Central America, once home to the Mayan Civilization, offers a Wander-worthy mix of old and modern.
Brit Out of Restrained Life
I cried myself to sleep. The incessant chorus of insects made my brain whir. I needed silence to process the day's activities but peace was clearly not going to be possible.
“What’s that?” I asked, peering around her shoulder while I stirred butter into our morning oats. “A postcard from my Great Aunt Jo,” she said. “She’s mountain biking in Costa Rica!”
The Geography of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a tiny, mountainous country located between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. . Nicaragua is to the north and Panama is to the south. The coastal areas are made up of beaches and mangroves. Moving further inland, it becomes immediately mountainous. . the Talamanca Mountains divides the country into eastern and western areas. These mountains average a few thousand feet in elevation, though some peaks are much higher. The higher-altitude mountains often ascend into the clouds, creating a beautiful, cooler cloud forest habitat. The tallest peak in Costa Rica is "Cerro Chirripo", which is 12,533 feet above sea level. Costa Rica is also home to many volcanoes. . only five are considered "active". There are many streams, rivers and waterfalls, but only a few lakes. Lake Arenal is the largest and of course, is located in front of the Arenal volcano.
The Sacred Cacao Bean. .
Have you ever known anyone who doesn't love chocolate? Any store in any country will have rows and rows of chocolate bars, laced with orange peel, lemon, hot pepper, caramel, cinnamon and dozens of other flavors. .
Your Pathway to Paradise!
That first hike into the jungle. It's not for the faint of heart. . you're going to be surrounded by things that can hurt you. Over 20,000 species of spiders. . YES, 20,000! At last count, 137 species of snakes. . 8 known species of poison dart frogs. . 6 different kinds of wild cats. . pumas, jaguars. . Sharp teeth. . fangs. . deadly toxins. . beware!
How the "Gringo" Got His Name!
When you first arrive in Costa Rica, wherever you are from originally doesn't really matter. You're a "gringo" whether you like it or not! As a person from the USA, I have never thought that there was any bad feelings at all when standing face to face with a Tico. In fact, I have experienced nothing but smiles and kind words.
Cuteness at the Highest Level. . Costa Rica's Coatimundi. .
The white-nosed coatimundi, or "coati", as it is sometimes called, is one of Costa Rica 's 200 mammal species. It is commonly mistaken for a raccoon or a large house cat, as it is similar in size and appearance. Their fur is reddish-brown to dark brown in color. And, they are so cute! By the way, in Costa Rica, they are also known as "pizotes".
The Beautiful Waterfalls Here in Costa Rica. .
With close to 30% of Costa Rica's land mass designated as "protected" by the government here, it is safe to say that hundreds of these treasured waterfalls will be here forever. And that is good news for the millions of visitors and for the 5 million citizens.
The Arts. . the Culture. . the Theatre. . the Music. . the Museums. . the Dances. .
Although the temptation is there to spend all of your time here in Costa Rica on a beach, hiking in the jungles, climbing a volcano or two or enjoying a coffee plantation tour, do not forget to carve away some free time studying this country's many rich cultural offerings. . the arts, their museums, the theater, its music and so much more.
The Story Behind the Colorful & Distinctive Flag of Costa Rica. .
And what a beautiful flag it is! The Costa Rican people are so very proud of this prestigious symbol of their country that they love so much.
The Tiny Squirrel Monkeys of Costa Rica. .
The tiniest of the Costa Rican monkey species is the Central American squirrel monkey. The adult males weigh a little less than 2 pounds. Adult females are even smaller, weighing in at about 1 1/2 pounds! The Central American squirrel monkey has the smallest living range of any Costa Rican monkey, spending their time only in secondary forests and primary forests in the Central & Southern Pacific coastal areas and on the Pacific coast of Panama very close to the southern border of Costa Rican. In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature changed its conservation status to "vulnerable" after rating it "endangered" since 1982. The Central American squirrel monkey is most often seen in Manuel Antonio National Park and Corcovado National Park.
Nature's Alarm Clock. .The Howler Monkeys of Costa Rica!
When I was growing up and in elementary school, I had my trusty, windup alarm clock right by my bedside. . about six inches from my left ear! This thing was huge. It was the kind that had a lot of chrome on it. The bell was situated on the top of the clock base. . and when it was time, two big hammers on either side of the bell started dancing the Watusi! There was NO WAY that I was sleeping through that sound. From K through 12, I was NEVER late for school.