Written by Joy Thrun.
‘Pura Vida’ is the Costa Rican equivalent of Aloha. Meaning ‘Pure Life,’ it is a greeting, a farewell and an attitude. The Costa Ricans or ‘Ticos’ are extremely knowledgeable and proud of their country. From its ecological treasures to the high standard of living and the fact that they have no military, Costa Rica is unique to the rest of Central America. This small country shelters 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity on only .05 percent of the planet’s surface. Protecting 26 percent of its territory in 25 national parks and reserves Costa Rica offers world class ecotourism, adventure travel and unfailing hospitality – Tico style.
On our most recent trip, we had the pleasure of escorting the 12th annual ‘Seminar in the Sun’ CME Program with Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. Our group of over 100 people was comprised of doctors and their families participating in their first continuing medical education trip to Costa Rica. We are fortunate enough to be able to experience a destination with large groups and get their first hand feedback. Across the board, Costa Rica turned out to be one of our most successful ‘Seminar in the Sun’ Trips ever! With so much to see and do there is virtually something for everyone. We stayed at the new all-inclusive RIU Guanacaste located in the driest province in the country. Every day the temperature hovered around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and you were startled if a cloud happened to appear in the sky, a welcomed break from the harsh Michigan winter. This is what the Ticos fondly refer to as the ‘Golden Season’ in Guanacaste. Sunny days, no rain and with the lack of dense foliage on the trees and limited water sources, it is also an ideal time for wildlife adventures.
We had howler monkeys, exotic birds, iguanas and sea turtles right on the hotel’s property. The RIU happens to be located on one of the most prolific turtle nesting beaches in the country. If you wish, the staff will alert you when females come ashore to lay their eggs or when hatchlings will be released from their protected enclosures. One morning at about 5 am, Lee Strampel, myself, and handful of blurry-eyed nature lovers gathered on the beach to witness the instinctive dash to the ocean by some newly hatched turtle tots. Each one of us was given our very own baby Tortuga to assist on their journey to the sea. As I encouraged little Tommy Jr., I must admit that I was overcome with emotion as he scurried the last few feet into the blue Pacific. They grow up so darn fast!
In Costa Rica, you are surrounded by the wonders of Mother Nature wherever you go with countless ways to enjoy it. Zip line through dormant volcanoes, view wildlife from a river boat in Palo Verde, enjoy the mud baths at Rincon Dela Vieja, ATV through the mountains, try white water rafting, fishing, surfing, and even hiking around the active volcanoes; Costa Rica is your oyster! Speaking of active volcanoes, no trip to Costa Rica would be complete without a visit to Arenal National Park. We had two busloads of people take the day long excursion to see the restless giant. Driving around Lake Arenal with the volcano the distance, Emerald Green countryside was a vivid contrast to the golden brown landscape of Guanacaste. As we had lunch in LaFortuna, the clouds at the summit of Arenal cleared providing a spectacular view of its perfect conical shape. During our hike through the tropical rainforest at the base of the volcano we saw toucans, macaws, and monkeys in enormous trees draped with orchids. Followed by cocktails in the volcanic hot springs and an exquisite Costa Rican dinner, it was a travel day that we will never forget.
When venturing out on any of the many sightseeing excursions available, you are more than likely going to encounter the ‘Costa Rican Car Massage.’ Any road trip will usually involve some bumpy rides on narrow dirt roads, but the payoff is always worth it. For shopping, restaurants and nightlife, the sleepy little fishing village or Playa Del Coco and the more lively surf town of Tamarindo were accessible by cab or water taxi. Enjoy fresh fish at Papagayo Seafood in Coco or take surfing lessons in Tamarindo to complete the perfect getaway to the wonderful destination. There are several different ways to plan a trip to Costa Rica so experienced counseling is essential. With multiple flight options and accommodations ranging from boutique properties to five star luxury resorts, we are here to help you sort it all out.
If you haven’t already, I urge you to put Costa Rica on your travel bucket list. Make memories that will last a lifetime… Pura Vida!