What a Great Holiday Can Do For Your Spirit: Finding True Life in Costa Rica

My husband and I decided to escape the cold to beautiful Costa Rica this February. What we discovered there was an irreplaceable experience.

I am definitely someone who, you could say, enjoys the small things. I have often said: “give me sun, a coffee, a park bench and some great conversation and that’s all I need”. It’s true! I love my own city so much and get so happy running through the arboretum, smeling the magnolias every May and sitting by the peonies in the ornamental garden in June. I love watching the scenery in the Byward market or relaxing with a vegan dinner picnic on one of Ottawa’s beaches. I have a husband, family and friends I love and a career I truly enjoy. I am not looking to “escape” my circumstances.

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This baby howler monkey is living the best life
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Dusk at playa Hermosa.

Winter brings such a different set of challenges. There’s only so long I can hibernate. It’s a time of year for many of us where our resolve and motivation is waning. But maybe that’s just the moment you’re ready to get going again and find a little spark to run with. There is just something about what a different culture, landscape and life vibe can teach you about yourself and your life. Just getting out of your usual context helps you to see what matters and helps you to enjoy own life once you get back to it.

Costa Rica is a place for just this kind of inspiration. Five themes I can think of are: sanctuary, play, reflection, authenticity and beauty. And here’s why:

Sanctuary
We stayed just outside Montezuma, in an absolutely beautiful teak cabin at a micro-eco resort with a jungle backdrop and a breathtaking view of the pacific sunrise. It was surrounded with wildlife, lush smells of jungle flora and just a sensual feeling of connectedness with nature. Maybe that was the screen-only shower connecting us to the outdoors, almost totally private pool or the way the premises was built so that anywhere you looked, you could only see a maximum of one unnatural structure. Amazing.

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Beautiful view from our front porch.
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Simple pleasures.

It feels safe there for reasons more that just lack of crime. It’s as warm as an embrace and as easy to feel good as biting into some sweet fruit, which is the first thing we did when we got onto the road. Every morning my eyes opened to a view of the banana trees and Pacific Ocean feeling totally safe and just so “right”.

The resort is run by the sweetest family who embody Costa Rican life. A Tico-American couple with two children, who left the states for the pacific coast life for good. They were very professional, but I’m not sure if they realize the facility they run is in a class of its own because they were so humble. The pricing was totally affordable. They are so friendly, chill and honest. They were always available to give caring advice and gave us hugs at the end of your stay.

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Our little jungle bungalow cabin at Agua Vista Montezuma.

Play
I love all vacations. I only really require that the destination is not too cold. However, Costa Rica is in a league of its own for the way it gets you acting carefree. I was drawn right into the sparkling waves on the Montezuma beach, found myself laughing out loud when a crew of monkeys came to cause mischief on our cabin’s porch and had the most childlike smile on my face after I tried surfing in Mal Pais’ famous beach, playa Carmen – even though it kicked my butt.

We marvelled at the tiny creatures on the sand and in the trees. We laughed as we rode over the downright crazy off-road style roads which felt like a roller coaster. You just feel like a kid. I threw away my daily hair and makeup routine, stopped looking at the clock. I took my husband’s hands in mine and just goofed off.

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Exploring the local food with a whole food plant based version of a Costa Rican Casado: rice, black beans, stir fried cabbage, red pepper, salad, avocado and plantains with hot sauce, spice and lime.
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Santa Teresa is a haven for surfing and plant based wellness! Smoothies for days!

Reflection
Sometimes, my life may sound like a dream. But I have my dark days like anyone. I am pretty perfection-oriented and can be high strung. My regular life demands a high degree of accuracy, attention and focus. But we’re supposed to relax on vacation right? So why when I stared into the beautiful ocean did I become upset and remember my hang ups? Because I had a chance to! Costa Rica is so forgiving. You just feel nurtured with the beautiful restaurant food, fresh fruit stands and endless energy smoothies. You can just wind down, take it slow and work out the crap that has been bugging you.

As a special bonus, it helps you put in perspective what really matters: the simple things in life. We cooked and ate simple vegan meals such as the Tico signature meal, “Casado”, which is a rice and bean dish. We developed an in-tune sleep routine, rising with the sun and going to bed with the stars. We talked out our issues and reflected on ways we could improve habits at home and make life easier on ourselves. These all help to bring you closer to your partner.

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A new favourite of ours recommended by Pam ! Grenadilla fruit.
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Capturing dear memories.

Authenticity
I can say, without a doubt, that all our experiences were real and honest. One of the Costa Rica tourist slogans was, “Costa Rica: no artificial ingredients”. I found that to be completely true. We did some really holistic yoga at both Montezuma Yoga and Ylang Ylang beach resort that incorporated breathing, meditation and advanced poses. It actually made me fall in love with yoga again and practice some poses I hadn’t done in a long time. The emotions we felt were real too. Watching and hearing the waves over the beach made me a sense of release. I felt at peace in mind and body, which is not always easy for me.

We discovered an island graveyard and saw the sweet way Costa Ricans bury the people they love with tiled tombs, bright flowers and decorated with shells.  The waiting staff at the restaurants we visited were professional, accommodating to vegans and just so cute. The locals were honest with us and made me a specially ordered quartz necklace with my choice of stones at a stand in Montezuma.

The folks at the surf shop we went to made our experience so fun and shared their stories of how they landed full time in Costa Rica. Our surf instructor was a cool young gentleman originally from Ontario with a life changing story of his own.

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We returned from vacation HEALTHIER and fitter than when we left!

Beauty
Beauty is everywhere. I find it in anything from flowers, to fashion, to gestures from the patients I care for. It is right in front of us daily and there is no lack of it in Costa Rica. Who can deny that the sunsets on playa Hermosa live up to their name? What about the colourful and amazing flowers, palms, vines and animals from bats to – my favourite – hummingbirds? You can see every constellation so clearly and we even took a picture of the moon showing its craters.

There is beauty in the rhythm there. The natural feeling of health and goodness from the fresh air and sun. The sincere smiles of the locals and tourists alike. The relaxed pace of the towns and the sweat running down your face after an incredibly hard run up the hills from town to where we stayed.

I can’t name a single person I know who would not like Costa Rica. It really doesn’t matter what you like to do, how fancy you usually prefer thing, or what your personal style is. It is a place for everyone and a real gem of a country. Costa Rica is proud of some things that are profound – their wildlife, their eco-friendly ways, their peaceful presence (no army!) and their laid-back and forgiving attitude as evident in their addictive saying:pura vida.

Pure life, that’s what I experienced in Costa Rica.

I hope you get the chance to see it!

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