Over the past ten years, there have been many exchanges between myself and clients or would-be clients about the advantages of living in Costa Rica vs other so-called popular countries recommended by such sources as International Living. The list includes but is not limited to Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and Uruguay.
Inquirers initiated some of these conversations before they even set foot in any of the countries mentioned, including Costa Rica. Others were by infrequent visitors to Costa Rica who were surprised at the cost of living here being higher than they expected.
My suggestion remains the same. Travel to the alternative country or countries that hold interest, roam about, ask a lot of questions, especially of ex-pats there, do some transactions there, then come back to Costa Rica to compare and contrast. I would also strongly suggest auditing information sources that recommend these other countries. Based on a lot of client feedback, the differences seem quite stark. The overwhelming majority of “explorers” end up choosing Costa Rica. It’s kind of a you-get-what-you-pay-for reality.
Panama seems the country closest in comparison to Costa Rica. It boasts better tax incentives, more relaxed and economic immigration processes, and more efficient bureaucracy. Panama City, without a doubt, is a fascinating global hub that has a far more cosmopolitan downtown area than San Jose, Costa Rica. A great place to bank and to visit from time to time. Step outside that extremely hot and humid city and the quality of life drops off significantly. The ubiquitous soldiers also prove disquieting. The majority of clients who have given Panama serious consideration have quickly settled upon Costa Rica as their final choice for a retirement venue. Yes. It is more costly. But overall better value. They concluded that Costa Rica is more secure, has a wider variety of places to live or travel within the country and has the best year-round weather by far. A friendlier populace with no army also provides a more peaceful feeling. The COVID-19 mortality rate in Panama as of this writing is five times that of Costa Rica.
Then there is Nicaragua. It remains a communist-backed dictatorship. That means if you annoy the government or own something a government insider covets, it can be taken from you with no recourse. That is how dictators role. In 2018, there was an attempt at a coup. Two hundred protesters were murdered for speaking out. That resulted in thousands of Nicaraguans attempting to gain asylum here in Costa Rica. You can read my previous article on why there are such long delays on approvals at Immigration since 2018 here,
As of this writing, the government of Nicaragua has snubbed WHO and the Pan American Health Organization protocols. The populace is being encouraged by the government to party hearty at the beach. There is no trustworthy data on the situation there. What is also not known is the whereabouts of President Ortega, who has been M.I.A. for the past month (Could he be dead?). One shutters to think what the COVID-19 mortality rate might be right now in Nicaragua. Its border with Costa Rica will be sealed shut for months and months to come.
Mexico is also a beautiful country with overall wonderful people. It also boasts the second-highest population of billionaires in the world as it remains an economic powerhouse. Its massive size is much more challenging to manage than compact Costa Rica. Unfortunately, it is the choke point and hub of international crime and drug cartels. Corruption continues to be widespread with little abatement. Mexico City is highly polluted, as are many of the coastal tourist centers. Several of my U.S. and Canadian ex-pat clients lived in some of the “safer” and esthetically gorgeous outlying areas of Mexico. But they felt the steady encroachment of cartel danger over the last decade before eventually moving to Costa Rica. When it comes to COVID-19 results, that corruption and incompetence translates into a mortality rate of a whopping twelve times that of Costa Rica.
Ecuador boasts a much lower cost of living, is a beautiful, bio-diverse country, and also owns the Galapagos Islands. But the corruption quotient is over the top with serious infrastructure issues and widespread, pernicious disorganization. International corporations doing business there say it borders on hopelessness. Bodies of COVID-19 victims in body bags line the streets as of this writing. Based on highly questionable data, their COVID-19 mortality rate is conservatively ten times that of Costa Rica.
Colombia is a vast, beautiful, bio-diverse country, and on the mend through many initiatives over the last 15 years. Its two main cities are impressive with stunning colonial architecture. After decades of Cartel strangleholds with crime and corruption things are certainly improving but they have a way to go. Also, many feel it is still too far south. It’s current COVID-19 mortality rate is eight times that of Costa Rica.
While Uruguay is quite Americanized and has modern amenities, it is a long way south and still does not “feel” as secure as living in Costa Rica. It has serious security issues that prevail. The country is also vulnerable to extreme weather that bring seasonal floods, droughts as well as high winds.
Now that all these countries are dealing with the same COVID-19 issue, comparing how each fare throughout this ordeal will show even more dramatic contrasts once this pandemic passes through. The final tallies by country will show that Costa Rica was a far safer place to wait things out. The universal and private Costa Rica health care systems and country management, even with its flaws, have delivered outcomes far superior to those other countries.
Access to a wider variety of affordable produce year-round in Costa Rica will be an even more compelling reason to be here. Global food prices are set to skyrocket. Pay very close attention over the next six months. As things settle down, you will have access to more conclusive data to affirm your choice of Costa Rica as your optimal place to reside. We have been in these dramatic situations before and always have done well.
When those “scores” show overwhelmingly why Costa Rica is the safest and healthiest country to live in, there will invariably be an uptick in residency applicants. So after careful thought about your plans here, I would strongly recommend getting the jump on your residency process now.
By Laura Gutierrez of Immigration Help Costa Rica
Listed various times among the most beautiful national parks in the whole world, Manuel Antonio is bewitching to behold. With its pristine beaches, verdant rainforest and perfect blue waters, visitors will instantly fall in love with all that the park has to offer. Its stunning scenery will soothe your soul and bathing in the crystal clear waters while looking at the mesmerising beauty of the shoreline will ensure you never want to leave this haven of tranquillity. The unbelievable landscapes on show are equally delightful to explore and various trails and paths weave their way through the dense undergrowth. Such is its splendor; Manuel Antonio is the most visited national park in the country. Ridiculously scenic, this is the best of what Costa Rica has to offer.
Despite its small size and great popularity, Manuel Antonio has managed to remain one of the premiere nature spots in the country. The rain forest and mountains literally meet the sea here and the ecosystem is teeming with land, sea and air species. If there is one place to visit in this country and be assured of seeing animals in the wild, this is it. Just a couple of hours walking the park's trails are likely to present various colorful and majestic birds, white-faced monkeys, two and three-toed sloth, coatis, pacas, brilliantly colored land crabs, a variety of multihued butterflies, and interesting insects. The endangered squirrel monkey and a subspecies of the squirrel monkey endemic to Costa Rica are also frequently seen. In all, over 100 species of animals and nearly 200 species of birds have been identified in this park.
The area between Quepos & Manuel Antonio National Park has dozens of hotels and restaurants offering the visitor a wide variety of accommodations and dining choices.
Near Manuel Antonio is Jardin Gaia. Named three years ago as Costa Rica's first official Wildlife Rescue Center, it receives injured and confiscated animals and attempts to rehabilitate them for return to the wild.
If you are looking for the ideal place to improve your mental and physical well-being, adopt healthy habits and activities into your lifestyle, liberate your soul and return like a new person, then Costa Rica should be your next travel destination.
Costa Rica is the ideal setting for detoxification from stress and the daily grind. You can experience Wellness tourism as part of a lifestyle that combines physical activity and healthy eating, while enjoying a wide range of activities to renew your mind, body and soul.
Wellness includes activities that put you in contact with nature: Trekking (low-difficulty walks), Forest baths (breathing in the fresh air of the forest), Earthing (barefoot walks on the earth/sand), high-quality healthy food, a combination of spa and lunch (splunch) and consumption of local products in a natural setting.
In Costa Rica, you can also experience innovative relaxation techniques such as body wraps, in which volcanic mud, coffee, tropical fruits and chocolate are used to moisturize your skin. Hydrotherapy and hot springs are another way to harness the water resources of our country for personal renewal by letting positive energy flow throughout your body.
These wellness features, typical of Costa Rica, have helped create one of the planet’s blue zones, or longevity areas. A 2004 study by the University of Costa Rica found that mortality among Costa Ricans of 90 years of age is 10% lower in the Nicoya Peninsula, south of Guanacaste. The calcium-rich water of this area, healthy eating, family living and the "pura vida" lifestyle are secrets to longevity.
This is a unique lifestyle that is experienced only in Costa Rica, whose essence is Wellness!
Getting married in a beach in Costa Rica is the dream of many couples who have spent time in the country and fallen in love with one or several of the many romantic sites the country offers. If you’ve made up your mind about having the wedding of your dreams in Costa Rica, you are going to need a hotel. Listing the many options there would be a never ending story so in this occasion we will give you a few options of beautiful hotels to have your wedding in the province of Puntarenas, in the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, with many romantic beaches.
Starting with the hotels that are closer to San Jose, we offer you some choices for a beach wedding in Costa Rica:
Villa Caletas - This magical hotel is one of the preferred destinations for couples looking for romance. The boutique hotel is located just about an hour drive from San Jose, and has one of the most beautiful views of the sunset that can be found in Costa Rica. The weddings are usually held in the amphitheater area overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the sunset as a background. The honeymoon suite is incredibly romantic and elegant, and every option in the menu makes your mouth water.
Alma del Pacifico Beach Hotel - This is a very small boutique hotel in the area of Esterillos where you can get married in an expansive stretch of beachfront or choose to hold the ceremony in their lush gardens. The hotel villas are nicely decorated and very comfortable, the attention is excellent and they have different menu options for you to choose from.
Makanda by the Sea - This is a beautiful luxury boutique hotel, with magnificent ocean views in Manuel Antonio. Secluded, quiet except for the noises of the wildlife and the waves crashing in the background; Makanda by the Sea will help you design your tropical wedding and make it an unforgettable experience and being that this is an adult’s only hotel will make it that much more romantic.
Casa Chameleon: Adults only villa resort in Mal Pais at the Nicoya Peninsula. It has an incredible infinity pool and 21 private pool villas, panoramic ocean views, sunset bar perfect for a mesmerizing wedding ceremony and tasteful reception.
For travelers interested in going on a fitcation—a healthy vacation where one participates in physical activities, Costa Rica offers a thrilling mix of adventures. Being healthy doesn’t have to be placed on hold while on vacation. In Costa Rica, travelers find a myriad of options set in a tropical oasis, which will make staying fit effortless and enjoyable. The country offers a variety of adventure activities including surfing, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking and coast-to-coast treks. No matter which region you choose to visit, Costa Rica makes it simple to create once in a lifetime experiences.
If there’s a will, there’s a wave. Outdoor enthusiasts can rejoice in the wealth of water-based activities to choose from in Costa Rica. Surfing, diving and rafting are several popular favorites, and the combination of a wide range of difficulty levels create the perfect activity for everyone in a group.
When in doubt, paddle out. Thanks to generous rainfall in most parts of the country, Costa Rica’s rivers offer exhilarating rafting and kayaking adventures throughout the year. With the pristine Caribbean Sea to the east, the lively Pacific Ocean to the west and a collection of rivers that flow across the country, Costa Rica is also a premier kayaking course. Tortuguero National Park is among the areas in Costa Rica that’s especially great for kayak excursions. Visitors can also kayak down one of Costa Rica’s flowing rivers giving them an opportunity to see lots of wildlife.
The best views come after the hardest climb. Considered one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, Costa Rica is home to 28 national parks, eight biological reserves and a series of protected areas that captivate outdoor enthusiasts around the world. Adventure travelers can hike through Costa Rica’s magnificent volcanoes, rain forests and jungle landscapes. One of the country’s most famous parks is Manuel Antonio. This small biological peninsula is the perfect place to encounter majestic wildlife during a visit to its hiking trails. The Guanacaste National Park, officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another truly astounding part of the country, well-known as prime hiking grounds.
At the Arenal Volcano National Park, visitors enjoy hiking the area which has been determined safe by experts. For those looking to go thrill-seeking underground, the nearby Venado Caverns offer a unique cave-hiking experience throughout a 2,700 meter stretch of limestone caves, which abound with icicle formations. For an even more authentic experience, travelers can trek from coast-to-coast, with an itinerary that offers exposure to off the beaten path rural locales and exciting cultural discoveries.
Life’s an adventure. Enjoy the ride. Countless miles of trails, covering every type of terrain, await biking enthusiasts of all levels. There are an estimated 80 paths to choose from. The mountains of Talamanca or the Central Volcanic Mountain Range offer rigorous biking. The mountain ranges in Guanacaste and Tilaran, as well as the valleys and plains along the Caribbean, the Central Pacific, and the Southern Pacific also make for excellent biking destinations.
Costa Rica offers boundless adventure activities for all different ages, tastes and budgets, making it effortless for visitors to integrate fitness into a vacation. For a fitcation fit for a king, the answer is Costa Rica.
International Living is an online magazine that has the mission of helping readers discover different places around the world that are great options for retirement. In the recent article “5 Great Places for Golfing Retirement”, the publication gives Costa Rica a well-deserved spot. Earlier this year, the country was also listed as the best place to retire in the Global Retirement Index 2018 .
“A much-cited advantage—and joy—of retirement is being able to spend your days as you see fit, indulging in your favorite passions, such as golf,” says International Living’s Executive Editor Jennifer Stevens. “That can prove to be a prohibitively expensive pastime in North America, but in the right places overseas, you can play a round for a fraction of the price back home”.
The practice of golf has certainly grown in the country over the past decade, to the point were the country has been a stop for the PGA Tour Latin America Classic.
Reserva Conchal in Guanacaste is one of the preferred Golf courses in the country, and it is ranked among the top-30 best in the Caribbean and Mexico, it was also the first course in Costa Rica to get the certification by Audubon International.
Los Sueños Resort also is a great location for golfers, while in the capital city, Cariari Country Club, Valle del Sol and El Country Club in Escazu are also good options.
Check out International Living Magazine’s review on Golfing in Costa Rica:
“Costa Rica is an ideal spot for both the novice and advanced golfer. Not only are the conditions of the courses exceptional, but—compared to prices in the States—golf here is a bargain. Most green fees are well under $100, and if you live here, the rates can be even cheaper.
The larger resort courses, located in the northern Guanacaste region, are geared for the experienced golfer, and they come with pricier green fees. Courses centered around the capital, San José, are better suited for novice golfers.
Hacienda Pinilla, situated in Guanacaste, and minutes from the Pacific-coast beach town of Tamarindo, is a top priority for any golf enthusiast in Costa Rica.
One of a few hundred courses in the world that is certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, which encourages golf courses to be environmentally friendly, this 18-hole championship course hosts many national tournaments.”
They say that all you need in life is a great friend and a thirst for adventure. Traveling with friends, says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, is a great way to focus on the “joy of camaraderie and increases a sense of fulfillment, confidence and resiliency.” For travelers looking to strengthen their bonds or spend quality time with their pals, Costa Rica is a destination brimming with opportunities for adventure, culture and relaxation.
Friends who travel together stay together. Those in search of cultural and natural attractions will find both in the Central Valley region. The country’s capital, San Jose, is home to many of Costa Rica’s most popular museums including the Gold Museum, Jade Museum, National Museum and the architectural jewel of Costa Rica, the National Theater. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, volcanoes and cloud forests friends can take a day trip to explore what Central Valley has to offer. The area offers numerous coffee estates, dairy farms, as well as sugarcane mills all waiting to be explored.
To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together. Those looking to enjoy the “Pura Vida” life at a more relaxed pace can head to the Limon Province in Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. The area, which is also known for its rich Afro-Caribbean culture, attracts anglers, naturists and water enthusiasts in search of unique experiences. Friends can head out bass fishing, embark on a fascinating excursion through the area’s interconnected canals or have the opportunity to witness green turtles nesting during the months of July through October at Tortuguero National Park. The area also provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy some of Costa Rica’s best beaches and picturesque parks, which are complemented by the areas inviting culture. A wide range of activities allow traveling buddies to mix adventure with natural history, present day culture, gastronomy and music.
Life was meant for good friends and great voyages. The combination of breathtaking white-sand beaches, sweeping mountain views and ideal tropical climate has made Guanacaste one of Costa Rica’s most popular regions. Located in the northwestern corner of the country, the area presents a diverse geography, active nightlife and boasts many of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches, including those found at Playas del Coco, Tamarindo and the Papagayo Peninsula. Friends can enjoy everything from snorkeling, zip lining, hiking and more. Travelers can also visit an active volcano with natural hot springs, fumaroles and majestic waterfalls at Rincon de la Vieja National Park, or visit the Nicoya Peninsula for world-class surfing, quaint towns and wonderful nature reserves.
Good friends dream of adventure. Best friends go on them together. High up in the mountains of La Fortuna, travelers have the opportunity to experience ecological tourism in a natural and picturesque environment. Visitors can set out on adventures like zip-lining, a mountain water slide, horseback riding, thermal springs and more. Guests also have access to natural hot springs, scenic trails, pristine waterfalls, bubbling volcanic mud pools and more. Visitors to the region may also enjoy exploring the inlets and mangrove swamps of the south side of the region and marvel at the arrival of the Ridley sea turtles at the Ostional Wildlife National Refuge or discover Barra Honda National Park, home to Costa Rica’s only underground caves.
From mountain ranges and rain forests to breathtaking beaches and cloud forests, Costa Rica’s diversity of landscapes, climates and natural wonders provide friends with unlimited experiences to bond, enjoy thrilling activities together and make memories to last a lifetime.
Roadside fruit stands are a delightful culinary experience not to be missed while traveling through Costa Rica. The country’s tropical climate and fertile volcanic soil create excellent conditions for a wide range of fruits to flourish. Although travelers may be familiar with fruits such as mango, papaya, pineapple, bananas, and coconut, Costa Rica offers a wide variety of nutritious and tasty tropical fruits, which stand out for their freshness and exotic flavor.
Below are the top five must-try delicacies no traveler should miss on their next trip:
The Nance is a small yellow berry with delicate skin and a white pulp. It grows in clusters, which acquire a penetrating aroma. They are sweet and slightly bitter. The tree can be found in Costa Rica’s dry forests, savannas and coastal areas, such as Alajuela, Puntarenas, and Guanacaste. Nance fruit is often used to prepare beverages, craft liquors, ice cream and desserts. It is a rich source of vitamin C and fiber.
In Costa Rica, Guaba is synonymous with luck. When someone is particularly lucky, they are called “Guabero”. Not to be confused with guava, the Guaba tree can measure up to 50 feet high and produces beautiful flowers. The fruit pods vary in size and shape, but have a woody bark that contains black seeds covered in a white cottony layer of delicate sweet flavor. Due to its flavor and texture, it is also known as the “ice cream bean.” Guabas are usually available during the rainy season and are often used as an ingredient in salads and ice cream. Its seeds are often used to create jewelry, usually necklaces or earrings, which can be found in craft markets throughout Costa Rica. This fruit is rich in vitamin C, fiber and other micronutrients.
Cas is a small round green fruit that can be found throughout Costa Rica. The skin is thin and the pulp is fleshy and juicy. Cas juice, which is made with ripe Cas, is tart—somewhat similar to lime or lemonade, but has its own unique flavor. It is a Costa Rican staple during mealtime. Cas is available throughout the year, but is most common from November to August. This fruit is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and potassium. It is also used to make ice-cream.
Mamón Chino is an exquisite round fruit covered in an intensely bright red skin, which is protected with soft thorns. The trees grow in clusters and can reach up to 65 feet in height. Mamón Chino is typically found in the southern regions of Costa Rica, where small and large producers, especially from the Corredores area, produce high quality fruit. The sweet and juicy pulp is consumed fresh, and is the ideal ingredient for the preparation of desserts, salads and drinks. Mamón Chino is a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, vitamin A and other beneficial components for health.
Pitahaya belongs to the cactus family, is native to Mesoamerica and is also known as dragon fruit. The plant grows in dry stony areas, and is resistant to drought. In Costa Rica, it is found in tropical dry forests—mainly north of Puntarenas and Guanacaste. It is also possible to find the plant in some dry areas of the Central Valley. The Pitahaya fruit is oval-shaped with a bright pink and scaly surface. The pulp is soft and translucent, with multiple tiny black seeds—similar to that of grapes. The fresh pulp is a common ingredient in desserts, drinks, salads and ice cream. On the Costa Rican Colón, the Pitahaya appears as a symbol of the country’s natural heritage. This fruit is rich in vitamin C, iron, phosphorus, potassium and fiber; it is also a rich source of antioxidants.
But these are just a few of the many delicious fruits found in Costa Rica, the Guayaba, for instance, is similar to Cas in appearance but they are bigger in size and they are firm, they can be enjoyed by itself or can be used in juice, it is also used to make delicious jelly and jam.
Guanabana known as soursop is also widely found in Costa Rica and because of its creamy texture it is used specially for fresh juices and in ice cream.
Manzana de agua (water apple) or Malay apple is an exquisite fruit that is easy to find during the summer months in Costa Rica, many people eat it with salt, while others prefer it alone or use it to make juice.
The Caimito or “Star apple” is also commonly found in the farmer markets, it is purple and round, it has a sweet flavor with milky juices inside, it is said to have a lot of anti-oxidant properties.
Last but not least, the Jocote are easily found in Costa Rica particularly during the summer time, the small fruit can be enjoyed unripe when their taste is more tart (add salt to it) or ripe when they are juicy and sweet.
Costa Rica has a reputation for being naturally endowed—and deservedly so. But as stunning as the nation’s cloud forests, volcanoes and river gorges are, there’s more to the country than canopy tours and white-water rafting. In fact, you could craft an amazing trip entirely from the cultural offerings. Here, seven favorites that prove the point:
The National Theater in San José
Dress to the nines, sip Champagne at intermission and snap a selfie next to Beethoven’s statue when you attend a performance at the Teatro Nacional. A multicultural mashup—think Carrara marble, Belgian metalwork and local tropical-wood floors—the 1897 theater was modeled after the Paris Opera House in hopes of luring the A-list of European opera stars. The ploy worked, and this neoclassical beauty just celebrated 120 years of dazzling audiences.
The intermezzo ceiling mural of a coffee and banana harvest, painted by an Italian who never set foot in Costa Rica, is not to be missed—or judged too harshly: The coffee is shown growing in the wrong region and the bananas are upside down. Still, USA Today rated this one of the world’s best ceilings. Nab tickets for the National Symphony Orchestra from April through November, or for productions such as the International Piano Festival July 17, an all-Costa Rican concert Sept. 11 or a flamenco fest Oct. 2. Not that you need attend a show to soak in the glamour; there are also guided hourly tours.
The oxcarts of Sarchí
Two-wheeled oxcarts—known locally as carretas—are as Costa Rican as pura vida (the multipurpose saying that will make its way into pretty much every conversation you have in the country). Dating back to the 19th century, these utilitarian carts—often pulled by a pair of mighty oxen—were once used to haul coffee beans, sugar cane and tobacco from fields to market. Today, the artisan community of Sarchí honors that tradition by crafting miniature oxcarts and painting them in vivid colors and intricate patterns. You’ll find one in almost every Tico household.
In the town square, see what the Guinness Book of World Records pronounced the biggest oxcart on the planet: a 2-ton, 45-foot-long creation, about five times the size of a normal oxcart.
The Museum of Jade in San José
Think you know jade? Think again. This museum is a revelation, starting with the rainbow’s worth of shades the stone comes in. See the entire surprising spectrum as you wander through the starkly modern halls—all designed to resemble a piece of glistening jade.
Juxtaposed against this modernity are the ancient history lessons you’ll learn: From about 600 BCE to 500 CE, jade was worth more than gold. And indigenous craftsmen have long carved the stone into anklets, pendants, vessels and figurines. See more than 7,000 examples from the world’s largest collection of pre-Columbian jade. You’ll also see ancient tools and ceramic pottery (don’t miss the polychrome terra-cotta vase embedded with human teeth).
Afro-Caribbean culture in Cahuita
Sway to the rhythms of Costa Rica’s Afro-Caribbean music in the tiny beach town of Cahuita, where banjo, washtub bass and percussion players—primarily descendants of 19th-century Caribbean laborers—liven up bars and restaurants with a uniquely local brand of calypso. Cahuita even hosts an annual festival to honor local crooner Walter Ferguson, whose soulful singing made Costa Rican calypso a thing.
Want to know what pairs perfectly with the local restaurants’ calypso soundtrack? Costa Rica’s ever-popular staple, gallo pinto (rice and black beans spiced with onion and cilantro), plus Caribbean jerk chicken, rondón stew (meaning whatever the chef can “run down”) and all manner of fish and vegetables doused in coconut sauce.
The pottery of Guaitíl
Though it looks perfectly at home in a 21st-century living or dining room, the earthenware you’ll find in the hamlet of Guaitíl is the result of 5,000-year-old techniques. Local Chorotega potters still harvest mud clay in the nearby hills, then mix it with freshwater “iguana sand”—so named for the iguana eggs often laid therein. Before the clay pieces are fired, artisans decorate them with hummingbirds, toucans and other natural motifs.
Shop for your favorite design at stalls and stands near the town’s soccer field, then learn more about ancient pottery practices at the Ecomuseum of Chorotegan Ceramics in San Vicente.
The cowboy culture of Guanacaste
Call it four-hoof drive: Horses remain a hugely popular way to get around in Costa Rica, nowhere more so than in Guanacaste, where cowboy culture has thrived since the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. Celebrate the noble steeds and the sabaneros who ride them at the 133-year-old Hotel Hacienda Guachipelín, home to a Saturday rodeo of high-stepping horses, straight-backed cowboys and bull-wrestling ranch hands. You can also pitch in with ranch work during the Cowboy for a Day adventure, which starts at 5:45 a.m. with cow-milking and then might include saddling horses, herding cattle and fixing fences.
In the evenings, hit a restaurant for another infusion of local culture—performances that highlight the percussive sound of the national instrument, the marimba, a wooden cousin of the xylophone. Slurp a bowl of sopa de albondigas (spicy meatball soup) or olla de carne (meat and vegetable stew), then raise a frosty glass of Imperial to cowboys everywhere.
The ceremonial masks of Boruca
Costa Rica is famous for splendid wood carvings, but few are more intriguing than the fanciful devil masks made by the Boruca indigenous people. At the annual New Year’s Festival of the Little Devils (Fiesta de los Diablitos), Boruca villagers don painted balsa-wood masks to fight a theatrical battle against the Spaniards, collectively represented by a man in a bull costume who invariably loses.
Take a scenic drive along mountain roads to the Boruca reservation and visit its small Museo Comunitario Indigena de Boruca. Shop the museum store for devil masks, along with intricately carved gourds and hand-woven shawls and purses. Ask for permission before taking photos and be sensitive to this unique culture; the Boruca want to protect their ancient traditions while also opening up to modern tourism.
The President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, the Minister of Environment and Energy, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, international guests, personnel of the Cocos Marine Conservation Area (ACMC) of the National System of Areas of Conservation (SINAC), celebrated the 40th anniversary of the declaration of Isla del Coco as a National Park.
Isla del Coco has a total area of 24 square kilometers and 12 nautical miles of absolute protection around the island, making It the biggest National Park in Costa Rica and the home to over 2600 species, 100 of which are unique in the world.