You should be having fun!
March 16, 2009 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm in Costa Rica for the next 9 days and with no idea how to spend them. What can I do?

I have been here already for a week, and have learned that I only need a small dose of nature, beaches, hiking, etc. to be happy. I have gotten my fill of that already. I am now looking for things that are more mentally stimulating for me. When I went to Spain on my own 1.5 years ago, I spent a lot of my time walking around a few cities, checking out the architecture, the landmarks, the museums, etc. I was also able to meet a few locals thru a hobby of mine (swing dancing), and spent a few evenings with them seeing Madrid and going out to the clubs.

But here in CR, there are less opportunities like that, it seems, and also I have been cautioned to not go out at night in most places, especially alone. I would like to find more things to do that are active or interesting or different... when I am back in san jose, for example, I may go to the symphony or the theater. I may also try to go volunteer for a few days on an organic farm, half in an attempt to just have something productive to do and to pass the time.

I feel so weird because I should be loving it here, right? Everyone is saying that it's so wonderful here, just relax and enjoy myself... but I am finding that I am bored and starting to go a little stir crazy.

I have been staying with a friend so far, not in a hostel, which may be contributing to the boredom since I havent been meeting many others. But I sitll don't really know what we could do together, even if I met other travelers, that wouldn't be along the lines of hiking or sitting on the beach.

But, oh wise mefis, can you help me adjust my view? What might you recommend I do to have a fun time over the next 1.5 weeks? Muchas gracias por tu ayuda. :)
posted by inatizzy to Travel & Transportation around Costa Rica (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed hiking up Mt. Chirripo (the tallest mountain in CR). It's not a super difficult hike, but it's beautiful and just a bit challenging and a lot of fun. It's a 2 day hike though - there is a rustic (and inexpensive) government-run lodge near the peak where you overnight (camping isn't allowed). You'll need reservations for that in advance.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:11 PM on March 16, 2009

What part of Costa Rica are you in, or do you want to go to? What I noticed is, although it's a small place travel is slooow.

I've been, and had a great time, but don't have recommendations for you (I did the beach/volcano/rain forest things only). But someone else might have good recommendations if they know where you are in Costa Rica.
posted by Houstonian at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2009

I know you said you've done enough hiking, etc, but do you find it mentally stimulating to observe wildlife? Because you can really spend a lot of time just observing and making notes on wildlife down there on even the most touristy of hikes. Costa Rica is a great opportunity to just study animals. We saw a couple of tapirs up near Arenal just on the road. It's probably more meaningful if you grab some books on animals down there so you can compare notes.

We went to the National Theatre in San Jose, but it wasn't that particularly interesting; it was just okay. If you need books, we did find a great English bookstore in San Jose called 7th Street Books, which was on 7th Street, between Central and First Avenues, near the Plaza de la Cultura.

Also, even though you said you've done enough outdoor stuff, I really recommend going on a water rapelling trip down a waterfall if you can afford it. That's probably one of the more exciting things I've ever done in my life and it's not an adventure you can find easily in Europe or the United States.

Also, down in Manuel Antonio, we did a kayaking trip through the mangroves and we saw tons of monkeys, a cayman!, tons of birds, ant nests, etc. I found it extremely mentally stimulating to just be able to see so many animals I can't see at home.

Good luck.
posted by gt2 at 12:19 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How much Spanish do you speak? Could you do an immersion program somewhere? I can recommend AEC. I spent a month at the Arenal campus and had a great time.
posted by jesourie at 12:21 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ziplining! I know it's more nature and all but it is truly exhilarating. Also see if you can find a school run by Peace Corp volunteers and visit, the tour itself could be interesting and the volunteers may be able to tell you about other intellectual opportunities around.

Also, in San Jose I played a fun game with myself after buying a Soccer Jersey for my boyfriend called "Let's see how bad SS got ripped off"... I got points every time I saw the same jersey for forty dollars less. Not sure I'd recommend that one, but there is sort of a thrill in setting a goal for shopping and then bargain hunting, if you have a specific souvenir in mind for someone.
posted by SputnikSweetheart at 12:30 PM on March 16, 2009

Best answer: Take the cheap bus to Monteverde or Tamarindo and stay at a hostel there. San Jose is pretty trashy, and once you've seen the museums and the market there isn't much there that seems to attract tourists besides prostitution and gambling...

Don't get scammed on the whole private van thing. It takes just as long as the inter-city bus system (maybe you shave off an hour) because they are constantly stopping and picking people up for 4x-5x times the cost of the bus. I took it on one leg of my trip down there and was completely discouraged. (I wasted $90 as far as I'm concerned.) Just be careful at the San Jose bus station. Don't board until you see your stuff in the bottom of the bus and the bottom is locked - or make sure you carry it onto the bus. If you stop, watch to make sure your stuff doesnt' leave without you.

Monteverde is in the rainforest (key word there is RAIN - bring a poncho and boots for the mud). You can hike, zip line, learn about coffee, take guided night tours, see some awesome reptile museums, and visit a cheese factory (sorta nasty cheese - fyi, but interesting). Expect to do all those things in the rain with little to no visibility.

Tamarindo is a beach... lots of people surf, go out on catamarans for a party and a sailing experience, go marlin fishing, shop, etc...
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:30 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

On SS's point about shopping: If you're looking at it and it costs less than $300, it was made in Thailand or Vietnam for a couple of bucks and then imported into Costa Rica. If someone says $20, tell them you saw it for $10. If they then say $10, tell them no thanks, because you can be sure you can find it for $6.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:35 PM on March 16, 2009

Go to Liberia and take a day hike out to climb up the Rincon de la Vieja.

You won't be disappointed by the views.

It is truly amazing. During the 6-7 hour hike, you sometimes feel like you're in a jungle, other times like you're on Mars (or the moon), and finally like you're on top of the world. There are also crazy active bubbling pits of mud and goop, hot springs, and waterfalls. It is truly one of the most unique places in the world. I did it alone and loved it.
posted by bengarland at 1:30 PM on March 16, 2009

Best answer: I spent a term as an undergrad in Costa Rica. One of the best experiences I had there, was doing Habitat for Humanity during Semana Santa, it was crazy, dirty, chaotic, rewarding, and SO MUCH FUN. We worked on a house in Sarapiqui, for a family whose house was destroyed by floods. So the new house was on a hill. We brought cinder blocks by hand up the hill, stirred cement by hands, and bent metal thingys by hand. Then we played in the river during lunch breaks, got ice cream, treated the kids at an orphanage school who were working on our site with lots of ice cream (their awesome teacher decided this would be a good activity during a week off from school, and it was). We met people from all over not just Costa Rica, but the world, who were working on this particular project of houses. If you've ever done Habitat for Humanity in the US, this is a whole different experience. I'd recommend it for a few days.

Also, have you been to any of the volcanoes? Poas is about an hour away from San Jose, and pretty damn cool (and smelly!). Arenal, a bit further away, is active, and if you're around at night, it's pretty cool to see some firey spurts of red into the sky. :-)
posted by raztaj at 2:15 PM on March 16, 2009

Best answer: My boss was there for business, and took a tour at the Cafe Britt coffee plantation, I think. It was a bit tourist trappy, but fun none-the-less, and not more "nature stuff".
posted by GJSchaller at 7:27 PM on March 16, 2009

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