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4 Interesting Tour Facts About Costa Rica

Touring Costa Rica as a Single Woman with the Help of Uber

By Stephanie J. BradberryPublished 3 years ago 11 min read
Photo by: Stephanie J. Bradberry

So, what brought this American Black female to Costa Rica? Costa Rica was always part of my bucket list since high school. And that was, um, quite a while ago. Originally I tried to get to Costa Rica via Nicaragua as part of a high school service project. I simply did not have the money. And my family was literally considered at the poverty line or probably below it.

Fast forward to college, and up springs another potential way of getting to Costa Rica. There was a scholars program that allowed winners to utilize grant funds to go anywhere in the world to learn more about or experience virtually anything for a year. Think I’m joking? There was one previous winner who spent their funds and year sampling ramen. Maybe I should consider this person my hero.

I decided I would apply for the scholarship and spend my year observing big cats and birds of paradise in Central America, with a focus on…you guessed it…Costa Rica. Before dedicating my life to academia and then entrepreneurship, I had my sights on being a zoo keeper or marine biologist. Stupid me listened to people who didn’t contribute a dime to my education and told me my brain would be wasted on looking after animals. I benched the marine biologist track because I couldn’t fathom what I would do with my natural hair.

Visions of ocelots, clouded leopards and colorful birds danced in my head as I started my outline of how the grant funds would be allocated. In the end, I never applied. Real life took a hold. I had bills to pay. Being the first in my family to complete college, there was no one to help me navigate holding down two jobs while being in extra- and co-curricular activities, maintaining a high GPA to keep my scholarships and earn more grants, stay active for honor societies, complete student teaching, and so on.

Time to fast forward again. I’m now an entrepreneur, and my second business—a health and wellness business—is gaining steam. My handmade, all natural, customizable products have steady customers. And I had some great experiences and offers for something I started from and made from scratch. One day I open my inbox and see a message from Shopify.

Outside my Airbnb lodging

I figured it was something about payment for my website or just an update on stats. Instead, I see an offer to have a mini-documentary made about my business. What??? Seriously, Shopify was asking me, Stephanie J. Bradberry, if I was interested in relocating my business to Costa Rica for a year. My experience would be filmed and turned into a six-part documentary.

After saying “Thank you, God!” quite a few times and doing a super happy dance, reality struck again. First I called my branding team to see if the offer was legit. They said, “Yes.” Then there was the big hurdle. You see, I’m divorced with two kids. And there’s this little thing called a Marriage Settlement Agreement that stipulates how your co-parenting and everything exists and functions. For me it meant my ex-husband had to allow my business to grow without hindrance. But there are many restrictions for how far the kids can travel with either parent and so on. Convincing my ex-husband and a judge to relocate with my children for a year out of the country would be difficult to say the least.

The short version is, I had to pass up on the opportunity. They say the third time is the charm. But it wasn’t for me. Three opportunities to go to Costa Rica came and went. The first two times money was a restriction. The third time divorce was the restriction. But after some soul searching and consulting with a spiritual advisor, I knew I was destined to visit Costa Rica someway, somehow.

So I made lemonade out of lemons. I now had the money. And my ex-husband was flexible enough with our parenting schedule any time I needed to leave the state for business. So I figured out how to kill two birds with one stone. I would be able to take a vacation for the first time in decades and scope out what Costa Rica would really be like if I was able to take the offer from Shopify.

I did what I do best: researched. And within a few months, I was off to Costa Rica on my own. While Costa Rica is considered a relatively safe country to travel to as an American, it does not mean to throw caution to the wind, especially as a female traveling alone.

Here are some interesting facts about taking tours in Costa Rica. And wildly, Uber became a saving grace or the source of fear.

My sitting tour and lunch at Sibö

Sitting Tour: Don't Knock It Until You Try It

The best tour I had in Costa Rica I didn’t even leave my seat for. There is a wonderful land called Sibö in San Isidro. And it has chocolate written all over it. I love chocolate, so I was dying to be a part of the experience. Seating was extremely limited. And getting a reservation was difficult. But fortune was on my side.

I learned a ton about chocolate during this 1-hour tour. Before taking our seats, we were greeted with a cup of hot chocolate. It was literally the best I’ve ever had. I had a hard time comparing which was better, the hot chocolate in the Dominican Republic or Costa Rica. Let’s just say I came home with a lot of chocolate from Costa Rica and would be willing to pay the shipping to have more.

Sibö’s sitting tour included everything from the history of chocolate to its modernization. By pointing at pictures on the wall, we were enraptured by the interesting facts that showed how vital chocolate was for inspiring troops to revitalizing countries.

I tasted the fresh, unprocessed insides of the cocoa pod. It was surprisingly sweet and a very pleasant taste. Why it’s not used for the food industry more is beyond me. I tasted several types of chocolate ranging from white (not truly chocolate) to over 90% dark.

Even though I’m not a fan of white chocolate, Sibö made me appreciate this version that actually is not chocolate at all. It was very clear why Sibö has put Costa Rica on the map as one of the finest producers of chocolate. They have won many awards, and they are well deserved.

As if the tour wasn’t spectacular enough, Sibö also housed a café/restaurant. The menu was exquisite and tantalizing. I was able to have a vegetarian meal that was extremely satisfying and beautifully plated. And the desserts were amazing. I actually ordered two! The scenery was picture perfect. And despite a major thunder storm and torrential rain, I was in my glory. The weather actually added to the experience. Plus I love the rain. It just wasn’t great for tying to shoot a live video.

Waterfalls and great views everywhere at La Paz

Uber, Uber Drivers, and the Government

I thought my biggest shock was getting off the plane and trying to get a ride to my Airbnb only to learn that Uber wasn’t available. Seriously? Here I was fresh off of a long plane ride that was originally delayed due to a fuel leak only to be left stranded in a foreign country. The only thought running through my head was, “Everyone is going to say, ‘I told you not to travel alone,’ when I turned up dead.”

Yes, Costa Rica is considered a safe country for travel. But this was not a great start. And I would soon learn that travelling in Costa Rica was a journey within itself.

I learned quickly from a man beckoning me from across the street that Uber is only available certain days of the week. Otherwise, you are stuck paying super high rates for their taxis. I just knew this had shady written all over it. Obviously I was not the first confused and bewildered tourist. The beckoning man waved over a police officer to vouch for what he was saying. The police officer explained that the government regulates what days Uber is available at the airport. What???

So, here’s the work around. Men, like the beckoning man, park around the corner from the airport. They work in pairs. One man solicits and explains how non-Uber sanctioned days work. The other man, the driver, waits for the solicitor to tell him of a prospective client. Then everybody agrees to a rate for your destination. And then they tell you where to meet them out of sight of the airport.

I paid more than a regular Uber but less than the taxi to get to my lodging. And I learned some valuable things. I was taught some of the local dialect. And I got a tutorial on hiring private drivers for the rest of my stay.

Here are some other tidbits I learned through the various Uber drivers I had and sightseeing. Depending on where you travel, you will see neat signs like “Iguana Crossing.” The driver will turn up a song if they see the song makes you happy. Don’t say you’re single. I literally got drained explaining why I was single in the little bits of Spanish I could speak. It only led to the driver(s) inviting me to a party, trying to hit on me or asking even more questions. Your driver can also be your guide. For the really long drives, the Uber driver will stay with you and do everything with you, including: eat with you, be a tour guide, take pictures and explain the customs.

Gold Museum and Numismatic Museum

Tours Will Be Canceled: Plan Ahead

You really need to plan tours ahead and have a Plan A, B and C. There was one tour that was the highlight of my visit to Costa Rica. But it ended up being canceled. Why? Because it was an active volcano.

The vision of strawberries dancing in my head went splat. I woke up the day of the tour, checked the times for the hundredth time to make sure I could fit everything in for the day, and boom! Literally. The website canceled tours for the day because the volcano was getting too hot and might erupt.

I was really looking forward to my trip to the Poás Volcano. Not only could you hike up the volcano and look into the crater with an acid lake, but also there was strawberry picking. I really, really, really wanted to pick fresh strawberries at the height of Costa Rica’s season. But the experience and tasting eluded me for my whole trip.

I nearly cried to my Airbnb host. When he heard my revamped plans to head to San Jose to visit the museum, he offered to give me a ride in to town since he had business there. This was a huge blessing since I got to save on an Uber drive.

After clutching for dear life as my host sped along, honking a lot, and yelling at other drivers along the often narrow roads, many with no street signs, I was glad to see the city life side of Costa Rica. I love country settings, but the contrast was good. I was able to buy a couture dress, see how the police track down and apprehend a cheating man, and visit two museums in one (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and Numismatic Museum) plus the current exhibition.

Birds eating my hair at La Paz

Get The Most Bang For Your Buck: But Don’t Get Stuck On The Mountain

Costa Rica is split up by provinces. There are seven to be exact: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas and San Jose. I booked my lodging and spent most of my time in Heredia. Why? Because I am an herbalist and Heredia means “The City of Flowers.” Yes, it was that simple.

If you plan wisely, you can see and do a lot even if you have a short 5 days like I did. I was able to capitalize on many attractions and features that Costa Rica is known for by picking attractions that offered the biggest bang for the buck.

One of the best choices was La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Between the drive there and back and actually touring the grounds, I got a bit of everything Costa Rica has to offer. I got to see rainbows throughout the day. And I can say from firsthand experience, Costa Rica truly deserves the nickname of “The Land of Rainbows.” There were small waterfalls in lots of nooks and crannies as you drive to your destination. And there was so much scenery to take in.

La Paz offered so much. You could either take a self-guided tour, wander around aimlessly or pay for a guided tour. There were tons of exhibits. I got to sample a traditional sugar cane drink after a reenactment of historic daily living. Along the way I had my hair eaten by birds, chatted with some monkeys, got enveloped by butterflies, felt like prey for big cats, and heard the roaring sound of and got wet from many, many, many waterfalls. Plus, at the end of the tour, there was a buffet of food.

Food was definitely a highlight during my time in Costa Rica. But my meal at La Paz proved to be the most important. Instead of sitting alone, I joined a table with two other women. We ended up chatting about everything from our experiences in Costa Rica as Americans to investing. After the lovely meal, I whipped out my phone to find an Uber home.

The screen was blank. I couldn’t find one single car roaming around the area. I was literally stuck on the mountain top. As I kept looking at my screen in dismay, the two ladies I had a meal with were heading to a car. Stealthy me asked how they were able to get an Uber. They said they hired him for not only the whole day but for their whole stay.

Silly me sent my Uber driver away. I just figured another driver would be hanging around such a big tourist attraction. I was wrong.

Many of the wonderful attractions take a while to get to. For example, it took 1.5 hours one way to get to the best beach recommended by host. And I had to negotiate a price with two different drivers to make that trip happen. Gas, time, et cetera were all factored into the price for such a long trip. I had to hire the Uber driver outside of Uber to make it happen.

So these two women were smart and learned quicker than I did. Since I didn’t want to be stuck on the mountain, I asked if I could use their driver as well. They were gracious enough to let me ride along, and then I paid the driver separately for dropping me off at my place. Believe me, it was a long ride since were staying in two different provinces.

The extra trip allowed me to see more of Costa Rica and a different province besides Heredia, San Jose and Alajuela. And I got to see interesting local practices like vendors selling sugar cane, nuts and more in-between the lanes of traffic.

Travel screen on the plane

Uber: Take Me Home

I don’t know if I learned more about Costa Rica or Uber drivers in a foreign country. But I certainly learned my lesson. By the end of my stay, I collected several business cards and personal contact information from Uber drivers.

This made my return to the airport smooth. I was able to get an Uber driver at a good and fair price, whether it was an Uber sanctioned day or not.

Humanity

About the Creator

Stephanie J. Bradberry

I have a passion for literature and anime. And I love everything involving academia, health, metaphysics and entrepreneurship. For products and services, visit stephaniebradberry.com

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    Stephanie J. BradberryWritten by Stephanie J. Bradberry

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