Mastering Your Costa Rican Getaway: Avoid These Common Mistakes on Your First Visit
If you are planning your first trip to this beautiful country, you may be wondering what to expect and how to make the most of your time here. While Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination, there are some common mistakes that first-time visitors often make that can impact their experience.
Here, we will explore these mistakes and give you tips on how to avoid them, so you can have a memorable and enjoyable trip to Costa Rica. So, let’s dive in!
1. Are you flying to the Right San Jose?
First and foremost, you need to make sure you are booking your flight to the right country. Booking your flight to Costa Rica might sound simple, but it’s essential to guarantee that you’re arriving at the correct location, it may sound silly but it can be an easy mistake for first-time visitors to Costa Rica. When searching for flight prices be sure that you are looking up SJO for Costa Rica’s San Jose International Airport. The other airport that it is often confused with is in San Jose California. This could end up costing you a fair bit of cash if you end up not double and triple checking your destination.
2. Avoid Waiting for Better Deals
Costa Rica remains a popular destination throughout the year, and the green season offers its own appeal. Don’t assume that better deals will come along by waiting; car rentals and accommodations are often booked months in advance, even after the peak tourist season.
We always recommend Adobe for car rentals – and although 4×4 is not required to get to Vayu it is recommended.
3. Neglecting to Learn Basic Spanish Phrases
Although English is widely spoken in Costa Rica, learning some basic Spanish phrases can significantly enhance your travel experience. Simple greetings like “Hola” (hello) and “Gracias” (thank you) can go a long way in connecting with the locals and immersing yourself in the culture.
*Look out for a future post on commonly used Spanish phrases here in Costa Rica
4. Don’t Avoid the Rainy Season
Costa Rica’s rainy season, from May to November, is a hidden treasure waiting to be explored. Don’t let misconceptions deter you from experiencing its unique charm and advantages, especially if you’re looking for affordable stays in boutique hotels and retreats.
Nature’s Revival: The rainy season revitalizes Costa Rica with lush greenery and vibrant wildlife. Rivers flow, waterfalls cascade, and the rainforest becomes a captivating paradise.
Reduced Crowds and Costs: Enjoy fewer tourists, shorter lines, and cost-effective accommodations during this season. Boutique hotels often offer reduced rates, making it an ideal time for a luxurious yet budget-friendly stay.
Costa Rica is a country of microclimates. It may be raining on one side of the country and not the other or even one town may be overcast while another nearby still has sunny skies for the morning – Pura Vida !
5. Account for Travel Time
The country may appear small to you and google maps only says an hour and a half…but in reality, it could be at least half an hour more minimum depending on where you are driving. More often than not a lot longer. Plan for extra time, especially during high tourist seasons, holidays, and events like Semana Santa (Costa Rica’s Holy Week – Sun, Mar 24, 2024 – Sat, Mar 30, 2024). Road construction and unexpected obstacles, like potholes and slow-moving vehicles full of cows can extend travel times. Be prepared for delays and enjoy the scenic journey!
*Pro Tip: Even tho the distance in km (or miles) may seem short, take into account that Costa Rica is a mountainous country and all roads are not straight. This will add time to your travels
Which brings us to …
6. Do Not Believe Everything on Google Maps
Google maps is a great tool, but may not be your best friend in Costa Rica, especially during the rainy season and off-the-beaten-path routes. Waze is a popular app here in Costa Rica so you may want to have this along with your downloaded map offline. You will be grateful for it when you come across heavy traffic and accidents. It’s not unknown to be following Google’s directions only to find yourself on some far-off road, surrounded by trees wondering if the water is too deep to pass on the washed-up road. Trust me, it happens a lot more than you think.
7. Overextending Yourself
You’ve heard the saying “tico time”, well it is, in fact, a real thing not just a saying.
Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes and enticing attractions may lead travelers to overextend themselves, attempting to experience it all within a limited timeframe. Rushing from place to place can result in exhaustion and diminish the enjoyment of this beautiful country. With long travel distances, cultural immersion opportunities, and natural wonders to savor, it’s essential to pace your journey, allowing time for spontaneous moments and a more profound connection with Costa Rica’s remarkable environment and welcoming culture. Embrace the unhurried “pura vida” lifestyle, and you’ll find that a well-balanced itinerary offers a more enriching and rejuvenating travel experience.
8. Avoiding Tourist Traps in Costa Rica:
In the midst of exploring the captivating landscapes of Costa Rica, one common pitfall is immersing yourself too deeply in tourist traps and limiting your experiences to well-trodden paths. Such a choice can substantially diminish the authenticity and depth of your journey. For a richer and more genuine exploration of this incredible country, it’s essential to venture beyond the usual tourist hubs, like visiting the southern zone in the Osa region. This allows you to embrace the cultural diversity, escape crowds and commercialization, access hidden natural gems, and encounter the astonishing wildlife that Costa Rica is renowned for. Additionally, traveling off the beaten path can play a vital role in supporting local communities and crafting a personalized adventure that aligns with your unique interests. Costa Rica’s true beauty emerges through its untouched landscapes and authentic interactions, making it well worth the effort to step beyond the ordinary tourist experience.
9. Taking Care of Your Belongings in Costa Rica:
It’s essential to be cautious about leaving your valuables in your vehicle, especially when parking at tourist destinations and popular attractions. While Costa Rica is a beautiful country to explore, instances of theft from parked cars have been reported, and it’s best to be mindful. Therefore, it’s advisable not to leave your items unattended in your vehicle and to bring them with you when you’re enjoying the beach or a park. Being proactive in safeguarding your belongings can help ensure a worry-free experience while exploring this stunning destination.
10. Carry More Than One Form of Payment
You should always have some cash on you and it’s best to have it in the form of colones (Costa Rican currency) or USD.
Avoid using the currency exchanges at the airport as the exchange is never in your favour. If you must however only exchange a small amount. Use this as a rough estimate of exchange rates
Also Inform Your Bank: Using your credit card abroad without notifying your bank can lead to card issues.
- Packing Light: Traveling with just what you need reduces the hassle of heavy luggage and saves you money on baggage fees.
- Thorough Destination Research: Familiarizing yourself with local customs, language, and culture enhances your travel experience and helps you build meaningful connections.
- Investing in Travel Insurance: Prioritizing travel insurance ensures financial security in case of unforeseen emergencies, granting you peace of mind throughout your journey.
- Staying Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for maintaining your well-being, allowing you to enjoy your travels to the fullest.
- Exploring Local Cuisine: Trying local dishes enriches your cultural experience, offering a delightful journey through the flavors and traditions of your destination.
In conclusion, by avoiding these common mistakes and exploring hidden gems like Uvita, you can make the most of your Costa Rican adventure. Boutique hotels like Vayu Retreat Villas and top-notch resorts add an extra layer of luxury to your experience, making it truly unforgettable. Prepare, explore, and immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Costa Rica for an incredible journey.