05 Jun Pura Vida: My Guide to Costa Rica
Last week my girls and I took an epic trip to Costa Rica. We experienced the culture, the food, and the environment. This trip not only created a bond in our friendship, it helped us grow [individually] as women. Costa Rica is breathtaking, and while images do not do it the justice it deserves, I’m going to try. Below is my guide to all things Costa Rica— everywhere we ate, played, saw, and did can be found in this post.
GETTING TO COSTA RICA:
We flew into San Jose in Costa Rica. Our flights were sponsored by Southwest, however even without the sponsorship I would still rave about them. We were able to check 2 FREE bags (which, for us, is a Godsend since we over pack). Not only that but, due to work issues we had to switch our flights around a few times. Southwest allows you to change flights with NO FEES. You simply call them and get a different flight. If the fare is a little more, you will have to pay a little more— if the fare is a little less, you will get money credited to your account. You also rack up points each flight, which you can use towards a flight to one of their other international destinations.
WHERE TO STAY:
Traveling with 6 women makes finding somewhere comfortable and affordable a daunting task. We needed somewhere with not only enough beds, but enough bathrooms (every woman knows that the bathroom situation could make or break any trip). To top it off, we were on a budget… a tight one.
After scouring Airbnb for what seemed like forever we stumbled upon Casa Sol Bejuco. Tucked away in little Bejuco, Costa Rica it was perfect for us. A 1.5 hour drive from San Jose, it was located between Jaco and Quepos, so we could access either town relatively quickly.
There were 3 rooms (each with their own bathroom). A spacious living room and kitchen, and the most beautiful backyard that was perfect for both relaxing and taking pictures. The condo was located in a gated community, so we always felt very safe (another priority being women traveling abroad). Marc, the owner, was very hospitable and accommodating with any needs or requests we had. There were shops, places to eat, and plenty of activities near by. We were 2 minutes from Playa Bejuco, which is a beautiful (& fairly private) beach.
If you’re traveling on a budget, I highly suggest using Airbnb. For those of you haven’t used it yet, CLICK HERE to get $40 off of your first stay.
There are plenty of shuttles to take you around, but again— budget. We decided to rent a 7 passenger SUV for the week. With full coverage, it came up to $80/pp for 7 days. We rented from the Alamo at San Jose airport. They have a free shuttle that will take you directly from the airport to Alamo. There were no hidden fees or ridiculous taxes. We paid exactly what they said we would pay when we called before arriving.
Tolls: When driving from San Jose to Bejuco, there are about 5 tolls. I’m not sure if they take US $ because we paid each one in Colones. I recommend stopping by the ATM in the airport and taking out around 5,000 Colones (that’s about $5 and should cover the tolls).
Driving in Costa Rica was very easy and safe. The hardest part was driving at night because most roads do not have street lights. Parking is free and easy to find everywhere. The gas stations are all full service and they accept US $.
WHAT TO DO:
Playa Bejuco– we went to 3 beaches while in Costa Rica, and this one was by far our favorite. It’s VERY quiet and peaceful. We were basically the only people on the beach. If you’re looking for serenity, this is the beach for you.
The Riding Adventure– This was one of the most magical moments of my entire life. I’ve been riding horses for over 15 years. As an experienced rider I’m always very unimpressed with trail rides and vacation horseback tours, but this was so amazing. Our group had 7 riders, all at different experience levels, and all of us had an equally incredible time. Diego is knowledgeable, professional, and takes AMAZING photos. For more info about The Riding Adventure visit their website.
Costa Rica Waterfall Tours– The highlight of the trip. We chose to do their Canyoning Tour. I had never been zip lining before, or even heard of canyoning. Our guides were very attentive to our safety and thoroughly explained techniques to us. This was multiple adventures packed into one tour: 2 zip lines, canyoning, jumping from 30 feet into a swim hole, and a beautiful hike & drive through the rainforest. I was speechless once the tour was over, there were no words to express how incredible it was. Please visit their website for more info.
Rent Bikes– Most of the locals are riding their bikes from place to place— Jaco is a bike town. We decided to explore the city on bike as well, and for $6/day (or $20/week)who wouldn’t? We rented bikes from Biciclo Bike Shop in Jaco.
Quepos– Quepos is a cute little town. It’s full of color and life. There are so many shops, restaurants, and sights to see. Including Manual Antonio National Park. Regrettably, we only spent 1/2 a day here, but would have spent more days had we known how cute it was.
WHERE TO EAT:
Jardine’s Cafe in Bejuco. We ate here 3 times for breakfast. Yes, it was THAT good. American owned, but very Costa Rican. Our favorite things were the French Toast, Gallo, Tica Bowl, and Chai tea. Prices were great, averaging about $6/meal.
Señor Harry’s– In the heart of Jaco, the food is okay..but the drinks are phenomenal. At night they have a live Costa Rican band, we loved that. Since it’s in Jaco and a tourist trap the food is a bit pricey at about $17/meal. I had the Arroz con Camerones and loved it.
Marsican Gelato Lounge– The cutest little ice-cream shop in Jaco. One scoop is about $3/cone. I had, and fell in love with, the Lavender Blueberry gelato.
El Cafecito in Jaco–Stopped here for a vanilla coffee, because you can’t go to Costa Rica and not experience the coffee. At about $2/cup it was well worth it.
Sunset Del Mar Resort– This was by far my favorite meal. It came with the horseback riding tour and the food was SO good. I had the fish plate with rice, beans, and plantains. Even if you don’t do the riding tour, I suggest stopping here for at least one meal.
Restaurante Pura Vida #3– Desperately searching for food one day, we pulled over to this little restaurant on the side of the road. The food was AMAZING and very cheap. No one spoke English, which for me is always a great sign of authentic food.
Malecón– Want to eat on/near the beach? This is your place. Just steps away from Jaco Beach, Malecón, gives all the beachside vibes. Piña Coladas in pineapples, fresh ceviche, and one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. Again, this place is swamped with tourists so the prices are a bit high compared to the locally owned places.
Z Poolside Bistro– located in Quepos it was very trendy. The atmosphere was a photo opp waiting to happen— bright colors, carefully crafted art, this place was cute. The food was more expensive than other places we had eaten, averaging at about $18/plate, but well worth it. The portions are small, but packed with flavor
Costa Rica is the perfect vacation for girls trip, a budget trip, or any trip for that matter. To get the most well rounded cover of my trip, make sure you check out my photo diary as well as what I wore in Costa Rica.