First Costa Rica Vacation
So it’s your first Costa Rica Vacation and you’re wondering where to go? Is Google showing you endless choices of all inclusive resorts, hotels and vacation packages scattered all over the country but you aren’t sure which ones to go with?
Costa Rica is increasingly becoming a popular destination and is no longer the backwater of the Americas full of fugitives and hippies. Now it is full of yoga retreats, backpacker hostels, high end resorts, world class surfing and huge nature reserves attracting movie stars, celebrities and everyday folk like you and me from all over the world.
The idea of going somewhere isolated and away from all the other tourists is appealing and I understand that emotion, but places attract people for a reason. It is usually because there is something worth seeing or doing there which creates much needed infrastructure and makes your overall experience a more pleasant one. Costa Rica is just such a place and I often get asked where those on their first Costa Rica vacation should go, so here is my advice:
Anywhere on the Nicoya Peninsular. Tamarindo is an obvious choice given it’s proximity to the Liberia International Airport, it’s reputation for world class surfing and all the many activities you can do in and around the town such as ziplining, turtle nesting, hiking to waterfalls, ATV’ing, mountain biking, yoga, diving, etc. But it’s not called “Tamagringo” for nothing so be prepared for eating hamburgers while watching American Football and speaking English the entire time. If you are worried about culture shock then Tamarindo is a great place for you to start as you can be as involved in Costa Rica culture as much or as little as you want.
Alternatives – As a general rule the further you are from the Liberia Airport the more “local” the beaches become all along the Nicoya Peninsular. Nosara is known for it’s yoga retreats, Samara as a sleepy backpacker / surfing town and Santa Teresa as the place to surf. Likewise the closer you are to the airport the more Americanised and exclusive the places become. For example in Playa del Coco which is the beach closest to the airport there is a Hard Rock Cafe.
Anywhere central. The most popular choice is the Arenal / La Fortuna area as who can resist seeing a Volcano? You can climb it (sort of), ATV around it, see waterfalls, go horseback riding, hike, zip lining and see all sorts of wildlife including birds, mammals, insects, snakes and reptiles. And best of all about this area are the many natural hot springs you can soak in. There is a spring for every budget ranging from free to $100/person but it’s the same water rising naturally from the same volcano so you’ll feel as relaxed after a soak in the free springs as you would in any other.
Alternatives – Monteverde is the next best option and while there are slightly less adventure activities here the focus is more on nature and exploring the cloud forest. Be prepared to get wet and don’t forget to take a guided tour over the hanging bridges for the best possible chance of seeing wildlife.
Anywhere, but especially on the Osa Peninsular. The Osa is at the southern end of the country and takes effort to access but is definitely worth it. If you want guaranteed wildlife viewings then this is the place as it has 2.5% of the biodiversity of the entire world! When you think about how tiny a piece of land that is and how much life must be packed into it you can’t help but see creatures. The Osa is less developed though, so be prepared for rough access roads, more local cuisine and potentially fumbling your way through “Spanglish” to communicate but it will be well worth the effort.
Alternatives – Manuel Antonio National Park. This is the most famous park in the country and you will definitely see wildlife but it’s from the edge of a footpath and it’s been rumoured the animals are kept close with illegal feeding. If you are pressed for time or don’t have plans to make it to the Osa then this is a good alternative.
Since Costa Rica has built such a huge part of its economy on eco tourism there is an excellent chance you will see wildlife and have an amazing experience no matter where you go in the country. Having lived here for the better part of the past two years and explored the country extensively, I can say firsthand that all of the destinations I mentioned are great for couples, families, honeymooners, singles, groups or any other traveler as there are accommodation options for all types of travellers on any budget. If you’d like more specifics on planning your trip I’d be happy to help build your itinerary as well as provide personal guiding services to ensure you experience the very best this amazing country has to offer.
So where will you go for your first Costa Rica Vacation?
General Tips –
- While Costa Rica is a small country don’t be fooled into thinking you can travel around it easily. Roads are not always in the best condition and driving can take hours to go a short distance so allow plenty of time for travel in your holiday schedule.
- They use the American Dollar as currency here in addition to the Costa Rican Colone.
- There is only two seasons in Costa Rica. The “high/dry” season when the rain has generally stopped and is peak tourist season (typically Dec – April) and the “green/low” season which is rainy season and generally sees lower tourist numbers and better prices for accommodation (typically June – Sept).
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I’m Anna Kernohan, an Adventure Consultant. I use my 16 years of travel experience and my background in Paramedics and Safety to provide professional advice and travel companion services to those wanting to travel but not in a tour group or alone. You’ll never have to worry about being alone in a foreign country again.
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