It Feels like the First Time
Costa Rica, January 2024, the dry season.
I recently did some flower hunting in Costa Rica!
Traveling to a new place, especially an international destination, can be a little overwhelming. If you’re like me, you prepare by talking to people who have been, gathering information, and making a nice tidy folder. I watched YouTube videos, travel videos, so that in some way I was familiar with the place in my mind before I arrived. I also bought a nice Nat Geo map. I love maps.
All of that preparation is helpful. But there’s nothing like putting your boots on the ground.
Our trip was a girl trip, and we planned for about a year and a half. My friends all used their superpowers to help. We held zoom calls with our Costa Rican host, had group chats, and we made a plan. Slowly the hard details like flights, hotels and shuttles were in place. We decided on activities loosely and nailed those down once we arrived.
Three of us were coming from Arizona, one from Minnesota, and one from California. The Arizona girls took Southwest Airlines through Houston.
We flew into San Jose, spent one night at the Fairfield by Marriot, which was perfect. Great breakfast, clean and quiet rooms, friendly service, and a free shuttle to and from the airport. In the morning we used a shuttle service (Costa Rica Trip Guild) to get from San Jose to the Dominical area. Our Driver made interesting stops along the way. We picked up a rental car in Uvita, (EC rent a car) got groceries, and drove on our own for the week. I was mainly the designated driver, and after a short while I felt very comfortable navigating the roads and all the steep ups and downs.
We stayed at a beautiful vacation home by owner (https://www.vrbo.com/11133866ha) in the hills overlooking Playa Dominical. We heard howling monkeys and Toucans every morning. We took walks, explored local waterfalls, took surfing lessons, swam in the pool, and ate a lot of great, fresh, local food.
My overall impression? Costa Rica is a beautiful country. The people are friendly and hard-working and helpful. The food is delicious, the scenery is breathtaking, and it is such a huge country, there is so much to explore time and time again.
Would I go back? Absolutely.
Tips and notes:
-With connecting flights, our bags went straight through to Costa Rica, but on the return flight, we had to pick them up in Houston and recheck them. Southwest has a flight from Phoenix to Houston and Houston to San Jose.
-If you are driving on your own, a 4-wheel drive is a must. I would not have driven on my own in the congested city of San Jose, but the Uvita/Dominical area was fine.
-We were asked for our passports one time at a road side check.
-We had one night where it rained 3 inches, but I only had to drive in the rain once. Pack a rain coat.
-Be leery of anywhere that advertises photos with with wildlife. It’s not good for a “wild” monkey to sit on your shoulder for a photo, and they have been known to eat their own. Leave the wild, wild. Use a zoom lens. There is a great Animal rescue in Uvita you can visit and learn more.
-I didn’t drink the water, all my friend did, we were all fine.
-a 10% tip is added, so no need to tip extra. This made life easier, and service was still great although not super fast. We did tip our shuttle diver, etc.
-Mas o Menos (More or less) reigns true with scheduling. It’s still good to arrive to your tour etc on time, but waiting once you arrive is not uncommon.
-the surf at Playa Dominical is gentle and a great place for surfing lessons.
I took a midsize checked bag in a small carry-on with my toiletries and things I would need for one night. That way I would not have to rummage through my large suitcase at the first night hotel.
I did not wear my hiking pants, boots or any socks at all.
But If I were to go back and hike more of Chirripo NP. I’d bring them for the cooler temps and rough terrain.
My swim suit took too long to dry. Next time I would bring a fast drying two piece and wraps and quick drying tanks for over the top. If your accommodations have air-conditioning, things will dry faster inside, even if there is sun outside.
Ladies, loose dresses are perfect. You can wear your bathing suit underneath and be ready for a dip in the ocean or a waterfall at a moment’s notice.
Pretty much, just pack like you would for Hawaii. Plan to sweat, a lot. Don’t bring anything valuable, and don’t leave things in your car.