This summer I had the opportunity to go to Costa Rica for vacation (no students!). It was a lot of fun, and I’d thought I’d share some of the things I learned while I was there that would be helpful to know if you are planning on going, either alone or with students!
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We went in early July for a week, and flew into San José, then traveled to La Fortuna, Monteverde, Quepos, and then back to San José! Before we crossed the mountains there was a lot of rain, and it was quite a bit cooler. On the Pacific side, it was a lot warmer and sunnier – we didn’t even take the sunscreen out until the last city of the trip!
Things to Know
- Everyone says “Pura Vida” all the time. It’s not an exaggeration. I thought people were kidding before we got there, but nope. It’s a greeting. It’s a farewell. It’s scattered throughout dialogue. It really is said a lot!
- “Mae” is the other word I heard a ton! It’s slang, and they used it like “dude”.
- Tipping in restaurants is different than in the United States. Restaurants add a 10% gratuity to your bill. You can tip more if you want, but it’s not expected.
- Most of the people we met offered “¿Español o inglés?” before greeting us. If you’re not confident in your Spanish that could be a really nice “safety net” to practice! I witnessed several students trying their best and negotiating meaning at a coffee shop, then later looking totally indignant when a couple walked in and ordered in English! I wanted to cheer them on for sticking it out and figuring out how to order what they wanted, even though they could have given up.
Things to Bring
We went in July which is part of the rainier season. A rain jacket is totally necessary – it poured at least once a day! If you don’t want to buy a new rain coat, you could always do a multi-pack of ponchos!
Before we went, we exchanged money. People on the internet had said many places would accept USD, but I wasn’t too sure. We had no issues with whichever money we wanted to spend. People were just happy we were there and supporting their business. Bring cash – whether it’s USD or Colones.
Layers – some days it was quite chilly, other days it was warm! Definitely bring some options. A light tank that airs out is great, especially if you have your rain jacket to toss on over it!
Sunscreen is important, especially if you’re planning on spending any time white water rafting or on the beach! You may want to look into an eco-friendly brand of sunscreen, as many places will not allow you to wear certain types of sunscreen that are bad for the water. SPF 30 | SPF 50
Same thing goes for bug spray – especially if you’re planning on any nighttime hikes or jungle walks! Here are a few eco-friendly options to consider:
Last, but not least, I would definitely advise bringing a water proof bag, and a water proof phone case! We just rolled up our water proof bag and brought it in one of the carry ons, but it was definitely a nice option to have! I mentioned earlier we were there during the rainy season and things got DAMP. It was really nice to know our phone, keys, money, and passports were safe and dry!
Unpacking.. (ha. Get it?!)
I would totally love to go back! This trip was just for fun, but I think students would really enjoy a trip there and get a lot of great practice! Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What were your favorite parts?