I spent my 21st birthday in San Jose and La Fortuna, Costa Rica! I had a blast and would love to share some tips and things that will help you make the most of your trip to Costa Rica!
My Costa Rica Vlog!: INSERT HERE
*I also offer personal travel services to Costa Rica: DM me on Instagram @beingchristinajane for more info!
I flew from Fort Lauderdale to San Jose (SJO) airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, through Spirit Airlines, roundtrip. It was my first time flying Spirit, and it went very well! Spirit has a reputation of wanting to charge you for every little thing and being cramped. However, my flight was very spacious and comfortable. I will be flying Spirit again soon, so we will see if my opinion changes!
I try always to bring a carry-on if I can to avoid dealing with baggage claims. With Spirit, you have to pay for bags regardless and I believe checking in a bag is only 3-4 dollars less than a carry-on, so not much of a difference there!
Concerning COVID, it seems like flights are keeping the boarding of planes from back to front (which I love). Masks are heavily enforced on planes, so don’t even try it. Other than that, everything was as usual.
The total cost of my flight roundtrip with a carry-on: $243.73
COVID REQUIREMENTS TO ENTER:
When I went to Costa Rica from Feb 24th - 28th, there was no test required to enter the country. This is not me telling you not to take one before you go. Like I always say, I share the rules, not make them, lol. CVS does FREE drive-thru testing if you ever need a COVID test!
The #1 thing you need to pay attention to is TRAVEL INSURANCE when going to Costa Rica! You are required to have an international insurance policy that meets these requirements, according to visitcostarica.com.
Valid during the entire stay in Costa Rica (coverage dates).
U.S. $50,000 for medical expenses, including COVID-19 disease.
U.S. $2,000 for accommodation expenses in the event of COVID-19 quarantine.
I went through a travel insurance agent I found on Clubhouse and got a policy that met the financial requirements (I won't recommend the person because of an issue that occurred, but the company itself is great.) You can also purchase travel insurance through World Nomads. The biggest thing to remember is to make sure COVID is included in the policy if you have to stay longer than expected due to the virus.
Once you get the insurance, you have to fill out a health pass available at https://salud.go.cr, which can only be done 48 hours before boarding to prove your insurance.
No health pass, no entry!
Don’t worry too much about all of these details, as Spirit sent me emails about everything I needed with links as well. I have also seen people able to purchase travel insurance upon landing in Costa Rica for pretty cheap.
Overall, the entire process took a good amount of preparation in advance but went pretty smoothly.
I flew into San Jose (SJO airport). It was a very calm and organized experience, which is always appreciated.
At the airport, there is a money exchange and a Claro SIM card booth! If you’ve been here for a while, you know that if I stay in a country for more than a day, I am getting a SIM card.
Leaving the airport was a breeze since I arranged my transportation ahead of time. However, there are many taxi drivers like always waiting to find their next customers. Some of them are said not to be official taxi drivers so beware!
I would arrange transportation with your accommodation. A cheap option is the Interbus. Their number on WhatsApp is +506 6050 6500.
I only planned on spending one day in San Jose due to a scheduled photo shoot. During the shoot, my photographer and I went to a neighborhood called Barrio Escalante, and it is a MUST-SEE!
This vibrant neighborhood is filled with restaurants, shops and is just a vibe!
After my shoot, I went to a local restaurant and had dinner! I booked a hostel with a private room to change after landing in San Jose. I did not feel comfortable sleeping there, honestly, because of how “dingy” it was.
GETTING TO LA FORTUNA
Due to my lack of research, I did not know that La Fortuna was 3.5 hours away from San Jose, the airport I landed at :) I thought I was going to do my photoshoot, then easily find some way to get there after.
The cheap bus was not available, and taxi drivers told me they couldn’t take me, so it was rough!
I ended up booking a 3.5 hour Uber at 8pm to La Fortuna for about $90 USD. At the time, there was a curfew in C.R., so we did get stopped by the police along the way. I got to La Fortuna around 11:30pm!
I felt safe due to having that SIM card, and I got to my hotel with no other issues :)
The moral of this lesson is to plan your transportation in advance.
Costa Rica’s currency is the Costa Rican colon. $1 USD is roughly 600 colones. Now, I didn’t really get to do my own analysis of how far my money went in their currency because I rarely used colones.
You really don’t need to take out any money at all with an ATM. Pretty much EVERY store, shop, restaurant allows you to pay with your card or U.S. cash. This was shocking to me because it is the first country I have been to where this is the case, but no complaints.
I will probably always take money out of the ATM just because I love foreign money :)
Costa Rica uses the same two-pronged outlets that are used in the U.S., so no converters are necessary at all!
Uber - Uber will always be my favorite mode of transportation in any country that has it! Usually, because you can get a ride on-demand, and it is super cheap! In Costa Rica, Uber is for sure in San Jose and in-demand. Still, La Fortuna can be a hit or miss, especially in the morning, so always have a backup plan which is a taxi! I almost missed my birthday tour because no Ubers were available at 8am!
Taxi - The official/legit taxis in Costa Rica are the ones that are red cars with the yellow caution triangle on the side of the door! While running late for my tour, I was able to call a taxi company: +506 2479-9605! Save this number in case you are ever “stranded” due to Uber! They can be a tad bit more expensive than Uber, but I only rode a taxi 1-2x during my entire stay, so it wasn’t too bad.
I actually took a taxi service (Jose, +506 8385 8316) via WhatsApp back to San Jose from La Fortuna for $130 USD, and he got me to San Jose in 2 hours vs. the 3.5-hour drive! Highly recommend.
Public Bus - I never got a chance to ride the bus because there were never routes going to where I wanted to, but locals did tell me about the bus and how cheap it is! You can go to stations, so definitely ask around about it and see if the routes align with your trip. This could have been great for going from San Jose to La Fortuna!
WHERE I STAYED
I stayed at Hotel Secreto La Fortuna for 3 days and 4 nights for a total of $264.42 USD. I booked through Booking.com The actual hotel rooms are not the fanciest, but it is on a gorgeous property. The pool is comfortable, and there is an on-site restaurant including drinks and complimentary breakfast! The breakfast was so much more than I expected and was super filling! The rooms are spacious, though and I opted for double beds. There is a dryer, T.V., tons of towels. Booking through Booking.com went well, but my payment wasn't accepted so I had to pay once I got there, which was unexpected but not an issue.
The manager, Lauren was so accommodating and helped me with EVERYTHING even before arriving on the property. This is the first place I stayed at throughout all of my travels where no taxi, Uber, etc. had trouble finding the place! It is easy to navigate on the maps and you can’t miss the big sign once you’ve arrived:
My only “con” is that the shower water was FREEZING and only warmed up one time, but I knew that before coming due to my research.
THINGS TO DO
Take photos for the gram - $41.39
My new goal is to have a mini photoshoot for my blog every time I visit a new country, so when I found Dalia on Airbnb, I was so excited! She was amazing, accommodating, and so fun to work with! 30 minutes went by, and we already took 75-ish pictures. Dalia took me around to so many places I would have never discovered, and we got amazing shots! 20/10 recommend.
Book a Tour with Go Adventures Arenal Park - $65.07
For the next three activities, I did one tour that included all three! Go Adventures Arenal Park seemed to be the cheapest option for doing popular tours, like zip-lining. Once you start shopping around for tours, you will notice that pretty much all tours are super expensive for what you are getting, but this company was the best price-wise!
This was a first for me, and it was so much fun! This was provided through Airbnb by Go Adventures Arenal Park, and the service was great. Now keep in mind that I can’t swim so this activity was very thrilling and not the most suitable for non-swimmers, but very do-able! Check out my Instagram highlight for the video. It will definitely give you some laughs :)
Also, I had a private tour due to being the only one signed up for tubing at this time! Perks of solo traveling sometimes are when companies don’t require 2+ people for a tour, and you get to do an activity all alone!
Ziplining & Rappel
This was another activity hosted by Go Adventures Arenal Park as part of my excursion, and it was another first-time for me! As a solo traveler, I was with another big family. However, I still enjoyed my time and felt pretty safe zip lining so high next to the volcano! I event got great pictures and videos from the photographer on staff for $20! (It’s usually $10 if others in your group want pictures as well).
Hot Springs (Free entry with a Go Adventure Arenal Park) - Hotel Montaña de Fuego
I was waiting to get my pictures when the employees offered me a wristband to go across the street to Hotel Montaña to enjoy the hot springs! This is one of the nicest hotels in La Fortuna, so this was a treat! Instead of the hot springs, I got access to a private roomed jacuzzi all to myself FOR FREE just by asking :) It is a beautiful property, and I even got to enjoy a birthday drink at the bar.
You can also pay for other spa services like facials and massages for an additional fee once you are inside, but they run to be $100 or more. It is a resort so the prices are high, but if you want to be more cost-effective just go to a more local spa parlor!
Sloth Tour - $28 USD
This tour runs on private property and runs for about 1.5 hours. It was pretty cool getting to see sloths in their natural environment. They move WAY faster than what we are led to believe! I was with a small group of people (maybe 7-8 others), and we were served fruit and water after the tour.
Learn How To Make Chocolate $30 USD
This was one of my favorite activities because it was just so cool! I was the only person on the tour, so it was another private one!
I was walked through a detailed, hands-on process of chocolate making. I live for experiences like this, so it was worth every dollar.
This tour was held at Eden’s Chocolate Tour. In addition to the tour, there is an on-site restaurant you can enjoy a small lunch at after.
Get The Best Massage of Your Life at Los Suenos Spa - $55 USD/90 minutes
This is a tiny spa parlor located close to the hotel I stayed at and is THE BEST massage I have ever received. I even went back the next day for another one!
I opted in for the $55 USD package (there are cheaper ones), which included a 60-minute massage, reflexology, a facial, and hot stones. This can easily run up to $130 in the U.S., so the value was amazing.
WHERE I ATE:
I let y’all know in every travel guide that I am NOT a foodie lol, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt! Furthermore, the dishes in Costa Rica were very Americanized. I’m talking fries, burgers, pizza, etc. Thank God I don’t travel for the food! However, here are some great places to check out:
I’m sad that I did not get the name of this local, small restaurant, but the food was great: 10 USD
Booze & Scoops (San Juan) - Here you will enjoy ice cream with a twist! I believe I ordered the one with rum in it, and it was delicious Price $3 USD
Pizza Ranch (La Fortuna) - Known as the BEST place to get some pizza in La Fortuna and recommended to me by all of the locals, I had to stop by to see what the hype was about. I agree. This pizza is to die for! I even paired it with my first Costa Rican Imperial beer for a total of $11.66 USD.
Soda Pollos La Familia (La Fortuna) - This was a little fast food place I found after a not-so-great “trying to get a fast meal” experience somewhere else! It wasn’t the best food, and I probably wouldn’t go back, but it got the job done!
Most of my meals were either part of a tour, fruit, or the breakfast that was super filling for free at my hotel, so I did not really have to venture out in this country for the best spots to eat! My hotel was located near fast food places or mini bakeries for the most part.
COVID TEST GETTING BACK INTO THE U.S.
At this time (Feb 24-28, 2021), there was a rule in place by the U.S. that if you are coming from an international country, you must have a NEGATIVE covid test taken no more than 3 days before your departure in order to get back into the U.S. Note that it was 3 days and not 72 hours, which I was concerned about because that would be too restrictive with flight delays and times.
My hotel arranged for testing administrators from the local clinic to come to my hotel room to collect my sample (can you say convenient)! When planning a trip during COVID times, it’s so important to ask your accommodation: hotel, Airbnb, etc, if there are clinics nearby, how far away they are, etc.
It was pricey at $160 USD, so save aside money for that, but I got my results back via email the following night and took it around 10AM the day before!
Before I checked-in for my flight back home (mobile and kiosk checking was not available), I was required to show my test, of course. It was checked again in the line while getting my flight ticket.
There is also a form called an attestation form that will be provided to you by the airport/airline just saying you tested and that you are COVID-free.
Overall, getting back into the U.S. was much smoother than I thought it would be.
*Schedule your airport pick up ahead of time through a reputable company or your hotel/Airbnb. While leaving the San Jose airport was not as hectic as other countries I have been to. This is probably due to me already having my transportation set for the first time ever.
*Do not schedule any tours in advance or activities in case you find cheaper options as I did! It will rarely ever be too late to book tours. I either booked the night before or the day of the tour.
*If you are staying in Costa Rica for more than 2 days, I recommend getting a SIM card! Wi-fi in restaurants and on excursions can be a hit or miss as far as being available to the public. Also, it is a necessity in my eyes as a solo traveler to ensure you can get rides when you need them and contact people in the area you might need to get a hold of.
Costa Rica is a MUST! This is coming from someone who isn't exactly the most "willingly be outside in nature" type of person, and Costa Rica really opened my eyes to the beauty of getting out there. Everything is so green and fresh, fruit is constantly being served, and you will really feel in touch with nature. Traveling solo here, I felt completely safe at all times, and as a Black woman, I approve.