Four years and eight months ago, we left our life in Costa Rica to move to Australia. We had not been back since, until now.
After four years of living in Australia, we forgot the not-so-good things about living in Costa Rica (well, San José) and reminisced about only the wonderful things, such as:
- The Pura Vida lifestyle; that is, basically living inside a Sublime song
- 27°C every day, all year long (give or take some downpours)
- Cheap avocados, mangoes, beer, cocktails, lunch, and mostly everything
- Tropical fruit and coffee trees in the streets
- Being within a 3 hour drive of a tropical paradise, inclusive of sunshine, coconuts, hammocks, monkeys, sloths, toucans and warm seas
- Going on day trips to active volcanoes and rainforests
We arrived in San José at midnight after an epic thirty hour transit via Los Angeles and Houston (one reason why visiting CR is not high on our priorities list). We spent our first few days in the capital, playing with our beautiful new niece of three months, visiting our old neighbourhood, going crazy eating the local produce that we’d missed and enjoying the all-round decent weather.
While there is not a whole lot to do tourist-wise in the capital, we made the most of our time in San José. We finally visited the extravagant Teatro Nacional, which was very impressive.
I tried some new food, including:
- Chorreada: a sweet corn pancake. It was okay, but the locals absolutely love it.
- Manzana de agua (water apple, or Malay apple): it was apparently too hard and the worst one my sister-in-law ever tried, so I may have to try another. It tasted like a too-hard pear. Neutral in flavour.
- Marañon (cashew fruit): I tried this twice, and it is by far the worst thing I ate on our trip. Unbearably bitter and chewy, but the others seemed to like it.
- Granadilla: This type of passionfruit was rather yummy.
- Cas: A Costa Rican guava which is small and very sweet. I quite liked it.
- Guayaba (guava): We picked this off a friend’s tree and it was very delicious. Reminded me of those tropical fruit punch drinks I drank as a child.
- Agua de pipa (coconut water): Yum! I’ve heard mixed reviews about this from Australia, but I loved it. Coconutty water. Very creamy and refreshing. (However, I have since tried it again in Australia in bottled format and it wasn’t very pleasant).
- Torta Chilena: a cake made of several biscuit layers and several dulce de leche layers, smothered with meringue frosting. Oh. My.
We went out to catch up with old friends and to enjoy San José’s thriving bar scene, including its new interest in delivering quality local craft beers.
We noticed how unbelievably expensive San José has become and realised we were spending the same, if not more, on a night out at a restaurant than in Australia (keeping in mind that the average wage in Australia is five times higher than in CR).
We spent a week at two different beaches. First we headed to Uvita to spend some time with some old friends. Uvita is located amongst the mountains, right on the pacific coast. It is next door to a surf town, Dominical, and also the Ballena National Park, which features two beaches joined together to form the shape of a whale’s tail.
It was very, very hot. Whilst enduring a mild average of only 30°C daily, the 90% humidity in these jungle towns makes the weather seem like 40°C+.
Our first stay was in a unit by a river. We spent one morning hiking the river all the way to a small waterfall. We also found a pineapple growing which was very exciting.
However, we spent most of our time with our friends, eating, drinking and swimming in their pool whilst overlooking a marvellous coastal view from their mountain property.
We spent a morning at the stunning Ballenas beach. The silky sand was warm under our feet and the sea seemed endless. We relaxed under the shade of some palms whilst overlooking the whale’s tale and enjoying the antics of many a homemaking crab.
We also made a day trip to the town where Alex grew up, San Isidro de El General in Pérez Zeledón. He showed me the gorgeous, colourful house where he grew up in. The current tenant saw us admiring her house, and upon realising that Alex grew up there, she invited us in with open arms for a house tour (that’s how friendly Costa Ricans are!). Alex felt immense nostalgia visiting the house he loved and left so many years ago.
Our next destination was the beachside area of Manuel Antonio. We were lucky enough to stay in a mansion in the jungle with a garden of fruit trees including avocado, carambola (starfruit), guanabana (soursop), cashew, mango, banana and papaya.
We also had several visits from ravenous squirrel monkeys, and we were forced to close the doors to keep them out of the house. It was unbearably hot in our mansion so we spent as much time as possible in the pool, playing with the baby, admiring the magnificent view and being watched by lurking iguanas.
We visited the Manuel Antonio National Park which is definitely my favourite place to visit in CR. There are always so many animals to see. This time we saw a sloth, howler (congo) monkeys and capuchin monkeys. They posed for us. We bathed in the beautifully warm ocean, which felt like an endless pool of newly poured bathwater.
On our return to San José we spent some more time with our edible niece, enjoying her wonderfully chubby cuddles and endless love.
On our last day we headed towards the Irazú Volcano for a hike with friends. We walked through the forest around the base of the active, smoking volcano. Safe.
It was a bittersweet adventure, full of nostalgia and wonderful times. It was also good to be reminded of how far we’ve come since we used to live in our little apartment on the Pan-American Highway.