The views from our condo never get old. No matter the time of day, there is a beautiful view. Seeing the sunset over the mountains, the lights of the city beginning to twinkle and the sky begins to darken, the full moon dipping below the horizon in the early hours of the morning.
I have always loved mountains. Being able to look outside and see mountains all around us brings a smile on even the worst day.
I thought I’d share some of my favourite views from our home.
When the global pandemic reached Costa Rica, like in many other countries, everything came to a halt. We have both been working from home and staying inside. However, one can only stay inside for so long. So, we started going on afternoon walks to explore our neighbourhood which, admittedly, we haven’t really done since we moved here. For the majority of our time here, we drove to most places which can be a rather stressful experience (read about our driving experience here). Exploring on our feet has been much more therapeutic.
In this process of exploring the neighbourhood, we have found so many beautiful sights that I thought I’d share with you here.
It’s been a while since we’ve provided an update on life in Costa Rica. I don’t know about you, but for us, 2020 has already felt like the equivalent of 7 years. How is it only May? And how is it that we’ve already been in Costa Rica for 11 months.
Starting 2020 with a Bang…or more accurately, a cough
2020 didn’t particularly get off to a good start for me, given that I caught the flu on Christmas day that proceeded to completely take me out for nearly two weeks (ie. the whole time we were home for a visit). I was essentially the ghost of Christmas vacation and while I was physically present in Canada, I was rarely seen. The flu was no joke and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I (eventually) recovered just in time to fly to Northwest Territories for a work trip where it was a balmy – 40 (celsius).
2020 was full of plans for visitors and festivals and birthday trips. Our friends Jackie, Jon and baby Allison were our first visitors of 2020 spending two weekends with us in San José bookending their trip to Santa Teresa (one of my favourite beach towns). We are getting pretty good at showing off the best parts of San José now.
A few days after our first visitors left, we had another visitor arrive. One of my friends from my uOttawa days, Emily, came and stayed with us for a few days before her family met her here for their family vacation. Emily is one of those friends that years can go by without seeing each other or talking and you pick up right where you left off. I was able to take a couple of days off and do some day trips with Emily, showing her Irazu volcano and the Orosi hot springs.
We also went to La Paz waterfall which I hadn’t been to before. La Paz has several beautiful waterfalls, gardens and animals. There are also baby snakes we discovered while Emily unknowingly stepped on it. We don’t talk about that though…
Soon after we parted with Emily, I had to fly back to Canada for work. I spent another week in Yellowknife with a stopover in Calgary and a week in Toronto. In between work commitments, I was able to visit with friends that I wasn’t able to properly catch up with over Christmas.
Not long after I got back from Canada, we had our next round of visitors arriving. The first of which almost didn’t make it here. Looking at you, Sera!
Sera had planned to come visit us in Costa Rica in the middle of February so that we could go to Envision Festival together and so, she booked her trip the previous August when she found a sweet seat sale for flights to San José. About 5 days before Sera was to arrive in San José, she discovered that her flight was, in fact, to San Jose, California…not Costa Rica.
So after immediate panic and many phone calls with airlines, she was able to get another flight to Costa Rica that was much more complicated and landed her in Liberia, rather than San José. After a few more bumps in the plan and with much doubt that we would ever see her again, Sera arrived to our condo safe and sound.
After a couple of days hanging out in San José, and two all-nighters to get my work done, Sera and I were off to Envision Festival on the pacific coast. This festival is a bit hard to explain in a paragraph, but it was definitely an experience I will never forget. It was hot. It was loud. But it was also very peaceful. We would spend each morning and afternoon at the festival, attending workshops on things like ‘manifesting like a motherf*cker’, fungi and mycelium, yoni steaming and yoni eggs, and of course, yoga. We’d watch the sunset over the ocean and dance the night away to music we’d never heard before. In a nutshell, it was magical and weird and there is no one else I’d rather Envision with than Sera…so I’m very glad she didn’t end up in San Jose, California.
Once we got back from Envision, we unpacked and then re-packed for a beach trip with more visitors, Liam and Julia. We planned on meeting up with Liam and Julia in Santa Teresa, so Rob, Sera and I drove there from San José on what was a very interesting drive… This drive could be shorter and involve crossing less rivers if you catch the ferry, but we missed it (both directions).
We rented an AirBnB in Santa Teresa for a few days for our crew of 5 and then stayed in a beautiful bungalow at a yoga retreat centre. We spent most of our days at the beach; surfing, digging holes (mostly Rob) and drinking iced coffee. It is here we discovered the most delicious frozen banana coffee. Maybe if you are lucky, I’ll write a post dedicated the the drink that changed my world!
When we weren’t at the beach, we were in the pool at the AirBnB or binging Love Is Blind because… #priorities (note: did you know that Jessica is 34 and Mark is 24?!?!). We would have dinners at beachfront restaurants (or at the AirBnB when Liam cooked for us) and watch the sunset with some tropical bevies. We also took a day trip to visit Montezuma waterfall which ended with lunch and much deserved cold beers after a very hot afternoon hike.
One night, we had our own Costa Rica wine clüb at a local wine bar. What does this involve? Glad you asked. We told the wine bar owner our theme, “Love is Blind” (obviously) and asked them to pick two bottles of wine that they thought best captured the theme. They did not disappoint. Then they had us guess what ‘variety’ of wine the bottle was. What they didn’t know is that we aren’t a fancy wine clüb and can barely tell the difference between a white and a rosé, but we all had some good laughs and even better wine.
On our last day, before leaving Santa Teresa, we found some tide pools to snorkel around it. We swam around with lots of little fish in the most beautiful, clear water. Liam, the ultimate sea creature spotter, even found a little hiding octopus. After being one with the fish, we had lunch and started our adventure back to San José.
The Last of our Visitors
We had a couple more days with Liam and Julia in San José before they flew back to Canada. Both Rob and I had to go back to work, so we set Liam and Julia up with our DIY San José coffee tour map and recommendations for our favourite restaurants and sent them on their way to explore. After being properly caffeinated and having our last dinner together, they were on their way back to Canada.
Right after Liam and Julia left, some of Rob’s colleagues came to Costa Rica to work out of the office here for a couple weeks. Most of them had never been to Costa Rica before, so we took some time to show them around to our favourite market, a close national park and hot springs…then the pandemic hit and they had to head back to Canada early and that was the last of our visitors…
At this point, it was the middle of March and we had several plans in the works to make the most out of our last few months in Costa Rica, but have largely remained inside our condo since then.
Both of our birthdays are in March, so we wanted to get out of the city and do some surfing trips for our birthday. We were making plans to visit Bocas Del Toro in Panama for Easter but once the borders closed, we knew that wasn’t an option. We had other friends who were planning on coming to visit us in April, but due to the events of the world and border closures, that trip had to be cancelled. Sad, but necessary.
Like for many others, the global pandemic has throw us for a loop. We are lucky to be safe and healthy and have been pleasantly surprised with how Costa Rica has responded to COVID-19. But I’ll save my public health perspectives on a global pandemic for another post.
There is consensus on the internet that driving in Costa Rica is unpleasant, to say the least, and should be avoided at all costs. I did my research. I read that. But to live in San Jose means to drive in San Jose. So, you adapt.
I can’t believe that we’ve already been living in Costa Rica for six months. We are halfway through our one-year abroad and have already experienced so much and yet, have many more things to check off our Costa Rica Wanderlist. Life definitely looks different for us these days since moving here and adapting to the Pura Vida lifestyle. You can read about how living in Costa Rica has changed our lifestyle here.
Since our last update on life in Costa Rica, we’ve experienced even more corners of Costa Rica, welcomed several visitors, explored more of our city, met many sea turtles and made new friends (both, the animal and human kind). It’s been a busy couple of months and it has made time go by all too fast.
Highlights from months 4-6
Having lots of visitors that we got to show around Costa Rica (yay for friends and family!)
Making more social connections in San José (yay for new friends!)
Watching sea turtle laying eggs and the baby turtles hatching (a must if you are visiting Costa Rica)
Soaking in the famous hot springs of La Fortuna (heavenly!)
Seeing dolphins swim beside our catamaran in Manuel Antonio (fun fact: Flipper made me want to become a Marine biologist – this experience awoke that dream)
Halloween in San Jose (handing out candy for the first time ever!)
Jack Johnson concert in Costa Rica (a dream come true!)
Lowlights from Months 4-6
Getting attacked by army ants on a coffee farm (ouch!)
Getting stuck in San José traffic for 3 hours…on more than one occasion
(Almost) getting seasick on a catamaran tour that was more of a coast guard (a story for another day)
Getting a rash burn during a ziplining mishap (also, ouch!)
In case you were unaware, I love mountains. I love them for so many reasons: how beautiful they are, the challenge they pose when climbing them. But perhaps, mostly because they remind me how insignificant we are in all of the grandness that mother earth made them to be. Mountains always seem to bring me perspective. So, when I have a chance to hike a mountain, I take it.
Every day, I look at the Escazu Mountains (I actually don’t know what the mountain range is named) from the balcony in awe. I love watching the sun illuminate them in the mornings and hide behind it in the evenings. I love how the clouds hover over it like a blanket and how the city lights twinkle in the rolling hills below it. But I had only seen it from afar and I was itching to see it up close and personal.
So on a Sunday afternoon, we decided to hike the mountains in Escazu (a neighbourhood in San Jose). We wanted to do a “short and moderate” hike to see both, the mountain and the city, from a new perspective. It was anything but moderate and it may have been short but it was all vertical which made it feel very long.
Here are some photos that we documented along the journey:
Next time when we hike the mountains in Escazu, we will be more prepared and we will make it to the top. Until then, I’ll continue admiring the mountains from afar.
For a little country (compared to Canada), Costa Rica has so much to offer. Beautiful places, thrilling adventures, cute animals, and of course, coffee. It’s nearly impossible to see and do it all…but that is a challenge I am willing to accept. My adventure-loving heart is running wild and ready to take in all the magic that Costa Rica can offer. And that is where this Costa Rica WanderList comes into play.
Slow down, time! I can’t keep up! The last 4 months have been flying by. We are already a third of the way through our one year stay in Costa Rica.
So, what have we been up to since our last life update 2 months ago?
Where to even begin?
Well, it started with a short trip to Canada for Blue Skies and some quick visits. Since then, we’ve been hitting up beaches, we’ve hiked through some more national parks, we’ve tested many different types of coffee, my obsession with iced coffee has grown stronger, we killed some houseplants and bought some new houseplants, and we’ve continued making Costa Rica our home away from home.
I actually returned back to Canada for a whirlwind couple of weeks for work – hitting up 4 provinces/territories in 15 days (read about it here) fitting in as many visits with family and friends in between work trips. It was nice to be home with familiar faces and catching up on snuggles with Toby (our cat), but it was also nice to get back to Costa Rica and a slower pace of life.
We’ve been making the most of our weekends and utilizing some vacation days to create some long weekends for beach getaways.
I was invited along on one of Rob’s work beach trips to Punta Leona, which is a short hour and a half journey from San Jose. We stayed in an all-inclusive resort (how fancy!) and hung out with some KGers on the beach and in the hotel pool. And then both Rob and I lost our favourite sunnies to the ocean.
We went to the Tamarindo on the pacific coast in the Guanacaste region and beach-hopped for a couple of days, finding some of the most beautiful beaches and the most magical sunsets I’ve ever see. We also tested our surfing skills which we haven’t used since our honeymoon in Hawaii. Our surf skills weren’t horrible, and our surf lesson wasn’t a complete bust…except that Rob may have lost his wedding band to the ocean. So, if you are keeping a tally, that’s 3 for the ocean and 0 for Roberica.
We finally made it to the Caribbean sea with a weekend getaway in Puerto Viejo, something that has been on our bucket list since we arrived. We did the usual beach-hopping but also went to two animal sanctuaries: the Sloth Sanctuary and the Jaguar Rescue Centre (which, ironically, didn’t have any jaguars). I love seeing the work that is being done locally to help rehabilitate and conserve wildlife.
And it is true what they say – the Caribbean side definitely has a different feel than some other parts of Costa Rica. It’s much less developed (although development is happening) and has a more natural, cool vibes feel. And let it be known, Caribbean rice and beans are better than Gallo pinto. Yep, I said it.
To be honest, it was a bit overcast and threatened rain most of the weekend, so while we spent time at the beach and hanging outside with animals, we spent an equal amount of time eating and drinking at a bunch of different places. We had a very fancy dinner at one of the best restaurants in Costa Rica. We had chocolate cake for breakfast to celebrate my half birthday, of course. And I had tacos at any opportunity I could.
Life in San Jose
We aren’t always out exploring the far and wide corners of Costa Rica. Some of my favourite moments have been sitting on our balcony surrounded by mountains on a sunny morning, eating breakfast, drinking coffee and taking it all in. We’ve been hanging out in San Jose doing some fun activities here.
We took a mixology class with Rob’s team, where we perfected our cocktail making skills. I have to say, we can now make a mean margarita and mojito.
We attended the Weezer and Foo Fighters concert at the National Stadium. Costa Ricans looooove them some Foo Fighters.
We’ve tried out many of the local vegetarian restaurants and have found our favourite brunch spot.
We’ve embraced learning the local cuisine and have (almost) perfected the patacones dish. Our Gallo pinto still needs some work.
Spanish lessons are still in full force. I still suck but Rob is getting muy bueno.
Next on the Agenda
We are impatiently waiting for our first visitors next week and we are stoked to start showing people around Costa Rica. October will be filled with visitors which will allow us to do more exploring some of our favourite places and some new places we haven’t yet experienced.
When we moved to Costa Rica, I knew our life as we knew it would change. The life we have been living in Costa Rica certainly looks different than the one we live in Canada. Without trying and without really noticing, our day to day lifestyle has completely changed over the past 6 months.
Lifestyle Change 1 – Sleeping Patterns
The most obvious change in our sleeping pattern. In Canada, we would rarely be in bed before midnight and would struggle to get ourselves out of bed by 8 am to get to work. Weekends meant sleeping in till at least 10 and if we were lucky noon.
In Costa Rica, I am often in bed by 9 pm and wake up with the sun between 6 and 6:30 am…even on a weekend. Becoming a morning person has been very satisfying as I’ve tried to do this for years. This has also allowed us to maximize what we do in a day when we get off to an early start. More time at the beach, first ones to a national park, only ones on a trail. Turns out there are many perks with being a morning person in Costa Rica.
Lifestyle Change 2 – Cooking
I have never loved cooking. And living in Toronto provides ample opportunities to have any type of food possibly imaginable delivered to your doorstep, so why even bother making mediocre anything? We have gone from eating out 2-3 meals a day to cooking almost all our meals (except Rob’s lunches – those are still sourced from outside our kitchen).
There are several factors that have led to more home-cooked meals:
There are significantly less dining options within walking distance to our house and we try to avoid driving, if possible.
There is an abundance of incredible markets to buy fresh produce that is significantly cheaper than any other grocery store or restaurant.
We got a new vegan cookbook last year for Christmas and I made it my goal to cook every recipe in the book within one year. I’m not sure I’ll achieve that goal, but I’ll be close!!
We’ve been getting more creative in the kitchen and have learned to cook with new ingredients and experiment with new recipes that we rarely have all the right ingredients for.
Lifestyle Change 3 – Cat Lady to Plant Lady
We had to leave Toby (our cat) at home, and that left a void in our hearts. I also left my dying aloe plant because historically, I can’t keep a plant alive longer than a week. So, I bought plants. And then I bought more plants. And then I tried to buy more plants but Rob said we already had too many. Probably true but they make our concrete condo feel more like a lush jungle home.
On the plus side, I have three plants that are thriving. There may have been a few plant casualties in the process. Turns out plants are way harder to keep happy than a cat. But now, they are part of my routine. Each morning I water the plants that need to be watered, tell them how beautiful they are, and reposition them so they grow to be balanced and strong…just like Toby.
Lifestyle Change 4 – Transportation
We are used to living downtown Toronto where everything we need and want is within walking distance or a quick hop on a subway, streetcar, or bus. That is not so much the case for us in Costa Rica and so for the first time in our lives, we have a car.
Even though it is a shared car with one other person, we’re making it work. I have found having a car so freeing. Want to go to the beach for a night? Just hop in the car and go. Want to go for a morning hike in the mountains? Just hop in the car and go. Need to buy new furniture? Just hop in the car and go.
Public transit does exist here but it seems confusing and all I’ve heard about it is that it can be unsafe, particularly for gringos like us. Although, I wouldn’t say that driving in San José/Costa Rica is overly safe either, but I’ll leave those stories for another day.
Lifestyle Change 5 – Physical Activity
I wouldn’t say that either of us is generally physically active. But the biggest change is related to #4. In Toronto, we walked most places: to stores, to restaurants, to friends, to work (sometimes), to the subway. Walking was very much our mode of transportation. Given the limited walkability of our neighbourhood, very little day to day walking occurs. Rob drives to work…and I rarely leave the house.
Feeling like a blob most days, I’ve re-introduced yoga into my life. It is now part of my new early morning routine. It’s been a game-changer. And soon the rainy season will be behind us and swimming in our pool will be a new activity to add to the daily routine.
Another difference is that most weekends, we are way more active than we ever were in Toronto. From finding ourselves on hikes much more strenuous and challenging than anticipated to trying to surf waves that are far beyond our skill level, we make up for our lack of steps in the week on the weekends.
I’m sure there are 100 other ways our lifestyle has changed, but these ones have been the ones that have been most profound and maybe, more unexpected.
Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, every is different…
If you love sloths, beaches and biking, you are going to want to hear about our weekend in Puerto Viejo.
Rob and I had been wanting to make it to Puerto Viejo since we landed in Costa Rica. Neither of us had ever been to the Caribbean side of the country and had only heard incredible things. People always told us that it doesn’t feel like the rest of Costa Rica. And now that I’ve been, I tend to agree.
In honour of International Sloth Day, I thought I’d share some of the incredible Animal Sanctuaries that we’ve visited in Costa Rica. There is some great work happening across the country to conserve, rehabilitate and educate.
We’ve visited four different Animal Sanctuaries and each of them providing a unique and memorable experience.
Las Pumas Rescue Centre
The first rescue we visited was Las Pumas Rescue Centre which we serendipitously stumbled upon on our way home from Tamarindo. The Centre receives these animals as orphans or illegal pets. They have parrots, monkeys, toucans, pumas, ocelots, and white-tailed deer. Unfortunately, most of the animals have physical or behavioural limitations and are unable to be released into the wild.
This rescue, as indicated by the name, focused mostly on wild cats. You definitely wouldn’t want to come across these guys in the wild, so it was nice to get an up-close and safe view of them. I really wanted to get a good photo (doin’ it for the ‘gram), so I stuck my phone in between two fence links and nearly had it stolen by a hungry (and nearly blind) ocelot. Not my smartest moment, I’ll admit.
We were able to walk around the property on our own which I really liked. Each enclosure had signs about each animal, how they arrived at the centre and how they have been cared for. Every creature has a story and it generally isn’t a good one. However, it helps to know that they are now in a place that provides proper nutrition, stimulation, and somewhat of a natural environment.
The Sloth Sanctuary
On our way to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, we made a little pit stop at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. This place was high on my list as I have only seen sloths in the wild so far… which mostly just looks like a furry tree lump.
At the Sloth Sanctuary, you do a 2ish hour tour. The first part is a boat ride through little rivers through a dense forest. We spotted a little caiman crocodile swimming alongside us in the river and a couple of wild sloths up high in the trees. We also found several green Basilisk lizards, the little guys that run across water.
After cruising through the rivers, you visit with some sloths in their Learning Centre. The tour guide talked to us about the different types of sloths and what the greatest risk to sloths are (spoiler alert: it’s humans). It is quite sad hearing the stories of the sloths and how they ended up at the centre. Whether it is through electrocution, being hit by cars or kept as pets, human interference is negatively impacting the livelihood of sloths. This centre has two young two-fingered female sloths that were orphaned and now, identify as each others mother. Sad and cute all rolled into one.
Jaguar Rescue Centre
The Jaguar Rescue Centre has probably been my favourite so far. It is a volunteer-run rescue centre that has quite a large property where they focus on rehabilitating animals to release back into the wild. The irony with this place is that they don’t actually have any jaguars. Although, the animals that they have do have all depends on the animals in need.
To visit the rescue centre, there is a tour that you join where a volunteer walks you around the property, showing other volunteers caring for the animals in the most special ways. They also have a TON of the baby sloths and baby monkeys. I could not pull myself away from the baby sloths. Gosh, they are cute.
Toucan Rescue Ranch
Most recently, I visited the Toucan Rescue Ranch which is only half an hour from my house (depending on traffic). They have the best tour: ‘Slothies and Coffees’. In this tour, they provide breakfast and coffee and bring out the baby sloths. So you essentially drink delicious coffee and watch sloths play around and eat breakfast. THE BEST! It also includes a tour of the rest of the ranch where they have toucans, monkeys, an otter (Queen Emma), and owls.
I have to admit…I hate birds. In my opinion, birds are not to be trusted. BUT, the Toucans that they had at this rescue were pretty incredible and fascinating. It helped that they were in cages and couldn’t get me. The ranch generally receives the toucans after they have been kept as pets in very small cages. This causes them to have trouble flying and results in the inability to release them into the wild. However, they do have a breeding program, so they are able to release all the baby Toucans into the wild.
During this tour, I had to take a work call and ended up missing the end of the tour. This is where they brought out even more baby sloths. THEN there was a surprise engagement of two people on the tour. I’m not a big fan of public engagements but if you are going go that route, in front of baby sloths is an excellent choice.
If you are interested, the annual Sloth Ironman games are launching TODAY. Don’t miss the 1-metre race, the poop-off or the hibiscus eating contest. Head over to their Instagram account @toucanrescueranch to check it out. I have my money on this guy.
I love animals and I love to see the conservation and rehabilitation work being done locally. The illegal pet market seems to be alive and well here which means there are many wild animals being kept in unhealthy environments, tortured for the entertainment and pleasure of humans. Moral of the story, humans are terrible and sloths (and other animals) are the best.