THREE MUST-HAVE THINGS FOR COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is beautiful. Flying into San Jose is like entering another world. Dropping out of the clouds into the heart of these primordial green mountains you are born into a world of adventure. Remember, this is the country where just off the Pacific coast a genetics company cracked the code to dinosaur DNA and was going to open a theme park. Its true, watch the documentary Spielberg did about it.
Ok, so there aren't any velociraptors but there are plenty of sights and creatures that will prompt John Williams in your head and you best pack for the experience. You're going to want to pack light so instead of a full list, here are three items you should strongly consider bringing along.
#1 Sun Care
So, this may seem obvious, and it is, but sometimes we are the first to forget. Costa Rica is only nine degrees north of the Equator so you are playing in a whole other league of UV. If you burn easily at your local beach or even in Florida, both are considered the cold north in Costa Rica. This is Equatorial Sun. The oven has just been switched from 350 to broil.
For a one-stop shop, I recommend Sun Bum's travel kit. Everything in it is meant to fly, including the 3-quart resealable bag it comes in. I hate checking a bag, so for me this was perfect. It included SPF 30 suntan lotion, SPF Chapstick and an aloe based burn relief lotion. All of which came in handy. If you go this route, be safe and snag a second travel size suntan lotion if you are going to be in country for more than a week.
If you're not looking to take any chances and can get your hands on it, try to get Nivea's SPF 30 suntan lotion. After a month in the Botswana and Zimbabwean bush country, I'm pretty sure I came back paler. Be smart, be safe and take care of your skin.
#2 Day Bag
You don't want to be lugging around a backpack everywhere you go, and you will be going places but you will also want things like your camera and a water bottle (#4 if this was a Top 4 list) on you just about all the time.
Pack a day bag.
Something that can be rolled up and doesn't take up a lot of space. Find one of those drawstring bags at your folk's house. I remember these were super popular in middle school and if you did high school sports, there is probably one of these bad boys collecting dust in a closet somewhere. Say hi to mom and dad, and go this pick this up before departing for the rainforest.
#3 Water Shoes
If you go to Costa Rica and decide to ever actually leave your room, chances are you are going to be in the rainforest, jungle (yes, those are different) or beach and you're going to get wet. Trekking through the rainforest from waterfall to waterfall is an amazing experience. Swimming in mountain springs, climbing and leaping from rocks is just unforgettable. A simple joy not to be missed. For some though, the feeling of the watery bottom or the muddy jungle floor is just too much. In this case, bring some water shoes. A quick fix I would have never thought of.
I personally loved hiking barefoot but I also loved observing the leaf-cutter ants crawling over my feet in perfect order. Not your cup of tea? Bring the shoes because you also don't want to be lugging around anything heavier.
At times I am compelled by a need to go and do things that in hindsight may not be the smartest. I love scars and a have a few, each of which with a story. As I write this I'm looking at a Nike swoosh on the sole of my foot I had to clean out with gin and a fork on the beach. There is a lot of coral to explore and the currents can be pretty strong. Explore but explore with some rubber between you and the razor sharp reef. So if you've got them back'em. You'll need them white water rafting if you decide to visit the Pacuare.
So to round it up. Jurrasic Park was not a documentary but it did take place in Costa Rica. The sun is intense and coral is sharp. Everywhere and everything is amazing. To be sure you get the most out of it do not forget your sun care, get some water shoes and pack them all into a quick pull drawstring bag. Have fun, take pictures ... oh yeah, and don't try to hug a sloth, they have very sharp, very large claws.