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What’s it Really Like to Live in the Costa Rican Jungle?

What’s it Really Like to Live in the Costa Rican Jungle?

Puerto Viejo


When we see beautiful photos and dreamy stories on travel and lifestyle blogs, it’s easy to create fantasies about the life of the blogger. Perhaps seeing someone live in a way that we’ve always dreamed of gives us the confidence to pursue it ourselves. On the other side of the coin, perhaps we judge our reality against the fantasy that we’ve imagined and feel inadequate by comparison. There’s a fine line between being inspired by blogs and feeling inferior.


This is exactly why I speak to you as authentically as I possibly can. I share my challenges, my heartbreaks, my frustrations, so you see that I am working through this human experience just like everyone else.


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And it’s also important for me to share my joy and bliss, because I truly and authentically can say that even my worst days are better than I ever imagined my best could be back when I lived in North America.


My life is always in flux since I travel constantly, but I spend about half of the year resting in nature and connecting with my community in this jungle beach town that my heart calls home. I’ve written a lot about life on the road, but today I want to talk about the other part of my life. With the hopes of cutting through illusions, and inspiring you all to live with immense joy and purpose, today I’m sharing a candid glimpse into my life here in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.


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A small note: I wish I had more authentic photos to share with you. The truth is, when I’m here just living my life, I’m not taking many photos. It’s a time for me to enjoy a break from documenting and just feel my surroundings instead. For that reason, I don’t have many candid photos of my life. So, I’ll do my best in this post to share the photos that evoke the feelings I have as I’m going about my day. Oh ya, and for the record, I actually do spend most days barefoot in a bikini with a hibiscus flower in my hair. Cause why the heck not?


Here’s a typical day in my life living on the South Caribbean of Costa Rica as a single female nomadic travel blogging yoga teacher.


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5:30am Sunrise


No matter what time I go to sleep, when the monkeys start howling I’m awake. I’ve recently started dream journaling, so immediately upon waking I’ll spend about five minutes meditating on my dream, and then scribble it down on a notepad beside my bed. Half asleep I roll out of the tangled mosquito net and walk across the creaky floor to guzzle a big glass jar full of purified water. I throw on a bikini, leave everything else at home, and walk down the dirt path from my house to the beach, watching closely for leaf cutter ants who march in seemingly endless lines on this path.


When I arrive at the beach just a few minutes later, I sit on the shore and watch the sun rise up from the horizon, stunning pink casting her light across the sea. I usually meditate as she rises, then I may take a walk, do some stretching, or go for a swim. I spend about an hour at the ocean and then walk back home.


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6:30am Yoga and Dance


When I get home I do some kind of dance, yoga, hula hooping morning practice on my porch that overlooks a private garden. I love my house, especially because it’s so close to the beach, but I don’t own it. It’s a rental that I like to stay in whenever I come to town. The tricky part is that sometimes the owners come back and I have to move out, or tourists will pre-book with the place and I have to go stay with friends. During high season it’s so expensive I can’t afford to live in it and I have to look elsewhere or go travel for a while. Unless you own a place here in Puerto Viejo, your living situation is usually in flux. Fortunately, I’m flexible from living on the road.


After an hour of yoga or dance I take a restful meditation of at least ten minutes. If I’m feeling it, I may turn to an oracle card deck and choose a card to help guide me for the day.


Some mornings I teach yoga at the studio Om in town, which overlooks the ocean, or I’ll attend another teacher’s class. On those days I usually do my writing work early in the morning, just after sunrise, and then ride my bicycle into town for yoga at 8:30am.


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8:00am “Work” Time


When I’m actually disciplined, I sit down at my computer by 8am and drink a morning tonic of ginger tea with lemon and a big glass of water kefir that I brew myself. If I don’t turn to my to-do that I wrote the day before, I’ll get completely distracted by email, Facebook, and the general busyness of the online world. Typically, I go to the checklist after being distracted for about half an hour and will usually work on writing my blog posts or doing promotional work.


I do all of my work at home because it’s too distracting in the cafes here. When I’m traveling I love to write in cafes, but here everyone knows me so I end up socializing and not getting any work done. For this reason, it’s important for me to live alone, in a quiet and beautiful space where I can be creative. The house I live in now has a beautiful garden and a huge outdoor deck with a big dining table where I sit and do my work.


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At some point I take a break from writing to make myself breakfast. I usually like to be up for at least a few hours before I eat, focusing on hydrating and moving and stretching in the morning. I like to feel empty and clear for a while after I wake up.


For breakfast I make myself the same thing every day, a big green smoothie bowl covered in superfoods. I load up the blender with a whole bunch of kale, a frozen banana, the water and flesh from a fresh young coconut, chia seeds, half of an avocado, and cacao powder. I like to make it super thick and then pour it into a bowl and top it with sliced strawberries, papaya, nuts and seeds. This breakfast keeps me full for hours.


I buy almost all of my groceries at the Organic Farmer’s Market every Saturday, and at the one organic shop in town, the BioMercato. I get my fruit and young coconuts from the stand just at the end of my street from a local family who grows it organically on their farm up in the hills.


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1:00pm Play Time


By noonish I try to finish up my work, since the sun will usually be blazing and the beach beckons as I’m dripping sweat onto my keyboard. Truth be told, it’s very hard for me to stay disciplined here when it’s sunny and I often miss my self-imposed deadlines because I want to play at the beach. I try to make up for it on the rainy days, getting as much writing done as possible and staying home away from distractions. The times when I’ve actually really grown my business, I have never been here in Costa Rica. The rhythm of nature and the rhythm of the online world don’t seem to work well together. It’s a challenge for me and I strive to find the balance between productivity and play every day.


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I use my bicycle to get everywhere, which I love for so many reasons. It helps me feel connected with the nature around me, makes an adventure out of getting around, and it guarantees that I always get exercise. To make it even more fun, I often listen to my iPod and dance while I ride. Most of my favorite beaches are about 20-30 minutes by bike from my house, which makes for a pleasant ride. Sometimes there’s road construction and potholes and dust on the street, plus the smell of hot garbage. Other times there’s the scent of a blossoming Ylang Ylang tree or a traffic jam from a sloth crossing the road.


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Sometimes I meet friends at the beach, but usually it’s my personal time to rest, recharge, and reflect. I’ll nap under an almond tree, float in the ocean, take a long walk, climb up one of the cliffs and rub myself in red clay, read a book, write in my journal, or do a long meditation/visualization. If it’s the right time of year, I love to go snorkeling at the reef that juts out right off of the beach.


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This is a surf town, but I’ve never really picked up the sport. I’ve tried, but I find it frustrating and not very fun. For a long time I was hard on myself about this, now I’ve just accepted that there are so many other things that I love and surfing doesn’t have to be one of them. I also prefer the vibe of the peaceful swimming beaches to the more crowded surf beach near town.


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Since my favorite beaches are completely jungle backed, it’s difficult to get food there. So I often pack myself some snacks or a salad with quinoa or hard-boiled egg and a dark chocolate bar (since I’m a total addict), which I often let melt in my mouth during my meditations.


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On rainy days I’ll either walk and swim for a couple of hours anyway, or I’ll stay at home and take advantage of getting lots of writing done or reading a book in my hammock. There are often community events and gatherings in the afternoons as well, and every Friday I attend a Cacao Ceremony Women’s Circle for a few hours, which a safe space to ground down and open up with other women.


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4:30pm Sunset


You can’t technically see the sunset here, since we’re on the Caribbean, but it’s still my favorite time of the day. The heat cools off, the coast is bathed in golden light, and the sky turns a soft lavender. This is usually when I ride back home from the beach and enjoy the birds and the smells of flowers on the jungle road.


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If the trees in my yard are bearing fruit, I like to gather and collect whatever has fallen. Recently one of the trees was full of ackee, a special fruit from Jamaica that looks like brains and tastes like a rich creamy delicacy almost like eggs. Collecting it off of the ground like a squirrel was the highlight of my day. I got to harvest the fruit, prepare it, eat it, and go and kiss the tree and thank it for feeding me, which was an amazing experience.


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After dropping off my stuff and picking fruit, I grab my hula hoop and walk down to the main surf beach. I often run into friends there and watch the surfers as the sun goes down behind the hills. It’s a nice time for me to be social after a peaceful day alone. Or, if I’ve hung out at the beach with friends in the day, it’s a time where I go and meditate with the sunset alone. I try to balance social time and alone time as much as possible.


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6:00pm Go Out or Wind Down


It gets completely dark by 6pm, which took some getting used to for me. It’s really not safe to walk or ride your bicycle here in the dark, even when it’s early, so nighttime can feel prohibitive. At this time of night I’ll shower off the beach, drink another young coconut and a lot of water, and either make dinner or meet up with friends.


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If I make dinner it’s usually something simple and nourishing like a pumpkin curry with coconut milk and fresh ginger and turmeric or veggie tacos with lots of avocado. After dinner I’ll typically do more work on the blog or do a restorative yoga practice and watch the stars for a bit from my garden. Because I wake up so early I’m usually asleep by 10pm.


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If I’m feeling social, I’ll meet friends in town for dinner at our favorite restaurants, a fusion place with amazing stir fries or the no-name fish place that serves only what was caught that day with a side of grilled veggies and fried potatoes. There are just a few bars in town and just one where everyone goes on a Friday or Saturday night and occasionally my friends and I will go there for some dancing. The vibe is pretty seedy, but if you stay in your zone it can be fun to get sweaty with some Reggaeton.




I often like to organize gatherings and host friends for dinner parties or cacao ceremonies and ecstatic dance. I feel so fortunate to have a beautiful community of friends here who are also dedicated to a life of greater freedom, awareness, and compassion.


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Every full moon we have a big bonfire on the beach and watch the moonrise from the ocean. It’s my favorite evening of the whole month. Living here has made me feel far more connected to the moon cycles and the rhythms of nature, which has profoundly shifted my understanding of life cycles and my own internal cycles.


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Life here is far from perfect. The jungle and the ocean make everything metal turn to rust, termites eat the walls and the floors of your house, food and housing are expensive compared to local wages, and getting work done can be a challenge. Crime does happen and the cultural differences and resentment towards foreigners can make me feel like an outsider.


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But living this way is what feels natural to me. Living in nature, in true abundance, reminds me of my own true nature. And the more I’ve learned to open my heart to this jungle and to this community of all kinds of people, the more gifts it bestows. Be it of smiles or genuine kindnesss or perfect sunrises or the smell of Ylang Ylang or fresh ackee falling from the trees. Every day I feel more and more that I not only love this place, this place loves me.


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I hope this little glimpse into my life, which for me feels like pure Jungle Bliss, has given you an even deeper appreciation for all of the beauty that exists in yours. May you too live in the place and in the rhythm that brings you the deepest sense of peace, love, and joy.


Pura vida.


Why Costa Rica is the Best Place on Earth

Why Costa Rica is the Best Place on Earth

Costa Rica


I hear it all of the time.


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Costa Rica is so expensive.
Costa Rica is so Americanized.
Costa Rica is so yesterday.


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And to be fair, it’s actually true.


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Cross the border into Nicaragua and you’ll notice that suddenly people are speaking Spanish again.

Weave your way through Mexico where nearly every day is a fiesta and every town has a Mayan temple and witness how alive it is.

Venture into Guatemala and you’ll connect with indigenous communities and marvel at the authentic artisan crafts.

Go anywhere else in Central America and watch the prices drop at least in half.


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It’s easy to see why many travelers on the Gringo Trail skip Costa Rica completely.


Why would anyone spend time in the most expensive country in Central America…
with the most diluted culture?


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Oh right, because it’s the most amazing country in Central America…

if not the world.


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Yep, I said it.

Despite the fact that it’s expensive and Westernized

Costa Rica is the most amazing country in the world.


I’ve traveled in over twenty countries across five continents and Costa Rica is the one place I always come back to.

It’s the one place I consider home.


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People often ask me, why Costa Rica?

What’s so special about Costa Rica?


Let me tell you…


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You’ll Never Find Nature This Good Anywhere Else


The first morning I spent in Costa Rica I walked out onto the golden sand jungle backed beach. I knew it was the most beautiful place I would ever see in my life. There were no hotels, no beach bars, and no boats. There were not even any people. There was only me and the wild. This rare freedom to simply be with nature is at the heart of why I love it so much here.


It may be small but Costa Rica contains 6% of all the biodiversity in the world and has the greatest density of natural species of any country. You see it the moment you depart from the airport and head anywhere. Mountains of foliage line the narrow highways, the calls of monkeys set the soundtrack for the day, wild tropical fruit falls out of the trees begging to be eaten, and gorgeous flowers and birds paint a rainbow of colors against the green landscape.




Miles of Pacific and Caribbean shoreline composed of white, black, pink, and golden sand are hugged by wild undeveloped jungle full of monkeys, lizards, sloths, tucans, tapir, armadillos, scarlet macaws, snakes, colorful frogs, and so many more. Butterflies and hummingbirds flutter and dance by. In the sea colorful fish, whales, turtles, and dolphins swim free. Wildlife lives everywhere.


One fourth of the country consists of national protected park housing abundant wildlife and stunning foliage. Costa Rica boasts cloud forests, rainforests, and dry forests, many consisting of primary forest. Waterfalls, mountain ranges, and volcanoes tower over glittering beaches. The nature is first and foremost what makes Costa Rica so special, and for me nothing is more important than nature.


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People Respect Their Mother


More than any other culture I’ve encountered the people of Costa Rica have a deep connection with the natural world. They know the names of the animals, the medicinal uses of the plants, and treat the land with respect. In fact every Costa Rican I’ve met (living outside the city) reveres the natural beauty around them. They know the worth of the Earth and I find that so beautiful.


True, there may be many Americans here, but they’re the kind of Americans who build permaculture farms and teach yoga on the beach. Costa Rica has become a melting pot of people all connected by their love for mother earth.


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In Costa Rica, Nobody is Weird


Because in Costa Rica, everybody is weird.

Costa Rica has truly become a melting pot for all kinds of cultures and characters, yet everyone lives in beautiful harmony with one another. No matter how unusual someone may be, in my experience, white black gay straight sober-minded or fifty shades of crazy, he or she will be accepted and respected. People accept you, no matter how “weird” you are. Consequently in Costa Rica I feel at ease simply being myself, no matter how off the wall that can sometimes be.


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You Get to Be Alone, Hallelujah!


Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be to experience true solitude in nature? Since traveling to Costa Rica, I’ve become completely spoiled in this respect. Thanks to environmental protection laws, most beaches in Costa Rica have ZERO development and are backed by pure jungle. You can walk for hours on deserted shoreline and swim with the sunset with no one else for miles. The more I travel the more I realize that having completely vacant stunning beaches to yourself is extremely rare. As someone who cherishes alone time, the absolute solitude is one of my favorite things about Costa Rica.


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The Best Things Come Free


Ok, so a fruit smoothie may cost more than the hourly wage and a vacation rental may be as much as San Francisco, but when it comes to pure pleasure there’s plenty for free in Costa Rica. Swim in the ocean, hike in the jungle, walk down the beach, cut a coconut off of the tree, and enjoy the simple beauty of nature that doesn’t cost a thing. Sure, it’s expensive to live like a Gringo in Costa Rica, but it’s still entirely possible to live off the land, and there are less and less places in the world where that’s the case.




There’s a Different Flavor for Everyone


I can think of few other countries on Earth where you can watch the Caribbean sunrise and the Pacific sunset all in one day. Or how about kayak through mangroves, climb to volcanoes, and hike through cloud forest? You can snorkel live reef or surf barreling waves. You can visit indigenous cooperatives making chocolate and plant medicine or listen to reggae on the beach with Rastafarians. You can eat handmade Italian pasta then head out to dance salsa. You can chant to Hindu deities from a yoga temple or sing Native American folk songs from a sweatlodge. In Costa Rica, I often feel like I can experience just about anything.


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The Lifestyle Can’t Be Beat


In Costa Rica a person discovers quickly just how little he or she needs to be happy. With such abundant nature and the warm climate things like walls and clothing no longer seem necessary. People embrace simplicity, which I’ve observed leads to greater happiness.


Tourists and locals get around the beach towns on foot or by bicycle, and most activities revolve around nature which makes fitness a part of daily life. A typical day in Costa Rica might include surfing, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking in the mountains, swimming under a waterfall, or practicing sunset yoga on the beach.


Being healthy feels easy here and to me health = happiness. It’s no wonder Costa Rica has often been rated the Happiest Country on Earth.




There’s Magic. Pure Magic.


You know how there’s certain places in the world, where you instantly feel magic? Costa Rica is absolutely one of those places. Whether you’re watching the sunset while listening to the crashing waves or dunking your head under a waterfall, in Costa Rica the moments consume you and being present is easy. That’s when you feel the magic that’s been within you all along.


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All That Pura Vida


Considering the beauty and abundance of nature and the relaxed attitudes of the people, there could only be one national mantra that would make sense: “Pura Vida”. Directly it translates to “pure life” but “pura vida” can be used to express many things.


Pura vida means forgetting your time clock and surrendering to the pace of nature. Turning off your alarm clock, stepping away from technology, and being completely present in your surroundings. Pura vida means letting go of an expectation to always have what you want, when you want it.


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If it takes a while to get your latte in the morning, “pura vida.” If the monkeys wake you before sunrise, “pura vida.” If your bus breaks down on the side of the highway, “pura vida.”


Pura vida means choosing the path of happiness regardless of your circumstances. You can say pura vida on a sunny day as appropriately as you can in a storm. You can say pura vida when you’re falling in love and when you’re heartbroken. You can choose to see the pura vida in every single situation that life delivers you.


I can’t imagine anything more beautiful or worthwhile than that.


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That said, not all destinations in Costa Rica are created equally. Some places are overly developed and touristic. To get the lowdown on the best of the best that Costa Rica has to offer, get my ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica:





So, You Want to Move to Costa Rica? Read This!

So, You Want to Move to Costa Rica? Read This!

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Want to wake up and watch the sunrise over the ocean? To spend your days surfing, doing yoga, drinking out of coconuts, and taking long naps in a hammock? Want to have the jungle for your backyard?


Want to watch the sunset every night with live music? To have potlucks on the beach with your neighbors? To buy your food from farmers on the side of the road? Want to snuggle inside and watch a rainstorm?


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Want to wait days for your clothes to dry? Or clean gecko poop off of your counters? Sweep cockroaches off of your floor? Watch mice eat holes in everything?


Want to wake up before dawn from the sound of crowing roosters? Want to wake up at midnight from the sound of screeching bats? Want to come home to a tarantula, a snake, or a scorpion in your bed?


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Want to lock everything that you own in a safe? To watch your possessions rust, mold, and fade? Want to work for $2 an hour and spend ten of it on a bag of quinoa? Want to work online when all of the electrical lines break?


Do you want to live in Costa Rica?


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Of anywhere I’ve traveled to in the world, Costa Rica is the only place that really feels like home. It’s the place where it’s easiest for me to relax, the place where I feel the strongest sense of community, the place where I feel the happiest and healthiest, and the place where I feel completely fed by nature.


But even after coming here fifteen times, I’ve never decided to settle down and live here. And time will tell if I ever do. Because living here, actually LIVING here, isn’t all sloths and sunsets.


Whether you plan to come for a month, a year, or perhaps forever, I’ve written this post to help you understand what living in Costa Rica is really like.


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Getting a Visa


Oh, right, that whole inconvenient thing. Yes, you do need a visa to be in Costa Rica. And technically, you cannot LEGALLY live here without applying for legal resident status (more on that later.)


North Americans and many other passport holders will receive a free, automatic three month tourist visa at customs. That means you don’t need to apply for it, you just need to show up. However, they will want to see “proof” that you are leaving the country within ninety days.


Except maybe you don’t want to buy a return ticket. And maybe you want to stay longer than three months. In this case, you will need to either purchase a fully refundable ticket home (these are usually expensive, but you can cancel within 24 hours) or purchase a bus or shuttle ticket to a neighboring country. Regardless of whether you’ve decided to “live” in Costa Rica, you MUST leave the country within 90 days.


Tourists without residency are legally allowed to own vehicles, property, businesses, and generate income from self-employment.


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“Living” in Costa Rica on a Tourist Visa


Admittedly, there are plenty of people living in Costa Rica on tourist visas. It’s become a common practice for foreigners to leave once their 90 day visa is up, cross the border into Panama or Nicaragua, spend a few days there, and then return and receive another 90 day stamp. I know people who have somehow been doing this for years. That said, if they decide to investigate and crack down, the penalties can be severe. You may not even be allowed back into the country for TWELVE years.


If you don’t want to take that risk, I recommend going on longer trips between visa runs. I.e not “living” in Costa Rica. I have a million Costa Rica stamps in my passport, but it has never been an issue in Immigration, because I always leave before my visa ends, and I travel all over the world for long periods of time. (Note: this is totally legal.) I imagine a passport with only Costa Rica and Panama stamps might look suspicious, and constantly going in and out may not be legal.


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Becoming a Legal Resident


If you legitimately want to live and work in Costa Rica, you will need to apply for residence status, which I hear is a long and difficult process. Most qualified candidates include business owners investing a significant amount of money, retirees with a consistent pension of at least $1,000 per month, parents or siblings of a child born in Costa Rica (some people choose to have their baby in Costa Rica for this reason), and those legitimately married to Costa Rican nationals (it’s strict). I’m not an expert on residency since I’ve never applied, so I recommend you consult this article: Costa Rica Residency.


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Renting a House


Finding a place to live in Costa Rica is often the bane of my existence. Most expats own their own houses, and it’s far more profitable for people to rent their places as vacation rentals than as long term residences. As a tourist, you typically have to book something months in advance, there’s little selection, and rates skyrocket during holidays.


If you have the money and you know you love Costa Rica, buy a place. It’s a great investment, you can have a property management company make sure it’s rented when you’re not around, and you’ll never have to worry about renting a place. For everyone else, I recommend joining a community Facebook group for the specific location in Costa Rica where you want to live.


In Puerto Viejo we have a page where people post the houses they have for rent, usually much lower prices than you’ll find with property management companies. I have (and currently am) renting with a property management company, but it is definitely more expensive this way. For a two bedroom house close to the beach, expect to pay anywhere from $350 per month to $1,000 per month.


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Getting Around


Most people get around by bicycle in the flat beach towns of Costa Rica. I find it to be a healthy, fun, environmentally friendly, and efficient way to get around. You can usually find used bicycles for sale from $30 to $100 in local Facebook groups, or you can buy new bicycles for $150 to $250. If you’re planning to stay just for a few months, you can usually sell your used bicycle for the same price or a little less than you bought it for.


Local buses are limited, running infrequently and rarely on time, but they’re a good option for going further distances.


Some expats and locals do own cars, quads, or scooters. You don’t have to be a resident to purchase a car, but even the crappiest cars are expensive because of import tax. The weather is very unkind to vehicles, so expect to make constant repairs.


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Speaking the Language


What’s that, you don’t speak Spanish? The good news is, most of the Americans I know who live in Costa Rica don’t either. It sounds absurd, but it’s actually challenging to learn Spanish in many of the beach towns in Costa Rica, because English is spoken so readily. This is particularly true in Puerto Viejo where most locals have Afro-Caribbean English speaking roots.


I do recommend that you take some basic lessons so that you can interact with taxi drivers, bus drivers, house cleaners, gardeners, and the other people who don’t speak English. Besides, it’s a beautiful and enjoyable language to speak, and speaking the local language will greatly deepen your experiences and connections with locals.


You can get private lessons in Costa Rica for around $10/hr or enroll in a Spanish Language school. I also like the podcast Coffee Break Spanish.


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Bringing Your Kids


If you have young kids, Costa Rica has some excellent Montessori and Waldorf schools. I recommend researching the international schools in the specific towns that you’re interested in relocating to. For more information on moving to Costa Rica with kids, I recommend this article: Moving to Costa Rica With Children.


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Bringing Your Pets


Friends of mine have brought dogs down with them to Costa Rica, and as you can imagine, the dogs love it. However, you do have to consider the many wild animals, tropical diseases, and aggressive dogs that live here. For more info, check out Moving Pets to Costa Rica.


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Getting Mail


The first time I came to Costa Rica, I asked someone how the mail system works here. “From the USA?” she asked, “DON’T DO IT!! IT NEVER COMES!”


Since then I have had things sent from the USA, but they take a very, very, very long time. It may stop in customs, and you’ll have to go to the capitol to pick it up. Theft is also common, so sending anything valuable is pretty much out of the question. What people typically do, is have friends coming down from the USA carry things for them in their luggage. You can also use FedEx, UPS, and DHL but it will also be slow.


In the past I have had things sent to San Jose and then shipped them down to Puerto Viejo through a service called “encomienda” where the goods are dropped at the bus station in San Jose, taken via bus, and you can then pick them up at the bus station where you are.


There’s also no address system in Costa Rica, so everything is described in proximity to landmarks, like 200 meters from that restaurant that has the best ceviche. Zip codes are not used widely either. Most people use post office boxes, but these can have long wait lists.


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Staying Connected


You can get cell phones anywhere (but the phones themselves are crappy and expensive) with inexpensive pay as you go SIM cards. Grocery stores, pharmacies, tourist shops, and electronic stores carry them. I recommend bringing down your own unlocked smart phone and putting in a local SIM. You can get unlimited data coverage for as low as $20 a month!


Many vacation rentals, most hostels/hotels, and many restaurants have wifi. However, it’s not reliable so if you need consistent wifi, I recommend purchasing an internet hotspot that you can use with a local SIM card.


Be prepared for lots of dead zones and loss of service during storms.


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Paying the Bills


One of the most surprising things about Costa Rica, is that it’s extremely expensive compared to other Central American countries. Especially if you want Western luxuries. Thanks to the hefty import tax, cars cost double what they would in the USA, alcohol can be very expensive, and a small block of goat cheese costs $10. Keep in mind, this is still a country where the general wage is $2 an hour. While it’s not an excuse, this has made me understand why theft is so common here.


If you want to live “comfortably” by Western standards, expect to spend $1,000 to $2000 per month living in Costa Rica, and be willing to sacrifice many luxuries. This is still very low compared to living in the USA, but not as cheap as many people imagine.


Save money by using a bicycle instead of a car, eating less imported food and more local food, and spending your time in nature, which offers totally free entertainment.


Costa Rica


Making a Living


Working in Costa Rica is hard. There aren’t many well paying jobs and most places require legal residency (enforced by law to protect Costa Rican citizens). Even if you are a legal resident, the wages will be significantly lower than they are in Western countries. This is why I even know Costa Ricans who leave and work seasonally in the USA or Europe. Personally, I’ve never tried to find work here, because (aside from the fact that it’s not legal) I make more money in two hours of writing online than I would make working an entire week in Costa Rica.


In my opinion you have more or less two options: create a business for yourself or work online. If you want to earn money online (which also gives you the freedom to travel anywhere in the world) check out my article How to Travel and Work From Anywhere. I’ll discuss how to open a profitable business later on.


I do have some friends who work in Costa Rica without legal residency. Some simply do work trade, which doesn’t pay but usually offers free lodging and food, a good option for long term travelers with money saved. The ones who earn the best wages do some sort of Marketing or business service, working for a tour agency or big hotel.


I also recommend reading my articles How I Afford a Life of Constant Travel, and You Can Too and How to Travel the World When You’ve Got Absolutely No Money.


Costa Rica


Paying Your Taxes


If you’re not a legal resident and you’re working in Costa Rica, you’re either working online and earning wages outside of the country or you’re earning money under the table. In either case, don’t worry about paying taxes in Costa Rica. Woo hoo.


Sales tax is 13% and import duties are 50-90%! Now you understand why cars are so expensive here. License plate fees are paid annually but are low, and property tax is also much lower than it is in the USA.


Tourists need to pay a tax whenever they leave the country of around $25.


Costa Rica


Opening a Business

Many friends of mine who live full time in Costa Rica own and operate businesses, and while it’s certainly not easy, it can be very rewarding. I see people making their dreams come true every day whether they’re building yoga studios, opening cafes, or renting out vacation homes. Many of whom started with tiny investments but were willing to put in the elbow grease. You can start as small as setting up a stand at the farmer’s market.


For practical details on how to make it happen, read these articles:
Opening a Business in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Business FAQ


Costa Rica


Getting Shit Done


Here comes the hard part, actually getting anything done. The sunshine, the ocean, the dance parties, the community gatherings, the waves, are all HUGE distractions. Wonderful, beautiful distractions, but distractions nonetheless.


Most people living in Costa Rica operate on “Pura Vida Time” which means you can’t expect a quick response, people are rarely on time, and you’ll probably get stood up a lot. Quickly you may begin operating on Costa Rica time yourself. You’ll become more relaxed and less motivated to “hustle.” It’s difficult to balance but the key is to remember your dreams and your goals while also allowing yourself to live the pura vida lifestyle.




Buying “Stuff”


One of my favorite things about Costa Rica, is that you can’t really buy anything. Nothing that you would want anyway. It’s nice, materialism doesn’t matter so much. But when you do actually need something, it’s not so great. Even in the capitol city of San Jose, it’s nearly impossible to find nice clothes, housewares, or electronics. What you will find will be expensive as well. I recommend bringing what you need down with you.


Costa Rica


Surviving the Environment


I’m pretty sure that I was born to live in Costa Rica. I’ve always loved humidity, I don’t mind being dirty, and never in my life have I been afraid of snakes or bugs. I know that this is not the case for most people.


The heat can be intense, and you may find yourself sweating… constantly. If heat really gets to you, consider living away from the ocean at a higher elevation. In towns like La Fortuna and Monteverde, you will actually need a sweater in the evening because it’s so cool.


For the insects, try to keep your home environment meticulously clean. Don’t leave fruit on the counter even for 10 minutes. Wash your dishes immediately, keep your bed made, and make sure to always have everything picked up off the floor.


Insect bites can be particularly frustrating. Slather your skin in coconut oil when going to the beach to keep away sand fleas and wear long, loose pants in the evening to avoid getting mosquito bites. I also recommend you read my article, How I Cured Myself of Mosquito Bites Forever.


Costa Rica


Staying Healthy


The tropics are not always kind to the Western body. Strange fungal infections, stomach bugs, and parasites are not uncommon. I recommend traveling with or making your own high quality probiotics (read my post How to Travel the World and Never Get Food Poisoning). Drinking fresh young coconut water daily will help with all viruses and infections and eating fresh papaya seeds will help kill parasites. I also recommend using coconut oil on your skin to keep infection away.


I travel with an essential oils kit as well, which has made a huge difference in my health routine. Learn more about that here.


Costa Rica


Feeding Yourself


The same way it’s hard to buy quality “stuff” in Costa Rica, it takes quite a bit of effort to buy quality food. Forget about nice supermarkets, it’s more like corner stores and road stands. Fortunately most towns have a weekly farmer’s market with organic produce and other goodies. Some even have organic delivery services, and Nosara, Costa Rica has a lovely little organic grocery store open daily.


I usually stock up on veggies, greens, tortillas, coconut oil, and eggs at the Farmer’s Market, then supplement throughout the week with organic fruit stands and the local fish counter. In most touristic towns you’ll also find delicious and some healthy restaurants too.


Costa Rica


Making Friends


…is easier than you might think, and harder than you might think. In Costa Rica people tend to be less busy, more relaxed, more community oriented, and more spontaneous. Whether organizing a full moon ceremony, attending a beach BBQ, or simply having conversation, its easy to find people to connect with. However, it can be very difficult to really… get in. In Costa Rica, people come and go constantly, which has made many locals and expats hesitant about giving new visitors a chance.


I recommend regularly attending community events and getting involved in different community Facebook groups if you really want to become part of the community.


Costa Rica


Making Enemies


…happens much more easily than you might think. Most towns in Costa Rica are very small, which means gossip and drama occur regularly. My advice is to be patient and respectful of local culture, be very mindful of the words you speak, and learn to respond to all manners of drama with humility, peace and love.


Costa Rica


Falling in Love


…also happens more easily than you might think. People are half naked most of the time, unbelievably fit and beautiful, and sex is always in the air. However I’ve found it very challenging to cultivate a healthy relationship here. As a woman, I’ve struggled with the local culture where fidelity is practically nonexistent. Many friends of mine have suffered in these relationships, some with children, with an unfaithful partner who they also support financially. (Read more in my post There Are Many Shades of Black.) Most men I meet in Costa Rica who do have the qualities I’m looking for, leave and move on to the next destination before there’s time for a romance to even develop.


All that said, I do know some happy couples living here, some who even met in Costa Rica. One in particular told me, “Keep following the path that makes you happy, and the right people will come into your life.” And so, so, very many beautiful friends, whom I love with all of my heart, have come into my life because of this place.


So that’s what I keep doing. Trusting that my heart will lead me where I need to go.


Will you do the same?


Want more information on Costa Rica like safety tips, what to pack, the best beach towns, and an entire healthy eating guide? Get my 150 page eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica.




10 Tips to Guarantee a Magical Trip to Costa Rica

10 Tips to Guarantee a Magical Trip to Costa Rica

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No matter how many beaches I walk down, how many mountains I climb, how many oceans I bathe in, how many sunsets I watch, nowhere seems to stir my soul like Costa Rica.


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Lush jungle spills onto golden sand beaches. Crashing waves kiss the shore. Divers plunge deep into the ocean. Surfers hide in the tubes. Monkey shout from the treetops above gushing waterfalls. Volcanoes bubble and erupt over valleys. Butterflies flutter across flower covered mountains. Sunrises and sunsets demand standing ovations. Nights are lit up by the moon and the stars.


playa guiones


Costa Rica is undoubtedly one of the most magical places in the entire world. It’s a natural playground for hikers, surfers, paddle boarders, animal lovers, snorkelers, divers, and anyone who feels happiest in nature. Costa Rica reminds us how it feels to be truly alive.


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Over three years ago I flew to Costa Rica, planning to stay for just a month before returning to the United States to get my Master’s degree. On the deserted beaches and in the abundant jungle, something opened within me that I didn’t even know existed. I connected with the true spirit of myself. That changed the entire course of my life completely.


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Despite living nomadically and traveling in five different continents all over the world, Costa Rica is the one place on earth that feels like home. Today I’m sharing with you my most precious advice for how to ensure that your trip to Costa Rica is completely magical, just like mine have been.


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Expect the Unexpected


There are plenty of places in the world where the bus will always come on time. Where business will open when they say they will. Where rainstorms and volcano eruptions will not halt your plans. Costa Rica is not one of those countries. In fact if there’s one thing I’ve really learned from traveling to Costa Rica over the years, it’s that the best way to feel the magic is by surrendering to it. Yes, do your research. Yes, plan an itinerary. Yes, have ideas about where you want to go. But also be open to throwing it all out the window. Be open to the unexpected twists and turns the road can take. That’s what makes it an adventure.


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Take Your Time


People often contact me looking for guidance in how to plan their one week vacation in Costa Rica. Many talk about including volcano hikes, cloud forest zipling, surf camps, and beach bumming in several locations across the country. Costa Rica may be a small country, but with its rugged terrain it can take an entire day of travel just to get from one coast to the other. When you rush from one destination to the other, you often miss out on the magic that comes when you just sit still and relax. For that reason, unless you’ve got a month to spare, I typically recommend choosing one beach destination and taking mini side trips to waterfalls, volcanoes, and national parks from there.


nosara sunset


Keep it Simple


In a country like Costa Rica you learn quickly just how little you need to be happy. Comfort is valued over fashion, you’ll rarely feel the need to wear makeup, and the ocean and jungle have no respect for material possessions. You will get dirty. Your clothes will get stains. Everything metal may rust. And at some point you will have to carry your luggage across potholed dirt roads. Bring a durable travel pack and fill it with multi functional items that you wouldn’t be heartbroken over if they got ruined. Learn to travel with and need less and you’ll discover an incredible freedom.


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…But Bring What You Need


That said, it’s not easy to shop in Costa Rica. Electronics are hard to come by and extremely expensive, clothes are hit or miss and also expensive, and you’ll be hard pressed to find your favorite snacks and toiletries here. It’s safe to assume that you won’t be able to find the things you need in Costa Rica. I recommend packing an assortment of comfortable beach wear, hiking clothes, loose linen and long dresses for the evening, your favorite toiletries in travel size, an inexpensive digital camera, and a smartphone or iPad.


You can find my full, comprehensive packing list in my ebook The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica.




Be Safe


Rarely do I feel unsafe traveling in Costa Rica, but crime here is certainly higher than in countries in Southeast Asia or Europe. When in doubt ask for advice at your hotel about safety precautions for your particular destination. Generally I advise avoiding deserted areas after dark, locking your valuables in a safe, keeping a watch on your possessions at the beach, and keeping your valuable items with you on bus journeys.




Protect Your Tummy


Few things will ruin a trip like a bout of food poisoning. You will be exposed to different bacteria in Costa Rica that poses the threat of getting you ill. In many towns in Costa Rica the water is completely safe to drink, but always ask at your hotel first. Puerto Viejo in the South Caribbean is one area where I never advise drinking the tap water. We tend to blame the water when we get sick, but more often than not it’s actually the food we’re eating. It may be contaminated or it may just be your body’s response to something foreign. Drinking fresh young coconuts daily and eating papaya seeds can help kill bacteria and prevent parasites. The best way to protect yourself is to regularly ingest high quality probiotics at least a month before departing, and to continue to take them while you’re in Costa Rica.


For more health and safety advice, check out my ebook The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica.


la fortuna


Overestimate Your Budget


When you land in Costa Rica, you may experience some sticker shock. It’s less expensive than traveling in Europe or other very developed parts of the world, but for a developing country it’s downright expensive. Expect to budget about double what you would in Nicaragua or Guatemala. Depending on how you travel, you can get by on anywhere from $40-$150 per person per day. Expect to spend about the same as you would in the USA for meals ($5-10 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, $20 for dinner, $5-10 for one alcoholic drink) and $15-20 for hostel dorms up to $200 for hotels or vacation rentals. If you budget more than you think you will need, it will be much easier to enjoy yourself when you get there.




Don’t Itch the Bites


Yes there are mosquitoes in Costa Rica, especially when it’s rainy. A lot of mosquitoes. If you’re sensitive to the bites, you may get massacred. I strongly advise against using chemical repellent, which is horrible for the environment and your own health. Locally you can pick up all natural repelling oil. I also recommend Please Don’t Bite Me skin patches which put lots of vitamin B and aloe into your blood stream, two things that mosquitoes hate. Drinking lots of local fresh coconut water can also help. If you do get bitten, please please please do not scratch. I’ve noticed that if you leave the bites alone they will eventually disappear, whereas if you scratch them they will continue to bother you. Open wounds is the last thing you want in Costa Rica because infection can happen very rapidly. So please, do yourself a favor and resist the urge to itch.


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Get Dirty


Most of us go about our lives in boxes. The homes we live in, the cars we drive in, the cubicles we work in. Costa Rica is a country without walls. Where the boundaries between the built world and the natural world blur. Costa Rica is a country that is still wild, rugged, and dirty, and there is something inexplicably healing about that. When we press our hands into the soft earth and walk across the sand with our bare feet, we remember that any separation we feel from nature is one we’ve created ourselves. Faced with mosquitoes and scorpions and snakes you could look for the nearest concrete resort and spray yourself in a bottle of Deet, or you could rip off your shoes, run into the wild, and get your feet dirty. I highly recommend the latter.


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Embrace Pura Vida


Why I love Costa Rica so much, can be summed up in two words: “Pura Vida”. This national mantra embodies the most beautiful philosophy I have ever known. Pura vida is all about accepting the beauty in the world no matter what may be happening around you. Pura vida is all about seeing every experience in life as a gift. It’s the essence of Costa Rica and if you can learn to embrace it, Costa Rica will surely embrace you. So if you find yourself on a rainy beach, on a broken down bus, or waiting an hour for your plate of rice and beans, smile, relax, and remember: Pura Vida.


Want to plan a life changing trip to Costa Rica? Get my 150 page eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica!




What Costa Rica Taught Me About Life

What Costa Rica Taught Me About Life

Costa Rica


The greatest gift I’ve ever received came from eleven trips to Costa Rica over the last three years.

Costa Rica has shown me how I want to live.


Costa Rica


As a society we seem to have an incredibly difficult time understanding how we’re “supposed” to live. We look to laws, institutions, religions, books, and even celebrities to tell us how.


surfing playa guiones


But I believe that if you want to know how to live, rather than an outsider’s opinion, turn to the source of life.


Marino Ballena National Park


Costa Rica is one of the most natural places on the planet. It has undeveloped beaches, primary forests, lush jungle, active volcanoes, rushing waterfalls, and the most biodiversity of anywhere else in the world.

Costa Rica is full of life.


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Simply being in the presence of effortless life, has taught me what it means to live, in a language I could not possibly translate into words.

For the sake of this article, I will do my best to try.


Marino Ballena National Park


Just “Being” is Enough


Would you look at a bird and ask him what he accomplished that day? Would you ask a baby sloth what she wanted to be when she grew up? Would you judge an ocelot or an anteater for not contributing to society with inventions and hard work? Of course not. So why do we place these pressures on ourselves?


The first time I went to Costa Rica, I had the incredible luxury of not having to work. I had no emails to answer, no projects to complete, and back in those days I barely even used Facebook. I wasn’t blogging nor tweeting nor instagramming. Come to think of it, I didn’t even pack a camera. It was the first time in my life I didn’t have an answer when people asked me, “So, what do you do?”


In the beginning I was incredibly bored. Panicked even. What was I supposed to do? How would I fill my days? Though to my surprise the ocean and the jungle quickly seduced me into a life of doing nothing. A life of being. I spent my days taking long walks, swinging in a hammock, and swimming in the ocean. I could hardly believe how good I felt and how happy I was capable of being. The 25 years of life preceding Costa Rica seemed like a strange dream. I felt like I woke up to the experience of actually living.


Costa Rica showed me that I didn’t need to be a designer or a project manager (or a yoga teacher or a blogger for that matter). Simply by breathing, I was already fulfilling my purpose. Costa Rica showed me that just like a bird or a sloth or a wildcat or an ant my purpose is simply to live. As long as I am alive, I am doing enough.


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Dirt Feels Good


When I was a kid I told my Mom that I hated the beach. The sand and the dirt between my toes felt too uncomfortable to my ultra sensitive self. As I grew up I avoided many situations because my designer clothes would get dirty or my perfectly styled hair might get wet.


In Costa Rica there is no escaping the dirt or the sand. So I’ve learned to embrace it. Things that once felt uncomfortable now just make me feel.


I walk barefoot in the mud, on clay, on dirt, on sand, as much as I can to feel the ground beneath me. I don’t worry about getting my clothes or my hair or my body dirty. I’d rather feel free and alive with stains and holes than restricted and limited looking polished.


The sand at the beach that once felt uncomfortable now serves as a reminder for me to let go. Even when it’s cold and rainy I make sure to jump in the ocean every day to remember to release my worries and surrender to my feelings.


I let myself get dirty so that I can feel alive.


Manuel Antonio


Simplicity is Key


I smile when I recall how often I once complained that I had nothing to wear. Or that nothing sounded good for dinner. Or that there was nothing to do on a Friday night with my friends. These days I never have that problem. And it’s not because I travel all over the world with endless options of things to do. It’s because Costa Rica taught me to appreciate what I have. Consequently, all options, even when there are few, sound great.


On my first trip to Costa Rica I only packed two dresses, a red one and a black one. I didn’t have “nothing to wear” when I went out. I had red or black. The grocery store had limited options and my kitchen had a two burner hot plate, one pot, one pan, a dull knife and a spatula. There wasn’t nothing to eat. There was cabbage salad, black beans, and corn tortillas. And it tasted good. There were about four bars to choose from on a Friday night. There wasn’t “nothing to do,” there was only that to do.


Costa Rica humbled me with its simplicity. I realized that no matter what I ate, what I wore, or what bar I went to on a Friday night, I could still be happy. The discontentment and difficulty in making decisions waned. Now, when I’m surrounded with a closet full of clothes, a fridge packed with food, and endless options for entertainment, I can appreciate all of it. Because I know that none of it is essential.




All People Are Crazy


Dancing with hippies in capes high on cacao, chanting with naked women in a sweat lodge, being smacked in the face by a stranger, and falling in love with an insincere Casanova, I’ve had some pretty bizarre encounters with other humans in Costa Rica.


With no status to achieve or expectations of who you’re “supposed to be,” people experience a freedom here unlike anywhere else on earth. They can express it in seemingly strange ways.


This has shown me that every single one of us is totally insane. And there’s something wonderfully healing about that. None of us is perfect and none of us is the same. Why bother trying? Why bother trying to conform to being anything other than the beautiful you?




…And They Will Support You When You Need Them


People may be out of their minds, but when you really need them, they will step up to the plate. Asking for support when I need it is a very hard practice for me. My ego thinks it needs to do it all on its own.


In Costa Rica I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve been so desperate I’ve surrendered myself to the support of others. Times when I’ve had awful food poisoning, been uprooted and homeless, missed my bus, or been hurt and heartbroken. What I’ve experienced is that people want to give. People want to share. People want to love. You just have to let them.


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Happiness is Attainable


I’ll never forget the time someone told me I wasn’t capable of being happy. The words stung because I believed that they were true. I felt discontent most of the time, and while I didn’t hate my life, it didn’t seem all that great either.


Like many people I attributed happiness to outside circumstances. If I had a great boyfriend, then I would be happy. If I had the career of my dreams, then I would be happy. Consequently my moments of happiness were fleeting. I was happy when I had a tender moment with someone I loved, when I had a fun night out with friends, or when I cooked and ate a delicious meal. All of those are wonderful treasures, but happiness is far more expansive than that. In fact happiness can be experienced in every moment.


They have a phrase for this in Costa Rica: “pura vida”. When the sun is shining, you’re having fun with friends, and you’re falling in love, you absolutely say pura vida. You scream pura vida from the mountaintops. But you also say pura vida in your moments of greatest struggle; when it’s pouring down rain, you’re fired from your job, and you’re heartbroken. When you start to see the blessing in the hard times you create an entirely new definition of happiness. Pura vida expresses a form of happiness that is all encompassing.


That happiness exists eternally. That happiness is not only attainable, that happiness is your true nature. That happiness requires simply turning within and acknowledging that happiness isn’t a choice, happiness is who you are.




Nature Heals Us


When we spend our time in places that are separate from nature, we can easily forget how essential it is. Yet the moment we escape to the mountains, the ocean, the forest, the jungle, we instantly feel its healing powers. In fact there’s an entire field of study called Ecopsychology that examines the profound effects nature has on human beings.


There’s a reason why it feels good to breathe clean air, to look out at an undeveloped landscape, and to be in the presence of flowers. There’s a reason why we stop and stare when we see a tucan, a monkey, or even a tiny beach crab. Whether we’re aware of it or not we have a deep instinctual desire to connect with nature.


Costa Rica remains one of the most natural, untouched countries on Earth. I feel it every time I return. I slow down my pace, I quiet my mind, and I take care of myself. I’ve often thought that nature is what heals us. But perhaps nature doesn’t heal us after all. Perhaps nature just reminds us that we’re not broken to begin with.


Corcovado national park


We Belong to the Earth


No matter how strong your will may be, the Earth always proves itself to be stronger. You may want a sunny holiday and instead the Earth decides to give you a thunderstorm.  If cockroaches and rats terrify you, you’ll likely experience an infestation. When the ocean’s currents start to swallow you whole, your only hope for survival is surrender.


Costa Rica reminds so many of us who have forgotten that despite how much we try to control it, the earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth. And no matter how hard we try to force it to do what we want, the Earth will put us in our place.


That might sound scary, but it’s actually the most peaceful reality I can fathom. We can let go of trying to cultivate it. We can let go of our reign over it. We don’t have to take on that responsibility anymore. We can get back to living.


Playa Cocles


Magic Does Exist


There is more to life than the human experience you are currently having. There is more to matter than what you can see and touch. There is more to you than your physical body and the thoughts in your head. When I’m in Costa Rica, I see this clearly. I feel something inexplicable when I sit on a deserted beach at sunrise. Or when I witness hundreds of birds flock to a distant island every day before sundown. I feel a spectacular wonder when I climb a jungle cliff to follow a glowing blue butterfly. I see that the world is a beautiful mystery. To me, that’s pure magic.


Looking to change YOUR life in Costa Rica? Check out my eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica!


The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica - Sidebar


Time Lost in Tortuguero

Time Lost in Tortuguero



The wooden motorboat chugged along the muddy river through mangrove forest.




I listened to passengers speak in their island dialect




watched the crocodiles laze on the banks




and saw tropical birds fly by.




We were in the Caribbean but I felt deeper in the jungle, like I was in the Amazon.




Our boat docked in a small town beside crates piled with watermelons and green coconuts.




Souvenir shops and guesthouses geared to tourists lined the main street.

I found myself in a bizarre Caribbean Disneyland.




Time to get back into nature, I thought and continued to the National Park.




In my canoe paddling through the canals I entered another world.

Gone were the tourists and motorboats and out came the cicadas humming in the trees.




Surrounding the narrow canals was dense swampland with few wooden houses.

I could hear the sound of their televisions, a strange layer in a place that otherwise seemed to escape time.




Shrieks rang above me as gangs of white faced monkeys, some toting babies on their backs, swung across hanging limbs.

I stopped and watched them joyously continue their marvelous dance, remembering that once upon a time we too were that free.




Back in town I walked to the beach and met a man in a tiger hat selling “Coco Loco” (young coconut with rum inside) to tourists from a cart.

“I make over $1,000 a week selling these,” he said.

Beside him stood a fluffy white husky, looking comically out of place in the Caribbean.




I walked through the town and arrived at what appeared to be a nightclub.





Inside they played melodramatic tunes in Spanish and a few locals danced under the disco ball.




Seeking a different kind of nightlife, I changed into all black and slid on my rubber snake boots.

Feeling much like Catwoman, I followed my guide into the darkness.




He spoke of the evening when a jaguar came onto the beach and killed a turtle as it nested.

I listened, desperately hoping I might see a jaguar, the keeper of the secrets of the universe.



We arrived at the shore and my gaze ascended to the millions of stars.

It was the evening before the new moon and the only light I could see bled across a small corner on the horizon.


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My eyes adjusted and I burrowed myself in the sand as alien mounds emerged from the tide.

They crawled toward the jungle, dug holes on the beach, and began to release their perfect white eggs in the nest they had just created.


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Tears welled up in my eyes as I observed this ancient animal return from its life at sea and enact its timeless tradition.

Within hours it would leave again, accepting that it would never know what the eggs would come to be.




It would never know if the eggs would be stolen by poachers or eaten by vultures.

It would never know if the eggs would hatch and manage the journey to sea.

It would never know if the tortoise swimming beside it in the ocean was actually one of those eggs.




And even though it would never know, the turtle continued to direct all of its energy towards this miracle of creation.




When it had finished, I watched the turtle swim out to sea.

Out into the vast expansive ocean, with its home on its back.



How to Get to Tortuguero


Reaching Tortuguero is an adventure in its own right. With canals on one side and Caribbean sea on the other, the only way to get into Tortuguero is by boat or plane. There are no cars which enhances the peaceful, natural atmosphere.


$70-$150 each way

The fastest way to get to Tortuguero is to fly from San Jose. Nature Air flies daily at 5:50am and arrives 30 minutes later.


Bus – Boat 

Most travelers will take the bus and boat journey either starting in San Jose or the South Caribbean. From San Jose, catch the direct bus from the Gran Caribe terminal to Cariari at 9am (2 hours, $3.50). When you get off in Cariari, walk north to the “old station” and take the 11:30am bus to La Pavona (1 hour, $2). When the bus arrives a boat will be waiting to take passengers on a scenic ride to Tortuguero (1-2 hours, $ 3.20). If you’re coming from the South Caribbean, you will need to take the bus to Limon ($5, departs at least every hour, takes around 2 hours) then catch the boat from the Moin dock (11am and 3pm, $35) to Tortuguero.


Shuttle – Boat

For added convenience and safety, consider spending a bit more and taking Caribe Shuttle from San Jose ($51, 6 hours) or Puerto Viejo ($49, 6 hours) to Tortuguero. They will organize the pick up from your hotel and the boat transfer.



Where to Sleep and Eat in Tortuguero


Tortuguero may be remote, but so many tourists come to see the turtles nesting on the beach that there are plenty of lodging and food options. Most of the eco resorts are outside of the town, a short water taxi away, while guesthouses tend to be in the small, walkable village. You can find some of the least expensive lodging in Costa Rica here with rooms starting as low as $8, unheard of in most tourist destinations in the country. The lodges serve their own food, typically included in the price of the room, and there are some yummy local and international restaurants in town.


Miss Junie’s Lodge

Rooms start at $45 including breakfast

This sweet locally run wooden lodge is right in town and a great value. The rooms are clean and cozy and the onsite restaurant serves a great variety of Caribbean food.


Cabinas Balcon del Mar

Rooms start at $8 per person

Like the name suggests, these basic cabinas have ocean views and are right across from the beach. The local staff is very friendly and the price couldn’t be better.


The Pacuare Nature Reserve 

$105 – $120/night per person for private house includes 3 meals per day, $30 per day for volunteers

To experience Tortuguero up close and personal, consider staying at The Pacuare Nature Reserve or volunteering to help them protect the national park’s wildlife and habitat. Visitors will be able to explore the surrounding reserve and join tours in Tortuguero. Volunteers will have the priceless experience of educating local children on the importance of turtle conservation and assisting the night patrol during turtle hatchings.


Tortuga Lodge

Packages start at $588 per person for 3
day/2 night all inclusive package

This beautiful lodge sits on the river a short walk from town and is surrounded by incredible wildlife and gardens. Most packages include transport to and from Tortuguero, meals, and tour options.


Wild Ginger

$7 for appetizers, $20 for mains

With some of the most innovative cuisine in the country, it’s no wonder Wild Ginger is the most popular restaurant for tourists in Tortuguero. Make sure to stop in and try the lobster with ginger sauce and the special hummus made from local pejibaje, a special protein rich Costa Rican fruit. Pop into their bakery on the river for a smoothie or a sweet treat.


Soda Dona Maria
$5 local plates 

Have an authentic local experience and take a seat at this teeny restaurant connected to an old Caribbean house. Order the typical Caribbean plate and you won’t be disappointed.


Buddha Cafe
$7-20 for lunch and dinner

When you need a break from rice and beans, head to Buddha Cafe for Mediterranean dishes like carpaccio and pizza. The location is prime with views right along the river.



What to Do in Tortuguero


See the Turtles

The main attraction for most travelers coming to Tortuguero is to see the turtles nesting or hatching. Nesting season runs from April through October, hatching season from November until early January. You must go with a guide and you can book a tour through most hotels. Tours run in the evening, either at 8pm or 10pm and last two hours. Cameras are prohibited and you must wear dark clothing.


Canal Tour 

A great way to see wildlife is on a boat tour of the national park through the canals. Your tour guide will point out many species of birds, monkeys, caymans, and if you’re lucky crocodiles and wild cats. For a real treat, go on a canal tour at night to see nocturnal wildlife.


Rent a Kayak

Many lodges have free kayaks for guests and in the town you will find tour operators renting them. Kayaking is a great way to explore the canals and look for wildlife at your own pace.



In the national park you can take the Gavilan Trail that loops in less than two miles without a guide. Be sure to bring rubber boots since there may be snakes. Another great hiking option is to climb to the tallest point in the Caribbean, Tortuguero Hill. The hike takes around 2 hours and has sweeping views of the national park. To reach the entrance you will need to take a 10 minute boat ride from Tortuguero. The trails can be difficult to find so you may want to hire a guide in town or just pick one up at the trailhead.


Looking for more info on Costa Rica? Check out my brand new eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica!


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Want to create your own magical trip to Costa Rica? Check out my eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica!


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