What No One Ever Tells You About Costa Rica

Beaker and I spent one week in paradise, called Costa Rica. We had only six days to spare in this country, and because of the time shortage we settled in one location – Manuel Antonio. I am not going to write about Manuel Antonio. You can google it.

All I am going to say is the following:

  • Manuel Antonio is a very small place by the ocean.
  • It is very humid.
  • It is surrounded by jungles.
  • It is home to monkeys, lizards, bull frogs, sloths, and a lot of homeless dogs.

It is a place where you can relax, swim in the warm ocean, learn how to surf and drink Cuban rum.

It is a place where you spend a lot of money on great food.

Before we left on our short vacation, I did extensive research on Costa Rica. I thought I have arrived prepared. I was wrong. I knew that Costa Rica is one of the most expensive countries in Central America. I knew that we could drink the tap water. I knew that we will have to pay the exit tax of $28 per person in order to be able to leave the country. But there were other things that I was clueless about because no one ever mentioned them.

No One Tells You That:

The dry season in Costa Rica is not necessarily 100% dry. It rains at night. When it is done raining, the humidity feels like it raises by about 200%.

There are no street names. There are no street signs. If you driving in a car (like we did), pray, pray and pray some more that your GPS is working (ours was a piece of shit.)

The sun is brutal. You will bake. You will fry. You will be lobster red. You will be crispy. The first day on the beach we applied SPF 30, and boy did we burn. We were naive in our thinking that because we are at sea level, the sun is not too bad. In Mexico, maybe. Not in Costa Rica. In a Cuban rum daze we forgot how close we are to the Equator. We ended up buying SPF 80 and religiously applying it, and re-applying, and re-applying.

The seafood is amazing. 

You need to carry a flashlight with you at night. I am not kidding. One small flashlight will suffice. During the rain, the power goes out in the whole town, and you need to find your way back to the hotel through the dark streets.

Carry cash all the time. If you are in a restaurant when the power goes out at night, and you want to leave, you need to have enough cash on you to pay for your bill. Paying with a credit card won’t cut it anymore because absolutely nothing is working when the power is out.

The humidity is really bad. If you are not used to it, you will be wet and hot and wet some more. You ankles might get swollen to the unrecognizable size. You will be questioning if your feet belong to someone else. You might end up with a heat rash. You will want to take a shower constantly.

Monkeys are not as cute as they are scary. Especially when they are going through the garbage (see pictures below) and you are trying to take their picture. They will bare their teeth at you, and you might want to run away.

On the beach you can buy or rent anything you want: a drink, a boogie board, a paddle board, a surf board, a shade tent, a pack of cigarette, a massage and even marijuana. Everything and anything an American tourist might need is offered on the beach.

What We Spent in Costa Rica 

We travelled with two other couples. We split a rental car and lodging costs three way.

Air – $714. Usually one round trip ticket from Salt Lake City, UT to San Jose, Costa Rica is about $800 or more. One Tuesday morning in September I was checking ticket prices and saw an amazing price of $357 per person. If you are determined to go somewhere, start checking prices early and often.

Car Rental and gas – $333

Hotel in San Jose – $115

Hotel in Manuel Antonio – $490

Entrance to Manuel Antonio – $20

Shade on the beach for two days – $20

Food and drinks – $860

Souvenirs – $40

Cab Rides – $20

Kayaking tour – $96

Zip line tour – $110

Exit Visa – $56

Total spent: $2,874

What We Saw and Experienced


Crocodiles are HUGE.



Monkeys in Costa Rica
Monkeys love going through trash. Stay away from them!


Manuel Antonio
Hiking through the jungles in Manuel Antonio.


Manuel Antonio Beaches.
Manuel Antonio Beaches.
In Manuel Antonio national park
My best shot ever!


More beaches





15 thoughts on “What No One Ever Tells You About Costa Rica”

  1. I was in Costa Rica about 15 years ago for about two weeks. We moved around a bit, but spent about 3 nights in the Manuel Antonio area and I recall how fearsome the monkeys were and how humid it was. We visited other areas that weren’t quite so steamy: the Arenal volcano, and the highlands. It’s a beautiful country. My fondest memories were around food: the fresh juices (including berry juices in the highlands), delicious coffee, and the best bananas I have ever had in my life.

    1. Coffee! I can’t believe I forgot how wonderful coffee was. I definitely want to go back and see other parts of the country.

  2. Sounds like you had a great time. I can use some sun and humidity right about now. People always underestimate the sun. It’s good that you got the SPF 80. 🙂

    1. That SPF was a life saver!
      Portland should not be as cold as Salt Lake. Plus we have an inversion now. Nasty air! Reminds me Beijing.

  3. Costa Rica is exactly the place I’ve got targeted for a 10 day trip this April!

    So overall, thumbs up or thumbs down? Could spending more money have allowed you a better time there? What would you have done differently if you could do it again?

    Cheapest flights from SF I see are $600 RT.


    1. You are going to love Costa Rica!
      Overall thumbs up! Definitely! It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. We had a blast. I wish we’d have more time to travel around the country. It is so beautiful. Ten days would have been perfect for us.
      Keep on checking the flights. You might get an unexpectedly good deal. However, to be honest, I’d pay $600 in a heartbeat to go to Costa Rica.

  4. Love the pics! I live in Guatemala and most of it applies here too. Costa Rica is great though in spite of all that! Did you think the car was worth it? There are many cheap vans that will take you anywhere on excursions but you may have gone off the beaten paths.

  5. Brings back some great memories! I spent a week in Liberia in 2006 and LOVED it! You’re right about the humidity. I remember my sunglasses kept fogging up. The monkeys running along the beach (and snoozing in the trees) were something else. Zip lining is a definite MUST. Fun fun fun! You scored a killer deal on the flights! Costa Rica is not a cheap vacation…

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