GEV's Guide to Costa Rica and 18 Things To Know Before You Go
Recently, I've had a lot of questions about Costa Rica. It's become an increasingly more popular destination for travelers. It's cheap to get there and it's got everything you might want in a vacation spot. There's beautiful beaches, hiking, nature, hot springs surfing, white water rafting. You can stay in a resort or in the middle of the rain forest. Literally, a one stop shop. So, I thought it would be helpful to put my experiences in the blog. I'll start off with a summary of my itinerary from when I traveled there in 2011:
We booked the Extreme Adrenaline 8 days/7 nights package with Amazalia Travel. With this package we got transportation from the hotel in San Jose to the Hotel Casa Luna Lodge in La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano, a white water rafting tour on the Pacuare River, zip lining, transfer to Manuel Antonio and hotels in the three different locations and transport between all(which included breakfast). We also had roundtrip airport transfers included. Oh...and this package included flights as well. In 2011, all this stuff I just mentioned was $1,225.00 per person.
In addition to all the stuff that came with our package, we did a guided hike up to the Arenal Volcano, went to the Baldi hot springs, hiked thru Manuel Antonio National Park and went horse back riding through a ranch, which was kinda of scary, but we saw how pineapples grow out of the ground and then they picked some and chopped them up for us to have later on. Pretty much everything we did was on the Pacific side of the country. When I go back in September, I hope to experience the Caribbean side. Please and thank you.
Anyway, here are some things you should know before going to Costa Rica:
- You need bug spray. Mosquito repellent. Deet. Off. Whatever. This was true in 2011 and its especially true now b/c of Zika.
- It was May when I went and hot as all get out. Don't forget to bring sunscreen. The sun is really brutal b/c CR is closer to the equator.
- Don't feed the monkeys. Keep in mind that the country is one big rain forest. Monkeys and other animals roam freely. We're guests in their home and they will approach you. Costa Ricans take nature and the environment very seriously, hence the phrase Pura Vida. So, we were told that feeding the monkeys is bad because they'll get used to getting their food from humans and that raises the chances of unpleasant monkey/human encounters. And we don't want that.
- Don't forget that there's an exit visa requirement. You will be charged $26 to leave the country. It's not expensive but can hit you if you're running low on funds at the end of your trip.
- Plan well. Everything is far from everything else in Costa Rica. You don't want to be the guy that forgot your swimsuit or hiking boots at the hotel and now you either have to go back and get it or sit out of the excursion.
- Costa Rica is rural. So don't forget that when you're ranting about needing a iced caramel macchiato in the morning.
- Decide if you want to tour the Caribbean side v. the Pacific side before you get there. They are two very different experiences. You can do both, you just need to plan accordingly.
- The weather can change quickly. One night we thought we were in the middle of a hurricane but the next morning the sun was shining and birds were chirping. Come prepared. We're going in the rainy season so I will be packing a poncho.
- Use Spanish if you can, the people will be more willing to help you and just nicer in general. I think that's a good rule of thumb in any country you visit.
- I would not advise you to rent a car and drive anywhere. There are barely any street signs and the roads are horrible. The locals drive however the heck they want to....so, nah. ALSO, you can legally drink (but not be intoxicated) and drive in CR. How many people do you think walk that fine line daily? So....there's that. Also, everything is way farther than you think it is. It takes 4 hours to get anywhere. No lie.
- Costa Rica can be expensive....maybe not getting to the country but when you get there it definitely is, tourism has been picking up and the country relies heavily on it, so just keep that in mind when you're planning or budgeting.
- I'm not sure about the safety of the water....when in doubt, go bottled.
- Unless you're in a hotel or something, you may have to throw toilet paper in the trash can and not in the bowl....
- USD are widely accepted but I would suggest getting a few colones just in case. There are ATMs
- Try not to shop in places where items don't have the prices marked or are marked only in dollars. They'll hike the price up and you'll get got.
- Costa Rica is a rainforest. There will be bugs, animals, sounds and other things you aren't used to. Don't freak out...just embrace it.
- You will be doing outdoorsy things. Just try it. I promise you'll like it. Zipline, white water raft, hike....something like that.
- You really don't need to bring heels or anything too fancy. It's hot. You'll be sweaty and you can use the extra space in your suitcase.
Alright....that's all I can think of for now but I think that will be VERY helpful for anyone who is traveling to Costa Rica in the future. Please feel free to add anything I've forgotten in the comments!
Onward! There's no where go to but everywhere!