When you’re traveling, especially if you’re traveling to a foreign place you’ve never been before, you may experience some stress. While vacations are supposed to be relaxing, it can be hard to reach that point of Zen on a plane, getting settled into your accommodations, and when things don’t go according to plan.
Add traveling with kids or a large family, and the challenges continue to add up. We suggest approaching the situation like Profession Robert Kelly and his family might have.
You’ve probably already seen the video that made this man famous, but if you haven’t, here’s a recap:
Professor Kelly is an expert on Asia, and was delivering an analysis to a BBC reporter about Southeast Asian politics from his home office when his toddler-aged daughter danced into the room to see him. She utterly distracts the reporter while her father attempts to keep a straight face and continue the interview with the same level of professionalism and seriousness. Unfortunately, he finds that rather difficult.
And that’s when his younger child, a baby, scoots into the room on his little walker to say hello to the nation as well. Luckily, his Mrs. Kelly swoops in to handle things. Her attempts at covertly coaxing the children out of the room fail as well, however, and parents at home watch her painfully and comically escort the children finally from the room.
While this video made for some great laughs, it also has some great lessons for parents.
Things Don’t Always Go as Planned
As parents, you’ve probably already figured out that today will not going to go quite as you envisioned. Tomorrow either. Kids change everything, and much of your day will be governed by their behavior. Professor Kelly certainly wasn’t planning on his children joining in on that interview!
While anticipating your children’s needs and planning for many possibilities can help you cope with the unexpected calmly and gracefully, you simply can’t plan for every contingency.
Many of our guests at Costa Rica Star Villas discover that it’s the same with travel. While having your own personal concierge, flexible amenities, and plenty of privacy can certainly help minimize the stress of the unexpected, you simply can’t plan for it all.
Simply accepting that going in and being flexible with your plans can save you a lot of grief. And who knows? Maybe you’ll end up discovering a great restaurant because you forgot to pack snacks on a day trip to Puntarenas.
Do Your Best with What You Have
Your toothbrush. A pair of nail clippers. The diapers. Inevitably, kids forget things. And often, so do parents. But that doesn’t mean it has to be then end of your vacation. For starters, there are often ways to get the items you left at home. A quick call to your personal Costa Rica Star Villas concierge could gain you advice about how to replace the missing item, or even lead to it showing up on your doorstep with a smiling service person who is happy to help.
Second, you may be able to make do without it. Didn’t bring your daughter’s favorite flip flops? Perhaps a new pair would make a good souvenir to help her remember the trip. Forget your white noise machine? Try enjoying the sounds of the rainforest or crashing ocean waves as you fall asleep instead.
When Mrs. Kelly discovered her children had disappeared into her husband’s office at the worst moment, she could have lamented the fact that she didn’t have her daughter’s favorite treat in hand to coax her out, or an extra pair of hands to carry both children away at the same time (while gracefully shutting the door behind her). Instead, she got the little ones out of the room as best she could with two hands and deft movements – the only tools she had available at the time.
Have a Sense of Humor About It
After becoming overnight YouTube sensations, the Kellys have given numerous interviews discussing exactly what when wrong that day. While they were embarrassed about it at the time, these later interviews show them much more relaxed, with the whole family taking part. And they laugh. Instead of feeling shameful about the unveiling of their family life, they’ve embraced it. They joke about it.
And that’s important for your vacation, too. You and your family are much more likely to enjoy your trip if you can laugh about the surprises that pop up. Just try to roll with it.
A Few Bad Moments Don’t Have to Ruin the Whole Trip
While Professor Kelly’s children distracted the nation from a serious topic for a minute or two, overall Professor Kelly still gave a great interview. He made some valid, respectable points about Southeast Asia. Despite being afraid he’d ruined his relationship with the BBC, Professor Kelly and his family gave several interviews afterward and inspired conversations about what it’s like to be a working parent and having to separate those two parts of life to be taken seriously.
The truth is, most people in the world wouldn’t have given Professor Kelly a second thought – perhaps never would have seen his interview at all – if it weren’t for the unexpected appearance of the rest of his family. While not every disaster can be averted, not every disaster is actually a disaster.
Don’t let a temper tantrum or a teen with an attitude ruin your outlook for the whole trip. With options like childcare, local cuisine prepared right in your villa, and other services, you don’t have to let the mood of one family member spoil it for everyone else.
Have a Backup Plan
While Plan A might not pan out as expected, it’s always good to have a Plan B or C. Of course, having a few locals on your side when traveling to a foreign place is a huge help, too.
Now matter what challenges our guests face during their stay, the staff at Costa Rica Star Villas are here to help. We’re proactive about reducing the possibility of life’s little surprises by helping you plan all the details of your trip. Your local, personal concierge team is also available onsite to help you manage any surprises that come with being a parent. Contact us today to get started preparing Plans A through…whatever!
When you hear the name Costa Rica, what comes to mind?
For most, the name Costa Rica evokes images of pristine rainforest, white sand beaches, and friendly, laid-back locals. While you can find all of these things in Costa Rica in abundance, the nation’s name was intended to invoke something quite different by the man who named it. Join us in diving into the fascinating history of how Costa Rica got its name and, of course, how you can have more historical and cultural experiences on your Costa Rica vacation.
Who Named Costa Rica?
Believe it or not, Spanish was not the first language spoken in Costa Rica. There’s evidence that indigenous people lived and thrived within the modern borders of Costa Rica for at least 10,000 years. In fact, there were several major indigenous tribes here, each with their own language. You can still find elements of Boruca, Guatusos, and Cabecares culture in local folk music, art, and cuisine, but these people did not give their home the name we call it today.
So who did?
As with many other countries in the New World, is was the Spanish who named Costa Rica. Just as Christopher Columbus is credited with being the first European to see what would become the United States, he was also the first to bring back tales of his experiences in Costa Rica. During his very last voyage to “The West Indies,” he was greeted by a group of natives. Columbus noticed the golden jewelry that adorned their noses and ears and took this scene with him back to Spain, inspiring the name Costa Rica.
What Does Costa Rica Mean?
Costa Rica. It rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? It’s meaning is “Rich Coast,” and that’s exactly what Gil Davila, the first Spaniard to attempt to settle the area, was hoping for. The name did not, however, prove to be true. At least, not in the way that it was intended.
Costa Rica turned out to be a poorly-performing colony for the Spanish empire. It was one of the most difficult to settle and had the least influence with the Crown. Despite the fact that Davila returned to Spain with an impressive collection of gold and other treasures, settlers had a difficult time merely eking out a living in its resistant jungles. To add to the difficulty, there weren’t nearly as many natural resources to exploit as Davila originally thought.
In the eyes of the Spanish, Costa Rica wasn’t very rich after all.
We, however, think the Spanish simply weren’t looking in the right places. We have plenty of natural resources. They’re just better experienced in person. Today, Costa Rica is one of the most sought-after eco-travel destinations in the world. Its biodiversity is extensive for its relatively tiny size, and much of its rainforests are protected from development. Those very same jungles that repelled all efforts to tame this land helped create the rich culture of local people and are the crown jewel of a Costa Rica vacation today.
How to Learn More Costa Rican History and Culture
Want more Costa Rica historical and cultural experiences? The best way to learn is to come see us! From museums and historical sites to folk music and events, Costa Rica Star Villas is your guide to everything Costa Rica. Here are just a few of the experiences we’d be happy to set up for you.
Learn Spanish in Tamarindo
Want to learn the meaning behind other Costa Rica places and sayings? Take a language class. Tamarindo is the best place to kick off your Costa Rican adventure with a Spanish lesson or two. Several schools in the area offer either quick introductions or extended courses designed to help you soak up the language, complete with our local Tico flair. Many locals speak English so learning Spanish isn’t necessary to get around in Costa Rica, but it is the perfect way to immerse yourself in local culture.
Chock full of both Spanish and indigenous culture, Tamarindo is the perfect travel hub for Guanacaste’s northern peninsula. It’s a popular place to begin a Costa Rica vacation, and you’ll have the chance to meet many of your fellow travelers if you wish. Want to be close to your profesor de Español? Check out our Tamarindo Villas. [Link to Tamarindo villas, when page is built]
See Indigenous Art in Playa del Coco
Whether you’re looking to bathe in the beauty of local artwork or take home a one of-a-kind souvenir to remember your trip, the Rojas Bros Boruca Indigenous Art & Gallery in Playa Del Coco is the place to be. Colorful plant seeds delicately strung together into necklaces, elaborately carved and painted masks, and hand-woven cloth are all created by local artisans. They’re all on display here, and many are available for sale as well.
Want to be close to this award-winning museum? Check out our Villas in Playa del Coco
Experience Local Cuisine right in your Villa
Traditional and regional cuisine can be found all over Costa Rica. But believe it or not, you don’t even have to leave you accommodations to experience some of the best Arroz con Pollo and Gallo Pinto you’ve ever had! That is, if you book your stay with Costa Rica Star Villas. Every one of our villas comes with the option to have an experienced private chef produce custom menus for your entire group. Make every meal both easy and delicious during your stay.
Or try your hand at Costa Rican cuisine in your private villa kitchen. We’d be happy to arrange groceries, supplies, and a knowledgeable chef to teach you how to cook like a Tico.
Can’t wait to experience the culture of Costa Rica? We don’t blame you. That’s why we make it so easy to book your stay – plus any tours, excursions, transportation, and additional services. Call us today to get started.
The jungles of Costa Rica are an international tourist destination for their exuberant beauty, their immense biodiversity which makes it a nature’s lover paradise, and they are even a great backdrop for the filming of movies like Jurassic Park. However, most people are not aware of the great interest of the international scientific community in the Costa Rican jungles.
Throughout history new cures have been discovered and developed thanks to observations of folk medicine which developed when certain people in the community specialized in mixing herbs and other natural ingredients to make a potion which was administered to the patient suffering different kinds of ailments. In a significant number of cases, it was found that it worked and scientists paid attention coming to realize that Nature has quite a collection of medicinal plants. In addition to natural remedies so popular once more these days, pharmacological medicines and vaccines have been developed from just such origins for worldwide distribution and use.
One such discovery that changed the world was the observation by Spanish Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century who learned from Indigenous tribes in Peru to treat fevers with the bark of a certain tree. From this, eventually scientists developed the pharmacological medicine Quinine, a most effective anti-malaria drug available today.
Incidentally, this discovery was instrumental in the successful construction of the Panama Canal. Workers were ravaged by malaria (also called yellow fever because the patient develops a condition called jaundice which gives the skin and the white of the eyes a yellowish color) and this often-fatal epidemic stalled the work until quinine was used to treat them. What a chain of events!
But back to the Costa Rican jungle.
With such rich abundance of exotic plants and animals some of which are only found in Costa Rica, these ancient jungles are a potential plethora of new scientific discoveries. In hope that such findings might be made here that could lead to the development and commercialization of new pharmaceutical products to help humanity, scientific research is continuously being conducted in a permanent research facility in the “selva” (Spanish for jungle) where scientists from other countries join Costa Rican scientists in the study of plants and jungle inhabitants they think might hold potential in this field.
A joint research team of scientists from the national University of Costa Rica, Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been working on a very exciting project which revolves around the study of Costa Rican endemic Apterostigma ants which could – literally – save the world!
This research is being done at the La Selva Biological Station which is part of the Organization for Tropical Studies. It’s located in the province of Heredia where 300 researchers from different countries come each year to conduct as many as 150 scientific projects.
On November 4 of this year, at a joint press conference at the UCR campus, Harvard researchers Jon Clardy and Ethan Van Harmam and Cameron Currie of Wisconsin-Madison joined via teleconference UCR researcher Adrian Pinto to make an astounding announcement to the world: They have discovered what they think likely could lead to the manufacture of the next generation of antibiotics which would overcome major limitations of the antibiotics currently in use around the world.
The health of the world is in crisis. Antibiotics, when first discovered, revolutionized healthcare and life quality and span by making it possible to control and cure deceases which used to kill people often at a young age and even in infancy. Penicillin and the many other antibiotics that prevent infections and kill bacteria have given a new lease on life to millions around the world. However, antibiotics became so common that the organisms they were to kill, started developing an immunity to them. Stronger antibiotics were developed but the levels of toxic side effects increased as well. For these reasons, responsible medical doctors are trying to limit the use antibiotics to cases when they are truly necessary to keep the patient from developing immunity to them and to limit their side effects. There are a couple of “last resort” antibiotics for extreme circumstances for which the germs have not yet developed resistance. However, the level of toxicity of these potent antibiotics is also higher and there is the fear of the germs eventually winning the battle against the antibiotics available. Because of these reasons, scientists are focusing research to develop a new version of antibiotics to which the bacteria won’t develop resistance and which do not pose the toxic side effect.
Enter the Apterostigma ants of Costa Rica. These ants make their own antibiotic: a natural substance that kills parasitic fungi. Researchers believe it could also help humans.
In their press conference, the researchers announced the discovery of a molecule produced by these ants that they believe could be used to manufacture a new improved antibiotic. They named their discovery “Selvamicin” in honor of its discovery in the “selva” (jungle)
Research on ants started at La Selva Biological Station in 2009 and focused primarily on the Apterostigma ants that cultivate and feed on a genus of fungus known as Leucoagaricus.
A parasitic micro fungus called Escovopsis also feeds on the fungi cultivated by these ants and invades their colonies in search of it. The Apterostigma ants protect their food from these predators by feeding them antibiotic-secreting bacteria that kills the invaders. In effect, the Apterostigma ants have developed a unique relationship with the bacteria by providing them with a place to live and in return the ants benefit from the substance the bacteria secrete, which is an efficient antifungal. Professor Currie who is an evolution expert discovered the interaction between the ants and the bacteria back in the 90s.
“These ants are farmers, as they grow their own food, but also pharmacists, as they manufacture their own antibiotics through their relationship with bacteria,” Pinto said.
As part of the research, the scientists have already tested Selvamicin on several types of fungi and found that it is effective in killing those fungi. They have already sent selected samples to Wisconsin for genetic analysis and to Harvard for chemical analysis. Experts there are currently working on the possible development of a new drug.
Selvamicin has been found by researchers to be similar in structure to that of other antifungals called Nystatin A and Amphotericin B. Both are listed by the World Health Organization as essential medicines but they might produce severe side effects to patients so scientists have been looking for alternatives.
Ethan Van Arnam of Harvard said the discovery “is a reminder of Costa Rica’s high ecological value, and how the country’s tropical forests still have many lessons to teach us about medicine and science.
Research is now focusing on understanding how ants have been using the same antibiotic against fungi for over 50 million years and it still works. This is important because there are bacteria s we started using less than 70 years ago that are already resistant to antibiotics.
All the scientists warned that research such as this takes time and patience and though they are hopeful this will become a viable commercial pharmaceutical to fight infections efficiently without the side effects of current antibiotics, there is a long way to go to get there. However, they also emphasized the work has been started and ongoing for some time.
The research group already has patented their findings. If their work leads to a commercially distributed antibiotic, recognition and a share of the profits will be shared by the three universities.
Carlos de la Rosa, Director of La Selva Biological Station, cautions that even a discovery such as this with such huge potential still has a long process ahead to arrive at a final product. He also pointed out that these discoveries could open the door to further research the properties of millions of existing bacteria and that could also lead to development of other new drugs.
If interested on more information, please refer to the Article of November 6, 2016 of the Tico Times on which this blog is largely based. www.ticotimes.net, science section
As you can see, Costa Rica whose name means Rich Coast, is not only rich in the beauty of its beaches, mountains, rivers, volcanos, spectacular sunsets, the good nature of its people and a large portion of the world’s biodiversity. Its “selva” is also rich in potential to benefit humanity. You too, can have a wonderful vacation in Costa Rica enjoying its terrific weather especially in winter if you live in a cold climate, explore the jungles, go zip lining, observe the wild life, hike the Costa Rica National Parks, and soak up the health and wellness that comes from feeling one with nature in Costa Rica.
Welcome to Fiesta Season in Costa Rica!
The rainy season is officially over and that ushers in…FIESTAS SEASON!
In Costa Rica when we talk about “the fiestas” it’s not simply a party. It refers to what in North America might be compared to the County Fair. Fiestas take place in practically all communities even if very small and attract not only locals but also people from the entire region. Some are famous enough to have a nationwide following.
“Sabaneros” are the equivalent of the North American cowboys or Argentinian gauchos. Costa Rica, traditionally a country where farming and ranching were the main occupation of people in much of the interior and the backbone of the traditional economy, has always had a large number of sabaneros or ranch hands. To pass the time and show off their skills at riding, roping, branding, herding and related activities they would hold competitions with sabaneros from other “fincas” (ranches or farms) often when herding cattle to market. In a simpler time when there were no TVs and little in the form of entertainment in the countryside, it developed into more organized competitions held periodically. Crowds came to cheer their favorites and vendors came to sell their wares. Local women made a little money by selling their traditionally prepared food and in addition to the typical sabanero activities, other entertainment was added in time. Young children preparing to follow their father’s footsteps, would compete riding sheep and teenagers would ride very young bulls. With time, mechanical rides such as carrousels and other carnival rides started touring and coming to the fiestas. Cerveza, Spanish for beer and guaro sales found their way to the fiestas and, this being Costa Rica, so did music and dancing. In more recent times, karaoke singing has been added as a very popular attraction. And all sorts of other miscellaneous fun time things for the entire family keep joining the fiestas.
Though all the above are popular reasons to get together for a good time, there are 3 central components of these events we haven’t mentioned yet which attract the largest crowds and participation. One is the “Tope” or horseback parade. Held in the most important date of the Fiestas, “Caballistas“ (riders) decked out in their finery cowboy style, parade on a pre-designated route greeting the crowds that gather to watch them pass by. Men and women of all ages ride in the Tope, usually in their very attractive cowboy/cowgirl attires. Some are little more than toddlers the but the age range also includes grandmothers and grandfathers, it’s an activity for the entire family to participate either as riders or spectators. The public usually stands on the side of the road or the street, some bring folding chairs to sit on and others sit or stand on the back of pickup trucks. Many bring coolers with their drinks of choice as it can get hot out in the sun. And music is always playing. As the public wait for the activities to pass the area they have staked out, dancing on the street or sidewalk often breaks out.
Riders pay a registration fee which includes participation in raffles for the riders with prizes that usually include pricey saddles and other horse tac items. When the parade is over (this takes a while as they usually stop along the way for “refreshments”), the riders and others who pay the entrance fee adjourn to a reception where live music and good food and more raffles and awards are given out. This is a genuine old time cowboy party where just as often the cowboys could be real life sabaneros or might come from any walk of life (teachers, lawyers, ranch owners, shop keepers, etc.) But this day, they are ALL sabaneros and everyone, including all the party attendees, are dressed for the part. It’s like being in a real life cowboy movie!
Another pivotal activity is the “montas de toros” (bull riding events). These are somewhat like in the Rodeos in the US but with some differences: It’s not just the bull and the rider plus some clowns ready to distract the bull if the rider finds himself in trouble. The bull ring is crowded with people proving their courage by alternately taunting the bull and running away from it. This is an activity in which spectators should not participate. Usually those who do are aspiring bull riders and people born to the lifestyle.
It’s important to distinguish the bull riding in Costa Rica from the bull fights of Spain where the bull gets killed. These bulls are highly valued and not killed or harmed. If any bull becomes too aggressive they are retired from the riding circuit and only make special appearances by prancing around the ring, rider less. People honor their bravery but the idea is not to have killer bulls, just good fun. There is a ranch in Guanacaste whose bulls are a pleasure to watch. While they have a rider on their back, they are as spirited as they come. Once the rider has dismounted (or has been dislodged by the bull), the sabanero who is the bull’s handler comes into the bullring, walks up to the bull, puts a rope round its neck and walks him out calmly as if walking a docile dog!
A third largely attended event is the Coronation of the Queen of the Fiestas. Usually a local young school girl and her court. After a process during which they sell votes to determine who the winner is, the Queen and her Court preside over the events of the Fiestas. They usually also parade in ceremony around the bullring on horseback for some of the events and there is a Coronation Dance held in honor of the Queen.
Now I am going to let you in on a little secret not usually known to tourists who may attend some of these events. There is another dimension to the Fiestas. It’s not just the fun and prizes and good times. This is also how the towns raise money for community projects and services. And for the local school. Every community in Costa Rica, no matter how isolated, no matter how small, has a school. And school attendance is mandatory. Education is a highly-valued part of being Tico. However, the budget is not always adequate to cover all the expenses associated with 100% of the cost of running a town and a school. So, the proceeds from every event of the Fiestas, from the fees the horse riders pay to participate in the tope, the entrance to the bull rides, the rental paid for food, drink, entertainment, souvenir, or any other kind of stall or attraction, after deduction of the expenses incurred, all goes to the community fund. Sometimes, the schoolhouse needs another classroom or needs to equip a computer lab, the towns roads need to be improved, whatever the needs are, the revenues from the Annual Fiestas is the main source of income for those little towns.
The people who year after year put on this show, are civic minded residents working for their community on a volunteer basis. The work is hard, the goal is worthy and the successes are a point of high pride.
If you are interested in going to one of these fiestas during your vacation in Costa Rica, you can ask your concierge if there are any going on in the area at the time of your visit. For example, the Fiestas in Playas del Coco, a town close to most of the Costa Rica Star Villas, will take place the last week of January. And because this is a tourist center and beach town, the tope route is partly on the sand by the beach which is unique to Coco, incorporating its beach town idiosyncrasy.
There are so many dimensions to explore when you travel to Costa Rica. Today you have learned some about the local traditions and values of Costa Rica. You might want to consider learning more about the people and their customs in addition to your Costa Rica tours and adventures, visits to a Costa Rica National Park, tour to a volcano, zip lining, sport fishing, sunset tour, etc. So much to do, so little time! You may just have to repeat your vacation in Costa Rica… We are waiting for you, give us a call or send an email to reserve your favorite Star Villa vacation rental!
Every country has its holidays and its own unique ways to celebrate them. As a way to help you better enjoy your vacation in Costa Rica, from time to time we’ll tell you about different holidays that are an important part of life in this country.
Costa Rica is a country very proud of its heritage and highly conscientious about instilling this pride in their children from an early age. Celebrating with gusto is a Costa Rican tradition in itself, and no other holiday is more important than Independence Day. Independence, Liberty, Freedom, Love of Country are so important for Ticos (Costa Ricans) that they have designated the entire month of September as “el Mes de la Patria” or Month of the Homeland. I don’t know of any other country that celebrates the anniversary of its Independence for a whole month! During the month of September public and private businesses and buildings as well as people’s homes fly the national flag and are adorned with streamers and other decorations in red, white and blue, the colors of the Costa Rican flag, and other patriotic signs.
The 5 Central American countries of Spanish origin – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica- were originally Provinces of Spain under the Captaincy General of Guatemala to which the Spanish Crown appointed a Viceroy to govern them. Since Costa Rica was the territory farthest from Guatemala and no valuable metal had been discovered by that time, Spain had practically no interest in Costa Rica, allowing it to develop pretty much independently. Life was simple then, the economy based on farming for self-sustenance and commerce that consisted of trading farm products for manufactured goods. Thus went life for about 300 years…
Eventually winds of independence began to blow throughout the Central American Isthmus while Spain battled Napoleon Bonaparte and other foes in the old continent. Eventually on September 15, 1821, without a war, Spain signed the independence of the Captaincy General of Guatemala and all its territories. Word was sent to each of the former provinces and the news arrived in Costa Rica on October 13th – talk about slow mail! someone had to ride across the isthmus to reach Costa Rica with the news.
As a result of these circumstances, all 5 Central American nations share the same Independence Day. Several interesting commemorative celebrations have resulted from their common history.
There is a unique celebration which unites once more for this event all the former colonies. A few days before September 15, a Torch of Freedom is lit in Guatemala in a ceremony of Independence. Then a relay marathon starts where individuals carry the Torch on foot from one end of the Central American Isthmus to the other, through all the former Provinces of the Captaincy of Guatemala, signifying the Freedom that ignited all the new Countries with their Independence. People crowd the roads as it passes cheering it on, waving their national flag. It enters Costa Rica on Sept 13th at the Peñas Blancas Nicaraguan border where the Province of Guanacaste is the first place in Costa Rica to welcome it. As the Torch arrives in the country from Nicaragua, it is passed by the Nicaraguan Freedom Torch carrier to one from Costa Rica. Taking a turn to carry the Torch of Freedom is a big honor and people from all walks of life take part in the relay. School children in uniform, athletes, farmers, ranch hands, professionals, teachers, tradespeople, those who have distinguished themselves in some area which has made the country proud…all take turns on the relay. As the Torch passes through the countryside and towns, people crowd the sides of the road and cheer it on. Those who are able to do so, accompany the torch in cars, pickup trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, skate boards, horseback or whatever means of transportation is available to them. Cars honking their horns, noisemakers, music playing, police and firetrucks escorting the Torch with their sirens blaring, musicians playing typical Costa Rican music from the back of a truck follow the entourage- a loud and participatory parade with Costa Rican Flags flying from all vehicles or waved by bystanders or on horses or bicycles all the way. I have had the honor and pleasure to accompany the Torch from the Nicaraguan border to Playas del Coco and the spirit is contagious, electrifying and very festive. Ticos take very seriously the business of being Patriotic.
This parade goes through Liberia, capital of the Province of Guanacaste, where several additional torches are lit. The main torch that came from Guatemala will continue to Cartago, the original capital of Costa Rica not too far from San Jose, where a ceremony will take place. The secondary torches will continue igniting the spirit of freedom though other areas of the nation not on the route to Cartago. One of these will go towards Philadelphia, Santa Cruz, Nicoya and other towns in that direction. Another will go to Sardinal and Playas del Coco. When the torch arrives in Coco, it’s usually about 1 am in the morning and nobody in town is asleep, waiting for the Torch. The local police will receive the Torch in a ceremony and then it’s placed on a stand in the park where it will remain under Honor Guard around the clock. School children in uniform will take turns standing Guard.
The following night, September 14th at 6 p.m. every television and radio station in the country simultaneously broadcast the Costa Rican National Anthem. Shortly after this, at nightfall the Lantern Parade starts in every corner of Costa Rica. Elementary school children have prepared at school homemade lanterns (nowadays you can buy these but tradition is that they make it themselves and a great many still do so, under teacher or parental guidance.) The lanterns are generally made to look like little houses and they carry a small candle inside. Parents and other adults are in hand to be sure the candle is held firmly protected where there is no danger of fire or getting burned. Because Coco is a beach town, they usually walk on the beach towards the beachfront park where people gather to see them arrive. It’s very impressive to watch this procession of candlelight in the dark with the sound of the ocean as background. The significance of this is a reenactment of the messenger who had to travel through all of Central America to bring the news of Independence carrying the light of freedom and the little houses representing the arrival of the news in all towns big and small of the new nation. There usually are presentations of typical dances by children in traditional costume and marimba music at the park.
The following morning is the BIG DAY! About 8 am, school children are ready again to march through town with their school’s marching band, people once more lining the Main Street of Coco all the way to the park. There will be short speeches as part of the Civic Ceremony of Independence Day and long festivities to include numerous musical presentations of traditional dances, all in typical garb, many adults also will wear their typical attire and the ladies adorn their hair with a flower as it used to be done. Marimba music will play in the park and people will dance to it. No one stays home, young and old alike come to this celebration of Freedom. Street vendors sell typical food and I love the occasion to be able to eat arroz de maiz, a traditional dish, a dish of corn meal with pork that is delicious, I never pass the opportunity for this!
This September 15th marks 195 years of Independence and the Ticos have reason to be proud of what they have made of their country. A country with no army but public schools in every little corner of the nation. A quality of education comparable to that of the most advanced countries in the world. A mortality rate that is very low and a life expectancy superior to that of the United States. A country where you can be free to agree or disagree with any political party with no fear of reprisal. Where free democratic elections are held every 4 years and the transition of government is a peaceful event. A country that is an international hub for medical care and every year thousands of people from all over the world come to Costa Rica for medical and dental care comparable to that in highly developed countries but at a fraction of their cost. With world class medical institutions and state of the art equipment and medical and dental professionals trained at or having done internships at renowned medical facilities around the world. And they have done all this and more while retaining their sense of humor, love of music and dancing, passion for sports and their innate friendliness and hospitality. The spirit of Pura Vida. Hope to see you here soon!
During your leisure time in Costa Rica there are a number of activities that some of our guests enjoy if they want their vacation to include a hands-on cultural dimension. Travelers can participate in some community projects or activities to gain an insight into the Costa Rica culture. What better way to become a temporary member of the Tico community! (TICO pronounced tee-koh is the commonly used endearment term for Costa Ricans).
These are not staged situations to mimic reality, rather they are in fact a chance to join local groups in currently on-going projects or activities at the time of your vacation in Costa Rica. Ask your Concierge cultural activities and other things to do in Costa Rica. At Costa Rica Star Villas, we share the philosophy of being good corporate citizens and from top management to staff members there is a great deal of participation in such activities so your concierge is likely to find something of interest to you. Some of these activities are suitable for participation by children and older adults as well so if you are interested on doing this as a family, it’s quite possible that it could be arranged.
Here are some examples of cultural things to do in Costa Rica:
- Local artists, some of them renowned, lead community groups in painting educational awareness murals in public places such as area schools, playgrounds, street signs, even public trash containers! You don’t need to be an artist yourself and these are great, fun ways to meet people from town, local resident expats and other tourists. Immerse yourself in the fun maybe for half a day and contribute to the aesthetics of the area and environmental education of the community.
- Beach cleanup, where volunteers meet at the beach and trash bags are issued to help pick up trash from the sandy areas-some of it left behind by less responsible visitors or even drift trash from the sea. This often ends with a party of sorts at the beach. Periodically while volunteers clean the beach, certified divers from participating local dive shops, clean the ocean. This is a constant effort and a frequent activity.
- We have a number of things to do in Costa Rica with children in mind. It’s one of our most popular requests. Options include volunteering your time at one of the schools or pre-schools. You can teach the children some craft or talent you might have or teach English or tutor them with their English lessons, for example. Or you might simply request to visit a school and provide a cultural experience to the kids as well by sharing stories or games or practicing your Spanish and having them practice their English with you. This international cultural exchange will be highly valued by the children and you might find it rewarding as well.
- If time is tight you can also make a difference by asking your concierge to connect you with a worthwhile local cause that could use a monetary donation. You might even want to sponsor a child through school and receive reports on their progress. Some people establish a relationship with a school or church or some other organization or even with an individual family and correspond, visit on subsequent trips, or stay in touch electronically. It is a great enrichment for many kids that will not have the opportunity to personally visit another country or become friends with some nice people from abroad. If you are trying to learn or improve your Spanish language skills, this too could be helpful to you.
- Area schools can always use supplies and other materials. There is a group that holds an annual fundraiser to provide a backpack stocked with the school supplies at the beginning of each school year. Others provide the uniforms. In Costa Rica all school children in both private and public schools, wear uniforms.
- If you are an animal lover, there are plenty of things to do in Costa Rica for you here too. There are a couple of animal care organizations that hold monthly neutering and spaying clinics. The cost is minimal but even so, some people can’t afford it and a sponsor would solve the problem. Dedicated volunteers help and many are English speaking expats so if this is your interest, they can always welcome another pair of hands. Or donations for supplies and medications. These groups also find forever homes for dogs and cats and you might be surprised how many Tico dogs have found a family in the US, Canada or some other foreign lands…Even airlines have been known to donate their transportation on special occasions!
- We have a large monkey population in the area and it’s very likely you will get to see them. We of course can never actually guarantee this as they do not live in a zoo, they live as nature intended them too, free on the trees of the area which were their home before the towns existed or the tourists began arriving. As the original villages grew, the surrounding wilderness recessed and in time, the wildlife habitats became reduced and some animals displaced. Monkeys learned to live in proximity with humans and while they don’t directly interact, they are much more likely to come relatively close for you to observe. They travel the same route on their tree canopy trails as they have for years following the new growth of their favorite trees which is their staple food. And so they have their territories and as the new growth is consumed in one area, they move on to another in their circuit. In approximate 10 to 14 days or so they will make their way back to the same area which by then has had time to sprout succulent new growth. The monkeys in the areas where you will stay have become over time used to the presence of humans and have adopted a philosophy of live and let live. They will not come close enough to touch and if they did you never should-these are still wild creatures and could scratch or bite you if they feel threatened, and neither humans nor monkeys are used to physical contact with the other species and either could get ill from some germ for which they have no immunity. However, they will make you laugh and entertain you as they jump from branch to branch and seem to pose for your pictures as they too, observe you. This will likely be one of the unique experiences of your vacation. However, as trees in their feeding route are cut down to make room for streets and buildings, they find themselves without stretches of their ´´tree highway´´ and no way to cross to the next trees in the route. Being resourceful creatures, they discovered that electric and phone lines can be used as bridges and so they climb the poles and walk on the electric cables…and now and then, get electrocuted. This is very sad and there are several organized and coordinated groups working in cooperation with the local electric company to insulate the transformers and electric cables and to install hammock bridges for the monkeys to use instead. The cost of all this, however, is not in the budget of the electric company which does donate the labor of their staff and their equipment to install them in the places which the community helps identify as traditional monkey routes. Much progress has been made and the sad reports of monkeys hurt or worse are not as common but still happen more often than everyone would like. A donation to the local group would be very welcomed and if you were interested on this or in learning more about the program, yourCosta Rica Star Villa concierge will be able to put you in touch with them. The lead people in those groups are local expats and you will be able to communicate with them in English.
- There are animal sanctuaries/rescue places where the staff tends to injured wildlife and tries to restore their health. These places too depend on donations and the help of volunteers.
- These are examples of some community work you could become involved in if you are looking for a rewarding way to become a part of the local community even if in a limited way. Sometimes long term bonds start this way and personal friendships and cooperation extends beyond the one meeting.
If you decide you would be interested in exploring some of these activities to enrich your Costa Rican vacation, mention it to your concierge as early as possible so she can start investigating what will be going on locally at the time of your vacation.
So you have decided to travel to Costa Rica for a vacation. I’m going to share with you the endearment name expats (people who live in a country other than where they were born) who know and love Costa Rica, call this charming country. We call it “Paradise” and after your first visit you probably will too!
I’ll list some of the tours and adventures available for you to choose from. This is an overview and you should discuss your preferences with your knowledgeable Star Villas Concierge who can give you more detailed information on the specific activities you are interested in and will be happy to answer your questions. One important factor you need to know from the beginning is that while there are countless companies and individuals offering to take you on tours, you should not entrust your and your family’s safety to unknown people no matter how friendly they might be. Before Star Villas Costa Rica adds a company to those we will be willing to recommend to you, we carefully vet them. We make sure they possess all the necessary licenses and insurance to run a legal and ethical operation. And we look at their performance record. So you can feel secure in the knowledge that your tour guides and operators know their stuff and abide by all the legal requirements including the safety equipment required for some adventures such as zip lining.
There is more than one venue where you can enjoy several of these activities in the same trip. You should probably look at what you would like to do and then tell your Star Villas Concierge so she recommends the tours or adventures that most closely match your preference. She will also give you more specific information on the tours you choose, what is included, the duration, time of pick up and return as well as special instructions for each tour such as whether you should bring closed shoes or if flip flops will be sufficient. On some, especially the jungle trips, you will want to bring mosquito repellent and for about all tours, sunscreen and a hat with a visor plus sunglasses will be advisable. Remember that Costa Rica is closer to the equator than you are used to and the sun will feel warmer because you will be nearer to it. As you pack, do not forget to pack your camera and the necessary chargers for any electronics you bring with you.
We’ll start with land activities and the options are plentiful.
- horseback riding
- tree canopy tour/zip lining
- hanging bridges for a view from the tree canopy
- animal sanctuary with Wildlife Permit License (mostly rescued animals)
- botanical gardens
- mountain biking
- walking trails
- Volcano and Beaches helicopter tours
- naturalist hike on the foothills of the Tenorio Volcano
- hanging bridges walk
- rainforest hikes
- cloudforest hikes
- volcanic mud baths, hot springs
- thermal waters
- choose a bilingual naturalist guide for a full day
- Visit to the village of Guaitil. Renowned because everyone in town makes pottery with a special clay not found elsewhere.
- Golf. Several world class golf courses are available within driving distance from your Star Villa such as the Four Seasons, Pinilla and Conchal
Fun in the ocean. After all, you came to the beach and there is an array of activities beyond swimming!
- Boat tours
- Stand up paddle boarding (SUP), the new fun way to tour the coastline and beach hop on your board.
- Surfing. At a beach that is accessible by land transportation or take a boat to other famous sites. Lessons available
Sports fishing is a major reason why enthusiasts of this sport come to Costa Rica. Fully equipped rental boats with experienced captains available
Diving. Not certified? Not a problem. This is a great time to obtain your beginner or advanced certification with qualified, experienced bilingual instructors. The Gulf of Papagayo in our Pacific Coast is internationally known for large marine species. Dive and explore sunken ships sites where ecosystems have developed, sustaining a variety of species. Check it out!
Explore the rivers of Costa Rica
Boat tours in a river to see flora and fauna in their natural habitat without being intrusive or scaring the wildlife away
- River floating
- River tubing
- River rafting
Pamper yourself with our Spa services
- Spa manicure and pedicure
- Foot massage
- Therapeutical massage
Our therapist will come to you to provide these services in the luxury of your villa. On the veranda, on the beach or in your tropical garden setting
All of these will add to your experience of wellness and leisure as you relax while being pampered.
Additional optional amenities that can help you customize your vacation in your Costa Rican Paradise
We offer birthday party packages, celebrations for anniversaries, and for any special occasion you are ready to celebrate. We can provide live music and also Chef service in your villa for specific days you choose or for your entire stay.
Though your Star Villas retreat in Costa Rica comes equipped with a magnificent pool, we also offer optional club membership facilities by the day or for your entire stay. These will give you access to a beach club, tennis courts, swimming pool and gym. And it will give you as well the opportunity to interact, if you so choose, with others who are also enjoying their own vacation in Costa Rica.
Because every family or group is different, be sure to discuss with your Star Villas Concierge your special needs. If you have elderly members in your entourage that require handicapped access, or young children who would need car seats, booster seats, pack and play, high chair, a crib, or a babysitter so you can be able to enjoy some of the Costa Rica nightlife or a tour not suitable for the very young, your concierge can arrange this for you and it’s always best to reserve any of those in advance as their availability is limited.
Our aim with this blog is to provide information that we hope will be useful when planning your getaway trip to paradise, and also to share with you a glimmer of Costa Rican life and culture. For specifics about the services available your best resource is your friendly Star Villas Concierge.
As you probably know, the official language in Costa Rica is Spanish. However, those working in the Tourist Industry are generally fluent in English and often also in other languages spoken by our frequent visitors. Like in many parts of the world, the language in Costa Rica is rich in words and phrases that are unique to this country and which you would not encounter when you travel to other Spanish speaking countries. To help you more fully enjoy your vacation in Costa Rica, today we are going to let you in on the local “Tico Talk.”
The first word you will need to learn is the word TICO which is a short endearment term for Costa Rican. TICO is used for men and for many things and TICA for women. So when we say “Tico Talk” we mean words and phrases used exclusively by the people of Costa Rica and by those visitors who want to join in the fun. Some basic tips to figure the proper pronunciation: you will find in parenthesis the way the word would need to be written in English to come up with the appropriate sound of the word in Spanish. To know which part of the word needs to have more emphasis, it will be underlined. So TICO is pronounced (teeco)
Here are some more.
Definitely the most innately TICO expression is the term “PURA VIDA” (poorah veedah). Literally translated it means Pure Life but it stands for the soul of Costa Rican culture. This is a very versatile expression which can be used in a variety of contexts. It’s always a very positive term and the context will help you grasp the intended meaning for each situation.
The best way to teach you when to use it is to show you the most common times when it’s appropriate and usual to say it.
-when someone asks how are you doing? ¡PURA VIDA!
-how are you enjoying your vacation in Costa Rica? ¡Pura Vida!
-when friends meet, sometimes as a way to greet each other they will say ¡PURA VIDA Diego! When they part, they may also say ¡PURA VIDA!
-when someone asks how was your tour to one of the Costa Rica National Parks or how you enjoyed fishing in Costa Rica, or about the Costa Rica night life, you answer ¡PURA VIDA! If you want to emphasize it, because you really enjoyed it a lot, linger on the first syllable and say ¡PUURA VIDA!
-when asked to do something instead of answering “sure, of course” or something similar, just respond ¡PURA VIDA!
-how is dinner? ¡PURA VIDA!
-how are they treating you? ¡PURA VIDA!
-how do like your Costa Rica Star Villa? ¡PUURA VIDA!
-are you having fun in your vacation in Costa Rica? ¡PUURA VIDA!
Ok, you get the drift. Fun isn’t it? You can convey so much with just these two words!
A similar word is TUANIS (too ah nees) This is much like PURA VIDA in that it also conveys a positive response. Similar to the American slang “cool”. Go back to the examples used for the term PURA VIDA, you can substitute PURA VIDA with TUANIS. The difference is mainly that PURA VIDA is accepted as proper in practically all occasions while TUANIS is more colloquial in the same way that “cool” is more slang, less mainstream.
Another colloquial word used only when talking to people who are your close friends is the word MAJE (mah heh) sometimes shortened to MAE (mah eh) You never use this term to address a person that should be addressed with respect, a lady, your boss, your teacher, etc. Used mostly among young guys.
If your friend asks you Hola, como estas?( Ohlah, como ehstahs) Hi, how are you doing? Answer ¡PURA VIDA MAE! or ¡TUANIS MAE!
If you have enjoyed this little arsenal of TICO TALK, remember to keep checking this blog several times a month for more fun and interesting tidbits to make your vacation in Costa Rica more interesting, fun and interactive by learning more about the culture and lifestyle of your new Tico friends!
Today I want to tell you about another important topic that makes Costa Rica very special. Let’s start by explaining what the Blue Zones are. From Wikipedia: Blue Zones is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurable longer lives. There are 5 areas in the entire world identified this way and one of them is- guess where? Right here in our own Nicoya Peninsula in the Province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica!
This is the complete list of the Blue Zones of the World in alphabetical order:
1. Icaria, a Greek island
2. Loma Linda, California in the United States
3. Nicoya, a Peninsula located in the Northwest of Costa Rica
4. Okinawa, a Japanese Island
5. Sardinia, in Italy
A very important characteristic of the Blue Zones, in addition to the longevity of its people is the fact that they maintain their mobility, vigor, clarity of mind, general wellness and zest for life to the end of their lives.
The question that comes to mind immediately, of course, is- What makes the difference? The difference is in the LIFE STYLE.
For the 75,000 or so residents of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, life continues much as it has for hundreds of years. They make their living as small farmers, laborers or “sabaneros”- cowboys who work the area’s huge cattle ranches. From the dusty villages where neighbors visit each other on porches or from the rural homes where women still cook on ancient wood-burning stoves, you would never guess that this is the place with the longest life expectancy in the Americas.
Scientists generally agree that less than 25% of how long a person lives is linked to genetics (to what ages their parents and grandparents lived) and the other 75% comes from lifestyle (daily routine over a lifetime)
Costa Ricans stay fit in Nicoya by maintaining moderate but regular activity throughout their lives including to advanced age. This is done by walking places regularly, tending gardens or animals, helping raise the children, continuing with their housework chores such as cooking often without the aid of many of the modern conveniences like electric or gas stoves, vacuum cleaners or dishwashers. I have seen old men chopping wood, mending fences, and clearing brush with machetes. They maintain an active routine that includes plenty sleep (early to bed and early to rise), living a life that has purpose, eating in moderation a diet that includes non-processed food, fresh fruit and vegetables often from their own garden, fish, little meat, moderate alcohol intake (moderate is the key) but also very important is the support of their extended family and the social network of friends and community. They live in communities where family relationships are pivotal and the extended family is simply called the family often with several generations living in the same household. The elderly are respected by both the family and the community at large, cherished for their wisdom and never ridiculed or abused. They are not an imposition in the family but the center of the family. They stay engaged in daily chores until the end and are a central element of family and society. Religion is another key element, it helps ground them and by trusting in a Higher Power, they go through life with considerably less stress than most of us have in our lives. Still another factor is that festivities do not exclude the elderly and they enjoy a dance as much as their great grandchildren do (dances include everyone in the community regardless of how old or how young). This too of course, is a fabulous form to stay fit, much more fun than walking on a treadmill. They ride bicycles as transportation rather than stationary bikes for exercise and do all this in the fresh air rather than in the artificial climate-controlled indoors. The same length of each day of the year and the abundant sunshine in Costa Rica due to proximity to the Equator prevents seasonal affective disease which causes depression. Those are all ingredients of the recipe for wellness in Costa Rica.
The Nicoya Blue Zone has the lowest cancer rate of all Costa Rica which may be attributed to a nutrient rich diet of fresh fruits, beans, fish, rice and corn. There is little or no consumption of processed foods or refined sugar in their diet. Another key aspect of their routine is their physically active lifestyle and their mineral rich water – the water is naturally filtered through limestone adding calcium and magnesium which are sure to be a factor in maintaining strong bones that are less prone to fractures.
Something also very significant about this community is that it has been statistically proven that a man who reaches the age of 60 here is twice as likely as a man in the United States to make it to the age of 90. And 7 times as likely as a Japanese man to become a centenarian according to a study conducted at the UCR, the University of Costa Rica. According to National Geographic, men in Nicoya live to their 100th birthday 4 times as often as men in the United States- even though their medical care costs only about 7% as much.
The body of happy people is flooded with hormones and chemicals associated with happiness and health. Stress releases cortisol which is harmful long term, causing high blood pressure and generally increasing the onset and severity of heart diseases. Life is both about quantity and quality and the long living Nicoyans are still enjoying the richness of life. In Costa Rica this is called “the Pura Vida” or the essence of life.
Living a long and healthy life, except for uncontrollable circumstances such as accidents, is a Life Choice based on a lifestyle conducive to it. It requires consistency and positive enrichment of body and mind as part of our daily routine. The way to do this is to elect to surround yourself with others who share your interest in living a full life that is low in stress, happy and meaningful and includes plenty of sleep and lots of laughter.
Some other relevant statistics to consider are:
-In a study conducted in the United States by the Alzheimer Association published under the title “2012 Alzheimer Disease Facts and Figures”, 45% to 46% of the US population has Alzheimer by the age of 85
-People who are lonely live an average of 8 years less than people who are connected. Everyone needs to have, and feel they have, others who “have their back” and make them feel loved and appreciated.
If you don’t live in one of the Blue Zones you can still improve your life span and quality of life by adopting a lifestyle consistent with that of the Blue Zones. Here are some examples of successfully embracing this lifestyle concept.
-In the town of Albert Lee, Minnesota it raised life expectancy by 3 years and bought health care costs down by 40%
-In the town of Spencer, Iowa, City employees adopted a blue zone lifestyle and diet and within 1 year their health cost dropped by 25%
Adopting a Blue Zone lifestyle for this purpose means adopting their food guidelines, social networks concept and a clear vision of one’s purpose in life. If this won’t fit into your work circumstances, adopt it in your personal life such as in your home life or even in your extracurricular activities or by volunteering.
Important consideration- where you live, statistically speaking, is the biggest non-genetic influence on your health. Remember that a life where you get plenty of sunshine gives you the vitamin D that you need for strong bones and keeps your circadian rhythm tuned to happiness. The year round sunshine is another factor for health in Costa Rica.