Author Topic: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?  (Read 3312 times)

kudy

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Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« on: January 09, 2016, 08:42:05 PM »
At the end of the month I am taking a vacation to San Jose, Costa Rica for a week - for anyone who's been to the area before, do you have any recommendations? Places to see, places to eat, travel tips?

We're renting a car, and will be willing to drive around quite a bit. We're driving up to the Arenal volcano area for one of the nights. We're also thinking of driving down the pacific coast one day, and over to the Orosi River Valley another day.

Because this is the MMM forum, I have to brag and say we're using points + companion pass on Southwest for the flights, and used Amex points to reserve a SPG hotel. Other credit card rewards will pay for 1/2 of the rental car.

RedefinedHappiness

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2016, 11:28:34 PM »
Posting to follow for a future trip. Hopefully you will get some great tips!

ooeei

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2016, 08:29:23 AM »
I was in San Jose for awhile after being in a small beach town for a few days (ATV accident required someone to be transferred to the hospital in San Jose).  Can't give much advice as we didn't a lot in San Jose, but I will say be sure to get your proper immunizations (I didn't even think of those before I went), and be careful drinking water and eating uncooked vegetables.  Montezuma's Revenge is aptly named.

Beautiful country with great people. 

JPinDC

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2016, 01:50:07 PM »
I went to Costa Rica last year and had an awesome time. We had a large group and did a lot of activities. Not the most mustachian of trips, but a lot of fun. Our itinerary looked like this:


The rafting and ecolodge was my favorite part of the trip; expensive, but worth it. Surfing was also amazing and Costa Rica is a great place to learn because you don't have to paddle very far out to catch waves (*cough* Hawaii *cough*). We all managed to stand up on our boards and catch some waves, and then they took us for lunch after. The lunch location wasn't a restaurant, but a woman's backyard, where she cooked us food right in her outdoor kitchen and served it.

I will say be sure to get your proper immunizations (I didn't even think of those before I went), and be careful drinking water and eating uncooked vegetables.  Montezuma's Revenge is aptly named.

Several of us got (somewhat) sick even though we were reasonably careful. Bring some OTC meds for tummy issues. We also had a fair amount of motion-sickness in our group from all the windy roads. This may be less of a problem for you driving a car, but if your passengers are prone to this, I'd recommend some dramamine as well.

Jacana

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2016, 05:12:03 PM »
Volcan Poas is pretty interesting on a nice day, especially if you can arrive really early in the day. You can get pretty close to the crater itself and the pathways let you see some nice montane forests. If it's rainy or foggy forget it, you won't see a thing. It'll be cooler than you expect, so bring a jacket or sweatshirt. Never made it to Irazu but I heard it was impressive too.

For the closest beaches: I actually preferred Puntarenas over Jaco, it was more vibrant and local like a small city rather than a tourist destination. A little like being on the Fort Lauderdale strip with all the restaurants beachside. But I have spoken to some Americans who did not like it and wanted the quieter touristy spots, a la tropical paradise hammock and silence type. If you can make it down to Manuel Antonio that'd probably be the best. The beaches on the Nicoya penninsula were amazing but quite far. If you want a bit more adventure, you can catch a ferry from Puntarenas to the Nicoya penninsula for dirt cheap if you leave the car behind. The ferry ride itself was fun.

The beaches on the Caribbean side were a long drive, and more dangerous for tourists. Don't recommend for such a short trip unless you really want to snorkle/dive the reefs.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2016, 05:26:04 PM »
Are you planning on staying IN San Jose? I lived there for 6 weeks one summer doing a study abroad. Be warned that driving there is more akin to driving in Rome or Egypt than US or Canada: lanes mean nothing, speed limits mean less, and there are 6 lane traffic circles that make less than zero sense to anyone but a local. There is a reason they don't get licenses until 18 there, and it's a very hard test to pass. Oh, and since the rains monsoon down there, their "gutters" are 3 feet deep or more on the sides of the roads. You can easily get around the city and the country on bus instead, and honestly, you'll have a lot of fun that way I think. (Well- West coast and Northern regions really accessible by bus. East coast less so, but as pointed out, you can get yourself into some trouble there and unless you like 'roughing it' a bit more, there isn't as much accessible).

As for the city itself: read up on local hazards, like "pirata" cabs (unauthorized cabbies). There isn't a lot of violent crime, but around heavily traveled areas like the coca cola bus terminal there can be a lot of petty theft- grab and run on bag or cameras, pickpocketing, etc. This is like any big international city, so I don't want to scare you, just be aware that San Jose itself is very different feeling from other parts of Costa Rica.

I will +1 to Jaco feeling like too much of a tourist trap. Lots of expats getting really smashed in bars and beach vendors. Also +1 to Manuel Antonio being one of the most amazing places ever. There is a hostel named something to do with frogs... don't remember exactly, but it was lovely.

I didn't get sick living down there, even diving right into local foods including street foods. But I've also never gotten food poisoning at home, or in Egypt, so maybe I'm an exception? You can always be safe and only get drinks that have been boiled first (ie, get coffee or tea, or bottled sodas, don't do juice because those are often thinned with unboiled water).

PharmaStache

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2016, 06:24:48 PM »
I went to Costa Rica last year and had an awesome time. We had a large group and did a lot of activities. Not the most mustachian of trips, but a lot of fun. Our itinerary looked like this:


The rafting and ecolodge was my favorite part of the trip; expensive, but worth it. Surfing was also amazing and Costa Rica is a great place to learn because you don't have to paddle very far out to catch waves (*cough* Hawaii *cough*). We all managed to stand up on our boards and catch some waves, and then they took us for lunch after. The lunch location wasn't a restaurant, but a woman's backyard, where she cooked us food right in her outdoor kitchen and served it.

I will say be sure to get your proper immunizations (I didn't even think of those before I went), and be careful drinking water and eating uncooked vegetables.  Montezuma's Revenge is aptly named.

Several of us got (somewhat) sick even though we were reasonably careful. Bring some OTC meds for tummy issues. We also had a fair amount of motion-sickness in our group from all the windy roads. This may be less of a problem for you driving a car, but if your passengers are prone to this, I'd recommend some dramamine as well.


We did whitewater rafting (the day trip) with the same company and it was absolutely amazing!  A good bet for the OP too since it's a day trip from San Jose.  Wish we had done the overnight in the eco lodge!!!

Isn't everything else too far for a day trip?  All the highways were like 50 km/hr MAX so it took forever to get anywhere.  We were all over, from Manuel Antonio (my least fave) to Arenal, Monteverde, Rincon de la Vieja NP and Tortuguero NP.

Jacana

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2016, 06:38:20 PM »
Ha-ha yeah OK the driving is pretty tough, and directions are pretty hilarious as there usually aren't street names or numbers or good signs outside of major roads and downtown. So directions are more of the "go past the church 3 blocks and turn left" variety. I never drove there, and I lived there a year and a half. As bracken_joy points out, bus is actually easier. But if you only have a week, don't want to pay for tours, and have limited knowledge, I can understand wanting to rent a car to do your own thing. So go for it and I wish you luck. Other gringos have survived. And my friends and family down there tell me GPS and Waze work pretty well on their smartphones these days. Get a GPS from the rental company.

As for the water, I don't ever remember getting sick from water. But you could I guess. If you avoid water, though, you miss one of the most delicious amazing drinks that haunts my dreams, batido de guayabana, a type of smoothie. If they throw some coconut rum in there it is even better. Now I'm sad, I want one. You may see me there on your trip ;-)

kudy

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2016, 08:32:52 PM »
Thanks everyone for the info! Now I'm more scared about the driving than I was ;)

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2016, 10:01:18 PM »
Tap water is safe to drink in Costa Rica.  We ate food from street vendors, drank tap water, had smoothies and never once got sick.  It is just not an issue. 

I highly recommend the Monteverde cloud forest.  Simply amazing.  Enjoy the trip!

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2016, 07:14:02 AM »
Tap water is safe to drink in Costa Rica.  We ate food from street vendors, drank tap water, had smoothies and never once got sick.  It is just not an issue. 

I highly recommend the Monteverde cloud forest.  Simply amazing.  Enjoy the trip!

Oh yes, Monteverde was lots of fun! The bridge was cool. We stayed in a cabin near there- very cool. The big river by there (tiripiqui?) is also very pretty, at least the time of year I was there.

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Recommendations for San Jose Costa Rica?
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2016, 07:22:12 AM »
Driving is totally fine. It's the directions that suck. We rented a car and I reluctantly rented a gps after a lot of convincing from the rental car guy. I was glad I had it within 5 minutes. There are few street signs and everything is based off of landmarks. Nearly impossible to navigate for a tourist. Get a GPS and you'll be good to go!

Also throwing in another nod to Monteverde. Beautiful town. Check out the bat cave. The guy that runs it is cooler than the attraction.


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