What’s the first impression on Costa Rica? Honestly not many people know where this beautiful and nature-friendly country is. Nowadays lots of tourists from different countries visit Costa Rica and tend to fall in love with it, thus they stay a lot longer time than they adjust. I stayed in Costa Rica for two weeks, it was more or less enough to see how people live there and how fascinating the natures are but my tips for those who want to be friends with animals and get to see such naturals like waterfalls, beaches and mountains will be “stay as long as possible”. Well, does it sound convincing enough?
It’s Costa Rica’s capital and also the most crowded city in the whole country. There aren’t quite many tourists attractions, so backpackers only stay in San Jose for one day to arrive and move right away to another city. In other words, San Jose is also the base for transportations.
If you wish to do something in San Jose, It’s going to be shopping or discovering some nice restraints in downtown. Other than that, I’m afraid I don’t think there’s anything I can strongly recommend you. I stayed at two different hostels in San Jose and both of them were very nice. Most cheap hostels in Costa Rica cost minimum 8$.
La Fortuna de San Carlos
My plan was just going anywhere as I go and I asked to a guy working in a hostel in San Jose, where I should definitely go after San Jose. Guess what he said?
“Everywhere you go in this beautiful country, you will fall in love. But first, go to Fortuna and get to see the beautiful volcanos, you are pretty unlucky though, A raining season just has started.”
Damn he was totally right, it rains a lot in Costa Rica in May thus seeing the volcanos in Fortuna wasn’t easy, it was pretty dark and covered by the clouds unfortunately. But still very beautiful. I joined a paid group tour in order to see Arenal Volcano which is known as the most spectacular volcano in Costa Rica. It’s 1,633 meters high and it was worth the effort to get a closer look.
Looking for the best viewpoints? Make sure to visit Arenal Observatory, you won’t regret it. At the end of the group tour we were taken to hot springs where we could just chill and grab a wine and we just loved them.
La Fortuna boasts over 75 restaurants so you will be able to find something that pleases yourself. If you look for a local food place, don’t forget to visit “Soda”s.
Everywhere in Costa Rica you can find many of them and they usually provide local cuisines with reasonable prices (normally starting from 5$).
I met two dutch girls (Ross and Janneke) in my hostel and we had such a fun time drinking and talking about our trips. They were traveling through whole Costa Rica and Panama and listening to their journey totally inspired me after all. Apparently Costa Rica also has attracted many Western Europeans to come along, so I can tell that it’s not only about Americans or Canadians, though they still take the biggest percentage.
Monteverde & Santa Elena
After exploring Fortuna I headed off to Monteverde. It’s located in the country’s northwestern mountains. It was really interesting to move to Monteverde from Fortuna. First off I was taken by a car to a port and there were many backpackers waiting for a boat to come and as soon as it arrived all of us got on the boat. It seeming is a very common route for travelers.
The most popular purpose of visiting Monteverde is definitely the national park (the Cloud forest). You can visit one in Monteverde, the bigger one or you can choose one in Santa Elena, the latter one is a bit cheaper but most people I met said it’s much more interesting in Monteverde. Entrance fee – 20$. You may think it’s quite costly, yes it is, besides I wasn’t able to find any animals aside from some ordinary birds. For that reason many tourist agencies offer different kind of night tours, so that more animals can be found. It was a really nice time to hike over the beautiful mountains though.
I accidentally met a German girl from Munich and we walked together and had a coffee after the hike. We both are fast walkers and like to challenge and we went to a hidden forest and climbed a long tree. It was so much fun, although my whole body was wet.
Note – Monteverde doesn’t have a proper downtown, it’s more like a small village, although everything is spread out along the road, so it’s easy to go somewhere and comeback to where you stay.
If you ask me how much time to spend in Monteverde, my answer is going to be leastwise a couple of nights (I stayed 2 nights) to make the trip worthwhile, unless you’re busy and have a tight schedule.
It’s situated along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province and always has been a popular vacation place for both locals and foreigners. The beach is pretty long and there are some beautiful waterfalls you can visit while staying in Samara. Even though I didn’t stay for a long time in this beautiful and cute town it was enough to feel that this city has a lot of things to offer. The beach is famous for surfers and you can easily find surf lessons which attract surf beginners. People are very open-minded as well so you can make friends so easily with the locals. Discovering nice and low-budged food places could be a bit tricky as there are so many but quite costly as the town itself is located near the beach but obviously you will have such a nice time eating and drinking out.
For some of you looking for a nice hostel in Samara, I’d strongly suggest you to join the friendly society of Camp Supertramp which already was chosen the best hostel in whole Costa Rica. The vibes are just amazing, even though you just arrive everyone will welcome you and you will feel like home immediately. The owner is dutch so it seems many dutch backpackers come by. They have 2 friendly dogs and a couple of comfy hanging beds.
Camp Supertramp – Camino Buena Vista – 400 Metres North-West from Iguana Verde Supermercado / Licorera / Bakery, Playa Samara 5510, Costa Rica
How to wander Costa Rica
1.Don’t worry about language
Believe or not, English is used almost like first language in Costa Rica, at least in tourist friendly zones. You will easily find people speaking quite good English.
2.Take some cash
Paying by credit card is available in most places but it’s always the better idea to have some cash with you. So far as possible, get American dollars. Everywhere in the country receives them and I think it’s a lot more efficient than paying in Colones (Costarican currency)
3.Relax and take your time
Once you get in Costa Rica, you better give up rushing yourself and never expect Ticos to act fast because they will never do it and will never even try. Ticos like to go slowly no matter what it is.
4.Get ready to take enormous buses
The most common transportation is bus, there’s no train and it’s too small to take a flight anyway. Sadly Costa Rica’s bus system isn’t so well organized so oftentimes you may feel frustrated by waiting for the bus to come. I also did but if you take it as nothing, you won’t get frustrated. For instance I had to bother myself to get up at 5:30 AM and be on the bus heading to Samara from Monteverde. If you take a look at the map you will realize that it’s not necessarily far but due to bad roads and the fact that they stop every 5 minute to get more people it takes a lot longer times to travel.
5.It’s an expensive country
True, especially eating out is quite costly, so the best idea to save up your money is that going to a supermarket nearby and cooking by yourself. Though, processed goods in Costa Rica in general are very expensive. On the other hand taking a local bus is very cheap in Costa Rica, so not too shabby after all.
6.Travel with a map with you
Perhaps it’s only me but I got lost more times than I ever did before. In this case, maps.mee could help you. Once you download it while having internet, you will be able to use this app even when you are offline, it totally saved my time in Costa Rica.
In case you enjoy to get lost and prefer asking, don’t hesitate. Ticos are so friendly and willing to help people.
7.Say “Pura vida”
Literally means pure life in Spanish. That’s how Ticos live.
Apparently the most common words to attract tourists in Costa Rica are “Hey, come here and see the beautiful natures.” and “Tired of your daily life and looking for something new? It’s time to come to Costa Rica.” Well, does Costa Rica live up to the hype? Maybe, you will find it out when you get there.
Have you been to Costa Rica? Did you enjoy their “pure vida” then? 🙂
All the love,