One of the many benefits of studying abroad is that the program your school is associated with (ours being ILISA) does a great job in planning your weekly excursions. Though we lived in San Jose, the heart and soul of Costa Rica, we had hour-long trips to areas like Guanacaste, Puntarenas Province, Alajuela, Siquirres, and San Antonio. Therefore, it is safe to say we were exposed to a lot of Costa Rica’s beauty.
Our excursions consisted of the following:
- The Museum of Gold
- Rincon de la Vieja (farm, hot springs, horseback riding, zip-lining, milking cow, waterfall, hike up to volcano)
- The National Museum
- Manuel Antonio National Park
- Central Market and Craft Market
- White water rafting at Pacuare
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Doka Coffee Tour
- The Jade Museum
Through our trips to each of the city’s museums, we were moved by the rich indigenous culture of the Costa Rican peoples. The Museum of Gold held specific artifacts that were dug up from ancient times—instruments used by indigenous people in their daily lives, jewelry, garb worn by tribe warriors (either as shield or simply fashion), as well as ancient golden relics that were shaped to resemble certain creatures (the frog, butterfly, lion, snake, elephant, etc) that each possessed historical significance to their belief systems. The National Museum encompassed more of the history of Costa Rica and its development but also included an amazing Blue Morpho butterfly garden.
On another note, our trips to the rainforests, waterfalls, beaches, and farms showed us the wonderful sight that is Mother Nature. The air was fresher, the water cleaner, and the interactions with the animals all helped foster a greater connection with earth. We were blessed to see toucans flying above us, to ride horses, to milk a mother cow, and to see monkeys playing and fighting in the trees near the shores of Manuel Antonio.
Although riding horses was an interesting experience (we rode them up the mountain up to the hot springs of Rincon de la Vieja), the monkeys of Manuel Antonio had such wild personalities to them! I was skeptical when the tour guide was telling us that they often try to steal from the people visiting the beach, but I saw it with my very own eyes! At first, they were just hiding up in the trees. I saw one of the monkeys picking through two of his monkey-friends hairs to look for fleas (it looked similar to how moms will look through their children’s hair for lice).
I took a break from the hot sun and enjoyed myself by floating on the clear water. The water at Manuel Antonio is more concentrated with salt so it made it so much easier to float! I was on floating atop the water–still and silent, unbothered and peaceful–for a full twenty minutes. It was the definition of tranquility. When I got out of the water, a monkey ran behind a woman and was jumping at her to steal her banana! She was so frazzled and caught off guard, she didn’t know what to do till I told her, “¡Tiralo!” or “Throw it!” He got his banana and scurried away only to go searching through another woman’s purse! He was digging through it until someone intervened and snapped him away. The best part is, I got it all on tape! It was a hilarious interaction with the monkeys, one I will surely never forget.
My all-time favorite excursion was the white-water rafting at Pacuare. As I experienced up to level four rapids with an amazing rafting group and a super nice guide, I thought to myself, “Nothing can beat this.” The strong rush of the currents, the intricacy of the mountains, the complex rock formations, and the earths physical structure overall was absolutely immaculate.
I wish I could describe La Paz but I was feelings sick that day and decided to stay home. However, my friends that did attend got to see a waterfall and all kind of wild animals—sloths, monkeys, jaguars, toucans, up close! I would definitely recommend visiting there.
All in all, the excursions planned for this study aboard trip were all comprehensive and meaningful. Not only did we get to witness some of the most beautiful sights of Costa Rica, but we also manifested deep connections with the nature and the people of these towns.
If you study abroad there, I recommend extending your trip an extra week so you can take your time visiting other rich places. When I return (fingers crossed, hopefully next year), I’m going to make an effort to visit “Territorio de Zaguates” or “The Land of the Strays.” With this excursion, you climb to the top of a mountain where you are met with hundreds of stray dogs! A true paradise—heaven on earth for both stray pups and humans.