It is said that Christopher Columbus named Costa Rica based on his belief that it was a “Rich Coast” from his time and experiences with the land and the people upon anchoring here back in the early 1500’s. The visual, sensual, and interpersonal stimulation that he enjoyed during his time in this amazing country had clearly left a glowing mark on the veteran explorer. Although Columbus never discovered or obtained the abundance of gold and riches that he originally expected to extract from these hills (it didn’t “pan out” as well as Christopher may have liked it to, pun intended), he was certainly on to something special. According to Legend, the locations of the most abundant and profitable gold mines were never revealed to the foreigners by the Old Time Shamans. The Osa Peninsula is rumored to be loaded with gold and there is also a Gold Museum in the capital city of San Jose, so evidence points to the existence of at least a spattering of Leprechaun Pots at the end of Costa Rican Rainbows. In fact, there’s even an abandoned gold mine at the heart of the rural San Ramon de Alajuela neighborhood that my family and I lived in for more than five years when we first moved to Costa Rica. It is still unknown whether this particular gold mine closed because all of the value had been sucked from it already, like the last delicious straw slurp of a golden pineapple smoothie, or if rather the main vein had never been found and the mission was temporarily aborted… No matter how you slice it though, Costa Rica can legitimately be called a Rich Coast for many qualities other than Gold. Let’s stick with precious metals and stones for a moment. El Empalme, the neighborhood in San Ramón de Alajuela where our magical ocean-view mountain home lies, is Chock Full O’ Tropical Bling. The Hills Are Alive with The Sound of Music (singing birds) as well alive with the sights of shining, sparkling objects 💎. When I’d hike with my adventurous daughter and our pack of loyal canines, especially after a very hard rainfall, we would literally pluck chunks of Quartz Crystals out of the mountainside. My pockets were often stuffed to the point of bursting at the seams after one of our “Crystal Walks”, and I’d have to start overlooking smaller scores to save room for the clearest, most colorful finds- like a fisherman throwing back the smallest catches. I’ve always had pretty amazing powers of observation and an uncanny ability to find valuables that are Floating Around the Universe, which then cross my path, and are essentially Up For Grabs. This skill set has undoubtedly passed through into my seven-year-old daughter’s eyes and mind through shared DNA, because she has proven to be quite the archaeological phenom (in addition to countless other blessings and gifts). Violetta is tireless, determined, passionate, and is a natural born explorer. With Our Four Eagle Eyes On Task, very little “Slips Past The Goalie”. My daughter has always been energetically drawn towards special stones, shiny gems, skulls & bones, fossils, etc. and the fevered hunt of discovery in finding them. I’ll be the first to admit that I made a mistake by unleashing the “Jurassic Park” film series (filmed in Costa Rica, by the way) on V waaaaaaay too soon, but she had literally begged me to watch it with her. She loves dinosaurs so much that I made a foolhardy, albeit well intentioned, leap from the cozy comforts and the slow roll of “Barney” and “The Land Before Time” to the intensely terrifying and convincingly REAL gore and guts splattered all of over our living-room by the likes of T-Rex and Velociraptors… Violetta was perhaps two and a half years old… Live and learn every day, folks! These days my daughter is well past her nightmares of Sharp-Tooth In The Cinematic Flesh (We recently went to the movie theater to watch the latest installment of “Jurassic World” together, and V is altogether unfazed) and she’s a truly solid exploration companion. Think Dora meets Indiana Jones meets Tomb Raider. She’s a tough little nugget and we would dig up droves of these precious, magical stones on an almost daily basis. From a metaphysical perspective, the quartz crystal embodies all five of nature’s elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Aether. Crystals grow deep in the ground yet allow light to pass through. Heat and liquid shape and harden these stones into brilliant crystalline constellations over the years, and many believe that these powerful gemstones are ideal for healing, the grounding and refreshment of energies and chakras, the enjoyment of lucid dreams, meditation, and the enhancement of psychic abilities and experiences associated with the Opening Of The Third Eye. My wife is a yoga instructor, so I’m privvy to the Third Eye concept, but for those of you who may not be, here’s my estimation of it: My definition of the “Third Eye” is that it’s the source of wisdom and potential energy which each person has, and the idea is that this geyser of human potential and capacity for viewing the world with maximum benevolence is centralized behind the forehead. The Third Eye can be tapped or opened through many methods, although deep meditation and a consistent flow of positive energy seem to light a blazing path to this type of enlightenment. Perhaps by the time we’re through, Violetta and I will have so many of these magical crystals that we’ll be using six eyes instead of four 😉 Another priceless benefit derived from these long hikes in the hills is the vast amount of high quality fresh air we breathe in, courtesy of Mother Nature and the power of ancient trees. In Costa Rica, the protection of primary rainforests is taken very seriously. Approximatelty 25% of the country’s land has been set aside as nationally protected nature reserves, national parks, and designated safe zones. The rich oxygen produced by these rainforests and ancient trees is passed on and paid forward to all inhabitants of Costa Rica. Another gift from Mother Nature to Costa Rica is the steaming, bubbly embrace of thermal springs and the detoxifying qualities derived from volcanic mud baths. The thermal springs are all-natural, mineral-rich, and infinitely relaxing. Calgon couldn’t take me away into bliss nearly as deeply as these clear liquid lava pools do. Truly remarkable the affect a soak at one of these amazing Hot Spots has on the human body. They steam stress and tension out and up towards the heavens. Bathing in volcanic mud is a messier endeavor, but volcanic clay is known to suck impurities out of human skin and to tighten pores over time, which makes it more difficult for toxins to enter. Volcanoes are fairly abundant here in paradise, so your “au natural” spa treatment is right around any one of several winding mountain roads. Last but certainly not least, the riches bestowed on us from The Ocean, The Sand, and The Sun are of paramount importance. Beach sand is warm and walking on it barefoot drains the positive ions out of your body through the feet, while absorbing beneficial negative ions into the body. This phenomenon is called “Earthing”. A person is truly “grounding out” the electrical charges that have built up their body when they “Earth”. The ocean needs no introduction, but the salt water cleanses and heals the body while you swim away your stress and leave your worries behind. The Sun provides human beings with a daily cache of Vitamin D, which is essential for the enjoyment of optimal moods and overall happiness. Seasonal Affective Disorder is REAL, you better believe that. Gray skies and a lack of sunshine have been associated with higher rates of depression, and that should come as no surprise. I lived in Buffalo, N.Y. for over fourteen years before moving down to Costa Rica full-time, and I can testify to the difference I felt from the moment we stepped off the airplane at SJO. Don’t get me wrong- I Love New York and Buffalo is very special to me, but being encased in gray skies for most of the year is a recipe for tough sledding for many humans… Sledding leads me to snow, and now I’m sliding away from my point in an avalanche of memories formed from ice and winter madness… The Sun is Our Friend. In Costa Rica, we have the Good Fortune of being able to spend a lot of time with our Blazing Buddy. In Buffalo, he was the equivalent of that cousin you love but only get to see during Summer Vacation. Vitamin D is on tap here like an IV Drip Of Golden Rays Into Your Soul. Columbus was correct in identifying Costa Rica as a rich coast. Riches are determined by the quality of one’s life, not by the digits displayed in one’s bank account.