Tag Archives: costa rica

Got Whale?
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humpback

 

Costa Rica is home to an estimated 25 species of whales and dolphins and is known for some of the best whale watching in the world.  Each year, over a thousand or so humpback whales migrate from the California coast to the warmer waters of the Pacific Coast of Central America. It is believed that the reason they migrate to these warmer waters is to mate and wait for the birth of their calf. You’ll have a good chance of seeing Humpback whales all year round on either coast as a number of whales from the north Atlantic and St Lawrence Seaway take up residence in the Caribbean Sea as well. They are harder to spot however. Due to the awkward shape of the ocean floor, they’re rarely seen close the Costa Rican shore.

Humpback whales gather in pods by the dozen in calving areas off the coast of the Osa Peninsula and in the waters protected by the Marino Ballena National Park. There is also recent evidence to suggest that there may be breeding groups in the Golfo Dulce and Papagayo Bay.

At the same time the California humpback whales are escaping the North American winter, it’s cousin, the Antarctic whale is enjoying summer in the southern hemisphere. In June, when winter arrives in the south, Antarctic whales prepare for the longest migration in the animal kingdom and travel up north along the coasts of Chile and Ecuador to the warmer tropical waters in Central America, the same waters their cousins left just a few weeks prior. These whales travel an astonishing 3,000-5,000 miles EACH way, from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, making them one of the farthest migrating animals in the world.

There are several companies offering Whale Watching tours located all over both coasts of Costa Rica. Most tours depart out of Drake or Carate on the shores of the Osa Peninsula or along the beaches of Ballena Park near the town of Uvita, the “Whale Tale of Costa Rica.” The best times are going to be from December to April for the California Humpback and then again from July to about November for the Antarctic whale.

While the Humpback is going to be the star of the show because they spend so much time above the surface, make sure you keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready incase you spot a few of the other species that frequent these waters. Pseudo Orca’s, Sei, Beaked, Brydes, and Pilot Whales also swim in these warm waters. As migration continues, you’re also likely to see a few species of dolphins such as the Bottlenose, Spotted, Spinner, Common and Risso’s.

If you share a passion for marine wildlife, consider the CEIC-Whale and Dolphin project, located in the Golfo Dulce, where you will have the chance to work side by side with researchers. It’s excellent for volunteers who are looking for a hands on experience and a deeper look into conservation issues related to whales and dolphins.

Pura Vida!!
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Pura Vida! Come on, say it with me! Not only is it an expression of happiness, its a way of life! Meaning Pure Life, Pura Vida is the most commonly used phrase in Costa Rica and symbolizes the idea of enjoying life and being happy. The Urban Dictionary states its a synonym of the word “hakuna matata” (meaning no worries/no problems) and is a reflection of the laid back, easy lifestyle of the Costa Rican’s, some of the most wonderful people on earth! Costa Rica is considered to be one of the happiest countries in the world mainly because the people who are lucky enough to consider this home, don’t stress out about things like the rest of the world does. They have a very simple way of looking at life and don’t dwell on negativity.

If you’re visiting, you’re likely to hear it used as a “Hello” or a “Goodbye” by the locals. Also used as a way to express gratitude and satisfaction, it can refer to someone who is friendly and nice. Its an emotion. An attitude.

So how did this catchy phrase come about? Well, it dates back to 1956. A mexican film, called Pura Vida, directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares, made its way to Costa Rica. The films main character, played by Antonio Espino, who remains optimistic even though he is surrounded by unfortunate circumstances, used the phrase generously in situations where it wouldn’t normally be used. It caught on and has been used nationwide since 1970 and has even made its way into the Costa Rican Spanish dictionaries.

Since Pura Vida has become so popular in Costa Rica over the years, you’ll often see it used in business names, hotels, travel and real estate agencies. Along with businesses and advertisement, Pura Vida is a must have in souvenirs of all types. Areas outside of Costa Rica even make use of this idiopathic expression.

Happiness, well-being, and overall satisfaction is what Pura vida reflects; it identifies a Costa Rican wherever they may be. When you say, hear or see Pura vida, their facial expression changes and a smile comes across their face, an awesome reminder of how laid back and relaxed they are. It is a very meaningful word for the“ticos” (Costa Ricans) because it reminds them of their home and its beauty.

If you’ve never experienced such simple, laid back living, come to Costa Rica! Even visitors will soon understand the meaning of Pura Vida and why its such an amazing lifestyle.

Pura Vida!!!

Poas Volcano
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poa

One of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes, Poas Volcano, is also one of the most visited and most prominent. There have been 39 recorded eruptions since 1828. It is considered to be one of the most breathtaking sights in the whole country. Almost 9,000ft in elevation, Poas Volcano sits on top of over 14,000 acres of protected plant and wildlife which make up the Poas Volcano National Park, located just 1 1/2 hours from San Jose.

 

LagunaCaliente

There are 2 crater lakes near the summit. The lake to the north, called Laguna Caliente (hot lagoon) is about a mile wide and about 1000ft deep. It is one of the worlds most acidic natural lakes and due to the constant rain and changes in volcanic activity, PH levels vary and often reach 0, which means the lake supports little to no aquatic life. But it sure is beautiful! This lake often changes colors, from emerald green to grey and you can even see bits of yellow (sulfur) floating around. Temperatures have been known to reach 94 degrees. And if the beauty of it alone isn’t enough, the extreme heat cause by the magma below turns the water and acid into steam, shooting into the air like a geyser.

BotosLake

Lake Botos, the lake to the south, takes up residence in an inactive crater. The last eruption was in 7,500 BC. It is surrounded by cloud forest inside of the Poas Volcano National Park. It stretches a little over 1,300ft in diameter and is cold and clear. It sort of gives off an eerie feeling, definitely well worth it to see.

Although wildlife at these elevations isn’t plentiful, there are a large number of bird species you’re likely to see once the mist and fog clear. Quetzals, sparrows, hummingbirds and black guans are a few you’re likely to spot. You also might have a chance, however, of spotting some small mammals like coyotes and rabbits. Poas Volcano is an excellent example of how acid rain affects vegetation. Acid gases create acid rain and fog, causing damage to its surrounding ecosystems. It is truly fascinating to see the remnants of those effects.

This is definitely a must see during your travels to Costa Rica. Stop by the visitors center to learn about the story behind this historical volcano.

 

Fun and Random Facts about Costa Rica
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I could literally go on and on listing fun little tidbits about how cool Costa Rica is. Below are a few fun facts I’ve discovered, but the best part about vacationing here is being able to discover things like this on your own!

 

  • Did you know that Costa Rica is home to more than 130 species of freshwater fish, 160 species of amphibians, 208 species of mammals, 220 species of reptiles, 850 species of birds, 1,000 species of butterflies, 1,200 varieties of orchids, 9,000 species of plants, and 750,000 species of insects? These amount to more than 5% of the worlds biodiversity and there are a great number of species only found here.
  • Costa Rica has the highest life expectancy in the world. People live an average of 77 years here! No wonder people love it! It is one of the happiest countries on Earth!
  • You might see Tico’s carrying around machetes! But have no fear, it’s a commonly used purpose tool amongst the locals.
  • If you’re listening to the radio early enough, you’ll hear the national anthem. At 7am every morning, all the Costa Rican radio stations will play it, and some even again in the evening.
  • What is commonly referred to nowadays as a speed bump, is called “son muertes.” The English translation for that? Dead People, yikes!
  • Costa Rica in English means “Rich Beach.” Dubbed this name because of the 800 miles of coastline it is home to.
  • Coffee and Banana’s are the countries 2 main agricultural exports.
  • About 25% of Costa Rica is protected by National Parks and Reserves.
  • You can find fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and even Einsteins Bagels. Some of them even deliver!
  • At precisely 2:00pm everyday, it rains. For at least 2 hours.
  • Since its constitutional abolishment in 1949, Costa Rica became one of the few countries in the world without an army.
  • Hydro Power is one of the most important natural resources in the country.
  • Rice and beans are incorporated into almost every meal you are served.
  • Costa Rican men refer to themselves as “Tico’s” and the women are called “Tica’s.” Foreign men and women are generally referred to as “Gringo” and “Gringa. “
  • There are more than 120 volcanic formations in Costa Rica. However, only 7 remain active at this time. Arenal is considered to be one of the 10 most active volcanoes in the world.
  • Try to learn their language. They will greatly appreciate your efforts if you try and speak to them in Spanish. Many of them do speak Spanish.
  • Costa Rican’s love tourists and the questions they ask. Take interest in them and feel free to strike up a conversation! They are extremely friendly and laid back. They love to joke and have a great time.
  • The highest point in Costa Rica is Chirripo Mountain reaching a peak of 12,500 feet. It’s lowest point is 790 feet below sea level in the caves of the Barra Honda National Park.
  • Over 25% of Costa Rica’s landmass is protected by National Parks.