The guided tour at Manuel Antonio National Park is totally worth it. There are many companies and even guides at the front of the park. Make sure you book a company that will put you in a small group. This was a highlight for Aly, to see so many animals in the wild! She loved her Costa Rica Wildlife guide, that we purchased off of Amazon before the trip.
Zip lines! Costa Rica is actually where the idea of recreational zip lining supposedly started. There are so many places in all of the areas we visited that offer this, but not many that will allow younger children to go. I don’t think you can go wrong, as long as you do a little research. We highly recommend all of the friendly folks at Amigos Del Rio for a great day of adventure!
Driving in Costa Rica is definitely an adventure, but very possible. Also, for the areas we visited (Poas, La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio), a 4-WD vehicle was not a necessity and our small car was about half the cost of a 4-WD. I even asked at the rental place if they thought we would be okay with our car, and they said we would be fine. No trying to upsell us on a car we didn’t need. We had a great experience with Adobe Car Rental.
Bug spray! And ponchos! You are in the rainforest/cloud forest after all. I pretreated our clothes with a Permethrin spray (Sawyer brand, bought on Amazon) and we took travel sizes of both Deet and Picaridin with us. I got the most bites, Chris got a few, and I don’t think Aly ended up with any.
After reading so many articles saying Costa Rica was expensive, and then traveling there, I have come to the conclusion that maybe it is expensive relative to other Central American countries, but for us, it seemed to be the same cost as if we were at home. For example, a typical entrée for us would be around $10-$15 a person, which I don’t consider expensive.
In many places they offered bottled water, but in the places that offered tap water, we would drink it and felt safe doing so. It didn’t have any funny taste, either. Of course, we did take the oral Typhoid vaccine before going, so this helped me feel better about the tap water, but to me, at least at the resorts, it seemed safe to drink.
Eco-friendly. Chris and I both commented that we saw more recycling bins here than possibly any other place we have traveled. And we ate so much homegrown, or homemade food while there. And they were proud to tell us if it was grown on property. And on many of our tours, they would talk about what they were doing to preserve the natural environment, and it didn’t seem hokey. It seemed as though the Costa Ricans really do care about their land and what it can provide, and want to avoid destroying that gift.
Food! We had read some other trip reports saying Costa Rican food is bland, but we had several meals we really enjoyed. Some highlights were Manuel Antonio Falafel bar, Bella Vista at the Shana Hotel, Corso Lecheria, and Red Frog Coffee Roasters in La Fortuna.
The hot springs were definitely another highlight of our trip. I believe that most hotels in the La Fortuna area offer hot springs on property. We loved our stay at Hotel el Silencio del Campo. There are certainly larger hotels, with bigger pools, but there was almost never anyone else in the pool when we were there, so for us, it was perfect. There are also some free hot springs in the area if you do a little research, and you can even buy day passes to many of the larger resorts if you aren’t spending the night in the area.
The 727 room at Costa Verde. Yes, it was more expensive than our other rooms. But we spent a little less a few nights in order to afford this once in a lifetime stay. We all said it was the best overnight in a plane we have ever had! And hanging out on the decks attached to the plane, with the amazing jungle and beach views, was certainly a highlight of the trip for me.