Did you know that roughly three million years ago, Costa Rica (CR) rose from the ocean and formed a land bridge between North and South America? As species from these two vast biological provinces started to mix, the number of species was essentially ‘doubled’ making the country incredibly rich in flora and fauna.
My journey started in the capital city of CR – San Jose. Home to numerous museums, parks and cafes, the city is bustling with activity but it’s not where you want to spend your time. So, I headed to Puerto Viejo – the Caribbean coast of CR. Imagine a hippie bar on the beach with live music and lots of scantily dressed people drinking and dancing to the beats of local bands. The smell of grass is in the air, Guaro (local sugarcane liquor) is flowing and a fire show begins. It’s Poi, a form of fire dancing. Watching skillful performers play artfully with fire was a thrilling experience!
Puerto Viejo (PV) is alluring with stunning white sand beaches, everything tropical, a laid back culture and several surfing spots. That’s where Pura Vida comes from (generally the response to ‘How are you’). Along with five other friends, I stayed close to a quiet beach. We visited the Jaguar Rescue Center, a haven and treatment center for sick and injured exotic wild animals. If you are an animal lover and want to watch howler monkeys, sloths, snakes, birds or jungle cats, this is the place to go! The center believes in keeping animals in their natural habitat and so, as soon as they get well, they are encouraged to go back to the wild.
Three days were more than enough to enjoy PV. Next on the map was Manuel Antonio (MA). Home to over fifty Wharton students, MA had transformed into a drinking haven for those who had not gotten through any treks, GIPs, GMCs and ventures. Excitement began as soon as we arrived. An hour long ATV tour through a jungle and a hike in the rainforest followed by a dip in a waterfall was a fun adventure. Ticos (or Costa Ricans) eat rice and beans in almost every meal and even though I had grown into and out of it within a few days, the meal (Casados) post the tour was quite a delight. For all plantain lovers out there, CR is a paradise.
MA is home to a beautiful national park and several gorgeous beaches. Hiking through the park is a must and the blue waters of the Pacific are warm and soothing. Watch out for raccoons and white headed capuchin monkeys who flock the beach to steal food and often bully visitors into feeding them. MA has an active nightlife too though we chose to relax at home and play Wharton’s official game (Flip Cup, of course),
I headed back to San Jose for my last night where I met some acquaintances (locals) and learnt about the country’s economy and culture. CR has been developing at a healthy pace and the country’s infrastructure is already pretty good. With a population of less than five million and literacy more than 90%, the country measures high on several human development and environmental indices. Coffee, IT and tourism are big contributors to the economy and new industries including pharmaceuticals are coming up. The country seems to be headed in the right direction and at least for tourists like myself, it will continue to be a tropical paradise. Adios!