This week we collectively hacked Costa Rica, not just one city but the whole beautiful democratic Central American nation. We learned about when to go, where to go, why to get a guide, and what to do in the bathroom. We collected all the valuable comments in the Staff tab under the original post, but below are our favorites.
- “If you want to see animals, go during the rainy season. Aside from it being the off-season (and likely cheaper), you’ll see the forests full of life. I went on a birding trip and saw baby toucans, parrots, various hawks, and other unique wildlife.”—Aximill
- “Do eat at the local ‘sodas.’ It’s what the locals eat and you can get a nice plate of meat, rice & beans, and plantains for $4-$5.”—HungWeiLo
- “USD is accepted at most places. It’s good to have a little local currency for places like gas stations, but I was able to buy groceries or hit up shops, and even food carts with US currency.”—Slacklinejoe
- “If you’re used to certain American accoutrements, check prices before you leave. Peanut butter, for instance, is INCREDIBLY expensive there (normally around ~$9 a jar in my experience).”—Little Mac
- “Costa Rica’s tap water is safe to drink. You don’t need to buy plastic water bottles while traveling there. I drank tap water the entire time I was there w/o ANY problems.”—sweatshopboys
- “If you are a coffee lover, there’s a lot of good coffee to be found. Head to Cafeoteca, Franco, or Café la Mancha and order a Vandola (a Costa Rican pour over), and pick up a free San José coffee walking tour pamphlet – it’s both a great reference, and a gorgeous piece of art. In addition, most shops in the San José/Alajuela area use lactose-free milk, which is fantastic for someone lactose-intolerant like me.”—Alan Ray
- “If you decide to stay, congrats: you can probably afford a maid! Like, everyone has a maid. It’s weird.”—Little Mac
- “If you are looking for some experience away from the touristy areas, go down to the Osa peninsula. Bosque del Cabo is an amazing lodge down there. Great food and comfortable bungalows. Guides are available to teach you everything you wanted to know about the forest and the local wildlife.”—huffj3
- “Alajuela: [the district] where the airport actually is. It is a bit warmer that San Jose typically. Here you’ll find the volcano Poas. The national park around it was closed for a while last year due to the volcano being active. But it has been reopened recently and the place is well maintained. You can get the largest strawberries in this area.”—GMYoW
- “Hire a guide for Manuel Antonio National Park. The guides swarm you in the parking lot, which is off-putting, but they are well worth it. You will not see nearly as much without a guide.”—Tony the Terrible
- “We would have missed 95% of what we saw [at Manual Antonio] without a guide. Also, the guides have telescopes and a lot of what there is to see in the park requires at least a superzoom. You can take photos through the telescope, even with your cell phone, and they’ll look awesome.”—Tony Baloney
- “[At Manual Antonio,] hire a guide for the walk from the beach back to the entrance. By that point, the guide has already entered the park (something they might ask you to pay for) and they’ve already had at least one paying customer that day making your rate likely cheaper.”—MKoester
- “When I went, we decided to fly into Nicaragua first and honestly it was amazing. Landed in Manauga and worked our way south by chicken bus. Nicaragua’s beaches are awesome, and everything was much cheaper than Costa Rica. Look up this little gem if you’re interested in Heaven on Earth: Apoyo Lagoon.”—Pedro_de_Pacas
- “Stay away from Tortuguero. Eco-tourism does not always equal eco-friendly. The night time turtle watching experience was a nightmare. People running around scaring the turtles with no regard. Tour guide sat by smoking cigarettes and couldn’t care less.”—UXB666
- “I love driving in Costa Rica because they are aggressive drivers like myself. Be considerate, let faster drivers go around you. Avoid driving at night unless you know exactly where you are going. The roads are not marked like they are in your home country. DO NOT drive through moving water. Give yourself extra time to get where you are going because you want to stop at the local fruit stands. Also, look out for animals when you are driving. Numerous creatures can and will run across the road.”—seaprozac
- “NO paper at all in toilets, NOTHING. Use the barrel provided alongside every toilet, yup, you got that right, that’s how it’s done here so do not clog the toilet. Excepting high end hotels in SOME places. The law requires public toilets in most all stores including grocery stores. Some roadside tourist spots want you to buy or pay maybe C1000 ($1.67) for the privilege.”—CaptBrad617
- “Don’t refer to yourself as an ‘American.’ They are on the American continent as well and don’t appreciate us taking ownership of the entire continent. You can say you are from the United States. Don’t get offended if someone calls you a gringo; they don’t mean anything by it. It is just their word for people from the US.”—Willy
- “Be careful where you put your hands while walking in the rainforest. There are fire ants and other nasty stuff in the jungle. While hiking in La Fortuna, we had a guide who showed us lots of spiders and caterpillars and tarantulas and other nasties. One boy in our group kept putting his hands on everything, and at one point, the guide suddenly stopped him, because he was about to put his hand on a deadly caterpillar.”—Tony Baloney
See more tips in the original comment thread, and leave your own below. Come back next week when we’re hacking ’Bama.
About the author
Staff Writer, Lifehacker | Nick has written for Gawker, the Awl, the Toast, the Daily Dot, Urlesque, and the web series "Jaywalk Cop." He currently runs the horror-comedy podcast "Roommate From Hell."