Updated: May 5, 2020
Without a doubt, Costa Rica is in my top 5 locations ever visited. The people, the food, the nature. All of it was simply amazing. For all my college students, make sure to take advantage of your Study Abroad opportunities. You're able to get class credit (and the course work is usually a lot easier shhhh), you get to take a trip, it's likely you will spend less than if you booked it on your own and its always jam packed of activities and sight seeing so you get the most out of your trip. Overall Study Abroad is a win win.
I spent a jam packed week in Costa Rica spending the beginning of my week at the University of Georgia's Costa Rican Ecolodge Campus, one night at the home of a local and the remainder of my trip at the Villas Playa Samara Beach Front All Inclusive Resort.
University of Georgia's Costa Rican Ecolodge
Being on this campus is like being at the nicest summer camp you can think of. The grass is so green it looks fake and your captivated by beautiful nature in every direction you look. Most of the staff is local so needless to say every meal was authentic and extremely delicious. We were able to go on hiking tours around the campus and also did one at night to observe animals in their natural habitat. A ton of the tourism in Costa Rica is Ecotourism, which I never knew about until this trip. Each cabin also took turns waking up early to go milk the cows and see some of the farm animals and you'd be surprised how much fun that is after you get over your morning grogginess. The only thing to be mindful of is that their sewage system is not as advance as ours in America so you can not flush the toilet paper there. Instead, there is a small trashcan in each bathroom and that is where you place it. I know you're imagining all sorts of smells right now but I promise is not bad. Cleaning staff is there and they collect the trash often so there is no odor build up. Overall our time at this campus was great. One night I even coordinated for taxis to come take us into town to go dancing. The ride was about 20 minutes and the taxi rates are very reasonable. The club/bar scene is not all that different from the American scene except maybe when dogs wonder onto the dance floor but they might even be better dancers than you. That's another random fact, there are a ton of stray dogs in Costa Rica and I'm not quite sure why but they are not aggressive at all. For the most part they mind their business. Unless of course they're trying to get down on the dance floor.
One night at the home of a local
This was actually one of my favorite days of the whole trip. The humbling experience you have staying with a local family is like no other. The mother spoke very little English but definitely tried her best. Luckily, I do know some Spanish and whatever we couldn't figure out we put into Google Translate. From the moment I walked in she was so warm and welcoming and wanted to feed me (which I was more than okay with). The father worked in construction and actually built their home. His English was better and we had great conversation as a family when he came home as well as their daughter. Their daughter was in high school and spoke English very well. After dinner we actually took a walk, talked and gazed at the stars which seemed to shine brighter than I had ever seen them. I wish we had been able to stay an extra night there. By the time my classmate and I got up in the morning the whole family had gone about their busy day but our house mom left us a huge, tasty plate to eat for breakfast, a sweet note and directions on how to lock up the house. In their home they had one TV and all the appliances you would see in our kitchens here, just not as updated. In the bathroom the plumbing and wood was visible but they did have hot water. Remember, like I said they literally built their home and as their family grew, the home expanded. If was truly an honor to stay with them and I cherish that visit.
Villas Playa Samara Beach Front All Inclusive Resort
Now this is probably what you want to hear about. This was my first experience at an all-inclusive and boy was it a good one. Our villa was exceptional. Each one is fully equipt with a kitchen, living room and a bathroom accompanying each room. I stayed in the master and their is a patio just off the bedroom keeping you only steps away from the pool (with a swim-up bar) and the private beach. You are given a room key and a towel key. Whatever you do, DO NOT lose your towel key. There is a ridiculous fee for it if you misplace it. Like many other resorts there's levels to the inclusivity. The most fascinating thing to me was the amount of iguanas that were around the resort. They don't bother you but many definitely wonder around the resort. The city is not far and a shuttle into town is only about $6 with a driver from the resort. Once you're there, you're still by the beach but also a ton of restaurants, clubs, bars and stores.