It has been difficult to write out my experience in Costa Rica. I never believed a week could change a person, but this week has impacted me and given me courage and strength to combat fears. Upon returning, I plan to carry the momentum to make some major changes in my life. But first, let’s dive into my week in Costa Rica!
After landing, I have to admit that I was slightly terrified. A completely foreign land lay before me and I was alone. But this experience has forever inspired and transformed me. I can honestly tell you that I fell more in love with Costa Rica each day. Every day brought new adventures and beauty. I am so grateful.
I made the decision to book this trip back in March. Mainly because I had the urge to get away. I was about to turn 25 and I wanted to celebrate that milestone. But it wasn’t just a birthday that motivated me to travel, I had also been feeling stuck. Stuck in the same routine week after week, and I needed to shake things up in a major way.
I wanted to go somewhere I had never been, somewhere that was unknown for me, but a place that offered sun, beach, and adventure. I was turned on to Costa Rica through Erin’s post about her trip to Playa Carmen. The way she described her time there really resonated with me and I knew this was the place. Playa Carmen is located on the Nicoya Peninsula, on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. It is nestled between Mal Pais and Santa Teresa, but it all melds together. It is a big surf spot with a quiet beach town vibe, well off the beaten path.
To get to Playa Carmen I took a small 15 seat plane to Tambor. The flight was only 25 minutes and the view was spectacular. The air strip is right on the water, so as we were landing it was as if we were riding a wave in. From there I took a taxi to Playa Carmen. It was a 45 minute ride along bumpy, dusty, dirt roads. My driver spoke no English, but with the small amount of Spanish I know and lots of hand guestures, we were able to communicate (barely). He was such a nice guy though. I ended up calling him to drive me back to Tambor for my return flight.
I stayed at Casa Colina, a B&B. I absolutely love and adore this house. It’s set up on a hill, which leaves you sweaty and out of breath each time you ascend, but it is worth it. I woke up each morning with a view of the tree tops and Pacific ocean and went to sleep to the sound of waves crashing. I grew to love the loud racket of howler monkeys, birds, roosters, and dogs in the early morning. Those darn things are so loud that it took a couple days of getting used to , but I actually miss it.
My days started with an early morning walk on the beach and/or dip in the ocean then back in time for breakfast. The owner and resident of the house prepared breakfast every morning at 8:30. Sadly, they were not vegan, but a fresh plate of fruit and coffee accompanied each meal and I ate that right up. I bought oats, almond milk, and peanut butter at the local market and had that each morning, which gave me the energy to tackle each day. So much happened over the course of one week that it felt like I was there for much longer. I truly savored every moment.
I learned how to surf for the first time. And by surf I mean being able to get up and ride the whitewash. It was thrilling! Once I got the motions down I was able to get up pretty consistently. The feeling was incredible. I ended up renting a board later in the week and went out a couple of times with a couple from Germany, Ellen and Daniel, who were also staying at Casa Colina.
I took a day trip to Tortuga Island for snorkeling! It was a top notch day. I saw schools and schools of fish, eels, a puffer fish, and an octopus! Fresh pineapple and watermelon was served on the boat and lunch on the island was fresh and light!
The island was beautiful. I rented a stand up paddle board and braved the wavy ocean. It was a tad windy that day and fell flying backwards twice! No harm done, thankfully it was sunny and hot so I had no problem getting wet.
The day ended with a spectacular sun setting boat ride back to shore. Dolphins included.
I went canopying through the jungle…flying superman and hanging upside down. So much fun. I’ve been zip-lineing before, but this blew everything out of the water.
On Wednesday, I rented a quad and rode to Montezuma. Before I get into this ridiculous day, I want to make note that things are done a little differently in Costa Rica. Policy is not as strict and there is more of a “do what you want” attitude about everything. I mean come on, their slogan is PURA VIDA, meaning “pure life.” So, when I went and rented my quad I did have to sign a waiver and put my credit card on file, but I was given no helmet and the guy who instructed me on how to use the quad spoke no English and just pressed some buttons showing me how to work it. I got on and he let me go.
The ride to Montezuma was something out of Jurassic Park. It was unreal. I actually pinched myself. I was having a blast riding around. At one point my hat came flying off. I stop the quad and turn it off to fetch my hat. When I go to start it again it would not turn on. I tried everything. I started to freak out. First, I am alone, without cell service, in no man’s land Costa Rica. Second, I was afraid I broke it and would have to pay an insane amount of money for damages. I start looking for help, yelling Hola!! I hear a car and go running back to the street to flag it down. It is an old local man (no English), but he gets out to help me anyways. He has no idea what to do. I start to accumulate a group of people who all stopped to help, but no one knows what to do. It finally clicks in my head. I see that the gear was in 4 and I knew I needed to get it down to neutral. Once I get it down it starts. I was beyond relieved! I start thanking everyone! I was glad to get out of that pickle!
Once in Montezuma, I hiked to the falls. There are a set of three waterfalls. The first is the largest. The water was so refreshing and standing under the falling water was peaceful and calming.
I hiked up farther to the other two smaller falls. I had fun swinging from ropes and jumping off cliffs. Jumping from the third to the second was probably one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done.
On the way back down, I ran into a tribe of howler monkeys. There were at least 15, babies too!
I worked up quite the appetite. In town I had a local favorite, fried plantains. The plantain looks like a banana, but cannot be eaten raw. So, often they are fried and served like chips. They are so good! But anything fried is good right?
The last two days were more mellow. My body needed to recover a little bit from the previous four days. Since it was 90 and super humid during the day, I hit the beach mornings and early evenings. I enjoyed the company of Ellen and Daniel. Ellen accompanied me to a sunset yoga class one evening. I can safely say that it was my favorite class I have ever taken. The studio was open and sat high on a hill, overlooking the ocean. I loved the teacher’s style, it was perfect.
On my last night I said goodbye to Costa Rica on horseback, as the sun set. It was my first time riding a horse, but no instructions were given, I just got on. When the horse started galloping for the first time, I freaked out a little.
The horses love mangos!!
The ride was so relaxing, peaceful, and filled with beautiful views. It was the perfect way to end my last day. My body and mind were at peace.
There was one last dinner with Ellen and Daniel. One last walk and swim in the ocean. And one last breakfast before I headed back to the States.
I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. On my way home I was in total bliss. This experience, the people I met, and the country of Costa Rica is something I will treasure always.