Congrats! You made it to Costa Rica! You took a chance and chose adventure. That was the first step. Now, keep choosing adventure!
Before you get too comfortable in your new home, I want you to think about how amazing it is to have the opportunity to live and study abroad. It’s quite the privilege, so while you’re here, you should try to do and see all that you can! San Jose might satisfy your wanderlust for now, but there’s so much more out there! Beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes, rainforests, national parks, museums, animal reserves- all in one country!
First, you need to decide what you want to see and how long you want to spend there. Depending on where you go, it could cost more for transportation, food, or housing, so you’ll need to have an idea to help you budget (when I say budget, I mostly mean figuring out how much money to take with you). Once you have an attraction in mind, you can decide the when and where. Searching for lodging at your destination can seem overwhelming, but using websites like hostelworld.com make it easy to compare prices, see pictures, read reviews, and book online. Once the hostel is booked, you’ll need to figure out your transportation. Costa Rica has a great bus system that travels to almost any location you could think of in the country, so it’s just a matter or purchasing your ticket. This should be done at the terminal (which are specific to the location you will be going) and ahead of time (1-2 days), to ensure you get a seat at the time you want to leave.
Now here’s my personal excursion recommendation: Manuel Antonio. You guys, this place is gorgeous. I was so impressed. It’s a national park just up the mountain from a town called Quepos and has so many fun things to do. I went with one of my friends last weekend and wish I could have stayed another day. We booked a private room at a hostel just down the road from the park and then caught the bus from Quepos once we arrived from San Jose. The bus system through the mountain is extremely user friendly! It stops to pick you up or drop you off wherever you need to go along the route, comes every 20 minutes, and is way cheaper than a taxi.
We swam in the public beach, ate at a restaurant overlooking the beach for lunch, did a little tourist shopping, got some snacks in Quepos, and then had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the ocean. The next morning we went into Manuel Antonio National Park, which is in the middle of the rainforest. There are tours that you can take, but it’s just as good to go it on your own because you’ll see the animals regardless. Animals, you say? Yes! We saw monkeys, sloths, parrots, lizards, and raccoons, all within three hours! The park also has incredible beaches. The rainforest goes right up to the sand and then the beautiful blue water! Guys, it’s such a fun place and has a tourist-friendly but still local-inhabited atmosphere, if you know what I mean. If When I come back to Costa Rica, I’ll revisit Manuel Antonio. It was that great.
PROS: Ridiculously beautiful area, lots of lodging options, cheap and user-friendly transportation.
CONS: Manuel Antonio is a more expensive area in general. Park admission is expensive and restaurants can be, too. Quepos, the town at the bottom of the mountain, has much cheaper prices for food and groceries.
“Adventure is out there!” to quote from “Up,” but really, it is. Excursions are a great way to broaden your understanding of Costa Rica as a whole, because you get a chance to see the diversity from coast to coast. Whatever you chose, Pura Vida!