Costa Rica 1996

Costa Rica 1996

Costa Rica is a great place for eco-adventure travel. The population is approximately 3 million with 1.4 million in the capitol San Jose and the remainder loosely scattered throughout the remainder of the land. The majority of the land is mountainous jungle and rainforest with a tropical climate. May through November (except July - domestic vacation month) is considered slow season. We were there in May which apparently is part of the Rainy Season during which afternoon rains are fairly regular occurrence though can be easily accommodated into daily scheduled activities.

The natives are generally pleasant and accommodating. Spanish is spoken in this county but the majority of tourist areas easily communicate in English. Traveling in San Jose reminded me of trying to drive in Mexico and then the remainder of the Costa Rican roads are in poor repair. Getting to other destinations after flying into San Jose can be quite time consuming. Travel time is complicated not only by poor roads but the mountains and pot-holes on rural roads slows things considerably. San Jose to Flamingo was approximately 5 hours and this was with a professional driver who knew the best routes. Many tourists drive rental cars (usually 4 wheel drive vehicles). We personally didn’t feel adventurous enough to drive on Third World roads and decided to take so called transfers or taxis between destinations which overall worked out fairly well although does limit one’s adventuring possibilities once arriving at various locations.

The Pacific side is considered the developed coast with the majority of the better resorts while the Caribbean side is apparently more rugged jungle/swamp land requiring air or boat transportation to the majority of less than plush Fish Camps where air conditioning is a rarity (Please consider this as third hand information as we did not venture to the Caribbean coast, supposedly not a tourist type area and for the most part a destination for hard-core Tarpon and Snook fishing). However, various tours (1-2 day trips) were available from San Jose to visit the jungle National Park called Tortugero which offered wide variety of tropical plant and wildlife - which again we didn’t have time for.

Costa Rica offers an endless variety of outdoor activities which include Great fishing, Rocky beaches, Surfing (for those Surfer Dudes), Good Food, Snorkeling/Diving, Kayaking, Hiking, Horseback Riding (Padded Saddles recommended), Waterfalls, Rainforest Jungles, Mountains, White Water Rafting, Active Volcanoes or just hanging around the Hotel Pool yet Television is a rarity. The majority of towns have various tour companies which can arrange various activities at quite reasonable prices.

Costa Rican travel begins by flying into San Jose, a busy and large city which does have shopping at the Mercado Central for souvenirs and coffee. Other than that I would probably recommend getting out of San Jose and to other destinations as soon as possible. We were traveling during the slow season and had no problem finding accommodations and making reservations without advance notice but were told that places can be quite busy during the High Season. Please note that if you book a hotel reservation through Costa Rican travel agent they will charge an additional 15% to the hotel rate. It is better and less expensive to call and then negotiate the price yourself.

Costa Rica is a nice country with lots to offer for those interested in adventurous and outdoor activities. Nice hotels and accommodations can be found, however, the majority of towns are small and rural with little in the way of entertainment or nightlife with the exception of San Jose. The following is a summary of places we visited and some of the activities we experienced. We enjoyed the places we visited but this is only my opinion and only sampled a small part of the country not having enough time to try innumerable other destinations and activities available.

Flamingo is on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The town itself is quite small and does not have a whole lot to offer. However, for those interested in Billfish this is the place to be as deepwater pelagics (billfish including Sailfish and Marlin) migrate into this area May through September/October. Prior to this (approximately January - April) billfishing is better further south in the Quepos area. Fishing was great and besides the Sailfish the Tuna were a lot of fun to catch and made great dinner fare.

The only Hotel I would recommend in Flamingo is the Flamingo Beach Resort which is the sister hotel of the Aurola Holiday Inn (San Jose). The hotel is nice and there is a beach. But if not after billfish, then probably would not go to Flamingo since it has little else to offer. We did see a dive trip around the Pacific Rock formations but were told that these are usually only for experienced divers. There is a large marina in town within 5 minutes walking distance which offered a wide variety of boats available for charter.

There is a small hole in the wall shack on the side of the road called Marie’s owned by a transplanted Brit that is the best place to eat - once we tried it we didn’t eat anywhere else (Try the Tamarindo juice and fruit plate for breakfast or lunch). The hotel restaurant does serve a nice dinner and fine desserts.

Flamingo Beach Resort
PO Box 7802 1000 San Jose
Costa Rica, Central America

1-800-2-AUROLA (USA)
(506) 233-7233
Fax (506) 654-4060

Approximately $100/night



San Jose

San Jose is the major business and travel center of Costa Rica. Its a big city with associated problems and major traffic. We were warned to be cautious about crime but didn’t see much of a problem walking around downtown and to the Mercado Central to do shopping. However, we did not venture out on foot at night which is probably not a good thing to do - Taxis recommended at night. You basically have to fly into San Jose and then should try to get out of there as soon as possible. There are hotels by the airport (Hampton Inn) and others in the nearby suburb called Alajeula. Alternatively one can stay in San Jose which is an approximately 30 minute trip and will allow easier access to shops, restaurants and the Mercado near downtown. We stayed in San Jose at the Aurola Holiday Inn which by most standards was quite nice particularly since we were only there briefly anyway.

Aurola Holiday Inn
5th Avenue and 5th Street
PO Box 7802 1000 San Jose
Costa Rica, Central America 


Approximately $100/night


Tamarindo was quite nice and offered very nice accommodations, good restaurants, nice rocky beach and great fishing. Kayaking and snorkeling trips were also available in this area. This area was much more enjoyable than Flamingo as it offered more variety and the Hotel was excellent. We stayed at the Capitan Suizo Hotel which is a modern recently built facility with contemporary styled rooms, beautiful lush grounds, nice pool and variety of wandering wildlife they considered pets (duck, monkey, squirrel and iguanas). The hotel was our favorite and the Manager (Freddy) as well as all the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. Rooms were approximately $85 and private bungalow available for around $100. The bungalows looked spacious and offered privacy, but did not have A/C which was only available in the hotel rooms. Its Hot and Muggy and air conditioning was our choice. If the Capitan Suizo is not available then the second choice in this area would be the Hotel Tamarindo Diria. 

Various restaurants were in Tamarindo yet the restaurant and bar at the Capitan Suizo were excellent and highly recommended. We tried various fishing expeditions in Costa Rica but probably the most fun and definitely the least expensive was fishing the reef just offshore of Tamarindo in a small fishing skiff (Panga). Panga’s were available for $35/hour and reef fishing was great as we caught an abundance of Tuna, Bonito and Dolphin (Dorado) on our half-day trip. Our boat was captained by Brian who is highly recommended if he can be found; the hotel management was most helpful in suggesting arrangements as lack of telephones makes communication difficult. Anyhow, if Panga fishing is considered then would definitely try to find an American or at least English speaking captain which will make things much easier and more enjoyable. Tamarindo was our favorite and would try to include this destination in any return trips to Costa Rica.

Hotel Capitan Suizo
Costa Rica, Central America

(506) 653-0075
(506) 653-0353
Fax (506) 653-0292

Approximately $85 - $100/night

Volcano Arenal

Volcano Arenal is an active volcano that has so-called mini eruptions several times a day which averaged about 10 time a day during our stay. This is quite an intriguing natural phenomenon with a thunderous rumble and spewing of black smoke during the day and fiery lava eruptions at night. However, the volcano activity is only visible when no cloud cover is present which can be quite variable and changes rapidly throughout the day depending on the weather conditions. Lake Arenal is a large lake next to the Volcano which apparently is great for windsurfing and fresh water fishing - neither of which did we undertake.

There are several Hotels around the Lake and Volcano which offer a good view of the eruptions. The Arenal Lodge (506) 228-3189 and The Observatory Lodge apparently are the favored spots for Volcano watching. These hotels average approximately $120-150 including breakfast/lunch but are somewhat isolated from the town and thus should only be considered by those who have transportation (otherwise your stranded). We opted to stay in a small quaint town at the base of the Volcano called La Fortuna. This enabled us to walk to anywhere in the town including various restaurants and tour companies as well as the base of the Volcano. We stayed at a small basic hotel near the center of town called the Hotel San Bosco which offered quaint accommodations, a volcano viewing terrace and air conditioning for the economical price of $35/night. There was a very good restaurant across the street with a wide variety of choices for all meals located across the street called Rancho La Cascada easily recognizable by the conical thatched roof. Another excellent eatery which would require a taxi was situated near the base of the Volcano and allowed for exciting dinner time eruptions was the El Novillo Steak House. Both of these establishments were extremely well priced with steaks in the $6-$8.00 range and also offered excellent fish plates.

La Fortuna offered access to multiple activities including Volcano tours/hiking, horseback riding to La Fortuna Waterfall, Tabacon Hot springs, Lake Arenal and White Water Rafting tours to various rivers. We found DeSafio Raft company to be very good and enjoyed our half-day trip to Penas Blancas River which offered non-stop Class III rapids. The Waterfall is also scenic though requires a steep descent and uphill return down a lush jungle ravine. Horseback riding to the falls was quite an experience on Caballos Locos. LaFortuna and Volcano Arenal are about 3 hours from San Jose.

La Fortuna and Volcano Arenal

Hotel San Bosco
La Fortuna, San Carlos
Costa Rica, Central America

FAX (506)479-9109

Approximately $35/night

DeSafio Raft
Apartado Postal 37 - 4417
LaFortuna, San Carlos
Costa Rica, Central America

(506) 479-9464

  Costa Rica Miscellaneous Areas

Those are the few places we were able to visit yet numerous other Costa Rican locales remain. The following are a few other places we heard good things about though did not visit ourselves:

- Apparently another good fishing destination on the more Southern Pacific Coast and is a better billfish area during parts of the year (Jan-April).  Quepos is also located near the Manuel Antonio National Park which apparently is very scenic itself.

Boca Rio Colorado
- This is for serious fishing on the Caribbean coast for Tarpon and Snook. Requires transportation via Air or Boat to Fish Camps which offer multi-day all inclusive fishing packages. The Rio Colorado Lodge and Silver King Lodge are the better known fishing destinations.