Welcome back folks — and welcome to 2020! My lifestyle change (not resolution) beginning this year is to have a pura vida mindset…and what better way to kick that off than recapping our trip to Costa Rica? Pura Vida means pure life when you translate it into English. However, the more accurate meaning when in Costa Rica is more like “all good!”.
I’ve been sitting on this post for months — yes, months! This is my first travel-related post and I wanted to make sure I covered everything you need to know in order to do Costa Rica the right way.
A little back story —
My husband and I have been married for nearly two years but we didn’t get to go on a real honeymoon until last November. When trying to decide where to go, our ideal destination had to meet very specific criteria —
- A location close to the water/sea
- No location we’ve already visited
- No location he‘s visited — which cut lots of places out being retired military
- No location I’ve already visited
You might be looking at this wondering why. I’ll take the blame for the “rules”. Marriage is the creation of a new life — one that comes from joining together. I wanted our honeymoon location to be a first for both of us. Therefore, we decided on Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
When we arrived, we had the typical experience you have when arriving in an international country. After clearing customs and immigration, we were faced with a decision about whether we should change our money over to local currency prior to exiting the airport. I encouraged my husband to exchange some money — big, rookie mistake. I’ve traveled to several countries and learned that you typically have more bargaining power with local money because locals try to take advantage of you when they see US Dollars (USD). Costa Rica is different and we learned how different a little too late.
The Costa Rican Colón is one of the weakest currencies around. It’s so weak that most banks don’t even carry it. So, this was one of the few times that it was better to have USD in a foreign country — and we were stuck with these colones. Another disadvantage to having and trying to pay in colones is that many places are still operating on the old exchange rate — even though it is even weaker now and that causes you to pay more. In short, do not exchange your money if you visit Costa Rica. It’s not worth it!
We decided to visit Costa Rica at the end of November, which is one of the best times of the year to go. Costa Rica basically has two seasons — High (dry) and Rainy (Green). Their dry season spans from December to April and their rainy season spans from May to November. When we visited, there were some intermittent showers but the weather was still pleasant. As the name of the season suggests, the country was very green and it was beautiful. We later learned that April is one of the worst times to visit because the temperatures can exceed 100 degrees. So, keep this in mind when you plan your trip.
To include or not include — that is the question! When we travel internationally, we typically opt for all-inclusive resorts if we can help it. Travel can be expensive and when you factor in airfare and standard hotel costs, food and drinks can really add up.
We stayed at RIU Palace Costa Rica in Guanacaste. RIU is one of my go-to resorts whenever we the Caribbean and now Central America. While RIU Palace Costa Rica didn’t quite meet my mark in terms of food and upkeep (mostly the room), it is still a great property.
Now, I’m going to talk a little bit about our activities. I apologize in advance for not having more photos of the excursion we did but we decided to live in the moment during this trip. However, I’ll be sure to bring you back more coverage from the next time we visit Costa Rica — because we are definitely going back!
We had a number of activities we could’ve chosen from — the Arenal volcano, historical tours of key cities, and even a day trip to Nicaragua. We ultimately decided on a mega combo excursion that took place at the Buena Vista del Rincon Eco Adventure Park, which is located on the grounds of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park.
Our excursion involved horseback riding, zip-lining, an authentic Costa Rican lunch (which was delicious), learning about Costa Rican culture, a water slide through the jungle (which we skipped), and then a ride further up into the mountains where we enjoyed a volcanic mud bath and a dip into the hot springs. We even got to see some howler monkeys in their natural habitat!
Overall, I would absolutely recommend this excursion. Our tour operator did a great job of sharing the history of Costa Rica with us throughout the day — which is how we learned that April is the worst time to visit. However, he also shared interesting information with us like the fact that their university system largely focuses on tourism and hospitality in their degree programs. This focus is due to the major benefits tourism and hospitality have on Costa Rica’s economy.
If this article has piqued your interest in Costa Rica, my job might be done! I’ll just leave you with just a few more tips that will help you so Costa Rica the right way —
Bring Your Own Toiletries
We traveled light because we didn’t want to check any bags. I hate waiting on my bags but I’m also hesitant to check bags when I have connecting flights. The drawback to traveling with carry-on luggage is that you’re restricted to containers of liquids that don’t exceed 3.4 oz. We bought travel sizes of every liquid except sunscreen — which typically isn’t an issue because sunscreen can be bought anywhere. What we didn’t realize is that it would cost upwards of $30 for a bottle of sunscreen that costs $8 at home.
Take it from me — BRING YOUR OWN TOILETRIES!
Pre-Pay Your Excursions
We prepaid our excursions when we booked our vacation package. How you handle paying for your excursions is ultimately up to you. However, it was nice to arrive knowing that our trip was fully paid for — including our activities. Another nice thing about prepaying your excursions through a tour operator is that the likelihood of getting scammed is at an all-time low — even non-existent.
When we were waiting on our transportation to pick us up, there were so many companies at the airport chasing people down for their business. Don’t get me wrong — I know they have bills to pay too. However, some of the things they were selling weren’t exactly as they pitched it. When visiting a foreign country you’re not familiar with, it’s best to leave these types of things to the experts. Book before you go or book at your hotel‘s concierge desk if you’re an anxious shopper.
Live In the Moment
As a blogger and content creator, I live for capturing moments like this. I blame social media because honestly, I was like this even before Chat With Bee. Living in the moment and enjoying this trip with my husband was one of the best things I did while we were in Costa Rica. It’s easy to want to do it for the ‘gram and it’s impossible not to when your content is sponsored for that specific purpose. However, I purposely left certain items (ex. wearable action camera, water protection pouch, etc.) at home when we left for our trip. Why? Because I wanted to enjoy it! Even though some of our best memories from our trip live in my head and not on my phone, I was still able to use what I brought back to help you do Costa Rica the right way — pretty cool huh?