Becoming Location Independent: Costa Rica Highlights

By staff writer Lisa Carter. Photos Copyright © Jon Lee.

WHEN JON AND I told friends and family we were coming to Costa Rica for three months, it was incredible how many people had been here—or knew someone who had. Statistics show that approximately 2 million visitors come to this tiny country every year.

Without exception, every person we spoke to raved about their visit here. Having now experienced some of what this country has to offer, it’s clear why. Here’s a photo journal of what Jon and I consider to be the highlights thus far: wildlife, food, and scenery.

Natural Wonders

Costa Rica is known for its pristine nature and wildlife. A full one-quarter of the country’s territory has been set aside as national parks.

Blue Morpho butterflies

Blue Morpho butterflies

Blue Morpho butterflies have the perfect brown camouflage and scary eye when their wings are closed. The Morphos and the little guy are all feeding on fresh fruit. The sugars make them a bit drunk so they sit nice and still for a photo.

Capuchin monkeys

Capuchin monkeys

A family of Capuchin monkeys skittered through the trees, just off the trail, as we strolled through Manuel Antonio National Park. They are one of four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica.

Mama and baby were separated from the group and grew a bit anxious. Mama finally took a chance, scampering right past our feet to rejoin the others.


A sloth gathering moss

Sloths have got to be the most incredible creatures. Ever. That green tinge to his fur is actually moss growing on his coarse hair. We watched several make their way, ever so slowly, from branch to branch. Later in the day, however, it’s siesta time.


What a specimen! What a pose!

Around 38 out of 600 species of iguana inhabit Costa Rica. Big and small, colorful and drab, you see one kind or another everywhere you look.

Bark scorpion

Bark scorpion

This little bark scorpion fell out of a lawn chair Jon was unfolding. They're reputed to be one of the 30 to 50 types of scorpion with enough poison to kill a person. Yikes! Some of the creatures here in Costa Rica are not so cuddly.


There is no better introduction to a country and its people than its food. We’ve found new delights and come across a few old favorites.

Gallo Pinto

Gallo pinto

Gallo pinto is the traditional Tico breakfast: leftover rice and black beans with cilantro, tomato and sweet pepper. Served always with fried plantains and tortillas, you can choose to have eggs, fried cheese or meat on the side. (Fresh, fried cheese = yum!) Served with black Costa Rican coffee, of course. Divine.



Casado is the national lunch dish based around rice and beans, fried plantain and salad. What varies is the accompanying meat. This day it was served with grilled chicken, a fried egg and the most delicious little dollop of stewed beef and squash.



Cas is a type of guava commonly referred to as the Costa Rica guava. In nearly every restaurant you will find it used to make a “refresco natural” or fresh fruit drink. Tart and tingly, it’s an incredibly refreshing beverage.

Lisa eating Cas

Lisa experiences Cas

Cas can also be eaten as a fruit, when sprinkled with salt. Yes, salt. Weird, I know. It's an odd little fruit. And, as you can see, I found it just a wee bit sour.

Lime tree and

Lime tree and limes

This prolific little lime tree behind our house in Atenas was an unexpected bonus. It produced more than Hisano could use every day, so we were told to help ourselves. That we did.

Unlike the Mexican limes we usually see in North America, the flavor of these is brighter, cleaner. I believe it’s akin to a Key lime, but know them best as Peruvian limes. We made good use of them in lemonade, fresh fish ceviche and garlic chicken.

Land and Sea

The scenery in this country is nothing short of spectacular. The profusion of blues and greens at once awakens and soothes.

The countryside around Atenas, Costa Rica

The countryside around Atenas

The countryside around Atenas is all rolling hills and valleys. Costa Rica is such a narrow isthmus that from some spots you can see the Pacific to the west and the Caribbean to the east.

Special tree

A tree worth stopping for

Jon and I sped by this magnificent tree on our way down the coast to Quepos, lamenting the missed photo opportunity. It merited a screeching halt on the side of the road on our way back north to capture such simple beauty.

Palm orchard

Palm plantation

Miles and miles of palm plantations line both sides of the Panamerican Highway leading to Quepos on the southwest coast. Once harvested for cooking oil, these palms are now being used to create bio-fuels.

Manual Antonio Beach

Manual Antonio Beach

White sand. Clear blue water. The absolute perfect beach. This one falls within Manuel Antonio National Park. One of the most-visited parks in all of Costa Rica, its 683 hectares are mostly wild with only a few walking trails.

Costa Rica's Pacific coastline

Costa Rica's Pacific coastline

Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline consists of one horseshoe-shaped bay after another against a backdrop of green. Here, we’re looking down from on high toward Playa Hermosa, a beach worthy of it’s “beautiful” moniker.

Coco Beach

Lava rock tide pools

Lava rock tide pools lay at the south end of the mile-long Playas del Coco beach. They’re perfect for exploring and at low tide you can slip around the end to a pristine, private cove.

Jon and Lisa

Jon and I on the north Pacific coast, ever so happy to be here.


See Lisa’s index of articles for more of her “Becoming Location Independent” series

Lisa Carter of Intralingo

Lisa Carter


LISA CARTER is a literary translator and writer with a passion for travel. She and her partner, Jon, live in Ottawa, Canada – at least for now. They are currently experimenting with being digital nomads based out of Atenas, Costa Rica. You can find Lisa on her professional website, her personal food blog and on Twitter @intralingo.



  1. Not having ever been counted among any of the two million visitors each year, your photo journal left me saying, debemos ir ahi!

    • Pat — Pues, venga! I’m sure you would love it here. Gorgeous, gorgeous country. Now if only I could leave my desk and see more of it. 😉 Thanks for your comment. See you in November.

  2. Wow. Great article / photos. The Costa Rica Tourism and Travel Bureau should give you a commission. Just so you know, it has not snowed in Calgary yet.

    • Naomi — Thanks! 😉 So glad you came by. Seems all of Canada is having a summer-like fall. My fingers are crossed that it lasts well into December. Leaving this to come home to snow will not make me particularly happy… as I’m sure you can imagine.

    • Yah they’re really nice. Hope to visit this place!

  3. My list of places to visit has grown by one 🙂
    Lovely post Lisa and great photos as usual.

  4. Wow – your pictures are terrific! I really feel like I’ve taken a cyber tour…Thanks SO much! I love it all ….except for the scorpions!

    • Ann — Glad you enjoyed the tour! Tips can be left in the jar at the front of the bus. 😉 Seriously, though, there’s great beauty here so it’s not hard to find a good pic.

  5. Beautiful pictures. Your post made me want to go back to Costa Rica now!, but then the scorpion made me falter a little. 😛 And I love the ones of you trying the cas.

    • Katherine — Glad the pictures tempted you to come back! I so debated about including the one of me trying cas. Maybe not the most flattering of photos, but… good for a laugh. And laughs are important. 😉

  6. WOW!!! Gorgeous pictures. Even the scorpion, though I like that better from here. The rest I’d love to see in person. You two look so happy.

    I just love when you post. xo

    • j – Thanks! I so love sharing these posts and our experience with people, so I’m glad you like reading them. 😉 The scorpion is very cool, even if I’d rather only ever see it in a photo, too. But Jon has a propensity for finding them in every tropical country we visit…

  7. What a Paradise! All the pictures are amazing!
    I love the articles you are writing and cant wait for the next.

    I want to get there someday, but we think we have decided to go to Ireland for our 40th in 2013; So Costa Rica will have to stay on my bucket list a bit longer.
    I think the scorpion would worry me a bit. I didn’t know they had them there.
    I am loving living in Costa Rica through you until I can make it there myself…So keep the articles coming!

    • Betsy — “Paradise” is *exactly* the right word for what Costa Rica looks like. Sounds like you have a great trip planned for your 40th anniversary but I encourage you to keep CR on your bucket list. I’ll try to keep you primed with a few more articles. 😉

  8. Ah, for a few moments you’ve taken me away from my desk in Canada and transplanted me to the beautiful, vivid beaches of Costa Rica. Thank you for this relaxing yet brief adventure, Lisa!

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