SSoP Podcast Episode 26 — Costa Rica: Cloud Forests, Coffee, and Capuchin Monkeys

SSoP Podcast Episode 26 — Costa Rica: Cloud Forests, Coffee, and Capuchin Monkeys

Monday, 16 August, 2021

Located in Central America — with coasts on both the Pacific and the Caribbean — Costa Rica just might be the quintessential tropical country.

This small country packs a lot of awesome inside its borders with white-sand beaches, verdant rain forests, active volcanoes, and all the cutest (and most colorful and rarest) animals. Plus, the friendly locals — known as Ticos and Ticas — are more than willing to introduce you to the pura vida.

Although it was a Spanish colony for about 200 years, Costa Rica seems to have escaped the worst of colonialism and kept the best. The capital city of San Jose blends European-style architecture (don’t miss the National Theater) with more traditional landmarks like the vibrant Mercado Central, THE place to enjoy fried plantains, the ubiquitous hot sauce Salsa Lizano, or a cup of rich Costa Rican coffee.

About 25% of the country is protected in National Parks, and that’s made Costa Rica the most popular destination for ecotourism. You’ve got your choice of hiking in the cloud forest, watching sea turtles hatch on the beach, visiting monkeys and sloths in nature reserves, ziplining in the jungle canopy, and so many more outdoor adventures.

In this episode, we discuss Costa Rican history, its unique wildlife — including a very unusual crocodile — and delicious cuisine. Then we recommend five books we love that took us there, including a must-have coffee table book, a surprising family memoir, two action-adventure novels with wildly different approaches to nature, and a magical short story collection.


Read the full transcript of Episode 26: Costa Rica.

Jurassic Park

buy | read review

National Parks of Costa Rica

buy | read review

Costa Rica

buy | read review

Wide-Open World

buy | read review

Operation Tropical Affair

buy | read review

other books we mentioned


other cool stuff we talked about

purple, orange, and black halloween crab on the beach

  • Ticos and Ticas explain the meaning of pura vida:
  • Enjoy Costa Rican street music as you read on…
  • For more on Spanish colonialism, listen to our previous episodes about Mexico, Cuba, and Peru.

  • 11 animals to look out for in Costa Rica.

  • Golden Carpenter Ants are so shiny! And they’re about 1/2 inch long. They make their home in colonies in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Using their powerful serrated jaws, they dig nests in dead trees or soft-wood living trees, building room and tunnels to store food and raise larvae. Those jaws can also be used as weapons, and that shiny gold abdomen? It’s packed with poison that can be sprayed over a bite to cause ‘extra pain and damage to the enemy.’ ANT ENEMIES! Read more here. (Also, did you know there’s an AntWiki?!)

a shiny gold carpenter ant on a log
Golden Carpenter Ant (Camponotus sericeiventris).

two truths and a lie

Here’s more detail on the stuff David talked about in Two Truths and a Lie.

  • Cabuya Island Cemetery. As Atlas Obscura explains so eloquently: ‘There is a small island in the Gulf of Nicoya where the only human inhabitants are dead.’
small island in costa rica
Cabuya Island Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Taradsf/Wikipedia.
capuchin monkey in a tree
Capuchin monkey at Cabo Blanco.
  • John Marshall, the author of Wide-Open World, delivered a TEDx talk on how to volunteer around the world. There’s more info on his website, too.
  • This piece in The Guardian illustrates it doesn’t always have to only be about the money. ‘Chasing economic growth gains us nothing but global warming. We should follow the lead of tiny Costa Rica, where life expectancy is soaring.’

  • We talked about how New Zealand values nature, too, in our New Zealand episode.

  • Kimberli A. Bindschatel is the author of the Poppy McVie series, including Operation Tropical Affair. Visit her website to learn more about her outdoor adventures and details about her For The Animals social network.



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Costa Rican meals are usually a rainbow of fruits and veggies with rice and black beans making an appearance on almost every plate. This comfort food is gussied up with the ubiquitous elixir known as Salsa Lizano.
Brilliant green birds and sweet-faced sloths. Turquoise blue water and treetop hotels. Fried plantains and ceviche. The photos on these Instagram accounts are everything you need to fully understand the pura vida.
Bright lime juice, fresh fish, and a surprising secret ingredient combine in this simple recipe that will instantly transport you to a beach in Costa Rica. Fresh and flavorful, it's a tropical vacation in a bowl.
This weekend, we recommend a getaway to the lush landscape of Costa Rica: glorious sunshine, azure-blue water, and dazzling foliage. Pay no attention to the many ravenous, angry dinosaurs roaming the jungle.
Our perfect Costa Rica day begins with coffee and fried plantains, followed by a hike in the cloud forest on a quest to see the elusive Quetzal. Then, perhaps, a rest under a palm tree on the beach with a good book.

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