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??

5 OTHER Reasons to Visit Montezuma (& Surroundings)

If you’ve done a little Google research or quick TripAdvisor search, I’m sure you know by now some of the top things to do in Montezuma and obvious reasons to visit. You’ve probably learned that Montezuma is in one of the 7 ‘blue zones’ of the world, has a beautiful waterfall, beachfront horseback riding and yoga galore. And of course Montezuma is an easy distance to the white sand beaches and snorkeling around Tortuga Island. However, aside from these more popular and well-known reasons to make it out to Montezuma, whether as a stopping point or for your full stay in Costa Rica, there are a few other perhaps lesser-known reasons why we think it’s worth the trip.

Every Bike Ride is a Mountain Ride – If you’re a two-wheel enthusiast looking to get out on the open road while on vacation, you’ll find riding in Montezuma plenty adventurous. Renting a bike for a day will not only ease traffic in the small town and please the environment but also give you a lovely view of areas around Montezuma with the thrill of a mountain bike ride. Head south on the road toward Cabuya and in just 1km you’ll find the beautiful hidden beach of Las Manchas (use extreme caution if swimming here, there are some pretty strong riptides and yes even for strong swimmers). Keep going and you’ll make it all the way to Cabuya with lots of little sights along the way and a few restaurants to grab some grub before heading back. Keep in mind you’ll be sharing the road with cars and the road is quite narrow in some spots, so use common bicycle sense: be predictable, use lights if riding at night, and WEAR A HELMET!

DSC_0454Unique Micro-Cultures are Everywhere– In addition to the rich health culture* that you’ll definitely notice upon entering the Montezuma area, there still exist strong traditional and local cultures of Costa Rica. A little more challenging to identify, they are here alive and well. Found more so in the outskirts of Delicias, Cobano and Cabuya, the agricultural traditions of Costa Rica can be found on small farms as well as in fishing villages that line the coast. The many smaller traditional cultures in the area are interwoven with diverse influences such as Italian food, yoga and fire dancing to create a surprisingly diverse area with a culture all of its own.

Tranquility of Nature Day & Night – Tucked away in most hotels away from town or on the hill above it is the best part of a tropical vacation: tranquility and nature. The sounds of nature are what surround you wherever you go: howler monkeys in the trees overhead, songs of exotic birds, and coati scurrying on the ground. And when the busyness of daytime settles, the evening offers an even more stimulating experience of nocturnal wildlife. Listen to the sounds on your own while walking around your hotel or to town (carry a flashlight in the evening, it can get pretty dark quickly), or take Montezuma’s only night tour “Nocturno” to have a guide help you get a closer look at the nocturnal creatures in the area.

A Sunrise Worth Waking Up For – You won’t see the sun set over the horizon here, but you will get to see an equally, if not more, beautiful sunrise. Not much can top a stroll on the beach in the quiet of the morning to see the sky turn golden as the sun rises over the Nicoya Gulf. You’ll have to get up pretty early for this one, but you can always go back to bed for a siesta during the heat of the day.

turtleTurtle ConservationASVO is a local turtle conservation program where, if your timing is right, you’ll be able to witness the hatching and release of baby sea turtles back to the ocean. Although turtle hatching is seasonal, you can stop by any time and there are bound to be volunteers ready and willing to answer any questions you might have. It’s a great way to find out more about conservation efforts and a fun educational opportunity not to be missed.