Planning Your Trip to Costa Rica: 5 Tips to Reduce Your Planning Stress

JC's JourneysOctober is almost over, can you believe it?! It’s getting cooler up north and you’re probably starting to plan your trip to warmer weather in Costa Rica. But let’s face it, vacation planning can be stressful if you’re going to another country, especially if it’s your first visit. Here are 5 tips to help you make your way to the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica with less headache and more excitement!

#1 Reserve Transfers Early – If you’re traveling during the holiday season (November, December, January), you’ll thank yourself for not waiting until the last minute to reserve your airport transfer. As with anywhere, these months can get very busy in Costa Rica and specifically the Nicoya Peninsula. If you’re flying from San Jose to the peninsula (Tambor), be sure to reserve flights like… now! They will go fast! If you’re arranging a shuttle they can also fill up quickly during this time, so don’t hesitate. Even if you’re being adventurous and planning to take buses all the way to Montezuma, keep in mind, they may be pretty full depending on the day and time that you travel so don’t be afraid to treat yourself to a pre-arranged shuttle transfer to prevent the stress of figuring out how you’ll get there when you’re already at the airport.

#2 Decide on Tours – Most tours can be arranged somewhat last minute, but to make your life easier and enjoy a more relaxing vacation, try to research tour options before you arrive. Since you probably have limited time, pick a few must-do tours first, then contact a tour guide or operator before your trip to lock in a date for your tour. This may be more difficult with large group tours as departure often depends on the number of people who book. But if you’re P5520728planning on private tours or small group tours, you’ll want to reserve those early. Weather is not typically an issue with tours during peak season, but to keep options open, you may want to decide on primary and secondary tour options in case one doesn’t work out on the day you planned so you’re not left laying around the beach twiddling your thumbs for the third day in a  row on your 5-day vacation.

#3 Pack Light, But Well – It’s easier to move around and a lot less stressful if you pack with having to carry your bag in mind. Take essentials like cash (for when ATM doesn’t work) a few basic over-the-counter medications, and of course appropriate clothing and footwear, but try to keep it to a carry-on size suitcase or backpack. Small planes have strict luggage requirements anyway, and most shuttles from the airport to the Nicoya Peninsula still require you to carry your luggage onto the ferry to cross over. So again, to ease the frustration and scramble to move heavy luggage around, make it easy on yourself and check this blog for more packing tips.

#4 Check Your Calendar – Think about it, if you’re planning to travel Christmas week… how many other people do you think are probably trying to do the same? The ferry to Nicoya peninsula can become very crowded during holidays, and periodically schedules change as well. Check not only your calendar but calendars for local holidays and make sure there are no planned changes to transportation. Also, try to avoid the couple days around major holidays for transfers to airports for obvious reasons. Mark the days on your calendar so that when you’re traveling and carefree, you won’t forget what day it is! Also be sure to note closure dates for national parks so you don’t travel to them on those days.beach_puravida

#5 Mentally Prepare – Remember that it’s a vacation! If you take a little time to do some planning in advance, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the experience while you’re in Costa Rica. Remind yourself that although traveling during the holidays can be challenging with crowds, airport lines, and customs forms, you’re here to relax and be away from the office, cold weather, and typical holiday shopping pressure. Doesn’t that make it all worthwhile??

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Montezuma School Goes Bird Watching

When a group of 15 seven and eight-year-olds become first-time birders for a day, there’s no stopping their curiosity, excitement and all around fun. That’s exactly what happened last week when JC led a group of students from the Montezuma Elementary School on a bird watching outing and nature lesson in the outskirts of the nearby town Cabuya.

Montezuma School Goes Birding - JC's JourneysBirding and Learning

The goal of the day was for the group of first and second grade kids to get an in-depth lesson about four birds they would be sure to see in the area:  Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, and Brown Pelican.

Learning the names of these birds in both Spanish and English, as well as details of the species’ appearance and behavior, the group then got a chance to view the birds through a scope and binoculars. Getting an up-close vMontezuma School Goes Birding - JC's Journeysiew of the birds using these tools piqued interest even more and got the kids excited about the bright colors they could see and compelled them to seek out more and different birds on their own. The kids learned that there were officially 903 species of birds in Costa Rica and spotted a hummingbird which offered a prime opportunity to explain how hummingbirds are great pollinators, and thus the importance of protecting them and all wildlife.

In addition to the many birds kids learned about that day, howler monkeys made a grand appearance, and while these kids are no strangers to the sight of a howler monkey, JC pointed out some interesting facts about them and made his famous howler imitation much to their amusement.

Lessons in Recycling

LMontezuma School Goes Birding - JC's Journeysastly, as part of their final lesson, the kids each received a birding journal crafted from recycled cereal boxes, milk cartons and cardboard to integrate the concepts of recycling and environmental protection for the sake of wildlife conservation. Filled with new knowledge, the group will later jot down details and draw pictures in their journals recalling information from the outing such as the bird’s name, location, diet and migration patterns to reinforce their lesson. But before returning to school, Kevin, a local shuttle operator and driver for the day, encouraged each student to collect a few pieces of rubbish strewn around the beach to deposit it in it’s proper recycling bin back in town. These kids are awesome! We can see that they are truly inspired and already have great respect for the environment and wildlife around them.

Montezuma School Goes Birding - JC's JourneysIn timing with World Responsible Tourism Day, this small outing is just the type of thing we hope to continue doing with Montezuma School and other schools in the area. We love doing tours and sharing this love of nature and environment with visitors from around the world, but it’s just as important for us to share it with those around us every day as well.

Happy World Responsible Tourism Day! And thanks Montezuma School! It was fun spending time with you and we’re sure you will have some things you can teach us next time too. 🙂

See more info about our birding tours here.