurant that was just word-of-mouth and served fish that was caught earlier that day. You can get a tour of cocoa and coffee production at Carib Beans, visit a sloth sanctuary, and see many animals at the Jaguar Rescue Centre.

Arenal was also a big hit! We loved the hot springs and ziplines! The zipline at Sky Adventures lives on in our family history as one of our best experiences ever!

Five years later, Arenal and its La Fortuna volcano are still one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica. Puerto Viejo has developed quite rapidly. It doesn’t seem to have the same small-town vibe as it once did. Much like Sámara and Tamarindo, for example, some places in Costa Rica are gringo party towns. If that’s what you want, cool. However, if you are more interested in a quiet escape or learning about nature, you may do well to look elsewhere.

The biggest cities with airports are San José and Liberia. Watch for cruise ship ports, such as Limon.

National Parks such as Manual Antonio and Tortuguero offer guided tours to see sloths, monkeys, or crocodiles. Other parks like Ostional are protected refuges for sea turtles and a good place for whale watching. The cloud forests of Monteverde are popular destinations for observing nature from a canopy walk. The Nicoya Peninsula offers beaches, surfing, turtles and whale watching, and caves. Make sure you have 4 wheel drive!

Check out Endless Summer II (1994) to compare with modern day Tamarindo!

Again, My Tan Feet is an excellent resource. Check out their list of 50 things to do in Costa Rica!

Places to Sleep:

There is a wide range of accommodations available, everything from hostels to high-end luxury resorts. Airbnb and VRBO both have listings in Costa Rica. We did enjoy the Aloft in San José, cool heat reacting gel elevator floors!

Pura Vida

From September 2020 to January 2021 our kids went to in-person school in Ottawa. The school board did a fantastic job keeping cohorts separate! Our daughter had one positive covid case at her public school. The bus route and class for that student were cancelled for two weeks, which successfully stopped any spread into the school population. Our son’s high school had quite a few positive cases but was also successful in preventing any outbreaks at the school! Excellent! Both kids adapted well to virtual school when the region went into lockdown during the second wave.

In addition, Ottawa Public Health has done an excellent job communicating effectively to the community. They have been working with the local hospitals to monitor the city waste water as a secondary way to assess Covid rates in the community. Fascinating!

Following our last post in October, we eventually settled on a possible scenario. Rather than travelling around the world as a family for 10 months and visit 24 countries, we would instead pivot into “Canadian snow bird” mode and visit one country long-term.

Costa Rica quickly become the front-runner for us. Thailand and Vietnam were also excellent options due to their robust Covid action plans. In the end, we chose Costa Rica as we had been there before and therefore knew what to expect.

Costa Rica opened its borders in August 2020, then removed testing and quarantining restrictions for international travellers in October 2020. Even with the reduced restrictions, their Covid rates remained at a plateau from October onward. We monitored the rates for the weeks following the Christmas break and also found them the same. From what we could tell, most American and Canadian travellers who were looking to go somewhere warm for Christmas opted for Mexico. Almost one million in Cancún alone over the Christmas break?!

Costa Rica has a helpful break-down of entry requirements here.

Since health insurance from Ontario Blue Cross or other international companies like World Nomad did not fulfill the country’s lodging requirements, we used one of the suggested Costa Rican companies instead.

We rented a car from Adobe (a local company) via the travel blog My Tan Feet in order to benefit from their discount. A rental car with 4-wheel drive was essential for our remote location.

We found a home for rent via VRBO which sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean!

We packed light and flew to Costa Rica in January, returning to Canada in the summer.

Our family goals are to practice our Spanish, to be outside in the sun and fresh air daily, and to learn as much as we can about nature. Our daughter is pretty obsessed with reptiles at present! We have questions about the tides, astronomy, and the flora and fauna.

We also know that the Canadian government has made changes in regards to re-entry. The government has worked with the Canadian airlines to cancel all flights to “sun destinations.” This means the most popular Canadian destinations of Mexico and the Caribbean. However, it applies to Costa Rica as well. We knew that we would have to present a negative Covid test for our return to Canada. Now we will also have to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival rather than at home. Makes sense, this is what many other countries do as well!

Unfortunately, this blog will not be used for its intended purpose. Man, that trip was going to be epic! Instead, this blog will just be us living, maybe documenting what we have been learning, and hopefully still “having fun right now.”

Pura vida!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén