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La pura vida in Costa Rica

Playa Jacó from a nearby hill

Playa Jacó from a nearby hill on our morning hike.

Over the winter break, we traveled to Costa Rica. In addition to time at the beach, I got to meet my oldest uncle—who married a Costa Rican woman and moved to Central America in the late 50s—and many cousins and extended family for the first time.

What a beautiful country! Lush, fog-capped mountains, gorgeous beaches, and lots of jungle. Paradise.

San Jose had incredible temps in the mid-to-high 70s (Fahrenheit, obvs) during the day, with cool breezes and plenty of sunshine. On Christmas, I wore a light sweater to sit outside on the restaurant patio. The weather reminded me of the California coast. Surrounded by tall, green mountains, this centrally located city is breathtaking, but sits several hours from the ocean.

Gwen on a coffee plantation

Me on the coffee plantation

coffee bean plant

Coffee beans on my cousins' plantation

Costa Rica Mountains

View from a highpoint on the way to Jacó from San Jose.

After a quick visit with my new-to-me family—including  tour of their small coffee plantation—we spent almost a week on the Pacific coast in Playa Jacó. My weather app said it would be 85° F every day, but apparently that really means:

Temps in Jacó

Wait, it feels like what???

Jacó was a two-showers-a-day kind of place. The minute we left the condo, we were covered in beads of sweat from head to toe.


To cope, we usually spent the middle of the day inside—can you say siesta?—or in the water. The ocean temperature was probably in the low 80s. Absolutely perfect. We tried to either hike or run early in the morning, and catch the sunset every evening.

Playa Jacó

Playa Jacó on a morning run.

dog on trail

This little dog “led” us to the ruins of a half-built party venue on the side of the hill overlooking Jacó.

Ruins of a party venue in Costa Rica

Ruins of the party venue


Everyone came out for the sunsets on Jacó Beach.

We didn't see quite as much wildlife as I had hoped, but still had several encounters with monkeys, saw a colorful parrot in flight, glimpsed a sloth hiding high in a tree, and watched crocodiles sunbathe beneath a bridge. The beach was chock full of tiny crabs, and we also saw cutter ants, a couple of iguanas, several green-and-black frogs, and lots of little lizards.

Monkey on a wire

This electrical wire on the mountain was like a monkey highway.

Here are a couple of super short monkey videos.

capuchin monkey in a tree

Capuchin monkey “hanging out” in Manuel Antonio National Park.

sign: don't feed the monkeys

Keep the monkeys wild!

crab tracks in the sand

Crab tracks in the sand.

Beware of crocodiles sign in Spanish

Beware: cocodrilos!

Crocodiles on the highway to Jacó.

Crocodiles on the highway to Jacó.

Some of the things I noticed:

  • Stray dogs are everywhere, in the city and at the beach, but they pretty much leave everyone alone. However, the dogs force homes and businesses to keep their trash in containers several feet off the ground so the dogs don't get into it.
  • Costa Rica is very environmentally conscious. I loved that they had both regular and composting trash bins, and recycling was common as well.
  • Eggs aren't refrigerated in the grocery stores. I guess this is okay. It must be working for them. I don't eat eggs, so it didn't bother me. 😉
trash bin

Everyone keeps their trash up off the ground, out of reach of stray dogs.

trash bins in Jaco

Organic (compostable) and inorganic trash bins were common in San Jose and Jacó.

eggs and food in grocery store

We saw eggs out on the shelf like this at all the grocery stores.

Tree embedded in curb.

I got nothin'.

If you get a chance, definitely visit Costa Rica for a taste of La Pura Vida! (Translation: The Pure Life, but also a greeting, a general expression that life is good or life could be worse.)

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    Okay, adding Costa Rica to my list of places to visit! Thanks for sharing all the great pics and videos. I’m glad you had a good time and got to meet your extended family. That must have been fun. 🙂


    • Reply

      Absolutely, Maura! Costa Rica was worth the trip, and it was very cool to meet a huge part of my family I’d had little to no contact with before.

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