Aloha, Hola, and Hello! With the pause of crazy in my business, mandatory e-learning for my girls (K & 3rd), and the ability for my hubby to work anywhere - we decided to make the most of these strange times and go to Costa Rica for two months.
We purchased our tickets the day e-learning was announced, for a flight out two days later. Costa Rica currently does not require a Covid-19 test to enter, but you do need hefty international travel insurance that meets all the country's guidelines. If you need a recommendation, let me know!
It was by far our easiest customs experience ever, which says a whole lot. The airport was not busy by any standards, but there was enough staff to keep us all moving in a timely fashion. We rented a car and began our long drive to Tarcoles, just north of Jaco. This was one area of Costa Rica we had never been to in the past and we had found a 2 BD condo for the months in a secure and private development.
The condo, however, had not been rented in over a year due to Covid. This meant a rocky start to our arrival - I needed to do our own deep cleaning (all dishes, towels, and bedding...) and our internet did not work! (Turned out the connection cable was exposed to the elements and corroded) - Not really the welcome we wanted, but all things considered, survivable. The owners were very sorry about the condition (they live in CA and had not been allowed to leave), and we were understanding. I cleaned, my husband negotiated and connected faster internet, we met neighbors and used their internet for the first days of online school, and we figured it out. The view was worth staying for!
On-line school is tough - I am many things, but a patient and kind teacher might not be one of them! (Are we all feeling this way?) My kindergartener has three 15min google meets a day - that is it. The rest is "independent learning" which translates to her trying to watch "learning videos" or me being the teacher. I took on coaching her in Spanish, expanding her math, and teaching her science and animal facts. My 3rd grader was fully engaged, with little time between classes and lots of activities. It was a strange experience, but one I enjoyed.
We had a great set up in the upstairs bedroom with two desks and plenty of space for the girls to work side by side and me to oversee. (Notice my little one curled up watching her Spanish videos... under the desk. Ha!) I will say, finding a rental with a set up like this was key to our survival. It allowed all their papers and supplies to stay organized and not strewn about the rest of the rental. Plus, it created a space to focus!
Most of our days consisted of school 8 am to 3 pm, a swim, dinner, uno, and bed. Not completely different than if we had stayed home, except for the swim and the occasional dinner in town. However, that difference alone made the experience so much more tolerable. Things were open, and besides needing to wear a mask when you are out and about, things felt normal. People were welcoming and respectful. Standards on social distancing were followed everywhere we went.
We took the holiday break from school to venture and explore - keeping close to home. Our kiddos are at the age of complaining... so big drives or long hikes are accompanied with negative commentary every step. (Does this ever end?) We day tripped to Monteverde, zip-lining and walking the hanging bridges. We did two nights in Arenal and took the kids to Baldi Hot Springs and on a Chocolate tour. We went south to Manuel Antonio to search for sloths and hit the most beautiful beaches this side of the country offers.
Ahh, the beaches. We fell in love with a beach about 20 minutes away from where we were staying called Playa Blanca. Obviously, a white sand beach you access by walking the length of a neighboring beach and climbing a small hill/cliff to the other side. We were one of 10 people on this beach most times... until the holiday hit. Still, even with many beach lovers visiting - there was plenty of room, socially distanced barriers in place, and lots of great music to enjoy.
And monkeys! These little guys hung out in the trees just above beach picnic coolers, awaiting a chance to take a peek and maybe help themselves to a little snack. It was entertaining! We found if we hid a mango (growing naturally on the tree above us) in a sandcastle, the monkey would come and dig it out. Our kids had a blast playing in the sand with their new friends! We did eye the occasional tourist who tried to hand feed the monkeys something un-natural like popcorn or a candy bar of all things. We got a little heated at a group of 30 somethings from Michigan, and then a bunch of other people stepped in and helped us. I am that person who will call someone out. You do not feed wild animals, and you do not stand on a reef. Nothing bothers me more than when people travel to a new country and treat it like a Disney park... with no respect for the people, animals, or the environment. My kids brought extra plastic bags and we ended up cleaning all their garbage they left on the beach too. (We do this every time we go to a beach, as I want my children to know their responsibility to the earth has started).
It's kinda funny because we have been here a long time by vacation standards, but really we are just living our normal life in this place. We grocery shop at the Auto Marcado, we are regulars at the weekly farmers market. It is a simpler life here somehow. No need to buy supplies in excess, no restrictions harming the businesses (there are occupancy laws in place here too, it's just that most things are already smaller and outdoor - so the effect of these restrictions is very minimal).
Some businesses have closed permanently due to the lack of tourists, and my heart mourns for them. We drove to an animal rehabilitation center only to find the doors shuttered, and a few of the highly-rated restaurants on Trip Advisor have closed. However, there is a surge in smaller restaurants and more personalized tours - We joke it's a bit like stepping back in time. The business and culture remind us greatly of our first trip to Costa Rica nearly 20 years ago. Things are smaller, fresh, authentic, and now the roads are WAY better.
If you ever wanted to visit this amazing land - I would not wait. It's amazing to be here without the crowds and mess of mass tourism. We have been thanked repeatedly by staff, chefs, and shop keepers for "braving the world and helping to keep it going." Pura Vida.
If you would like itinerary advice, please reach out. We are always happy to help a #nanigirl plan their adventure.