Yes, homework and school are important parts of a study abroad experience, but it can be nice to take a break every once in a while. During my time abroad in Costa Rica, I have been able to visit quite a few places that were worthwhile and showed different sides of the country’s beauty. These trips have also been learning experiences for me even while taking a break from academics. I am still able to engage in the culture and language of Costa Rica and learn new things.
Below, I will list three places I have visited so far that I would recommend to future students who may decide to study abroad here.
San Jose is the country’s capital and already attracts a decent amount of tourists. Conveniently for me, it is only about a 20-30 minute drive (depending on the traffic) away from my study abroad host city, Heredia. I often decide to take day trips to San Jose with my friends on the weekends and we are always able to find something to do because of its pretty big size. Some of my friends have said they prefer Heredia to San Jose since San Jose seems very big to them, but sometimes I prefer it. It reminds me of the urban environment of my home city, Philadelphia. So I would recommend visiting San Jose to people who like larger cities. It can be a bit overwhelming for someone who isn’t used to the loud noises and the constant presence of people in close proximity, like some of my friends have told me.
San Jose has a variety of restaurants, theaters, shopping areas, as well as museums. One place I have been wanting to return to visit is the National Theater of Costa Rica. At the start of my program in August, my classmates and I had a San Jose tour and this theater was one place we visited. We were able to go inside the lobby, but we weren’t there to watch a show. There is very unique and beautiful architecture inside, which was enough to catch some of my classmates’ eyes to want to return and find out more about the shows they put on. Some of the types of shows they put on include plays, monologues, and orchestra performances. Even if you’re not able to attend a show, I still recommend visiting it if you’re in San Jose. Look here on their website to find more information about the theater and their shows and times.
Monteverde is a very small town in Costa Rica that is known for its various nature attractions. My program took a trip here during the first weekend of November to go zip lining. Many tourists travel here for that reason. I would recommend going zip lining at least once while in Costa Rica, and I’m glad that I did because you get to see many amazing views of their rainforests. There is also another place we visited to hike, called the Cloud Forest. They have various trails you can follow and it almost feels like you’re walking in clouds at some points because of the elevation, hence the name. I’ve heard that there are many other natural attractions that Monteverde has, but I hope the two I mentioned give an idea of what to expect to find if you go.
Last but not least is the town of Puerto Viejo. It has been my personal favorite out of everywhere in Costa Rica I’ve visited so far. It is a small beach town, but bigger than Monteverde, located on the side of the country closest to the Caribbean. Because of its location, the weather is much hotter and more humid than Heredia, which is in the middle of the country. My favorite part of the town are the beaches with very blue, clear water. Because I am from Philadelphia, I mainly experience the not-so-blue beaches of New Jersey. I was very excited to see and swim in tropical waters.
While I was here, I also ate various types of food. It’s interesting because the food varies depending on what area of Costa Rica you’re in. In Puerto Viejo, there was a lot more Caribbean food, such as rice and beans, patacones (fried plantains), and more seafood because we were close to the ocean. This town is also a very popular tourist attraction, so it was interesting to see all the different types of people and meet others from various countries. Everyone is also very friendly, so it felt like a very warm environment.
These three places I have visited, along with the others I didn’t mention, have made my study abroad experience ten times more enjoyable. It’s a way for me to break my routine of constantly being in school and experience regular everyday life in other parts of the country. I also get to meet new people and practice my Spanish with them. I like how I’m still able to learn and immerse myself in the culture and the language while taking a break from academics. I would definitely encourage students thinking about studying abroad to consider Costa Rica as a location due to the countless good experiences I’ve had, as well as the diversity of the country.