Your bare feet are nestled in soft, warm sand. A gentle breeze flutters your hair at your temples, and the even, soothing lap of clear Gulf water washing up and down is the only thing on your mind. You can just make out a relaxed reggae rhythm beyond the rustles and trills of the birds in the trees behind you. The air is humid, and it wraps itself around your deeply-tanned legs as you take a few leisurely steps to dip your toes into the cool, sparkling surf.
Your love slips a sandy arm around your waist, and the two of you amble in the direction of the town, following your ears to the source of the music. As the melody comes into focus, you pass a few stalls along the gravel road selling handmade jewelry. You choose a beautiful and unusual necklace made from seeds of three different colors, and pass a few dollars-worth of Costa Rican colones to the smiling, dark-haired woman behind the table. Still making your way toward the music, you come to a shaded cabana serving cold beer and slushy, fruity aguas frescas. You’re amused to hear the twinkly-eyed man serving your drinks has an American accent. “I came here for a two-week vacation with my wife,” he says, when you introduce yourselves. “That was three years ago. We never went home. Can you blame us?” He laughs good-naturedly as he motions to the paradise all around you.
Why honeymoon in Costa Rica?
Costa Ricans have a famous motto, almost a real-life version of ‘Hakuna Matata’, and it’s pura vida. It literally translates to “pure life” in Spanish, but the meaning runs deeper than that. Stumbled upon a long-lost and much-missed old friend at the market? That’s pura vida. But missed your bus and had to walk home in the rain? That’s pura vida, too. Life is beautiful because of all its different facets, both happy and sad, joyful and frustrating. Costa Ricans embrace it all of it as part of one unforgettable experience. Years ago I spent a month living with a Costa Rican family in the suburb of San Pedro, and my host-mom would tell me “pura vida” when she saw how much I missed my family, it being my first trip outside the US. She also told me “tiene que relax!” when I would get stressed out. It’s pretty telling that the only English word she knew was “relax”, no?
In short, go to Costa Rica if you’re looking for a tropical adventure with a healthy helping of well-being on the side. Costa Rica is also one of the most peaceful spots in Latin America, both economically and politically (the military was abolished in the 1940s, and the government is a stable democracy). The people are very laid-back and friendly, and, as a bonus, they don’t roll their rr’s– newlyweds who may have had trouble with that particular pronunciation point in Spanish class will be at an advantage!
What can we do in Costa Rica?
Tienen que ‘relax’ in Puerto Viejo! Puerto Viejo is the reggae-infused, beachy paradise described above. It’s on the Caribbean side in the southern province of Limón, and its natives speak a musical, tropical-flavored version of English that will take some getting used to. Rent a hammock on the beach for a starry snooze on a romantic night outdoors. Learn to surf, or snorkel your way through the crystal clear, bathwater-warm Caribbean coast. At night, move your hips like the locals at an outdoor nightclub. Know how to salsa? You’ll fit right in! Got two left feet? Pura vida! Shimmy your way in there anyway, and laugh the night away.
Ziplining in Manuel Antonio National Park. Don’t miss this one! Rumor has it, ziplining was invented in Costa Rica, and it won’t take you long to see why. Spend the day sailing through cool green canopies, where you see all kinds of amazing plants and wildlife. Chances are it’ll take a few goes to get the hang of it, so enjoy a few big laughs with your tour group as you inevitably stop 10 feet from the end of the line (and a guide comes out to “rescue” you). In no time at all, though, you’ll be zipping along like a pro, and when you break through the canopy on that last, long zip, look to your left at the breathtaking view over the top of the forest as you whoosh through the air. Ziplining is also ridiculously inexpensive in Costa Rica– only $65 per person at the one I tried, here.
Unwinding at the Tabacón hot springs and resort. Imagine meandering through the cascade of a warm, mineral-rich waterfall, steam rising around the two of you as you sink into total relaxation, the music of crickets and bubbling streams echoing through the trees. No need to stay at the resort to enjoy the hot springs, but if you’re looking for a bit of luxury, why not indulge in their honeymoon package? Check out the full-service spa while you’re there, too.
And so much more! Chances are you’ll fly into the capital, San José, so be sure to check out the Mercado Central where you’ll be overwhelmed with a huge selection of locally-made crafts, and lots of things to eat, too. Love coffee? Costa Rica is famous for theirs, so why not take a coffee tour at Café Britt (try the addicting chocolate-covered beans and caramelized nuts, too). Want even more paradise? Take a catamaran out to the Tortuga islands for white beaches and swims in the turquoise Gulf of Nicoya. Go horseback riding, go surfing, learn to paddle board, to repel, to scuba dive. And of course, add all of it to your wanderable.com registry!
Travel Tips for Costa Rica
Though it’s a very easy place to visit, going to Costa Rica is not like going to Hawaii– it’s important to remember that you’re in Latin America, so things are going to be a little different. Here are some tips to ensure you both have the time of your lives.
Don’t drink tap water in rural places. You’re totally fine in San José or one of its suburbs, or at any big resort– the water there is delicious and safe. When you’re in Puerto Viejo, though, keep a few bottles of clean water on-hand.
Get some mosquito repellent. Malaria isn’t a problem in most parts of Costa Rica, but no one likes to be itchy.
Know your currency. There are about 500 Costa Rican colones to the dollar. It helped me to remember to multiply the Costa Rican price by 2 and remove three zeros to get the price in dollars. For example, a bottle of shampoo might cost 1500 colones: 1500 x 2 = 3000, and delete three zeros to get $3.
Don’t flush the TP. Like many places in Latin America, Costa Rican plumbing can’t handle paper. See that basket next to the toilet? Wrap it up neatly and leave it there. It sounds gross, but you’ll get used to it.
On buses, just ask. Often stops are not clearly marked or announced. Not sure where to get off? Let your driver know where you’re going when you get on, and he’ll stop for you.
Cross with care. Traffic laws seem to be mere suggestions in San José and its suburbs; drivers will often tap their horns as a warning to pedestrians as they barrel through a red light. For your first couple days, wait to cross with a big pack of locals until you get the hang of it.
Eat fruit! Costa Rican fruit is mind-blowing, particularly mango, pineapple and watermelon. Be wary of street vendors, though– stick to fruit you can cook or peel unless it’s coming from a nice restaurant or a resort. Irrigation practices are different in Latin America, and our sensitive US stomachs can’t always handle it.
- Visit November through February for less rain.
If you’re a bit picky, book ahead. Do some research when you plan places to rest your sun-bleached head. A lot of the lodging available in rural parts of Costa Rica is very basic (read: no hot water), so if the rustic life is not for you, make your reservations early.
My goodness! Writing for this blog is really making me antsy to get back out there and travel. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks next week!