We left Costa Rica almost a month ago. I’ve had lots of time to ponder the question that I get asked quite often, “What was your favorite part of Costa Rica?” Before I answer that, let me explain that we were all over Costa Rica. In 30 days, we slept in 13 different beds. Led by the staff of Broadreach, we criss crossed the country, staying on the boarder of Nicaragua one day only to hop on a bus and travel south to the boarder of Panama, a location so remote (Punta Mona) one can only get there by a skiff boat, or hiking three miles through the jungle. We stayed at different Biological Research Stations, each one highlighting it’s unique area of study: monkey identification and behavior, birds, plants, insects and frogs, rivers and streams and dolphin identification.
Of all the places we stayed, my favorite experience was living in Orosi for a week. This is where I feel like my kids and I truly “lived” Costa Rica. If you want to experience the culture and language of Costa Rica, you have to be intentional – you have to seek out or plan for it. The best way to do this is with the help of a program that facilitates authentic Costa Rican Cultural Experiences. Whether you are traveling with a group, as a family or are single, Montaña Linda Spanish School offers the perfect Costa Rican experience: language classes, home stays to practice your Spanish and live the Costa Rican lifestyle, volunteer opportunities, local tours, trips and activities.
One of our first stops on our month-long journey was in Orosi where Montaña Linda is located. Orosi is a quaint Costa Rican town of only 13,000 people. It is located only 1.5 hours from San Jose, nestled in a mountain valley surrounded by coffee farms. Montana Linda is a family run business that has been in Orosi for 17 years. They are a big part of the Orosi community. Sarah, Toine and their son Thomas run the youth hostel, a small hotel, as well as the Spanish School. Between the three of them, Montana Linda is a well oiled machine.
Because the kids and I were traveling with the Think Global School students on our journey through Costa Rica, my viewpoint comes from the experience Montana Linda organized and provided us a large group. The students were divided into pairs to live with their host families. I thought our family (1 parent and 3 kids) was going to be too large for a Tico family to host us. I was so happy to find out that Sarah found a family that could accommodate us. She actually loaned our host family a bunk bed for their spare apartment so that the four of us could share a room. Wow! I was elated to say the least. I really wanted the kids and I to not only learn and practice our Spanish with them, but to come home to a Tico family, enjoy meals with them and experience their daily routine. Thanks Sarah!
In the short amount of time we had in Orosi (just one week) Sarah and Toine scheduled a variety of activities for our group. On one cold and rainy day, we visited a local organic coffee farm, Cafe Christina. Here we learned everything there is to know about coffe farms, beans, and the entire process from growing to shipping the final product.
Climbing above the clouds in our little tourist bus, we went to the top of the Irazu Volcano where Toine taught us about the formation of Costa Rica’s volcanoes. He is so knowledgeable and can answer just about any question!
We visited the Guayabo National Monument, Costa Rica’s ancient civilization. Only 20% of the ruins have been uncovered. Imagine, 80% more is covered in the surrounding rain forest just waiting to be discovered.
We hiked up a river just outside of town to visit a local man named Nano. He lives alone in his humble home on the side of the mountain where he grows and sells his own coffee beans. He loves visitors!
On the way down the mountain we stopped to take in the view of Orosi from an old abandoned house.
For three days, we volunteered at a local Foster Care home for Costa Rican children, babies to 8 years old. Of course this would not have been possible without the help of Sarah and Toine. They have had an ongoing relationship with Hogar De Niños Baik for the past year. This was an eye opening experience for the kids and me. We helped with projects around the grounds, mainly having to do with the gardens. We also had the opportunity to play with the children. In my previous post, “What does Pura Vida mean?” you can read about my reaction there.
We had two friendly gatherings with our local friends and families. One night was an awesome football tournament at the indoor football stadium. Football is a game that unites everyone! Edit
On our last night in Orosi we had a fantastic party to thank our host families for their hospitality. Sarah and one of the host family members gave us dance lessons that we have all carried on with us. Now we can all Salsa!
Thanks Sarah, Toine and Thomas for making our stay in Orosi one we will never forget. Your dedication and commitment to the town of Orosi is so evident. Montana Linda is truly an integral part of the Orosi Community and it shows!