Renting a Car in Costa Rica

Renting a Car in Costa Rica

Renting a Car in Costa Rica

I hope everyone is doing great wherever you may be. I’ve been busy planning my husband David’s big 80th birthday party. Several friends will fly down for the epic event and have asked if they should rent a car in Costa Rica.

I figure you’ve wondered about it too. How accessible are cabs? Can I Uber in Costa Rica? Are there rental cars at the airport or should I have the concierge from the vacation home I rented take care of it for me? Which rental car company is best? These are all great questions. Let’s dig in.

Should I Rent a Car?

To rent or not to rent? That depends on what kind of vacationer you are. Do you plan to get to your vacation villa, unpack, kick back with a cold tropical cocktail, spend time at the pool, and escape from everything? Because, if that’s the case, I’d say you don’t need to rent a car in Costa Rica.

Besides, when you stay at the Discovery Beach House, you’re close to everything. Why leave a car sitting in the parking area when you just want to lay on a float in a pool and hang at the beach. The beach is a 30-second walk from your back door. Stores, ATMs, restaurants, bars, and shopping are just a 2-10-minute walk from the villa.

Taxis

Costa Rica TaxiTaxis are readily available on the main road. Uber is in San Jose but hit and miss in our area of Manuel Antonio. If you’re adventurous and want a local experience, take the public bus, it’s easy. The public bus stop is right outside the Discovery Beach House gate. Buses pass by every 20 minutes, except for Sundays when they’re on a minimal schedule. It’s only $.60 to ride into town and takes maybe 15 minutes. It’s a cultural experience.

Do I Need a 4×4?

If you’re the type of vacationer who likes to get out and explore, then I suggest you rent a car in Costa Rica. You may want to visit nearby towns or get off the beaten path. You don’t need to rent a 4×4 vehicle unless you plan to visit rural areas of Costa Rica.

How Are the Roads?

The road conditions in Costa Rica have vastly improved over the past few years. The roads around Manuel Antonio are great in comparison to other areas of Costa Rica. When you’re off the main highways, there are still potholes that can swallow your car. So be careful and don’t be in too much of a hurry. Remember the maximum speed limit in Costa Rica is only about 50 mph. If you’d like to know more about driving around in Costa Rica check out my article “Costa Rica Map Tips: One Inch Does NOT Equal Five Miles.”

Mandatory National Insurance

The mandatory national insurance is the biggest complaint we hear from guests renting a car in Costa Rica. Online websites don’t include the mandatory national insurance in their online quotes. Imagine your surprise when you think you scored a deal on a car, then come to find out, it’s much higher than what the website says. The national insurance can add $10 to $25 a day (it depends on what type of car you rent) to the total cost of the rental.

Our concierge has received many phone calls from panicked guests at the airport asking for help. Their deal turned into a not so great deal fast. That’s why we suggest you let our concierge book your rental car. Our concierge service is free for our guests. We only work with reputable companies. We send them so much business, if any little thing pops up, we get priority.

INS a Costa Rican Monopoly

There’s one company that offers car insurance in Costa Rica. The company “INS” (National Insurance Institute) has a monopoly here. Don’t get tricked into purchasing international car insurance for your Costa Rica vacation. Unless your insurance is from INS it isn’t valid in Costa Rica. You’ll either lose your money or have to ask for a refund when you return from your Costa Rica vacation.

Reputable Car Companies

If you book your car on your own, make sure you use a reputable company. Don’t book with a company you’ve never heard of, no matter how good the deal seems to be. If something does happen, you want to make sure you have someone in the office that can help you.

Basic or Full Coverage?

Basic or full coverage is separate from the mandatory national insurance. I like the idea of full coverage because if anything happens (stuff does happen sometimes), it’s nice to know you’re covered.

Most major credit cards include full coverage on cars rented with the card. Call your credit card company and double-check. That’ll save you quite a bit of money and give you peace of mind with your car rental. Basic coverage is just that, basic. Most guests never have problems with basic coverage.

Rental Car Deposits

You’ll need a credit card for the deposit on your rental car in Costa Rica. Rental car deposits range from $300 to $1,500 depending on the company and the type of car you rent. If there’s no issues, the rental car companies will return your deposit within three business days after you return your vehicle. Keep that in mind if you need access to the deposit money after your vacation. Similar to the US, you’ll need a valid driver’s license and be over 25 years old to rent the vehicle.

Now You Know

I hope that by now, I’ve answered most of those daunting questions you had about how to rent a car in Costa Rica. As always, our concierge is here to help you with your Costa Rica vacation planning needs.

See You Soon

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more details on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

5 Must See Costa Rica National Parks

5 Must See Costa Rica National Parks

5 Must See Costa Rica National Parks

Excited about your Costa Rica vacation? Are you like me? When you travel you break out the map and start looking for cool stuff around where you’re staying? You think, “Honey, the biggest ball of twine in Central America, is only 1.5 hours away from our villa.”

Do you visit as many national parks as you can while you’re on Vacation? Great, in this article I’m going to tell you about some of the beautiful, wild, and untamed national parks of Costa Rica.

There are so many stunningly beautiful national parks in Costa Rica. It’s hard to list them all in one article. I’m going to do my best to help you figure out which national parks to visit while here on your Costa Rica vacation.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Tell me what flashes into your mind when I say, “cloud forest”? Do you think of lush tropical forests dotting misty cloud-covered mountain tops? Do you picture a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, and dense emerald green forest with moss and vines hanging down from the forest canopy? Can you hear the sounds of the wildlife echo in your ears? If you do, then I bet you’re thinking of one of the most famous, if not the most famous cloud forest in the world, Monteverde.

When Monteverde National Park opened it was only about 328 hectares (820 acres). Now due to conservation efforts and the help of sponsors, it’s closer to 10,500 hectares (26,250 acres).

There are about 9,000 species of plants found in Costa Rica. In Monteverde National Park you can find half of them inside the park. Ten percent of the plant species here are endemic to the Monteverde area.

Monteverde is a wildlife enthusiast and bird watcher’s paradise. Over 100 species of mammals, 400 varieties of birds, and thousands of insect species call Monteverde home.

Ever wanted to be in two places at once? Part of the national park straddles the continental divide. So, you can stand with a foot on the Pacific side and the other one on the Caribbean side. Viola, you’re on two sides of the continents at once. Pretty cool, huh?

Rincon de la Vieja

Rincon de la Vieja means “Corner of the Old Woman” in Spanish. This picturesque national park is in the Guanacaste region in Northwest Costa Rica, about 15 miles East from the city of Liberia. It’s a must-see if you’re in the area.

On your hike to one of the many hot springs in the park, you’ll see a variety of unique flora, fauna, and wildlife. You might spot exotic kinkajous, pumas, jaguars, and tapirs. You’ll love this national park.

The Legend

Legend tells of a tribe’s beautiful Indian princess named Curubanda, the daughter of the Curubande tribe chieftain. Curubanda falls in love with a handsome prince named Mixcoac. Ah, how sweet right? What could go wrong? Well, I’ll tell you, prince Mixcoac was the son of an enemy tribe’s Chief. The princess’ father discovered their relationship and forbade it.

Young love is hard to hold back. They continued seeing each other. Curubanda’s father found out and became furious. The Chief tricked Mixcoac and kidnapped the prince. The chief, determined to keep them apart, threw Mixcoac into the active volcano crater. Talk about bad in-laws. Devastated Curubanda lived as a recluse on the side of the volcano. She learned natural medicines and gained healing powers. Still, to this day, people go to the waterfalls and hot springs for their healing powers.

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero is on the Northeast Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, north of Limon. Tortuguero is one of the most remote national parks in Costa Rica. The only way there is either by plane or boat. The little seaside town is lovely to stroll along the meandering walkways, exploring quaint restaurants, shops, and hotels. The main attraction of Tortuguero National Park is sea turtles.

Each year hundreds of sea turtles make their long journey back to the remote beaches to lay their eggs. Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Green sea turtles are just some of the species you might see when you visit.

Poaching turtle eggs is a major problem in the area. The Costa Rican government has hired guards to walk the beaches at night to protect these beautiful turtles. If you want to see turtles, you must go with a licensed guide. Don’t get caught on the beaches at night. You’ll be mistaken for a poacher.

Visiting sea turtles aren’t the only thing to do in the Tortuguero National Park. You can take boat tours to explore the surrounding waterways. There’s a large population of Spider Monkeys here, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a manatee.

Corcovado National Park

National Geographic calls Corcovado National Park “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity.” Corcovado is on the Osa Peninsula. It is Costa Rica’s largest national park covering 164 square miles.

In Corcovado, you’ll see primary rainforests, montane forests, cloud forests, lowland forests, swamps, and mangroves. It truly is chock full of flora and fauna.

Wildlife you could encounter on a hike may include large and elusive jaguars, ocelots, collared peccary, and pumas. There is a large population of endangered tapirs in the park. Corcovado is a birder’s paradise. The very rare harpy eagle can be found in the park also.

Corcovado is rugged and remote. We suggest you go with a guide. Trails can seem to disappear out of nowhere, and if you don’t know your way around, you will get lost.

Manuel Antonio National Park

This is my favorite national park in Costa Rica. Maybe because the Discovery Beach House used to be part of it at one time. This little gem is a short walk from the villa.

Manuel Antonio is the smallest park in Costa Rica at about 4,900 square acres. Though it’s small, it is also mighty. Manuel Antonio is one of the most visited parks in Costa Rica, making it a revenue-producing park.

The beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park are incredible. White sand beaches blend with the sapphire blue Pacific Ocean. Palm trees line the beaches offering up much-needed shade from the hot tropical sun. There are several coves inside the park that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, or just relaxing.

Take a Hike

Be advised the beach is about a half-mile from the entrance of the park. Don’t worry, you’ll be so distracted by all the wildlife you see along the way, you won’t even notice the distance you’ve traveled. There are several well maintained trails throughout the park.

Please don’t feed the wildlife. The park stopped allowing tourists to bring in junk food because feeding the wildlife makes them aggressive and fearless about stealing food from you.

Now You Know

By now I hope you have a list of Costa Rican national parks to visit. As always, our concierge is available to help with any of your Costa Rica vacation planning needs.

See You Soon

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more details on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

The Boruca, Costa Rica’s Unconquered Tribe

In my last article, Land’ ho Costa Rica History and the Last Unconquered Tribe, we talked a little about indigenous tribes. Costa Rica has a rich history of native tribes who have lived in the area about 10,000 years before Columbus arrived.

Out of Costa Rica’s 4.5 million population, about 114,000 are indigenous people from ancient tribes making up about 2.4% of the population. These tribes have retained their customs, culture, language, and rituals throughout the occupation of the Spaniards to present day.

The Mighty Boruca

In this article, I’d like to feature the mighty Boruca tribe. The Boruca are the only indigenous tribe of Costa Rica not defeated by the Spaniards. The Boruca are also known as Brunca, Brunka, and Borunca. The Boruca live on a land reservation of about 140 km2 in the South-Pacific region of Costa Rica. Costa Rica law established reservations for indigenous tribes to live. The Costa Rican government allows the tribes to self-govern on their reservations.

Boruca Scared the Sh*t Out of the Conquistadors

If you recall from my last article, I described the first Boruca and Spanish conquistador encounter in the jungle. The Boruca masks were terrifying with distorted scowling faces and jaguar-like fangs. Their bodies were painted in bright colors or covered in animal skins or banana leaves.

When the conquistadors first saw the Boruca tribesmen, they ran. The Boruca charged the conquistadors and chased them back to their ships. Legend has it the Boruca warded off the conquistadors for four days. That must have been such a sight to see, the brave conquistadors running for their lives.

Dance of the Little Devils

The Boruca celebrate each December 30th to January 2nd with the Dance of the Little Devils. This festival represents the Boruca chasing off the Spaniards. The Spaniards, represented by a bull and the Boruca the “little devils.”

Day 1

This multi-day festival starts with the warriors hear of the approaching conquistadors; they hike up into the surrounding hilltops to keep a lookout. While on the mountain top they call on the spirits of their masks to help them ward off the invaders. The warriors, to simulate animal skin wear burlap. They ordain themselves with beautiful feathers, paint their bodies in bright colors and wear their masks. The warriors energized with the spirits of their masks return to the village ready to defend their land.

Day 2

Day 2 begins with someone dressing up in the bull costume. The bull costume is covered in burlap, draped over a large box with a mask of a bull’s head. It’s somewhat cumbersome to wear, and it takes quite the beating. Due to this, the bull costume is worn by different people throughout the festival.

The Boruca paint their bodies in bright colors and don masks representing different spirits. The little devils, chastise, chase, and hit the bull. During the first couple of days of the festival, the bull knocks down the devils and thwarts their attacks. On the evening of the second day, the warriors drink chicha.

Chicha is a strong traditional alcohol drink made from corn. The Boruca believe chicha gives them powers to defeat the Spaniards. I guess when you have a few cocktails, you can feel invincible. The Boruca certainly did.

Day 3

The morning of the third day, the “Cacique” (Chief) and elders of the tribe walk through the village and bang on drums, play flutes and blow into a conch shell. The elders call the warriors of the village to come out and fight, then drink more chicha. They summon the spirits of the masks, drink more chicha, and become more emboldened. They then chase down the bull and the attacks worsen. Wouldn’t you hate to be the person dressing up in the bull costume?

Day 4

The final day of the festival, the warriors drink more chicha, then cover themselves with banana leaves to make themsleves appear to double or triple in size. They change their masks and attack the bull again and again. The attacks become more and more violent. It almost turns into a drunken brawl with all the chicha they drink, and that’s why the last couple of days of this festival gets a bit violent for the people participating. The ceremony culminates when the devils finally kill the bull and save their heritage.

Boruca Today

Today the Boruca live a peaceful life in the Talamanca mountains of Costa Rica. They still embrace their traditions, language, and culture. The Boruca tribe mostly relies on Ethnotourism to sell their crafts to sustain themselves.

Ethnotourism is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s when you travel to immerse yourself in another culture. Cool, huh. When you visit the Boruca you can arrange a homestay to see what’s it’s like to live in that culture. My husband David, daughter Dawn, and I have done it all over the world. We’ve stayed with weavers high in the Andes and on Lake Titicaca in Peru. We’ve also stayed with farmers in Bhutan. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it. It’s enlightening, makes you humble, and makes you grateful for many things you’ve taken for granted in your life.

By now, I hope you’re ready to bring your tribe to visit the mighty Boruca tribe, the only indigenous tribe who remained unconquered by the Spanish during their control of Costa Rica.

See You Soon

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more details on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

* Danza De Diablitos | Photo Credits: Tilyian Morrin, Peace Corps Volunteer, (Festival of 2017 – 2018) | https://www.borucacostarica.org/danza-de-diablitos

Land’ ho Costa Rica History and the Last Unconquered Tribe

Land’ ho Costa Rica History and the Last Unconquered Tribe

Land’ ho Costa Rica History and the Last Unconquered Tribe

Imagine yourself an explorer. You’ve sailed a long and arduous journey fighting off starvation, scurvy, and death. You’re exhausted, and you’re ready to set foot on dry land. The salt air fills your nostrils as waves break beneath the bow of your ship in warm coastal waters. You put your looking glass up to your eye and scan the horizon in a slow, sweeping motion, right to left. Ah-ha! You spot an emerald green coast lined with palm trees and lush tropical forest. You grin ear to ear then cry out excitedly from the crow’s nest atop the mast, “Land’ ho!”

The Rich Coast

Wow, what a journey that would have been. Can you imagine? It must have been incredible to discover such a beautiful place like Costa Rica, “Rich Coast” in Spanish. If you’ve ever seen the beautiful and majestic coastline here, you’ll understand its name. Do you know who “discovered” and named Costa Rica? Take a guess.

Voyage in the Late 1400s

So, did you guess? You might be surprised to learn that Christopher Columbus named Costa Rica the “Rich Coast.” He sure was right. The coasts here are incredibly rich with beauty. Columbus may have been right on the name, but I’ll tell you something Columbus got wrong. Columbus thought he was the first person to discover Costa Rica. When Columbus and his crew landed on the picturesque tropical shores, they were surprised to find Indigenous tribes had been living here for almost 10,000 years before their arrival.

Spanish Conquest

In 1524 Costa Rica became a colony of Spain. During this time, Costa Rica was part of a vast country called Captaincy General of Guatemala. This country was basically all the countries in Central America lumped into one, which the Spanish ruled for 300 years. Spain set out to enslave the natives, plunder their riches, steal their gold, and make them pay tribute (taxes) to Spain. As you can imagine, the indigenous tribes tried to band together to ward off the Spanish invaders and expel them from their sacred lands. They fought off the Spanish conquistadors bravely. Despite their valiant efforts, the well-armed and well-equipped conquistadors were no match against their primitive bows and arrows. The tribes fell one by one, except for one.

Evil Mountain Spirits

Danza De Diablitos | Photo Credit: Tilyian Morrin, Peace Corps Volunteer,
(Festival of 2017 – 2018) | https://www.borucacostarica.org/danza-de-diablitos

Imagine you’re wielding a machete trekking through the mountains in a dense tropical rain forest. Your hands are sweaty from the intense heat and humidity, your body is weak from lack of nutrition. With each slash of the blade, you grow weaker. The Capitan orders you “adelante” (forward). You swing your machete again and break through the dense undergrowth of the humid jungle into an open field. Your heart stops, your eyes widen as you gaze upon the most terrifying thing you’ve ever seen. It’s standing right in front of you in the clearing. Like they’ve been waiting for you.

Large, brightly colored feathers shoot out from the tops of their masks like a crown. They have large distorted scowling faces, long noses, dark empty eyes, jaguar like fangs protruding from their mouths. Their bodies are painted in bright colors. Some of them are covered in spotted fur like the ocelots you’ve seen and hunted for food in the jungle here. Others look like the jungle brought to life covered in leaves and glowing eyes. Their mangled hands clap together, and they let out an otherworldly bellowing sound as they charge towards you. Panic sets in, it’s fight or flight. What do you do? You run, that’s what you do. You run the fastest you’ve ever run in your life.

They Ran!

During the Spanish conquest, they encountered one indigenous tribe that made them quiver in their armor. Believe it or not, this tribe caused the conquistadors to flee back to their ships in terror. I know it’s hard to imagine this happening to the brave conquistadors, but it did and to this day the tribe lives peacefully in the mountains of Costa Rica. They still celebrate warding off the conquistadors with a big festival. The tribe is called Boruca. Stay tuned for the next chapter featuring the Boruca tribe.

See You Soon

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more details on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Flights, San Jose Airport (SJO), and What You Should Know

Costa Rica Flights, San Jose Airport (SJO), and What You Should Know

Costa Rica Flights, San Jose Airport (SJO), and What You Should Know

You take a deep breath and you feel your pulse racing with excitement. You just booked your Costa Rica vacation rental. Congratulations! You’re stoked and walk proud for the sweet deal you got for your family. This Costa Rica family vacation is going to be the best vacation yet!

What will you do about your flights? When is the best time to arrive? Where do you pick up your rental car or private shuttle? No worries. I’ll help you figure out best arrival times and how to get around the airport in San Jose. The San Jose (SJO) airport is actually in Alajuela. Did you know that?

Now Arriving, Costa Rica

You’ve probably already searched every travel site on the Internet to find the best Costa Rica flight deals. There are a ton of them out there and now is a great time to book. It’s important to consider your arrival and departure times. It depends on where your Costa Rica vacation villa is located. You may have to leave at the crack of dawn to arrive at the airport in time for your departure flight. Many airport services are not open when your flight arrival or departure times are too early or too late.

Earlier Arrival, Later Departure

Airport Arrivals DeparturesWhen guests stay at the Discovery Beach House, we always suggest they arrive early in the morning or midafternoon. Now, I understand sometimes that can be tricky. An early arrival will give you plenty of time to get through customs, grab your baggage, stop at duty-free (save money on much cheaper alcohol), get your rental car or find your private shuttle, arrive at your vacation villa, and still have some of your first day to enjoy.

My strategy is to power through the first day after a red-eye flight, so I don’t feel like I’ve lost an entire day on travel. The key is to get a few hours of sleep, so bring a sleeping mask, ear plugs, or a sleep aid to make that happen.

Try to avoid arrivals or departures at rush hour. There’s nothing worse than being super excited to get to your vacation rental then having to sit in traffic for two hours. If you arrive after sunset (about 5:30 pm), it’ll be dark. It isn’t easy driving around an unfamiliar country during the day, let alone at night. If you’re in a private shuttle, you’ll miss the beautiful scenery on the way to your destination. The best strategy is to arrive late morning to midafternoon and depart midafternoon or after rush hour.

Getting Around Costa Rica’s San Jose Airport SJO

You’ve finally landed, now what? San Jose airport (SJO) is very easy to navigate. When you get off the plane, follow the clearly posted signs first to Immigration then to the customs agents. Someone will be there to guide you. You’ll need your passport, so have that handy. There are two lines, one for nationals of Costa Rica and a second for everyone else. Make sure to wait in the right line.

Next in Line

A customs agent will call you to a window. If you’re traveling as a family or couple, you can go to the same window together. If you’re individuals in a group, each person needs to wait until called to a customs agent’s window. The customs agent asks you some questions about your trip or where you will be going. Be patient if the line is long and always be nice no matter how tired you might be. Usually, this line goes quickly and very smoothly. Once you have your passport stamped, it’s time to pick up your luggage.

Where’s My Luggage?

Baggage ClaimA short walk down a hallway from customs is baggage claim. Like most airports, look for the carousel with your flight number on it and wait for your luggage to come out. There are luggage porters who help you carry your luggage for a tip. If you have a lot of luggage, it’s worth it. Super-secret insider tip (shhh): if you hire a porter it will also streamline your customs experience. Customs agents are reluctant to tear through luggage handled by porters as it may affect their tip. Having a vacation rental home in a foreign country means I often bring back several household items I can get cheaper in the U.S. The porter puts my heavy bags on the conveyor belt, reloads them onto his cart, and wheels the whole shebang outside. This can be a life saver if you’re traveling with family and a wife who likes clothing options, like me.

If you don’t use the services of a luggage porter, there are carts you can use for free. The carts can’t be taken past the luggage scanning machine unless you have a porter. After that you’ll have to carry your luggage. Baggage claim is small and very easy to get around.

Duty Free

We suggest if you want to have any favorite alcohol on hand, you should buy it at duty-free. You can buy alcohol all over Costa Rica but at duty free it’s tax-free and sometimes half the price! Shopping at duty-free will save you at least 13% – 50%.

I prefer the second duty-free shop after baggage claim.  The second shop has the same great deals as the first one, but it’s less crowded.  The first duty-free shop is normally packed (elbow-to-elbow room) because everyone instinctively goes to what they see first.

Remember, you’ll have to show your airline ticket and passport to prove you didn’t sneak in the back door for a deal.

Leaving San Jose Airport (SJO)

After you’ve done your duty-free shopping and have your luggage, you’ll need to give that form to the person at the luggage scanner. You’ll put your luggage on the scanner and pick it up on the other side. On the other side are the kiosks for rental car companies. The airport is tiny, so the rental car lots are located off-site.

If you have a private shuttle, you’ll find your driver waiting outside as you exit the airport. Be warned!  There are a ton of taxi drivers and people bidding for your attention and business. it can be a bit overwhelming. Look around for someone with a sign with your name on it, that’s your shuttle driver. If you haven’t arranged transportation or a stay at a local hotel, no worries. There are people who will let you make a call on their cell phones. Tip them $1 if you do. Tip more if they help you a lot.

Now You Know

By now you may be ready to book your flight for your Costa Rica adventure. Don’t worry, you’ll navigate the airport like a pro, armed with this new knowledge, and get to your vacation rental home in the shortest time possible because you picked the best arrival time!

See You Soon

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more information on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Do You Have Costa Rican Medicinal Cures in Your Kitchen? You Probably Do!

Do You Have Costa Rican Medicinal Cures in Your Kitchen? You Probably Do!

Everyone is worried about healthcare these days, aren’t you? No wonder. We’re constantly bombarded and brainwashed by pharmaceutical ads telling us we’re sick. The medical industry has changed drastically since the horse and buggy days when the local Doc would ride out to your log cabin to deliver a baby. They are no longer about finding cures but rather about treating symptoms that keep you hooked on high-cost meds that only mask the problem. Their bottom line is profit, not your health.

What if remedies for some of your ailments are just steps away, right in your own kitchen or right around the corner at your local grocery store? For thousands of years cultures around the world have relied on herbs and natural remedies to heal themselves. My great-grandfather was a curandero (folk healer), and as a 10-year-old child I remember watching people line up outside his front door in El Paso, Texas to seek help for their ailments. Herbs and plants were his mainstay and people always walked away with genuine gratitude.

David, my husband of 44 years, and I love to eat healthy food. It’s important to care for your body; it’s the only one you’ve got. Why not have an amazing life while you’re here?

As it turns out, Costa Rica is a Garden of Eden full of medicinal plants and herbs. Guess what? You may already have several Costa Rican medicinal plants on hand. You’ve probably used medicinal plants without even knowing it. Here are a few of Costa Rica’s medicinal plants we enjoy that help us stay healthy.

Cilantro

I know cilantro isn’t everyone’s favorite herb. People either love it or hate it. However, after you read this, maybe you’ll come to appreciate it for its medicinal properties. As a Mexican, I grew up eating cilantro in countless savory dishes. Here in Costa Rica, it’s called culantro and we have two varieties; the small-leafy one you may be familiar with, and a long, broad-leafy one with serrated edges. They both grow wild all over Costa Rica and are packed full of antioxidants, an effective cleanser that hugely benefits the digestive system. Cilantro actively treats stomach ailments such as a pesky upset stomach and even more severe conditions such as diarrhea and vomiting. The preparation is simple, just make a tea and sip it. For prevention and pleasure, toss cilantro into a variety of dishes including veggies, rice, guacamole, pasta, salsa, soups or tacos.

Ginger

Ginger is a magical herb with many applications. Ginger is chock full of antiviral and antibacterial properties to help prevent infections. Slice it and steep in hot water to make a tea or toss it into your next Asian dish. For a sore throat, suck on a piece of peeled ginger for soothing relief. My friend drinks ginger tea as a substitute for coffee and it puts pep in her step. Use ginger to prevent or heal from a cold or the flu. It has been known to cure kidney and bladder issues, morning sickness, and motion sickness. I suffer from seasickness and feel nauseous even on land when someone does that wavy thing with their hand while talking about seasickness. I also get sympathetic seasickness. If someone runs to the side of the boat to barf – I’m right there with them. Ginger is my trusted companion whenever I set foot on a boat. I chew on slices of raw ginger root and it works every time. A cup of shredded ginger in a hot bath is a favorite for body and mind. Oh, the fragrance is delightful, and it will leave you feeling recharged and invigorated.

Mint

Mint not only smells and tastes good, but it has medicinal properties too. Steep mint leaves in hot water and drink it as a hot or cold tea. Mint helps prevent cavities and is found in mouthwash recipes dating back centuries. Mint contains menthol oil that calms the nerves, keeps a balance of good bacteria in your digestive system, and aids in overall digestive health. A favorite here in Costa Rica is lemonade blended with ice and mint.

Pineapple

Does this surprise you? It turns out one of my favorite smoothie ingredients is incredibly good for you, like a medicine. Pineapples are a terrific source of Vitamins A, B, and C. If you suffer from arthritis or Inflammation, blend up a pineapple smoothie to ease the discomfort. A pineapple smoothie is super after a hard workout at the gym. It boosts the immune system and cuts recovery time.

Papaya

Papaya is one of the most commonly grown fruit in Costa Rica, next to the pineapple. Have you ever seen a papaya tree? The fruit grows in big clumps out of the top of the trunk just below its peculiar, snowflake-shaped leaves. It reminds me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Papaya is a diuretic, it eases digestive problems, constipation, and kidney issues. Papaya also lowers blood pressure naturally and is rich in fiber and Vitamin A. Papaya keeps you looking younger with its miraculous anti-aging properties. Add some extra papaya to your fruit salad or smoothie in the morning. A smoothie a day keeps the doctor away.

Did You Look in Your Fridge?

By now, you’ve probably searched your pantry and fridge to see which Costa Rican medicinal plants, herbs, and fruit you may already have at home. I hope this inspires you to think outside the pill box and use medicinal plants in your kitchen when appropriate. To state the obvious, if you break an arm, head for the doctor.

See You Soon

We offer wellness retreats at the Discover Beach House. Book your trip directly on our website. We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more details on Manuel Antonio, the best beach spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Weather, Will it Rain or Shine?

Costa Rica Weather, Will it Rain or Shine?

You take a deep breath and check a third weather website. It says the same thing. Darn it, there’s an 80% chance of thunderstorms and it will rain every day on your upcoming trip to Costa Rica. Oh no, this can’t be true! Your heart beats faster and panic starts to set in. Is your Costa Rica vacation ruined? Don’t freak out. Predicting Costa Rica weather is like guessing the next jackpot lotto numbers. It causes confusion for our guests. So, wipe the cold sweat off your brow because I’m about to help you figure out the mystery of Costa Rican weather.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

I can’t tell you how many times our concierge has had to calm down guests over an online Costa Rica weather report. “The weather report says it’s pouring rain right now and we leave for the airport in two hours!”

Picture this: our concierge has the phone to her ear and hears the alarm in the upcoming guest’s voice as she smiles and waves farewell to our departing guests. She looks up at the sky and feels the warmth of the sun on her face. Billowy, alabaster clouds populate the sky, and a soft, tropical breeze blows a strand of hair from her face.

Well, there’s an 80% chance it will rain somewhere in Costa Rica, but that isn’t rocket science. So why do weather forecasters throw a wet blanket over the entire country?

By now you’re probably confused about the best season to visit. Both dry and green seasons are great times to take a Costa Rica vacation. I’ve lived here for 15 years. Keep reading, and I’ll explain more.

What Are Costa Rica’s Seasons?

Costa Rica’s two seasons are the dry season and the green season. Our busiest season is the dry season, which is December through April. During this time snowbirds and vacationers flock to the warm tropical waters and climate of Costa Rica. The green season begins around May and ends by December. The months with the heaviest rain are usually September, October, and November.

Dry Season Weather

The dry season has hot sunny mornings and partly cloudy afternoons. The evenings are warm with a light tropical breeze. The highs are in the 90’s and lows are in the 80’s. It rarely rains during the dry season but if it does, it will be a most welcome event. Think of how wonderful it will be to thaw out your bones while people scrape snow off their windshields in the US and Canada.

Green Season Weather

After almost no rain during the dry season, the parched jungles and rainforests are ready for some much-needed moisture. Once the rains begin, the thirsty jungle springs back to life in an explosion of 50 shades of green. That’s why we call it the green season instead of the rainy season. A typical day is sunny until late afternoon or early evening, which gives you plenty of time for the beach or tours. Many expats who live here, including me, secretly love the green season. It’s cooler, less crowded, and drop-dead splendiferous.

When you travel in the green season, it may rain but it rarely ever rains all day. Carry an umbrella or rain jacket for those unexpected rainforest showers. One great thing about the rain here is, even if you get caught in it, it’s still warm. Check out the locals. They’ll be in their same dry season attire; shorts, tank tops and flip flops. We rarely carry umbrellas because who minds warm rain?

There’s a saying here, “La mañana oscura, la tarde segura.” So, early morning rain means pleasant afternoons for the beach or other activities. The highs are in the low 90’s to high 80’s and a bit cooler at night.

Beach Weather

You’ll enjoy days in the low to high 90’s if you sit on a Costa Rican beach in the dry season. A cardinal sin is going home without a tan, right? Evenings will be mid 80’s to 90’s. You may want an umbrella for shade during the hot days especially if you want to explore the cute little shops in town and not feel like you’re melting in the heat.

The green season is a great time at the beach too. There’s never a bad day at the beach at the Discovery Beach House! Daytime in the green season is a bit cooler with highs in the 80’s to low 90’s. Evenings are in the comfortable low 80’s or even 70’s if you’re in the mountains. The higher the elevation, the cooler the weather.

Mountain and Central Valley Weather

Costa Rica’s mountains are some of the most beautiful and verdant anywhere. Some call it the Switzerland of Central America. The capital of San Jose is in a valley between two vast mountain ranges. You’ll find much cooler temperatures in the mountains. People who live in San Jose’s central valley and Cartago, which was the first capital of Costa Rica, will wear jackets and talk about how cold it is today when the temperature is a refreshing 75 degrees. I need a light jacket to fight the nip of the crisp mountain air at night in San Jose. It’s hard to believe you can be cold while on vacation in Costa Rica, but it’s true.

A light long sleeve shirt or warmer clothing are recommended when you stay in the mountains or central valley. A pair of jeans or lightweight pants are nice to have when you’re out and about in the evening.

The truth is, beauty is beauty, and Costa Rica is gorgeous nearly every day, no matter what the weather.

See You Soon

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more details on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica 50 Shades of Green Energy

Costa Rica 50 Shades of Green Energy

Costa Rica 50 Shades of Green Energy

Costa Rica Electricity 99.56% Renewable Energy

Have you immersed yourself in research for your Costa Rica vacation? Have you noticed recent articles or posts about how green Costa Rica is? I don’t mean the usual 50 shades of green you think of when you picture Costa Rica.

Let’s talk about energy, green energy. Few people know Costa Rica now runs almost 100% off renewable energies. For most of 2018, Costa Rica ran off renewable energies, about 99.56% of the time. Renewable energy isn’t new for Costa Rica. They got a head start on this trend in 2014. Costa Rica’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2021.

I’m impressed such a small country can make such a significant impact on the environment. Costa Rica is a great example for other countries to follow.

Volcano Power

Costa Rica uses geothermal energy from volcanoes to generate electricity. They harness the heat from volcanoes to make steam; the steam turns turbines to generate electricity. How cool is that?

Blowing in the Wind

As you drive through the cloud forest on your way to Lake Arenal, you’ll pass wind farms perched on hilltops. Costa Rica also uses windmills to crank out energy. Not much grows up here, so this is a perfect place to harvest the power of the wind to generate electricity for Costa Rica.

Dam It

After the cloud forest you drop down into the Arenal area. There’s a massive hydropower plant here. The dam holds Lake Arenal reservoir in a beautiful green valley at the base of the Arenal volcano. Close your eyes (only if it’s safe to) and imagine a Jurassic Park type volcano. Arenal volcano is a tall cone-shaped volcano that juts out of the valley with a bright green jungle that covers one side; the other side has lava charred black sections from past eruptions. It’s such a beautiful winding drive around Lake Arenal, you should take the trip if you get a chance. This hydropower plant generates most of the electrical power for Costa Rica.

Discover Our Green Side

By now, I’m sure you’re impressed with what this peaceful, beautiful country is doing. Costa Rica is well on its way to prevent the use of single-use plastics like straws, utensils, and plastic bags. Some restaurants now use avocado pits, bamboo, and reusable metal straws. We think this is great for the wildlife and environment here.

We ask when on your Costa Rica vacation you think green too. You can do simple things like, opt for the better sunscreens that don’t hurt the oceans or reefs in our area. Don’t buy bug repellents that smell like awful chemicals. The chemicals are not good for your skin and worse for the environment. Instead, use sunscreens with natural ingredients such as lemongrass, citronella, and lavender, which are great repellents for bugs and mosquitoes. Plus, you’ll still smell nice. Who wants to smell like a DEET chemical factory? I once sprayed my bare feet with a product that contained DEET. That night when I took off my flip flops, my feet looked like I still had my flip flops on! The DEET caused the black dye to stain my feet, which couldn’t have been a good thing, ya think?  Even a simple act like buying better sunscreen or repellents can have a positive impact on our beautiful environment.

At Discovery Beach House, We Do Our Part!

We do our best to be green. When my husband, David, and I built the Discovery Beach House, we wanted to have the lowest impact on the environment possible. We installed our own private waste treatment plant to ensure we wouldn’t contaminate the grounds or the beach. We took care to locate our villa so we wouldn’t have to cut trees. We planted 75 new trees, which is one reason the monkeys love to visit us almost daily. The trees are their jungle highways and how they get around the Manuel Antonio area.

As our guest, we have individual recycle bins to help you contribute to being green by placing cans, plastics, organics, or glass in the appropriate bins.  We make sure they go to the proper recycling company. We can all do a small part to help keep Costa Rica beautiful and green.

Green Gardens

Beautiful gardens surround our Costa Rica luxury villa. When you visit us, we encourage you to take a moment to stop and smell the tropical flowers. We plant native trees and vegetation the local wildlife loves. Hundreds of local tropical flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds and make the Discovery Beach House’s gardens their home. Be sure to breathe in that fresh clean rainforest air on your stroll.

See You Soon

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read our other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more information on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

A Costa Rica Vacation for Your Body, Mind, and Soul

A Costa Rica Vacation for Your Body, Mind, and Soul

A Costa Rica Vacation for Your Body, Mind, and Soul

A Costa Rica vacation for some isn’t always about extreme adventure or tours. Not everyone wants to swing from a vine through the jungle like Tarzan or hang upside down like Jane while soaring through the trees across a zipline. There are so many fun adventure and extreme tours to do while on your Costa Rica trip, especially in the Manuel Antonio area. However, that’s not what I’m really getting at. I want to talk about a different kind of Costa Rica vacation.

Wellness Retreats at the Discovery Beach House

What I wonder is; when was the last time you thought about taking a vacation to focus on your mind, body and soul? Many of our guests take a Costa Rica vacation at the Discovery Beach House to focus on themselves. I’m talking about a vacation that rejuvenates and lets you unwind from your hectic life.

Have you had thoughts about a making some healthy lifestyle changes? A much-needed massage, yoga, meditation, mind/body therapies, and exercise centered on improving your wellbeing are all available and more. By the end of your Wellness Retreat you’ll feel well balanced and appreciate your new lifestyle changes. You’ll return home with a glow and new found energy. You’ll continue to float on memories for months about the amazing time you had with us.

Running on Empty?

You work hard and your mind and body deserve some seriously selfish rest and relaxation. Constant bombardment of stress, overexposure to media, a hectic lifestyle, and bad eating habits can lead you to feel like you’re running on empty. To be honest, you sort of are. Even a small change in your habits while you enjoy your vacation at the Discovery Beach House can be easy and have a big impact on your life. You’ll go home feeling reenergized, refreshed and renewed.

Your Body — Blissful and Balanced

Imagine yourself on the beach enjoying a massage. There’s a light tropical breeze. The sound of soothing waves serenades you as you take a deep breath and smell the salty scent of the sea. You exhale and feel your stress melt away as your body releases tension and relaxes — finally. Massages are proven to help keep your body limber, relieve tension, and return your mind to a balanced state. Ahh, don’t you feel better? You don’t even have to leave the Discovery Beach House grounds if you don’t want to. Our Wellness Retreats include in-villa treatments by a masseuse, yoga classes, mind/body therapies, mani-pedies and much more.

Once you’re in this blissful balanced state, we can arrange to have a chef prepare healthy, mouthwatering meals with fresh local produce and fruits. If you prefer to be hands-on, interactive meals are an option as well. I’m sure you’ll learn a few new twists with familiar ingredients you might already have back home. Each dish will probably be new and refreshing to you.

For you DIY types, you’ll be in heaven when you cook in our fully stocked chef’s kitchen. Be sure and ask your concierge where to go to get the freshest seafood in town. What was swimming this morning could be on your dinner plate tonight. Here the fruit and produce can be so fresh that yesterday it was in the field and today it’s at your local market. When you go shopping back home, you won’t be so reluctant to try that weird looking fruit or vegetable. Armed with your new healthy recipes and culinary skills, you’ll be sure to amaze your friends at your next BBQ or dinner party.

Your Mind — Peaceful and Relaxed

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. We need to always work to keep our minds sharp and healthy. What you put into your body affects your focus. With this fast-paced world we live in, it’s nice to take a break and slow down. You can do something as simple as sit on the beach outside the Discovery Beach House and listen to the waves. It may seem like you’re doing nothing, but negative ions emitted from the surf promote increased alpha brain waves, which results in higher awareness and a calming effect on your mind. Why not take advantage of the moment and meditate? Simply sit quietly and breathe deeply. Do this in our beautiful gardens, covered patios, or by the pool. I always feel wonderful when I’m at the beach here. The energy of the ocean helps wash tension away.

Getting a little peace and relaxation seems to be harder to achieve these days. With social media pings, e-mail dings, and message ka-chings, smart phones have us at their beck and call. Even though we have good Wi-Fi at the villa, we encourage you to disconnect and turn off your cell phone whenever possible. When you disconnect from electronics, you’ll reconnect to nature that surrounds you, and to yourself. I’m not saying you need to go out and find a guru, but I am curious if you remember what we used to do when we didn’t have smart phones or all the information you desired right in the palm of your hand. One thing I love about Costa Ricans is their attitude. They love the simpler go-with-the-flow lifestyle with very little stress. I think it shows in their happiness and quality of life. We have so much to learn from them.

Your Soul — Nirvana and Pura Vida

When you allow nature in, you feel happy in your soul. It’s amazing. Buddhists have a word for it, Nirvana. Ticos (Costa Ricans) have two words, Pura Vida. Pure Life is the literal meaning of this saying. When your soul is happy your life falls into place, things don’t seem so stressful, and you have great energy. New opportunities line up literally out of the blue (and green), you feel wonderful, and healthy.

I’m talking about how you feel in your soul after a great vacation of self-care. You return home and feel like you’re on cloud nine. If you did a little yoga, meditated, walked more, and ate healthier on your Costa Rica trip, this can spill over into your daily routine if you let it. Why not go for it? Recall the sensations you felt walking on the beach or floating in the pool surrounded by the blues and greens of nature. Take a piece of Costa Rica with you and your soul will be happier. You deserve to feel great.

Remember as a kid when you learned something new like how to ride a bike or hit a baseball? It felt strange at first, but you practiced, got better and the next thing you knew, you couldn’t believe you ever lived without it. You’ll feel this way after your vacation with us at the Discovery Beach House. Our guests often share their excitement with us about the personal transformations they’ve experienced during their stay. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love hearing their stories.

By now you have to be excited to disconnect from the fast-paced hectic life and to reconnect with yourself. Change is good for the soul. Come and refresh your mind, body, and soul to feel your best. We’d love to have you here.

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more information on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Currency, Money as Colorful as the Country

Costa Rica Currency, Money as Colorful as the Country

Costa Rica Currency, Money as Colorful as the Country

What to Know Before You Go

Hi, hope you’re doing great. I just got home from the bank and thought I’d take some time to write an article about Costa Rica’s currency. I hear guests asking our concierge all the time about exchanging money before coming to Costa Rica for vacation. You have enough to worry about before your vacation, so don’t run around to different banks trying to find colones for your trip. Once you’re here and get colones, it’s like holding a tropical fruit basket. You’ll be mesmerized by banana, papaya, grape, and avocado colored bills. Costa Rican currency is as colorful as this beautiful little country. Let’s talk more about where to exchange your US dollars, if you can use your credit cards in Costa Rica, ATMs, and more.

Costa Rica Currency, Should I Exchange Money?

Let’s start off by saying you don’t need to exchange US dollars to Costa Rican colones. Nearly everywhere in Costa Rica accepts US dollars and will give you change in colones. One caveat is vendors are not obligated to give you favorable bank rates, so you may get a little less bang for your buck. At the bank you may stand in line for a long time; it depends on which day of the week you go. But Costa Rica banking has made huge improvements over the years. Sometimes the sweet bird of paradise smiles down upon you and you zoom right through. So, if you’re going to exchange large amounts of money, it’s worth the time to go to a bank and exchange it. If you don’t need to exchange a large amount of money, save some time because there’s another excellent option.

Can I get US Dollars from ATMs?

In our area of Manuel Antonio there are a few ATMs that disperse US dollars along with Costa Rican colones. I think it’s a good idea to have both on hand. Sometimes you get a better deal if you pay in colones and then sometimes it’s better in US dollars.  It depends on what you’re buying. For example, tours in Costa Rica normally charge you in US dollars and not colones. So, if you pay in colones, you’ll lose some money on the exchange to US dollars. Nearly all the tour companies accept credit cards. It’s a great idea to ask your concierge before you confirm your tour. If you need to hit an ATM before the tour, no problem, we can arrange for the tour transportation van to stop for you. If you don’t want to bring down much cash consider notifying your bank and increasing your daily withdrawal limit so you’ll always have as much on hand as you need. Many ATMs will give you the option of getting dollars or colones and give you the favorable bank exchange rate for your dollars.

Now, imagine you’re walking around a farmer’s market. You’re engulfed by a rainbow of colors from the fresh local fruit and produce. It’s best to pay the local farmer in colones. If you stop by a roadside stand to enjoy an ice cold refreshing agua de pipa (coconut water) or at a mom and pop restaurant for fresh local dishes, you’ll want to pay in colones.

Sloths, Butterflies, and Sharks Oh My!

Flip over to the back side of your money and you’ll be delighted to see Costa Rica currency features some of its cool wildlife.

1,000 colones bill is reddish pink and adorned with the national animal of Costa Rica, the White Tail Deer. This bill is also referred to as “un rojo” which means “one red.”

2,000 colones bill is blue like the crystal waters around Costa Rica’s beaches. On the back are sharks that frequent Coco Island. Don’t worry; sharks aren’t common in the Manuel Antonio area. They enjoy the off shore island life more (thank goodness!).

5,000 colones bill is yellow like the delicious bananas grown here. On the back side you’ll discover the Capuchin monkey, aka the white face monkey. If you take your Costa Rica vacation during the dry season, you’ll see capuchins hopping effortlessly from tree to tree and although they can’t swim, on occasion, they’ll take a quick dip in our pool anchoring themselves with one hand and their tail to cool off. Quick get out your camera!

10,000 colones is green like an avocado. Think of the 10,000 colones bill like a $20. Right now, it’s a little less than $20 but it helps you to quickly guesstimate the cost of things while you’re strolling through gift shops or super markets.

20,000 colones bill is orange like the peel of a mandarin orange. It has a beautiful hummingbird on the back.  Keep in mind these are harder to break when paying beach vendors, sodas (hole in the wall restaurants), and smaller shops. Smaller businesses don’t keep a lot of change on hand, so when buying something inexpensive it’s best to use smaller bills

50,000 colones is the largest bill you may see. This bill is the color of a purple eggplant. It isn’t a very common bill to use or receive change back. 50,000 colones bill is basically a $100 bill. Consider this when using the 50,000 colones to pay for something.

So, here’s a rough breakdown on the value of the different bills. Remember the exchange rate can change daily and these are only guestimates to help you calculate quickly in your head when you’re making a purchase. So, if a taxi driver asks you for 50,000 colones to take you from Manuel Antonio to Quepos (7km/4.3 miles), say “no gracias!”

1,000 colones = $2

2,000 colones = $4

5,000 colones = $10

10,000 colones = $20

20,000 colones = $40

50,000 colones = $100

By now you’ve got to be excited to get some colones into your hands and see these colorful bills for yourself. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your concierge. We’re always here to help you!

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more information on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Travel Tips

Costa Rica Travel Tips

Costa Rica Travel Tips

Do you plan to visit Costa Rica with your family this year? Statistics show 73% of the fun and excitement of a Costa Rica vacation is the preparation. However, the preparation can overwhelm some people. If you’re like me, you search YouTube and other Social Media up down and all around for tips. By now you’ve probably researched so many sites, you can’t remember what you were looking for in the first place.

Before you throw your hands up and scream, “I quit,” I have some Costa Rica travel tips to help your vacation be the best one yet.

What to Pack for Your Costa Rica Vacation

Keep a few things in mind when you pack for your trip. Outside of San Jose, most places are informal, so leave your prom dress, tux, and travel iron at home. You’ll stand out if you show up overdressed. Many vacation rental homes have an iron if you need one, but no one cares if your shirt has a few wrinkles. You won’t need your bling or diamond crusted heels in Costa Rica. A nice comfortable pair of sandals or flip flops will work just fine. Tennis shoes, water shoes, or secure sandals with a heel strap are a must if you plan to enjoy a zipline tour or other adventure tour. Most tour operators won’t let you participate if you don’t wear secure shoes. If your rhinestone-studded flip flop flies off your foot while gliding through the rain forest canopy, there’s no way to stop and search for it in the dense vegetation below.

What to Wear in Costa Rica

Choose light fabrics and breathable cotton blends. Pack shorts, sun dresses, and casual collared shirts or t-shirts. Heavier fabrics will be hotter and make you sweat more. They’ll also take longer to dry in this humid climate. You’ll want a few swimsuits for your Costa Rica trip. It’s no fun having to wear a semi-wet swimsuit under your clothes after a day at the beach or after an adventure tour. Bring a pair of long pants and close-toed shoes but save them for the flight to Costa Rica and the flight back home.

It’s the Humidity

Everyone perspires here. Hey, it’s the tropics, so don’t worry if you sweat or “glow” while you stroll through the farmer’s market or head for a restaurant. I like to think of it as nature’s moisturizer. Everyone’s skin looks younger here. When I visit family in California and go to brush my teeth that first morning, I look in the mirror half asleep then jump back in shock, “Damn, who is that woman who looks ten years older than me? Did an elephant crawl under her skin while she was asleep!?”

A couple of extra shirts to change into after a hot day of exploration is a must. A cold or cool shower will help you adjust to the humidity and make you feel invigorated. If the thought of taking a cold shower makes your teeth chatter, I understand. If it gets below 75˚, I shiver and reach for a sweater. Try this for a starter; at the end of your shower, turn the water down as cold as you can handle it. You’ll feel cool and refreshed.

Protective Gear

By now you’ve got to be tired of having frozen your butt off after this recent winter that broke all records. Some parts of you probably haven’t seen the light of day for a while. Be sure to pack some good sunscreen for your trip. You can buy sunscreen here in Manuel Antonio and around Costa Rica but it’s expensive.

Bring a strap for your sunglasses to keep them on your head while on a tour or on the beach. The waves of Manuel Antonio beach have snatched hundreds of glasses right off the faces of beach goers. I just had a friend lose a pair at the beach last week. He did get a pretty sweet body surfing ride first. The straps are cheap, and you’ll be happy to have your sunglasses during the sunny, warm tropical days here.

Costa Rican Rain

Bring along a dry bag to store electronics and important documents if you travel during the rainy season. Here rain can appear out of nowhere. You’ll be happy to have something to protect your valuables from getting wet if you’re caught by a surprise downpour. You’ll find a compact pocket umbrella very useful on your travels during the rainy season. FYI — it can still rain here in the dry season, but it doesn’t last very long. If you’re looking online for weather forecasts for your Costa Rica trip — beware — they’re mostly wrong. They usually say 80% chance of rain or thunderstorms, but that just means it’s raining somewhere in Costa Rica. Ask your concierge if you have any questions about the weather.

Exchange Your Money in Costa Rica

There’s no need to exchange US dollars for colones before you get to Costa Rica. Nearly everywhere accepts US dollars and you receive a much better exchange rate at local banks than at the airport or banks in the US. Beware of money exchange windows at the airport that say, “no commission.” They may not charge you a commission, but they give you a dismally low exchange rate. Also keep in mind you can get colones at the many ATMs throughout the country.

Last Minute Details

Where is my passport? Oh no! Did it expire? Did I double check flight times? Do we leave at 12:00 P.M. or 12:00 A.M.? Did I lock the front door? Uh oh, can’t remember if I gave the emergency contact information to the dog sitter.

Don’t stress out by leaving important details for the last day. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and remember to enjoy the process. A vacation should leave you feeling refreshed and with your batteries charged, not drained from bungled last-minute details before you even leave. I hope these tips will help your Costa Rica vacation or your Costa Rica family vacation be the best vacation yet.

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more information on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Map Tips: One Inch Does NOT Equal Five Miles

Costa Rica Map Tips: One Inch Does NOT Equal Five Miles

Costa Rica Map Tips: One Inch Does NOT Equal Five Miles

You know that sticker on your car’s side mirror that says things are closer than they may appear? I think all Costa Rica maps should have a sticker that says, “places are waaay farther than they may appear.”

I bet in your excitement over your vacation stay at the Discovery Beach House in Manuel Antonio (or wherever you decide to vacation in Costa Rica) you eagerly broke out your map, felt the crisp paper slide between your fingers as you noisily unfolded and laid it flat on the table. Your eyes quickly scanned the map looking for every must-see place you’ve ever heard about.

Like a ship’s navigator you began plotting your course. Then you spotted the map’s legend in the corner showing you that “[________]” is five miles. A Dr. Evil laugh slips out from between your lips as you predict, “Ha, I can see all of Costa Rica in one week, yes!”

Costa Rica Travel Times

Think again. Costa Rica’s geography and terrain can make travel times a wee bit longer than what you’re used to back home. Here “[________]” can equal three hours of driving time. For example, the distance between the airport in San Jose and Manuel Antonio beach is only about 100 miles (180km) as the toucan flies. Easy peasy right? Not necessarily!

At times the road will hug a mountainside like an old friend. Then suddenly, the road starts winding like a snake being chased by a wild boar through the tropical forest. But wait — up ahead it stretches out straight along the amazingly beautiful azure coastline. You finally reach the Pacific coast, then Manuel Antonio, where you roll down your window and deeply inhale the smell of the sea and the salt air.

Road Signs You’ll Find in Costa Rica

BTW — don’t get too excited when you see speed limit signs that say “80km.” Remember, distances here are measured in kilometers not miles — a kilometer equaling 0.6 miles. Pretty much the entire country has a maximum speed limit of 80km (about 50mph). Be sure to calculate a maximum speed of around 50mph into your drive times between places. Unexpected traffic jams, iguana crossings, cows on the road, weather or other delays can turn that four-hour trip into a six or seven-hour trip.

When you see signs that say “Ceda” that means “Yield.” Make sure you pay attention to avoid close calls on the road. When driving here, stop at signs that say “Alto.” When you see a sign that says “Puente Angosto” be careful, there’s a narrow bridge up ahead. Many of the narrow bridges here have just one lane, so yield to oncoming traffic if a “Ceda” sign is on your side. Don’t be in too much of a hurry and wait your turn if there’s traffic to cross the bridge.

Don’t Panic

Heaven forbid you should have an accident in your car but here are some tips just in case. It’s very important to not move the car. Fight your instinct to get the car out of traffic, even if you’re blocking all the lanes, stay put. It’s against the law to move your car before the police arrive at the scene. Take some pictures of your car and the other car for your records. Have the rental contract handy. Call the rental company, if you can, to report the accident. If you’re concerned about driving in Costa Rica, it might be a good idea to get the full coverage for your rental car. That way, if anything does happen, you’re covered, and it will give you peace of mind. Our concierge can help you find the best prices on rental cars for your stay.

GPS

If you have an unlocked cell phone, you could buy a Kolbi SIM card at the airport for $5. Have the person activate the data so you can use the GPS feature. You can also buy an international plan that covers Costa Rica. That way you have Google maps or Waze to help you find your way. We’re still a rural country dotted with rainforest-filled valleys and mountains. Sometimes cell service is not always available but then you’ll miss so much if you’re married to your cell phone while on vacation.

By now you’ve got to be ready to plan your Costa Rica adventure. Armed with your new Costa Rica map knowledge, you’ll be able to make the most of your Costa Rica vacation time. Remember, when planning drive times that even though it’s just an inch away on the map; it might be a three-hour side trip to see the biggest papaya tree in Costa Rica.

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more information on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Things to Do in Costa Rica and Manuel Antonio

Things to Do in Costa Rica and Manuel Antonio

It’s no wonder Costa Rica tourism has taken off over the last few years. Costa Rica’s geography and natural wonders draw tourists from every continent. The climate is perfect for those yearning to escape the cold and nasty grip of winter. There are a ton of things to do in Costa Rica. I’d like to share some of the best things to do, mainly in the Manuel Antonio area.

Costa Rica Tours

If you’re planning a Costa Rica family vacation or your first trip to the country, we can help you set up everything to make this the best vacation yet. Our concierge service at the Discovery Beach House is included with your rental and will make Costa Rica travel packages and itineraries for you. We will help you select tours that are the best for your group and adventure levels. Speaking of adventure, let’s jump into the tours.

Costa Rica tours come in a wide range of activities, from a relaxing boat ride through mangroves looking for wildlife, coffee plantations tours, jungle night walks, butterfly gardens, ziplines, or rappelling down a cascading waterfall. No matter if you’re the adventurous type or just wanting to chill out and relax on vacation, there’s something for everyone. That’s one reason we love the Manuel Antonio area so much. It has 24 of the 27 tours Costa Rica has to offer, all in one convenient and breathtaking place.

A very popular tour in our area is a full day waterfall tour. This tour is great for the whole family and adventure seekers alike. You visit four different waterfalls located along the Southern coast ending at the remote Playa Ventanas beach. At the waterfalls you can swim, climb up with the help of professional guides, and jump off into the fresh clean pool below. Our guests come back from this tour so pumped up and energized. They can’t stop raving about it.

We also have a waterfall zipline tour. You’ll zip from platform to platform up a valley until you cross a rope bridge. Now you’re at the top of the waterfall. Your heart races, you grin from ear to ear with excitement, then you grip tight as you swing over the top and rappel the waterfall. How many can say they’ve rappelled over a huge waterfall? There are several zipline companies that are great in our area. Depending on your adventure level determines who we recommend. Be sure to talk to your concierge about any tours you’d like to do while on vacation at the Discovery Beach House.

Manuel Antonio is for nature lovers!

Manuel Antonio National Park has plenty of nature for you to see and experience. The Discovery Beach House is visited daily by wildlife including the adorable Red-backed Squirrel Monkey and the playful Capuchin Monkey. You’ll be shocked at the amount of wildlife you see while enjoying your world-famous Costa Rican coffee in the morning sitting by the pool. I know David and I still get excited when we see so much wildlife right in our own backyard.

A short drive inland is a birder’s paradise. Or how about tantalizing your taste buds with a tour of tropical and exotic spices on a vanilla farm tour? Feel like a kid again as you stand with hundreds of brightly colored butterflies fluttering about you at the butterfly garden. Boat or kayak through mangroves filled with water birds, lizards and monkeys.

Costa Rica sunsets are an awesome occasion!

Our concierge can help set up renting a 27’ boat with built in GPS to follow and you’re the Captain of your own boat. Explore where you want along the picturesque coastline of Manuel Antonio. You can also have a captain provided, so you can sit back and enjoy the view.

One of my favorite tours is a catamaran sunset tour. You motor out and look for dolphins and whales as you enjoy unprecedented views of the majestic coast. You can snorkel in a protected bay and jump off the catamaran or take a ride on the wild side and shoot down its waterslide. The best part comes after dinner when you motor out to watch the sky transform into magnificent hues of mango, crimson, sapphire, and lavender. It’s an amazing way to watch the sunset here.

Do you want to do a little sport fishing or catch tonight’s dinner for your group? We can help schedule with reputable boats that follow sustainable fishing practices.

By now you must be searching your calendar for dates to take a Costa Rica vacation. I’m sure you’re excited about all the fun things to do in Costa Rica after reading this. I hope I’ve sparked or rekindled a sense of adventure in you. Manuel Antonio has so much to offer, we’re sure you’ll fall in love with the area too.

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more information on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Vacation Rentals: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Costa Rica Vacation Rentals: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Are you having a hard time deciding on a Costa Rica vacation rental? If you’re planning a family vacation or just looking for vacation rentals in Costa Rica, the task can be daunting. A lot of properties will pop up when you do your search. Which one is the perfect choice for you? In this article I’ll go over a few different things to look at to help you pick the best option for your vacation.

I’ve traveled to and from Costa Rica a great deal over the past 20 years, so I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s start with the ugly and work our way back to the good and end on a high note.

Pay attention to the response time

It’s a good sign when someone gets right back to you when you inquire about a Costa Rica vacation rental. For example, at the Discovery Beach House we usually respond within an hour. If you send an inquiry and it takes four days or a week to get back to you, that’s a bad sign. Think about it, if they don’t respond quickly, how will they respond if you have an issue with their rental? If an air conditioner breaks down or you’re accidently locked out, will they take four days to respond? You don’t want to waste precious vacation time dealing with bad customer service.

Now we move to the bad

If you’re looking at a luxury villa, the listing should have several quality photos. If it doesn’t, that’s an ugly and move onto the next one. There are too many amazing places here to settle for a bad one. When you look for vacation rentals in Costa Rica, think about what kind of rental you need. How big is your group? Where are the Costa Rica vacation rentals located? How far off the trodden trail is that villa? Will you need to rent a car to get everywhere? Is there enough parking for the number of cars you rent if you come with a large group?

How close is the vacation rental to the beach? Beware of vacation rentals that claim to be right on the beach when they may only have an ocean view, however spectacular that view may be. Ask, “are you directly on the beach or do I have to drive there?” and “when you say walking distance, exactly how many minutes does it take to get to the beach?”

How close is it to amenities like super markets and tours? It’s good to figure out on the map where your vacation rental is in Costa Rica compared to the activities you want to do.

By now you must be wondering about the good vacation rentals in Costa Rica

Costa Rica vacation rentals have become more popular than ever. I think the more personalized service you receive at a vacation rental in Costa Rica beats a hotel any day. For the good, check to see if concierge service is included with your booking. Is there a human you can call and speak to on the phone? If you have questions before your Costa Rica vacation, they should be there to answer them all in detail. Do they help schedule your transfers, book tours, reserve personal chefs, and help you plan spa treatments?  Do they include daily maid service, or do they charge extra? Do they have a full house staff or are you just left to fend for yourself after check-in?

The Discovery Beach House has a personal concierge that works with you before your Costa Rica vacation. She’s there for you before, during, and after your arrival. If you need anything, just give her a call. Our concierge can help you book a rental car or can provide private door-to-door transportation from the airport right to our villa. We do all this for free for our guests. We love our clients and go the extra smile for them.

Our staff keeps your villa in tip top shape always. They also love to point out monkeys, sloths, and iguanas that visit our gardens, so you’ll never miss out on daily wildlife visits with our staff as your wildlife spotters.

FYI, the Discovery Beach House is perfectly located right on the main public beach in Manuel Antonio. You’re within walking distance to restaurants, Manuel Antonio National Park, bars, super markets, ATMs and gift shops. Public transportation is equally convenient with public buses passing by every 20 minutes or our concierge can call a taxi for you.

Our staff always delivers five-star customer service. Always.

I hope this helps you decide on which vacation rental in Costa Rica to choose. When you get a chance, check out the Discovery Beach House. If there’s anything we can do to help, please contact us via our website.

We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more information on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Best Beaches in Costa Rica

Best Beaches in Costa Rica

So, you’re looking for the best beaches in Costa Rica? You’re in luck, Costa Rica beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. The variety of beaches here range from secluded jungle beaches, hidden coves, stunning bays, and mile-long empty beaches, to resort and tourist-packed beaches.

Before we get started, I want you to close your eyes for a moment and forget the craziness of your day. Inhale the scent of salt air slowly and deeply, feel fine powdered sand caress your toes, and listen to the waves crash on a deserted beach as a warm tropical breeze grazes your cheek. Ah, don’t you feel better already? If you’re planning a Costa Rica trip, then experiencing the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica is a must. Here’s a quick overview of some of the best beaches in Costa Rica.

Caribbean Coast

Let’s start our journey on the Caribbean Coast. The Northeast beaches in Tortuguero are a must if you’re a sea turtle lover. Each year several species of sea turtles make their migration to lay eggs on these remote beaches. South of Limon are Playa Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Playa Manzanillo. The national park in Cahuita is a beautiful Costa Rica beach that is dotted with hundreds of sand dollars. Puerto Viejo is a favorite among surfers. It’s fun to sit at a local beach restaurant sipping on a fresh tropical drink watching the surfers find that perfect wave. Playa Manzanillo is a secluded beach at the end of a dusty, bumpy dirt road. It’s well worth the drive given the possibility of just you and a couple dolphins enjoying the water. It’s a beautiful rainforest beach with abundant wildlife. The warm crystal blue water and coral reefs are great for snorkeling. I think it’s one of the best beaches in Costa Rica on the Caribbean Coast.

Pacific Coast

Are you ready to head over to the Pacific side? Okay, let’s check out Playa Flamingo in the Northwest of the Guanacaste region. Playa Flamingo gets its name from the pink hue of the white sand beach. That’s right, a pink sand beach. Although it’s very subtle, it’s still pretty amazing. Can you imagine how beautiful an aquamarine wave breaking on a pink sand beach is? One caveat, this beach is a lot more touristy than other Costa Rica beaches and quite busy during the high season.

Playa Conchal is another one of Costa Rica’s best beaches. This beach is not as busy as the more popular Tamarido beach nearby. Conchal beach is great for the whole family. The warm tropical water is calm, so not many surfers are here. Hidden beneath the turquoise water are a couple coral reefs. This makes Conchal a perfect place to take a swim and do some snorkeling. Or you can relax with a good book and work on your tan.

Located on the Southern tip of the Nicoya peninsula is Montezuma. This beach is lined with beautiful dark volcanic rock, which makes Montezuma unsafe to swim but it’s a favorite spot to catch that next ride of a lifetime among surfers. This lush jungle beach is great to look for hidden gems in the many tide pools at low tide. Just remember to take only photos and leave only wet footprints.

In your search for the best beaches in Costa Rica you’ll need to stop by Playa Uvita and the Whale’s Tale. Playa Uvita hides a secret that can only be discovered during low tide. As the water recedes during low tide it uncovers a natural sand bar in the shape of a whale’s tail. If you’re making a day trip from the Discovery Beach House, ask your concierge when low tide is. You won’t want to miss seeing this phenomenon of nature.

Playa Ventanas is a stunning beach located in a big cove with beautiful rock features in the Southern Pacific zone. On the right side of the beach you’ll notice two “ventanas” (windows). Over the centuries the powerful ocean waves have worn away two long holes through the rocks. These ventanas can be walked through only during low tide. The dark volcanic rock with lush green rainforest and azure water is something I never get tired of seeing. I’m sure you’ll love it too.

Award Winning Beach

I’ve saved the best for last; Manuel Antonio Beach at Manuel Antonio National Park. This is the best beach in all of Costa Rica in my husband David’s and my opinion. But don’t just take it from us.  Forbes rated it as one of the top beaches in the world and TripAdvisor rated it the best beach in Central America. It was love at first sight for us. If there were ever a beach to have a love affair with — this is it. Here the mountains and jungle mingle seamlessly with the shore in an elegant union of pristine rainforest and volcanic black rocks that crop up along the soft sand beach. The colorful shells scattered on the beach add to the magic.

By now you must be dying to get your toes in the sand on one of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Think of how exciting it will be while you watch monkeys swing and jump from tree to tree or a mama sloth and baby sleeping above you on a branch. Manuel Antonio National Park has the rainforest, peaceful hidden coves, and beautiful white sand beaches. There is a ton of wildlife in the area, so you’ll be sure to see some while on your vacation at the Discovery Beach House.

Alright, I’m ready to kick off my flip flops and go for a sunset walk on the beach with David and our dogs Frida and Diego. Thanks for coming along with me on this tour of the best beaches in Costa Rica. This list is nowhere near a complete one of all the beautiful beaches here. Costa Rica has over 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) of shoreline with gorgeous beaches strung like pearls the length of each coast.

By now, I hope you’re so excited about your Costa Rica beach vacation, you can’t wait to book your flight. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more information on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.

Best Restaurants in Manuel Antonio — Jolly Roger — Best Sports Bar

Best Restaurants in Manuel Antonio — Jolly Roger — Best Sports Bar

Sabrina, our Discovery Beach House Concierge, and I have been having quite a bit of fun introducing you to all our favorite, and what we consider the best restaurants in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Today, we are at Jolly Rogers, a great sports bar here in Manuel Antonio.

It is a great and inexpensive place to bring the family. They have some of the most mouthwatering wings and burgers. For the chicken wings, they have 24 sauces you can choose from. I think the choice of sauces is hard to beat anywhere else. They also have pizzas. Who doesn’t love pizza!

Between their casino, sports bar, and live music, you’ll have a great time at Jolly Rogers. The owner, Lee Mercer, always has a warm greeting for our guests. He might even join in with the live band in the evenings. He’s a pretty good singer! You can also visit Manuel Antonio during Super Bowl season and enjoy watching it on the “big screen” in the parking lot.