Costa Rica – The Landing Page

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For Christmas/New Years 2018-2019 we decided to venture forth to nearby Costa Rica with the aforementioned/written about stopover in (cue David Lee Roth) :

PANAMA!
(as noted here)

Our time in Costa Rica, about two weeks, was primarily split between two areas, Quepos/Manuel Antonio, a national parquet and town on the Pacific coast and La Fortuna/Volcan Arenal, a region adjacent to a Volcano, inland and towards Costa Rica’s northwest.

La Fortuna to the north, San Jose in the middle, Quepos on the coast to the south

We did hang out in San Jose for two days, long enough to secure a rental car, sample some of the Costa Rican craft beers courtesy of Wilk, and for me to get a mild case of food poisoning at Costa Rica Beer Factory… when my food didn’t arrive after an hour or so, should have just declined. Their beer is ok but swerve the Korean Tacos.

Next day after getting the rental car from some more fly-by-night local company that the hostess at a major company at the airport suggested for a cheaper option, took in the massive park/futbol stadium in the middle of town.

Following morning it was adios to SJO and off into the wild green countryside.

Travel through Costa Rica was fairly slow going, maybe 35mph or so if I remember, but lovely scenery. (After checking Google Maps, our entire SJO->Quepos->La Fortuna->SJO trek was estimated at about 522km and over 10 hours driving… so 35mph is about accurate.)  

Going to break our trip specifics into two additional pages, one for each location.  Hooray.

Quepos/Manuel Antionio
La Fortuna/Volcan Arenal


Costa Rica General Nuts & Bolts

Costa Rica is Latin America Light. This isn’t a negative, not by any stretch. But having lived in Paraguay and Colombia and travelled and spent time in eight other South/Central American countries, Costa Rica would be, by far, the easiest for a “Gringo” traveler to adjust to.

English is spoken fairly regularly, Ticos are both friendly and laid-back people, and you can use either Colonies (their official currency) or just US Dollars. Though I might recommend bringing a good amount of cash and using your credit card when able.  During our last week, funds were running a little tight and the one ATM in La Fortuna, complete with long and S-L-O-W line, did not like either my US card or Katie’s Colombian bank card, so even with ample funds our last 48 hours were spendthrift, and not by design. (Side note, when abroad and paying by card, always take the bill in the local currency as your card will likely give you a far better exchange rate than the establishment. The more you know!)

Costa Rica is also expensive. Well, relatively expensive. Coming from Bogota and comparing to our other travels in South America, things do cost more than we were accustomed to paying anywhere but Chile or Uruguay. That said, “relatively” is the operative word and if coming from the US, it might appear fine or even cheap depending upon your point of origin.

If on a budget, but wanting to eat out, hitting up sodas, mom and pop places where lots of locals go, might be the best option. You can get a pretty substantial plate of chicken and rice along with drink for a very reasonable price.


Getting Around

Apparently there are buses. We have zero experience with them. A friend of ours visited the country earlier in the year had an absolutely frustrating time with them not being remotely on schedule, resulting in wasting precious days of vacation. She gave up, rented a car, and in the strongest possible terms encouraged us to do likewise. Advice heeded.

I think we spent just under $1,000 for almost two weeks. While there was maybe two days we didn’t use it at all, in general it gave us the flexibility to easily get from town to town as well as explore those areas around where we stayed at our leisure.  We did a couple hikes a good 30-40 minutes outside of Quepos that would have been far more complicated to pull off without our rental. I didn’t like seeing a price tag that could have funded a full week vacation for us both within Colombia, in the end, I feel it was worth it.

Oddly enough the rental GPS worked fairly well in a country where directions are often not at all “normal” for those coming from the US or Western Europe, and instead reference nearby churches or mango trees as landmarks (3rd right after the church, the house after the mango tree) … we picked a restaurant in town, it got us there. GPS was actually more successful than our trip to Spain would be later in 2019.


Costa Rican Craft Beer

CR is in good hands. As noted above, rather liked Wilk. Beyond that had the chance to visit Fuego in Domincal (near-ish to Manuel Antonio) as well as Lake Arenal Brewing (near-ish to La Fortuna). Fuego was especially great given their possession of “Crowler Technology” and being able to take a couple big cans of your faves to go. Also, while I didn’t get to visit the brewery, I had several Treintaycinco beers and the biggest problem with them was I enjoyed their brews so much that I opted to order another of theirs rather than trying something new/different on at least two occasions.


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