We spent six months living in Costa Rica in 2015, staying at an off grid jungle homestead owned by our friend Matthew Human. While most of our time there was spent on the land gardening and doing some building projects, we did manage to travel around the country a bit. Costa Rica is a beautiful place, with a rich diversity of bio regions, incredible exotic wildlife, and very nice people. I made a compilation video with clips from some of our adventures, and I've put together some photo galleries of the various places we visited during our time there.
Our work on Human's homestead and with the two ecovillages we were connected with there is covered in a different article. This is just the tale of some of our adventures in the jungles, mountains, and on the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica, starting off with a compilation video.
We were delighted to spend time with some family in Costa Rica during our time there. My dad works in travel, and he just happened to be leading two separate tours to Costa Rica that year. We went out to meet him on both occasions, enjoying getting to see the more tourist version of Costa Rica. Laura's sister Jurate also came down to visit us, and we went on a couple of trips with her. One of these overlapped with my Dad's second visit, at Arenal.
More pictures of our stay in the Arenal area
Cara Cara National Park
We enjoyed a day trip visit to Cara Cara National Park, which was just down the road from where we lived. Aside from the many denizens of the jungle, we were practically alone in the park, with few other visitors there that day.
The closest beach to where we lived was Jaco. Jaco is a pretty typical tourist town, and we generally preferred the beaches nearby outside of town because they were less crowded, though we enjoyed being able to find quality food in the town. We drove down several times.
The Tarcoles River is an amazing place. Teeming with wildlife, and surrounded by lush green landscapes and rolling hills, it gives us a glimpse of what life might have been like before humans came around and changed everything. Ironically, one of the best views of this river can be had from a bridge, built by us meddling humans. (Not everything humans do is bad!)
We crossed this bridge often, and we usually stopped get out so we could look down at the crocodiles which congregate beneath it. We also took a boat trip down the river to view other wildlife with one of my dad's tour groups. It was a beautiful experience.
The community where we lived was located along the Rio Machuga, and we walked down to the water to swim regularly, with many different great swimming holes to choose from. Sometimes we'd drive further upriver as well, where there were more great access points. A favorite spot was a place with several really nice waterfalls, one which was a perfect natural slide. This was near an old mine shaft, which I went in and explored with some of the kids.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Also during my dad's visit to Costa Rica, we went with his group to the Manuel Antonio National Park. During this time we stayed in one of the fanciest hotels I have ever stayed in, and we enjoyed a wonderful walking tour the vibrant jungle park, which culminated at a beautiful secluded (except for all the tourists, of course) beach. At one point I was walking along and a monkey dropped a piece of fruit he was eating, right beside me. Without even thinking, I picked it up and handed it back to him. He didn't say thank you aloud, but it was almost as if he did, the way he gave me a bit of a head nod. We also saw several sloths, some poison frogs, some Jesus Christo lizards (thus named because they walk, or rather run, on water), and several types of tropical birds.
Orotina was the nearest town of any size to where we lived. It was a pretty town, which I enjoyed walking around and exploring. We were glad to be able to get a fairly decent selection of organic food at the Peri Mercado, and they had a nice farmer's market once a week as well. One thing I liked about Orotina was that it was not at all a tourist destination, so we had a much more authentic feel of life in Costa Rica there. Boy did we get some looks walking down the streets, with four bright blonde heads of hair. Lila, who was only two at the time, was admired by just about everybody, particularly the abuelas, who couldn't get enough of her.
Even though we lived less than an hour away, we spent very little time in San Jose, which is the biggest city in Costa Rica. I suppose this should come as no surprise, as we are not exactly big city kinds of people. We did enjoy going to the Feria Verde, the organic farmer's market that was held there every Saturday. I don't think I've been to a bigger or more lively farmer's market, anywhere.
Our good friend Lisa has a family farm in Miramar, not too far from where we lived. We went with her to visit one day, having a wonderful time exploring the farm and taking a trip down to the Rio Seco (which, in spite of its name, was not dry) where we enjoyed a lovely soak in the clean waters and a nice walk along the rocky banks.
During Jurate's visit we took a trip up north into Guanacaste, a part of Costa Rica I had never been to. I was surprised to learn that in this area, the northwestern part of Costa Rica, it is practically a desert. It reminded me a lot of the hill country in Texas, only there were incredibly beautiful beaches, many of which we visited as we toured about.
Puntarenas was another beach town fairly close to where we lived, though we spent little time there, as it was not as nice or as clean as Jaco. I happened to spend two full days there, however, when I went to buy a car for us, not long after we arrived in the country. I bought from another American expat who was selling his Isuzu on Craigslist, only it was not easy getting the bank transfer to go through. I spent hours on the phone with my bank just trying to get authorization for it, and even after I jumped through all the necessary hoops and the money was sent, it didn't show up in his account for several more hours, and this was on my second day in town. Fortunately, I like exploring new towns and cities, so I had a good walk about, getting a good sense of what life in Puntarenas is like.
The closest town to our jungle abode was San Mateo. It was a very small town, with not much more to it than a park, a church, and some little mini-super kinds of stores. I don't think we ever shopped there during our stay in Costa Rica, but we did drive through it a lot, and we went to a couple of events in the park there.
Owing to the state's monopoly on violence and their absurd imaginary lines, we had to leave the Costa Rica every three months on what's called a visa run. We went to Nicaragua twice for this purpose, and it was always a huge waste of money, paying fees at every stop, at both borders, and bribing officials so that we wouldn't have to stay out of Costa Rica the mandated 72 hours. On our second visit to Nicaragua, we actually spent a bit of time exploring the city of San Carlos.
We very much enjoyed our time in Costa Rica. It is a beautiful country with great people, and we made some very good friends. We are particularly thankful that our girls had the opportunity to live in another country, particularly one where the standard of living is different from what's called the first world. No amount of academic education can impress upon children a real life awareness that comes from exposure to other cultures. We don't think we will live in Costa Rica again, though we certainly hope to go back for another visit before too long.