Want to plan a trip to a tropical country without breaking the bank? Costa Rica is your place! I have just returned from a 10 day vacation to Costa Rica where we visited the capital, a surf town on the Pacific Ocean and a small town near the Arenal Volcano. Including flight, hotel, transportation, food and activities I spent less than $1,200!
Flight: We booked our flight (Oakland to San Jose -with a layover in Houston) with Spirit Airlines for $400. Spirit is a budget airline; the planes have less leg room, no complimentary drink service and they even charge you for water BUT they get you to your destination for cheap.
Transportation: Morpho Vans We had the most AMAZING experience with this company. Always early to pick us up holding a sign with our name on it. The drivers were always extremely friendly and happy to answer questions. We arranged our transportation with Mario via email. He was always quick to reply and very professional. He helped us arrange our itinerary and sent it over for review. The vans are all spacious and air conditioned, they can fit 6-10+ passengers. I highly recommend that you use this company instead of renting a car, the roads are very windy and very bumpy. We prepaid with PayPal so don’t be nervous about being scammed, this company is legit!!
Day 1: We arrived at the San Jose Airport around midnight and our Morpho Van driver was waiting for us. It was a 20 minute drive to the city center. We always tipped our drivers $10-$15 USD or $5,000 – $8,000 colones. We stayed at Hostel Pangea which wasn’t anything special. It wasn’t in a great area but it was $35 for a private room with a double bed. We did not plan to stay in San Jose for more than 1 night but if we had, I would have stayed at Hostel Casa del Parque.
Day 2: Our Morpho Van driver was waiting for us at 8:30am for our 6 hour journey to Santa Teresa. The journey would include 3 legs; 1st a 1.5 hour drive to Puntarenes. There we would catch a ferry (the driver purchases the tickets). The ferry does sell basic snacks and drinks including beer. The ferry is about an hour and half to Paquera, where our other driver was waiting to take us to Santa Teresa. The road is extremely bumpy and drivers are insane in Costa Rica and will pass each other on tight corners. We finally arrived to Santa Teresa and asked our drive to stop at the grocery store (which they are happy to do!)
Stay: Canaima Chill House – JUNGLE PARADISE! This hotel is perfect for a beach/surf town vacation. The common area is amazing it includes a pool, hot tub, dry tub, lounge chairs, a bungalow with a swinging bed and a comfy chair. The rooms are wonderful, each bed with it’s own mosquito net which is necessary (we were traveling while Zika was a major concern).The private balcony looks right over the pool and has plenty of room for hanging out. HOTEL IS UP A HUGE HILL. I would suggest renting at least 1 ATV for your entire stay. The hill was dusty and steep, it probably took us 15-20 minutes to walk up it each time. Hotel is a great value – $500 for 4 night with 2 twin beds and a queen. See my full review here.
Day 3: The front desk staff assisted us in renting ATVs. They were $70 a day but you can get a discount if you rent them for more than 2 days. We set out to the Montezuma Waterfall. Make sure to pack sunglasses, bandana, hiking shoes, water, a towel and probably best to wear dark clothes (you get SO dirty). Get directions from the front desk and put it in your phone. It is about 45 minutes each way and very bumpy but so fun on the ATVs! It costs 1,000 colones to park your ATV ($2 USD). The first waterfall is a short 20 minute hike but, I suggest you continue on to the other pools. The hike is much harder and you will need both hands to climb up roots and ropes to reach it but, it is so worth it. There is a rope swing and rocks to jump off of. Eat: Soda La Naranja (I got the veggie burger).
Day 4: We had a relaxing day at the beach which is just across from the road Canaima Chill House is on. We rented surf boards from Kina Surf Shop on the main street. $8 dollar for during the day 10-5 or $15 for 24 hours. Eat: Zwart Cafe – Love the vibe of this place! They have an art studio where you can purchase pieces and delicious smoothies and granola bowls (note that everything is served luke warm)
Day 6: Spent all day relaxing at the hotel pool. The hotel is very peaceful and relaxing. I really could have spent a few more days of just lounging at the hotel. Eat: Pizza Tomate
Stay: Mayol Lodge – I will be honest that I wasn’t really excited about moving from a hotel to a hostel but I was PLEASANTLY surprised!! First off, the rooms were much better than I expected. We had reserved a 4 person ensuite and the room was very clean with a shower/bathroom in the room. Maria (the chef) was one of the nicest and funniest people I have ever met and her food was mouthwatering! Breakfast is included every morning and so tasty. The restaurant is open all day and has really cheap and delicious food (nachos, burritos, tipical, quesadillas $4-$6 per meal). The pool/restaurant area has an outdoor bathroom/shower and also an awesome stereo set up that you can play your own music on. See my full review here.
Day 8: We decided it would be a good idea to hike to Cerro Chato or the “Green Lagoon”. Probably the hardest hike I have ever done – we gained more than a thousand feet in less than a mile. You will use your hands a lot so pack a backpack and PLENTY OF WATER. I would suggest leaving as early as you can, when we were on our way back the sun was beating down. The hike was so worth it – there was a great view of Arenal Volcano and the lagoon was beautiful.
After our 4 hour round trip hike, we headed to Baldi Hot Springs. We purchased tickets from Mayol Lodge $34 including a dinner buffet. This was my second favorite activity in Costa Rica and I wish we had spent more time here. They have 30 pools including cold and hot pools. They also have water slides and an unbelievable natural Sauna. I could have easily spent 10 hours here. The buffet was also heavenly and we ate a TON before our 3 hour drive to the airport which was not the best idea.
Well there you have it, our itinerary for 10 days in Costa Rica! Happy to answer any questions about planning your trip to Costa Rica!
Check out my Costa Rica Packing list.