Pura Vida: Tips on Wanderlusting in Costa Rica
There are two responses I typically get when I mention that I've just gotten back from a sojourn to Costa Rica and they extend to the accusatory "How'd you manage that?!" to the wistful, "Gosh, that sounds amazing. I'm jealous.". Only here's the thing, my life is not (yet) so fabulous that hopping planes and heading South without a care to budget is my reality. So in the interest of transparency, I'm going to let you in on a few hints that we'll call "pura vida tips" in the Tico spirit to help rid your lustful or vengeful thoughts for my fortune, and just seize the moment and head South yourself.
Pura Vida tip #1: Get resourceful when purchasing your flight. I've been to Costa Rica annually for the past two years and I don't see that pattern changing anytime soon (increasing stay or frequency, however, quite likely). The first time I used my Chase Freedom Rewards for a free flight between NYC and San Jose. So while some people say credit cards are the devil, I have to say false! Just pay your monthly bill on time and in full, and they can be your ticket to paradise, literally. (This year I used Jetblue Trueblue points for my roundtrip flight instead.)
Pura Vida tip #2: There are worse things than traveling solo. And they are...not traveling.I love the idea of traveling with a gaggle of friends to share experiences and silly photos. However, trying to get everyone's schedules synced can drive me to a bottle of Jack Daniels faster than anything, so sometimes seizing the moment and booking a flight solo is just the way to go. It's how I first traveled to Costa Rica, and while traveling to a foreign country where I don't speak the language (sad but true, I took French all through high school) is scary, it's usually possible to find someone you can gesticulate with to get the information you need. And you might find you learn a little bit of Spanish along the way...
Pura Vida tip #3: There's a reason you have an instinct. Trust it.When I booked my first trip south, I decided to forgo my idea of bumping around to different areas because one hotel owner was just so helpful and welcoming. And it ended up being one of the great calls of my life...because I made a friend for life, and got in with the locals. The Strebe family are now dear friends, Emily and I have plans for a life swap a la "The Holiday" in the near future (sans relationship drama), and in the meantime, I get to visit my friend in Costa Rica.
Pura Vida tip: #4: Keep it simple and leave your prissy side at home. You're in Central America. Embracing a more rugged lifestyle will keep costs low and usually only enhance experiences. For instance, in Hermosa there are hotels that line the beach at $80 a night; which is really not bad. However, one block off the beach is a hostel called Rancho Grande that's $15/person per night. And you still get this view of the beach
Sure, the room A/C is more for decoration than function, but there are worse things than a cold shower and passing out on well-worn sheets while watching the Olympics.