We decided to take the public bus into the city of Santa Cruz yesterday. Our trip was a bargain. We got a ninety minute ride for just about $2 USD. The bus was nice and clean although on the way home it was so full we had to stand most of the way. Our drive to Santa Cruz was a good chance to view the scenery of Costa Rica and also to pass through some interesting towns. Dave noticed that every community no matter how small had a soccer pitch with lights. The highway was nicely paved and there was even a separate paved pathway for bikes along some of it.My brother who has traveled a fair bit in Central America couldn’t believe how clean Santa Cruz was compared to cities in Mexico or Guatemala. Santa Cruz had almost no litter or garbage. There were nice sidewalks everywhere and paved streets and traffic moved in an orderly fashion. A friendly police presence was evident. Houses were clean and painted and there were many modern businesses. We went into a pharmacy to buy some toiletries and sunscreen which were selling for cheaper prices than in Tamarindo, the town on the ocean where we are staying. If we hadn’t had a ninety minute ride home in a unairconditioned bus ahead of us we definitely would have bought some meat and cheese at this local stand which featured prices that were less than half of what we pay in Tamarindo. There are these litter disposal units all over Santa Cruz where you can deposit different kinds of garbage in different containers for recycling. No wonder the city was so clean!In a small bakery we saw this poster featuring all the unique kinds of houses in Santa Cruz today that were built in different decades. The main church in Santa Cruz was destroyed in an earthquake in 1950 and this clock tower is all that remains. We went inside the new church built to take the place of the one that was destroyed. We spent quite a bit of time in a park in the center of town. While Dave relaxed and Ken looked for a place for us to eat in his Lonely Planet guide-book I went all around the park photographing the various statues to help me learn more about the history of Costa Rica. I will blog about that in a future post. We found a bright clean little restaurant where we had…..an arroz con pollo dish complete with rice, beans, chicken, salad and fried plantains. We decided to have smoothies for dessert and went to this stand where the woman cut up a blender full of fresh fruit for each smoothie before mixing it with ice cubes and a little milk. I had mango and banana and it was fantastic!Then we said farewell to Santa Cruz and made our way to the municipal bus station to catch our ride back to Tamarindo. It was nice to see how ordinary Costa Ricans go about their daily lives in Santa Cruz. We only saw a handful of other North American tourists during our visit. Perhaps one reason there is money for the infrastructure that makes Costa Rica’s cities clean, sanitary and safe is because the country has had no army since 1948. Money that would have been spent on the military has been put into health care, education and environmental protection. That’s also probably why there is such a high literacy rate in Costa Rica and life expectancy is the same as in North America.