Costa Rica Travel Guide

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Where To Go With Your Tax Refund: Costa Rica

Where: Costa Rica
April 2, 2013 at 1:58 PM | by | Comments (0)

Tax day is coming, and you're probably excited...but not because you look forward to sifting through receipts and credit card statements. You're excited because you're getting a fat refund. Probably. The economy may be on its way back up, but you should try to stretch that tax refund as far as you can...like with a little "you did a great job last year" trip—a Tax Refund Vacation.

Whether you're into eco-travel, surfing, zip lining, hiking, swimming/snorkeling/Scuba, hanging out with exotic animals (like the Coati), learning Spanish or just lazing on a sandy beach, Costa Rica can make it happen. Regardless, you're in for sun and warm temperatures.

If you're interested in the Caribbean side with all its eco-tourism or you'd like to scratch a visit to Arenal volcano off your bucket list, fly into San Jose International Airport. For trips to the Pacific side's beaches, surf spots and giant national parks, Liberia International AIrport is the best bet (and it's got a brand-spanking-new terminal).

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The Most Improved Airport of 2012 is...

December 28, 2012 at 6:54 PM | by | Comments (0)

It's that time of the year again, the time when the year just plain ends. Alas, we can't just let 2012 go that easily, especially since travelers spent it both up in the air and up in arms over a crazy range of topics. Needless to say, we're ready for 2013, but first we're taking a brief look back at the best of 2012 with the Jaunted Travel Awards,—or as we fondly refer to them—The Jauntys.

Ever flown to Liberia, Costa Rica? If no, you should because now they've finally got an airport capable of handling the flood of tourists and international flights heading to this gateway city to the country's spectacular Pacific coast.

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The Adventures of Travel Cat: La Fortuna, Costa Rica

September 5, 2012 at 12:54 PM | by | Comment (1)

Kitty cats. They rule the internet and, whether we realize it or not, pretty much the world too. Ever noticed how cats sometimes stake out the coolest spots in a city? This new feature—Travel Cat—focuses on exactly that. Submit a photo to be featured by tweeting or Instagramming it to us (details below).

Travel Cat spotted in: La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

This week's Travel Cat is from Jaunted twitter friend @megangh, who spotted this proud puss atop a restaurant table. Costa Rica suffered a magnitude-7.6 earthquake earlier today and, though there have been no reports of fatalities, it's still pretty scary.

Megan's story of this cat reflects quieter times:

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What Does 'The Lorax' Have to Do with Costa Rica Eco-Travel?

Where: Costa Rica
March 9, 2012 at 5:20 PM | by | Comments (0)

Doubletree By Hilton is celebrating the release of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax with a sweepstakes inspired by eco-travel.

In The Lorax, a young boy is searching for the one thing that will win over his dream girl, and along the way he discovers the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.

And, just as the Lorax tries to protect his world, the Doubletree Resort by Hilton Costa Rica, which is located in El Roble, Puntarenas, is trying to do something to protect ours.

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The Moneyball of Surfing is in Costa Rica, at Surf Simply

February 29, 2012 at 11:17 AM | by | Comments (0)

Moneyball may have gone home empty handed at the 2012 Oscars, but sabermetrics are alive and well and not just on the baseball field.

Ru Hill is the owner/operator of Surf Simply, a boutique surf coaching resort near Nosara, Costa Rica, and he has been collecting surf data for more than ten years, all the while instructing thousands of surfers in England, France and Indonesia. Since 2007, however, his home base has been just up the dirt road from Playa Guiones in CR.

Every Saturday Ru and his team of ISA-trained surf instructors, chefs, yoga instructors and masseurs welcome a new group of travelers who, while varied in surfing ability from none to plenty, all have a common goal—to become immersed in surf while on vacation. While there are plenty of surf camps, surf instructors, and surf boards in Costa Rica, you would be hard pressed to find one as detailed and systematic as Surf Simply.

While Saturday night starts with a low-key dinner at the basic yet boutique 14-guest surf resort, by Sunday morning 8am, the travelers are ready to get in the water.

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Over the River and Through the Woods, to Costa Rica's Massive Arenal Volcano

Where: Costa Rica
January 17, 2012 at 11:05 AM | by | Comments (2)

You know Kai. Last week he detailed how he made his surfing adventure happen. Today, he drops some intel on the famous Arenal volcano in Costa Rica...

Volcanoes are cool—giant mountain things with a hole that goes to the bottom of the earth, full of boiling hot lava and belching smoke and soot into the air. There's something very prehistoric and intimidating about them. Oh, and every now and then they explode and turn lethal. Both cool and a bit scary then.

My typical vacations are usually by the water (not many volcanos there) or at ski hills (likewise), so I'd never had the opportunity to see a volcano up close and personal. Then, on my recent surf trip to Costa Rica, I decided to take a couple of days away from the water and go check out the volcano Arenal, one of the ten most active in the world. It last erupted as recently as 1968, when it destroyed three small villages, killing 87 people in the process. Arenal is the real deal; it's most definitely not a Disney volcano.

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Kai Surfs Costa Rica: Budgets, Boards and Pura Vida

Where: Costa Rica
January 13, 2012 at 6:08 PM | by | Comments (0)

Kai MacMahon had lost himself to the urban life in NYC, taking up running but putting down the surfboard. That is, until recently when he bit the bullet and flew himself to Costa Rica to drive, sleep and surf wherever he damn well pleased. All this week, Kai will share his experiences on the beaches and the breaks, and how he made it happen.

Yesterday: Becoming a (surf) bum in Mal Pais

As you've probably guessed, Costa Rica is one of the most surf-friendly destinations on the planet. Surfers are welcomed here with open arms, and locals will go above and beyond to help you out. It is perfectly normal to see a massive board bag strapped to the roof of a taxi, to store your boards in your hotel room, and to set up a makeshift clothes line outside your door.

And just as friendly as it is, it's also easy. US Dollars are accepted just about everywhere and most people speak at least a little English, though no matter how bad your Spanish, an attempt to speak it will always go down well. ATMs are fairly easy to find, and most will have English as an option. The bigger bank ATMs even dispense dollars as well as the local currency, Colones, and any of the main hotels or stores will take credit cards.

Nonetheless, be careful of the foreign transaction fee charges that your US bank will tack on; look into a foreign transaction-free credit card if you travel abroad often. For myself, I tried to pay for most things in cash, only using plastic for purchases of $100 and up.

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Kai Surfs Costa Rica: Making It to Mal Pais

Where: Costa Rica
January 12, 2012 at 4:33 PM | by | Comments (0)

Kai MacMahon had lost himself to the urban life in NYC, taking up running but putting down the surfboard. That is, until recently when he bit the bullet and flew himself to Costa Rica to drive, sleep and surf wherever he damn well pleased. All this week, Kai will share his experiences on the beaches and the breaks, and how he made it happen.

Yesterday: Playa Negra and the rush of hitting the waves.

Mal Pais is a sleepy little surf down at the bottom of the Nicoya Peninsula. It’s about five hours' drive from Tamarindo (taking the sensible road), or many more hours drive than that taking the silly, but very picturesque coastal road. I say silly because the above is what sometimes passes for a road in Costa Rica.

Note that the photo was taken during the dry season. In wet season (May to November), or any time it’s been raining, roads like this become impassable to all but the sturdiest SUVs. You'll find that towns in Costa Rica usually have an old man who magically knows the conditions of every river within 20 miles of his location, but as I was not in possession of one of these wrinkly oracles in my passenger seat and didn’t feel like getting my SUV stuck in a river, I elected to take the boring, safer route.

Once I arrived in Mal Pais, the first thing I noticed was, well, not a whole lot really. Not much happens here, and that’s exactly what’s so great about the place. There are a couple of bars (that’s a couple more than when I was first there ten years ago), plus other mild activities like yoga, zip-line tours and so on, but the truth is you come to Mal Pais for one reason: to surf.

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Kai Surfs Costa Rica: Playa Negra and the Rush of a Single Wave

January 11, 2012 at 4:51 PM | by | Comments (0)

Kai MacMahon had lost himself to the urban life in NYC, taking up running but putting down the surfboard. That is, until recently when he bit the bullet and flew himself to Costa Rica to drive, sleep and surf wherever he damn well pleased. All this week, Kai will share his experiences on the beaches and the breaks, and how he made it happen.

Yesterday: Hitting the road to Tamarindo.

Standing on beautiful Tamarindo beach, with my board under my arm and looking out to sea, it occurred to me in a moment of mild panic that I was very out of practice. Was I making a terrible mistake? The ocean, for all its infinite beauty, is still a scary, powerful and potentially lethal thing.

You see, you can generally tell how good a surfer somebody is by watching them as they enter the water. Folks who know what they're doing look like they own it; they glide out on their boards and effortlessly get themselves beyond the break (to the calmer part of the water where you see surfers congregate). Surfers who maybe aren't so great will walk their boards out until the water comes up to their chests, then flail around every time a wave comes in, and they generally project an aura of terror.

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Kai Surfs Costa Rica: Setting Off from the City

January 9, 2012 at 4:54 PM | by | Comments (0)

Kai MacMahon had lost himself to the urban life in NYC, taking up running but putting down the surfboard. That is, until recently when he bit the bullet and flew himself to Costa Rica to drive, sleep and surf wherever he damn well pleased. All this week, Kai will share his experiences on the beaches and the breaks, and how he made it happen.

I used to surf a lot in my 20s. I even took a year out of my life to travel 'round the world on a combo surfing/snowboarding trip. At that time, I visited some of the world’s great destinations for these sports, taking in Central America, the Californian coastline, Hawaii’s legendary North Shore, and of course Bells & Bondi in Australia. I wasn't an expert per se, but I was reasonably competent on a board.

Eventually I settled in Southern California, with world class breaks on my doorstep, before making the move to NYC. In recent years though, my dearly loved 7' 6" funboard (hand shaped in San Diego, lovingly transported to New York City by your truly) has been more of an ornament than anything else. It's a beautiful '70s-style blue and white, and it's propped up against my living room wall, making me look all sporty and Californian to visitors that don’t know any better, but definitely not serving the purpose for which it was designed. The truth is, I had stopped being a surfer.

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Froggies and Fumaroles: Hiking Costa Rica's Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park

December 22, 2011 at 3:55 PM | by | Comments (0)

Have you got a spare three or four hours? If you were in Costa Rica right now, those could be spent hiking around a volcano and petting frogs. Sure, everyone knows the giant Arenal volcano towards the center of the Central American country, but Costa Rica has six other active volcanoes, one of which is Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, located in the Guanacaste province and within its own National Park.

Rincón de la Vieja is serious business as far as volcanoes go. Heading up to its top rim and caldera is no longer allowed (too risky!) but local, experienced guides can easily lead you on a several-hour hike to spot fumaroles (steam vents), bubbly muddy water cauldrons, cute froggies and waterfalls so clear and cool you'd think it was Norway instead.

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Mindblowing: Costa Rica's Burger Kings Have a Queso Fundido Whopper

December 8, 2011 at 1:23 PM | by | Comments (0)

We probably don't need to tell you that Costa Rica has a crazy long list of things going for it. Among them: surf spots, hot springs, eco tourism, canyoneering/ziplining, beaches, and now even a new $40 million airport. But what we bet you didn't expect us to say is that Costa Rica also hits home on the fast food front, as evidenced by our discovery of the Burger King Queso Fundido Whopper.

Drive through the town of Liberia, CR and, at the single stoplight, you'll hit upon a few options: McDonald's, Papa John's, Subway...and a brand new Burger King with this banner out front.

Sadly we didn't stop to try it (hindsight is always 20/20), because we figured we were surrounded with enough better, more local food options than Burger King. But then...when will ever get to try a Whopper that features a deep-fried patty of melty cheese? Guess we'll just have to go back.

Disclosure: We zipped down to Costa Rica as guests of JetBlue and the Costa Rica Tourism Board, but rest assured that all opinions and all photos are completely our own.

[Photo: Jaunted]