Costa Rica. Trip and vacation in Costa Rica.

Two Weeks in Costa Rica – Review

The idea of a trip to Costa Rica in February-March 2022 came as a result of combing through a few options that suited us on three criteria: weather, simplicity of the current visa requirements, as well as covid.

Costa Rica is a small country (only 15% larger than the Moscow region). But while planning the trip it became clear that there is a lot to see, and although the visit to the country was not so short – 15 days, it was necessary to limit my “territorial” appetite. After reading the available guides and reviews of fellow travelers (tinka61, Nomad, Sergey_traveldiaries), we made for ourselves the following, quite interesting and balanced route of travel (Map 1).

Map 1. Itinerary of our trip through Costa Rica. The figures show the order of our travels and are referred to in the text.

Our trip began and ended at the airport in San Jose (#1 on Map 1). We decided not to go into the capital itself (because of the covids and contradictory reviews), and went directly from the airport by rental car to the national park “Volcano Poás”.

Let us say right away that car rental in Costa Rica is significantly more expensive than in many other countries (mainly because of the very expensive mandatory insurance). Developed here an alternative – moving between different interesting places by shuttles, shuttles and cabs – is significantly cheaper (our fellow travelers have written about it in detail). A car in personal use, of course, creates a lot of convenience compared to public transport, but you have to pay for it.

When renting a car at the airport, for the first time in our many years of practice we were faced with the fact that we received a car with almost no gasoline – with a tank filled to only 1/8 of the capacity. In response to our bewilderment over this, we were told that we could return the car in the same condition at the end of the trip. Since the final gasoline consumption in a foreign country and in an unfamiliar car is difficult to calculate, we returned the car with a significant “surplus” of gasoline: they probably hoped for this (stinginess!).

View of San Jose from the plane. The city lies on a plateau surrounded on both sides by volcanic mountain ranges.

The capital city of San Jose is in the center of the country – on a plateau called the Central Valley. On either side of it are volcanic mountain ranges stretching from northwest to southeast across the country. Costa Rica is sandwiched between two oceans – the Pacific to the west and the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea) to the east, the minimum distance between the coasts is only 118 km (Map 2). The highly rugged terrain, despite the country’s diminutive size, makes it difficult to travel between its individual regions. So the small size of the country should not mislead the tourist.

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Map 2. Costa Rica’s topography. From northwest to southeast, volcanic mountain ranges stretch across the country.

From the airport we drove to the small mountain town of Altura, where the next morning we went to the National Park Volcán Poás (Parque Nacional Volcán Poás , no. 2 on map 1). The ticket to visit it had been purchased online in advance. Poás is 2,697 meters high and is one of the 4 active volcanoes in Costa Rica. We read that very often the top of this volcano is covered by a thick layer of clouds and you can not see anything, but we were lucky: the crater of the volcano, filled with emerald sulfur lake, was in front of us during the visit as clear as a palm.

And then we headed towards another, perhaps the most popular volcano in the country, Arenal. On the way there we stopped at “La Paz Waterfall Gardens”, which literally can be translated as “Peace Waterfall Gardens”. In fact – it is a natural park, located on one of the slopes of the volcano Poás. And there is not one but five waterfalls, among which Mir is the largest. Between the waterfalls there is a hiking trail.

Also in this park is said to be the largest wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica, something like a zoo, but all its inhabitants have been seized by the authorities from private owners. The set of animals there is very representative and you can look at them very closely. In hindsight we can say that it was there that we were able to discern some birds and animals that later, when visiting Costa Rican national parks and preserves, we either didn’t see at all or saw only from a distance. So this park is definitely worth seeing, although the pleasure is expensive: $49 per adult for foreigners.

In general, the prices to visit the various natural sites of Costa Rica (and for the sake of them, with their exotic animals and plants and travelers go there) we were surprised. We had been to national parks in different countries, but nowhere else did we have to pay so much for the entrance. For example, tickets to luxury American national parks cost $25 to $35 per car (no matter how many passengers are in it) and are valid for 7 days. Tickets to Costa Rica’s parks are single-entry and individual tickets. So while lodging and food in this country can still be found at reasonable prices, you have to spend a lot of money to visit the natural sites.

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Our next stop was in the town of La Fortuna (#3 on Map 1), where we stayed for three nights. The undisputed star here is Arenal Volcano, which can be seen from a variety of places in the area. Most of the time, the top of this cone-shaped volcano is not best seen: a cloudy “cap” covers it, but we got lucky. Although even with the cap the volcano looks great, so La Fortuna is a popular tourist spot.

This review: Holiday in Costa Rica – A great report on an independent trip to Costa Rica.

I do not even know where to begin my review, so many emotions and experiences)))) most importantly want to fit everything into a relatively small review, because oooh information so much!

Costa Rica is on the isthmus between North and South America, borders with Nicaragua and Panama, is washed by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

I knew nothing about this country, my friend suggested me to go there, I began to explore it and was just amazed by such a rich nature and wildlife, read a lot of information on the most popular tourist spots, which should be visited and made a rough itinerary.

Let’s start with the tickets: there are no direct flights, the cheapest option is with two connections via Europe and Panama (or America). I found a flight through Madrid and Panama, ie our flight took Moscow-Madrid-Panama-San Jose (capital of Costa Rica), between changes was 2 hours, all flight is about 15 hours, cost 35 rubles, tickets were bought 6 months in advance.

Visa: You can enter the country by any Schengen visa for U.S. or Costa Rican visa can be obtained at the embassy in Moscow, but it is disposable and to get it enough troublesome (need to provide a certificate of criminal record with an apostille), so we decided to do the American visa as well as give it to 3 years at once and it can also visit other Latin American countries.

Since we were planning to visit a lot of different places, it makes sense to go there with a backpack and a minimum of things. The high season for tourists is from November to April, at other times, the rainy season, but at the same time and the prices for everything fall by half. Local currency is kolons, 1 dollar = 550 kolons. Although everywhere else take dollars, but it’s better to change the local currency, because the recalculation will not be at a very favorable rate.

The main attractions of the country – it’s volcanoes, nature reserves, diverse fauna and flora. Of the 100% of all plant species on Earth, 70% are found here! And of course the Pacific Ocean – it’s just stunning, wide coastal strip and unreal sunsets.

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Now first things first, with pictures. We had a full 15 days. First day arrived in the capital city of San Jose at 19:00 (difference with Moscow – minus 10 hours), it took us 20 minutes drive from the airport, we had a one-night room booked, could have taken a bus, but it was too dangerous for two girls to wander there in the evening, it gets dark early at 6:00 pm, we decided to take a cab – $ 20. Boarding was $33 for two, with breakfast. Drove early in the morning by bus to La Fortuna, at the foot of Arenal, the most famous volcano there, the trip took 4 hours. There we also had a hotel Campo Verde booked for 2 nights for $170 for two, overlooking the volcano. Consists of 10 small houses surrounded by woods.

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Rest in Costa Rica photos

So to say in the “yard” there was a papaya and guava tree, calibris were flying :) We got there about 14.00, walked around the town,

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Went to eat at a local place – the most popular and budget local dish is Casados – rice (or mashed potatoes), beans, chicken (beef, pork or fish), vegetable salad and fried bananas. In this village it was $10, in other places it was cheaper -$5.

Rest in Costa Rica photos

We ate it all the time, also often took cheap fruit (mango, melon, watermelon, pineapple, passion fruit) and freshly squeezed juices. Rum is also popular in the country – the price from $ 5, all kinds of delicious, Wine Sangria -fruit, Imperial beer -1-1.5 $ 1, in bars and cafes for 2-3 $. On the second day we took a guided tour to volcano, from 10 am till 8 pm, we were picked up by minibus from the hotel, there were about 8 people in a group, the guide spoke English. It is not allowed to go up Arenal Volcano itself, it can erupt any time, the last time it did so in 2010. But next to it is a former volcano Chatto, inactive already, at the top is a green lake Chatto, that is where we went, 1700 meters up.

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The climb is hard, through the jungle on a narrow path, but it was worth it. We climbed for two hours. The tree impressed us, it’s so powerful!!!

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While walking we met a iguana.

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Here is the lagoon itself, the view from above.

Rest in Costa Rica photos

You can swim in it, but the water is quite cool.

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Next on the route we had a suspension bridge, while walking we met a sockeye, they are very brave here and are not afraid of people.

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Rest in Costa Rica photos

We were lucky with the weather and we could see the volcano in all its glory, usually clouds cover the top

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Here is the bridge over the river and the jungle

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Further on the way there was a hotel with a view point again over the volcano and the nearby Arenal Lake.

Rest in Costa Rica photos

There we still saw toucans, but only with binoculars on the top of the trees.

Then we went to a waterfall, the water is very cold, bathing was not risky:)

Rest in Costa Rica photos

In the evening we were taken to the hot mineral springs, it was already dark, it had a big pool, where you sit and kayfuyushey, about an hour there were probably and went back to the hotel.

Day 4, in the morning we went to the nature reserve Monteverde, was booked a mini-bass and boat across the lake, the road took 4 hours, a little heavy, but very beautiful views around, so many shades of green! Next to the reserve is the town of Santa Elena, for one night was booked hotel Monteverde Inn for $ 50 for two, also in the form of small houses overlooking the mountains of Talaran.

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That day we took a trip to Canopy Tour – a ride on a cable stretching in the jungle between trees at an altitude of 300-600 meters. It was impossible to take photos, because you have to fly fast and not have time to take each other’s pictures. I liked it very much, it takes your breath away).

In the evening we went for a walk in the town.

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Rest in Costa Rica photos

On day 5 we were supposed to go to Manuel Antonio, the Pacific coast, unfortunately there was no direct bus and we took a shuttle for $65 per person, such shuttles run between tourist sites throughout Costa Rica and are quite expensive, but since it was only once we decided in comfort, 4-5 hours. And here we are finally on the oceanfront with soft and light sand.

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There are always big waves on the Pacific, so surfers from all over the world come here. There are surf schools, you can rent a board for the day for $ 10. The water is always warm.

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We stayed at the hotel Jungle beach, 200 meters from the beach, for 2 nights cost $210 for two. Large studio room with a kitchenette.

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Rest in Costa Rica photos

I want to note on the beach rent chairs and umbrellas are not very cheap-$ 10 for the day.

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Many simply lie in the sand on towels, but the sun there is unreal and burn very easily, we used protection with factor 45, and in last days already oil for sunburn. Manuel Antonio is considered the most expensive place, the prices for everything are higher. So we did not stay long there, and after 2 days our route was to the town of Jaco, also on the Pacific coast. First, we took the local bus to Quepos for less than a dollar (230 cents – 15 minutes), and then another bus to Haco for $ 4-1 hour. There we booked the hotel El Paraiso Escondido for 4 nights, for $ 223 for two people. A few words about Jaco – all young people and surfers flock here, it’s the center of club life and partying Costa Rica, the prices are lower than other resorts, there are expensive hotels and cheap hostels. Our hotel was a little far from the center, but again in the jungle, quiet and peaceful, even had a pool where we hung out after sunset.

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Rest in Costa Rica photos

In Haco of course the beaches are not as beautiful, and not very clean.

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Here and the prices of Kasados are 2 times lower. The rest 10 days of vacation we decided to stay here, we had no strength to move around the country and finances were coming to an end. It was not realistic to see the whole country in 2 weeks, I think next time we will go to the Caribbean. After four days in the hotel, we decided to move to the city center, because it was very hard to walk in this heat. The hotel in the center of town for $ 30 for two people, the conditions of course not super, the room only 2 beds and a ceiling fan, shower and toilet, the area has a kitchen and a pool. For overnight stays, this hotel is the best. We would go to the beach in the morning, come to the hotel in the afternoon to the pool, lie on hammocks, eat fruit, and in the evening would watch the sunset.

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Rest in Costa Rica photos

We also had big parrots flying around))

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Rest in Costa Rica photos

Rest in Costa Rica photos

And little geckos lived in the hotels.

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As far as souvenirs are popular here wood products, assorted dishes, vases, etc. You can also buy cheap leather small handbags over your shoulder for $ 30 handmade. also here is the most delicious coffee, a large package of 500 grams. ground coffee $4.00 at night on the beach burning fires :)))

Rest in Costa Rica photos

A favorite phrase of the local population-Pura Vida – life is good! It is really beautiful here, so measured, the inhabitants are very friendly and smiling, not bothersome, not intrusive. (I didn’t have any problems with them…) It’s probably the best we’ve ever had at Vida.) This is probably the best country I have seen, holidays to suit all tastes and wallets. I now want to rest here and even 15 hours of flight will not scare me :)

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