A Costa Rican expedition is the perfect opportunity to vacation for those who want to experience adventure, wildlife, volcanoes, rainforests, cloudforests, the beach, and the opportunity to meet both locals and others traveling from near and far. Relative to the countries I’ve been to in Europe, I definitely felt more of a culture shock here. That said, this was one of my favorite places to visit thus far just because of the sheer amount of things to do. I spent 12 days and easily could have spent another month exploring. So what should you know on your travel expedition before going to Costa Rica?
Where to Go:
We covered three cities – Monteverde, Arenal, and Tamarindo and also made a brief stop in the Pajo Alto area to go ziplining at Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo. Monteverde’s main attraction is the cloudforest. Arenal’s main attractions include the rainforest, hot springs, and the Arenal volcano. Both Monteverde and Arenal are known for their hanging bridges, ziplining, and other activities such as horseback riding, water rapelling (canyoning), and atv tours. Tamarindo is a beach city, and an especially good one for surfers. If you’re not the best swimmer, the the waves may scare you off a bit.
Sum-up of ziplining at Adventure Park & Hotel Vista Golfo: 25 lines (more so than any other ziplining places I researched), water rapelling for 2 of the cables (which is pretty hard!), and most importantly, absolutely the best crew I ever had ziplining!! They made all the difference in the world- so much fun, took their time, played jokes with the entire group, took photos, and let us stop to swim in a swimming hole with a waterfall. The waterfalls you’re ziplining over aren’t huge the way advertised, and other places in Costa Rica have MUCH longer and more beautiful places to zip-line over (we also zip-lined in Monteverde’s cloud forest and the cables were massive, and the superman was amazing), but hands down this place is great for the customer experience. Plus you get a really delicious lunch in your package.
Note the following, if you do decide to travel there:
- You will get swarmed as soon as you walk out of the airport to look for your car because you look like a tourist. Know what you are looking for, and be confident.
- A “highway” in Costa Rica is just a road that is paved. We never drove on any road with more than one lane in each direction. Unpaved roads throughout central Costa Rica are very hilly, have no street lamps, are full of rocks, and there are only gas stations every 30 miles, if not more. For roads that have tolls, they accept both dollars and colons.
- If you’re going to rent a car, please, please get an SUV and get four wheel drive. Anything else is worthless. And get a GPS.
- There are various animals of all sorts crossing the street at any given moment. But especially lots and LOTS of adorable dogs. Careful! Also, some local drivers tend to be ruthless. Point is: drive safe!
- Aside from beach areas, know that all-inclusive resorts inland are very difficult to find. Besides, if you want to get to know the country, wouldn’t you want to get off the resort?
On a lighter note:
- Service in Costa Rica is generally excellent- could be a little slow, but the people tend to be very nice. Tipping 10% (in year 2014) is about standard. It’s often included in your bill. Taxes in certain cities are particularly high (about 13%), while other cities didn’t appear to tax at all. P.S. You pay a $30 tax fee at the airport just to exit the country.
- Food/Water: A “typical meal” is rice and beans. This is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner in most places. They say CR is a hit or miss with restaurants but aside from one restaurant, all of the ones we went to were generally good. However, this is not a country specifically known for it’s amazing cuisine. On the other hand, we found that Costa Rican tap water is delicious. Also, the watermelon and guava were particularly good anywhere we went.
- Packing: Bring water shoes. I regretted not packing this item. They can be used for various hikes, swimming holes, and activities you participate in. An umbrella just in case is good too. Two pairs of pants is really more than enough for when we went (May). It was almost pushing it. Sneakers are necessary for hiking pretty much anywhere. Bug spray proved useful for us. And a book bag to carry all those items while hiking is great.
- Weather: May-September is rainy season. July-August are known to be the most wet. Busy season is November-February. I was there the first two weeks of May. It rained one day. Perfect weather.
2 cents? Or 2 colones? Throw something at me. 🙂
Sum Up: Yes, I would most DEFINITELY recommend Costa Rica. It’s beautiful, exotic, with the perfect combination of activities and relaxing things to do.