Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pura Vida!

Hey y'all!

I keep making promises to do better about posting and then I break those promises. So I won't make any such promise this time!

I wanted to give you all a little run down on a trip I recently took (and LOVED). Two of my sisters and my two best friends and I decided to make a run for the equator. To Costa Rica! We started planning pretty early and got tickets and such purchased. We stayed in Jaco (pronounced Haa-CO). I'm still not sure I'm saying that correctly. You should have seen the looks on the immigration officer's face when I pronounced it as it is spelled. I'm pretty sure he called me an ignorant American.

Anywho, we flew from Charleston because they had the better fares and schedules at the time that we booked. Charleston to Miami to Jan Santamaria Airport. Something happened on our flight and me and my bestie were asked to move to another seat. It was actually better seats than what we had. Since we were so accommodating, we were given some libations. They were good libations and started the trip off right! From the airport we took a shuttle to our rental car place. My sister reserved an SUV. We were thinking that it would be like a Ford Explorer or something similar. It was a Toyota Rav4. But we didn't die!

My bestest and I on the plane

Costa Ricans live by the phrase "Pura Vida." It means Pure Life. And man do they mean it!

We rented a condo that was listed on AirBnB and it was awesome. For the side of the country we were on, a car is definitely recommended. We were on Playa Jaco (Jaco Beach), but the beach wasn't a "hot spot." Having a car allowed us to visit several beaches and landmarks without having to hail a cab and wonder about if all of us could fit in one cab. And honestly, some of the cab drivers were pretty darn scary!

Before heading for the equator, we all made the decision to not plan a whole lot of activities. We really just needed to relax, eat good and enjoy some cocktails! We did all of that!

Our one activity was  an ATV ride through the rain forest. AN ATV RIDE THROUGH THE RAIN FOREST! It was hands down my most favoritest part of the trip. They took us on a practice course to teach us to ride through the various elements of the rain forest. I broke an ATV on the practice course. See, what had happened was... (you know that's going to be a lie, right?) LOL! There was this mud pit that even the guide got stuck in. He had to get pushed out. So why he decided to tell me to ride through this thing, I haven't a clue. I got stuck the first time and the ATV that I was on wouldn't start back up. They brought me a new one. He made me go through the mud again! This time I thought I was being smart and that I would try to ride the curve of the puddle, right. Wrong. I got stuck again and was in mud up to my thighs! It was fun though! I didn't have any issues on the actual course (thank goodness). It was a two hour ride. In the middle, we stopped at a little waterfall and took pictures and rinsed off a bit. I recommend this to everyone! For the people that are nervous, they had buggy rides. Don't do a buggy ride. Ride the ATV! We had lunch at the adventure park after the ride and it was good!

I was a little nervous, but in the end wanted it to last forever

He had too much fun pressure washing me!

THE FOOD

OMG the food was so different. But good different! It was FRESH and you could tell. You could tell that the animals weren't pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics. All of the fruit was divine. Nature's candy. We often saw fresh meat being delivered to different restaurants. The only thing I didn't care for was the pizza. One night we hung out with some people staying on the same property we were on and we all went in and ordered pizza. I don't think any of us would ever do that again. It did come with little baggies of pesto and the pesto was good.

We are the chimichurri girls. We put that ISH on EVERYTHING!!!

Mary's Diner Country Fried Steak

Restaurante La Perla Steak Dinner

Pistachio Gelato Bar

Chicken and Beef Fajitas from the adventure park

Bacon Blue Burger from The Green Room Cafe

I can't remember the name of the bar, but the wings were good!

3 scoops from POPS

Coffee at The Green Room Cafe (drink this!)

Guacamole plate from The Green Room Cafe

Loaded Breakfast Burrito from The Green Room Cafe

**A note- Share food where you can. I wasn't able to finish any of my food. Probably because I was too busy eating off of everyone's plate. The food was delicious and my body had to readjust to American food when I got home.

THE BEACHES

We visited SEVERAL beaches on the side of the country we were on. They were not super touristy and most of them were uninhabited. A few of them we said "oh beach" and kept driving. We did end up at Manuel Antonio National Park Beach and it was heavily populated. I wasn't comfortable there because I felt like at any moment we were going to become victims of theft. The drive to this beach was awesome and scary at the same time. We had to drive up a mountain, then back down to get to the beach. It was weird being in the mountains and at the beach at the same time. The sand and water were warm though. There were too many people selling the same items and trying to force you to purchase from them. I HATED this. Hated. There was also a guy named Jesus that kept trying to get us to order drinks. We didn't. Another American family told us Jesus ripped him off pretty badly and not to buy from him. After this, we left. I think my sister was kind of bummed because she did all the driving and it was almost 2 hours from where we were staying. But at least half of us didn't feel safe.

Our last night there, after we had driven to all the other beaches, we took a step outside of our property to what ended up being the best beach for us. The first day the stray dogs turned me off of this beach. But it was quiet, had gorgeous black sand and was not crowded. We ended up playing in the water a little bit and my younger sister got accosted by a fish fin. For real. Since these beaches aren't heavily populated by tourist, there is still a lot of sea life at the shores. This made me get out of the water. One of my nightmares is being attacked by some rogue fish or shark. But the beach was peaceful and it wrapped up an amazing trip. I'll have to get more pictures from my sister's camera and share them.




THE WEATHER/WARDROBE

HOT. AS. HELL. Now, I've never actually been to hell. But Costa Rica is pretty close to the equator so pack light. My wardrobe consisted of shorts and light weight shirts and beach cover-ups. I had one "night out" outfit that was not at all dressy. We didn't take heels. You want to be comfortable when your walking and traveling around so much. For the ATV ride, I wore tights, a t-shirt and water shoes.


This was my "night out" outfit


THE MONEY

Simply stated, it was time for us to leave by the time I figured out how to convert the money. Someone said it's a simple two to one ratio. The MIL threw me off. MIL means dollar or something in Spanish. I used my debit card everywhere it was accepted. I got a little money from the ATM at the airport (colones). We got laughed at a lot for not properly converting money, but no one tried to rip us off.
We thought we were balling. We weren't!

Money Conversion

THE PEOPLE
Costa Ricans are amazing. People that have retired to Costa Rica are amazing. Spanish is the spoken language. Learn some before you go. Everyone was so relaxed and moved on "Costa Rican time." Which basically meant it happens when it happens. This applied to everything except driving. The driving there is maniacal! For real! 18 wheelers will pass you on a mountain curve like it's nothing. Mopeds and people on bicycles are in abundance and they think they rule the world. There aren't many street signs. Matter of fact, my sister rented a GPS and we were warned that nothing uses addresses. Everything is by landmarks! Everyone was friendly and very helpful. My take on the culture is that they make something out of nothing (thanks Miko). This gave me a bit of a different outlook on life. I mean there were guys with reflective vest "directing" us where to park and they expected tips. We usually (we being my sister) tipped them. At least they weren't selling drugs.

And speaking of drugs, on our drive in we witnessed a drug deal. It was out in the open like it was no big deal. Then, one night after we were eating dinner, some ladies of the night were approached by the cops. One of the ladies threw a little baggie behind a bush. There were offers for "parties" to which we declined.

A FEW TIPS

  • If you want to get colones, get it from the ATM in the baggage claim. Your bank will probably give you a more favorable rate. Or go to a bank in town. The bank lines were ALWAYS long. Again, I used my card a lot. Every legitimate business accepted cards. For the beach vendors and parking, you want to have a some colones.
  • Alcohol. If you want drinks, buy your alcohol at Duty Free. It's one located in the baggage claim area. We were told by our rental agent that we would save at least 40% by doing this, so we did. We ended up leaving a lot because no one checked a bag. Won't make that mistake again.
  •   The rental car online price will be cheap. The insurance is $44 a day (from EuroCar). Get the insurance. Don't debate this. The roads are rough and the driving is crazy. You can be held accountable even if it's not your fault.
  • There were toll roads. So you want to have some colones on you when traveling back and forth from the airport. I think we hit 2 leaving the airport and 3 going back. 
  • They have iguana crossing signs. The iguanas will cross! The iguanas are everywhere! We just let them do there thing...except the one time we almost drove off the mountain because one decided to be in the road and my sister swerved to avoid it. But we didn't die and neither did the iguana! We also saw monkeys (who were angry at us for some reason) and there were lots and lots of birds. And stray dogs. Lots of stray dogs. 
  • If you go during the rainy season, it is going to rain! It rained almost every night. We usually were back in our condo by the time the rain started. A few mornings had some light rain that pretty much evaporated as soon as it touched anything. HOT I tell you. HOT.
  • Buy the highest SPF sunscreen you can find. I think we had 70...and buy and use bug spray! Most of us came home with at least a little sunburn. And that was with applying the sunscreen!
  • We drank bottled water everywhere. You have to pay for it, but that's what we did.
  • The biggest tip would be to bring an unlocked phone that takes a sim card. There is a booth in baggage claim that sells Costa Rica sim cards. If the phone is NOT unlocked and you buy one, they will not give your money back. This saved us! We used the data from that purchase for navigating around. It was $30. Keep the little card with the pin on it with you (or remember the pin).
Costa Rica is a great place to visit! Let me know if you have any questions. I'm sure I forgot something. As I think of things I'll update the post!

PURA VIDA!

RoJo








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