How do you define living? Is it defined by your income? Or the pursuit of a specific lifestyle? The presence of family and/or friends? Whatever it is, this pandemic has surely put a wrench in it. We have missed so much these past 18 months I sometimes ask myself, are we living? Or just passing time? As an expat, I never feel totally at ‘home’ where I live and travel has always been an escape for me. Whether it is to seek out new places or revisit familiar ones to see family and friends. And travel partly defines living for me. So how do we go about living through the pandemic?
Getting Back to International Travel
The islands have been closed to international travel since March 2020 with no reopening time in sight. How do we get back to travel when travel for leisure is discouraged and comes at a hefty price tag? The easiest solution is to get to know your island home. We are three islands with a wide variety of offerings to explore and enjoy. So, after happily exploring the other two islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, I was ready to face the world again. I was longing for cool mountain air, flowing rivers and a respite from the summer heat.
Hello Costa Rica!
After a bit of research, I decided on Costa Rica. A friend of mine has been singing its praises for the past two years and I had an open invite. Having less than 2 weeks to travel I needed a short commute and no quarantine. Costa Rica fit this bill as I was able to get there in one day. Of course, that took a bit of planning and thankfully a lot of flexibility from the airlines involved. It reminded me of traveling in the past where airlines were more sympathetic to life changes.
I was longing for cool mountain air, flowing rivers and a respite from the summer heat.
Choosing to travel at the height of the rainy season was a big gamble. But I said to myself I’m going to be in the rainforest, so rain was a given. And that’s what rain gear was for, after all! I arrived in fine style, and by that, I mean a serious rain/thunder storm that our pilot assured us the plane could handle. I had my doubts, but he landed us safely.
Ready to Explore!
By now you would be aware that I am a bit of a busy body. I surprised myself planning this trip as I had a list of things I wanted to do but no set agenda. As a solopreneur it is hard to just hang up your out of office sign for two weeks. So, there would be some working, and I also needed to rest. However, we are not living in normal times and some amount of pre-planning is required. Thankfully, because of the pandemic, most of the places I wanted to get into had availability. And I was able to do all my bookings at short notice.
My trip was mostly spent in central valley around the provinces of Alajuela. However the area to cover was quite large with some locations being 3-4 hours away by car. To make the most of the trip I would overnight in different locations rather than take day trips. A caveat, booking your Airbnb at short notice can be a hit or miss. So, in hindsight I would have done a bit more planning in that respect. However, we lucked out with some great Airbnb places.
Alajuela, one of Costa Rica’s largest cities, and nearby towns like San Jose and Heredia. Fun Fact: The Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) is actually located in Alajuela and not San Jose.
Costa Rica is living through the pandemic
Throughout my entire stay I felt safe. Costa Rica opened to tourism in November 2020. Almost a year later when I visited you could see that they had become accustomed to the new norm and all the normal protocols we come to expect were in place. What I appreciated the most was the installation of hand-washing stations everywhere. Some of which were really ingenious.
The Thrill of an Adventure!
Costa Rica for me in one word was Adventurous. From unhurried hikes around Atenas to playing tennis, singing karaoke with new friends, my whole trip was a vibe! Hanging out late at night until they turn the lights off (curfew is at 10pm, lol); then there was the food!
Go Chase Those Waterfalls
Costa Rica is Volcanoes, Waterfalls, Beaches, Rainforests and just heaven for an adventurer. With only 8 days on the island, I didn’t want to do too much and suffer from burn out. My excursions were carefully selected and decided on the night before each one. This was necessary as most required pre-booking.
Here are some of the highlights from my glorious itinerary.
Las Minas waterfalls and swimming holes. This is a great hiking spot in the dry season to an old gold mine in the upper area. The name Las Minas literally means from the old mines. Of course, hiking to the top is on my list for a do over in the dry season.
La Fortuna Waterfall. Or Catarata Río Fortuna is part of the Arenal Volcano National Park. It is approximately 230ft. tall and meets the Fortuna River at the bottom. Accessible by a 530 steps stairway, its a piece of cake going down, but requires some patience coming back up.
La Paz Waterfalls. The La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Nature Park was an absolute treat. From its animal sanctuary to 5 magnificent waterfalls. I was truly out chasing waterfalls!
Volcanoes and Hot Springs
Tabacon Hot Springs. There are many options to enjoy the hot springs at the base of the Arenal volcano. But for a truly luxurious time you want The Tabacon experience. You can easily access the springs via a day pass or stay at the hotel which gives you unfettered access to the springs.
Arenal Volcano. You cannot hike the volcano, so we decided on a guided tour of the Arenal Volcano National Park. This included the stop at La Fortuna Waterfall. I like guided tours for the little titbits of local stories infused in the tour that you wouldn’t otherwise find elsewhere.
Poas Volcano. Rising almost 9,000ft above sea levels, it was a sight to behold and truly worth the early morning drive up to see it. We were blessed with a clear morning and enjoyed some of the best views that day. For safety reasons and crowd control, tickets had to be purchased online in advance. These were purchased the night before. After being fitted with protective headgear and watching a brief safety video we took the short walk to the look out point where we had a maximum of 20 minutes at the lookout.
Místico Arenal Hanging Bridges. This is not for the faint of heart. Truly, if you are afraid of heights, just enjoy a walk around the Park grounds and see the wildlife in their natural habitat. But oh, the views and that rush just hanging out over 200ft above ground.
Carara National Park. Can I say just relocate to Costa Rica already?! I need more time to tell you about this park. So maybe in another post. Do enjoy the pics and try to see it through my eyes.
Final thoughts on ‘Living through the pandemic’
There is no one size fits all when it comes to living through this pandemic. We have had so many ups and downs. Lockdowns, curfews, freedom, and fights. What I have learnt the past year and half is that I need to practice more self care and give myself as much grace as required. I recall going through a dark period when our beaches were inaccessible earlier on in the lockdowns. Since then, I try not to miss a beach day!
I refuse to live in fear, but always being mindful of my surroundings and how my actions or inaction affect others and vice versa. Where are you reading from? And how are you navigating living through the pandemic? I am very grateful for the opportunity to travel safely to and from Costa Rica. I cannot wait to return but just to travel more in general.