Day #1 in Costa Rica

After just over 36 hours of travel, it was great to get some well deserved sleep in San Jose!

We began the morning with a city tour, walking through the main plaza, witnessing a service in the Catholic Church (the Official Religion is Roman Catholic, per the country’s Constitution – over 75% of the population identify as Catholic)


The Catholic Church on the Plaza in downtown Alejuela.

and the hundreds of people just sitting on benches and relaxing with their Sunday morning.

We also got to tour a coffee plantation that processes the beans without electricity or fuel to run things – it is all powered by water on the property.


Jacob, with the benefit of time and patience, was able to get one of the butterflies to ‘hang out’ on his finger for a bit.

Students enjoyed the butterfly sanctuary a lot, and many bought (spoiler alert for some parents following this blog) some coffee for family members. These two activities and our journey down will be the focus of our “Question of the Day,” or the Pregunta del Día, that comes at the bottom of this post.

Our group stayed at two adjacent properties in Alajuela our first night in Costa Rica, both with beautiful views of the San José Valley, the Buena Vista and Casa Cielo Grande. We went to bed at 9:00 p.m. because we had to get rolling early in the morning. We knew we had a big day: driving for a few hours to the Picuare River for about 4 hours of whitewater rafting. That adventure, along with our crossing into Panama later today, will be the focus of our next blog post. Our guides this year (yes, we have two!), are Amelia and Hillary. They are doing an excellent job of keeping our large group (28 people) on track.

Buena Vista View

Some of the CRA students enjoy the pool late in the afternoon during our first day in Costa Rica. The pool overlooks the San José Valley, and was a refreshing way to end the marathon travel day we had just completed.

The students are forming stronger bonds of friendship, and random pairings like yesterday’s rafting excursion are helping everyone get to know each other while working as a team. And work we did, as the Picaure delivered on class II, III, and a few level IV rapids. And, with that, we’ll consider our first:

Pregunta del Día #2: At this point, you’ve had just over 24 hours in this country. What have you noticed or observed about Costa Rica or the Costa Rican people?

Afton – “The houses here are a lot brighter colors.”

Aidia – “I’m surprised by how the houses have a lot of fences and barbed wire.”

Barret – “It’s really warm all the time, and the rain isn’t cold. And the leaves on the trees are much bigger.”

Brandon – “There are more trees – lots of vegetation. And a lot of people don’t speak English!”

Brody – “Lots of razor wire and stuff on houses. There are lot of gates and stuff.”

Carson – “The rice and beans in Costa Rica are way better than when we have them in the states!”

Clement – “I really like Costa Rica because… I’m in the rainforest.”

Craig – “We were at the fountain trying to talk to people in Spanish. There were about 30 pigeons around this kid and he had one in his bare hands! He had i’s neck, almost like choking it. And his Mom didn’t seem to care – she was like, ‘Good Job, Sweetie!’”

Dayan – “Talking to people in the park was fun. We were talking to a man and we wanted to know how to say coconut, but we couldn’t get our point across.”

Delaney – “The people here all really like soccer.”

Gage – “There are a lot of birds here… you can hear them every morning.”

Henry – “The driving is aggressive. When you’re driving down a road, cars honk when they meet others to decide who is going to go – it is just really aggressive. The coffee is also really good!”

Jacob – “It is very humid. People here are really nice. They stare at us because we’re foreigners, but they are friendly when we start talking to them.”

Jackson – “Everybody loves soccer. One lady get saying ‘leagua’ and we figured out she was speaking of soccer with a kicking motion.”

Luna – “I was surprised by the butterfly garden. There were a lot of them – hundreds! I thought it was really cool.”

Matteo – “The town didn’t look anything like I thought it would. People worry a lot about security here, I guess. The streets are narrow. They know how to use their space wisely.”

Maya – “I like how in town, nobody is really on their phone that much. When we walked around on Sunday, people were just hanging out and not on their phones.”

Micah – “Locals here are really nice, especially if you approach and try to talk to them in Spanish.”

Natalya – “In Helena, most people are at home on their phones. When we went to the plaza, everyone was socializing – there were a lot of people!”

Reece – “It’s interesting to see a whole bunch of plants and trees – and how everything is green! It’s cool to see all sorts of different fruits growing here, everywhere. We don’t see that in the US.”

Zoe – “Things here are super-colorful; I’ve seen houses that are neon-blue and others that are pink.”

Some of the students headed to the beach this Tuesday morning, while others are lounging at the hotel with a leisurely breakfast before we head for the Panamanian border… stay tuned as the adventure continues for these young people!