About Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a Central American country bordering Panama to the south and Nicaragua to the north. Spanish for "rich coast", it offers beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, and perfect vacation weather - ideal for anyone looking for a spring break destination without the crowds and overpricing of many of the more common places. Because hardly anywhere in Costa Rica is as built up as places like Cancun, you can get much more for your money in terms of accommodation, food, drinks, and entertainment.
Costa Rica was explored by Columbus in 1502, when the population consisted of about 400,000 native Indians. After a slow growth period, the region expanded and became a Spanish province, declaring independence in 1821 and becoming a republic in 1848. It has one of Latin America's most democratic governments, and an economy which relies very heavily on tourism - especially since the damage done by inflation and falling international commodity prices in the 1970s.
Costa Rica is an ideal destination for Spring Break whether you want lazy days at the beach, action-packed adventures, buzzing nightlife, or a mixture of all three!
The country is, of course, well known for its incredible tropical forests and wildlife, so there are plenty of interesting daytime excursions for the outdoors types, from hiking amongst the animals to visiting the spectacular volcanoes.
But obviously if you're there for Spring Break, you'll want to know what the beaches are like. Rest assured, they won't disappoint! Most of the best beach scenes are found on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, near San Jose. Jaco is the party beach city located right next to San Jose, with excellent surfing and plenty of atmosphere, but there are plenty of other good options as destinations for Spring Break.
Check out the exciting array of water sports on offer, from surfing and windsurfing to the famous "river adventures" for kayaking and rafting.
Unlike the tightly-packed masses seen at Spring Break in Cancun or Florida, you'll find a much more relaxed and intimate feel when you head out for the night in Costa Rica. The atmosphere is much more suited to meeting groups of new people and making new friends than some of the more crowded destinations, and you're guaranteed to find a party that appeals to you, whether it's in Puerto Viejo's tiny reggae clubs or San Jose's classy dance clubs. The beach bar scene is hugely popular with Spring Breakers.
For a tight budget, Puerto Viejo is the perfect place to go - cheap and cheerful music venues, bars, and party hostels make for a great Spring Break on a shoestring. Hardcore clubbers, on the other hand, will prefer the larger crowds and bigger venues of San Jose, and if it's the traditional beach party scene you're after, then go for somewhere like Jaco Beach - a chilled surfer town by day, and wild beach parties by night!
With a diverse and varied climate, Costa Rica is actually made up of several different weather zones - but generally speaking, it's known as a tropical country. There's sunshine throughout the year, and no real winter, and the average annual temperatures are around 80 degrees.
The dress code in Costa Rica is mostly casual. If you're there for Spring Break, you'll probably be able to get away with nothing more elaborate than shorts and a t-shirt during the day. Just check the dress code of individual restaurants and nightclubs before heading out in the evening.
A round-trip ticket and valid passport are required for entry into Costa Rica, and the expiry date of the passport must not be within thirty days after arrival. You should also ensure that your passport is not damaged in any way, as you may be refused entry if it is not in good condition.
Spanish is Costa Rica's main language, but English is spoken widely in tourist areas. You may also hear another language being spoken, which is Limonese Creole, spoken in the Limon Province on the Caribbean coast. However, if you're going to a popular Spring Break destination in Costa Rica, you should have no trouble getting by with only English.
There are at least two daily bus services from San Jose to most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica. Tickets are cheap, and provide access to most towns around the country if you want to get out and about and explore new places during your stay.
Also popular is the option of renting a chopper or bike, which makes for a fun way of getting around.
And taxis, too, are a valid transport option - inexpensive as long as you make sure that the driver switches on the meter when you get in!
The currency of Costa Rica is the Colon. Money exchange is possible at most banks, but you are advised to do this at the state banks (like Banco Nacional), which offer lower rates. Note that the money exchange service at the airport is unnecessarily expensive!
You'll find ATMs readily available, dispensing both Colones and US Dollars. While some places will require you to pay in the national currency, US Dollars are widely accepted in tourist destinations - in fact, the price is very often given in both currencies. It may, however, be slightly cheaper if you pay in Colones.
The same as in the U.S.A. and Canada: 110 Volts, 60 cycles, A.C.
A 10% service charge is normally added to the check in restaurants, and an extra tip is not expected. The locals don't tip, so it's perfectly OK not to, but feel free to leave something extra for good service if you prefer - it will certainly be appreciated, just not expected.
You should, however, remember to tip bellboys, maids, drivers and tour guides. Nothing extravagant - a few dollars is plenty, and you'll always receive better service for it!
The time zone in Costa Rica is UTC-6.
Dining and Drinking
Eating and drinking in Costa Rica is inexpensive - for example, a beer at a bar can often be purchased for less than 2 USD, and it's pretty common for many of the clubs to offer some kind of free shot throughout the week, with most drinks costing much less than in the US.
The national drink of Costa Rica is "guaro", made from fermented sugar cane, and fairly similar to vodka. Locals usually take it with lemon and water. Beer is also a popular drink, with around eight national beers as well as a large selection of international brands.
As for the food, think flavorful, simple, and hearty. A typical lunch might be Casado - rice and beans with chicken, meat, or fish, and served with fried plantain and salad. If you see the words "Plato del dia", that means "dish of the day", and it will quite often be Casado. It's likely to ony set you back around 3 USD, including a non-alcoholic drink.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are readily available, and vegetarians can eat quite easily in Costa Rica.
About the Water
If you're staying at a major hotel or resort, you'll probably be safe enough if you drink the tap water there. However, many people do prefer to stick to bottled water, just to be on the safe side. You'll find it readily available if you don't want to risk the tap water!