I visited Costa Rica in April 2019, staying for 2 happy and adventurous weeks, searching for hidden places beyond the hot spots highlighted in most guides!
It’s a country of contrasts – natural parks contrast with cities, beautiful natural beaches and rivers contrast with crowded and chaotic coast villages.
Nature is harmonious and brutal at the same time: when I saw a crocodile family (father, mother and baby), I feel the care and love of every family… and then you realize you really wouldn’t like to meet them when hunting :/
, beautiful and threatening … I were sad not to see the fire on the top (as I saw in so many photos): a mix of scare and beauty.
What did I love? The connection with nature – the sea and the forest with its textures and smells. The peaceful and desert beaches (not all!), the sunsets surfing or walking on the beach. The power of nature – its volcanoes, bridges that don’t make sense in the dry season…the hot weather, mild seawater, hot springs. Adventure – Tram & Canopy @ Arenal Adventures Park (fly high above the forest!). The handcrafts and the food. And (I loved) birds, birds, birds!
Having said that, I expected cities, beaches and habits that matched the connection with nature they advertise, which is not the case. Awful roads, crowded beaches (some), chaotic and dirty cities… low value for money in most hotels/hostel/ and tourist “exploration” in some well-known spots.
- Day 1: San José;
- Days 2-4: Arenal Volcano, impressively alive;
- Days 5-6: Monteverde Natural Park;
- Day 7: Pacific Coast starting in Playa Hermosa … until Playas del Coco;
- Day 8-9: Palm Beach Estates;
- Day 10: Samara;
- Days 11-13: Manuel António;
- Days 14-15: Uvita/Marina Ballena Park
- Day 16: Puerto Jiménez (1)/Corcovado
- Days 17: Uvita
What would I do differently? I would find a good way to visit also the Caribbean side… just to check!
Some practical advice:
- Safety: I felt safe at all time; in more crowded areas, the police was present.
- Transportation: This is a hard chapter… I decided to do it by car (1000USD for 2 weeks, with all insurance covers), as I wanted to do a big circuit and have the time just matching. If you decide the same, don’t hesitate to choose a 4×4 car – the roads are bad, in the wet season with a lot of water – so, you’ll regret not to do it! If you go on high season (like Easter), book previously and count on traffic. Locals move to the beach …
- Accommodation: I booked the “hot spots” in advance, not to take risks; as I stayed at Easter weekend, was quite difficult to find a place to stay where I didn’t book.
- Money: Euros are not accepted; everything works in US dollars… local currency just for small things in local markets, but dollars are also accepted. Don’t exchange at the first desk; check the prices (that can have relevant difference). If you are stressed with time, exchange just a small amount. Sometimes the exchange rate is better in hotels than in specialized agents.
- Phone and internet: Buy a local SIM card on the arrival – you can do it inside the airport, while waiting for the luggage, gaining some time.
- Health care: insect repellent highly recommended; I didn’t try any bottled water, so I advise you to do the same.
- Habits: No special care needed in terms of clothing/habits.
- Bird watching: If you love bird watching, have your binoculars ready all the time. Every place is worthwhile exploring!