This last month I went to visit the beautiful country of Costa Rica. With it’s immense biodiversity, micro-climates, rain-forests and beaches this place is a mecca for the nature lovers. I myself am not much of a nature person, however, the beauty of Costa Rica left me awestruck. We went to 2 cities on our trip: Arenal and Manuel Antonio. We wanted to visit Monteverde as well. But due to shortage of time, we couldn’t make it. I will be writing another blog post with my detailed itinerary.
So here we go:
1. Plan Wisely: Costa Rica is huge. Do make a list of the top places you want to go to (Arenal, Manuel Antonio and Monteverde are generally the top destinations). Tamarindo is another popular upcoming destination. Travel distances might be short, but they take time as the roads aren’t well developed. So consider that in your initial planning.
2. Pack smart: It rains a lot in Arenal almost all year round. You want to carry dry fit clothes, a good rain jacket, a cap, full pants if you go for a night hike, swimsuits for the beach. If you end up going zip-lining or rappelling you need yoga pants – shorts are not a good idea here. You can always use the laundry facilities to get your clothes cleaned up and repeat them.
3. Invest in a pair of good shoes: I lived in my keens in Arenal. They dried quickly and were comfortable to hike in all day (do go a half size up while buying these). Here is the link to the ones I had.
4. Carry minimal makeup: The only makeup I used was a eyeliner pencil, mascara and a lip balm. Perfume attracts insects. Anything else will wash off from the rain. My hair was mostly tied up in a braid or bun.
5. Buy a good English to Spanish dictionary: While people in major resorts and cities speak some English, the suburban regions are majorly Spanish speaking. Learn basic words in Spanish in order to greet someone, ask the price for something, ask for directions, buy food etc.
6. Do eat at the Soda’s: The most staple food in CR is rice and beans with a side of meat. Do try the Soda’s for some cheap local cuisine. For $7 you can get a huge plate of rice, beans and chicken and it’s absolutely delicious.
7. Tour guides are a good idea: Even though you can cover most of the places yourself, you won’t be able to spot the wildlife as easily or enjoy the tour as much without a tour guide. They generally carry binoculars and are very good at storytelling either about the wildlife, plants or the history of a place. It’s absolutely worth spending on tour guides.
8. Drink more coffee than the Gilmores: The local coffee is to die for. CR has some amazing coffee beans. I used to wake up at 5 AM everyday for my activities and the only thing that got me going was the strong and yummy Costa Rican coffee.
9. Do NOT bother renting a car to go from one city to another: Car Insurance is very expensive in Costa Rica and is mandatory. You will even have to rent a GPS for about $10 a day. The roads are mountainous and curved and I would not recommend driving on them unless you are a really good driver. You can easily find tour company buses which take you from one city to another. We ended up paying almost $600 for our car rental which was pretty much useless. If you still want to rent a car, get a 4 wheel drive. Anything else and you have the risk of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.
10. Do ask for directions: There are no addresses in Costa Rica, so you end up putting points of attractions to get from one place to another, which often lead to incorrect addresses. We made the mistake of relying on the GPS to get from one place to another and got stuck on a mountain in the dark while it was raining almost 50 KMS away from our hotel. The GPS ended up taking us to a apartment condominiums which had the same name as our hotel. So I would totally recommend you ask for directions the old fashioned way. i.e. maps and human interaction.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for my next blog post with the detailed itinerary I followed for my trip.