Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Costa Rica Tips

Check out my other posts about our trip to Costa Rica! Everything from penny-pinching flights ($250 round trip from MN!) to our Car Rental, to our Accommodations, to the places we visited. Scroll to the Costa Rica Section of this page for more!

Costa Rica. Wow. Seems like yesterday but, also, seems like ages ago. We had such a whirlwind of a trip. We spent two exciting weeks in Costa Rica in January 2016. This was our first trip that ever required a passport. And, it was the longest vacation either of us had ever taken. And so much happened. We seen & did so many things, that a few blog posts about it will never do it justice. We spent 13 nights in this amazing country, & stayed in 8 different towns. Uff-da. That was a lot. But we wanted to see everything we could. Looking back, I can feel secure that we will be heading back to CR someday. We can slow it down next time, though. 

This country is one-of-a-kind. And in order to truly experience it, you need to go. You will not regret it. No blog post or picture will ever do the place justice. Add it to your bucket list.

With that, here are some tips that we'd like to share after our trip to Costa Rica.

Be Open

If I could give any advice to travelers... it would be to OPEN UP! Being open & up for anything brings so many new experiences you may have otherwise missed. Eat dinner with some strangers. Share a cab with another couple. Smile & say "Good Morning" to people passing by on the street. Check out stores & vendors & talk to the owners - ask them about their crafts & histories. Absorb. Learn. If we hadn't, we wouldn't have ended up eating dinner with some Canadians, or breakfast with some Swedes, or watching a local play a gig. It's like that movie, Yes Man. Just say Yes!  

Okay, maybe not to everything, but to situations that could bring you good things!

Making friends in Costa Rica
Cell Phones

Don't even bother getting a Costa Rican sim card like so many other people will tell you. We waited to do that & it was a pain in the neck! Just call your phone company before leaving for your trip, tell them you are going to be in Costa Rica from this date to this date, & they might be able to get you an international plan for that month. We called Cricket Wireless on this about our upcoming trip to Mexico, & they said it would only be $10 extra, per phone, that month to open the plan up to work in that country. Duh! If your phone company CAN'T do this, then I would suggest that right when you land in Costa Rica, before even getting out of the airport, find a place inside to get a sim card. We waited until we were at our first destination, went into a grocery store, & they could not get it to work. This might just be our experience, but hey, it might be yours, too. OR be super cool & just screw the cell phones this trip, which is what we ended up having to do, as sim cards didn't work. You can always use the WiFi in your lodging to chat over Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts. 

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Car Rental

If you are a good driver, you will be JUST FINE renting a small car for your car rental. My boyfriend drove the entire 2 weeks and we drove ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. We drove in beach towns, in mountain towns, in cities, in the country, & in the middle of nowhere, on low-maintenance roads where only the locals go. I doubt (but could be wrong) that you'll go on the same (sometimes dangerous) roads we went on (we literally drove on goat paths, on the sides of mountains, in the middle of the country, in the middle of nowhere, crossing roads that were washed out, & bridges that looked like death) but I still firmly believe you can make it just fine with a small rental car. Yes, a Jeep might be nicer for the elevation & smoother ride, but if your budget is tight, go with the cheapest car available ;)  We did get one flat tire, towards the end of our trip, so I DO recommend FULL COVERAGE. We paid a lot of money just to have a car in Costa Rica. Go to my post on our car rental here, for a discount! We met people down there traveling the country by bus & they loved it. They said it was very reliable & cheap.

Our Kia Picanto we used for two weeks in Costa Rica, driving all over the country!

Use Airbnb

It is an awesome way to meet owners & live like a local. We have never, ever had an issue with using the site. We enjoy our stays so much, that we don't even like booking hotels anymore. If we can book an Airbnb, we will! Sometimes, they include bike rentals, or breakfast, or a pool, or a gym, or even an airport shuttle. You can choose to stay in a shared room, in a private room, or have the whole place to yourself. We have met some awesome people using Airbnb! We still keep in touch with our first host, ever, Duane from St. Croix. Just check out the site

Our Airbnb stay in San Joaquin, Costa Rica, near San Jose, 10 minutes to the airport.

Flight Deals

Wait for flight deals. Spirit has a great sale around Thanksgiving, which is how we got round-trip flights from Minnesota for $250 each! Yes, we had long layovers, but we made it enjoyable! Use it as a reason to explore another destination on your journey. Again, keep yourself OPEN! They have sales all throughout the year, so just keep watch.

Our Spirit flight, flying into Costa Rica.


The sun is HOT in Costa Rica, especially on the beach. And some beaches are huge, which means lots of sand & no trees anywhere near the water. Plus, a lot of the shade is taken by vendors & locals. I would even go as far as to recommend bringing an umbrella to set up & lounge under on the beach. Bring a swim cover, too, to cover your shoulders when needed. Don't forget your shades, either! A hat wouldn't hurt to add to the packing list, too. I know, I'm a redhead, but I actually don't burn as easily as your typical redhead. So I didn't think I'd need sunscreen that badly. I used it, but not enough. I did burn in Tamarindo. Just be safe & have some on you at all times. 

Morning beach time in Tamarindo, CR.

Take Your Time

We did two weeks in Costa Rica, stayed in 8 different towns, & still did not see enough. And we were exhausted! We started our trip in the middle of the country, went to the west coast, went back to the middle, then over to the east coast, & back again to the middle. It was almost too much. Don't get me wrong - we loved our trip. We loved seeing all the things we seen. But...... if I could do it all over again, I would take the country by sections. I am one of those people that want to see it all!!!! But I need to change that. I will go back to Costa Rica some day. So I can do one area, each time I go. I could recommend several ways of doing our trip better. One tip would be to spend 3-4 days in La Fortuna. We did 3 nights & we could have used 1 more. There is so much to see & do near the volcano!
We began in San Jose, went up to La Fortuna, over to Tamarindo, down to Nosara, over to Manuel Antonio, over to Cartago, over to Punta Uva, and back to San Joaquin. 

It was too much. But, doable, if you want to see as much as possible, while being on the brink of insanity. 


Don't touch wild monkey's. Just, don't. Trust me. (You're not supposed to feed them, either, but Jim is, sometimes, a toddler & doesn't listen.)

Loves watermelon rinds, hates being touched!


Don't bother crossing the border into Panama, just to cross it & say you've been there. (I fully blame this idea on Jim.) Unless you are going there to travel around the country, just don't. It is not worth the confusion/possible arrest

Bridge to Panama

Costa Rica is NOT CHEAP. We thought "Hey, it's just south of Mexico, it will have prices like Mexico!" WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. SO WRONG. Unless you are only eating from street vendors, it is not cheap. I'm sure there are ways around the high costs we paid, but we didn't find them. (And don't count on street vendors - we didn't see more than a handful the whole time.) Expect to dish out a lot of cash. We spent double what we were expecting to. We are by no means fancy or high-class. We're hicks from Minnesota, alright? So it's not like we were wining & dining, sipping with our pinkies up. We were trying to find cheap food, but it wasn't happening. Even the grocery store food isn't cheap, so don't expect to buy food there & it be cheap. 

This was the best deal we found in all of Costa Rica. We ate breakfast there multiple times. Manuel Antonio, CR.


The service can suck. We went to many restaurants where the servers brought out our drinks & food & never returned to the table. Jim is a diabetic & drinks like a fish, so he needs his water refills. Yeah, it wasn't happening. I suggest asking for a pitcher of water right off the bat.

The most relaxing, quiet beach. Nosara, Play Garza, CR.

Tap Water

The tap water is safe to drink. At least, we never had an issue with it. And if it isn't safe, they will let you know, I'm sure. 

Fishing in Nosara, Playa Garza, CR. We highly recommend this!

Cherish the Memories

Now, I'm sure I don't have to tell you to "cherish the memories" or "enjoy your time" or "soak it all in." But... I'm going to. Yes, pictures are great. They are a great thing to take home & look back on someday. Take a picture of that sunset but take it & put the camera away. You got a picture. Now don't take 100 more "just in case." Take the photo & enjoy that sunset in the present moment.  

This goes for any distractions. There is literally zero reasons to have your cell phone out & texting or posting to Facebook while in this magical country. You may never come back here again. So enjoy it. Be mentally present. Be there, in the moment, as it all happens around you. Soak in the feeling of the Costa Rican sun on your skin. Taste the exuberant juices of a local watermelon (best watermelon on earth). Hear the crazy sounds coming from the wild monkeys. Feel the cool ocean water cradling your entire body. Let the flavors of some gallo pinto electrify every taste bud in your mouth. Listen to the waves topple over one another. Open your eyes wide to these never-before-seen colors that shock your mind. 

Put your phone away this trip. 

I dare you. 

If you've ever been to CR, or have plans to, comment below! I'd love to chat.


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