Choosing Costa Rica

Rob and I have been itching to get out of the country – we’ve had small trips to US destinations and Canada in recent months but I always crave the experience of being outside my comfort zone -different languages, different foods, and different rules!

We hunted for a destination that met the following criteria:

  1. Somewhere down South: Neither one of us has experienced much of Central/South America, and I am determined not to let those 8 years of Spanish classes go to waste. Plus, after a Minnesotan winter we were aching for sunshine and above-arctic weather.
  2. Outdoorsy opportunities: Although we love talking to locals and getting a sense of the culture, we also love exploring the ecology and natural environment of foreign places. Having (safe, well-maintained) trails to explore is a must for us.
  3. Cheap Airfare! We’ve been saving up in our “vacation” accounts, but also prefer to save our money for the destination, not the journey. Our favorite site is Adioso which has a “[your city] to Anywhere” feature where you can see every destination within your desired dates or date range, and the price to get there. It’s a great way to discover cities or countries that you may not have considered otherwise.

Costa Rica easily fit the build – it was the cheapest airfare of all the options we looked at (Columbia was a close second), has 5% of the world’s biodiversity for lots of potential animal sightings, and is known for being warm and welcoming to North American travelers (something I don’t take for granted).

Flying into Costa Rica you have two options: Liberia and San Jose. We chose Liberia since it was cheaper (only about $500 round trip), more direct (5 hrs vs. over 12 hrs travel time compared to San Jose), and according to travel forums on Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor is safer, closer to where we wanted to go (Monteverde, La Fortuna, Arenal, etc.), and avoids the chaos/crime of the capital city.

One warning: If you fly into Liberia, expect to stay the night somewhere nearby. Driving at night is more trouble than it’s worth and the sun sets at 5:30pm on the nose.