Costa Rica: A Beginners Guide

*Guest Post

If you’ve ever caught yourself humming “Waterfalls” by TLC, you probably wouldn’t mind finding yourself at the bottom of a crystal-clear pool. It doesn’t matter that the song doesn’t really have anything to do with the very real roaring falls in Costa Rica, because the only thing I remember about the tune is “go chase waterfalls” and that’s enough inspiration for me to get on a plane and go.

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Image via Flickr by Roman Königshofer | Filmmaker & Photographer

Whether you’re a fan of the epic, unplanned road trip or rigorous hikes that require some real muscle, Costa Rica is your place; just remember these tips before heading out!  

Rent A Car

For those of you who prefer the road less traveled, Costa Rica is exactly the place to just hop off the airplane, get behind the wheel of a rental, and start off on an uncharted adventure. Don’t plan ahead, just see where the open road takes you—be it rapids rafting on the Pacuare or horseback riding in Playa Matapalo—it’s worth it to throw all your agendas out the window and just see where the tide takes you. Be warned: the roads may be a little rougher than you’re used to, so don’t treat it like the Audubon.

Take A Walk in Tortuguero

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Image via Flickr by wallygrom

The Costa Rican Caribbean is no laughing matter (it’s all relax and no hassle) and the perfect way to experience it is by grabbing a ride to the Tortuguero National Park. Despite being one of the most widely visited attractions in the area, Tortuguero is only accessible by plane or boat, but in no way should that dissuade you from making the trip. Check out the local flora and fauna, relax on one of the remote beaches for a real tropical paradise, or take a ride in one of the lagoons. Many people consider the forests of this area to be the Costa Rican Amazon Rainforest—and you’ll just have to check out to agree!

Start Your Day With A Gallo Pinto

Traditional Costa Rican food is the only way to go while you’re in the country, and there’s no better way to get down and dirty with the cuisine than by breaking your fast with gallo pinto—red and white beans and rice that can be made with different meats, or even scrambled eggs. While it may seem kind of heavy for breakfast, that’s because the “painted rooster” is; it’s meant to be a hearty breakfast for hard workers, so if you’re planning to hike or raft during the day, it’s a great start. Swallow it down with coffee and heated milk on the side—the Costa Ricans are incredibly famous for their rich and sumptuous brews.  

Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall

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Image via Flickr by JetPunk.com

Whether you’re a fan of a long hike or just a scenic picnic, La Fortuna Waterfall in the Alajuela Province is a must-see. With it’s deep green, cool pool for swimming and hike through the rainforest spotting everything from sloths to monkeys to toucans, it’s a trip deep into the jungle with big rewards.

Want even more of an adventure? Grab a hike on the Rio Celeste and bring your camera—it’s worth the extra weight to take home proof of the blue rivers and incredible wildlife.

Invest In A SIM Card

You know what’s better than worrying about budget (or reception) when you’re on vacation? Not worrying about either of them, and it’s my personal tip no matter where I travel to grab a local SIM card and ditch whatever global roaming plan I’m on in favor of the better prices and better bars. And it’s super easy—just prep your phone, slip in the card, and get to chatting! Or tweeting! Or instagramming!   

Stay In An EcoLodge

Staying in an ecolodge while you’re in Costa Rica is not only a no-brainer, it’s mandatory. Okay, not really, but for me, I think it’s an undeniable treat while I’m in the area. Twenty-four seven in the rainforest? Check yes, please. Not only did the Costa Ricans invent the sustainable lodgings, but they’re really serious about the conservation aspect of their affordable digs. Recycling, giving back to the community, and using local resources are all commonplace in the ecolodges, and doesn’t that just feel great?

*About the Author

I’m Claire - a self-confessed travel nut. I’ve been travelling around the world since my mum farewelled me in a teary goodbye and I haven’t looked back since. You can read all about my adventures through 48 cities in 26 countries on 4 continents on my blog Traveltio.com.