Last January, I traveled alone to Costa Rica for a 4 day weekend. The months leading up to the trip, every time I would mention it, let it be to friends or co-workers, the reaction would be the same: are you crazy? Why would you do that? I would laugh it off every time. But how, you ask, did I decide to book a trip by myself in a foreign country with minimal to no knowledge of their culture? See, initially I was supposed to take this trip with a good friend of mine after our college graduation. However, I ended up going to Haiti that summer and was not able to make the trip. Fast forward to a year and a half later, after having worked a total of 18 hours on black Friday in a fast paced store, my mind was set: I was booking my trip that night! I needed to get away so badly.
So here I was, lying in bed at 2 in the morning, browsing through different vacation packages until I decided to book my trip to Costa Rica. I have never been afraid of spending time alone, on the contrary, I would advise everyone to do so. Besides, going on vacation with friends would put some restrictions on what I would be willing to do so needless to say, I was super excited for this trip.
A week before I flew out, I finalized my itinerary and any last minute details. My hotel was an hour and a half away from the San Jose international airport and after doing my research, I decided I would be taking a cab to downtown San Jose, and from there, I would take a public bus to Jaco Beach where my hotel was located.
Up until the day of my trip, only a few people knew I was leaving and as I sat on the plane: I WAS FREAKING OUT. All sorts of ideas were going through my mind: Why did you do this??? What if something goes wrong??? You don’t even speak Spanish! So I sent a quick text to a couple more people to let them know where I would be in case something went wrong and I was off to Costa Rica!
When I got out of the San Jose airport, I was still in a state of panic. There were people everywhere and as I was trying to differentiate regular cars from taxis, a stranger came up to me and asked if I needed a taxi. Without thinking twice, I asked how much it would cost to get to Jaco from the airport, forget about my initial plan, I decided to take a cab to my hotel instead. During the ride there, the driver introduced himself and told me all about his culture, what to do, where to go and overall it was a very pleasant ride. I was amazed at how similar the scenery was to Haiti’s, for the most part at least.
Jaco Beach is a pretty small town. Its main road has a lot of small businesses, restaurants and souvenir shops. The beach is a short walk away from the main road and walking its streets are a mixture of locals and tourists. My hotel was quiet, clean and the black sand beach was beautiful.
The next day, I embarked on an adventure-packed day. I booked a tour package with Ocean Ranch Park which included waterfall rafting, ATV riding, horseback riding, zip-lining, and we also did some climbing (my least favorite part). I met 3 other people that were also traveling alone and it was truly the most fun I had in a while. Costa Rica’s rainforest is honestly something to see. Ziplining above it all was one of the most amazing experiences of my life to date. I would definitely recommend everyone to do so if visiting Costa Rica.
When I got back to the hotel, I met one of the locals while I was having dinner by the beach. His name was Tigre and he was a surfer. His dreads and his skin tone were a testimony to how long he spent under the sun over the years. I told him how I wanted to visit Manuel Antonio which was a town that was 2 hours away from where I was. He was kind enough to tell me exactly where to take the bus, how much it would cost and even offered to wait with me the next morning to ensure I got on the right bus. So here I was, the next day, on my way to Manuel Antonio on a 2 hour ride praying that nothing would go wrong since my Spanish was very limited.
Getting to Manuel Antonio was seamless. Again, I was delighted to see how much the streets of Costa Rica reminded me of Haiti. The beach in Manuel Antonio had a slight south beach vibe, there were a lot of tourists and locals and also a lot of merchants. I enjoyed a couple of refreshers as I laid on the beach for a while with a book in hand. It was one of the best feelings ever; being in a foreign country, by myself with a good book. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to the National Park which was the whole point of my trip to Manuel Antonio. However, I got a chance to try parasailing which I did not really plan on doing. It was honestly the best decision I took the whole trip! Being able to oversee the ocean and Costa Rica from up there was simply a breathtaking experience. The whole ride was peaceful and 30mn never felt so short
Before I knew it I had to head back to my hotel. My last night in Costa Rica, I met a banker from Wall St who was leaving the next day as well. We talked about life, drank more than a couple of beers and he left me with what he says were “words of wisdom” to every young lady out there: If you don’t want to marry a wealthy old man like me, you better work your butt off. Till this day, I think it is the funniest advice I have ever received from a stranger.
As my short trip came to an end, I couldn’t help but think that this experience had been the best form of therapy. It was truly a refresher and as I was heading back to New York, I felt refreshed and refocused. I traveled alone because I needed to recharge and experience new things while doing so and I am very happy I did. Going away is not hard if you really want to do it, put a little bit on the side every paycheck and book a solo trip the first chance you get, you’ll be glad you did so.