Where to go and why?
I chose to go to Costa Rica for a few reasons:
- It’s winter in February in Washington DC and I wanted to go some place warm.
- I found a good deal on plane tickets.
- I heard great things about the country.
- I want to learn Spanish.
- It offers both scenery/events as well as partying.
I purchased round trip tickets to Costa Rica from an app called Skyscanner. I chose the dates so one day will fall on a holiday for me and save a vacation day. I took five days of vacation while visiting Costa Rica for 10 days! Not a bad deal.
- Round Trip Tickets Cost: $477 Each
- Travel Dates: February 9-18 (10 Days)
Depart: Baltimore MD to Atlanta GA to San Jose, Costa Rica.
Arrive: San Jose to El Salvador to Washington DC.
I planned on at least half of my time at the beach and the other half hiking, four wheeling, using zip lines and other outdoorsy events. I had two criteria to meet:
- Pack light enough to just use a carry on bag.
- Pack enough to last 10 days.
When I know I am swimming at the beach or pool area I can reduce the number of socks and underwear to take. Just reuse your bathing suit. However, a word of caution - my clothes ended up smelling pretty bad. In hindsight, just splurge about halfway through the trip and pay for laundry service.
my clothes ended up smelling pretty bad
I am not going to go into packing details too much but I want to talk about proper footwear and how important this is. Keep in mind I want to pack light. I brought my typical going out shoes (New Balance skateboard shoes) and a pair of Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 4 Runner shoes.
These shoes were perfect for getting wet and for hiking jagged rocks. I even climbed a Ficus tree with them on. However, the shoes glue came off on edges as you can tell from the photo.
Day 1 - San Jose
Upon arrival I planned on using my phone to get an Uber driver. I have Verizon Wireless as my carrier. I couldn’t, for the life of me, get the internet to work. I thought that I would just pay the $10 per day for international data. I also thought it was automatic. It wasn’t.
Set your Verizon phone up for international plan BEFORE you get there!
Since we didn’t check our bags, we went straight to the airport exit. We were approached by dozens of taxi drivers immediately. They tried for our business aggressively. If you say, “I’ve got a ride, I am good” (in Spanish if you can), they will ask you, “With who, which company?”
Reddit posts suggest never using a taxi, so I tried hard to avoid them. After scrambling for 30 minutes trying to avoid the taxi drivers, I finally found a person who claimed to be an Uber driver.
The Uber driver didn’t have the app or any indication of working for the company. He obviously wasn’t an Uber driver but I didn’t care. I asked him how much to get to Hostel Pangea? He said $15 US. I was on it! Didn’t care if he was a random person or not. Honestly, that’s part of the experience or me. He took me to an ATM and I withdrew US dollars and Costa Rican Colones.
The drivers in Costa Rica are, to put it lightly, nuts! I thought it was kind of funny how different they drive than me, in DC area. I almost want to believe that pedestrians do not have the right away at all. I swear the driver was going to clip every pedestrian he passed. He also rode right up on ass of the car in front of him. Anyway, made it to Hostel Pangia safely.
Things I noticed about driving in Costa Rica:
** Drives aggressively ** Pass anyone and everyone ** Motorcycles and dirt bikes will pass you all the time ** Dogs and pedestrians everywhere on the road ** Pedestrians don’t seem to have the right of way ** Potholes everywhere ** Lots of dirt roads ** Watch out for herds of oxen on the road (seriously lol)
On a good note, not one driver had road rage.
Checked into the hostel around 10PM with no problems. Our room had a stand up shower with one glass wall on the bottom floor. It was really cool actually. Upstairs was a bed overlooking the shower. Definitely a nice view if you know what I mean.
- Beautiful view
- Plenty of room
- Great location
- No hot water
I asked the desk clerk where the bars were located. He said if I go left I will find the “American bar.” Then he said at night, do not go right or you will get into a fight. Interesting. So we walked maybe 100 feet to the “American bar” and had a few cerveza.
One thing to note, and I will repeat this a few times, is to never flush toilet paper in the toilet. You will get used to this pretty fast and it will become pretty normal. Just respect the system they have and put it in the trash. Every single toilet will have a trash next to it.
never flush toilet paper in the toilet
Drying hands with paper is kind of wasteful and almost all of the places I went to did not offer paper towels or hand dryers. You also get used to that quickly. Just air dry them and move on.
Day 2 - San Hose to Jaco
The next day we woke up early and walked to the right to find some breakfast. Turns out, there are a lot of cool shops nearby. I believe the clerk was just warning us that at night it can be dangerous. During the day it seemed fine.
We saw a few people with dozens of pigeons on them. Kind of nasty but cool at the same time. ha.
As you can see to the left, we paid 2,585 Colones each to take the bus to Jaco beach. That is roughly $4.26 US. The taxi drivers would charge \$60- \$80 easily.
Our bus stop was just down the street. The bus driver was just as crazy as our Uber driver by the way. I must say, it was the most comfortable bus I have ever been on. He also picked up random people running after the bus.
I believe this site is where she purchased our tickets.
4 Wheeling Tour
We arrived around 2PM and didn’t have a lot of time so we did a three hour four wheeling tour through the rain forest. For one ATV with a passenger and a guide, we paid $140 total for three hours. We used AXR to book. They will pick you up at any hotel or hostel you are staying at.
The tour guide was very funny and informative. We drove on the streets of Jaco to a dirt road and up the mountain. The view from the top is great. We stopped and hiked a bit to this waterfall. On the way back we stopped for drinks at a local restaurant in the mountains. The scenery was fantastic. The guide said we can even eat dinner up there if we wanted to. We ended up having two drinks then jumped back on the ATVs.
On the way back, right before we turned our ATVs in, we got to ride on the beach with them. This was extra cool because we happened to be there during an international skydiving convention or something. We saw lots of sky divers, including ones with giant fans blowing behind them so they an stay in the air longer. They did a lot of cool stunts.
I captured this image right outside my hostel at sunset.
We stayed at Room2Board hostel for about $50 per night with a private bedroom. Our room at two beds but we only needed one. We shared a bathroom with an adjacent room. This place was great! It is right on the beach, has a pool, a bar, and is affordable. You can use credit card or local colones for payments.
After the beach and four wheeling, we partied at the hostel. We mostly stayed at the bar and ordered drinks and then went into the pool. Then we played some volleyball with the other guests and had a great time.
The pool and bar close around 1 AM. Don’t worry, the party moves to the rooftop at this point. The rooftop is open all night I assume. We usually called it quits around 3 AM nightly.
To summarize Room2Board:
- Daily yoga
- Surfboard rentals
- Surf lessons
- On the beach
- Has some private rooms
I met people from:
- United States
I’m sure I met more but didn’t really keep track. Canadians must really hate the cold because their were a lot of Canadians.
Hangovers do not exist in Jaco! Seriously.
With all the partying, the rooms themselves are very quiet and peaceful. At least mine was. There is a slight chance I was drunk and just didn’t care. I swear I didn’t have a hangover at all while in Costa Rica. They must not exist there.
We also crashed a bachelor pad while there. I don’t partake but there was definitely plenty of the white gold and green magic going around. The guys said they got it cheap from their taxi driver.
The beach was beautiful and the water was warm. Walking around the entire beach area was relaxing. You can walk north to a rocky area where you can find crabs and other marine life.
There were plenty of bars and restaurants on the strip. I counted about three locations where there were ATM machines. However, a lot of the machines were out of order. You really didn’t have to use US dollars or Colones because most places on the strip take credit card.
We walked past the strip headed north for a while. It was nice to get away from the tourists and venture into a little bit of the unknown. The further I went, the less people spoke English. We stumbled upon this iguana in the road on the way back. It was about three feet long.
Day 3 - Manuel Antonio
We booked a full day white water rafting through the same place we did the ATV tour. I believe we paid about $180 for the two of us total. That included the drive to Manuel Antonio area.
The drive to the shop where we got the rafts was about an hour away. Once there, it took about another 45 minutes to get to the top of the river. The van that pooled us had a cute dog in it and a bunny.
Such a beautiful day for rafting. We got a quick lesson on how to raft. Basically learning the commands the guide yells out at you. It is not rainy season so the rapids were at best a class 2 in my opinion. However, it was so much fun and our guide was very knowledgeable and funny.
We were able to get off the raft a few times and swim around. The water felt great. Then we stopped at this waterfall to take a break to eat and suck down a couple of beers of course.
During the trip we spotted a few Toucan birds, some wild horses (including a baby one), and lots of insects while rafting.
Around 4 PM we were off to dinner, which was included. They drove us to this amazing place for dinner and just dropped us off. They said, “Another driver is going to pick you up in about an hour.” Then they were gone. We were so confused as to what to do. The servers didn’t speak any English at all and kept asking us if we wanted them to call a taxi. The ride home was supposed to be included. Ha ha.
Anyway, about an hour later a random guy picks us up in a car. We get in and do some small talk. This guy drove like a mad man too! Then, he asked if I had a license and if I wanted to drive myself. I declined. We spotted about 10 high-school boys that were walking in the middle of the road and this guy gets on an intercom system and yells at them. Turns out, he’s a fire-fighter and an taxi driver. Good times!
Relax day at the beach. Full day of having zero plans! Bar hopped some and ate at the local restaurants.
Repeat of day 4.
Day 6 - Jaco to Monteverde
We purchased two tickets to Monteverde through interbus for $110 total. They came and picked us up right at the Room2Board hostel.
Day 7 - Monteverde
You must do the Canopy tour while in Costa Rica. The longest and highest ziplines in Central America! This was a must do for us.
The Tour Includes:
- 9 regular zip lines
- 2 Superman Zip lines (which includes the longest zip line in Latin America)
- 1 hammock bridge
- 1 rappel
- 1 Mega Tarzan Swing
Coffee and Night Tour
Day 8 - Monteverde to La Fortuna
We glamped at Hostel Selena.
Some of the features:
- Free WiFi
- Daily Yoga
- Fire pit
- Pet Friendly
We had some free time to kill so we ventured down the road and up a path to an awesome Ficas tree. You can climb to the very top by going to the inside of the tree and climb. It was beautiful, and free.
Jeep Boat Jeep
Day 9 - La Fortuna
Baldi Hot Springs has the worlds largest hot springs with over 25 thermal pools.
Random Local Bar
We asked the local guys where the real bars were at. That the tourists never go to. They insisted that we could only go there if they walk us there. We decided to give it a go around 12 AM on our last night there.
Day 10 - La Fortuna to San Jose
We would love to hear your stories. Add them to the comments below.