4 Things You Notice in Costa Rica That You Don’t See in the U.S.


By Natural Blaze

One of the best times of my life was staying with friends in Costa Rica and frankly, one summer simply isn’t enough to take in all its heavenly glory. I lived there, shopped there, adventured there and dove right into the pura vida! – a common phrase meaning “pure life.” Truer words were never spoken. I wouldn’t blame you if after reading this, you left and never came back.

Here are some strange things you will notice there, that are atypical of the U.S.:

Exotic Foods That Strangely Don’t Cause the Same Food Intolerances – Have you heard of families that traveled to Italy only to find out they aren’t gluten-intolerant in Italy? Yeah, Costa Rica is a lot like that for travelers. For one thing, there isn’t too much dairy or bread unless you find hamburguesa y papas, better known as a burger and fries. There is a steady stream of fresh vegetables, fruits, pork and seafood, beans, rice, eggs fried plantains, some fresh beef and the most exotic natural flavorings. You’ll forget about the American breakfast the second you land.

Do you have sugar, alcohol, and fructose (fruit) intolerance? You might be surprised to find that you can eat and imbibe with much more ease. The sugar there is pure cane and maintains its nutrients, you won’t see high fructose corn syrup. On the plus side, it’s easy to stick with a healthy diet, but that’s because your comfort foods aren’t really there. Drink the fresh fruit juices if you can, and all the fresh coconut juice you could ever desire unless strictly forbidden – especially guanabana, aka, the cancer-fighting soursop fruit.


Everything is Designed to Be Environmentally Friendly – there is very little waste and people use little grocery bags to take out their weekly trash. Very little packaging involved. The people there don’t keep buying soap dispensers when they run out – they have one dispenser and buy large pouches that contain refills. Full disclosure, a lot of pesticides are used there, but in general it is not a plastic nightmare. Their treatment of the environment on the whole, is merely a reflection of how well they treat strangers, which is with an outpouring of friendliness and kindness.

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Families Bonding through Adventure, in Awe of Nature – Something’s missing….something’s missing…Oh yeah, it’s people plastered to their smart phones with sad faces! Smart phones? Where we’re going, we don’t need any Smartphones, Marty. Pretty much anything fun you do in C.R. is going to carry an air of adventure because it’s outdoors 99.99% of the time. People can take their children and finally break free from typical confines, becoming a part of nature and feeling connected to it perhaps for the first time. There are Costa Rica family vacations or you can rent a car and tool around until you find an attraction. You can go to the hot beach and wave at monkeys or go to the Carribean side. You can face down a number of volcanoes and bring home coffee grown on the volcano soil. You’ll take gulps of clean air as you take in the steady backdrop of green mountains.


Lack of Visible Crime and Crackdown Cops – would you believe that when I went to stay there, I had every well meaning friend telling me to watch out for trafficking, gangs, hardcore drugs… you name it. There are areas to avoid in every country, but as a tourist you will unlikely encounter that unless you try really hard. (I cannot speak for San Jose as I went to other places, and of course, they have crime.) After all, the Envision Festival is there, and all manner of healing retreats. The unfortunate truth is, that there are many U.S. cities that face these issues on a daily basis and also face inordinate police brutality – we are just more acclimated to it and take the risks as we live. I was just as struck by the lack of need for pervasive policing in my living area as I was at the clear blue skies starting at 5:00 a.m. They also aren’t a third world country and they have clean water, but a lot of misconceptions still remain.

What if the people of Costa Rica said to their people, don’t go to the U.S., you don’t want to get arrested or get sick from pollution! Don’t drink the water! On that note, you don’t see many Costa Ricans here. Maybe that’s because they are the ones in Pura vida!

In C.R. you get a physical wake-up call – and a societal one as well. I was struck with a tinge of melancholia when I returned to the issues in the U.S., so I try to change what I can give myself the most Costa Rican experience possible by treating my body to fresh food, sunshine, kindness of friends and fun and laughter. Life can be an adventure if we want.

Breakfast Photo credit: maveric2003 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Photo credit: rfish77 via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

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