When to Go to Costa Rica

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1. Grab a craft beer in San Jose

Chances are you’re flying into San Jose. Now, there seems to be a little snobbery around San Jose with most travellers vacating the city as soon as they can. Well, that seems like a bit of a shame. While it may not have the fading colonial grandeur of Buenos Aires or the edgy art scene of Bogota, there’s a warm and friendly vibe to San Jose that makes it a nice place for a wayward wander. During our own wandering, we stumbled upon San Jose’s flourishing craft beer scene. Yep, that’s right, the craft beer revolution has far surpassed the streets of Hoxton and Shoreditch.

Stephen drinking beers in San Jose

We tried out a selection of beers at Wilk Craft Beer in Barrio Escalante where they brew their own on site and have a few national and international options to boot. If one craft beer establishment isn’t enough for you, then you’re in luck, just one block away is The Costa Rica Beer Factory with yet another multitude of beers on offer.

View our San Jose Trip

2. Journey into the jungle

Let’s be honest, you’re unlikely to travel all the way to Costa Rica and not check out the wildlife, are you? But rather than heading to the usual haunts of Manual Antonio or Monteverde, why not journey to lesser-known Boca Tapada and spend the night in a tree house in the middle of the Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge? I’m not sure we could have got much closer to the wildlife; we had a family of bats living on one of the outside walls, a lone coati foraging underneath us, oh yeah, and that spider we found under the dresser… perhaps the less said about that the better.

Customer walking through Boca Tapada Jungle

It was a bit of a shock at first to wake up with the sun (and cicadas) at 5.30am, but oh so worth it when we headed out onto our balcony with a cup of Costa Rican coffee to find that a group of howler monkeys had set up their bed for the night in the branches right above our heads. Best morning coffee ever.

View our Boca Tapada Trip

3. Spend the night at the observatory lodge

Want the best view of the famous Arenal volcano? Then, quite simply, you should stay at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. This amazing lodge is the closest there is to Arenal volcano and thus affords fantastic views. It’s also an ecolodge that uses low energy lighting, reuses organic waste as food for local farm animals, uses biodegradable cleaning products, only offers refillable containers for shampoos and much more.

View of Arenal Volcano

They also support the local community by hiring local people from the area, donating books to local schools, as well as building materials. It’s the perfect place to grab a cocktail, sit back on your balcony and watch the sun slowly set, safe in the knowledge that you’re doing a little slice of good.

View our Arenal Volcano Trip

4. Stay with a local family

As a truly incompetent speaker of Spanish (i.e. I barely speak a word) I appreciate that the idea of spending the night with a local family might seem a little daunting. You don’t speak Spanish, they don’t speak English, how is this going to pan out? Well, at the Juanilama community homestay the answer is surprisingly well! Despite the language barrier, I learnt a great deal about the community’s organic farm, how they use sugar cane to make a (very sweet) drink, how to cook some of the local (vegetarian) food and even that one of my hosts was a big fan of Mr Bean.

Jen with local family at homestay

With a trusty phrasebook and year’s of charades practice, it’s amazing what you can communicate. And there really is no better way to understand the local way of life than sit down for a meal together and laugh at a strange British man in a brown suit.

View our Juanilama homestay Trip

5. Hire a car

I know, it’s not necessarily the most environmentally friendly way to travel, but there are benefits that somewhat offset the impact. Rather than letting that great view go whizzing by, you can pull over, hop out and snap away to your heart’s content. You can also take a gamble and head off-piste into nearby villages, towns and even cities that weren’t on your original itinerary. We headed out under our own steam and had half a day in Liberia which opened my eyes, or should I say taste buds, to the wonder that is bubblegum flavoured ice cream. We were also introduced to the delights of reggaeton as we surfed through every radio station Costa Rica had to offer on the car’s stereo.

Customer driving his hire car in Costa Rica

Hmm, bubblegum ice cream and reggaeton… I’m not really selling this, am I!?

Self Drive in Costa Rica
  • Tortuguero jungle & river photo from above
  • Staff walking over hanging bridge through the sunny jungle on Monteverde exursion

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  • red eyed frog
  • smiling man eating pineapple

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Our Tales

Costa Rica - Off the Beaten Track

8th July 2018 by Paula

Have a read of Paula's top picks for getting off the beaten track in Costa Rica - from Corcovado National Park to Boca Tapada, we've got it covered!

18 min read

Read More - Costa Rica - Off the Beaten Track

Family Travel

The Ultimate Costa Rica Family Guide

17th March 2017 by James

If you’re looking for a summer holiday that’s meaningful for your family, then look no further than Costa Rica. Read our ultimate family guide to find out why!

10 min read

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