Episode 50 - How to Plan the Ultimate Costa Rica Getaway & Vacation like a Local

In this episode, we are exploring the Pura Vida lifestyle in Costa Rica. The phrase “Pura Vida” means “pure life” in English, but in Costa Rica, it represents a lot more. It’s a way of life, an attitude, and a perspective that highlights the importance of appreciating life’s simple pleasures and finding happiness in the little things. It has been quite some time since our last visit, so we invited a friend of ours who is from Costa Rica to share an itinerary that anyone can follow to experience their own Pura Vida in this beautiful Central American country. Mile will guide us on where to go, what to do, and what to eat while we are there. So, let’s hop on a short flight from Florida, pack light, and don’t forget to bring your bathing suit as we embark on a journey to Costa Rica.

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Here's a few places that we have been that we would recommend:

Restarurante y Mirador Ram Luna

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Marriott San Jose Hacienda Belen

Here's Mile's recommended itinerary and lots of tips:

Day 1: Arrival in San Jose

San Jose, our capital, is a lively mix of old and new right in the heart of the country. You'll find charming colonial touches alongside a modern vibe. Wander through places like Barrio Amón, dive into the bustling Central Market, and savor our diverse cuisine. It's not just a city; it's a cultural hub, a starting point for adventures, and a piece of our Costa Rican life.

  • Morning:
      • Arrive in San Jose. 
      • International Airport Juan Santa María (SJO)
  • Afternoon:
      • Visit the National Museum or the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum.
      • Explore the historic neighborhoods of Barrio Amón and Barrio Escalante.
  • Evening:
    • Have dinner at a local restaurant in Barrio Escalante, known for its vibrant culinary scene.

Day 2 & 3: Arenal Volcano

Drive time from San José to La Fortuna: 3.5 hrs approx

Arenal Volcano is a big, impressive volcano. You can hike around it, soak in hot springs, and see a cool lake nearby. It's a great place to enjoy nature and maybe even spot the volcano at night.

    • Morning:
      • Head to Arenal Volcano National Park.
      • Stop at La Fortuna Waterfall for a refreshing swim.
    • Afternoon:
      • Explore Arenal Volcano National Park, take a hike, and enjoy the scenic views.
      • Relax in the Hot Springs.
    • Evening:
      • Stay in a hotel with a view of Arenal Volcano
        • El Silencio del Campo
        • Arenal Kyoro
        • Tabacon
  • Where to Eat & What to Eat
    • Visit the La Fortuna down town, many good restaurants and local cousine
      • La Parrilla de Maria Bonita
      • Chocolate Fusion Café

Day 4 & 5: Guanacaste - Playa Conchal

Drive time from Arenal to Conchal: 4.5 hrs approx

What makes it special is its unique sand – it's not the typical sand, its made up of tiny, crushed shells. The water is clear and calm, perfect for swimming or just relaxing by the shore. It's a serene spot with a tropical vibe, surrounded by greenery. Great place to unwind and enjoy the sun and sea.

  • Morning:
    • Head to Playa Conchal. 
    • Relax on the beach or take part in water activities.
  • Afternoon:
    • Go have lunch at a local restaurant and enjoy some good ceviche, fried fish, patacones, or any seafood
    • Opt to take a boat tour to see the local marine life.
  • Evening:
    • Enjoy a farewell dinner at a beachside restaurant.
    • You can stay at a hotel or an Airbnb depending on your preference

Food Recommendations:

  • Casado: A traditional dish with rice, black beans, plantains, salad, and a protein (chicken, fish, or beef).
  • Gallo Pinto: A popular breakfast dish consisting of rice and beans, it usually comes with different sides like fried plantains, fresh cheese, bread and eggs.
  • Ceviche: Fresh seafood marinated in citrus juices.
  • Chifrijo: a mix of refried beans, rice, pico de gallo, fried pork rinds and avocado.
  • Taxes and Tips are included in the check but locals will appreciate any tips


  • San Jose: Consider staying in a boutique hotel in Barrio Amón, a Hotel closed to La Sabana park or even Airbnbs, there are plenty of cute and modern Airbnbs to choose from.
  • Arenal: Opt for a hotel with a volcano view.
  • Guanacaste: Pick a beach resort with spa for relaxation or a local Airbnb

Travel Logistics / Transportation:

  • Fly to International Airport Juan Santa María (SJO)
  • Rent a car in San José and return it in Liberia: 
  • Fly back from Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR)
  • Some highways will have tolls; you can pay with a credit card on some of them, but it's also advisable to have some cash with you. $30 should be enough for tolls
  • Waze is the more accurate GPS app in Costa Rica


    • Climate: Costa Rica has a tropical climate, and temperatures can vary based on the region and elevation. In general terms temperature usually stays between 60°F and 80°F in the city. 
  • Central Valley (San Jose):
        • Daytime temperatures typically range from 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C).
        • Evenings: temperatures ranging from 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 16°C).
  • Coastal Areas (Guanacaste, Puntarenas, Limón):
        • Daytime: range from 80°F to 95°F (27°C to 35°C).
        • Evenings: temperatures around 70°F to 75°F (21°C to 24°C).
  • Arenal and Monteverde:
        • Due to higher elevations, temperatures are cooler in these regions.
        • Daytime: can range from 65°F to 80°F (18°C to 27°C).
        • Evenings: ranging from 50°F to 65°F (10°C to 18°C).
  • Caribbean Coast:
        • The Caribbean side tends to be humid and experiences more rainfall.
        • Daytime: can range from 75°F to 90°F (24°C to 32°C).
        • Evenings: temperatures around 70°F to 75°F (21°C to 24°C).
        • If you plan to visit the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, September and October are considered the best weather months. During this time, there is typically less rainfall, allowing for more enjoyable exploration of the region.
    • Costa Rica's summer, considered the dry season, occurs from December to April. This period is ideal for exploring the country's diverse landscapes and outdoor activities.
    • Rainy Sesaon goes from May to October. Showers are common in the afternoons, but mornings are often clear. This season offers lush greenery and fewer crowds.
  • Currency:
      • The official currency is the Costa Rican Colón (CRC), but U.S. dollars are widely accepted. However, it's advisable to have some local currency for smaller establishments and markets.
  • Language:
      • The official language is Spanish, but many Costa Ricans in tourist areas speak English. Learning a few basic Spanish phrases can enhance your travel experience.
  • Health and Safety:
      • Costa Rica has excellent healthcare facilities, but it's advisable to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses.
      • Tap water is generally safe to drink.
  • Transportation:
      • Renting a car can be a convenient way to explore, especially if you plan to visit multiple destinations. Roads can be winding, so be prepared for some longer travel times.
    • Wildlife and Nature:
      • Costa Rica is known for its biodiversity. Respect the wildlife and follow guidelines to observe animals in their natural habitats without causing harm.
  • Pack Accordingly:
      • Pack lightweight, breathable clothing, especially if visiting during the dry season.
      • Don't forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, a rain jacket, and comfortable walking shoes.
  • Local Cuisine:
    • Try local dishes like casado, gallo pinto, and ceviche. Embrace the diverse culinary scene, and don't hesitate to explore local markets for authentic flavors.
  • Culture:
    • Costa Ricans are known for their friendly and laid-back nature. Embrace the "pura vida" lifestyle and be respectful of local customs and traditions.

Other Places to Consider

    • Limón: Make sure you enjoy a delicious Rice & Beans, Tamara’s is my favorite place but Lidia’s Place and La Nena are excellent options as well.
      • Cahuita: Drive time from San Jose: 4.5 hrs approx
        • Renowned for its white-sand beaches and Cahuita National Park.
        • Afro-Caribbean influence, vibrant music, and reggae rhythms.
        • Excellent for snorkeling and diving with colorful coral reefs.
      • Manzanillo: Drive time from San Jose: 5 hrs approx
        • Pristine beaches and lush rainforest surroundings.
        • Home to the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge for biodiversity.
        • Reflects Afro-Caribbean culture, offering an authentic and tranquil escape.
    • Poás Volcano: is located within Poás Volcano National Park, one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica.
      • It is conveniently located about 1.5 hours northwest of San Jose, making it a popular day trip destination.
      • Poás is an active stratovolcano with one of the largest volcanic craters globally, featuring a sulfuric, greenish-blue lake at the bottom.
      • The park offers stunning panoramic views of the Central Valley and the surrounding landscapes. 
      • The park is home to diverse flora and fauna, including the endemic Poas Magnolia and numerous bird species.
  • Irazú Volcano: located in the Irazú Volcano National Park, approximately 32 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of San Jose.
  • It is easily accessible by car, and the drive to the summit offers breathtaking scenery.
  • Standing at 3,432 meters (11,260 feet), Irazú is the highest volcano in Costa Rica and the highest point in the Central Mountain Range.
  • The volcano has several craters, with the main one, Diego de la Haya, containing a stunning greenish-blue lake.
  • The terrain surrounding Irazú is characterized by volcanic ash, giving it an otherworldly appearance. On clear days, you can see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans from the summit. 

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