Costa Rica is forever associated with coffee. It’s the main industry everyone seems to know it for. The Ticos have done much to encourage the growth of coffee and protect its own industries. If you want to know where your rich morning aromas come from, read on for some fast facts about coffee in Costa Rica.
Where It Came From
Despite its reputation as one of the main coffee growing nations, it was never a natural growing region for coffee. The Spanish introduced coffee in 1798 in an attempt to take advantage of the space and land of Costa Rica, as well as the increasing popularity of this warm drink.
The Spanish were concerned they didn’t have a national export from this part of the world. Every Tico was required by law to have a few plants on their land. There were financial incentives to grow coffee as well. Originally, they were only designed to be grown for ornamental reasons.
First in Last Out
Costa Rica holds the honour of being the first country in Central America to turn coffee into an industry. As described above, this is mainly due to Spain’s desire to create a national export. It wasn’t the first country to grow coffee plants in this part of the world. The Portuguese and French helped to introduce it to many of the Caribbean islands and other parts of their respective empires first.
The Arabic Coffee Bean
Coffee in Costa Rica comes from the Arabic coffee bean. This was the original coffee plant brought over by Spain in the late 18th century. Today, it’s the only coffee plant which can be grown in the country, as per an executive order.
The government decided to do this for two reasons. Firstly, they wanted to protect their national industry and prevent foreign corporations from moving in and taking over the supply. Secondly, they want to create a coffee brand which has a reputation for purity. They want a worldwide reputation for their products, and they’ve definitely succeeded in that.
And here’s a bonus fact for you. Did you know coffee is the second biggest commodity on the international market? Only oil is traded more often than coffee.
Costa Rican Snow
Most Ticos have never seen snow in person. The closest thing they get to snow is white coffee blossom. The Central Valley is the main coffee planting region in the country. The jasmine-like aroma, which is very sweet, hangs in the air and the blossom gently drifts by to carpet the fields of the valley. It looks like a light dusting of snow has suddenly dropped on the land.
Every country has its fair share of myths. The myths of Costa Rica normally appear because of neighbours like Nicaragua. Ticoland is a country which doesn’t have the same problems. It’s like another world away. So you can set your mind straight, we’re going to take a look at some of the things which you shouldn’t believe about Costa Rica.
1. It’s a Poor Country
Costa Rica actually has the lowest poverty rate in Central America. One of the major reasons for this is because of its concentration on industry. Coffee is the second biggest commodity on the international market and tourism is still growing in the country. Combine these two together and it creates jobs and enables the government to unveil special programs to bring people out of poverty.
Ticos see their country as a paradise for peace. It’s a calm country freed from the evils of an unequal world.
2. It’s Isolated
Central America doesn’t have the fame of Europe and North America. It doesn’t have the same connections. Costa Rica isn’t an isolated nation. It trades more than any other country in Latin America. This has actually caused problems for many of its ports.
Tico ports are filled up and they urgently need investment to continue to expand, such is the popularity of Costa Rican goods. The equipment needs upgrading and land infrastructure needs to improve so it can continue growing. This nation is a heart of activity and it plays an important role in the world’s economy.
3. There’s a lack of Education
This is one of the worst myths of Costa Rica because it couldn’t be further from the truth. Kids in cities like San Jose go to normal schools where they learn to read and write. Despite the lack of formal schooling in the rural areas and villages, practically everyone can read and write. There are very few truly illiterate Ticos, and most of these are from the older generations.
They use the national radio station for basic schooling. Even the rural areas can get this station. Parents will use it as a teaching aid.
4. It’s an Unstable Country
Costa Rica is actually a very stable country with a democracy which is the envy of its neighbours. It hasn’t had a war in a very long time because the country is thoroughly anti-military. They were so anti-military straight after the civil war they abolished the concept of maintaining a standing army.
The government can still respond to internal threats through the National Guard. Any government who wants to claim power permanently won’t be able to because there’s no armed militia ready to help them. It keeps everything stable and peaceful.
You are welcome to contact us prior to booking your vacation to Costa Rica if you have any concerns or questions regarding your stay.
A wedding in Costa Rica sounds perfect. You have white sands, crystal waters, and the cloud forests to go and explore as part of your honeymoon. Your wedding party would also love some time away in this beautiful country. You do need to prepare the legal documents to get married, though. This is where many couples make mistakes. They expect to get married as soon as they arrive only to discover they haven’t completed the correct preparations.
Let’s discuss how you and your partner, assuming you’re both foreign nationals, can get married in one of the most idyllic countries in the world.
What Documents Do You Need?
To start with, you’ll need an attorney and notary in Costa Rica to complete your marriage. Make sure you contact both of these individuals in the area where you want to get married long before you start making travel plans. They’ll be able to gather all the documentation for you.
All you need are two passports valid for yourself and your partner. As long as they’re valid for at least six months, you have everything you need.
Is it Really This Easy?
It’s this easy if you’re both foreign nationals. Marriages are recognised by all major countries outside Costa Rica, as long as the marriage certificate is translated into English. Where it gets tricky is with marriages to foreign nationals by Costa Rican citizens and with catholic weddings.
You need additional identity documentation if you or your partner comes from Costa Rica. Unless you’re dead set on being married in a catholic church, give it a miss. It can take a year to jump through all the hoops, and it only gets worse if one or both of you have been through a divorce before.
And here’s an additional note on divorce. You will need evidence of your divorce and you can’t remarry within 300 days of your last divorce, although this applies to Costa Rican nationals only.
Wait to Travel
Wait for confirmation from your attorney and notary before you make any travel plans. A wedding in Costa Rica might sound like a dream, but it can quickly turn into a terrible experience if you don’t obey the rules.
You can find companies which specialise in Costa Rican weddings. They’ll put you in touch with their own attorneys who perform the ceremonies. They’ll also make sure you have everything prepared. If you’re apprehensive about preparing everything yourself in a foreign country, this can be a great option.
Your guests have nothing to do with the documentation. All they need is a valid passport to come into the country and they can enjoy the happiest day of your life.
You are welcome to contact us for more information before you begin planning your wedding in Costa Rica.
There are lots of things to do in San Jose. Unfortunately, many of these things cost money, especially if they’re dedicated towards tourists. Whilst we can’t guarantee a free meal in the Costa Rican capital, there are lots of things you can do if you look hard enough. Here are five things you can do in the city without paying a great amount.
1. Tour the Central Market
The Central Market is the main market for exotic fruits and vegetables in San Jose. There’s nothing better than touring this market and just watching Costa Ricans go about their daily lives. There are also a lot of new things for you to discover. Costa Rica alone holds 5 per cent of the world’s biodiversity. Ever had a rambutan? The answer is probably not, and these are the sorts of things you’ll sample at the Central Market.
2. Go on a Hike
San Jose might be a bustling urban centre, but you can quickly get back to nature. Start from the Health Ministry and take the bus to the very last stop. Get out and just walk upwards. Eventually, you’ll find dirt trails and a fantastic view over the Central Valley. You’ll find many walkers around here and lots of isolated estates and farms. It’s worth an afternoon simply for the view!
San Jose is home to Costa Rica’s main museums. The two places everyone should visit are the Children’s Museum, with lots of exhibits you can interact with directly, and the Gold Museum detailing elegant golden figurines from the country’s ancient past. These museums are cheap and are amongst the most time-consuming things to do in San Jose.
4. Simon Bolivar Zoo
It’s amazing how so many visitors miss this neglected zoo out. It’s a zoo with a difference. Granted, it doesn’t have the range of animals you’d expect, but the turtles and the monkeys make it all worthwhile. The zookeepers have paid extra attention to their needs. You can see monkeys swinging through their very own playground, or turtles swimming down a specially made stream for them.
It’s a great way to kill a few hours, and make you feel slightly guilty for missing it out before!
5. Drink in the National Theater
The National Theater was created by the coffee growers of Costa Rica. They wanted to leave behind a legacy which everyone can enjoy. At noon every Tuesday the general public is invited inside to enjoy a cup of coffee made from locally grown beans. Along with your ticket, you’ll be treated to a unique performance by a selected local or foreign artist. It changes every week, so there’s always a reason to keep coming back for more!
Oh no, travelling alone! But what about all those dangers which are ready to injure or kill you? Calm down, travelling alone gets a lot of bad press. The media blows the occasional negative story out of proportion and we start to believe going it alone is wrong. What many of these stories fail to mention is whether the people in question were being responsible or not.
As long as you’re responsible, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t travel in Costa Rica on your own. Here are a few of the reasons why we think coming to this country without the support of someone else is a positive experience for you.
Come Out of Your Shell
With a friend it’s easy to interact with them and only them. Ticos are naturally social and are always willing to speak to tourists and have fun with them. If you’re joined at the hip with someone else, you won’t have the courage to go out to a bar and start speaking with the locals. You won’t find out about all those local myths and fables.
Travelling alone forces you to come out into the open. It improves your confidence and it makes it more likely you’ll want to do something like this again in the future.
Do What You Want
Sadly, travelling with someone else is a story of compromise and negotiation. You each have different tastes and you can’t fit everything in. Sometimes you’ll have to do things you don’t want to do. If you’re alone, this is a trip for you and only you. If you don’t find the prospect of hiking into the mountains fun, which would be a surprise, you can hang out by the beach. You have full control over what happens and when.
Filtering the Experience
We firmly believe everyone experiences the world slightly differently. No matter how much you identify with your best friend, your perspective is partly shaped by their perspectives, and vice-versa. The experience isn’t pure. When you get to a high place and gaze over the magnificent Central Valley it’s difficult to reflect on yourself and view your life in the way you want to view it in.
It’s not their fault. They’re only human and it happens regardless of who decides to travel in Costa Rica with you. Every trip with your friend will be slightly tainted. Now if you repeated this trip alone things would be much more different.
We understand how travelling alone is intimidating, but it changes people. Come to the Nicoya Peninsula and see a stunning part of the world for yourself. It makes you more confident, better able to confront problems, and you might even catch the travel bug and find yourself coming back to Central America again and again.
Of course, the second you arrive at Shaka you will find yourself already amongst friends!Photo credit: joiseyshowaa / Foter / CC BY-SA
Reading a tour guide about all the rafting and hiking you can do doesn’t really help if you’re deciding whether to backpack through the country on your own. If you want to travel to Costa Rica you need to consider the various nuances, such as language. We haven’t gone into the things you can do here. We know there are lots of things to do for tourists. Instead, we’re going to discuss the fundamentals of what makes a country a great place to travel to on your own.
Safety is the main priority for any traveller, but it’s especially important for the solo traveller. In short, you won’t find many examples of violent crime in Costa Rica. Pickpocketing is the main issue. You’ll find a lot of this around the markets in central San Jose. There are some areas of the capital where you might not feel safe, but since these are well out of the way and there are few attractions here it shouldn’t be a problem.
English Speaking Locals
Whilst Spanish is the first language, most Ticos have a good grasp of English. They might not always be fluent, but you’ll understand them well. English is a staple of the modern schooling system and therefore younger people will probably have a better understanding of the language than their modern counterparts.
If you need help, signal someone nearby and you should be able to communicate with them. Try to learn a few words of Spanish just to be courteous, though!
What about the Culture?
Costa Rica is strange in cultural terms. It’s devoutly catholic yet everyone looks at their religion in a very easy-going manner. You’re free to practice and preach other beliefs. The culture and the values are different from what you’re used to, but there’s nothing strict about it. If you make a social faux pas someone might politely point it out to you, but the chances are most people will ignore it and carry on.
Driving isn’t the best, and to travel in Costa Rica you’ll usually need to employ a guide to get to the remote areas. Largely, it isn’t bad and you can do well with public transport and rental cars. As long as you know where you’re going and have a rough idea as to the direction you’re going in, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to fully explore this colourful nation.
Travelling alone in this part of Central America is easy. There are notable differences in language and culture, but crime is probably worse in your home country and there’s always a friendly face willing to help you out. Come to Costa Rica and you’ll be able to enjoy the solo travel experience of a lifetime!
Tourist traps appear in any country where you can find tourists, and Costa Rica is no exception. To make sure you don’t become the victim of a shady operator, we’ve compiled a list of the worst tourist traps in Costa Rica. There are hundreds of them, but these are the ones we’ve seen reported on a regular basis.
Booking with a Travel Agent
This trap can get you even before you’ve got on the plane. It might be more convenient to book with a travel agent, but they always increase the price of the rooms by a significant amount as part of their cut. Go to the website of the hotel you want to stay in and book the rooms directly from them. This way you won’t be at any risk of any huge mark ups. Shaka is no exception, contact us first for the best rates available!
Driving offenses are taken very seriously in Costa Rica. The police are always waiting to zoom out of hiding and catch you speeding over the limit. If you think you can get away with it, you can’t. The tourist trap here is the cop will say he can take care of the ticket for you if you give him the money for it now.
Never do this. You must visit any outlet of the Bank of Costa Rica to pay the ticket. And you can’t leave the country without paying the ticket now. They’re cracking down on this.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest
This location is the home of the Sky Bridge and Canopy Tour. Yet what they fail to mention is this is a cloud forest. A cloud forest means the clouds are literally touching the tops of the trees. If you walk on these bridges or take a canopy tour you won’t see anything on a cloudy day. You’ll just see a vast sheet of white with some occasional signs of leaves and branches. They’ll still happily take your money, though!
The Appearing Items
At a restaurant you’ll eventually receive your bill and you’ll have the total amount you spent on it. On occasion, you might notice an item which you never ordered. It came completely out of nowhere. This is an attempt at a scam. The waiter will add an extra item to the bill and pocket the extra amount he’s added. This is one of the most common tourist traps in Costa Rica.
You should carefully scrutinise the bill and raise an issue with it if there’s something you never ordered. Most restaurants will back down straight away because they know what they’re doing. If they don’t, threaten to call the police. Make sure you follow through on this threat. If you’ve done no wrong they’ll sort it out and deal with the restaurant owner in private.
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Tipping in Costa Rica is an interesting subject to discuss with visitors. Americans find it strange how the process works since the US is perhaps the only country where it’s common to pay an extra 20 per cent just for the waiters. Costa Rican culture works a tad differently, and it’s good to integrate yourself with this culture if you want to avoid any quizzical looks.
Look at the Bill
So, you’ve finished eating your hearty meal at your favourite restaurant serving delicious local cuisine. Your bill is on its way over to you and there are all sorts of numbers on it. You’ll see the food and drink at the top of the bill and the tax at the bottom of the bill. In the middle of these there will be an extra 10 per cent charge. This is the service charge and it accounts for the waiters.
Unlike the US, the waiters may well receive a fraction of this charge from their employer, although this differs from restaurant to restaurant.
Firstly, if you’re a staunch tipper and you’re going to tip them whether they like it or not make sure you take into account you’ve already paid 10 per cent as part of the bill.
Is Tipping Normal?
Tipping the waiter isn’t common in Costa Rica and it’s unlikely your local friends will do it. They accept the service charge and run with it. Life isn’t as hard for waiters in this country due to the culture.
In the US, as much as we wouldn’t like to admit it, we see waiters as people who’re either students or those who’ve failed to succeed in life. We pity them with our 20 per cent tips because we believe we need to top up their criminally low wages.
In Costa Rica, everyone is seen as equal. There’s no such snobbery and there’s no stigma attached to being a waiter. Everyone looks at it as a normal job which doesn’t require any special treatment through huge tips.
You can tip if you like (they do love dollar bills), but don’t feel like you absolutely have to. It’s not a social duty.
How Much Should You Tip?
To avoid those strange stares, tip low and don’t try to impress anyone with a wad of cash. Slip them a dollar or two and this will be fine. Don’t worry about working out the math. It doesn’t matter if you give them 10 per cent extra or 20 per cent extra. The effort will be much appreciated, though.
Ticos tend to never leave tips so you’ll never be given any sort of bad look because you gave a low tip. Even an extra Colón will receive a warm thank you. Of course, tipping in Costa Rica works like any other country. If the service is terrible you don’t have to leave a thing!
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Image: By Scott Sanchez at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons