The Many Sides of Tropical Costa Rica – Climates and Cultures

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It is said Costa Rica is two different “countries”, with which I heartily agree, and then some. Costa Rica runs from the Northwest, at the Nicaragua border, to the Southeast, at the border with Panama. Its mini, if you will, great continental divide includes the mountain ranges (cordilleras) Cordillera de Guanacaste, Cordillera de Tilaran, Cordillera Central, and, my sense is from riding over it and around it, the largest, Cordillera de Talamanca.

The eastern side of the collective cordilleras, they run practically in a row, is geographically and obviously since it borders on the Caribbean Sea, Caribbean in nature: the people, quite a few of whom came from other Caribbean islands and speak English as a primary language, the food, which is very tasty has an obvious Caribbean twist, and the terrain, the topography, is mostly flat or very near thereto. A distinct Costa Rica.

The western side of the cordilleras has more of an old country flavor, Spain or European, with the people and the food, and is much more “hilly.” San Jose, the capital city, is located on this side in what is known as the Central Valley, and so naturally this side has most of the population, and most of the business enterprises. It is very distinct from the Caribbean side.

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So that is at least two Costa Ricas. What could be labeled a distinct third Costa Rica is the area, and Provincia (State, of which there are seven) of Guanacaste. It used to be Nicaragua territory up to 25 July 1824 when it was annexed to Costa Rica. I can personally tell you that Nicaraguans are very different from Costa Ricans, and it can still be seen in that State. And so, I feel sorry for the people who come to Costa Rica but land at the somewhat new international airport in Liberia, and only enjoy that area and those beaches. They cannot really say that “they have been to Costa Rica.”

The Pacific Southern Zone, say from Jaco south to the Osa Penisula, is yet again different from all of the above. Popular and some say needed goods and services are much few and farther in between than the Central Valley, in exchange, or so I think, for a tranquil lifestyle of mountain living and beach recreation. This area is among the few continually parts of the country that remains lush (green), even in the so-called dry season.

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The areas between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer worldwide have different climates as does Costa Rica, located in this tropical zone.  Rainy seasons (called the Green Season down here) are different in Costa Rica from east to west and from north to south.  Chances are you are going to get wet.  Ticos could care less about this and just generally get soaked; some tote an umbrella.  You’ll get used to it in a day or two.

If you know or think you might be staying in one of the many lovely mountain retreats in good ole CR, better bring with you a jacket or sweater (I prefer a fleece vest).  You are going to be chilly; yep, in the tropics, chilly.

Another distinct difference in the country is the dramatic changes from the natural jungle and all of what you imagine that to be, and the “concrete jungles” sprouting up around the country. I hardly recognize Jaco these days, let alone Escazu, which used to be a quiet little suburb of San Jose and is now a mass of high rise buildings and up to a zillion toll lanes that used to be two.

Now, if you want to know the truth, I love all of the distinct areas of the country. Throughout the country, the people could not be more genteel, more kind and ready to assist with whatever situation, if only to know where the best coffee shop is located.

You will see me say at more than one place on the CRAZU website, I have been on every hard road in the country and a lot of dirt roads on which I probably should not have been… there goes the paint job on the Harley. I encourage you to do so, as well. Take your time. Don’t try to see all of it in one vacation; come back and explore another area. All of them will enchant you… and welcome to the Tropics darlin’, as my lovely wife likes to say. Pura vida

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