Costa Rica 13 day Trip - San Jose & Cahuita
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Jan 31, 2013 11:29 AM Last Post By: snowboard1970
Jan 25, 2013 5:21 PM
I have finally made the final touches on my upcoming trip from 2/9 - 2/23. This will be my 3rd trip to CR in the past 14 months. I just wanted to provide my experiences in planning and preparation of the trip to begin this thread, but then also comment on the trip once it's complete. Maybe this is very basic and unwanted for all of you veteran travelers, but I am sure someone could find some use for this information as a basic key. I would expect that this info would be adjusted based on the individuals traveling. This is just my 2cents and the things that I have learned from these boards. I can honestly say that I have not had any major issues during my travels and in a lot of ways travel has been much better with less stress.
I have used this board along with Trip Advisor, and even Rick Steve's travel forums for ideas about how to travel.
I apologize in advance for the long post...:)
I am lucky in that Denver has awesome service to CR - I also heard that there is now service direct to Liberia. I have not verified, but something to keep in the back of your mind. I like Frontier Airlines as they are competitive and their planes are comfortable. I pay a little more to sit in the first 4 rows that provide 5" of extra space, early boarding, complimentary drink, DirectTV, fully refundable, and free checked luggage.
I have used interbus shuttles to and from the airport. They have been on-time my last 2 trips, and surprisingly I have been the only or only +1 other on both trip. I did take a taxi and skipped shuttle for my return trip cause I wanted to sleep and extra hour(7am flight and they pick you 4 hrs prior to flight). It is less than $15 each way, and they have been waiting for me as I have left the immigration area. You could take a taxi as well to San Jose (airport is about 30 minutes north of San Jose) which if you negotiate you could get a $20 fair; you have to negotiate this up front before sitting in the taxi.
Here are a few suggestion prior to leaving for CR:
-If you choose to bring USD - make sure it is currency free of tears or nicks, doesn't have excess ink, creases, folds, etc...there is a strong possibility that your currency could get rejected as payment. I would not bring anything over $20 increments for most purchases; $5 and $1's are good for tipping or small purchases. I have paid for my hotel with $100 bills, but that would be it. Take into consideration also what your comfort level is with carrying cash on hand. I have a secure wallet that is tethered to my belt and cannot be cut by a knife.
-The best way to think about the currency exchange is to think of $1 = 500c. $100 = 50,000c. Basic rule, half the amount in USD and then add 3 0's to get the correct equivalent. The actual rate may be a little lower or higher but it gives you a good idea for cash transactions.
-I bring 2 ATM cards - I use one, but for some reason one gets damaged, or lost you have a backup.
-Call your bank and let them know what cards you will be using and that you will be CR for whatever time frame you are there. When I was Guatemala for 3 weeks my first card wouldn't work, it turned out that the fraud department shut it down even though I did call the bank prior and had been using it for the first 2 weeks. I had my backup card and fortunately met another backpacker that lent me a few bucks until I could find another ATM. So even with it being well planned, things can still happen.
-Print a copy of your passport info - this is good for if you lose it.
-Print a copy once you arrive in CR with the passport stamp. You won't have to carry it with you everywhere you go if you are checked in a hotel and can lock your passport in the safe.
(When I was in Playa Del Carmen I had a waterproof pouch with my passport in it while swimming - I thought it was sealed and I thought I double checked it before entering the water -LOL It was wet and soggy. I got to the border of Belize en route to Flores, Guatemala and they threatened to not let me pass as my passport was still soaked as it couldn't get dry in the humid weather since it was July - long story short, I said please type in my number if it won't scan. I refused to give them a reason to charge me more money..ha)
-Do not use the currency exchange rip-off places. There are ATM's that you can use where ever you go. ATM fees may apply, but you will get the best exchange rate.
-I am bringing $1200 in cash. I do not like using my credit card in latin america. Since things are more relaxed in central america and it seems that affects attention to detail, I prefer to pay in cash via USD/Colones. The last hotel I stayed at - great hotel, great staff, great owner, BUT - I checked out and they had additional $150 on bill for restaurant and bar. Problem was I paid for every meal/drink in cash at time of service. For me, it is easier to pay what I need then and not worry about errors on the CC.
I travel as much as I can, and have a job that provides lots of time off - I am lucky! If you have Colones left over, I keep it knowing I am going to come back. For this trip I have about $40 in Colones - do you remember how to do the math?? It is about 20,000c. I don't have to feel pressure to find an ATM. Even if you have USD, you can use that to get you by until you can find an ATM as well.
-Print a copy of your reservations: Hotel, shuttle, pre-paid tours,car rental, etc...
-Print a copy of bus schedules to and from departures and destinations.
-Print a list of contact names, numbers, and email addresses in case you lose your phone, iPad, etc...
-Print your intended itinerary, and let others know your plan should something happen unexpected.
I use the same backpack for whether I travel for 2 days of 5 weeks - yes 5 weeks..:) I would say I have packing down to an art. I personally do not check anything as I am first on and first off and straight to immigration without having to wait for luggage.
I base everything off a week of travel, no matter how long my trip is - if I am there longer than a week I use laundry services.
For this 2 week trip, I will wear the heaviest set of clothing - jeans, belt, comfy shoes for hiking/general use of whole trip, shirt, fleece, ball cap. If you are coming from colder weather, of course, gloves, hat, etc...this provides more space for packing. I probably will not wear my jeans when there, but good to have in case it gets cool, excess bugs at night etc..
I will pack the following:
4 pair socks
4-6 pair of underwear
*printed items from above
**toiletries - I bring travel size items (wet wipes, hand sanitizer, bar soap, toothpaste, shaver, deodorant)
-I bring a quart size ziplock bag pre-packed with the 3oz liquids for easy readiness during security at airport.
ear plugs/eye mask - depending on where you go, sunlight seems to creep in early and if a light sleeper trains, animals could wake you.
decoy wallet - I always use one, but I have never been pick-pocketed yet.
deet (bug spray - I don't want to get dengue fever...)
suncreeen (I don't want to get cancer...)
**Niyquil tabs - this is just my own personal recommendation. I got sick literally on the flight over last time. I was sick for the first 7 of the 10 day trip. I could not find anything that even remotely resembled this. I used tylenol - did very little. I went to doctor and got the z-pack or equivalent -did nothing. Expectorant - did nothing. I was miserable and was bed ridden for 5 of the first 7 days with no appetite. 6 and 7th days I was out of the room, but did very little as I was still not myself. The last 3 days I was about 80%. Nyquil is not available there and it does the trick to mask it even if you still cant beat it.
Mini-first aid kit - tylenol, motrin, bandaids, simple guaze, wraps, etc...I like to explore so you never know. When I was in Manual Antonio on my first trip - I walked the whole beach from one side to the other - I had a rediculous blister, and the bandaids really made a difference.
Camera/SD Card/Batteries/Charger - I use a D300 Cannon Sureshot. Perfect camera, 12MP, video, waterproof to 33', shockproof at 4-5'. It has an accessory kit that is great for handfree while hiking or while swimming and such. It is also not flashy.
**Unlocked phone - I have a older ATT Tilt that is GSM and uses a SIM card from ICE/Kolbi. I buy a $10 SIM card and it will last me for what I need it for. It is cheaper to buy a SIM card or even rent a phone vs turning on roaming if you have service in CR. I like the convenience of being connected, but not important if you do not want to be connected.
I am sure this list is not perfect, but it gives one some ideas for what to bring and/or not to bring. My key is that I like to travel light.
This trip I will be spending the first couple days in San Jose - I like San Jose, but some on here will shoot that down. There are always a few crab apples out there...HAHAHA This was not meant for anyone specific..LOLOL
What is San Jose? It is the hustle and bustle of the city - many shops, restaurants, and casinos. There is a few parks, the zoo, museums too. I personally like San Jose. It is part of what CR is, regardless of what it is not as many others seem to post there expectations about.
I was planning on visiting Tamarindo, but after more research I am happy to say I cannot wait to visit Cahuita!!! I was able to rent a house for a week 150m from the beach, 2br/2ba, hammocks, full kitchen, secured area, with an onsite caretaker. Close to the beach, walking distance to town, to national park, close to sloth sanctuary, Jaguar Rescue Center, Bribri Falls, clearer water, good for swimming, better reef for snorkling. Do you know what I think about Cahuita? WIN/WIN/WIN situation.
I am still debating on taking a shuttle or taking the bus - about 4 hrs from San Jose. I will be there for 7 nights.
I will spend the final 3 days back in San Jose - I hope to visit the zoo, buy some local art, bring back more coffee then the time before, and maybe win some money playing a little poker -- how many can say they played poker in CR?? There is this restaurant that has the best spaghetti!! I don't know what it is about pasta - when I was in Nebaj Guatemala July 2010 - it was cloudy, rainy, cool, but they had this coffee shop restaurant that had the best pasta there too!
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to message me -
thanks for reading and I hope this helps someone!! I will post a trip report upon my return.
Jan 25, 2013 5:27 PM
Jan 25, 2013 7:27 PM
Jan 25, 2013 9:30 PM
3Tale the bus... Cahuita for how many nights, 3 would be about the max-
What about Tortuguero, or beaches south of Pt Viejo, like Playa Cocles/Chequita and Punta Uva? There are much nicer villages than PV,,,
Raft the Rio Pacuare to/from SJ/Caribe coast.
Third trip- just get the Moon guidebook, has everything.
Rick Steves has a forum?
Jan 25, 2013 9:46 PM
4The Exit Tax can be paid at Banco de Costa Rica, as well ~ flight details and your passport are required if you do it this way, and remember to fill out the little form before you get to airport! (*blushing*)
Jan 26, 2013 4:26 AM
Jan 26, 2013 9:05 AM
6Good Morning All,
Here is Rick Steve's Graffiti Wall:
-He has some really good ideas for traveling light, how to travel, etc...
Solohobo - thanks for the suggestions. Cahuita is home base. My plan or thoughts about my time here would be:
2/12 and 2/19 are travel days to and from San Jose - that leaves 6 days to explore, relax, and not feel rushed. It seems that this is just the right amount of time for this trip. Maybe it could be a little more time than what is needed to complete the ideas below, but even so, its time to chill and go with the flow.
Visit Cahuita National Park - enjoy the beach for swimming/snorkling/and diving if possible.
Sloth Sanctuary - I have signed up for the half-day insider tour.
Jaguar Rescue Center - I am thinking that this will be about a half day or so.
Bribri Falls - hiking and swimming in the falls
Day of exploring - heard that some have biked to other beaches and such, so going to spend a day exploring by bike. I would like to visit Punta Uva beach - want to at least say I have been there..LOL
It is always difficult to make judgments based on others suggestions without being there because you really don't know what to expect until being there yourself. I don't want to be in a rush, but want to do some activities and not be bored...
Jan 26, 2013 9:46 AM
7Highly recommend the bike ride to Punto Uva and Manzanillo. Pretty easy ride, nice scenery and great open beaches. Lot's of little sodas and bars along the way. Plenty of bike rentals in PV but make sure it's a decent bike with good brakes.
Jan 26, 2013 9:49 AM
Jan 29, 2013 7:33 PM
9I love Cahuita, it is amazing. Definitely win/win/win like you said.
Take the bus from San José. It is easy & cheap. If you are taking the bus back to San José buy your ticket ahead of time because sometimes the directo bus to San José sells out & you have to connect through Limón, which adds time, obviously.
You can easily spend a day in the National Park -- either hiking the trails, watching the howler monkeys or on the beach. Jaguar Rescue Center is good for a half day or full day whatever you want to make it. Their tour is good -- you can check out Puerto Viejo before or after.
Go north of town past Playa Negra -- there should be a reggae bar on the left. Past Playa Negra Guest House. Can't miss it. Lots of locals & good food.
Definitely rent a bike.
Jan 30, 2013 12:36 AM
10Another possibility in Cahuita is the 'Tree of Life' wildlife rescue centre.Its about a km or two past the Reggae bar mentioned above.
You get to see a lot of interesting plants and unusual animals (depnding on what has been rescued/released of course,but there are many indigenous CR species)
The 'tour' around the place is led by the owner,Patricia,who is full of information.We really enjoyed it.
BTW it is not one of those places where you can hold,touch the animals etc.....which is a positive thing for me.
Jan 30, 2013 12:37 AM
Jan 31, 2013 11:29 AM
12Ashlita, thanks for the notes! I am excited to be out and about, but also looking forward to just doing nothing - I have decided to take the directo. I understand that the bus doesn't leave from the caribe terminal. I will definitely get the ticket early.
Lucapal thanks for your suggestions too!
1 week 1d to go!!!
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