First Day in… Atenas, Costa Rica

by Susan Whitehead / Aug 18, 2011 / 0 comments

The scent of diesel fuel isn't as strong as it was in the early 1990's and the roads have guardrails now!  Being in Costa Rica almost 20 years after my last trip filled me with excitement and anticipation over the new life our family would lead for the next several months.  The drive to our destination, the quaint pueblo of Atenas, was short (only 24 km), but full of hairpin turns that make you wish you'd taken something for motion sickness.   Alberto, our taxi driver, was cautious on the roads, something we were most grateful for.

The streets in Atenas were crowded with cars and people everywhere, running errands and shopping on a hot, sticky Sunday afternoon.   Our first stop, even before setting eyes on what would be our rental home, was the grocery store that locals call pronounce “co-pay”.

As a mom, my instincts were to find something everyone would eat for snacks, dinner and breakfast the next day...and not pay too much for any of it.  Somehow I managed to get tortillas, lunch meat, spaghetti and sauce (in a packet, not a jar) and some chocolate filled cookies that all the kids enjoyed.  We even picked up pancake batter and syrup, a nice surprise.

Checkout was a blur, trying to see through the sweat dripping from my brow, but we made it out with several bags and were set for the next 24 hours or so.  I don't know if I'd say it was culture shock, but it certainly was grocery shopping shock! 

As we rode to our rental, we passed by the town center where a lively festival was taking place.  There were food and other vendors, as well as a brightly colored bounce house for the kids.  As different as the surroundings were, it was comforting seeing something similar to what we were accustomed to in the US.  We also passed by a large field with a casual soccer game being played by boys of all ages.

When we made it to our home, the realization that air conditioning wasn't included was less than pleasant, but we made do.  All of us were red-faced and the tiny ceiling fans and open windows did little to cool us down.  By evening, the crisp mountain breezes cooled  us off and we enjoyed a simple meal in our little casita.

In the past week, we've added 2 oscillating fans, learned that mid-day showers really help to cool us off, and enjoyed cooler weather.  Our quaint, but adequate rental home is just what we were looking for.  We have what we need and even a few luxuries, like great internet, access to a pool and, our daughters' favorite perk, horses that like to graze in the field in front of our home.  After a rough first day, we've started figuring out Atenas and are enjoying la Pura Vida.



Atenas, Costa Rica - Susan Whitehead




With 5 kids in tow, Susan Whitehead and her husband, Michael, recently moved to Costa Rica after selling almost everything to follow a dream to immerse themselves in a different culture.  When they're not exploring the local culture, Susan enjoys encouraging other homeschooling moms to dream big, as well as posting her musings on their family travel blog,