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Living in Costa Rica: a 6-month review

Pacific oceans crashing into the seashell beach

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.

  • Mistico hanging bridges waterfall la Fortuna
  • Ziplining in Monteverde
  • Ziplining injury
  • Nesting sea turtle in Ostinal

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!)

Welcoming Visitors to our Costa Rican Home

We were very excited to welcome our first visitors since living in Costa Rica. When we announced we would be moving, we had many people say that they wanted to come to visit us. We were a bit skeptical that anyone would actually come (it’s far, it’s expensive, people have been before). To our pleasant surprise, we have a line-up of visitors coming to Costa Rica and we are so excited to show off our new home.

  • Playa blanca
  • Pozo verde

In the past two months, we have had three sets of visitors. It’s been refreshing to be able to connect with familiar faces in unfamiliar places and catch up with our friends and family that we haven’t seen in a while. Any sense of homesickness was cured by spending time with our people.

We very much enjoyed showing off our home, our (my) Costa Rican driving skills, particularly up the steep and pot-hole covered roads to Monteverde, and some of our favourite spots in Costa Rica. I’d like to think that I’ve become a pretty excellent tour guide in the San Jose area (reviews pending). While Rob worked, I took several rounds of visitors to the Starbucks farm (a very cool experience with beautiful scenery) and am now on a first-name basis with the staff there.

  • Starbucks hacienda Alsacia Coffee farm Costa Rica

Exploring New Parts of Costa Rica

Because we’ve had so many visitors and no one wants to spend their whole vacation in San Jose, we’ve been able to do lots of travelling to parts of Costa Rica we haven’t explored yet. In the past two months, we’ve visited Monteverde, La Fortuna, and Nosara, returned to Manuel Antonio and did some day trips near San Jose.

Monteverde

Monteverde is up in the mountains and in a cloud most of the time. It is not the sunny, warm Costa Rica you generally imagine. But it is green, lush and perfect for those who dislike the sun (vampires and computer programmers). We went to Selvantura Park where we walked along the hanging bridges through the rainforest and then did ziplining. Highly recommend! We also went hiking in the Monteverde Cloud Forest where you can see the continental divide…except that it is a cloud forest so you mostly just see cloud and have to imagine what the valley looks like it.

We also went to a coffee farm to do a farm. It was on this tour that I was attacked by an army of ants. An actual army! My grey shoes looked black there were so many ants attacking them. It also presented another example of Erica being terrible in a crisis and Rob having to swoop in to fix it. A common theme in our adventures.

  • Hiking through the rain in Monteverde cloud forest
  • Views from Monteverde mountains
  • Walking the hanging bridges in Monteverde
  • Rainforest in Monteverde cloud forest
  • Monteverde cloud forest

The highlight was probably Taco dog – a dog we first met at Taco Taco restaurant (excellent, by the way!) hence the name Taco dog. But then, Taco dog appeared all over town, at every cafe and restaurant we went to. And that is the story of our first animal friend we made in Costa Rica.

Taco dog
Taco Dog

La Fortuna

  • La Fortuna hanging bridges in the fog
  • Big trees in Arenal National Park
  • Mistico hanging bridges waterfall la Fortuna

We also were able to visit La Fortuna which was high on my list of places to go. La Fortuna is most famous for the stunning Arenal volcano and the many hot springs. Unfortunately for us, it was raining for most of our time there and we only saw a tiny glimpse of the volcano for about 30 seconds as we left town. We were able to do a couple of hikes in the Arenal National Park and went to Mistico Hanging Bridges to walk through the rainforest. One of the perks of visiting hot springs is that you are already sitting in water, so it makes for an excellent rainy day activity.

I have to admit, after some of the steep hikes we’ve been on lately, the Arenal Park hikes were a boost to my confidence. I had been feeling so out of shape (because I am) after our last few outings on hikes that were much harder and intense than I anticipated. These Arenal hikes were fairly flat with decent trails and I barely broke a sweat even though we were cracking 15,000 steps each day.

Nosara

We both took a day off to have a long weekend to go to Nosara which is on the Nicoya Peninsula and about a five and a half-hour drive from San Jose. Although I may have put in the wrong Nosara in Google maps which added some time to our journey. Nosara is more remote than most places we’ve travelled to in Costa Rica. None of the roads are paved. They are covered in mucho dust and are generally full of pot-holes. With that being said, it was stunningly beautiful and one of my favourite places we’ve visited.

Nosara is also a ‘blue zone‘, so on top of it being beautiful, visiting might help us live longer. Our real purpose for this two was two-fold: to go surfing and to try to see the sea turtle arribada (mass migration to nest on one beach). Our surfing outing was not as successful as the last one. In part because we decided to try without a surf instructor. Turns out, we need a surf instructor. It was still a blast though.

Our turtle outing was much more successful than our surfing outing. We were able to see a baby sea turtle safety make it into the ocean with some guidance and much encouragement from us. We also saw a ton of mama turtles coming to shore to create a nest and lay eggs. It actually was an incredible experience to watch and I would highly recommend it to anyone coming to Costa Rica.

Day Trips

starbucks farm

To max out our time living in Costa Rica, we are trying to see and do as much as possible so we plan weekend day trips. So far, we have:

  • Hiked Prussia Park which is actually part of Irazú National Park. Here we hiked through a eucalyptus forest and a pine forest and both smelled incredible. The pine forest definitely was a little reminder of home.
  • Hiked the mountains in Escazu that we can see from our balcony. Much steeper and most definitely the wrong trail, but still gave us incredible views of San José from a new perspective.
  • Visited the rightfully titled ‘most haunted building in Costa Rica‘. The Duran Sanatorium was created for patients with tuberculosis in the early 1900’s. Once people stopped getting tuberculosis, they stopped caring for the building and now is left abandoned and haunted with little girl ghosts and healing nun ghosts. Or so they say…
  • We finally explored downtown San José. Since living here in Costa Rica, we hadn’t actually spent any time in the heart of the city. So, we walked around on a Saturday morning and got to experience the hustle and bustle of the downtown core.
  • sanitarium in Costa Rica

Making Social Connections

One of the hardest things about moving to a new place is the lack of a social network and connections. We were lucky that Rob was coming to a workplace where he knew lots of his colleagues and they have all been very welcoming and inclusive. And while Rob gets to socialize with people all day, my work from home routine has me lacking the level of human connection that I desperately crave.

We are generally advocates for #nonewfriends because it’s hard enough finding time to keep up with existing friends and we love our existing friends. But put us in a new country with no friends and we become very willing to break the #nonewfriends pact. But how the heck do you make friends as an adult?!

Through joining several local Facebook groups and pushing to be more proactive with social activities, we have been able to start building our own little social network. I found a yoga class up the road from our condo and am connecting with fellow yogis.

Whether it’s going for a hike with a group, grabbing a coffee, going to a yoga class or even going furniture shopping, these opportunities to connect with people have really started to make Costa Rica feel like home.

friends

Next…

We are actually heading back to Canada for the holidays and very much looking forward to connecting with friends and family…and snow! Hopefully, we can find our winter jackets somewhere among our belongings.

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