San Jose, Costa Rica places students in a location that offers numerous opportunities to see and do once in a lifetime experiences during their weekends and free time. From surfing the Pacific and Caribbean coasts to climbing active volcanoes, and discovering hidden rainforest waterfalls, students at Veritas in San Jose have the chance to partake in many breathtaking excursions. In order to be able to take advantage of these opportunities students will need to find transportation, a place to stay, the most economical places to eat, and the most efficient way to do their activity of choice. There are a number of ways to approach excursions, each with its own pros and cons.
The first way to approach excursions is by taking advantage of the trips and excursions that are worked into the program that you used to come to Costa Rica. These trips are generally included in the cost of the program and are therefore no cost to student once they arrive in San Jose. Generally this type of excursion takes students to the most popular destinations in the country, such as Arenal Volcano or the Monteverde Cloud Forest. These generally include a couple of meals a day and the price of activities like zip lining or snorkeling are worked into the price and taken care of already. These trips are great because they are no immediate cost to the student and visit some very popular destinations. However, these trips can have very rigid schedules and the student cannot pick exactly what he or she would like to do. These trips are useful for deciding where a student might like to plan a return trip or offer an opportunity to spark a student’s interest in a locale of his or her choosing.
The second method to approaching excursions is by booking them on your own through a local tour agency. Many students use Tico Viajero Expresso, which has an office, located inside of Veritas. They offer trips to a variety of popular destinations such as Puerto Viejo and Arenal Volcano. A trip with Tico Viajero includes a place to stay, private transportation, and admission into any national parks, museums, or other attractions, as well as breakfast generally. The cost for each trip varies depending on distance, a trip to Panama and Bocas del Toro for instance runs around $130 for the weekend. The costs of other tours agencies vary, but many run a variety of specials depending on the activity and time of year. Tico Tours is another tour agency popular with students and offers trips and excursions to a variety of different locals and has a great reputation and very positive reviews with students. The positives of tour agencies are that you can efficiently and conveniently take excursions without having to deal with the hassel of planning them yourself. A travel agency also offers the security of knowing where to go and what to do in the case of an emergency, and they provide private transportation which gives secure and efficient travel, especially with issues like border crossings. The main cons are that you are limited to the destinations and activities the agency provides and that you are limited to the agenda that they set for you. Of course the strictness of these things vary from agency to agency. They can also be rather pricy.
The third way to take excursions while in Costa Rica is to set them up on your own. This method takes a bit more work on the student’s part, but can be quite rewarding and save a few dollars. Public transit in Costa Rica has a relatively good reputation and is safe for students to use. Prices vary depending on location, for instance a trip to the Nicoya Peninsula costs around fifteen dollars one way, whereas a ticket to Jacó Beach costs around seven or eight dollars, and a very nearby locale like Heredia costs only a couple of dollars. It is a good idea to buy bus tickets a day in advance to ensure seats, however, if you arrive late you can generally purchase standing tickets. It is up to the student as to how much they would like to spend on lodging, but most hostels generally run eight to ten dollars a night for bunks or forty to fifty dollars for a room. Hotels, depending on the locale and quality of room, run from forty to fifty dollars to a five star hotel price. Meals are generally a bit pricy in Costa Rica running from five dollars, being the absolute cheapest to seven to ten dollars being average quality, and nicer meals costing upwards of twenty dollars. Most hostels offer a kitchen to cook in, which can be a good alternative to eating out if you can sacrifice convenience. The advantages offered by doing trips on your own are saving money, the ability to go places that perhaps tour agencies do not generally offer tours, and the independence of being able to set your own agenda each day. The primary disadvantage is that you are own your own, and issues like borders crossings and bus times can cause issues, however for many that is just part of the adventure.
Liberia.com offers much information about bus and ferry schedules in Costa Rica.
Lonely Planet Costa Rica offers great information about the best places to stay, and gives great insight into prices of things to do and dining options for all areas of Costa Rica.
By Robert Clayton Christian