2020 was a year of uncertainties and failed plans. I wanted to check off a bunch of places from my bucket list but unfortunately, COVID happened and nothing came to fruition. Costa Rica was one of the places I’ve been wanting to visit for awhile now. So when travel restrictions loosened here in the US, I knew I had to grab the opportunity to go on a week-long adventure with my husband (for our wedding anniversary) to one of the most beautiful countries in Central America. (Keep reading for my One Week Guide to Costa Rica)
Why Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is amazing! Let’s just get that out of the way. I honestly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did! But after spending a week here and experiencing what it has to offer, I wanted nothing more than to extend our stay! Not only does it have a stunning and lush scenery, it also has delicious food and some of the most kind hearted people I’ve ever met, which is why Costa Rica should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Things To Know Before Your Visit:
How to get there: Major airlines like Alaska, JetBlue and Delta offer flights to Costa Rica’s main airports: Liberia Airport (LIR) and San Jose Airport (SJO). Did you know? If you’re coming from LAX on a non-stop flight, it only takes 6 hrs to get to Costa Rica? It’s like going to Hawaii!
PRO TIP: If you plan on visiting Guanacaste, La Fortuna and Monteverde – use the LIR airport. If you’re planning to explore San Jose, Limon and Puntarenas – use the SJO airport.
What to Pack: Face masks, hand sanitizer, mosquito spray, sunscreen, hiking shoes or sandals, dry bag, sunglasses, hat, day bag, micro fiber towel and insulated water bottle. As for clothing, I highly recommend bringing rain jacket/poncho and waterproof pants especially if you plan on visiting the rainforest. Quicky dry and wick away moisture clothes are a must too!
When to Visit: Anytime! Each season brings out the best in Costa Rica. Dry season is from December to April while the rainy season lasts from May to November.
Getting Around: From what I read online, a lot of people mentioned that the drive from Guanacaste to La Fortuna is quite difficult (winding roads), which is why we opted to hire private transportation + driver. However, after seeing that the streets were paved, I actually think it’s very doable. If you’ve done the Road to Hana in Maui (which we did), then you can definitely do this drive.
I do want to mention that road conditions may vary depending on what area you’ll be visiting. Some areas may require 4X4 (rural areas), while others may not (around the city). If you plan on visiting during the rainy season, be wary of possible mud slides. It’s best to heed warnings and not pursue your drive if it rains nonstop.
- Private transportation + driver: I highly recommend Guanacaste Traveler. Jose was our driver throughout our stay (from airport transfers to tours). He is one of the kindest people we met during our time in Costa Rica. He was courteous, friendly and had so many stories to tell. (This was not sponsored. We paid for our transportation 100%)
- Pros: You can relax/sleep and not worry about road conditions or getting lost. Gas + Insurance is included. Some even add entrance fees to their packages/tours. Wifi is also available during the transportation.
- Cons: It can get quite expensive especially if it’s just for two people. If you’ll be traveling with a small group (less than 8), then it will be worth it as you can just split the cost.
- Rental car: they have several rental companies like Hertz, Alamo, Budget and Avis that offer rates as low as $80. Renting a car is cheap but with insurance, it can definitely add up. You do not need an international driver’s license to drive in Costa Rica. Your driver’s license from your home state will do.
- Pros: Convenient and adds flexibility to your schedule. Can be cheaper than private transportation depending on the season.
- Cons: Navigating in a foreign country can be quite daunting especially if you’re not familiar with traffic signs and directions. Another thing to consider is that gas can be quite expensive. Our driver mentioned that sometimes it can reach up to $7 per gallon!
Safety: For the most part we felt completely safe during our visit to Costa Rica. However, I do want to note that we only stayed in our resort at night. As always, exercise proper precaution whenever you’re traveling. I try not to bring jewelry or anything that attracts the wrong kind of attention when I go out of the country.
Languages: Spanish is the main language in Costa Rica but English is widely spoken especially in hotels/resorts and tours.
Staying Connected: An unlocked cell phone will work in Costa Rica. You can buy a SIM prepaid card and use your unlocked cell phone in Costa Rica. Find SIM cards at the Kolbi (the national telecommunications company) booth at the airport, or in any telephone company store around, such as Claro and Movistar. Or you can call your provider and add an international roaming plan for approx $10 a day.
How To Visit Costa Rica (During Covid)
Covid Test: The Costa Rican government is currently not requiring any covid tests to enter the country. However, coming back to the US, you need a negative covid test no more than 72-hours before your flight. It can either be a PCR or Antigen test. We opted for the Antigen test because it was cheaper. Prices vary depending on where you get it. Our hotel offered it on-site and the doctor conveniently did the test in our hotel room.
- Antigen: approx $80-90 per person
- PCR: approx $150-70 per person
Medical Insurance: (Updated as of August 1, 2021)
UNVACCINATED TRAVELERS: Medical Insurance is required to enter Costa Rica. Insurance must include $50,000 for medical expenses and $2,000 for extended lodging due to covid related illness. It’s important that you meet both of these requirements. Make sure the certification notes the validity of the policy during the dates of visit to Costa Rica. I got ours from Trawick International (not sponsored). It’s the Safe Travels Explorer Plan (for US Citizens and US Residents) and the cost is $106 for two people. They automatically send you the certificate in your email after you pay. Print a copy & save it on your phone as a PDF file so you can print an extra copy just in case.
VACCINATED TRAVELERS: As of August 1, 2021, all tourists who are fully vaccinated can enter the country without medical insurance. The last dose must have been applied at least 14 days before arrival to Costa Rica. Vaccinated tourists must attach vaccination card to the health pass.
Health Pass: Complete the health pass 48 hrs prior to your flight. A QR code will be provided and you will need to show this to airport authorities upon arrival to Costa Rica. The form must be filled per person. The health pass is free. LINK HERE
Length of Stay: Visitors are not able to extend their stay beyond 90 days.
Checked in at Andaz Costa Rica! This property is located in the beautiful Peninsula Papagayo, just 30 min from the Liberia Airport. Since this trip was meant for relaxation + a little mix of adventure, we opted to stay inside the resort for some major unwinding.
The resort boasts incredible amenities that will make you not want to leave! We found ourselves lounging at one of their 4 amazing pools early morning and late in the afternoon. In between, we took advantage of the complimentary use of kayaks, snorkeling equipments and stand up paddleboards at the Andaz Beach House, one of the 3 beaches they have in the resort.
They also have over 30 classes that you can choose from. We attended an empanada class and a barista class on our second and third day. Our instructors were knowledgeable and made the classes fun and interactive!
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and want to go on a day trip, Andaz offers full-day and half-day tours to some of the most remarkable and beautiful sights in Costa Rica. You can either hike at Rincon National Park where you can see volcanic activity up close, go on a waterfall adventure to Oropendola, Rio Negro and Chorrera waterfalls or go on an exhilarating white water rafting adventure! (Will post a full review of our stay soon!)
This was a sponsored stay but as always, all opinions are honest and my own
It was time to say goodbye to Guanacaste and hello to La Fortuna/Arenal! Before heading to our next resort, we decided to make two stops:
- See sloths in the wild
- Hike to Rio Celeste Waterfall
I’ve been obsessed with sloths for awhile now. I knew that coming to Costa Rica, I have a higher chance of seeing them in their natural habitat. We explored a privately owned property near Rio Celeste, where we saw two-toed and three-toed sloths (with their cute babies) hanging from the treetops. Thanks to countless movies I’ve seen that featured sloths, I totally had the wrong impression of them. They’re actually a lot quicker than you’d think! They move effortlessly from branch to branch and are often found hanging upside down.
- I wanted to recommend this tour but unfortunately after searching it on TripAdvisor and found some unsettling reviews, I will not post about this place. I do want to clarify that during our time in the property, our guide was nothing but kind and helpful to us. The incidents may have been isolated but I would rather not post it. An alternative would be The Sloth Institute in Manuel Antonio Park. I’ve never been here personally so I highly suggest doing your own research and only go to places that are reputable.
Please do not visit a “sanctuary” that allows you to touch, pet or hug a sloth. Researchers say, “Sloths, unlike many animals, do not show obvious external signs of stress. Their natural response to fear or danger is to hold still, and as a result, it is difficult to tell when a sloth is scared or stressed. Through ongoing research, it has recently been discovered that the heart rate of a baby sloth can increase by almost double whilst being handled by an unfamiliar person. Frequent handling exposes the sloths to germs and bacteria that they do not have natural defenses against. This is in addition to any cosmetic products, deodorant, insect repellent and sunscreen that the person may be wearing. The chemicals present in these products can all be extremely harmful to both juvenile and adult sloths.”
After our mini adventure with the sloths, it was time for lunch! It was a A Casado mainly consists of rice, black beans, plantains, salad and an optional protein of either chicken, beef, pork or fish. It looks simple but man was it delicious! I highly recommend you order this when you visit Costa Rica. Other Costa Rican dishes we enjoyed are: Gallo Pinto, Arroz Con Leche, Chifrijo, Sopa Negra and Patacones.
Next stop was Rio Celeste Waterfall. This waterfall is known for its striking turquoise blue color. Unfortunately, it rained during our trip to the waterfall so instead of seeing it in its full glory, we got a dull version of it instead. It was unfortunate but I still found it beautiful regardless of the color. The hike took us about 2 1/2 hrs roundtrip including photo ops. Entrance fee is $12 for adults.
Nayara Gardens is considered to be one of the best resorts in Central America and rightfully so. Walking through the gardens felt like I was magically transported to the middle of the jungle, that is if the jungle included 5 star amenities and top-notch service! Each day at the resort felt like it was my second home. Every morning I would wake up, walk out of our rainforest villa and I would find myself in constant disbelief that this place exists in real life.
We spent our day just exploring the property. Their grounds are bursting with wildlife. From sloths to monkeys, even the most beautiful birds can be seen enjoying the lush, verdant setting. They even have their very own thermal hot springs on-site! We enjoyed our time here so much that we decided to extend our stay! (Will post a full review of our stay soon!)
This was a sponsored stay but as always, all opinions are honest and my own
Arenal is often referred to as the adventure capital of Costa Rica. This is where thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies unite! From zip lining to rappelling down waterfalls, there’s no shortage of fun activities in Arenal. As much as we wanted to do all of that, we decided to take it easy and went to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park + La Fortuna waterfall instead.
La Fortuna waterfall is one of the most visited waterfalls in all of Costa Rica. The waterfall drops about 70-75 meters and is at the base of the dormant Chato volcano. The hike down is short and should only take 15 minutes. You can swim at the waterfall but make sure you change into your swimwear before heading down. Changing rooms and restrooms are only located near the entrance, right next to the gift shop and restaurant. The hike going back up is a bit challenging as there are 500 steps, so make sure you take your time and drink plenty of water. Entrance is $18 for adults.
Our next stop was Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, a nature preserve that allows you to have a full rainforest experience. There are several tours you can do here but we opted for the self-guided nature walk trail. If you want to experience the famous hanging bridges of Costa Rica, learn about the rainforest and see wildlife, then this is a must visit in Arenal. The trail took about 2 hours to finish and it took us to several hanging bridges plus a bonus waterfall at the end. The best part, seeing unobstructed views of Volcan Arenal at the end of the trail! Entrance is $26 per adult.
Our last day in Costa Rica! We decided to make the most out of our time in our beautiful resort so we booked ourselves a nature walk at 6 am. Our guide took us to see different bird species and we even saw some sloths along the way. After our nature walk, we did an hour of yoga in the most peaceful studio in the middle of the property. Nayara Gardens is famous for their wellness program so make sure you take advantage of their amenities such as the yoga class and spa. We enjoyed our last breakfast in Nayara before heading back to Liberia Airport.
I hope you enjoyed reading my One Week Guide to Costa Rica and have found some useful information to plan your trip to one of the most remarkable places in Central America. If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer them!