This sand is warmer than the New England beaches I’m familiar with, I muse. My toes grasp the warm grains, feeling every fine speck worn down from years of waves.
We had originally planned to watch the sun set at the primary-colored Jacó welcome sign, a lookout site popular in American tourists’ photos. The van drops us off at the viewpoint cliff, but the urge for further exploration remains. Finding a beaten path down to the shore below, we one by one scramble down tractionless dirt and over fallen logs to reach a pebbly coastline, just as the sky grows rosy. There we sit, until the light barely shines above the horizon and ceases to paint our faces golden.
One hundred kilometers inland, the capital of Costa Rica, San José, teems with life. I stroll downtown, surrounded by both modern shopping brands and artisanal local shops. Amidst the city bustle with two other travellers, I seek quiet refuge in a corner café—not a typical bakery, but dedicated to the art of coffee. We strike up a conversation with the middle-aged, wide-smiled shop owner. All around the world, he explains, coffee farm produce two types: coffee arabica or coffee robusta. In this country, however, coffee robusta is outlawed, promoting the more refined, sweeter beans of the arabica. Robusta is resilient and cheaper, but only the subtlety of rich, cleaner arabica is allowed in Costa Rica. “It’s true coffee,” he grins.
Yet another hundred and thirty kilometers away, the Arenal volcano looms over the La Fortuna district. From every corner of the rural area, the solemn volcano strikes a feeling of insignificance upon the people on the ground. The town itself, though, teems with life—animals and humans alike. Vendors distribute wooden and clay art passed down through generations, while a sleek, modern chocolatier with large glass windows stands just across the road. We browse the various types of beautifully packaged chocolate bars. The offered samples burst with a deep, bitter richness.
In just nine days, I experienced such diverse environments, all unbelievably condensed in this small Central American nation, but throughout each and every location in the early springtime, I always felt the warm presence of the weather, the biodiversity, the people. Rural or urban, natural or cultural, Costa Rica’s radiance is unparalleled.