A couple of weeks ago, we packed up our bags and headed down to sunny Costa Rica for a weeklong vacation with my buddy Diana Rodgers and her family. Taking advantage of the lull before the debut of her gorgeous new book, Homegrown Paleo, Diana had arranged for all eight of us to stay at Surf Costa in Esterillos—a surfer’s paradise twenty minutes south of Jaco.
It was our first time in Costa Rica, and lucky for us, our rental property came with an invaluable travel guide/driver/surf instructor/dining companion/new friend/uncle in Bryan Gleason. With his help, we immediately got busy vacationing.
But if you think I’m now going to bore you with a day-by-day, blow-by-blow recap of our adventures, you’re wrong. Instead, I’m going to quickly count down the top ten things anyone should do on vacation in Costa Rica—or just about anywhere else, for that matter. Ready?
Who says only kids can play? Just ’cause we’re adults doesn’t mean we’ve outgrown being goofballs. Play is therapeutic, critical to stress reduction, boosts our mood, and forges bonds with those around us. It makes us healthier. And besides, it’s just plain fun.
Every day in Costa Rica, we made time for play. We wobbled on surfboards in the waves off of Playa Esterillos…
…splashed around with the kids…
…paddled our way through whitewater rapids on the Rio Savegre…
…and goofed off whenever, wherever.
Pretending to get gobbled up by wild crocs is always good for the soul.
9. Get with nature.
I’ll admit it: we’re city folk. Or more accurately, suburban folk. Okay—that’s not true of our entire party of eight; Diana and her husband Andrew are farmers, and their family lives in an 18th century farmhouse. But none of us are accustomed to trekking around in rain forests and checking out the local flora and fauna.
I’m the kind of gal who would normally prefer to stay poolside, but even I knew that it’d be stupid to pass up the opportunity to check out our natural surroundings and its inhabitants. Skittish lizards, dancing dolphins, and dazzling butterflies were only the tip of the iceberg. We had close encounters with monkeys!
No matter that Big-O was thrown off his galloping steed orthat we were thisclose to wading into
a shark-patrolled beach—seeing these creatures in the wild reminded us of the
wonderful diversity in our natural environment.
8. Eat local.
As a lifelong gastrotourist, I can’t even conceive of going
to a foreign country to eat the same foods I enjoy at home. I don’t claim to be
a connoisseur of Central American cuisine, but I made sure that by the end of
our week in Costa Rica, I’d had the chance to dig into everything from casados…
…to fresh ceviche…
…and most importantly, ever-present platters of crispy-fried patacones (a.k.a. tostones, or fried green plantains).
Honestly—I think I’m addicted to patacones now. When I
arrived back home, the first thing I did was shop for green plantains so I
could fry some up straightaway. (Instructions will be coming soon on this blog, so keep your eyes peeled!)
Also, I don’t eat perfectly Paleo when I am on vacation. I know that gluten can do a number on my gut and I avoid it as best as I can. As a rule of thumb, I’m mindful of everything I put in my mouth and savor every bite.
Thanks to Bryan, we even found a favorite local eatery in Esterillos,
Restaurant Los Almendros, where our hungry families tucked into deliciously
prepared dishes almost every night.
I love nothing more than eating with my favorite people.
7. Get out of your
Vacation’s the perfect time to challenge yourself to do
something different. After all, you’re in an unfamiliar setting with plenty of
time on your hands—so what’s keeping you from checking off a few items from
your bucket list?
On our trip, each of us dared ourselves to do something
new—and potentially scary. For example, Diana faced her fear of ziplining and
…I did my darnedest to get up on a surfboard…
…and my arachnophobic husband tried not to freak out every
time someone shoved a big spider in his face.
It’s good to get your blood pumping once in a while, right?
Relaxing is easier said than done—especially on an action-packed
vacation. But resting and recharging is the primary reason we take holidays.
And trust me: we didn’t pass up opportunities to lounge around on hammocks…
…let the wind whip through our hair…
…write messages in the sand…
…and watch the sun set every evening.
Did you know that Costa Rica’s a huge producer of palm oil?
That when squeezed, teak leaves produce a red dye used in henna? Were you aware
that scarlet macaws form monogamous pair bonds that last for
life? Or that our guide Bryan’s deadpan humor can sometimes take the
form of taking us on a high speed police chase?
It’s important to learn something new every day, folks. Even
while on vacation.
4. Catch some rays.
Synthesize some Vitamin D by getting some sun!
Exposure to sunlight helps normalize your circadian rhythms,
boosts immunity and heart health, lowers your risk of diabetes, and keeps your
bones healthy. Plus: no one likes getting rickets.
Because it’s fun and funny—and good for you.
Take a hike. Go off the beaten path. It may not always yield
what you expected, but what’s life without surprises?
On horseback, we made our way to the top of a ridge with
gorgeous views. In the Corcovado rain forest, we tiptoed up to a slumbering tapir. And
at Surf Costa, we found an adorable surf baby who the kids wanted desperately to
1. Hang with your
There’s nothing in the
world like being with those you love.
Time slips by quickly, so whenever we can, let’s hit the
pause button and just enjoy each other’s company. These moments won’t last forever,
no matter how much we want to hold onto them. Blink, and you might miss them.
Now go book your next vacation!