Our visit to Costa Rica was dubbed a “gift of happiness” by the tourism board that provided it to us. Likewise, the t-shirts and other gift shop paraphernalia all over the country proclaimed it to be the “happiest country in the world.” I don’t know if happiness can be given or if one place can be proven to be more happy than another, but the week we spent touring the mountains and rainforests of this Central American paradise was undoubtedly one of the best in recent memory.
That’s no small praise considering how we’ve spent many of our days in the last year.
Without exception, the Ticos – how local Costa Ricans self identify – eagerly accepted the role of happiness ambassador. They graciously supported our attempts to speak Spanish and patiently filled in the blanks when our limited vocabulary failed. Drivers slowed to point out monkeys; tour guides mixed personal anecdotes with ecological trivia. Our vehicles were always greeted with smiles and waves as we bumped along the horrendous roads. We expected courtesy and service, of course, but we were amazed at how often someone went the extra step out of simple kindness rather than occupational necessity.
I have a theory that it is easier to be helpful and gracious when you are happy – and that it might be easier to be happy if your daily commute takes you past waterfalls, volcanoes, and monkeys swinging from the trees.
I suppose it is possible to become accustomed to the view, but a week didn’t put a dent in our awe. And really, it would take a lifetime just to take in all of the biological diversity of Costa Rica – so you’d have to work really, really hard at being bored or indifferent. I can’t imagine ever becoming immune to the beauty.
We soaked up the sun and the mist in equal measure. We also balanced complete relaxation with thrilling adventure. We hiked, soared, jumped, and zipped. We fell from a 30-foot platform on purpose.
We started our trip at La Quinta, a country inn in Sarapiqui, a remote and mostly agricultural region. Here, we lazed about in the pool and practiced playing chess while we waited to be fed homemade rice and beans. We guzzled cupfuls of the local coffee, enjoying it both “negra” and “con leche”, but always with “azúcar.” (You can’t really opt for fake sugar when the real thing is growing all around you. It would be rude.) Naps were taken in a hammock on a private porch and the deliciousness of Imperial, the local beer, was discovered by both Jared – who loves all beer – and me – who loves almost no beer.
Next, we were whisked off to Hotel Belmar in Monteverde. Actually, we were hauled over bumpy roads, put on a boat to cross Lake Arenal, and then tossed ass over teakettle up a mountain in a 4×4 bus. Thankfully, the scenery was worth the bruises. And we loved Monteverde and the nearby Cloud Forest.
But neither of our first two stops would compare to the splendor of Lapa Rios Ecolodge, a remote resort on the Osa Peninsula, about 45 minutes from Puero Jiminez (a little beach town that I am seriously considering relocating to at some point.)
Before our arrival, we were told repeatedly through literature and by drivers that there was no air conditioning, internet, or phone. We were encouraged to bring flashlights to help us spot the poisonous snakes that slithered between buildings. We – or at least I – were a little apprehensive about the final days we’d be spending in the jungle.
As it turns out, Lapas Rios is as close to heaven as you can get without dying.
We took showers in our private garden, watched Macaws in flight, and spent hours being entertained by the monkeys that played just outside our treetop bungalow. We also hiked to a waterfall and then swam in the spring pool beneath it.
Throughout our trip, we gorged ourselves on the local food. Costa Rican food is deceptively simple, composed primarily of beans, rice, corn tortillas, and various local produce. The fruits were sweet and the vegetables often unfamiliar, but it was all delicious. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to replicate anything I ate, and I’m not certain all of the ingredients could even be found here in the States. I’ll just have to go back for more.
Yes, between the views, the service, the wildlife, and the food, we were very happy in Costa Rica. Away from laptops and cell service, surrounded by new and different and beautiful, we were more relaxed and less stressed. It is true that happiness can be found anywhere and should most ferverently be south right where we are, but it is also true that Costa Rica provides one hell of a place for an infusion of bliss.
They even have a name for it.
Ah, yes, pure life – absolute bliss – indeed.
Check out more photos in the Costa Rica gallery.
A huge thank you to the Costa Rica tourism board for selecting us to receive a Gift of Happiness and providing us with airfare, hotel and transportation within Costa Rica. If you’re a PR folk interested in having me or my family visit your awesome destination, please get in touch!