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So I've just booked a trip with my GF down to Costa Rica for next March for 9 days...(FYI-it's $350R/T w/tax out of Denver till next June on Frontier)

Anybody been down there? Looking for any tips and suggestions as to what has to be seen and done, where to stay(non-mega resort is cool by us), where to eat...

Some of the things I'm planning on are:

hike around Arenal volcano

a little surfing (it's been a while for me but the GF loves it)

some partying (ok maybe more than some...)

lots of general beach time


some maybe's are...

white water raft?

zip line tour?


How is the capitol(San Jose)? Since I'm going to have to be there to fly in and out of is it worth checking out?



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I was there 14 years ago and much has changed but I'll throw in a few tips.

Stay in the mountains. We stayed in an eco-lodge near Lake Arenal. It was fantastic. We would grab a cup of coffee, sit on the porch and watch toucans fly by every morning.

The coast is so hot, you won't be able to breathe. I guess it depends on the time of year. We were there in March. The only bonus is that the water is super-warm. CR is supposed to be the best place to learn to surf because of the warm water and lack of coral reefs. I'm planning to go there in a year and stay in Playa Hermosa / Jaco region. Lots of small, surfer-friendly hotels and guest houses there.

San Jose is a hell-hole. Land and get out as fast as you can.

CR has terrible roads so don't plan too much travel. It took 4 hours to go from our lodge to the beach. I think it was about 80kms.

Arenal is cool if you've never seen a volcano. But I swear the whole area just smells of impending disaster. We stopped for a swim in one of the hot rivers in the area, then I learned later that it was directly in the path of the last big eruption. If all the birds go quiet suddenly and dogs start barking like mad, get in your car and drive like hell.

The people were great. Super friendly and no one was out to rip us off like so many other tourist destinations. This part may have changed.

Good luck and post a report when you get back.

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I've been there. Stayed in Hotel Allejuala most of the time. It was a nice little place.

One major tip would be to keep cash and your passport on you all the time. Petty crime there was really high. Violent crimes weren't any higher than normal, but my dad's bag, along with his passport, disappeared from our rental car, locked.. Another tip would be don't get the normal suzuki rental car cause you can see the tourists coming from a mile away in them...

We did the whitewater rafting. That was a rush. They actually took a bunch of us noobs down a river with a couple class 5s and a fair amount of 4s. My brother got pitched when we tboned a rock. And then when we came down from the top of an eddy our guide got launched about 6 feet in the air and landed barely in the raft. They made us a lunch of fresh fruits and veggies and sammiches and stuff. That was alot of fun. Rios Picuare (sp) was the name of the river...

We also did the ziplines. That was pretty cool too. We rode horses for quite a ways and then we got off and hiked another ways and then climbed the rope. I don't know how much it cost, but it was probably worth it.

The volcano is neat. Be sure to check out both east and west side. The west is fairly baren underwater, but still makes for some neat diving. The caribbean side is as colorful as the day is young.

I have no idea where this place is (it was a couple 8 years ago or so) but there was this restaurant (more of a food-stand really) called Fiesta Del Pollo (Party of chicken????)... Basically you watch them roast your chicken over coffee branches and it is OOOohhh so good. My brother also liked the plantain con queso, but you can get that just about anywhere down there.

Also, beware that they spell banana split with an e at the end. :) banana splite.. That cracked us up every time.

I guess that's about all I can remember. Just have fun..

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most all of it in Puerto Viejo on the East coast. No major resorts around there, just bungalow type lodging. I understand the west coast has more of the bigger resorts. We were robbed on our second day there, so that sort of changed my prospective for the rest of the trip. Fortunately, I only lost my cash. After that, I would typically carry my wallet in my back pocket, but have nothing in it. I would then disperse my cash and credit cards in several pockets in my cargo shorts. Anyway, property crime is rampant throughout the country, so keep an eye on your stuff.

We did a couple of the zip-line canopy tours, and found them to be enjoyable. The real attraction in Costa Rica is their national parks.

I'd pick one or two and spend a few days there. Manuel Antonio and Tortuguero parks are popular. There are some nice lodges in Tortuguero that you can only access through a system of waterways. We spent a couple days here http://www.turtlebeachlodge.com/ and found it to be great.

The tourism industry is pretty well developed, but tourists come from all over- not just the U.S., so English

isn't always as widely spoken as you might expect.

I'd recommend Puerto Viejo if you want to get away from things a bit.

Mostly dirt roads, but decent lodges, and some great food made in some really

primitive conditions.

Here's a link to a nice place in Puerto Viejo http://www.lacostadepapito.com/

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I went there on a 8 day whistlestop in January, met up with a GAP Adventures tour group. Awesome people, awesome time. Agree with the comments about San Jose - it's a razor wire guarded dump, while it's actually pretty interesting to walk around in during the day it's pretty scary at night. The GF might like the main shopping drag and there's some interesting market type things dotted around the place.

Arenal was fun, most of our group went canyoning and raved about it, the SO and I went on a float trip and went wildlife spotting (his thing, not mine, I'm pi$$ed I missed the canyoning!). The volcano is great at night, hike around the back with some alcohol and hang out, it's fun. Baldi hot pools were amazing, and half the cost of Tabacon, Tabacon would have to be spectacular to be worth the US$35 admission.

We then went to Monteverde, which was beautiful, amazing tropical foliage, stayed in Santa Elena which is just a tiny dumpy village. The serpentarium was pretty cool. The zipline tour up there was just AWESOME, be prepared to hike (you have to get uphill to go downhill!). The road to Monteverde is just scary, very slow going.

Then we went to Manuel Antonio for a couple of days - mind bogglingly hot and humid, good surfing, great beaches which will be empty apart from when the locals descend on the weekend, awesome snorkelling (take soda crackers to feed the fish), dinner and drinks in the bar of the plane that they ran arms in for the Iran Contra affair was a highlight.

This tour is basically just a triangle back to San Jose and didn't involve too much travelling, but a great way to spend a week or so while getting snapshots of different things.. CR is tiny but like Henry says the roads are often not good and it's difficult to get around fast.

Look up the GAP website on www.gapadventures.com and see if they're running a tour at the time you're down there - I think ours was about $780 CAD for the eight days, accomms and tours included, great deal.

You'll have a great time!

Have a GREAT trip, good score!

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  • 5 months later...

I'm reviving an old thread, but I thought I'd give you my $.02..

The GF and I went last feb/march for 2 months to CR, Nicaragua and a bit of Panama. About 80% of our time was in Costa Rica though. If you want to go to Arenal, and only have 8 days, you probably won't have time to get to the carribean side. Theres definately more of a laid back, rasta feel to the carribean side of the country. It also feels less "americanized" with big resorts and stuff.

These are recommendations based on not spending a lot of money. There are more expensive ways to see the country, but we were very happy with what we did and saw without breaking the bank.

I would recommend getting out of San Jose as fast as possible as well. There was nothing there that we wanted to see, and felt uncomfortable most of the time we were there. Take the long, hot bus ride up to La Fortuna as soon as you can. Bring food and drinks cause its a long ride. We stayed at a place called Gringo Petes in La Fortuna. Its the best deal we found in the entire country. $8 i think for a double with a bathroom. It has a kitchen, the best deals on tours, and Gringo Pete is really helpful. In the morning I would walk to see the La fortuna waterfall. Its over an hour from Gringo Petes if you walk, but you could also rent horses to take you there. Just as you're walking out of the town towards the falls that says "trips for tips" where you can tip them a few bucks and the horses will take you. You can walk down the treaturous steps to get to the falls ($7 each i think) and take a swim in the cold pool beneath the 70m waterfall. Afterwards you could take a tour through gringo petes that takes you on a hike around the rainforest, takes you to see the volcano erupting, then to the Baldi hot springs for $18ish.

To get to Monteverde/Santa Eleana, take the Van/Boat/Van ride (through Gringo Petes) and you'll get there much quicker than by bus, and for not too much more money. We stayed at a place called Cabinas Eddy in Santa Eleana. It was clean and around $10 a night for the 2 of us. We went on the Zip line tour through them, which I would reccommend. I think we did the Aventura one, but I'm sure thier all good. We walked to Moneverde from there, which was about 8km uphill. The bus ride probably would have been a better idea. The cloud forest had some really cool animals and trees and things. The guides there can spot SO many more things than a normal person can, so if you're into that stuff they would be worth it.

From that point on in the trip you'll probably want to check out the beaches and surfing and stuff. We really liked the beaches and waterfalls of Montezuma and Malpais for swimming, surfing and hanging out. The probelm with that is you would have to take a long bus ride, then a ferry ride, then another bus ride to get to Montezuma or Mal Pais. It might not be worth the travel time, but it was definately one of our favorite places. Montezuma has black sand, white sand and pink sand beaches within walking distance and an incredible cascade of 3 waterfalls that you can swim under (15m high, bottom one) , or climb up a cliff and jump off the top of one (11m high, middle one), or swing on a tarzan rop and land in one and swim (top one). We stayed at Hotel Lucy which is a little bit of a walk from the center of town, but its on the water and its not too expensive. If you go here, wake up for the sunrise at least once because it rises up from the ocean right in front of the hotel. In Mal Pais we really liked Casa Zen, but we couldn't stay there as it was booked solid. I think its worth booking ahead for. It's a 1 minute walk to the beach and amazing surfing. There is a constant swell it seems. There wasn't a single bad time to surf in the week we were there. Casa Zen also had a really good Thai restaurant if you like Thai food.

On the other hand if you want more familiar surroundings, Jaco has things like KFC and bigger resorts and a livelier nightlife. We didn't stay there at all because that is what we were trying to get away from, but we heard people had fun when they went. It supposed to have good surfing as well. Jaco is also close to Manuel Antonio National Park, which has huge incredible beaches and lots of monkeys and fish. We stayed in Quepos at the Wide Mouth Frog. It was $26 a night for 2, which included internet, free movies, a private double room, a pool, a book exchange, and breakfast (oatmeal and bananas usually). Not much to see and do in Quepos, but we had some really good all you can eat sushi there. The bus in like $1 to Manuel Antonio and the beaches there were huge and mostly deserted. It costs a few bucks each to get into the park, and be aware that the tide rises as the day goes on, so the little creek you cross to get into the park will be at least knee deep by the time you leave (I'm 6'6", so for smaller people at least thigh deep). You can walk across and get wet, or pay a local guy with a boat a few bucks to float you across. You might want to splurge and go to a more expensive hotel around here. There are a number of nice looking places, and there is probably a much better/safer nightlife than in Quepos.

This is getting really long. I found this post looking for info about a board on ebay and ended up writing for 20 minutes. wow.. Good luck with the trip and have fun. I'd send you my guidebook, but I'm travelling in Finland right now. If you have any questions about anything else, ask away.

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I'm starting to get pretty excited to go, even though it's not till the end of March.

It looks like we're gonna go to the Arenal volcano area for a couple of days (smells of impending disaster, HA HA) and then on to the Jaco,Hermosa, Manuel antonio area for the rest (west coast) of the trip for surf and sun. I'll probably start looking at hotels after the holidays and or maybe stay at a surf camp in the hermosa area.

I've heard about the petty crime so I'll be sure to keep my belongings close since i'll try and travel light that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Gonna rent a 4WD car to get around in that way we can kinda play it by ear and bounce around a bit.

Sorry Michelle...if it's any consolation she's paying her own way, I'd never make a good sugar daddy!

Kever--good info! Got any pics you want to share? send them to rustyinnh@yahoo.com

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