Oh Costa Rica!!! What can I say about this beautiful country! I know every time I go on a trip I say it’s the best one yet but this one seriously was the best one yet. I made sure to take notes along the way because this is definitely a place I highly recommend visiting!
Alright lets get into it!
Here’s the thing about Costa Rica. It seems like a very small country but is actually is pretty spread out and there is ALOT to see. SO even the 8 days we spent there did not feel like nearly enough.
There are two sides to the country. The Pacific side and the Caribbean side. We stayed more on the Pacific side for this trip but trust me I will be back for the Caribbean side.All the locals raved about the Caribbean side of the country and it is where most people from African decent live in the country. The food and life and scenery are suppose to be mind blowing.
But I can’t get much into that since we stayed on the West side of the country. First of all, I am glad we did that because even though I know I’m sure the Caribbean side is amazing, I’m actually Caribbean so I’m sure it would be very familiar feeling to me. It was nice to see a different side.
Hotels we stayed at:
This is nothing fancy but it did the trick for the price and was in the heart of San Jose. To be honest San Jose city isn’t that pretty but there are many other cool places in the San Jose province that are really nice. I would definitely recommend at least one night in the city, it was nice to see the culture.[dahz_framework_row][dahz_framework_column width=”1/2″][/dahz_framework_column][dahz_framework_column width=”1/2″]
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We visited the Jade Museum and learned a lot about the history of the country.
This resort was so interesting. First of all is was HUGE…basically it’s own little town. And it had everything! 3 pools, activities to keep you busy, and it’s also right on the beach. They have a shuttle to another near by beach where you can do a bunch of water activities. They even had mini golf and their own supermarket, and ice cream shop and various restaurant options on the premises. The only thing that threw me off is that you are literally IN the rainforest so there were animals everywhere which took a bit to get used to. Especially the raccoons who come out during the day. We watched monkeys and lizards steal people’s food and learned about animals like coates which we had never heard of. But honestly it was the best experience to live amongst the animals. Even though I’m a scaredy cat lol
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It’s not a super fancy resort but it’s very affordable.
Such a beautiful hotel, I will be doing a separate review on this in another blog post.
The most relaxing of all the hotels especially because it was an adult only hotel. More on this in a later blog post.
Holy Moly, this hotel is on the other side of San Jose which I personally think is much nicer. It is ridiculously affordable and our room was HUGE. We only stayed one night here before we had to catch our flight super early in the morning but it was basically an apartment. We had two living rooms, one with a pull out couch, a full kitchen and eating area, 2 full bathrooms and a bedroom. If I planned on spending more time in San Jose this would be the perfect place. It’s not very fancy but for the price and location its a steal!
Tip 1: EXPLORE! DO NOT STAY IN ONE PLACE THE WHOLE VACATION.
If I could repeat this next statement I would…. There is literally so much to see in Costa Rica you would be doing yourself a diservice by just doing an all inclusive resort stay in one place. We started in San Jose then went o Punta Leona and then stayed in two different areas of Guanacaste before heading back to San Jose for the end of the trip. And this brings me to my next tip:
Tip 2: RENT A CAR
I can’t imagine any other way to get around the country. Taxis would add up fast as things are very spread out. From San Jose to Punta Leona was two hours then 3 hours to Guanacaste then 4.5 hours back to San Jose. The car was bout $250 for 8 days and that included their insurance they tricked us into getting. 😉 If your cc has insurance that should be just fine. The car rental people try to upsell you on everything. But I would recommend getting a hotspot in your car especially if you’re going to use you phone for GPS.
Driving in Costa Rica was not bad at all. Granted I’ve driven around Carribbean islands before and grew up in Boston which really helps you on the driving front BUT I would say it really isn’t bad. Most roads are paved and there are highways. I would definitely recommend an SUV though just in case…which brings me to my next tip:
Tip 3: USE WAZE NOT GOOGLE MAPS
Ok so when I was driving, I used Google Maps and when my friend Jenna drove she used Waze. Lets just say I’m sure Google Maps was saving us time but when you take back roads in Costa Rica you take BACK ROADS! At one point I was guided through an extremely bumpy unpaved road up and mountain that eventually led us to have to drive through a river TWICE. I was NOT ready for that. When my friend Jenna used Waze it never once brought her to an unpaved road. Google steered me through dirt paths twice when there are clearly ways to get there on paved roads so even though normally Google Maps is my jam, Waze wins the prize as far as navigating through Costa Rica.
Tip 4: BE AWARE OF SCAMMERS
Unfortunately I learned this tip the hard way but I knew I had to share it with you guys. Because literally everyone was so friendly to us (even the scammers) we felt so safe and at home in Costa Rica however it did cause us to let our guard down which bit us in the butt. If you follow Tip 2 and rent a car, you will eventually have to fill up the tank. Once you start leaving busier areas of Costa Rica, less people speak English well so when we went up to the gas station to pump gas I’m sure our basic Spanish red flagged us as tourist right away. We asked them to fill up the tank and were surprised at how fast it filled up. For 10,000 Colones we had a full tank, thats about $17. Sooo when we drive off the gas tank doesn’t raise. We didn’t think too hard about it cause it was not the newest rental car and I left the key in the ignition while they pumped so sometimes the gas meter takes a minute to catch up. I was a little concerned when I stopped the car and started it and it didn’t go up then the gas light came on. There was no way they didn’t put gas in the car right? So we stopped at another station on the way to just put a little more gas in to see if that would jump start the meter to start working and it did nothing. When the guy at this new station pointed at the gas pump to show us he was starting from “0,” I knew in my gut we had been scammed at the previous station. We had him add more gas as a test certain that if it kept pumping that the previous gas station attendants scammed us. And the pump kept pumping gas.
Turns out the first station charged us and didn’t put a DROP of gas in our car. Can you believe that. We looked it up as we drove away with no more colones to our name and not even a full tank at this point with our heads hanging low that we fell victim to a scam because we had turned our alertness off. Neither one of us paid attention to the first guys pumping gas. So I’m telling you this to be aware, if you go there make sure they start the gas meter at 0 and also never let your radar down when traveling ANYWHERE! At least we didn’t get jipped out of that much money but it could have been worse.
TIP5 5: CONVERT YOUR MONEY
Costa Rican money is called Colones. Many places take American dollars and credit cards but if you will drive around you will have to pay tolls on the highways in colones. Also for pumping gas we heard another scam is to charge your card wrong so it would be best to just use colones to be safe. We only converted $250 each and it went a long way! The conversion rate is about 570 Colones to 1 USD. I actually prefer converting my money when traveling. If they didn’t take USD I would have done more but because I knew I had that backup I took out less. Having a set amount of cash on your hands makes it easier to stay on budget during vacation.
Also if you have time before a trip the best way to convert money is to go to your bank. Most like they will have to order it but there is no fee at your bank as opposed to converting it at a stand at the airport. Allow yourself at least 5 business days, order it from your bank, they call you when it’s ready and then you don’t have to worry about any conversion fees!
TIP 6: BRING LOTS OF BUG SPRAY (And SUNSCREEN)
I’m super hippie and organic when it comes to putting stuff on my skins so I found a super strong all natural bug spray but when we went on our excursion one of the days we busted out the big guns. Most hotels and resorts you will stay in will have bug spray, if you stay at a place that provides it, USE IT, there’s a reason they do. Surprisingly we did not get too many bites and we both are notorious for getting eaten by mosquitos but we did also drench ourselves in bug spray every day. I’m pretty sure I’m at least mildly allergic to mosquitos the way their bites swell up on me so I do not play with the bug spray.
It was nice that all the trees provided shade from the sun so we weren’t burning up in direct sunlight most of the days. But the last two days it didn’t rain we got so dark so I can’t imagine if it was 8 days of that. WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN. The sun is no joke there.
TIP 7: TRAVEL OFF SEASON
The prices are way lower during off season which is rainy season for costa Rica. well….its the rainforest so rainy season is literally half the year. A little hard to avoid. It rained almost everyday we were in Costa Rica but I was so surprised at how it did not bother me. The weather was pretty predictable. The mornings and early afternoons are usually warm and sunny with no clouds then as late afternoon rolled in the clouds came out of nowhere and it rains. By night it usually clears. We didn’t mind the rain because we just made sure to get up early to enjoy the sun and then by the time it was later we just relaxed inside and had dinner. It didn’t rain every day either so that worked out.
I also love off season because it’s less madness and less people out and about. Traffic wasn’t terrible and the hotels weren’t over crowded ( I hate crowded hotel pools). Also rainy season (May- November) is when Costa Rica is green and lushest. The Golden season as they call it (aka dry season) is when all the leaves turn a golden brown and I can imagine it’s not as pretty. If you must go during the busy season we were told by a local that April is the hottest month, so I would avoid it.
TIP 8: BOOK AT LEAST ONE EXCURSION
I would honestly recommend to book 2 or 3 excursions but that depends on how long you stay because I believe in a relax/explore balance on vacation. We booked our excursion through Buena Vista on Viator because it had such great reviews. It included zip lining, a water slide through the rainforest, lunch, horseback riding, and natural hot springs.
If I stayed longer I would have definitely did a monkey park, ATV’s, and The volcano tour in Nicaragua so go do those for me if you go!
TIP 9: Be Ready For ANIMALS
Savage animals. lol They wont bother you but there are definitely raccoons around (during the day) which I never got used to. Monkeys are pretty much everywhere and lizards will steal your food if you leave them on the floor untended.
Costa Rica was such a beautiful country. I’ll be sharing my most favorite things I learned about the country on my vacay in another post! Also a travel video of the trip is coming soon!