Happy Birthday to us!! Who doesn’t wish they could spend a week, two weeks, even a month in the luscious tropics that span across Central America… especially to ring in a birthday. Well, we can boastfully say that last month we did just that and travelled to the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Five ladies. Five Days. Livin’ the Pura Vida!
If you’ve been to Costa Rica you know this expression… Pura Vida! The law of the land in Costa translating to “pure life” is used in many forms, from a greeting, to a synonym of “excellent” “real life” and for those that know the movie The Lion King, similarly, “hakuna matata.”
Us Varty girls love to travel. We caught the travel bug years ago, possibly even at birth, being born overseas in Brazil might be where it stems from too…we aren’t really sure. We just know we love it. So, here we are excited to bring you a glimpse into our adventures on the Pacific coast of this breathtaking country!
When traveling anywhere, especially abroad, safety and preparation for your travels is necessary. Making sure your passports haven’t expired and then making copies of your passports and any travel documents, licenses and credit cards are highly recommended to have on you, as you truly never know what might happen as a foreigner in another country. Better to be safe, than sorry!
Having a method of transportation to and from the airport reserved ahead of time is also something you should always plan prior to departure. We learned that official taxi’s in Costa Rica will have a triangle and an ID number on the car. This is how you know it is a safe, registered ride!
Upon our arrival in Liberia (Lee-bear-ia – not the one in Africa), the capital of Costa Rica, known as the “White City,” we pre-booked a shuttle and headed 40 minutes Southwest to Guanacaste. Located on the Pacific Coast, it is the second largest province in Costa Rica at 19,700 sq. miles it is comparable in size to West Virginia.
Pretty sure we over-tipped everywhere. (It’s ok, Ticos live a hard life, if you are feeling generous, dish that shiz out!) A good reference on what is suitable for tipping – in Spanish “propina” – I found a great tip guide on this Costa Rica Travel blog and have also listed it for you below:
- Airport Sky Cap $1 or $2 per bag
- Bartender 50 cents to $1 per drink
- Beach/pool attendant $2
- Bellhop $1 per bag
- Boat Driver $2-$4
- Fishing Guide/Captain $30-$50 per day
- Hairstylist/Manicurist $2-$4
- Maid service in hotel $2 per day; it’s helpful to leave your biggest tip on the first day to ensure excellent service.
- Massage Therapist 15% of the value of the massage or spa treatment
- Parking lot attendants $1-$2 for two to three hours
- Private Drivers $10 half day and $15-$20 full day
- Room Service Attendant 10% of the meal value
- Scuba Diving Tour $10 per two-tank dive
- Taxi Driver For short distances, rounding up to the next dollar is appreciated. For longer hauls, $1-$5 extra depending on the length of the trip
- Tour Bus Driver $5-$10 (for an all-day tour)
- Tour Guide $3-$10 per person depending on the size of the group
- Waiter/Waitress In all mid-range and upscale restaurants, 10% service is already included in the check; an extra 10% is appreciated if the service was exceptional
- Whitewater Rafting Guide $5-$10 per person for an all-day tour
OUR EXCURSIONS and ADVENTURES… the fun part!
Depending on what you want out of your adventures… Costa Rica has it all. Soaring through the rainforest a la Tarzan was a must on our list. Zip lining is a huge attraction and you will need to find a tour company and sign up 1-2 days in advance for it, as they surely book up fast. We booked at our hotel, where they had tour companies eagerly awaiting for us to hand over our life savings. We booked all our excursions through a company called Cat Tours. Our excursion was a package deal including zip lining, horseback riding and what I will call “the relaxation station” following.
Now, let me explain the “relaxation station.” After playing Tarzan and our 1-hour guided horseback riding tour through the forest on the volcano, El Rincon de la Vieja, we were cooked an amazing Costa Rican homemade lunch on the property of rice, beans, chicken, potatoes and a side salad. Once we finished our meal we were taken to a location with a mud bowl, an outside shower, and a thermal pool. Here was the rundown:
Step 1: Change into bathing suits.
Step 2. Rub mud all over your body… (which has enriching minerals from the volcanic rock and dirt from the volcano)
Step 3. Wait 10-15 minutes for mud to dry. Then rinse off in cold shower.
Step 4. Enter thermal pool and relax.
(This experience was amazing, but definitely not what you would presume a “Costa Rican mud bath” to consist of, and instead the Costa Rican version of a spa day.)
Our advice to you…go into these excursions with no expectations. Oh and wear a step tracker of some sort… thanks to Sandra’s Fitbit we recorded 23,242 feet total for this day! Power to the ladies.
There are so many…and considering we did not rent a car, our next best option was to reserve a shuttle for a private tour… not a bad second option, right!? The tour we chose took us to four different beaches and then to the town of Tamarindo to shop and play!
We had a fantastic driver, Alex aka: Alexito, who we spent the whole day with, and it was truly a great plan as we had our own private shuttle! We were able to drink, bask in the sun, enjoy the best meal and blackberry margaritas we had during the entirety of our trip, and then explored Tamarindo at the end of the day.
The four beaches we visited were Playa Potrero, Playa Flamingo, Playa Brasilito, and Playa Tamarindo.
Thirsty for more? Ya, we were too.
- Don’t stay at an All-Inclusive resort (food and drinks are horrible)
- Queen beds are actually doubles
- Wifi is hard to find
- Costa Rica hasn’t had an army since 1948
- Bring all Go Pro attachments especially ones connecting to a helmet
- Bring and lather on that sunscreen
- Malta = Weed
- Wine is not wine. It’s kind of the worst beverage you’ll ever drink in Costa Rica (or maybe just at the all-inclusive resort). That goes for the champagne too. Don’t drink it. Just don’t.
- Costa Rican’s call themselves “Tico’s” and “Tica’s.” Love learning local lingo!
- Iguana’s here resemble baby dinosaurs
- The toilet paper is layered with a type of baby powder, no joke, just smell it!
- We were able to utilize the American dollar… literally EVERYWHERE. So, don’t sweat it if you run out of colónes!
Until next time… Party like a Varty, and go live that PURA VIDA!