Costa Rica – General Info

Costa Rica - General Info 1

Costa Rica – General Info

Costa Rica is a tropical Central American country. The people are friendly, and knowledge of Spanish is a bonus though not required as most Ticos (Costa Ricans) speak English.

Kim and I have been to Costa Rica more than 15 times. But, we still have lots to learn. Each time we go, we learn and experience new aspects of this country.

In this article, I’ll try to answer the basic questions for those thinking of traveling to Costa Rica for their first time. There is a Pro-tips page that will have more technical details covering cell phones and vehicle navigation.

Safety
Is it safe? Sure, you’re in Central America. You may not speak the language and be unaware of many of the subtle nuances that are indicative of the region.

Are you saying it’s unsafe? No, not at all…just be aware of your surroundings. Don’t leave your “stuff” laying about as you might in your own back-yard. There is less violent crime in Costa Rica than in the USA. Petty theft is the most common form of crime, and it’s usually only when someone temps an opportunistic thief.

Transportation
Rental Cars, Buses, Private Shuttles, Airplanes…your choices are many.

Rental Cars are a good means of transportation as they provide the freedom to stop when you like or explore different paths. Get a 4×4 as you never know when you need to cross a river or climb a mountain.

Buses are the cheapest form of transportation. The cost from San Jose to most locations is under $10. The bus drivers are very experienced as we have seen them in all sorts of areas that you would not think a large bus should be.

Private Shuttles are a comfortable way to travel if it’s your first time. The drivers tend to be very proud of their country so don’t be surprised if they pull over to show you Sloths or other animals along the way.

Airplanes are a fun and quick way to get from point A to B. They are small Hopper types (Cessna 208 Grand Caravans) and seat 14 people. It’s always thrilling to land on what looks like a small road but is the actual airport. Great fun!

Weather
Costa Rica has excellent weather. San Jose is, on average 75 degrees year-round. This is due to its elevation of ~4k ft. The beaches in Costa Rica are hotter and more humid. There are many different climates as well as differences based on the Pacific or Caribbean side. Now would be a good time to reference ‘Pura Vida’.

Pura Vida
This means ‘pure life‘ literally but is the national slogan of Costa Rica. It’s used as a casual salutation and is similar to “hang loose” in Hawaii. Pura Vida is more than a slogan, its a way of life in Costa Rica. No rush, enjoy life. If you adopt this attitude the moment you land, your vacation will be many times better.

It’s important to remember you are in another country. The locals (Ticos) operate on their own schedules.

Warnings and Considerations
Don’t expect that the Ticos or any common procedures need to act like they do at home. It may seem obvious, but there are many times we’ve overheard people frustrated with one thing or another when they should relax, be patient, and enjoy this tropical paradise. Were the guests, act appropriately, and you’ll have the time of your life. And remember they live in Amerca also. Central America, North America.

Costa Rica Pro-tips

Costa Rica Pro-tips

Communication

SIM Card

Use Costa Rican Cell Service
For 500 Colones ($1) you can buy a SIM Card to use in your own Mobile Phone. The requirements are that your phone is unlocked; which is the default condition for Verizon phones when out of the county. Check with your provider before you leave to be sure or have your phone unlocked. If not, they should be able to unlock your phone for no additional charge. The next step is to purchase some air/data time to use. We purchased 2.5 Gigs on a 15-day plan for 4500 Colones ($9)…this was more than enough for constant Waze use while traveling, uploading photos to Social Media and the occasional call back to the states. Coverage was pretty good though many people have recommended Kolbi. There is a Kolbi at the airport near the baggage claim, but their system was down, so we had to use the City Mall Claro shop to purchase data. Note: You’ll need to provide your Passport # when registering the card to your phone. Work with a shop so they can communicate the details as the person on the other end of the phone may not speak English.

Navigation

Costa Rica Pro-tips 2

Use Waze for navigation
Waze is the go-to nav choice while driving in Costa Rica. Gone are the days of renting or bringing a GPS device. Waze will help you navigate as well as offer suggestions on alternate routes if there are impediments on your expected route. Also, Waze is a community of users (Wazers) that can update conditions on your route. For instance, cars pulled over or Police hiding around the next corner.

Some of the car rentals now provide Mobile Phones for you to rent along with the car. National Car Rental was going to charge us $15 per day for a phone to use Waze. Vamos Car Rental gave a phone for no extra charge. I was able to negotiate the phone from National down to $7 per day but I have wanted it for $5 and was happy to have gotten a SIM Card in my own personal phone.

Kims Birthday Party in 2020

Kim’s Birthday Party – 2020

Need an excuse to get away and enjoy the tropical weather of Costa Rica? Well, Kim is hoping all her friends can join her in her favorite place, Costa Rica.

Kim on the beach in Costa Rica

We’ll help with any details you may need and depending on how many people are attending, we can rent a house, you find individual accommodations or rent a whole hotel.

Were looking to book in the latter part of July like our last trip as it allows off-season pricing and low crowds. Also, the weather is “lush” since there may be rain to balance out the sunny days.

Everyone is welcome! Let’s make Kim’s 50th one she will remember.

Please post back if you are interested.

What to do in Costa Rica?

Beaches are wonderful and safe if you’re in the main areas. We’re planning on staying in Playa Guiones, Nosara which has one of the nicest beaches in Costa Rica. Waves that are good for beginners and those looking for more challenges.

Additionally, Ostional is close by and is a protected area where Sea Turtles often lay eggs. Check this video where we were lucky enough to see them laying eggs AND new-borns hatching at the same time.

Other things to do:

  • Horseback riding
  • Exploring
  • Yoga
  • Quad self-guided adventure
  • Surfing

More details on Costa Rica:

Pro Tips for Costa Rica
Costa Rica general info

At this time we are considering the following dates:
Hopefully, there is a decent size group going so we’ll need to be flexible if others have constraints.

Kims Birthday Party in 2020 3

Costa Rica August 2019

Costa Rica August 2019

Sunset beach fire at Santa Teresa, Costa Rica 2019
Sunset beach fire at Playa Santa Teresa

Costa Rica. The place people like to plan their retirement and adventure vacations. Surf, monkeys, warm weather, and friendly people are a common draw to Costa Rica.

We returned for our umpteenth time, just the two of us (Kim and I) as our son now enjoys his freedom and ability to stretch his independence when his parents are not home.

Because the surf trip with just the guys was such a disaster in May, this trip was all about rebuilding positive experiences. Granted, I do find myself even more aware of my surroundings (regarding thefts) than the complacency that had settled in after many prior successful trips. We decided on returning to Santa Teresa which we had not seen for several years. It’s a thriving town much like Playa Guiones though still a bit bohemian and tailored for a younger crowd.

We’re looking to save money these days so switched from Hotels to using Air BnB. This turned out to be a beneficial decision.

The first place we stayed, was Tommy Relax. Thomas and his wife Franchesca are 10-year transplants from Italy. Thomas owned a restaurant before moving to Costa Rica and now offers food cooked at his BnB as well as working as a local chef.

Thomas’ house is in the back and he has two 1bed with kitchen units in the front. They both have air conditioning and are very comfortable, clean and a bargain at $50 per night.

Tommy’s 13-year-old son (Donatello) provided details on the local breaks as he is a surfing enthusiast.

The next morning I was up early and hit the beach at 5:30 am ready for some warm water and nice waves. The beach was deserted, very low tide and the waves sucked. It was low tide and sharp rock formations were everywhere. I walked a kilometer looking for a decent break and eventually paddled out just to get wet. Headed back to the room a bit sad. Kim and I returned later and just as Donatello had mentioned the best time is “middle tide”. Rocks were underwater except for the largest ones and the waves were breaking with nice consistent shape. Woo hoo!

SIM Card
SIM Card Claro

PRO TIP – Use Costa Rican Cell Service
For 500 Colones ($1) you can buy a SIM Card to use in your own Mobile Phone. The requirements are that your phone is unlocked; which is the default condition of Verizon phones when out of the county. Check with your provider before you leave to be sure or have your phone unlocked. The next step is to purchase some air/data time to use. We purchased 2.5 Gigs on a 15-day plan for 4500 Colones. This was more than enough for constant Waze use while traveling, uploading photos to Social Media and the occasional call back to the states. Coverage was pretty good though many people have recommended Kolbi. There is a Kolbi at the airport near the baggage claim but their system was down so we had to use the City Mall Claro shop to purchase data. Note: You’ll need to provide your Passport # when registering the card to your phone. Work with a shop so they can communicate the details as the person on the other end of the phone may not speak English.

Location #2

We only booked the first location in advance and figured we would find suitable accommodations as needed. Tommy’s was great and we even extended our stay by a day but wanted to experience other locations in Sana Teresa.

Our next location was chosen at a higher elevation and required 4×4 to climb the dirt road to the location. The Air BnB noted that not only 4X4 but staying in 1st gear and in 4×4 low was required. Adventure!

This location was 1500 ft or so up the hill and offered a more secluded location. Lush foliage and the room was designed to split the living space between outside living space and the inner room, clearly built into the hillside. The bed was elevated and we had nice kitchen facilities to prepare meals.

While everything was great at this location and the hosts were super nice, there was one small thing that we were not keen on…there was no air-conditioning. At night it was very warm and the fans provided were insufficient to cool the room as the windows lacked screens. It was a very uncomfortable night and we struggled with how to resolve the problem since this location had a three-night minimum. The next morning we spoke to the hosts and they graciously allowed us to request a refund from Air BnB.

Location #3

Off to Nosara (Playa Giuones), we headed for the remaining time in Costa Rica. Using Waze as GPS devices are obsolete, we easily navigated a course around rivers and more rustic roads to arrive within 4-5 hours.

After checking into our Air BnB, we headed off to the beach (300 meters) and got in a surf session. Nice peaky pealing overhead waves on a high tide. Only a couple of other guys out and came back in with big smiles and a euphoric buzz from a successful session.

Costa Rica August 2019 17
Kim and a Portabello Burger

Salt#1 was a nice little two-room, plus bathroom apartment. Everything was new and the location was ideal just across from Burgers and Beers and a short walk to the beach.

This has been a great trip, very relaxing, and allowed a visit to Hotel LeCabanon which is a client and friends to discuss online marketing plans for the coming season.

So while the prior trip in May was a bust due to getting robbed (our mistake as the guy tasked with watching the car made a bad decision to take a walk ) this trip replaced the bad memories with good. Mission Accomplished!

Costa Rica August 2019 18
Santa Teresa Locations