Caddle Recommends: Costa Rica
Travelling to Costa Rica
If you’re into taking outdoor adventures, seeing wonders of nature and getting an up close and personal experience of a lively culture, Costa Rica should be on your shortlist for your next vacation.
With all its natural wonders, the country has become a mecca for eco-tourists, welcoming more than 1.7 million visitors per year, according to the Costa Rican Embassy in Washington, DC.
If budget is your number 1 factor for a vacation to a sunny destination, you may want to look elsewhere; For Two, Please cautions that Costa Rica is one of the most expensive countries to visit in North America. It cites tour costs of about USD $100 per person per day and gas prices at USD $1.07 per litre. There’s hope: visit during the rainy season (May to November) and you’ll see some savings. It’s also still lush and beautiful during this time of year.
If you’re looking to travel on a modest budget, read on – we’ve got some helpful tips based on our personal experiences visiting this tropical haven.
Book an Airbnb and rent a car or hop on a bus
As for where to stay, as of October 2018 you could rent an Airbnb for anywhere from $62 for an apartment in downtown San Jose to $236 per night CDN for the award winning private Pura Vida Ecolodge near the South Pacific Coast.
Want to stay at a traditional resort? Take Brian’s glowing recommendation and book a room at Riu Palace, an all-inclusive hotel in Guanacaste where he stayed with his wife and some cousins in 2017. He especially appreciated the staff’s attentiveness and kindness. http://www.riucostarica.com/
“The Riu Palace was really nice,” he says. “I found the staff to be super pleasant. The cleaning staff left the most wonderful pillow and towel decorations each time they cleaned the room. One of the most interesting was the swans.”
“I found the staff to be super pleasant. The cleaning staff left the most wonderful pillow and towel decorations each time they cleaned the room. One of the most interesting was the swans.”
You’ll never want for anything here – on its website, Riu Palace promises four swimming pools, jacuzzi, gym, sauna and a wellness centre where you can get a relaxing massage. You can also enjoy sports and activities like windsurfing and beach volleyball, and entertainment for children and adults. At night, venture out to the discotheque an casino. Chefs dish up a variety of dishes from classic to the most exotic.
Carry enough Costa Rican currency to get by
The colón is Costa Rica’s national currency. U.S. dollars are accepted in Costa Rica, so there’s no reason to exchange money in advance, according to travel website Costa Rica Guide. You’ll just want to bring $20 American bills or smaller, since there are often problems with counterfeit bills in larger denominations.
To avoid losing your cash to exchange costs, pay for items priced in U.S. dollars with American money, and those priced in colónes with colónes. Canadian dollars and Euros are not accepted in Costa Rica.
Try the local cuisine
Popular dishes in Costa Rica include Chifrijo, fried plantains, casado, tamales, vigoron, pozol corn syrup, arroz con leche and of course, the local coffee. Luckily, it’s not customary to tip your waitstaff or your bartenders.
Tip: When you’re ready to leave a restaurant, you must ask for your official bill, which will likely include a service charge.
Rent a car or take a bus
Once you’ve arrived, you’re going to need a cheap way to get around. Travel blog Mytanfeet recommends renting a car for the freedom to go where you want, when you want. Their Important Tips for Renting a Car will tell you what you need to know.
Tip: Costa Rica doesn’t have traffic control measures like you’d see in North America, and driving in the country can be scary. Locals tend to tailgate and not signal, so reconsider driving if you’re not used to being on four wheels in a foreign land.
Don’t want to deal with driving in a new country? Take a bus . Although it’s slower, Uneven Sidewalks says it’s also a cheaper option (and safe and comfortable to boot), and you can explore hidden gems away from the main tourist areas.
Take a tropical outdoor adventure
From strolling through lush tropical rainforests and watching Capuchin monkeys leap between branches to picking up a bit of Spanish during a trip to the busy, vibrant capital of San Jose, you can pack a lot into your time in Costa Rica.
The country has strived to develop sustainably and protect its unspoiled landscapes from destructive agricultural practices while reaping the benefits of ecotourism. With 26% of its 19,730 square miles dedicated to national parks, wildlife reserves and protected lands, nature & animal lovers, photographers and adventure seekers alike will love this verdant paradise.
As an adventurer, Brian found lots to entertain him.
“We went without an agenda, and with absolutely no schedule,” he remembers, adding the area he and his group visited was rural, with a large agricultural base.
“I didn’t plan to stay on the resort the whole time, and we didn’t. Being the more adventurous type – perhaps due to having been in the Army – I wanted to do extreme things,” he says, adding he appreciated the advice from the locals on which attractions to try and which to avoid.
Thanks to a guide they met on the beach outside their resort, Brian and his wife took a number of day trips. One of the most memorable was the Riu Guanacaste Canopy tour that had him zip lining over part of the jungle. He then went horseback riding along the ocean.
“This was a pretty good experience, even though the horses almost looked wild and yet, malnourished.”
Any excursion can be transformed into an unforgettable experience you’ll remember forever, thanks to Costa Rica’s technicolour natural wonders. The couple behind travel blog Uneven Adventures recommends heading to the capital city of San Jose, swimming in the pools near La Fortuna Waterfall and hiking through Manuel Antonio National Park (where white-faced Capuchin monkeys do gymnastics in the trees).
Volcanoes dot the landscape in this part of the country, and Brian took full advantage of this as he relaxed in warm waters and a sauna, which naturally heated by a volcano, before hiking through hilly terrain, which features many cool volcanoes. It’s also worth setting your alarm to watch the Costa Rican sun rise.
“I really enjoyed waking up early and watching the sun rise, and staying up late to watch it set on the ocean,”
Costa Rica is also famous for its coffee, and you can see the harvesting and roasting process for yourself at Hacienda Espíritu Santo’s facilities in Naranjo, just outside San Jose. It’s just one of the 6 best Costa Rica Coffee Plantation Tours, according to Costa Rica Experts.
If you do your research, spend wisely and are willing to avoid peak traveling times, you can travel in Costa Rica affordably. It’s a country full of tropical delights, including rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes, exotic wildlife, dazzling beaches, and more.
Are you travelling to Costa Rica for the first time? Returning to a favourite destination? What are your best tips when it comes to saving for vacations? We’d love to hear what you’ve planned, or any tips we missed! Share your story in the comments!
Learn more about traveling in Costa Rica
- The Adventurer’s Guide: 16 unforgettable things to do in Costa Rica – For Two, Please
- 10 mistakes to avoid traveling in Costa Rica – Mytanfeet
- Top 5 reasons why vacations in Costa Rica are great – Costa Rica Vacation Online
- The ultimate guide to Costa Rica with kids – Parenthood and Passports
- How to rent a car in Costa Rica – Costa Rica Guide
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