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Molly Peach / Her Campus

My Crazy Experience in Costa Rica + Do’s and Don’t’s

It was the end of sophomore year when my 15-year-old self decided to go on a school trip to Costa Rica offered by this company called EF tours. The minute I heard that some Spanish teachers were coming with us and we were touring the entire country, my best friend and I signed up as quickly as possible. It sounded fun and exciting and we were sold. Little did we know, we were in for a ride... 

This article is going to be me, sharing my experience in Costa Rica in the best way that I know: comedic and painful. Prepare to be shocked, disturbed, unamused, and slightly inspired by the end of this. If I have not already bored you with this intro, I hope you enjoy my experience in Costa Rica (the good and the ugly):

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1) It was off to a good start, once I realized there were quite a few people I knew of and had heard of that were going on the trip. Some of them, I became really close with towards the end. In fact, one of the girls that I roomed with in Costa Rica is my current roommate and friend. It’s funny how things work out like that!

The minute we landed in the San José airport, however, it was downhill. As we were waiting in customs, a herd of people started collapsing on the floor. I mean literally collapsing. My initial thought was that the flight attendants had poisoned passenger’s drinks. A normal thought, in my opinion. Why wouldn’t they poison drinks? Turns out, the reason why people were collapsing was because they forgot to not lock their knees. Classic. I thought to myself “idiots” knowing sure as hell I would have done the exact same thing. I left that airport with a newly developed fear: standing.


2) Our third day on the trip, we all went kayaking. Now you might be thinking, what could possibly go wrong? Well. Everything.

Firstly, kayaking and any water sport is not my expertise. A part of me knew I was going to make a complete fool of myself, but I was part of the damn circus by the end of it. When we attempted to use the kayak, it simply would not go in the right direction. To this day, I am still not sure if it was me and my friend that were messing up or if the kayak had beef with us. Either way, we still finished last and the whole group waited for us to be done.

When we came back to our beaten-down motel, I looked at myself in the mirror, and my whole back was sunburned. A glorious bright red sunburn. It had taken me approximately six hours to realize that my entire back side was peeling off. It is worth noting that I, a female with a brown complexion, who has never had a sunburn in her life, all of a sudden had a terrible sunburn and had absolutely no ointment to treat it. Luckily, I was traveling with a plethora of Caucasian tourists who were happy to lend me their products. 

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3) The fourth day of the trip came around, and things started to look more positive. We went zip-lining that day and although I got stuck midway on the zip-line and a guide had to physically drag me to the end, it was still a great day. We got ice cream after zip-lining in the rain above canopies and clouds, which was an amazing experience! 

Later that evening, our travel buddies who we shared a room with came back home to relax. To our dismay, the spider nest filled with spider eggs on the top on our ceiling prevented us from doing so. One of our roommates was deathly afraid of spiders which did not make it any easier to fix the problem. I on the other hand, am sort of scared of spiders, but I am also a problem-solver. I took the nearest stick in sight and poked at the spider nest until all our problems were gone (or on the floor). Let’s just say it was definitely a restless night.


4) The next day, we arrived in Monteverde. It was insanely beautiful, that is until we got to our room. Right as we entered, all four of our roommates (including me) picked what bed we wanted. However, that left one girl with the bed full of bugs.

Now, I know what you are thinking: Costa Rica is a tropical country so it is supposed to have bugs. You are correct. We knew there were going to be bugs. What we didn’t know is that there would be bugs in the bed. The bugs were even tucked into the sheets all comfortably enjoying the slumber of their tiny little lifetimes. We ended up having to share beds and there was a meltdown or two about that. All in good fun looking back, but people were mad

That day we went to a butterfly sanctuary and went on a crocodile cruise which was super fun and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Costa Rica. However, when the day ended and we came back to our room, there was a flying cockroach literally soaring through our room. At first, I thought it was a butterfly but after seeing the anatomy of it as it flew past my eyes every five seconds, I knew...it definitely wasn’t a butterfly. We got our chaperone Spanish teacher to come kill it for us, which was a sight in itself. The next morning, we opened the closet to see what was inside, because we were curious kids, and what do you know? A scorpion just staring at us. At that point, I started crying. Not just because of the scorpion, because of the amount of surprises that were being thrown my way. Call me sensitive, but I had every reason to cry so much. My emotions build up, okay? Jeez.


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5) I want to take a small break in events to talk about the food that I ate in Costa Rica. Let me preface by saying I love Costa Rican food, not to mention any South American cuisine. However, since the trip was through the school and the meals were already paid for from the get-go, we had a lot of repeated meals. Beans and rice are great, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted to try out more things than just that. With every meal came an array of different juices, and they were exotic too! We had everything from starfruit juice to papaya juice. Super fun, just not the best-tasting (and I am definitely not alone in that). 


6) On the sixth or seventh day that we were there, we all decided to take a beach day. So we packed our swimsuits and headed for the sand. When we got to the beach, all we saw were monkeys. Cheeky food-stealing monkeys who definitely did not fail to do their job. One bag of chips was stolen from me. I’m still salty….just like the ocean, which was a pleasure!

I had a small fear of water but I didn’t let it stop me from getting in a massive body of water. At one point, a huge wave started gravitating towards us and I basically drowned in its midst and got salt water all up in my eyes and nasal cavity. Am I scarred? Yes. Will I go into the ocean again? Yes. One of the boys on the trip started playing footsy with my friend and that’s when all bets were off. We were getting out of that cursed water.

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7) By the eighth day, the majority of us sugar-crazed teens were deprived of the one thing we had not had in so long: soda. I know, I know...the most privileged thing to say, but our trip itinerary came to our rescue when our whole group went to a folklore evening full of dance and great food and you guessed it...soda. The minute the fresh, chilled, glass Coca-Cola bottles came out of the kitchen, I breathed a sigh of relief. I even took a picture just to document the pure happiness I felt. The night went on as our group was taught dance moves by professional Costa Rican dancers. It was overall, one of my favorite nights, and not just because of the soda.


8) On our last day, we went white-water rafting. I was super stoked for that, but let’s just say, once again, things didn't go as planned. Our group had to split up into two rafts. So around 8 of us were in one, while the other 7 or 8 were in the other. We went over raft safety protocol before we went (which proved to be useful later on...yikes). As our raft is rafting and our raft instructor is instructing, we encounter a gigantic rock in our way, and we were not able to turn quick enough. In panic, the raft instructor screamed for us to take shelter which basically included us moving from the outer edge of the raft to inside the raft with our knees parallel to our face. Most unfortunately, I was seated right behind this guy in our group who was quite bigger than me and my entire lower body got squished in the process. He apologized and I survived.

In the moment, I was slightly traumatized. But looking back, I laugh about it because I imagine the concerned faces around me. An hour or so later, my new friends and I decided to go slide down the white water. What we didn’t know was that the water was shallow with sharp rocks right underneath, so we tumbled down and had scratches all over our backs. That whole experience was slightly concerning. But what is a trip without a little trauma? Am I right?


9) Our trip was coming to an end and on the morning of the last day, we all had to get on a bus and head to the airport. The bus was usually arranged by our tour guide, but he was nowhere to be seen. We spent about 30-45 minutes waiting for him to show up and finally when he did, he was so hungover he could not even stand up straight. I am pretty sure I laughed the entire bus ride to the airport because for some reason, a drunk tour guide was such a funny concept to me.

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Overall, It was a really fun time, and I recommend Costa Rica to anyone I know! I wanted to share all of my memory snippets from the trip but this article would turn into a 10-page paper. Instead, I want to leave you all with a list of my Do’s and Don'ts for Costa Rica if anyone ever wants to visit.


Do’s and Don’t of Costa Rica:

DO NOT lock your knees while waiting in airport lines.

DO wear sunscreen no matter how dark your complexion may be.

DO know how to be good at things (something I lack).

DO NOT wear oddly-strapped sandals, your feet will have an interesting-looking tan.

DO NOT poke at a spider nest (it will get angry).

DO be prepared for using the bathroom a lot. Beans and rice are enemies of the toilet.

DO NOT be a sugar-addict, you will be disappointed.

DO hold onto your snacks for dear life when at the beach.

DO NOT be fooled by the size of a wave from afar (it is bigger than you think).

DO NOT put yourself in a position to be squished in a white-water raft.

DO try and make friends because it makes the trip so much more enjoyable.

DO have fun and live life to the fullest. No amount of killer ants and salty ocean water can stop you from living your best life!



I am a college student interested in Human Biology and Creative Writing. In my free time, I love writing poetry and I cover topics such as mental health, racism, global, and social justice issues! Being a writer for her campus inspires me to keep writing!
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