A few weeks ago I promised myself that before this year ends, I would publish a post that I have been meaning to write for a very long time.
I don't know why it has taken me this long to write, but at the end of 2015 we spent an amazing six-weeks exploring the beautiful Central American country of Costa Rica.
The idea to visit Costa Rica came up around the same time we were relocating from Singapore to the United States in 2015. So, after packing our lives up in Southeast Asia we headed to sunny Costa Rica - not only to enjoy its natural beauty - but mainly to soak up a bit of culture and to learn some Spanish!
Planning to immerse ourselves in the culture, we arrived in Costa Rica's largest city and capital, San José, where we spent the night before heading off for the more beachy island-vibes of Playa Flamingo the next morning (located along the Northwestern coast in the more rustic province of Guanacaste).
Following an early morning trip from San Jose we arrived in peaceful Guanacaste and were immediately welcomed by a more laid back vibe as we drove past lush green mountains to one side and white sandy beaches (lined with palm trees) on the other . This was the perfect setting to begin our Spanish immersion course and to take in all the culture that Costa Rica had to offer
Finding our feet in Playa Flamingo
While I freely admit that life in a lush, tropical paradise such has got to be easy, the more cautious side of me knows that settling into a new culture is never without its challenges!
Aside from waking up to the beautiful chirping of exotic birds each morning (hard life!), we also had to get use to the slower pace of life in the sleepy-beach town of Flamingo. Being a small rustic town we were faced with having very little connectivity to the outside world (which actually turned out to be blissful) and having no means to get around due to a lack of public transport (which was definitely going to be an issue!).
Knowing that getting around Flamingo (and its surrounds) would be important if we wanted to get the most out our adventure our first order of business was to find some reliable means of transportation. As luck would have it, our guesthouse was located near the only car hire company in town and so our problem was quickly solved when we procured a lovely little Suzuki Jimney for the rest of our stay - an actual life saver!
Life at Language School
Each morning, after a hearty breakfast of typical Costa Rican staples such as grilled tortillas smothered with black bean paste and a side of fried plantains (yum!), we hopped into our beloved Jimney and made our short drive to the language school.
Nestled across a quiet beach on the main road, the school reminded me of my early childhood school in Maputo (Mozambique) - laid back, set in idyllic surrounds and with a light air of well being.
Our days were made up of intense Spanish lessons (about 8 hours a day - they don't call it immersion for nothing!) broken up by a long lunch break in between (where we could order delicious " comida tipica " traditional Costa Rican cuisine such as "casado" (rice, chicken, beans, plantains and salsa salad ) and my absolute favourite - chicken " carnitas " (tortillas).
On days when we had shorter lessons, we would simply finish class and then head for the beach right across the road for a game of beach ping-pong and exploring neighbourhood gems along the coastline.
With our hectic lessons, come the weekend we were ready to unwind!
Friday afternoons or early Saturday mornings were reserved for exploring and doing fun trips to surrounding towns.
Besides visiting local markets selling colourful arts and crafts, we enjoyed finding the unexpected! Once, we drove aimlessly until we stumbled on a lush jungle retreat which also happened to be offering zip-lining adventures! With no other customers in sight we spent the afternoon zip lining in a lush forest with a family of howler monkeys as our spectators!
Being one to shy away from adventurous things, I was pleasantly surprised that I even agreed to all this craziness - I even joined in when we took some surfing lessons in the town of Tamarindo (a top surfing spot apparently!
Other than local markets and adventurous activities our weekends were mostly spent taking in beautiful beach views and stuffing our faces!
Appreciating Pura Vida
As the days of Spanish classes and the weekend adventures passed it became apparent that we had started to carve our own little life out in this dusty beach town.
Not only did we adapt to the slower pace of life but we actually thrived on it. The benefits of an unhurried lifestyle were beginning to bear fruits - we were more relaxed and most of all, happier with the simple things!
From enjoying the peaceful stillness that came after a big rainstorm, sharing laughs with our guesthouse managers and becoming familiar faces at the local shops and restaurants - we were slowly moving towards Pura Vida.
Pura Vida, a popular phrase and greeting in Costa Rica, sums up our six weeks of adventures in the small beach town of Flamingo. It was a life of peace, well-being and the art of taking it easy.
Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, beaches and rainforests and wrapped in the warm abundance of the good hearted people we encountered, I can truly say that we got a taste of authentic Costa Rican life. How wonderful it is that by choosing to delve into a culture (and language) outside of our comfort zone, we got a little slice of paradise in return. Pura Vida!