by Allison Fritz
Over winter break, I visited Costa Rica. This was my second time going to Costa Rica and I went with my family. Two years ago, in seventh grade, I went with my school. Both trips were very fun because there were different, even though we stayed in the same cities. I really enjoyed it last time I was there, but this time, I got to explore even more things and the memory is unforgettable. I decided to make a travel guide because I highly suggest going to this country.
How to Go:
For going to Costa Rica, I suggest going with a tour group. It is easy to get lost in a foreign country, especially if it is your first time there. Last time, I went with my friends and classmates. This time, my family and I went with a tour group called Caravan. At first, we were skeptical of joining. I was worried that it would be awkward with a bunch of random strangers, but to my surprise, there was a variety of different age groups and everyone in the group was friendly and nice. For transportation, I took a plane from Cleveland to Orlando, and then from Orlando to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. There are different routes and ways to get there but in our tour group, our route was the shortest, a total of four hours.
What to Wear:
Two years ago, I went in the summer, and this time, the winter. Both seasons are very warm, and to my surprise, they have about the same temperatures. In my experience, it is mostly around 72-80 degrees in both seasons, but some days could be hotter than others. There is a lot of sunshine, and occasionally some rain, but I’ve never been to Costa Rica in the rainy season, which is September and October.
In my opinion, the food in Costa Rica is very good. Last time, in seventh grade I only got to eat the main dishes. But this winter break my mom bought many snacks in the local supermarket. There was an interesting snack called Alboroto, and it was similar to caramel popcorn, but not as sweet, didn’t have the kernels that popcorn usually has, and had a brownish-reddish color. Another snack that I loved was the Plantain Chips and this time in Costa Rica I have found my new favorite type of chocolate: chocolate covered coffee beans. I am not a huge fan of coffee, but for some reason I just find these chocolates delicious. I can eat one after another and not get tired of them.
Their entrees usually consist of rice, some type of meat, vegetables, cooked plantains, and fresh fruit as well as some other dishes from around the world such as pasta. Instead of soft drinks, every restaurant had fresh fruit juice like mango or guava juice. I also really loved the ice cream there. For some reason, it tasted different than regular ice cream in the U.S. I ordered a combination of coffee and soursop ice cream which probably sounds questionable, but it was probably the best ice cream I’ve had.
Things to Do:
There are so many activities to do in Costa Rica such as zip-lining, visiting national parks, and white-water rafting. Even if you have nothing planned, the markets and stores around the cities are festive and have some interesting things to shop for. If you go to Manuel-Antonio for example, you can shop along the streets and then head to the beach which is just right there near the shops and restaurants.
In addition to rafting, you can surf, or parasail. If the ocean is not your thing there is horseback riding in the forest and you can rent ATVs. I didn’t do everything I listed, but this time, I had time to visit a shopping mall. Their shops were new and fresh, and had many interesting things that I have never seen before. We bought some ice cream, but they were also selling green mango shreds, so I tried some of that. Going to a mall also helped me understand more about daily life, because the tour I was with mostly took us to tourist locations, so I was glad that I got to experience some other places besides iconic tourist sites.
Many people are probably nervous about visiting a foreign country, but in my opinion, Costa Rica is really nice. Most of the people were very friendly and it was generally pretty safe. The beaches and most of the streets were clean; I barely saw any litter. They are very big on protecting the environment, so the animals are all safe and you can see a lot of wildlife because of this. Costa Rica also really emphasizes recycling, so there are different bins for trash, plastic, paper, cans, etc. everywhere. Costa Rica’s economy is based on many things, but mostly tourism, so there are many gifts shops. I noticed that the tourist spots and the items that were targeted towards tourists were more expensive than the merchandise in the grocery stores or stores targeted towards the citizens there.