It had been nearly a year since I'd last traveled, and there seemed to be no escape from the daily drudge of routine. I needed out, even if only for a brief period of time. That's when I came up with a brilliant and rare idea: the American vacation.
With only five vacation days at my disposal, I wondered how the hell I was going to take a vacation of any significant length. The answer was simple: by padding it out with weekends, and choosing a relatively small country to visit.
I recently returned from an eight day vacation to Costa Rica, and let me tell you, it was the best decision I've made in a long while. While there was not enough time to extensively explore the country, I was able to get a nice flavor of the land, and had ample time to clear the senses.
The first word that comes to mind when talking about Costa Rica is "green." I mean, it is hands down the greenest country I have ever visited. Outside of the big cities, the country is just a giant mass of rippling rainforest, green mountains, and volcanoes. There are countless national parks and reserves to see, full of tropical birds, insects, animals, and gorgeous flora. Additionally, the country has miles upon miles of beautiful beach. It is one of the most eco-friendly places on Earth.
The trip started in Costa Rica's capital, San José, a fairly standard large city. While a long, sleepless flight had sapped much of my anticipation and energy away, one plate of casado (a traditional Costa Rican dish of rice, beans, plantains, meat, and salad) was enough to get me hooked. I immediately fell in love with the country, and delved into the eight day trip with a smile on my face.
Because of time restraints, I was only able to visit two other places in Costa Rica; however, they were both quite pleasant and relaxing areas.
Cahuita, a small city on the Caribbean coast of the country, was first. It is a calming swath of palm trees and clean beaches, free from the hustle and bustle of San José. The city contains a national park, full of photographically pleasing animals, insects, and trees. The park spans a huge length of beach, allowing people to dip their feet in the water whenever they feel like it. At night, Cahuita's small-town vibe shines through, as locals and tourists head out for delicious Caribbean dinner fare.
After a brief layover in San José, it was time to visit the second city, Santa Elena/Monteverde. Located on the opposite side of the country, it contains several so-called "cloud forest reserves," large stretches of preserved rainforest, full of the green life that inhabits much of Costa Rica. At first, there was some confusion whether we were in Santa Elena or Monteverde. I'm still not 100% certain the difference between the two, but something tells me they are the same place. Either way, hiking through the Santa Elena cloud reserve was a great wrap up activity. One more bus ride back to San José, and it was time to fly home.
There you have it, my brief excursion to Costa Rica. So long as I have to work a day job, I intend to take vacations whenever possible. Let's hope the next time comes sooner, rather than later!