Snapshots from Costa Rica
Costa Rica seemed like the perfect trip for us; endless adventure opportunities but also some time to lay on the beach and relax. We only spent a week here, flying in and out of San Jose, so below are the highlights from our stops. I'd love to go back again to explore the Nicoya Peninsula and Caribbean coast!
CR has a rainy season (May to Nov) and a dry season (Dec to April). We visited mid April and while it rained almost every afternoon, it was quick and didn't affect our trip much at all.
You can elect to purchase taxi rides and guided tours, but I would recommend renting a car if you’re a confident driver. Personally I love the freedom and flexibility this gives me just about anywhere I travel. And here you will probably end up paying close to the same amount in taxi rides and shuttle buses.
Car insurance is complicated and mandatory, so although you may think you’ve found a great deal online it typically ends up being double the price at pick up. We went through My Tan Feet and their Adobe partnership to get the best deal and make sure we knew the bottom line before arriving. Generally the roads are fine but if you’re heading into the mountains you’ll want to get a 4x4.
Taxi drivers may try to scam you. Make sure they turn their meter on at the beginning of your ride. That being said, most Costa Ricans are very friendly, happy to help you, and like American tourists.
Most folks speak English.
The food is incredible. Make sure to try Gallo Pinto, fried plantains, local chocolates and coffee.
There are a ton of touristy places that are worth seeing but very crowded. Try to dig around a bit online and ask locals for the best hidden gems.
Whenever we travel I always use Foursquare to find good restaurants and read reviews from Trip Advisor when looking for fun things to do. I read reviews on everything before I go anywhere. Not necessary of course... but I feel like I’m getting the most out of my stay by checking out the spots with higher ratings.
Airbnb has the sweetest little places to stay and our hosts were very helpful. Give local rentals a look before booking a hotel room.
Places to See
Territorio de Zaguates - the land of the strays. This 400 acre farm has been turned into a sanctuary for stray dogs where they can roam and socialize with the people that come to visit. There's over 900 dogs there right now, and they are open during certain days and times for anyone who would like to visit or join in on a hike. It's a pretty incredible place.
Tabacon Hot Springs- soak in thermal mineral water heated by an ancient volcano.
Arenal Observatory- a park with hiking trails around the volcano.
La Fortuna waterfall
Rainforest Chocolate Tours- don't miss this one! You get a tour of the farm and learn how chocolate is processed from bean to bar, doing most of the steps yourself. Did I mention all the samples? Yummmm.
Drive in AND out from the north. This mountain road is a rough one.
There's a lot of different options for hanging bridges and zip-lining adventures. We had a great time at Selvatura.
Orchid Cafe is a delicious spot for breakfast.
The Lemon House rental was a secluded and beautiful place not far from town, with a friendly and helpful host. It was our favorite place we stayed.
The pacific coast
Manuel Antonio Park borders the town of Quepos and is a great spot to see wildlife and hang out on the beach. Quepos is a very busy tourist town though, so we stayed about an hour away at Clandestino Resort. It has beach access, private little cabins, and seemed like a much better deal for us. There was even a mama sloth with her baby while we were visiting!