If you’re based in the United States, Costa Rica is one of the most affordable international destinations you can find. Think of it like this: I’m based in Florida and it was cheaper for me to fly to Costa Rica than San Francisco or New York! $229 roundtrip to be exact, and probably even cheaper if you wait for a sale.
Needless to say, when I was looking for a warm & affordable destination to fill 10 days with Costa Rica was a no-brainer. I flew Spirit (really affordable, but limit yourself to a carry-on!), and stayed at Selina Hostel Manuel Antonio and Selina Hostel San Jose. Both of these hostels were under $22 a night and incredibly well put-together.
Arriving in Costa Rica
Chances are your flight will land in Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose. This city in itself doesn’t have a lot going on so I’d dedicate one day to exploring the town, two tops. Most hostels have tours to the Poas volcano (a little ways away) and I’ve also heard great things about the Municipal Rose Garden.
When we were there we happened to stumble upon a weekend festival full of food, belly-dancers and musicians. It was an awesome way to pass the time AND I had the best falafel I’ve ever eaten.
As far as getting to the rest of the cities, take a Tracopa bus! Learn from my mistakes guys, I took a SuperEasy Shuttle that cost $75 roundtrip (!) and later met some girls who had done the same route for $8 on a Tracopa bus. Definitely a learning experience but hey, at least I can pass on the information to all of you.
This is where I spent the majority of my time! Manuel Antonio is known for beautiful beaches, wildlife and its famous national park. Manuel Antonio National Park is a must-do if you’re in the area. They have a ton of hiking trails and turquoise beaches, as well as monkeys, sloths and backpack-stealing raccoons. You can do most of it in two days, but be aware that the entrance fee is $16 per day.
Like I mentioned before, I stayed at Selina Hostel Manuel Antonio. I highly, highly recommend this place if you’re staying overnight. They offer ziplining and canyoning tours AND my favorite: white-water rafting. There’s a video at the end of this page showing you most of the property so I wont say too much more about it. :)
The public beach at Manuel Antonio is called Espadilla Beach and is almost as beautiful as the national park beach. You’ll also find the majority of food markets here. Unless you’re incredibly fit, you’ll have to take a quick public bus ride there ($0.80) because the up and down hills are INSANE.
Near Manuel Antonio is the town of Quepos. Quepos was really underwhelming when I visited but it’s a good way of experiencing everyday life in Costa Rica. They also have a farmer’s market every Saturday morning against the seawall.
If you’re looking for more a party city, this is the beach for you. Jaco has a much livelier nightlife scene and is usually a lot busier than the other destinations. The beach is just as pretty as anywhere else but it’s far more touristy.
Heading north there’s the famous beach town of Tamarindo. This city is perfect for relaxing a few days since it’s not as wild as Jaco but not as laid-back as Manuel Antonio. There’s a lot of family activities and tours and you still get quite a bit of the Costa Rican nature/wildlife.
La Fortuna Arenal
Heading inland and about 4 hours north of San Jose is La Fortuna Arenal, known for their famous active volcano. I personally didn’t have enough time to go, but a ton of people make the trip to see the Arenal volcano and it’s surrounding town. This is at the top of my list for the next time I'm in Costa Rica.
On the Eastern coast of Costa Rica is the providence of Limon, known for Puerto Viejo beach. This incredibly picturesque beach town is not very developed, but if you’re down for a few days without air conditioning it’s totally worth the views!
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