Take Your MEDS, Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Well

Many people believe that MEDS is an abbreviation for medicines. Well, it could be – I am not a doctor. But to me, MEDS stands for Meditation, Exercise, Diet, and Sleep. During these crazy times of the COVID-19 virus. It is very important for all to Be Smart, Be Safe and Be Well!!  Costa Rica MEDS
During these very stressful days of being “locked down” in your house or being “quarantined” for 14 days. Please remember to take your MEDS. To be safe is to be smart! Because when all this is over Costa Rica still wants you to come and enjoy the beauty of this wonderful country.

 

Playa Hermosa meditation
Meditation: There are many forms of meditation this could also be in the form of praying or a quiet time to yourself, it helps clear your mind and brain and will give a calming effect to the worrisome situation at hand.

 

Diagram of exercises you can do at home
Exercise: Take it from a partially fat guy, at least that was what my doctor referred to me once when he said I had to lose 10 Kilos, but that’s another story. There are many very easy ways to exercise, even if you’re trapped in your home. I am sure I do not need me to explain what to do. JUST MOVE YOUR butt and get the blood flowing. Raising your fork does not count, which leads me to the next item.

 

Fresh food you can find in Costa Rica
Diet: We are what we stuff in our mouths. If you eat lots of processed fatty stuff, guess what you will be fat like me. Or eat healthy things, lots of fruits, vegetables, natural items – not processed foods.  Sure they may taste good but they are not good for you. If it is made in a factory, don’t eat it. If it is made by mother nature enjoy it.

 

Woman sleeping with a mask on
Sleep: We all seem not to get enough of it. Sleep is meant to help the brain release and reset. If you’re not getting enough, you will feel more stress, more fatigue and overall lousy. You should aim for a minimum of seven hours, eight to nine is even better.
The cool thing about living in Costa Rica, during this crazy time, MEDS are easy to take. With thousands of locations to chill alone with no one in sight, it is easy to meditate.  Even during these crazy times, it is easy to exercise, even in my condo, while looking at the ocean. With the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available in Costa Rica, diet is easy to maintain. Have you ever had mango ice cream?? It is to die for. I make it with fresh mango, eggs, low-fat milk, and organic agave syrup (for the extra sweetness). Last but not least, being close to the equator means there is plenty of dark night time, about 10 hours a day, so you can get plenty of sleep.

I am going to 100% honest with you: I am taking my MEDS and I have cut out a lot of artificially processed foods from my diet. The killer was giving up sweets.  I love the stuff!  I am sleeping longer and doing a daily exercise routine. That doctor won’t call me a fat guy again!

I just love living in Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

Coronavirus and Costa Rica’s Response

Unfortunately for many people worldwide, this Coronavirus has affected them in ways they never imagined. On a positive note, Costa Rica’s government has been diligent in taking action to protect the people of this beautiful country.

Costa Rica Minister of Health and PresidentAs I have written previously about the Coronavirus, including an update, and as a recap, the ports of entry have been closed to all foreigners up to at least April 12, 2020. Citizens and legal residents of Costa Rica are permitted in and will be quarantined for up to 14 days. They will go through a health check upon returning to the country at the point of entry and are required to give details of where they have been and where they live in Costa Rica.

Many planned events such as topes (Horse parades), festivals, sporting events, concerts, you name it, have been canceled so people are not gathering together and potentially spreading the coronavirus even further. Bars and night clubs were ordered closed. All restaurants are allowed to stay open but can only serve 50% of their total capacity.

All public and private schools are closed for the next two weeks, then there is the Semana Santa vacation, (Easter break) kids will be out of school for over 4 weeks. Many private schools have turned to on-line classes and work for students to continue their education.

As of writing this here is a link to the Costa Rica Ministry of Health website showing the confirmed cases in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, as of the 18th of March, there is one reported death. An elderly man of 87 years.

https://www.ministeriodesalud.go.cr/sobre_ministerio/prensa/img_cvd/img_datos_marzo_2020_09.jpeg

To help fight off the inevitable economic problems that will face Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Congress approved, in its first debate, the Tax Relief Project – COVID-19. Here is a rough break down of the draft.  I received this information from one of the largest and most trusted law firms in Costa Rica, Dentons Muñoz.

Deferral on the payment of Value Added Tax: Value Added Tax payments due on April, May, and June 2020, can be deferred until December 31, 2020, without the application of any interest or penalties The obligation to file Value Added Tax returns will remain unaltered.
Partial payment deferral (installments): Taxpayers will be authorized not to make partial Income Tax payments in April, May, and June 2020.  The deferral does not apply to taxpayers with a special fiscal period previously approved by the Tax Administration.  The deferral will not apply to other taxes regulated in the Income Tax Law (e.g., salary withholding, withholdings of remittances abroad, among others). Consequently, filings and payments must be made as provided by the current applicable regulations.
Deferral of the payment of Selective Consumption Tax: In the case of taxpayers registered at the Taxpayers Registry, the Project proposes a deferral of the payment of the tax for the months of April, May, and June 2020. The obligation to file the tax returns remains unaltered and the payment of the tax is postponed until December 31, 2020, without interest or charges.
Deferral of payment of customs duties: In the case of taxpayers registered in the Taxpayer Registry, they will be able to nationalize merchandise without paying tariffs during the months of April, May and June 2020.
Extension of the Deferral: Finally, the Executive Branch was authorized to extend the deferral for an additional month, to have tax payments due in July be paid by December 31, 2020.
Exemption on commercial leases: An exemption from the payment of 13% of the Value Added Tax was approved for the months of April, May, and June 2020, for the leases paid in commercial activities, as long as the lessor and lessee are registered at the Taxpayers Registry.

Validity: The publication is expected to take place by the end of the month, in which case, the measures listed above would enter into force in April. For this initiative to become a law, Congress must vote this a second time which is expected today March 19, 2020.

More updates to come. Be safe, be smart!! This shall pass.

Update: COVID-19 Costa Rica

Hello from beautiful Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. With all the talk and concerns of the Coronavirus, world-wide, Costa Rica is taking steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Here is an update on the Coronavirus, aka COVID-19) in Costa Rica.

COVID-19 in Costa Rica
I received the information below from a reputable Costa Rican law firm specializing in immigration. This information, for residents and non-residents of Costa Rica, covers new immigration procedures put into effect because of the COVID-19 virus. Especially for those that may be in the process of obtaining their residency.

COVID-19 Costa Rica
I highly recommend that if you are in the process of obtaining your residency in Costa Rica, to contact the firm you are working with to be up to date on the status of your residency application.
The President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, along with the central government is taking the COVID-19 issue very seriously.  They have issued a decree that put travel restrictions at all borders. Land, air and sea ports of entry, will be closed off to all foreigners, starting the 18th of March at 11:59 PM and will continue through at least Sunday, April 12 at 11:59 p.m.

Citizens and legal residents returning to Costa Rica will be allowed in but will be quarantined for 14 days during this same time period. As of writing this, those that will be quarantined will need to disclose where they live in Costa Rica to the immigration officials at the entry points.

From Outlier Legal Services:
The Immigration Department issued this evening, Monday, March 16, 2020, Resolution N° DJUR-043-03-2019-JM, which, in summary, states:
• The Immigration Department WILL NOT receive Residency applications going forward and until May 17, 2020. This includes all categories. Basically, Residency applications are suspended until May 17, 2020.
• Consequently, documents that will expire within this period will be deemed valid (meaning their validity will be automatically extended) until July 17, 2020.
• Exigencies will not be raised by the Department until July 17, 2020.
• The Immigration Department will continue analyzing applications during this time. Hopefully, it will give them time to catch up on delayed work.
• Approvals and rejections will continue to be issued and notified solely via fax or email only.
• The exclusive attorney window used by many professionals to follow up on applications will remain closed until May 17, 2020.
• DIMEX requests: Will work solely through Banco de Costa Rica and Correos de Costa Rica by APPOINTMENT ONLY. Residencies based on marriage to a Costa Rican national can and will only be renewed at Immigration. Therefore, these will be suspended and may be processed between May 17 and July 17, 2020. If any of the other categories cannot be renewed through Banco de Costa Rica or Correos de Costa Rica, applicants will have until July 17, 2020, to process their renewals.
• Entry visas for Restricted Nationalities are suspended until May 17, 2020.
• Tourists (non-Residents) who entered the country after December 17, 2019, may legally remain in Costa Rica until May 17, 2020.
• Minor’s exit permit requests and issuance of Costa Rican passports will continue to work, as normal.

Driving in Costa Rica

What is it like to drive in Costa Rica? Exciting, nerve-wracking, scary, maybe dangerous, but never boring. At times you will feel like you are on a roller coaster; at times you will feel like you are in a video game. Driving here can be intimidating for a visitor. But it gives you the freedom that you won’t have when riding a bus.

Driving in Costa RicaA valid driver’s license from your home country is all you need to drive in Costa Rica. Always have your passport or a copy of it handy just in case you get pulled over. There is no need for an international driver’s license. Yours will be good as long as your stay is less than 3 months. Check your passport entry stamp for the exact date.

In Costa Rica, we drive on the right-hand side and most rules of the road are similar to those in North America. Speed limits are posted in kilometers per hour. Seat belts are required. That said, rules are not enforced much. As a result, they are not obeyed much either. For example, in rural areas especially seat belts go unused, a parent’s lap is the child seat, and passenger limits are often exceeded. Police checkpoints are common, but usually, they only check your passport, license, and registration.

Costa RicaRoad conditions vary from well-paved, multi-lane highways and two-lane roads to pothole-filled dirt roads that cross rivers. Four-wheel drive is recommended if you plan to visit remote areas.

 

Driving in Costa Rica can be a challenge because roads and highways are not well marked. They have numbers according to the map or GPS, but signage is almost non-existent unless you are on some of the major highways. Therefore, I highly recommended that you use GPS or the wifi on your phone to connect to a mapping program. The app Waze is excellent–I use it at times.  It’s very popular here because it takes into account traffic and construction as well as comments from fellow travelers about current conditions. It is easy to download and set up.Costa Rica Highways

 

 

 

 

Not everyone has a car in Costa Rica.  A lot of people get around on bicycles and on foot. What does this have to do with driving in Costa Rica you ask?   Well, keep reading.

Pedestrians are extremely comfortable walking alongside the road—or even down the middle of it! Beware of kids walking to school, mothers pushing strollers, and the family dog walking abreast—not single file—alongside a busy highway. It is especially dangerous at night when people are wearing dark clothes. They feel confident because they can see you with your bright headlights just fine, but they have no idea how invisible they are to as you are blinded by the glare of an oncoming car and hurtling along at 50 mph.

There are also a lot of motorcycles on the road since they are more economical and are not impeded by heavy traffic. Be aware, though, that motorcyclists seem to believe they are above the law and possibly even immortal. Especially in the busy traffic environment of San Jose, you need to be alert to motorcycle behavior. They weave and squeeze between cars, so thoroughly check your side mirrors before changing lanes.

Hazard lights are kind of a get-out-of-jail-free card here. If a driver wants to stop in the middle of the road and talk to a friend in the other lane, they just put on their hazard lights and you can’t complain (“Hey! Didn’t you see my hazards?”). They may use them to let you know there is a problem up ahead, and that is more helpful. Turn signals are sometimes used by someone in front of you to let you know you can pass them, but that could also be a dangerous misunderstanding!

Unsafe passing is a national pastime here. NEVER think someone won’t pass because of a solid line or zero visibility. There is nothing you can do about it except stay alert and cautious. And never assume it can’t happen.

In the event of an accident, call 911 and your rental car company. Be sure to not move the car, even if it is blocking traffic. The police will arrive and record all pertinent information, and your rental car company will bring you a replacement.

The good news is all gasoline stations are full service! And the price per liter is set by the government, so there is no need to shop around for the lowest price. Gas stations take cash or credit cards, but make sure to check the charge on your printed receipt against the amount on the pump before you sign it just in case the attendant decides to include a generous tip.

Now you are ready to hit the road. Driving in Costa Rica can be interesting. Don’t be intimidated, it will be OK.
Gentlemen, start your engines!

Is Costa Rica Safe for Visitors?

Is Costa Rica safe?  Unfortunately, there is no where in the world where you can say you will be 100% safe, 100% of the time. In the U.S., unlike Costa Rica, children are not safe even at school. And if there is little or no crime in the area where you live, there are still natural dangers—tornados, floods, fires—that rob you of complete peace of mind.

That said, however, Costa Rica is safe in general, and it can be considered VERY safe if you take reasonable common sense precautions.

Here are some things that are very safe in Costa Rica:

1. Water is potable everywhere in Costa Rica. That is, unless you are buried in the jungle somewhere and your only water source is a mud puddle. Then maybe not so much. But everywhere else, Costa Rican water is clean and tasty, except for some strange reason in the San Jose airport water fountains—yuck!

2. Food offered in restaurants will not make you sick. Costa Ricans are sticklers for cleanliness. However, I am not making any promises about roadside stands where proper refrigeration of perishables may be lacking.

3. Unless you are sleeping overnight deep in the aforementioned jungle, you will not be attacked by wild animals. Big cats and snakes wisely avoid populated areas; attacks by the former are unheard of and by the latter very rare.

4. The government will not be overthrown during your visit. Costa Rica experiences almost no civil unrest. It abolished its army in 1949, and protests and marches take place rather quietly.

The criminal activity that blights most Latin American countries is also prevalent in Costa Rica, although to a much lesser degree that most of its Central American neighbors. Pick pocketing and petty theft are common here, but chances are you will be able to enjoy your vacation without incident if you take these precautions:

1. Beaches. Swimming in Costa Rica is safe owing to almost no incidents of shark attacks, jellyfish flotillas, or red tides. Beaches where the currents are strong (surfers love those!) and where riptides are possible are well marked. Read up on what to do if you feel the current taking you out. Here is a good Link to Read. Stay calm and you will be fine. If worried about it Come to Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste, you won’t have that issue. By and large, Costa Rica’s beaches are safe from forms of personal assault, but petty theft of belongings is common. Do not leave your things unattended on the beach while you are playing in the waves! Park your car in sight or in guarded parking areas. Even then, do not leave valuables in sight in your car. However, don’t make a big, noisy show of moving everything to the trunk, either. Trunks are not impregnable! It is better to leave your valuables back at your rental villa or hotel when you are traveling around.

2. Do not carry a lot of cash or wear expensive jewelry. Carry a copy of your passport and leave the real one in a safe place at your residence. Conversely, carry a credit card but leave copies of your cards back home so you will have the card number and customer information in case your card is lost or stolen.

3. Use good judgement after dark. Do not walk around alone, and if you need directions, ask persons in lighted establishments, not someone sleeping under a tree. Do not accept help from persons who approach you. Better yet, take a taxi—the red or orange ones are licensed and safe. Frankly, if you are wandering around alone on dark streets after midnight, you are on your own. I can’t help you.

4. Don’t use the overhead shelves on buses. People can easily take your bag when exiting the bus while you are looking out the window. If your bag is too big to fit at your feet or on your lap, store it in the luggage compartment under the bus and ask for a ticket.

5. When you get back to your condo from the beach, you may want to leave all your wet stuff drying outside your condo. This is not a good idea if your porch or balcony can be accessed by others or if you are on the ground floor. If you do leave things outside, make sure you bring everything in before going out for the evening or going to bed.

6. Just say “No” to drugs anywhere anytime.  They are never worth it.

So, is Costa Rica safe?  Yes! Costa Rica can be a very safe place to visit and live. If you are from a small town in rural USA, you will have to take precautions you are not used to. But if you do, then Costa Rica can be the paradise of your dreams.

Coronavirus and Costa Rica

Although the spread of the coronavirus is of serious to concern to the world’s citizens, it is a relief to know that as of last week on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, the Health Ministry announced that Costa Rica does not have any suspected cases of the deadly virus.

Corona Virus Map

Here is a link to a world map that is updated daily showing areas affected and number of people that have this horrid virus. You can see that Costa Rica is free of the virus.

https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Protocols have been established for public and private health centers to follow in the event of a suspected case of the virus, reports the English-language newspaper The Tico Times. These protocols stipulate that the infected person(s) will be quarantined and all people with whom they have come in contact in the days prior to the onset of symptoms will also be examined. Previous viruses were processed according to these protocols, namely the AH1N1 and SARS viruses, and an epidemic was avoided.

No Coronavirus in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has no direct flights from China, so passengers are not being screened at the airports at this time.

The virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in the Hubei province. According to WebMD, symptoms of coronavirus are similar to any other upper-respiratory infection, including runny nose, cough, sore throat and sometimes fever, making detection tricky. However, as the virus advances it can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure. Persons who have recently returned from a trip to China should keep a careful eye on their health and seek medical attention should any of the initial symptoms appear. Immediately inform the attending medical personnel of your recent travels.Be aware of the symptoms and be safe.

coronavirus

Butterflies of Costa Rica

Something you will notice in Costa Rica is that there are butterflies everywhere! Unless you are in the concrete jungle of downtown San Jose, it is unlikely that a single day will pass without seeing a butterfly.

Butterflies of Costa Rica

One guidebook says that “there are more butterflies in this tiny country than in the entire United States.” There are more than 1,200 different types of butterflies fluttering around Costa Rica—18% of the world’s species and 90% of the species found in Central America.

Morpho Butterfly costa rica

One of the largest and most beautiful butterflies in Costa Rica is the Blue Morpho. The intense royal blue of its 8-inch wingspan seems lit from within. But the striking iridescence of its wings is not due to a metallic pigment of some sort. The glowing blue is actually produced by some pretty ingenious engineering. Rows of tiny concave surfaces on the wings reflect light in various ways, resulting in a final mix called “structural color” because the complex way in which it is produced.  In the case of the Morpho, the structure of its wings singles out the blue spectrum of light and Voila! Wings that glow neon blue.

Playa Hermosa Butterfly

Butterfly wings are so fragile that even the weight of specks of dust or drips of moisture could make flying difficult. But far from looking like they are struggling to stay afloat, butterflies glide effortlessly. What is the secret? Though appearing smooth to the naked eye, the wing surface is covered with minute overlapping scales that resemble tiles on a roof. Grooves on the surface of these scales cause dirt and drips of water to roll off with ease. As a result, butterfly wings are always clean and dry.

Costa Rica Owl butterfly

Another of the largest of Costa Rica’s butterflies is the Owl Butterfly. This nocturnal butterfly owes its name to the giant spots on its wings that resemble an owl’s eyes. It lives in lowland forests and feeds on fermenting fruits.

 

 

Costa Rica

The Variable Cracker Butterfly can be hard to spot because its intricately patterned wings in beiges and browns camouflage it as it rests on trees and branches. This butterfly’s name comes from the snapping sound it makes with its wings when defending its territory and during courtship rituals.

 

Glass winged

There are 64 different types of the Glass Wing Butterfly in Costa Rica, and they have habitats on both coasts. They all share the unique feature of transparent wings outlined or spotted with color. Some are so see-through that they are actually difficult to spot!

 

 

The Malachite Butterfly has green, blue and gold patterned wings similar to the colors of the mineral malachite. Their delicate coloring and dainty flight contradict their strong dietary choices that include decaying fruit, deceased animals, and bat droppings.
Butterfly gardens are a great place to learn more about butterflies and interact with them. Most have large enclosures where you will be immediately captivated by a kaleidoscope of dazzling colors floating and fluttering around you.

 

Just a short drive from Playa Hermosa at the El Diamante Eco Adventure park, you will find a great many of these beautiful creatures in a natural setting. Diamante is known for its world-class habitat designs that address the needs of each species. The unique design of the habitats allows guests to view and learn about key aspects of biology, ecology and natural history of the animals.

The Butterfly Observatory, located in the Arenal Volcano area, is an education and research center that hosts the largest butterfly exhibit in Costa Rica. They offer a tour of the facility led by a very knowledgeable guide. There is also a lovely nature trail.

The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens are open every day of the year, 8:30-4:30. The one-hour guided tour through the facility alive with fluttering butterflies is incredible. You will have the opportunity to see the most stunning species up close since they often come to rest on your shoulder or outstretched arm.

The butterfly enclosure at La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a chance to enter a paradisaic garden where hundreds of butterflies flit around you to the sound of new age jazz. There are also hundreds of chrysalises in various stages of metamorphosis. If you are patient, you can watch a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, unfold its wings as the sunlight dries them, and fly away. The on-site laboratory breeds 25 native species, making it a perfect place to experience all the different stages of a butterfly’s short life.

The Butterfly Farm in La Guacima was the first of its kind in Costa Rica and has the biggest export operation in the country. Each month it exports 4000-6000 harvested pupae (cocoon or chrysalis) to other butterfly gardens and institutions around the world. Tours of the farm are offered daily, and here too you can learn about the life cycle of butterflies and the native species of Costa Rica.

So when coming to Costa Rica, make time to go to one of the listed above butterfly farms you won’t be disappointed. “Happiness is like a butterfly,” said author Nathaniel Hawthorne. “When pursued, it is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will set down quietly, may alight upon you.” May that be your experience in Costa Rica. As you sit quietly, may both butterflies and happiness alight upon you.

Costa Rica Waterfalls

There is something very magical about Costa Rica waterfalls! How can something roaring and powerful also be serene and calming? Costa Rica is blessed with hundreds of these natural wonders and Guanacaste has some of the nicest.

Costa Rica Waterfalls

Some waterfalls surprise you by jumping into view as you round a bend in the road. Others require more effort to get to, but the anticipation that builds as the roar increases is as rewarding as the destination itself. Who can deny the appeal of diving into a pool at the bottom of a waterfall after a long, hot hike? Or standing under the falling water as a million drops massage your head and shoulders?

Costa Rica Playa Hermosa

There are several beautiful waterfalls that can be visited as day-trips from Playa Hermosa. Just enter the name in your GPS or favorite travel app for exact locations. I prefer to use Waze, it seams to work the best here and is a free download.

 

Cortez falls Costa RicaPlaya Del CocoCatarata Llanos de Cortes–This waterfall is quite the surprise if you are visiting Costa Rica during the dry season. After traveling through the tropical dry landscape you would swear any water in the area would be long-evaporated. But after parking and a short walk downhill, you are shocked to find a tropical oasis with a 40-foot high, 50-foot wide curtain of water as its centerpiece! There is a small beach and a clear pool for swimming in as well as trails along the river that lead to other smaller waterfalls and deep blue swimming holes. The lushness of the forest and the cool water of the pond are a perfect escape for any time of the year. Of all the Costa Rica waterfalls, it’s one of the closest to Playa Hermosa–only about 45 minutes drive.

Waterfalls Costa Rica

Catarata La Congreja—Once more Guanacaste offers the proverbial ‘pot of gold at the end of a rainbow’ in the form of a refreshing waterfall at the end of a long 3.5-mile hike. You will find this magical 130-foot high waterfall, Catarata La Congreja in Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The churning white water river shoots out of the green forest and plummets to a transparent pool of blue water far below. It is about a 1 hour drive to the entrance of the park from Playa Hermosa on all paved roads.

rio celesteRio Celeste Waterfall—Rio Celeste is one of the most striking of all Costa Rica waterfalls.  A sky blue river runs through the lush Tenorio Volcano National Park. The almost unnatural color of the water, it turns out, isn’t unnatural at all! The water is tinted by very naturally-occurring chemicals in the water in this mineral-rich region. Because the waterfall is picture-perfect, it has been featured in almost every postcard and travel video of Costa Rica. It can get pretty crowded January through April, but those are the months the water is at its bluest, since the rains can muddy the waters during that time of the year. So try to beat the crowds by getting there as soon as the entrance opens at 8 a.m. The 2-hour trip from Playa Hermosa takes you to Liberia, and then south down the Pan American Highway to a turn-off near Canas.

waterfallMontezuma Waterfall—Farther afield is the waterfall at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula near the town of Montezuma, made famous by quarterback Tom Brady posting a video of himself jumping from the top. The 60-dive is not for the faint of heart (Tom looks really scared), so maybe those of us who do not face 300-pound linemen trying to sack us shouldn’t try it. The waterfall is actually a series of 3 waterfalls that can be hiked to, the first one you come to being the last in the series. It takes 4 hours to travel to the tip of the peninsula, but the waterfall is only one of many attractions in the area.

The Costa Rica waterfalls I have mentioned in this article are either on private property or in a national park, so entrance fees are collected. You will need to search online for current pricing, since fees tend to fluctuate. Thanks to social media and increased tourism, there are very few natural hidden gems in Costa Rica anymore, and landowners have figured out they can take financial advantage of what used to be a secret. That said, this is a country full of rain-soaked mountains and cascading rivers—the raw material for the creation of perfect waterfalls. So anywhere you go, hike down- or upstream a bit and you may just stumble across your own private waterfall. Like so many before you, you will find yourself ‘water-falling’ in love with Costa Rica!

Costa Rican Tamales–A Christmas Tradition

Costa Rican tamales are kind of like the Christmas cookies of Latin America.  They are everywhere in December, and they’re a tradition worth experiencing.

Costa Rican tamales

However, Costa Rican tamales differs both in appearance and flavor from Mexican tamales. What they have in common is the “masa”—the cornmeal filling. Both are often made with pork and cooked in a pork broth. But the Mexican tamale’s additional fillings vary greatly from its Costa Rican cousin. The biggest differences are that the Mexicans wrap theirs in dry cornhusks and that the tamales are spicy! Costa Rican tamales are wrapped in plantain leaves and generally have a mild flavor.

tamale not Costa Rica

The tradition of making tamales is a labor-intensive, family affair with the women in the family joining forces to prepare them. First the pork broth is prepared with pork chunks, vegetables and spices in a ridiculously large pot—often a 5-gallon cauldron. While that is cooking, rice is prepared, potatoes are boiled, and carrots, peppers, peas and cilantro are sliced and set aside. When ready, the cooked pork is removed from the broth and cut into large, bite-sized pieces. Plantain leaves are washed, veined, and cut to size. Don’t think you can substitute banana leaves—they are too thin and flimsy and will tear apart during the cooking process.

Playa Hermosa Tamales

Now it is time to prepare the cornmeal filling. costa ricaBlend together the cornmeal (masa) and potatoes with some of the pork broth until a wet dough is formed that has the consistency of creamy mashed potatoes. Add salt and/or bouillon to taste. Pork fat you have rendered or purchased at the butcher shop is added to the mix. Here in Costa Rica it is called “Manteca”.  Now for the “fun” part, because the dough is usually mixed with your hands, and before you know it you’re up to your elbows and feeling like a kid again!

 

playa del Coco Tamale

It is time to assembly your Costa Rican tamales, with everyone taking an ingredient! First 2 layers of plantain leaves are laid down. A large spoonful of the masa mix is plopped down in the middle of the leaves. On top of this is placed a spoonful of rice, a piece of meat, a few peas, a slice of carrot, a slice of pepper, and a small stem of cilantro. Some add raisins, cooked garbanzos or green olives—you can tailor them to your tastes!

tamale Playa Hermosa

Folding the package is a more important step than you might imagine, and your workmanship will be tested in the crucible of the cooking pot. Raise the edge up lengthwise and fold it over twice to seal the seam. Lightly flatten, and then fold the sides in over the center, making a tidy package. Using string or twine, tie 2 tamales together to make a “piña”, or a pair of tamales—they cook better tied together.

When all the tamales are prepared, drop them into the boiling pork broth. Cover the pot and boil for 30 minutes, at which point the tamales can be removed from the pot, and cooled to a palatable temperature. Enjoy unwrapping your little meal-in-one tamale! Or let them cool and store them in your fridge or freezer to be reheated another day by boiling in a bit of water or microwaving.

Playa Hermosa Tradition

Many Ticos enjoy Costa Rican tamales as a mid afternoon snack, with coffee. I know sounds a bit strange, but heck its their tradition so don’t knock it.

 

As a reminder, the plantain leaf is your plate and it is NOT to be eaten. Ticos often tell a joke about a gringo who was asked if he liked tamales. He said, yes, except for the lettuce which was really tough (indicating he had mistakenly eaten the plantain leaf). This is hysterically funny to Ticos, so try to beat them to the punch line!

 

Makaing tamales In Costa Rica

Where did the tradition originate? Tamales came on the world scene centuries long before Christ. The Mesoamerican cultures including the Aztec and Maya were wrapping and cooking foods in banana leaves or corn husks long before any of them heard of Christmas. It is believed that foods offered to the gods were presented in leaves and husks, therefore creating the association with religious events and special occasions. When the Mexican population was “Christianized” by the Europeans, the tradition transferred to the most important holiday on the Christian calendar.

Playa Del Coco

So next time you are here during the Christmas holiday, make sure you try some Costa Rican tamales! I like mine with a touch of hot sauce after unwrapping the little extra Christmas package.

Costa Rica’s Cocos Island

“When you get here, everything turns into a green paradise, full of wildlife. It cannot be described in a few words. It is absolutely fantastic. On earth, under water, everything is indescribable.” Where am I? Costa Rica’s Cocos Island.

Costa Rica Cocos Island

Cocos is a 9-square-mile island about 300 miles off the southwest coast of Costa Rica that is known for its stories of buried treasure. It is believed by some that Robert Louis Stevenson based his famous book Treasure Island on tales of pirate treasure hidden there. It is so remote and pristine, the island was featured in the opening scenes of Jurassic Park.

Playa Hermosa Costa Rica

Volcanic activity on the Cocos Ridge gave birth to its only island. This rugged speck of land is the only major island in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that receives sufficient rainfall to support a tropical rain forest—275 inches annually—making it a freshwater oasis for sailors who came across the island.

 

That fresh water was one of the things that attrCocos island Costa Ricaacted pirates in centuries past. Legend has it that the captain of one pirate band chose Cocos Island as his base of operations and the perfect place to hide his booty. According to one version of the story, all the pirates on his galleon decided to bury their share of the treasure somewhere on the island. Using ropes to climb the cliffs that dominate the island’s coastline, each pirate disappeared into the tropical forest. While some trusted their memory, others returned with maps that only they could decipher. After stashing their goods, the pirates sailed away in their galleon in search of more dishonest gains. As it goes with pirates, there followed much double-crossing and mutiny, ending in executions. It is assumed that not every individual pirate made it back to Cocos Island to reclaim their treasure. This assumption has fueled much treasure hunting. There have been more than 500 organized expeditions to the island. According to available information, none have discovered treasure.

Playa Del Coco Costa Rica

However, Cocos Island is full of treasures—natural ones! The entire island has been designated a national park since 1978, and there are no permanent residents other than park rangers. It is a treasure trove of flora and fauna on land and of marine life in the surrounding waters. Several species make Cocos Island their only home on earth. One of the species of birds on the island is the white tern. It has the amusing characteristic of hovering in the air just above people’s heads, giving it the Spanish nickname espiritu santo, or holy spirit, referring to the Biblical account of Jesus’ baptism.

Costa Rica

Cocos Island has been rated one of the top 10 best places in the world to scuba dive. Scuba divers treasure the location for the clarity of the water and the dense population of marine creatures. There is an especially high concentration of hammerhead and white-tipped sharks which travel in schools of between 40 and 50.

 

Live aboard vessels are the only option to visit the island. It is about a 36-hour trip each way from the mainland. If you are planning an upcoming dCosta Rica Manta Rayive trip or travelling to Cocos Island, it is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving. There are no medical facilities on the island, so your policy should also include evacuation insurance.

Just enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica’s Cocos Island and hope to see you in paradise!