Traveling to Costa Rica on a budget

In 2009 I traveled to Costa Rica on $1000 from start to finish. That included round trip air, lodging, food, alcohol, and fun activities.  The friend I went with spent $150 more than me because she paid the tab at the swim up bar at Tabacon.  I’m a firm believer that if you spend some time researching where you’re going and all of your options, you can save tons of money.

First we had to figure out when we were traveling. Costa Rica has a rainy season, so we needed to take that into consideration when traveling to this country.  Rainy season is from May to mid November.  The dry season is from late November to late April but this is also when *everyone* travels to Costa Rica. Because of this the prices of things like flights and hotels get jacked up. Not only did we not want to spend our trip with a bunch of tourists and pay higher prices, we also didn’t want to spend it in the rain, so we chose October.  We figured (and hoped) that it wouldn’t be too touristy because it was right before the beginning of tourist season and that it wouldn’t be too rainy because it was at the end of the rainy season.  We really lucked out because that’s actually how it ended up.  Every day we were there was beautiful and if it did rain, it was only for a couple hours at most. There was one fluke night that it torrential down pored for several hours but it just so happened it was the night we were bar hopping in Jaco, so the only time we got wet was when we were running from one bar to another.  We also had to take our chances with the weather because we knew we’d be traveling up to Arenal to see the volcano and if it rained the clouds would block the view of it. This didn’t happen. I am eternally grateful.

Once we figured out when we were going and bought our tickets, we then began researching where we were going.  My friend had been to this little surf camp place in Jaco before.  She wanted to go back and said it was legit, so I was down to go.  It’s called Cabinas Las Olas and it’s in Playa Hermosa.  It’s an hour and a half from San Jose and they sent a driver to the airport to pick us up and bring us to the hotel.  That was $75 that we split.  The driver was this surfer dude named Christian.  He was really tan and had curly brown hair with blonde highlights throughout it from the sun and salt water.  He picked us up in this loud ass, old, pickup truck looking thing, and stopped off along the way for some roadside ceviche.  He said it was awesome and when a local says it, you listen and believe it.  It was some old dude making ceviche under a tent on the side of the road.  When we walked up and I realized the view this guy had, it made me pause.  Not to mention the ceviche was the best I’d had the entire trip.  And we ate ceviche everyday.

View behind ceviche dude's stand.

View behind ceviche dude’s stand.

Our driver also stopped off so we could see the "croc bridge."

Our driver also stopped off so we could see the “croc bridge.”

When we arrived to Las Olas something happened with our room so they upgraded us to the Sky Box at no additional cost. The Sky Box is the best. It’s all the way at the top so the view is amazing, no A/C just a cool ocean breeze, and a hammock outside. It. did not. suck.

The inside of the Sky Box

The inside of the Sky Box

The view from the Sky Box

The view from the Sky Box

Playa Hermosa de Jaco is a five minute cab ride to Jaco. We wanted to be close enough to Jaco so it would just be a quick cab ride to the bars/clubs but far enough away to get some peace and quiet. Playa Hermosa is perfect for that. It’s also about a 15 minute cab ride to Villa Caletas and the Los Suenos Marina. Villa Caletas is probably the most stunning hotel I’ve ever seen in my life. We went there specifically to watch the sunset and eat dinner. We were a little late for the sunset (it takes some time getting used to 5:00 sunsets) but we got the jist, and we ate some delicious food. Los Suenos Marina is filled with million dollar sport fishing boats, which is why I went. They’re pretty to look at. We had lunch at their restaurant, The Hookup. It was ok. Nothing to come home and brag about. If I had had a little extra money I would’ve paid for a half day of fishing out of Los Suenos. They have a bunch of fishing boats that run out of there.

pretty boats and mountains surrounding Los Suenos

pretty boats and mountains surrounding Los Suenos

We went out to the bars and clubs in Jaco one night. My fave was Bamboosa and the bartender there, Hugo, but I don’t think it’s there anymore. We also had some flaming cockroach shots at The Monkey Bar, which was the most Americanish place we visited the entire time. We then proceeded to play “So You Think You Can Swim Dance” in the hotel pool until 4 a.m., I fell down a hill on the beach and some security guard had to help me back up, and I felt like I wanted to die the next day. I will never forget the Bloody Mary I had at El Bohio Beach Bar.

I will never forget you.

I will never forget you.

That ended our trip to Jaco and Playa Hermosa. Next we hopped a bus to Arenal and La Fortuna. I’m pretty sure it was the Grayline Bus. It was really nice, actually. It was air conditioned, there was not a lot of people on it, and they stopped half way through at a little gift shop that has monkeys and macaws hanging out in the trees.  We made it to Arenal and our hotel, La Pradera, which I picked out.  I thought it was the best value for the money and it had great reviews.  And the view? omg.

$75 a night for this. Not even kidding.

$75 a night for this. Not even kidding.

We explored La Fortuna shortly after we got there. Really cute town. I remember the road side meat on a stick. It was delicious and only $1. Always eat the street meat.  The Lava Lounge bar and grill in La Fortuna was really cute.  Then we had made reservations with Pure Trek to do some canyoning.  We opted for the morning trek so they would feed us lunch when we were done, and so we could have the rest of the day to explore.  They picked us up at our hotel, and we drove in a 4×4 up the mountain, got a safety briefing, put on our harnesses and off we went.  It was amazing.  The first waterfall we rappelled off of was the biggest, at 165 feet.  I was so fucking scared, but once I rappelled off that thing and got through it without dieing, it was a rush and the rest was a blast.  There was four rappels, 3 waterfalls and one dry rappel.  On the way back down I slipped on some wet rocks and ate shit.  I was in the very back of the line, so the only reason my friend knew that I fell was because she heard me say “ooooowwwww” and she looked back and I was on the ground.  No serious injuries, and it makes for a good story.

Rappelling off a 165 foot waterfall!

Rappelling off a 165 foot waterfall!

That's me!

That’s me!

Can I tell you how smart it was to do the Tabacon Hot Springs after rappelling off things for 4 hours? Do it. The hot springs felt so good on my sore muscles. The swim up bar was also nice to make the pain go away. I believe I drank like 52 Pisco Sours.  j/k.  And it just so happened that they were running a deal for the time we were there. I think it was buy one day, get one free, and it included free dinner. Out of all the hot spring places we saw when we were there, Tabacon looked the nicest.

Tabacon Hot Springs

Tabacon Hot Springs

Is it time to go back yet?

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