OT - Costa Rica Suggestions

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#1
Wife is treating me to a quick trip to Costa Rica. First time there. Speak limited spanish. Read pretty well and can figure things out. Just 2 adults. Probably 5 days total - 1 day to fly in - 3 days open - 1 day to fly out.
Doing some research and it's hard to sort the tourist trap spam from the good stuff.
Anybody who has been there, any suggestions?
Not necessarily looking for a beach thing, although not excluding it. Would like to see a bit of the country and experience the culture. Don't want to go too far off the beaten path however - not the young, reckless buck I used to be.
Any thoughts appreciated.
 
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#4
Awesome country. Just watch out for sketchy Americans living there trying to be your friend at bars or help you etc. If you haven't seen Central American poverty you might be surprised with some living conditions.

You can experience something like 5 climate zones in a day there on a tour. Arenal & Irazu volcanoes were cool, There are some rainforests with boat tours. San Jose was fine, lots of history but I wouldn't spend too much time there, felt safe walking alone.
 
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#5
If you like to party, you wanna go to Tamarindo which is the NW part of the country and youd wanna fly into Liberia Airport. If youre more the nature-type, Manuel Antonio is youre best bet which is more to the SW part and youd fly into San Jose airport. Arenal volcano is def a go-to and is between Tamarindo and Manuel Antonio. Pura Vida!
 
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#6
Wife is treating me to a quick trip to Costa Rica. First time there. Speak limited spanish. Read pretty well and can figure things out. Just 2 adults. Probably 5 days total - 1 day to fly in - 3 days open - 1 day to fly out.
Doing some research and it's hard to sort the tourist trap spam from the good stuff.
Anybody who has been there, any suggestions?
Not necessarily looking for a beach thing, although not excluding it. Would like to see a bit of the country and experience the culture. Don't want to go too far off the beaten path however - not the young, reckless buck I used to be.
Any thoughts appreciated.
Just went in April with the family. You can skip San Jose. Rent a car. The roads are good. They’re not interstates, but I could navigate with Google Maps.

We were there a week. We spent a couple of nights near Manuel Antonio National Park near the town of Quepos. It’s on the Pacific coast ~3 hrs drive from San Jose. The park is small but has tons of wildlife crammed into it. We saw sloths and lots of monkeys. There were also snakes, frogs/toads, coatimundi, and more. If you go, get a good local guide for the park. They will point out all kinds of things you never would’ve seen and will have a scope to give you a good look. Ours let us take photos through his scope. We went to the beaches in the park too. Very nice. Just keep an eye on your backpack, especially if you have food in it, as the monkeys will try to take it. We saw them get one lady’s. They took off into a tree to go through it. She had a box of tampons. The monkeys pulled them out one at a time, unwrapped them and tried to eat them. Hysterical - since it wasn’t ours. The distances in the park are pretty short, so I wouldn’t even call the walking a hike really. We also took a snorkeling trip. The boat and crew were great. The boat had a slide and a platform for jumping into the water. The food served was good, and the drinks were nice. The snorkeling itself was meh. But it was our kids’ first time, and we all had fun.

We then trekked 4-5 hours inland to the volcano Arenal. It was active about 7 years ago, but is dormant now. It does feed hot springs in the area. Our swanky resort (Tabacon) had pools and many grottos heated by the springs. You can also visit the spa and springs for the day. There is tons to do for the active vacationer in the area. We did a hike that crossed several hanging bridges in the rainforest. It was about 4 miles and fairly strenuous in the heat with lots of up and down. We also went zip lining with an awesome company - forgotten the name already. You take a tram up the mountain, then take 7 zip lines down crisscrossing a valley. The longest line was 1/2 mile long. You hit 85mph and are over 600’ above the jungle for long stretches. Views are awesome. You can also take horseback tours or ride ATVs. We also went to the La Fortuna waterfall. You walk down about 500 steps to it. You can swim at the bottom. It’s worth a couple of hours. You can combine it with a stop at one of the many restaurants in La Fortuna for lunch or dinner.

We did not go to the Gold Coast area in Guanacaste province. It’s well north on the Pacific coast. It’s supposed to have nice beaches and is a bit more built up. A local who helped us plan our trip said it is drier up there, more like SoCal or Mexico Pacific beaches and not the lush green people expect. Try to fly into or out of the Liberia airport if you go rather then making the long trip back to San Jose. Having only 7 days, we also did not try to get to the Caribbean coast. It’s quieter and more remote, but supposed to be beautiful with some great little beach towns. It was just too far. While the roads are good, it is slow to get from place to place by US standards. You cross mountain ranges on 2 lane roads wherever you go.

I speak some Spanish, but pretty much everyone involved in tourism speaks English. If you do fly out of San Jose (especially an early flight), try to stay in Alajuela the night before. It’s closer to the airport than San Jose.

Bring rain gear. It’s rainy season now in a rainforest!

Have fun. We loved it. Most of the people were very nice. And outside of San Jose, it all felt very safe. Pura vida!
 
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#8
Tamarindo for a first trip. Liberia Airport and then a 90 minute shuttle.

I would say PHENOMENAL beaches. And there are about 5 other beaches easily accessible to Tamarindo without renting a car. Bars and nightlife and diversity of dining options. You could stay fairly luxuriously (and there are many options) ... but a small hotel near the beach (like Hotel Mono Loco or near) will be $60-80 ... and this is the off-season.

Surf camps are everywhere. Even an out of shape guy should try that. Lots of other nature options include 4 wheel rentals, horseback riding, tennis, etc Hiking in eco tourist National Parks are great excursions. Waterfalls, animals and eating lots of papaya, mango, coconuts. Passion fruit.

I would definitely go back & try some of the other less developed beach towns and more excursions into the National Parks; but for the first time, I think Tamarindo. For 5 -10 days.

Spanish? Not necessary. Everyone will speak English or you can find easily good guidance. Costa Rican people are simply wonderful. You will find plenty of Venezuelan, Argentinian, Nicaraguan, etc throughout. And lots of Euro & American/Canadian. Long run ... my fear is the poor instability of Central and South American countries destabilized ruin this charming place. Thus ... Nasara or other totally less developed visits.

Inexpensive. Great Weather. Pacific Ocean. Great people. And then ... relax.
 
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#9
I've been there 8 times in the last 2 years...but, only to San Jose. Skip that. If you're only going to go to San Jose, a stay home vacation might be better.
Also, if you fly into SJ...be prepared to wait up to 3 hours or more to get through customs/immigration. Other than that...ENJOY!

Forgot to mention...even in San Jose...they have the best pineapple on the planet.
 
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#11
Been there a bunch of times and love it- if you have time to go to up north to tabacon hot springs and the volcano- its cool- also there are great rain forests near there as well.
Surfing is great on west coast- but be careful- some beaches have serious currents and there may not be many people around- def check out the beaches before you get in the water depending on where you decide to go.
Have fun!
 
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#12
Monteverde is pretty cool and sort of in the mountains...nice history there too. Was originally a settlement for persecuted quakers traveling from the US.

Puerto Viejo is a fun beach town on the Caribbean coast near Panama almost. I stayed at a spot called Rocking Js where you could sleep in a hammock for 5 bucks per night. Fun spot, but be careful there. Don’t go looking for drugs (no idea if that’s your thing). It’s close to puerto limon which is sketchy and sometimes that spills over into puerto viejo.

I lived in San Jose for three months. Don’t stay there unless you have to. One night near the airport is probably fine then move on. One word of caution—make sure you’re using official taxis. Express kidnappings are not totally uncommon there and often originate from fraud cab drivers picking folks up.

Overall, it’s a beautiful place, but just be a little careful
 
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#14
My buddy bought a small surf shack at Playa Guilones in Nosara about 6 years ago. It has since tripled in value. Its a small surf town on the Pacific coast in the Guanacanaste Region. With the Nosara Yoga Institute right there it is also a big yoga destination. I'm a novice surfer but it's reportedly amazing. Not quite ea beach size waves but 1-2 head high consistently every 10 mins. The place is very rustic. Everybody rides quads and dirtbikes around. Make sure you wear ski goggles and a bandana for the dust as roads aren't paved. This place is not for the resort type. Take a quad tour up into the mountains for the howler monkeys. Those little things really do belch out all that noise. Also just north of there is Ostional beach which is famous for the turtles coming up on the beach to lay eggs. Its a natural phenomenon in that its clockwork when it happens a certain time of year.
 


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