There is a lot going on!
Before getting into the trip details, check this out:
1) I found extraordinarily awesome and cheap travel insurance via the website Squaremouth. It was only $193 for a year and is fairly comprehensive.
3) Before going to another country, I recommend you:
- Find out if you need a vaccine
- Determine the visa requirements
- Find a place on Airbnb
- Get a plane ticket after determining where you’ll be staying so you can hopefully fly to the nearest airport. This doesn’t always workout because you can often save a lot of cash by flying into a major international airport.
- Try to find a cheap-ass plane ticket
- If the country you’re staying in has visa requirements and you need to show next country flight information (either return flight or flight to your next country) then get that next plane ticket.
- Print out your passport
- Make sure you have transportation figured out
- Ensure you’ll have cell service and Google Maps
- Get Google Translate on your smartphone
- Bring some ginger capsules with you for gastro-comfort if needed
- Have credit cards/debit cards ideal for traveling. I use Charles Schwab and Etrade for ATM withdrawals (no fees), and Barclay/Chase travel cards for credit cards (again, no fees).
- No foreign transaction fees
- No ATM fees
- Earn some travel points while traveling
- Call your credit card companies and make sure they know you will be traveling
- Know the fundamental customs of the country you’re going to
- What things are just completely rude?
- What things are expected?
- Know the crime level
- Know at least a bit of the language spoken there (even if it’s just “please” and “thank you”)
- Make sure there is coffee. If not, avoid at all costs.
Okay, on with the details.
On the flight there, the stewardess handed all of us documents to fill out for customs. This is expected when you’re flying into another country. What I didn’t expect was 2 documents, one of which I thought the stewardess called “family.”
Word to the wise: you need both documents.
- One is used to present to customs
- The other is used to present to the people who check your bags before you’re allowed to exit the airport.
When I arrived at the airport I immediately went and pulled some cash from an ATM. DO THIS instead of using the currency exchange services; they will charge you for it.
I stayed in San Jose the first night, but it was too late to explore, and to be brutally honest I’m not that interested in the city itself. It’s the rest of Costa Rica that I wanted to see. I took a shared shuttle to Playas Del Coco, and it’s ridiculously lush all around. Costa Rica is truly beautiful.
Notes on transportation:
- Public buses only take cash, there are no tickets that you can buy. I imagine you can purchase something in a fancier bus loaded with other foreigners, but I don’t mind being the only gringo on a public bus. It can get pretty crowded, fyi.
- Getting a rental car here is interesting. The first time I tried I found myself about 20 kilometers outside of the city walking along the highway to see if the rates were all the same.
Here’s the story with that.
I thought I’d struck gold. I found a great deal on Kayak to get a rental car for $1 per day. I took the bus up to get it, and found out that in Costa Rica you can expect the following 2 things just as much as you can expect death and taxes:
- A fairly hefty deposit is required
- Mandatory liability insurance (see http://costa-rica-guide.com/travel/transportation/car/rental-car-insurance/ for more info)
So instead I found out that I would have to put down between $900 to $3000 for the deposit, and pay the liability insurance. Okay, I was naive to think that I could get a rental for $1 per day, but it’s all good. I was determined to figure this rental situation out because I wanted to go wherever I wanted in the country, whenever I wanted to.
That’s when I discovered Economy Car Rentals. They were able to offer comprehensive insurance for a decent price, and their deposit was only $750. Believe me, $750 is the absolute cheapest I could find.
Playas Del Coco
It's an interesting area. If you happen to visit I recommend checking out The Monkey Farm. The name sounded a bit odd to me at first because it made me wonder if they were farming monkeys in cages with the intent to create a monkey empire to do their nefarious bidding.
This was not the case, however, and I found that they provide a sanctuary for monkey troupes. They're all about sustainability and have a no frills setup that is endearing.
Check out their video here:
You'll find that Playas Del Coco, while a tourist destination, isn't quite as touristy as other places in Costa Rica. The place where I'm staying is surrounded by locals going about their daily lives. The narrow streets are filled with people walking, riding bikes, riding motorcycles, riding scooters, riding motorized bicycles, riding bicycles with children sitting on the frame, riding motorcycles with any number of things (children, construction materials, etc). It is also filled with dogs, cars, trucks, more dogs, some cats, and more motorcycles. There are probably more dogs running about than you're imagining right now. If aliens landed in Costa Rica they might mistake dogs as the dominant species.
The street I'm on is a bit like a large sidewalk where anything is allowed to pass through. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if a small airplane was rumbling down one of these roads. Not all roads are like that mind you, but the roads by my apartment are.
When I'm driving here I just always expect to see someone on any road, so try to be pretty careful when behind the wheel. On the highways expect to see people walking and riding their bikes along the side of it. Hell, I was one of those people during my debut with CR rental cars.
Just yesterday we drove past someone sitting on the side of the road facing away from it, and there was no shoulder on this road.
The Beaches So Far
On Coco beach, expect some major humidity and heat, at least in the month of October. I just expect to sweat a lot all day. It’s like having an outdoor sauna that you don’t have to pay for! The water is by no means cold, so when it rains it feels a bit like heaven. I also have a hard time getting my water cold enough in my apartment. It’s a small price to pay my friends.
It’s certainly not the best beach in the world. It’s just not really taken care of that well, but it’s beautiful in its own right. Also, there is an outlook that you can go to where you can get stunning views of this horseshoe beach.
Playa Ocotal has beautiful black smooth sand with a gold tint. The water is fairly clear on the north side of this beach. Watch out for strong undercurrents, otherwise the water is fairly easy going.
Neither Coco or Ocotal is good for surfing.
Brasilito and Conchal
Playa Brasilito is adjacent to Playa Conchal, and seems to be okay for surfing, but we really didn’t see many people at this beach at all. It was mainly a place to start from to get to Playa Conchal. Why? Because Playa Conchal is made of seashells instead of sand, and the waters are crystal blue. It’s truly beautiful.
Tamarindo (aka Tamagringo)
There are a lot of what appear to be Americans here. It’s a surfing mecca, and (obviously) heavy with tourism. On a Tuesday afternoon in late October, that beach was filled with people. There were tons of surfers either adeptly navigating the waves or just learning how to stand up on the board.
Josh Bolinger and I rented a board each at Banana Surf School, which is located on the main strip parallel to the beach. We loved this place because the people there didn't try to sell us a billion things we didn't need or want. That day we must've looked like tourists who wanted to spend a bunch of cash on stuff. Expect that if you go to Conchal or Tamarindo.
We were pummeled and thrashed by the waves, and Josh had better luck than I when it came to riding the waves, but it was hella fun. We’re going to be going again today, but to a different beach.
Inland trips so far
It was truly an adventure going inland and through the mountains. All of a sudden I found myself on extremely bumpy and pot-hole ridden gravel roads that winded around mountains. The views were stunning. I had to stop every ten minutes it seemed just so I could try and capture some of the beauty.
To give you an idea, here are a few of the pictures snapped:
So beautiful, so rad, and the air is cool. I stayed at Arenal Essence, a boutique hostel, which was superb.
Initially I was going to go to the could forest reserve, but I made it there late and didn’t want to pay the $20 to get in.
I was kind of recovering from having eaten something that didn’t sit well with my stomach too. I don’t know if it was food or the fact that I drank a SHITLOAD of tap water the night before. I suspect the latter, so I’m playing it safe with bottled water from here on out, forever and everywhere.
The food is delicious here, though, and I recommend getting a nice breakfast with fried plantains.
Volcano Poas: I drove there but didn’t see it because it was covered in clowds. Oh well!
Also, for some reason I’m waking up ridiculously early (like 4 am). I guess this could be because of the fucked up roosters who start their morning routine at 3 am instead of when the sun is rising. More than that though, it just gets dark early as hell already. At around 5:20 is sunset, and 5:45 it is straight up dark. So I’ve been going to bed early so I can get a real early start to the day. It's a new life, and it beats the hell out of cubicle life, for real.
Until next time amigos.