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These thirty three things are just a start – there were so many positive aspects of our time in Costa Rica, we could easily list thirty three more! But we’re excited to hear your thoughts on this, too, so please feel free to add your favorite things about Costa Rica in the comments at the end!

1.    Samara Beach
We won’t go on about this one, as we as you to please not go to Samara Beach, but the combination of jaw-dropping sunsets spotting, padding along the beautiful stretches of soft, clean sand and numerous places to enjoy champagne while looking out on to the water makes Samara Beach of the best beaches we visited in Central America.

Costa Rica samara beach Sunset
2.    Comfortable public transportation

After spending a few months holding on for dear life on chicken buses throughout Central America, Costa Rica’s comfortable, clean and organized public transportation just felt good.

3.    Sloths
They might look creepy, but these sleepy creatures sure are cute!
friendly sloth in Monteverde Costa Rica4.    Gallo Pinto
This dish is not just rice and beans…the combination of black beans, rice, and magical spices make this Costa Rican (and Nicaraguan) easily our breakfast favorite.

5.    Casados
Meaning ‘married’, a Casado is a marriage of rice, beans, veggies (and meat) on one plate. This typical, healthy and filling Costa Rican meal is an economical choice and sold at any ‘soda’ or local restaurant in the country. Casados make finding healthy veggie-friendly food a breeze.
casado vegetariano6.    A truly gay-friendly country
The theme throughout this post is the relaxed, accepting and peaceful nature of the country, and this also extends to the acceptance of the gay community…relative to the rest of Central America, of course. Although people not looking for it may never notice, Manuel Antonio is known as a kind of a mecca for gay travelers, with hotels and package deals targeted directly at the gay community, and there are plenty of gay bars (for boys and girls) in San Jose.

7.    So many surfers
There’s nothing better than the relaxed vibe that the massive surfer population brings to the country, plus watching them sprint along the beach and ride the waves in some places is like a surfing championship every day of the week!
Surfer at Playa Cobles Costa Rica
8. The beaches of Manuel Antonio
Palm trees, coconuts, monkeys, and sparkling blue water…how can we not love Manuel Antonio. Just watch out for the mega-strong waves at high tide!

9. Licuados
With the variety of these refreshing, healthy fresh juice mixes in either water, milk or yogurt, we never had a sip of soda while in Costa Rica.

Licuados in Costa Rica
10.    Pura Vida

Different to the international laid-back surfer vibe, Pura Vida is an entirely Tico feeling. This expression, which means ‘Pure Life’ is used as a greeting, a farewell, an excuse and a reason, and incorporates Costa Rica’s positive feelings about living life healthily, slowly, and peacefully (this country has no army and focuses on eco-friendly policies).

11.    Guaro
Oh…how Guaro burns…this Costa Rican grain alcohol can’t possibly compare to Nicaragua’s award-winning Flor de Cana rum, but it’s available everywhere, it’s cheap, and after a couple of shots, who remembers anyway 🙂
Guaro shots & Imperial Beer12.    Cycling along the Caribbean coast
We absolutely loved this day out – we go on and on about it here.

13. The wildlife
From the Pacific to the Caribbean, no matter where you look you spot exotic wildlife in Costa Rica!
Monkey in Manuela Antonio14.    Panaderias
The Ticos love their bread and after a lack of yummy baked goods in Honduras and Nicaragua, we were happy to see a panaderia or pasteleria (bakeries) on almost every corner in Costa Rica.

15.    Punta Uva Beach
Okay, yes another beach – but Costa Rica has got the most gorgeous beaches! This beach just 4km from Puerto Viejo is simply breathtaking.
Punta Uva paradise
16.    Both coasts are beautiful

No matter what side of the country you are on, you’re set for a quick trip to the beach. Nearly all Central American countries have access to both the Pacific and the Caribbean, but that’s not necessarily something to boast about. Nicaragua’s eastern coast is made up primarily of the infamous Mosquito Coast, while Guatemala’s Pacific beaches are not really even worth the trip. Costa Rica, on the other hand, is blessed with miles and miles of beautiful beaches, from the Northwestern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula down to the Puerto Viejo in the southeastern Caribbean region.

17.    Drinking Tap water
Stick your glass under the faucet and let the water pour in! Drinking tap water here is as risk free as at home, and although it took us a few days to trust that drinking the water wouldn’t make us ill as in neighboring countries, it felt amazing to stop buying water everywhere we went.

18. The cloud forest of Monteverde
Monteverde is one of the highest places in all of Costa Rica, nestled between green mountains and like the name indicates, often covered by clouds. The rains cause Monteverde to be one of the greenest places we’ve seen on our travels.
monteverde cloud forest costa rica
19.    Sodas

Sitting somewhere between a food stand and a restaurant, sodas are like local Costa Rican diners. Located on every corner (next to the bakeries), they serve up typical dishes and a licuado for $3-$5, making it possible to travel Costa Rica on a shoestring.  Sodas are as great for your health as for your wallet, as the meal usually contains vegetables, rice, beans, meat (or extra veggies for us herbivores), plus the fruit in the licuado.

20. Flowers everywhere!
Costa Rica is certainly wild in terms of its population of various exotic animals, but the flowers in the country are equally as exotic and found everywhere. We don’t know the names of most the flowers we see, but they certainly put an extra bounce in our step.
Flowers in Cahuita Costa Rica
21.    Butterflies

Costa Rica is home to 1,251 species,  over 90% of all Central American butterflies.  The Blue Morpho maybe the most remarkable one, but at times we were walking on paths being both followed and led by groups of fluttering butterflies.

22.    The Caribbean village of Manzanillo
Manzanillo is a little village on the southern Caribbean coast and it still feels truly Caribbean and unspoilt by tourists.

Manzanillo caribbean house
23.    People watching at Parque Central in Heredia

Heredia is a typical Costa Rican city, unspoilt by tourists, and even though only 11 kilometers from the capital, worlds apart from San Jose! Unlike the capital which has unfortunately begun to feel a bit shady in certain areas, Heredia is safe and relaxed, with a good variety of restaurants, excellent shopping, interesting architecture and a Central Park which is great for watching the Ticos in their day-to-day lives.

24.    Hummingbirds
Costa Rica must have hundreds of thousands of hummingbirds – we saw these tiny little birds along both coasts, in the rain forest, the cloud forest and in the towns. We could watch them forever flying around with their record-breaking wing flapping!
Hummingbird monteverde
25.    The fantastic Costa Rican coffee

The coffee here is known to be one of the best coffees in the world, and drinking it in Monteverde, surrounded by coffee plants, fresh from the farm, made it taste even better.

26. Stella’s Bakery in Monteverde
Far away from the most populated area of Santa Elena, Stella’s bakery is set along the road to Monteverde and it is more than worth stopping by. Stella’s Dulce de leche strudel really is to die for, and there are so many other goodies (both savory and sweet) to choose from, you will probably end up taking something home for later or returning the next day.
stellas bakery Dulce de leche strudel
27.    Waterfalls

Waterfalls here are practically a dime a dozen, except they are some of the most amazing we have seen.  You pass them just driving down the road or hiking along the beaches and it never gets old!

28.    Cabinas el Pueblo Hostel in Monteverde
$10 per person for a clean room and breakfast included, plus a staff that provides priceless info about Monteverde, we can certainly recommend staying at the family-run, centrally-located Cabinas el Pueblo Hostel in Santa Elena, Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Cabinas El Pueblo Monteverde Costa Rica
29.    The cheeky monkey families in Cahuita

The little village of Cahuita has a National Park which can be visited free of charge. Much emptier than Costa Rica’s more famous Manuel Antonio National Park, you can sit down anywhere and watch the monkey families with the baby monkeys swinging through the tree tops.

30. Miles of deserted beach near Montezuma
We might have been disappointed by Montezuma’s development but we were happy as clams about the endless stretches of sandy beaches along the coast. You can walk for miles and miles without meeting another soul.
Montezuma beach in the morning
31.    Taco Bell

Yes. We went to Taco Bell. Twice. And yes, the Americanization of the country is a shameless trainwreck, but after months and months of rice & beans, we couldn’t pass up a cheesy Gordita crunch!

32. The bronze statues in San Jose
Costa Rica’s capital didn’t do much for us, but we found some fantastic bronze statues by several well known artists (such as Botero) throughout the downtown.

Sculptures in san jose costa rica
33.    The friendly Ticos

Costa Ricans are super friendly and welcoming. Proud of their beautiful country, they are always happy to chat with travelers or tell you which places you should check out during your visit. These great people are affectionately known as ticos, for their endearing and unique use of the Spanish diminutive – from momento, instead of adding ‘ito’ – momentito, Costa Ricans add ‘ico’ – momentico.

Tags : costa ricathings we love


    1. And that giant black snake that slithered across the road, remember?! We love Costa Rica, too, but in Central America I think our hearts are split between Nicaragua and Guatemala, and now, Lisbon in Portugal too! So many places to love, life is too short! 🙂

    1. Funny that you mention the property issue, Karen. It’s something we chose not to post about, but one thing that did get to me in Costa Rica is that the entire country is for sale. The economic problems obviously affected the vacation home market in Costa Rica so that you see ‘Se Vende’ of For Sale signs everywhere. Maybe it is a good time to invest down there? No idea, but what a cool life that would be!

    1. Hey Rease, you literally can’t NOT see wildlife once you’re outside of the Central Valley. There is veggie food and it can def. be cheap. If you eat at the gringo places there is a ton of healthy veggie food, too, as a lot of people who end up living down there are yoga/vegan types, BUT then you can spend $10 a meal or $5 for a smoothie.

    1. Alex – me too! I went first for my study abroad year, and I was nervous to return as an adult. But actually, I didn’t duplicate my experiences from the past either, but we discovered a lot of new places and saw things from a totally different perspective and it only made me love it more, I promise!

    1. Hi Julia – thanks for stopping by. We loved it and even though we may have had more amazing cultural experiences in Guatemala and Nicaragua, for example, Costa Rica was a place where we were relaxed, tan and happy, plus we learned about a lot of wildlife!

      1. Hi Scott, the casados are excellent and healthy. It is hard to eat healthy, it really is, if you get drawn in to eating all the goodies, but there is also a plethora of fruits and veggies to try which, if you eat them often, can keep you on the right track. Not that we were able to keep away from the yummy fried foods as often as we’d have liked…:-)

    1. Hey man thanks!! Honestly, Costa Rica was much better than we thought it would be after having such a good time in the rest of Central America. It’s different – you don’t go for the culture as there are no ruins, or amazing churches, things like that. But the wildlife, the beaches, the attitude -all great, plus pretty high standards in terms health, hygiene and accommodation.

    1. Hi Jenna, it’s definitely not as bad as many people think!! We are not saying there aren’t any of these ‘American expat communities’ (believe us, there are plenty, but we avoided them) but the country has so many beautiful things to offer that it would be totally unfair to narrow it down to a ‘package holiday’ destination. The scenery is beautiful and the beaches are amazing!

  1. Hi Girls,
    just found your website and are utterly impressed, its also been really helpful in persuading us to go to Costa Rica.
    We don’t have a great deal of time or money, can you suggest an area of Costa Rica to really explore and possibly cheap accommodation for us? Samara Beach looks amazing, but we wont go there… Also is it worth staying in San Jose for a couple of nights? (this is our only country in South America after a month in New York, and looking for a little sea change).
    Advice muchly appreciated.

    1. Hello Lotte, thanks for your comment and the kind words! There are so many places to explore in Costa Rica, it’s tough to suggest things without knowing how much time you have and what your preferences are with regards to beaches / hiking / volcanoes / wildlife, etc. We didn’t find San Jose spectacular at all – there are much better places to spend your time at. We will email you some more details.

    1. Great choice, Alex! So excited to hear that you’re going to Costa Rica! You’ll find great beaches to relax at – definitely stop in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, in Montezuma and in Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast and if you can, head up to Samara. Have fun in Costa Rica 🙂

  2. This is aweomse! I am going to Costa Rica in about a month and looking forward to all of these things..i am going with my boyfriend and we are looking for beach and this has decided which beach we are going to be going too!!

    1. Hey Keyla, that’s great! Are you guys going to Samara? Or to Puerto Viejo/Punta Uva? You should definitely consider what other activities you want to include in your time before settling on a beach. Samara is a great beach, and there is a bit of surfing, there is hiking in the surrounding area, etc. Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side is much more active, surfing, rasta culture, more nightlife if that is what you are looking for. Manuel Antonio is right by the national park of the same name, so while the beaches are touristy, you’re visiting a major attraction as well (and well worth it!). There are deserted beaches a walk away from Montezuma, at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula (where Samara is), nightlife is limited, but hotel range is now better than Samara. If you want to go beach hopping, the Nicoya peninsula is a bit tough – transport is not the best – but if you rent a car, there are beaches to the north like Playa del Coco (we’re not fans), down to Tamarindo, lots of little ones in between, down to Samara and then down to Montezuma. It’s all a bit rough, but do-able! Have fun in Costa Rica, and as they say, Pura Vida!

  3. Wow we loved this advice in our recent trip through Costa Rica. From saving money in Panaderias and Soda Restaurants, checking out hummingbirds, wildlife and beaches, it was truly magical. We appreciated having this advice and think that it definitely impacted our enjoyment and budgets of Costa Rica. Will be using your website as a vital tool to navigate the world – you’ll see more of me here 🙂 Thank you!
    Ayla Goddard recently posted..The Wonders of Chiapas & Eastern México

  4. Hi Jess.
    Let me tell you I am a tico guy and really impressed with your concept of my country. I feel honored that you recommend us and really look forward that every visitor we have gets at least half of the nice experience you had.
    Take care and muchas gracias.
    Pura vida 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Ronald! You live in a beautiful country. Jess and I both love Costa Rica and will be back for sure 🙂 Pura Vida!

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