We have now been about 11 months in the tropics of Costa Rica and it is time to talk about the annoyances of the climate and tropical nature, and how one could deal with them. Mind you, these are annoyances of the tropics as a climate or biome. I am not including the loud music from the neighbors somewhere down the road, for example. Also, it is not about the dangers of the tropics which there are also plenty of. Venomous snakes for example, or walking in the forest when it rains. You have no clue how much branches and trees we have heard falling the past year. Finally, this is only the top four. There are other, less annoying things. For example insects flying in your face when you are doing the dishes at night in the open air kitchen.
Without further ado, here is part one of a series of annoyances of the tropics in order of increasing level of annoyance. There is a bonus number five, which does not exactly fit the rules that I just set out, but it is really annoying the hell out of me.
The heat and humidity
Starting with the heat, to Cristina and me, this is not an annoyance at all. If you do have difficulties with warm weather then parts of the tropics will not be your favorite place to be.
However, there are parts of the tropics that are less warm or even chilly. So, if you want to experience the tropics without the heat, then go there.
Typically, the higher up in the mountains that you are the cooler it will get. The central area of Costa Rica where San José and other big cities is called the central valley, but it is still quite high up, at about a 1000 m. Daytime temperature is about 25˚ Celsius, some periods a bit cooler (down to 21˚C.), some a bit warmer (to 27˚C.). At night considerably cooler. We experienced this cool weather when we were in Cachi [link]. Definitively not for us but there were some expats there that absolutely loved the chilly weather.
At sea level and in the lower hills it is a lot warmer. Daytime temperatures start at 30˚ C. and can move up to 37˚C. At night temperatures go down to about 23˚ C. We consider that chilly or even cold nowadays, but it is of course is quite agreeable.
Most of the tropics are also very humid. This adds a lot to feeling warm and makes sweating less effective to cool down because the sweat does not easily evaporate. At sea level, not only the temperature but also the humidity is higher than in the central valley. However, that doesn’t mean that it can not be humid up in the mountains. The cloud forests around Monteverde are not called cloud forests for no reason. Duh.
1) Get used to it. We got used to the heat and sweated less and less in the course of the eleven months. However, as soon as one starts to do physical exercise, like take a decent walk or rake a path, the sweat will break out.
2) Wear light and loose fitting clothes that don’t absorb the sweat. Linen, polyester and nylon work a lot better in this respect than cotton.
3) Don’t go into the sun. Sounds like silly advice, right? But have a look at the foreign tourists in Puerto Viejo. Much of the tropics is close to the equator so, at noon, the sun is virtually straight up. That means you get a sun burn very quickly. When on the beach, stay in the shadow of the trees.
4) Another no-brainer : drink a lot of water. No kidding. Everyone here walks around with a water bottle. Hydrate and de-hydrate.
5) Find non-humid tropics. There are relatively dry parts of the tropics, such as savanna’s and dry forests. Costa Rica’s North Eastern province of Guanacaste has a lot of it.