Sunday, April 10, 2016

Why You Need to Visit Costa Rica and 11 Tips/Observations

I'm back from Costa Rica and all I have to show for it is a fading tan and remarkable family memories. 

Our last night/sunset on Flamingo Beach

Could we 100% afford this trip with child #1 leaving for college and a house that needs new gutters and a million other repairs? Not especially. But, I knew that this would be our last family spring break, maybe ever, and this mom wanted everyone together for one last hurrah (and bickering and getting on each other's nerves, but whatever). Around here we try to give equal attention to the practical and the experiential expenses.

Catamaran tour for snorkeling and sunset cruise

Over the years we've done the all-inclusive thing in Mexico. Sure, that's all fine and good because what's not to like about constantly flowing drinks and water aerobics? But, let's be real, this is not the way to authentically see a country.

GET A ROOM! Sunset on Flamingo Beach

So this time, we rented a condo on HomeAway (a cousin of VRBO) and we also rented a car. My hope was that we would explore and get a feel for the country itself without doing all the typical tourist stuff (although there was some of that). I was a French major and love languages, but I don't speak much Spanish. Prior to going, I downloaded the app Duolingo, and it helped me tremendously to be able to say short phrases and to recognize words.

Over the week we quickly settled into a routine of beach time, exploring, running and eating. And while there is much I do not know about this country, I did learn a lot about visiting Costa Rica. Here are some tips and thoughts:

1. Renting a car is cheap, but the required insurance is not. In most countries you can waive the collision damage insurance, especially if you have coverage through a credit card. In Costa Rica, even if you show proof of coverage, you are required to take some insurance. While we rented a moderate sized car and it was only $200 week, our total cost ended up being close to $500 with insurance (and this was with a letter of eligibility from my credit card). Ouch. Keep this in mind. There is no way around it, so don't bother wasting your time arguing.

Fording a river in Costa Rica
One thing is certain - if you drive your rental car through a river your contract is voided.
Driving through water is actually not uncommon in CR during the rainy season.

2. Running is a thing! I have run in some foreign countries where you are looked at like an alien. Costa Ricans are active people and running is fairly common. In fact, we met someone who had just done a triathlon in the area where we were staying. Although there is not much of a shoulder on the roads, drivers tend to be courteous and give you room. There are also running trails in the hills. CR is a great place to hill train! But the humidity and heat nearly killed me.

3. Groceries are generally more expensive than in the US and not all stores are created equal. The first night we got there, we set off for what we assumed was the largest grocery store in the area - Super Compro. This was a smallish, dark and un-air conditioned store (mind you it was 95 degrees). We found the basics there, but in the following days we found larger stores. For a relatively small cart of groceries, just the essentials, we easily spent $80!

4. Eggs are not refrigerated. Americans tend to balk at this, but actually most counties do not refrigerate their eggs. This is due to how the eggs are treated once they are laid. In the US, the eggs are immediately washed and refrigerated. Other counties tend to vaccinate their chickens against salmonella and don't wash and refrigerate. Bottom line is that it's fine to eat the non refrigerated eggs in these countries.

5. The typical "Tico" breakfast is fantastic and my new go-to meal. This includes black beans, rice, tortillas and maybe eggs. Throw in some avocado = perfection.

6. Sometimes you can't flush. I'm not sure about the rest of Costa Rica but the guy who rented us the condo said that the plumbing was temperamental and that we shouldn't flush any toilet paper. We immediately set up a house rule that when you took a dump you had to take out the trash. Hence, we were all made aware of each other's poop schedules. Good family bonding (btw this was also the case in our honey moon in Greece. A friend of ours had an apartment in Athens that we used and we couldn't flush paper. Romantic).

7. Costa Rica is not always tropical and lush. It depends on where and when you go but we were staying on the northwest coast (Gold Coast). This time of the year it is especially dry and brown. There were multiple fires in the hills. On our first day we watched a huge house burn to the ground! Generally, the rainy season (or "green season") is from May to mid-November. Costa Ricans call this wet time of year their winter. The dry season, considered summer by Costa Ricans, is from mid-November to April.

8. The roads are touch and go. If you stick to the main roads, they aren't bad. However most of the roads are not main roads and are dirt and narrow. Even on the main roads there is not a shoulder and the locals use the roads as a means of getting from point A to point B as there are not many sidewalks. This means there are always many people walking and biking on the side of the road. There will also sometimes be animals and livestock in the road. I snapped this photo on our way to lunch one day.

Ribs anyone? Yes, the cows are extremely skinny in CR. 

9. You can drink the water. Unlike Mexico and some other countries, Costa Rica has potable water and it tastes good. However, it is not recommended that you drink the water in a cuople of port cities such as Limon and Puertaneras.

10. It's hard to find half and half. (major First World Problem). This was probably my issue - but I love half and half in my coffee. Costa Rica has amazing coffee (the Britt brand is very good), but I couldn't find my half and half. I bought something called semi-descremada, which turned out to be partial-skim-milk. Ick.

11. Your iPhone GPS might not work. I rely on my iPhone map/GPS a lot. It didn't work well in CR even though I had data service. I downloaded an app called Waze that worked very well.

Bottom line: Costa Rica is an amazing vacation destination. It is safe, relatively easy to get to and family friendly. You can mix it up by having lazy beach days and active adventure days of zip-lining, hiking and rafting.

One of the many beachside restaurants we found for lunch.
Fish tacos FTW every single day.

Which do you prefer? All inclusive or do-it-yourself?

Best tip for traveling abroad? Be open minded and flexible. Expect bumps in the road and roll with them. Instead of resisting difference. embrace it. This is how you truly learn about how others live.



  1. That's funny about the half and half. When I was in Spain I asked for "leche de dos por ciento" (milk of 2%) and everyone thought I was crazy. It turns out they do "desnatada" (decreamed, skim), "semi-desnatada" (semi-decreamed, low-fat) and "entero" (whole). It's part of the experience of learning about a new country. :) Also, figuring out what they call ATMs was another adventure!

  2. There's always leche de roja (which is whole milk)!

    I love the picture of you and your hubs but I couldn't help but think about that slogan for Cialis: why wait until the moment is right?

  3. Love it! Went to CR a few years ago with husband and a 3 year old son. We speak a minimal amount of Spanish and had an amazing time! Did some outings, but with a small child had a different pace. We fell in love with the people, terrain and animals. We tend to "budget" for one big family trip a year. I am of the opinion that real family bonding occurs in foreign countries. I loved the coffee!

  4. I used to prefer do-it-yourself but as I get older, all-inclusive sounds mighty nice and very relaxing.

    In Thailand they have buckets next to the toilets and you scoop water and pour it into the toilet instead of flushing in some places.

    The half and half thing would be hard! Major FWP, but seriously I'd struggle! Costa Rica is definitely on my bucket list. One of these days...

  5. Is that a fat naked man sitting behind your daughter in the picture on the catamaran? I swear I'm seeing ass crack!

    1. Haha!! I had to go back and look - and I can see where you thought it was a crack, but his leg is bent and the "crack" is where his thigh meets his calf. Glad my daughter wasn't sitting by a hairy crack!

  6. I'm a do-it-yourselfer. We usually rent a condo with a kitchen and washer/dryer. I can't stand going out to eat for every meal. We have breakfast at home, either pack a lunch or go out for lunch and then I make dinner at home. That's relaxing for us. We haven't traveled outside of the US though, so this style of travel has been easy to arrange.

    My son is almost 12 years old and I am already cherishing the remaining time we have together before he moves out, it really does go by quickly.

  7. We used to do all-inclusives exclusively, in the Dominican Republic, but they offered plenty of real culture experience and such with buses that left the resorts. This last time, however, the whole area had gotten SO touristy that it was a completely different experience. Now, I'd be willing to try out a more do-it-yourself style so that I can see more of the actual county. Sounds like Costa Rica is a good bet as the water is safer than some other places, that's important to me!

  8. Glad you all had a nice trip! As someone who loves my flavored creamer, and someone who is living here for a year, the cream-in-my-coffee thing was tough. But I found a great solution in sweetened condensed milk mixed with regular milk and vanilla or almond extract. Does the trick. For future reference.

  9. My life became devastated when my husband sent me packing, after 8 years that we have been together. I was lost and helpless after trying so many ways to make my husband take me back. One day at work, i was absent minded not knowing that my boss was calling me, so he sat and asked me what its was all about i told him and he smiled and said that it was not a problem. I never understand what he meant by it wasn't a problem getting my husband back, he said he used a spell to get his wife back when she left him for another man and now they are together till date and at first i was shocked hearing such thing from my boss. He gave me an email address of the great spell caster who helped him get his wife back, i never believed this would work but i had no choice that to get in contact with the spell caster which i did, and he requested for my information and that of my husband to enable him cast the spell and i sent him the details, but after two days, my mom called me that my husband came pleading that he wants me back, i never believed it because it was just like a dream and i had to rush down to my mothers place and to my greatest surprise, my husband was kneeling before me pleading for forgiveness that he wants me and the kid back home, then i gave Happy a call regarding sudden change of my husband and he made it clear to me that my husband will love me till the end of the world, that he will never leave my sight. Now me and my husband is back together again and has started doing pleasant things he hasn't done before, he makes me happy and do what he is suppose to do as a man without nagging. Please if you need help of any kind, kindly contact Happy for help and you can reach him via email:

    1. Hi everyone! how are you feeling after just break up or divorce with your ex? Getting back together after a break up or divorce is possible if you really want to make it happen!! My name is Tiffany Marie. from Odessa, TX.
      My husband broke up with me last week,i was so frustrated and i could not know what next to do again, i was so confused and i could not concentrate any more, i love my husband so much but he was cheating on me with another woman and this makes him broke up with me so that he can be able to get marry to the other lady and this lady i think cast a spell on my husband to make him hate me and my kids and this was so critical and uncalled-for,I cry all day and night for God to send me a helper to get back my man until i went to NY to see a friend and who was having the same problem with me but she latter got her Husband back and i asked her how she was able to get her husband back and she told me that their was a powerful spell caster in Africa name Dr.Unity that he help with love spell in getting back lost lover back and i decided to contacted the same Dr.Unity and he told me what is needed to be done for me to have my man back and i did it although i doubted it but i did it and the Dr told me that i will get the result after 48hours, and he told me that my husband was going to call me by 9pm in my time and i still doubted his word, to my surprise my husband really called me and told me that he miss me so much, Oh My God i was so happy, and today i am happy with my man again and we are joyfully living together as one good family and i thank the powerful spell caster Dr.Unity of , he is so powerful and i decided to share my story on the internet that good spell casters still exist and Dr.Unity is one of the good spell caster who i will always pray to live long to help his children in the time of trouble, if you are there and your lover is turning you down, or you have your husband moved to another woman, do not cry anymore contact the powerful spell caster Dr.Unity on his email: and he will answer you, i am a living testimony and i will continue to testify of his goodness in my family,he turn my family to paradise and today we are all happy together Dr.Unity i say thank you in one million times thanks.

  10. My Name is Leon Adrian. I will love to share my testimony to all the people in the love site cos i never thought i will have my girlfriend back and she means so much to me..The girl i want to get marry to left me 3 weeks to our weeding for another man..,When i called her she never picked my calls,She deleted me on her Facebook and she changed her Facebook status from married to Single...when i went to her place of work she told her boss she never want to see me..i lost my job as a result of this cos i cant get myself anymore,my life was upside down and everything did not go smooth with my life...I tried all i could do to have her back to all did not work out until i met a Man when i Travel to Africa to execute some business have been developing some years back..I told him my problem and all have passed through in getting her back and how i lost my job...he told me he gonna help me...i don't believe that in the first place.but he swore he will help me out and he told me the reason why my girlfriend left me and also told me some hidden secrets.i was amazed when i heard that from him..he said he will cast a spell for me and i will see the results in the next couple of days..then i travel back to US the following day and i called him when i got home and he said he's busy casting those spells and he has bought all the materials needed for the spells,he said am gonna see positive results in the next 2 days that is Thursday...My girlfriend called me at exactly 12:35pm on Thursday and apologies for all she had done ..she said,she never knew what she's doing and her sudden behavior was not intentional and she promised not to do that was like am dreaming when i heard that from her and when we ended the call,i called the man and told him my wife called and he said i haven't seen anything yet... he said i will also get my job back in 2 days time..and when its Sunday,they called me at my place of work that i should resume working on Monday and they gonna compensate me for the time limit have spent at home without working..My life is back into shape,i have my girlfriend back and we are happily married now with kids and i have my job back too,This man is really powerful..if we have up to 20 people like him in the world,the world would have been a better place..he has also helped many of my friends to solve many problems and they are all happy now..Am posting this to the forum for anybody that is interested in meeting the man for can mail him on this e-mail;

  11. An incredible article you write, very very interesting and informative. I hope you will keep writing articles as good as this, so I gained extensive insight. Thanks a lot!
    unblocked games free 4 all | geometry dash online | happy wheels demo | 1 on 1 soccer heads | juegos | online games


  12. Are you having a hard time searching for a way to get your ex partner back, look no further, this was how i got mine back you can get yours today. My husband and I have been through every top reason for divorce; financial struggles, bankruptcy, stressful jobs, becoming parents when we weren’t ready (neither one of us would give our kids back just the amount of stress is overwhelming) we fought ALL the time over anything and everything. I threatened divorce all the time. One day after a fight I said I was done and filling. He told me he wasn’t in love with me anymore. After a day or two of cooling off I realized that divorce is not what I wanted. No, our marriage was not healthy but we had so much going against us an neither one of us were trying. I begged for him to forgive me and that I didn’t mean it. He told me he loved me but wasn’t in love with me anymore. Those words hurt and I believed him.One day i was online for tutor, as i was browsing i saw a review about a spell caster who could solve my problem, i have heard about spell casting, and magic, i said i should give it a try i contacted the spell caster his name is Dr Ewan of {}, i contacted him and he told me not to worry that all he had to do for me is a love spell, he did it and told me that i should give my husband 48 hours and that he would realize him self, i waited anxiously and one the second day of casting the spell, he came to me and told me he was sorry for the wrong he did to me, he has agreed to send me to school and we are happy. Thank you Dr Ewan you are the best. If you have any marital problem, winning of lottery and many other problems you can contact him on his email, {COVENANTSOLUTIONTEMPLE@GMAIL.COM} or call his mobile number +2347052958531, he is a good and kind man. Thanks. ELIZABETH STRONG LONDON UK

  13. How I Was Rescued By A God Fearing And Trusted Lender {}..

    Hello, I am Andrew Thompson currently living in CT USA, God has bless me with two kids and a lovely Wife, I promise to share this Testimony because of God favor in my life, 2days ago I was in desperate need of money so I thought of having a loan then I ran into wrong hands who claimed to be loan lender not knowing he was a scam. he collected 1,500.00 USD from me and refuse to email me since then I was confuse, but God came to my rescue, one faithful day I went to church after the service I share idea with a friend and she introduce me to LEXIE LOAN COMPANY, she said she was given 98,000.00 USD by MR LEXIE , THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF LEXIE LOAN COMPANY. So I collected his email Address , he told me the rules and regulation and I followed, then after processing of the Documents, he gave me my loan of 55,000.00 USD... well if you are interested in a loan you can as well contact him on this Email: or call/sms on: +18168926958 thanks, I am sure he will also help you.

  14. This is one of the cult game now, a lot of people enjoy playing them . Also you can refer to the game :
    gold mine strike | pokemon go 2
    The game controls are shown just under . Movement mechanisms primarily include acceleration and tilting controls.
    stickman games | stick war 2 | animal jam 2