Chapter 1: The Quest for Pura Vida

But I Really Am Having Fun

So my last couple of posts have been about the struggles I’m having, but believe it or not, I’m actually have a great time.  I’ve already taken two trips across the country, for example.


My first trip was an excursion with ISEP (my study abroad program) to Sarapiquí, an area in the province of Heredia.

–To clear up any confusion, I live in the city of Heredia, which is in the far southern part of the province of Heredia.–

We stayed for two days and spent the night at a sweet hotel with a hammock on the porch off the room, a pool, and delicious food.  And when I say delicious, I’m talking along the lines of warm cooked pineapple with ice cream.

Sarapiqui 024 web

Cool things I did in Sarapiquí:

  • Ate fresh piña.  We toured a pineapple plantation and got samples from the organic pineapples throughout the entire tour.  A couple of times, the guide literally leaned down and cut a plant from the field, and then proceeded to cut it up and pass it around.  At the end, pineapple slices and piña coladas in hollowed-out pineapples (sans alcohol) were waiting for us.  Pineapple has officially become my favorite fruit.  Bonus:  there was a Texas flag flying next to the Costa Rica one in front of the main building.

Pina web

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pina 2 web

  • Ate fresh cacao.  Whoever arranged this trip definitely knew how to win over the students by appealing to our taste buds.  We got to sample cacao at every point of its evolution.  We sucked pulp off of the beans from inside the fresh cacao pods, ate the insides of dried and roasted beans, ate a paste made from the ground up beans and sugar and cinnamon, drank a type of hot chocolate drink, and ate the modern version of milk and dark chocolate.  My favorite was the paste.

Sarapiqui 063 web

Sarapiqui 073 web

  • Bonded with the other exchange students.  Although we had already spent the orientation week together, this trip is when we really got to know each other.  We had some good downtime at the hotel in addition to the long car ride both ways.  I don’t know if it’s that a high percentage of people who travel are cool or if it’s more specifically people who travel to Costa Rica, but I legitimately like these people a lot.

Sarapiqui 103 web

At one point, I left my camera with someone to hold while I went to the restroom and came back to find these on it:

Sarapiqui 107 web Sarapiqui 104 web Sarapiqui 105 webSarapiqui 106 web

  • Other.  I saw a crocodile, walked across a long suspension bridge in the rain forest, and tried fruits I never knew existed (with varying degrees of deliciousness), but the best part was the morning we spent planting baby trees to help rebuild the rain forest.

Sarapiqui 135 web

Planting Trees web

The next weekend, some of us took an individual trip to Santa Teresa, a beach area on the Pacific side of the peninsula just south of Guanacaste (the north-western part of the country).  We enjoyed a very long bus ride there.  At least we got there early and managed to secure seats.  Some poor souls had to stand for the entire bus ride, which was maybe 5 hours.

Santa Teresa 002 web

There was an hour-long ferry ride in the middle of the trip, crossing to the peninsula.  I managed to fit a nap in.

Nap web

Santa Teresa 016 web

We stayed at this brilliant hostel for 15,000 colones, around $30, for three nights.  There was no air conditioning and we stayed in a dormitory-style room, but since it’s not peak season, we got the entire place to ourselves.  There was a nice chill area in between all the buildings with hammocks and tables, and the people who ran the hostel played diverse music that was always really good.  Also, one morning they made donuts for us.  Pura vida.

hostel web

donuts web

The beach was beautiful and there was hardly anyone there.  Guys, the undertow here is crazy.  I know people kept warning us about riptides, but I didn’t think it would be a big deal in thigh-deep water.  But seriously, it’s hard to stay on your feet, and there are large rocks hiding under the water that you can hit against.  Needless to say, I didn’t do a whole lot of swimming, but I did some treasure hunting since interesting smooth rocks, shells, and driftwood wash up.  At one point, one of the local guys monkeyed up a palm tree and threw some palm fruits down for us.

Mal Pais web

Santa Teresa 027 web

We took a day trip to Montezuma, a town nearby.  The town is bigger and had some interesting craft tables set up.  I purposely didn’t bring enough money to buy anything, which was fantastic foresight since there was some beautiful jewelry that I would have spent all my money on.  I only took pictures of one table, but there was a wide variety of handmade jewelry and art, and some of the artists worked next to their tables.

Santa Teresa 147 web

Santa Teresa 148 web

Montezuma is known for its cataratas, waterfalls.  This was my favorite part of the trip.  We hiked up a river to this waterfall that is about 80 feet high.  There are two more waterfalls, each a bit smaller than the last, above it.  Some people climbed up there, but I was content snacking on my whole wheat pita bread and almonds.  In hindsight, I wish I had gone up with them, but at the time, I was worn out.  It’s not really possible to jump from the big falls (although one of the local guys did) since they’re so high, but there’s a rock next to it that everyone jumps off of.  I climbed behind the waterfall and hung out there for a lot of the time.

Santa Teresa 121 web

Catarata web

Montezuma web

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Now for some miscellaneous pictures from Montezuma:

Santa Teresa 126 web

Santa Teresa 128 web

Santa Teresa 136 web

Santa Teresa 140 web

Santa Teresa 143 web

I was going to include Heredia and the university in this post, but I’ll make that its own post since this one is already pretty long.  Pura vida!


2 thoughts on “But I Really Am Having Fun

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