Keeping Fit and Making Friends in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone

In the U.S., I had my daily routine. After work, I would head over to the fitness club to take a class or drop by the local yoga studio to balance out my cardio workouts. My friends in the fitness community were some of the closest I had and I was worried if I would be able to find the same opportunity to stay fit and find a community abroad.

Now, seven years later, it is safe to say that all expectations have been long surpassed in Costa Rica. Just like in the U.S., some of my best friends are those that I exercise with and with whom I have formed community bonds.

Upon arriving in Dominical, a laidback beach town on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, I was surprised and delighted at how many opportunities popped up to get outside and keep active no matter what the sport.

I ventured out on my surfboard within 48 hours of arriving in country. I was happy to find friendly locals—ticos (Costa Ricans) and expats alike. Soon, I was getting messages on my phone asking what time I was paddling out, and instead of strangers in the water, I was looking around and seeing friends.

Now with my buddies, our morning surf sessions are often followed by a breakfast of eggs, bacon, yuca patties (a starchy root vegetable, similar to a potato), fresh fruit, and coffee, all for just $7 at our favorite local restaurant, or maybe an ice-cold Imperial beer for $2 after an afternoon session.

After a surf session at a neighboring beach, I started talking to one of the local lifeguards and he invited me to a free training session with the lifeguards every Wednesday morning at Dominical beach. The training sessions are open to anyone and I started showing up, thrilled to find a very motivated group of athletes that are encouraging and make getting in shape fun.

In the U.S., whenever I trained with the guys, I would often get dropped on a run or bike ride and never see them again. The “pura vida” spirit is a welcome change to that attitude. Here, everyone works to their ability level, the guys are always checking in to make sure everyone is feeling good, and everyone cheers you in as you finish up the group run or swim session.

If the gym is more your style, in our tiny community of just over 1,000 people, we have two options. Class options include Spinning, Muay Thai Boxing, and Circuit training. Classes are only $5 to $9 each and a private session with a personal trainer comes in at $17.50. There are discounts for purchasing a month pass.

There is also a strong yoga community and a variety of teachers practice many forms of yoga. Living in such a beautiful country ensures most of the yoga decks offer either a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean, or the calming sounds of the jungle. At my last class, while holding triangle pose, a toucan flew by as I peeked out of the corner of my eye.

Costa Rica is a fitness lover’s heaven. With so many options, you’ll soon find yourself in the best shape of your life and it’s a great way to get into the community and make new friends. Just find the times of a class or activity, show up, and you’re on your way.

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