Dear Friends of Switchback,
Someone recently asked me why we are so enamored of Costa Rica for tours. And in talking to that person, I realized that a lot of folks don’t really know much about this country. For Brian and myself, we love Costa Rica for what it is and what it isn’t.
What it offers our fans is the opportunity to travel inexpensively during the height of the cold winter months in North America to a country that is a three hour flight from Fort Meyers or Houston. Compared to traveling to Hawaii, one has more time experiencing the adventure and less time traveling to the adventure. I personally love the fact that Costa Rica is on Central Standard Time. That means no jet-lag. Being on the Pacific Ocean on Chicago time is a pretty nice feeling.
Costa Rica is situated in Central America. The country is a democratic one, with a newly elected president this year. One of its main boasts is that it did away with its army in 1948, being one of the only countries in the world that does not have a military. Instead, it focused on putting that money into education and healthcare for its people. That is a pretty impressive move for any country, let alone a small country in Central America.
Most Americans are confused when it comes to Central and South America. Locating Costa Rica on a map is a problem as a lot of people confuse it with the territory of Puerto Rico. Costa Rica is not an island, but part of the thin strip of land between the continents of North and South America. It is a very stable and beautiful country. The people are helpful and peaceful.
Costa Rica, unlike a lot of its neighbors north and south, is calm. It is mainly focused on tourism, especially eco-tourism, with its beautiful rainforests and beaches. The country itself is in the process of becoming completely independent of fossil fuels. Another great example for our world, in my opinion.
The spine of the Americas, the mountains of the continental divide run right down the middle of the country, giving the highlands a gentle weather that feels like early June for most Midwestern Americans. Last time we were there, our group even had light sweaters when we gathered in the evening to watch a brilliant sunset.
I know that some people are afraid of being in a country where English is not the first language. But like the rest of the world, English is pretty much spoken by everyone in the tourist industry. Our travelers will have no problem here. Because of the push for tourism, most people speak English or know some English. If you know some Spanish, it is great, but not necessary for the places where we stay and visit.
Costa Rica, does have its modern conveniences. Some people think that there are no working toilets, no toilet paper, and poor people begging everywhere. That is not the case. There is a Wal-Mart in San Jose. I don’t think much more needs to be said. Costa Rica is a modern country.
Like Ireland, the people of Costa Rica are genuinely interested in the care of their tourists. “Pura Vida,” or the “pure life,” is their motto and it is reflected in the good food, the unspoiled beaches and breathtaking views of the country. They have made the idea of relaxation into a way of life.
U.S. dollars are accepted in Costa Rica. You won’t get change in U.S. dollars, but at least you can arrive without feeling you need to exchange money. And the dollar goes a long way there. You can shop for some wonderful bargains. The power of the dollar allows us to stay at the finest resorts and hotels. So if you want to stay at places like the Rich and Famous, you can. And we do.
That said, like any place, if you want to find poverty, crime and anything negative, you can find it. You can find that in Ireland if you look around.
We may not like some of their roads (and the country is at odds on improving some roads due to the impact on the ecology of its rainforests), but that is what the bar on the coach is for, to relax and have a great time. And get rid of our North American rush-rush-rush.
As usual, Brian and I create opportunities for our travelers to hear our music. And Costa Rica does not disappoint with beautiful backdrops for our concerts.
We like to keep our Costa Rica tour small. About 20 lucky people will join us as we cruise on the ocean, snorkel, and ride a tram through the forest canopy. On our final day last February, we had manta rays jumping out of the water with the setting sun gleaming through the spray. A beautiful sight in a beautiful, magical place.
We hope that this article will help our friends decide to join us for a tour to our Tropical Ireland, Costa Rica, and help clear any misconceptions about the land and its people as well.
When it is fifteen degrees below back home, it is an almost guilty feeling one can have knowing that your friends are home, shivering and miserable. But a margarita on the beach cures that pretty quickly.
American Roots & Celtic Soul