Desperate to escape the dreary New York winter, I took a brief trip to Costa Rica to get away the harsh East Coast weather. This Central American country was previously known only in my mind for zip-lining, rainforests, and tropical beaches. As it turns out, my four day trip to this exotic locale consisted exactly of those things, and much much more.
My day of arrival into the country consisted of a day spent in the capital, San Jose. It turns out, however, that there was nothing much to do in this bustling city in terms of tourism. Whilst a hub for transportation and trip departures, many of the exotic parks and scenery of Costa Rica lie hours away from this somewhat underdeveloped metropolis.
Seen here, the National Museum of Costa Rica , it seemed to be closed the day I went.
Some colorful murals on the walls to one side of the National Museum square.
I wasn't even looking for this...and yet somehow happened upon the Chinatown in San Jose. Apparently it is relatively new, having just been created in 2015.
The Central Market (Mercado Central) in San Jose, selling everything from food, to souvenirs...to plastic containers?
Perhaps the most notable of my half day in San Jose: a first try of authentic 'Costa Rican' cuisine at Nuestra Tierra, which came recommended by locals. Chelles was another eatery that came recommended, and though was unvisited by us was rumored to be one of the oldest restaurants in town.
Though English menus and signs tipped off the eatery as clearly catering towards tourists - the dishes we sample here were more than satisfying.
Like the Peruvians, the Costa Ricans seemed to like their ceviche. Left, a sampling of shrimp, octopus, and white sea bass ceviche, blended in a strong lime/salt/cilantro mix. Tangy, not very fishy - otherwise unremarkable. The corn chips, however, were deliciously crunchy.
Chorreadas, right, a type of corn pancake that can be eaten sweet or savory, typically paired with coffee and enjoyed at breakfast or as a desert.
You will quickly find that beans and rice are ubiquitous in the local cuisine here. Seen below are two variations on casado, or 'married man,' a dish featuring various Central American staples such as black beans, rice, tortilla, salad, fried plantains, and grilled meat.
Below left, casado with grilled strips of steak and cheese. For me, it was reminiscent of a sizzling beef fajita dish, with the added bonus of melted cheese to top it all off. Right, also casado, with pork sausage and beef. The pork sausage seemed to be made of spiced minced pork, shaped and fried to perfection.
Seen below is a Costa Rican coffee making specialty: the chorreador. It consists of hot water being passed through coffee grounds in a permeable cloth sac, hung on a decorated wooden stand. Metal cups are typically placed under this filtration process to collect the strong and flavorful coffee garnered from the process.
Day Two of my Costa Rican saga consisted of a trip to an nearby island known as Isla Tortuga (turtle island). While the trip was eventful and made for a thoroughly enjoyable day by the beach & under the sun, if I could do it again I'd opt for a day at the beaches in the famed Mario Antonio Nat'l park instead.
The catamaran used to ferry passengers to the island had a bar on it. Naturally, I took full advantage.
They even offered us some ceviche onboard. White fish, cilantro, lime and a few other ingredients, tossed and served in adorable plastic cups.
This, ladies and gentlemen, was what was known as an onboard 'Jacuzzi.' Due to the number of families that came on the trip, it quickly turned into a kiddie pool instead. Much more fitting.
And after two hours of sailing, we dock beach-side at Tortuga Island.
Towels and other sundries are available for purchase in the gift shop here, but unless you're prepared to pay $25 dollars for generic sunscreen, I'd suggest coming prepared. Chairs and umbrellas are set up on the beaches, these rent at a more reasonable cost.
Despite this being my first day in Costa Rica, this was exactly what I imagined a beach here would look like. Tall palms, blue skies, and just that hint of rainforest vegetation serving as a backdrop for gorgeous blue waters.
We had a catered lunch set up for us - typical Costa Rican fare: which means of course: rice (but no beans!), grilled chicken and fish, vegetables, ands two kinds of salads. The locals are apparently big on their salads - as a means to get their vegetables in, supposedly.
The food wasn't very remarkable - thought tartare sauce on fish is somehow always a good combination.
Let me just start off by saying this heavenly coconut in my lap was made even better by the rum it was spiked wiwth. Nothing like fresh coconut water and some old fashioned liquor for some maximum beachside relaxation.
Plenty of acitivities on the island - include a nature hike. A self-guided tour complete with a numbered booklet marking the various flora and fauna scattered alongside the branch-laden path, the top of the hill nonetheless made for some good views of the beach and ocean below.
As is with most tropical places - the color of the water is a turquiose aquarmarine blue.
You can purchase timed wifi access on the island (courtesy of satellite below, I assume). But whilst you're in this remote(ish) isle - while not disconnect? Supposedly this is the one true key to happiness du jour being touted today, or so I hear.
A lookout point (not quite) off the beaten path.
It's me, and my trusted Sloggers sun-hat that's followed me faithfully across the globe. Happy to announce I've bought two more of these UV-proof accessories for my next sun-filled destination: Hawaii.
Look - it's the beach I was just on - dotted in blue umbrellas and minuscule people. I can even spot our catamaran from here.
All in all, a very good day spent relaxing island style. Catch the sunset over the sea as one sails back to shore.
And after a little less than two hours, we arrive back at the docks.
Props to this man for selling meat sticks (chicken, I believe) on the side of the road. China and Costa Rica have you in common, good sir.