Why You Should Go To Costa Rica

Over the so-called “Spreak” I embarked on a trip. One that my family had been deliberating over for years and we finally decided to commit to on April 11th. I have to make some confessions. First of all, I had never been on a plane until this date and, therefore, I had never been out of the country, so I was in for a treat of completely new experiences. To begin, I would like to recount my experiences, then from those, I will give an explanation as to why this should be your next vacation destination (if it isn’t already clear by the first section of this article).

I had four full days in Costa Rica as well as two travel days (3.5 hour flight to Dallas, TX and a 2.5 hour flight to Liberia) and I stayed in Hotel El Manglar which was unbelievably nice. Our suite had a room for my sister and I, a small kitchenette, and a loft with a master bedroom for my parents.

Me in my spot.

But, undoubtedly the best area of this room was the patio which had a huge table and the most comfortable hammock I have ever laid in (not that I have laid in that many- but you get the point). This was my spot for the entirety of the trip: surf, siesta, hammock, hike, hammock, dinner, hammock, just couldn’t get rid of me. But next, the activities. 1) The first full day of my stay in Guanacaste we had a 4 hour hike planned with a 3 hour drive to get there. Obviously this was a lot of time in the car right after our already long day before (1 hour drive from the airport to the hotel too), but it was completely worth it. We had an amazing guide who came and picked us up from our hotel and drove us the whole way. The ride was long, but there was so many things to see that 3 hours of looking out of the window seemed like nothing. The towns in Guanacaste, the people, the stores, the animals, the vegetation, the fruits littering the streets, there is no shortage of scenery. After a windy drive up the mountain, we were finally going to begin our hike to the Rio Celeste.

The Strawberry (“Blue Jeans”) Poison Dart Frog

Immediately, we saw toucans (I finally believe that they’re real now), Capuchin monkeys, sloths, lizards, the long-tailed Manakin, the Red-Eyed Tree Frog, a Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (nicknamed the “Blue Jeans” Poison Frog), a turkey?, and some of the craziest looking plants I have ever seen including a Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree which is something you really have to see in person to believe.

The Rio Celeste.

The Rio Celeste had the most clean, clear blue water I had ever seen- but let me tell you, it was very cold to swim in, but you know, I’ve got to do it. Our guide also brought us to a traditional restaurant and had us order the traditional lunch food in Costa Rica which as he put it- is rice and beans. Rice and beans every meal, 3 meals a day, every week, every month, every year, forever (he also said that the religion of Costa Rica is 80% Catholic but that it is actually beans and rice and fútbol).

2) The second day of my trip we went on an ATV tour through the city of Guanacaste and through 4 beaches. We splurged on bandanas that were $5 each (I was skeptical too but it was definitely worth it) and because between the dirt roads and sandy beaches, our clothes could have stood up at the end of the excursion. I can’t remember the names of all of the beaches, but the coolest thing about the tour (besides being able to drive around and talk to locals at eye-level and see the occasion Howler Monkey) was the fact that even though all of these beaches were 5-10 minutes apart when driving, each one was different. One was a rocky beach with rainbow shells and stones covering the place where sand would be, one had the brightest white sand and clearest water I have ever seen, one had tide pools swarming hermit crabs and neon-colored fish, and one, nicknamed “Pirate Beach” had an urban legend from a small cave. We rode around the “city” and the “country” parts of the area where we saw so many animals and occasionally, had to stop to let a horse cross the road. These excursions were also amazing because of the scenery. I never realized until then how many mountains and hills were in Costa Rica (until we were driving to our hike), considering that we could see four volcanoes (3 dormant, 1 active) all at the same time and how prominent wind energy is as an energy source in the province. The rest of the time was spent at the beach near our hotel (Playa Grande) and of course, in the hammock.

3) Another thing that was great about El Manglar was the features that it offered for guess. There were four hotels/restaurants in walking distance (my favorite restaurant being Café Mar Azul), there’s a pool (but honestly, I can’t understand why you would want to swim in a pool when the beach is right there), and they rent out surfboards to guests who are experienced enough😋. So we had it planned, our last two days were devoted to two things: surfing and relaxing.


I found the perfect 6’4 fiberglass red and yellow board which I adopted for the days to come. I was up at sunrise (which is around 5:30) ready to go and expectedly, the waves are unlike anything you will ever see in Charleston. They are perfect and I was blissful. Everyone is so friendly in the area and I made tons of friends with people I met on the waves.

4) Day four resembled Day 3 regarding the surfing and siesta, but later in the day we planned to go into Tamarindo which is the densely populated tourist-trap city nearby (we didn’t expect that though). The city was a beach walk away across an estuary that you have to take a (literally) 30 second boat ride across because there are crocodiles- nonetheless, we still saw people swimming close by. The first thing that struck me about the city was the advertising. Immediately when we stepped foot on the beach (just on the other side from our peaceful beach town) there are people bombarding you trying to sell tickets to spear fish, freshly-rolled cigars, and handmade bracelets. On every street corner there were kebabs being grilled, vendors with jewelry, dreamcatchers, and beaded accessories lining the roads. All of the stores are either restaurants or souvenir shops. I am glad that we visited this city and I think that there are benefits to staying here, but in our case, our little beach town was perfect.

Next, I wanted to include a Food Diary. In general, I kept a journal of my trip where I wrote a few pages a day about everything that I did, all of the discoveries that I made, and of course, everything that I ate. I tried to stick to the traditional Costa Rican cuisine- partly because I was wanted to “get out there” but also because I love beans and rice. I had coconut tofu curry on the first day. On the second we stopped in a local supermarket on the way to our hike and I got a strawberry pastry which was just a fresh strawberry pastry and unbelievably good. I also got an aloe drink (partly because I was dehydrated and fell victim to the advertisements) which was also really good (but somewhat suspicious). After our hike, I had my first traditional dish, which was beans and rice and a small salad with two blocks of cheese on the side which I thought was interesting (I think might be called Turrialba cheese).

The Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree.

On the second day we made breakfast from some of the fruit we had gotten from local fruit stands (pineapple was the best fruit that I had this entire stay) and after our ATV tour I got arroz con camarones at the local restaurant which is rice and shrimp and had a salad on the side. Later, as a snack we got frozen strawberry lemonades and patacones to share which have a green plantain base with a black bean mixture, cheese, and pico de gallo on top. The next morning we went out to breakfast and I got Gallo Pinto which is the typical Costa Rican breakfast: eggs, rice and beans, fried plantains, and fruit (watermelon and pineapple) and later in the day I got the typical Costa Rican dinner, Casado: rice and beans, (Turrialba?) cheese, a small salad, fried plantains, and a choice of protein (I got sea bass). The next day after working up an appetite surfing, my sister and I walked to the local cafe where we got strawberry banana smoothie bowls with peanut butter, dark chocolate chips, coconut shavings, and granola. When we got back from Tamarindo we stopped by Café Mar Azul (probably our third time here) where I got sea bass (with garlic and butter) with vegetables and mashed potatoes. This restaurant also had banana bread ice cream sundaes and amazing carrot cake (also if you go, you have to talk to Jorge).

Lastly, here are some things that I noticed during my stay in Guanacaste.

  • In Playa Grande specifically, everyone who lives in the area meets up at the end of the day on the beach for the sunset.
  • The birds, cows, horses, and stray dogs don’t run away from people or cars, everything seems to live in a state of harmony.
  • There are fruitful trees everywhere and there is fallen fruit lining most streets of the city- mostly mangoes.
  • The typical house in Guanacaste is colorful with a tin roof.
  • The common phrase in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida” and it is said when greeting someone, when departing, and when showing appreciation. It is basically a filler phrase that people are saying all of the time.
  • There are clothes lines everywhere (which I guess is to be expected if locals aren’t using washers and dryers), but this was definitely a shock to see so common.
  • That most schools in the area have uniforms and the ones that we saw were khakis with bright green polos. From the outside of the schools, they look beaten down and open but then if you see the kids walking around, you see people with EOS chapstick and wearing Apple earbuds.
  • Most supermarkets or “tiendas” do not carry produce and usually, there are fruit stands nearby that are specialized to these products.
  • They have raised graves in cemeteries because of flooding.
  • Health care and university are free in Costa Rica.
  • There is a lot of construction going on (at least in the Guanacaste province) and most of it is being done by Nicaraguan people.
  • Conservation is a priority in the country. Everywhere we went we could only use metal and paper straws, they put our smoothie bowls in boxes, and our hiking guide told us that in Costa Rica, “the government pays people not to touch the trees.”