What you should Know?
What to Bring
- Two of the most important things to bring to Costa Rica are a pair of BINOCULARS (7×42 recommended) and a field guide (we recommend Birds of Costa Rica). They are a must for getting a closer look at wildlife and are not available for rent in Costa Rica. We highly recommend that you bring one pair of binoculars for each person traveling in your group. That way you will all be able to experience the wildlife that you encounter on your trip.
- Copies of all passports in your group.
- Travel alarm clock.
- Sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Shirts: cotton or light synthetic, long- and short-sleeved.
- Trousers: cotton or light synthetic pants. Bring at least 2 sets of clothes that dry quickly. (Jeans not recommended; too slow to dry.)
- Hiking shorts.
- Footwear: waterproof, light-weight hiking boots, river sandals (Teva-type sandals), tennis shoes/running shoes. If you do not bring hiking boots, make sure you bring TWO pairs of tennis shoes. As soon as one pair gets wet, use that pair whenever you’re likely to get your feet wet. Go to any length to keep the other pair dry!
- If you are traveling to Tortuguero during turtle nesting season (June- Sept.) bring dark pants and shirt, and closed-toe shoes.
- Socks: bring extra pairs in case feet get wet.
- Rain gear: poncho, raincoat and umbrella.
- Hat(s) with visor for rain and sun protection.
- Plastic water bottle: especially for hikes.
- Flashlight with spare batteries and bulb (a MUST for Corcovado).
- Camera and plenty of film. Also, extra batteries/battery charger and plenty of memory for a digital.
- Ziplock plastic bags for spillable toiletries, and plastic garbage bags for wet items.
- Extra prescription glasses and medication (if applicable).
- Small day pack or fanny pack for hikes.
- Sweater or jacket (a must for Savegre Mountain Lodge).
- Collapsible luggage to store extra items in San José.
If you are traveling with kids please visit tab: What to Bring Kids.
What to Bring Kids
- A good, age-appropriate book: could be anything from a coloring book to a novel.
- A couple of games to play: something to entertain kids on long van drives.
- A scrapbook or journal where kids can make note of sightings of special animals, plants or people. Nature books or field guides that explain what they are experiencing can be helpful for older children.*
- Crayons, magic markers, pens and pencils.
- Don’t forget the important teddy bear, pillow or blanket to insure restful sleep.
- While we have a lot of great snacks in Costa Rica, sometimes it’s a good idea to bring a couple packages of the child’s favorite snack so that you can surprise him/her with it.
- Rubber boots and a light rain jacket
- Nail clippers, tweezers, cotton swabs, moist wipes for quick clean-ups.
- Small first aid kit with things for cuts, bruises and bug bites.
- Eye drops and ear drops.
- A camera and film (or disposable camera) so kids can take their own pictures.
- Sunscreen, insect repellent and solarcaine.
- Plenty of cotton t-shirts.
- Trousers: cotton or light synthetic (jeans are not recommended because they take too long to dry).
- Hiking shorts.
- Footwear: waterproof, light-weight hiking boots, river sandals (Teva-type sandals), tennis shoes. If you do not bring hiking boots for the kids, make sure to bring two pairs of tennis shoes. One pair will stay dry and the other pair will get muddy and wet.
- Two pairs of socks per day.
- Flashlight and extra batteries.
- Small daypack or fanny pack for hikes and collecting stuff.
- Sweater or jacket (very important).
- Swimwear and inflatable water wings, if used.
- Comfy PJ’s.
- Favorite hat or sun protection.
- Extra prescription glasses and medication (if applicable).* These are difficult to find in English in Costa Rica and we suggest you acquire them before you leave. Here are two recommendations we can offer for active-learning companion books for the tropics:
The Remarkable Rainforest, by Tony Albert (grades 4-8). Trickle Creek Books. ISBN#0-9640742-0-6.
For teens and precocious readers: The Most Beautiful Roof in the World, by Kathryn Laskey. A Gulliver Green Book. ISBN# 0-15-200897-7.
Advice on How to Get the Most out of Your Trip
Common sense advice on how to enjoy and get the most out of your experience in Costa Rica.
You probably have some expectations as to how this trip will be. You may have seen documentaries or read books or articles on the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. Often these movies and/or photographs have been taken over a long period of time. Sometimes it may have been years before the ideal situation presented itself. You also may expect Costa Rica to be more like your own country then it really is. We suggest you leave all your expectations at home and accept Costa Rica and its sites for what they are and not for what you expect them to be. If this is your attitude right from the start, we are sure that Costa Rica will, in the long run, live up to what you originally envisioned and even go far beyond. Slow Down, Learn and Enjoy.
Part of the fun and, at times, the difficulty of traveling to new regions of the world is trying to adapt to the various environments and situations (hotels, food, transportation, climate, etc.). It is not always easy, especially at first, but look at it as a positive, interesting and exciting experience. Also, try to understand and witness how the people of Costa Rica-not only animals and plants-have adapted to their own environments. Slow Down, Learn, and Enjoy.
3. THE TICO SYSTEM
The pace of life in Costa Rica is quite different from what you are accustomed to; it’s slower. We inherited it partly from our ex-mother country, Spain-and made it worse. You can fight it. “This is not the way things should be done!” But, if you try to fight the system, you might as well go home. Try to understand, enjoy and make the most of the “tranquilo” pace. We will do our best to make things run for you more efficiently than they generally do here. On the other hand, even if we could achieve for you an industrialized world pace, you would lose an important part of the experience of being in Costa Rica. Be that as it may, if we cannot make things happen more rapidly, you certainly can’t. Slow Down, Learn, and Enjoy.
4. TENTATIVE ITINERARY
You are on a tentative itinerary. We are all at the mercy of Mother Nature and varying weather conditions that affect roads, flights, rivers, etc.-not to mention the human factor. Be patient and calm. Slow Down, Learn, and Enjoy.
Part of the fun of traveling is to try to communicate with the local people. Whatever Spanish you know, use it. In any case, SMILE, because smiles are a major means of communicating everywhere in the world.
6. SAFETY — YOURS
IN THE COUNTRY:
Many of you will be traveling to remote wilderness areas. Here are a few words to the wise: More people have changed their vacation plans because of sunburn than any other accident. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are much more direct and stronger in Costa Rica because it is only 10 degrees north of the equator. Many sites you may visit are at high altitudes which means you’ll burn even more. You may not feel your being burned until it’s too late. You can also be burned in overcast conditions. Please use sun block minimum protection 15 and/or wear a hat with a wide brim. Some people prefer long sleeves and long pants. They both work. If you’re a person who doesn’t burn in the temperate zone and want to know what a sunburn feels like, don’t follow this advice. Sunglasses are also recommended.
Although very few tourists have been bitten by poisonous snakes in Costa Rica, they do exist in the areas to which you will be traveling. Without becoming paranoid, a few precautions are advisable. Consider all snake poisonous unless your guide tells you otherwise. Small snakes can be just as deadly as big snakes.
WATCH WHERE YOU WALK. Rather than step over onto the blind side of a log or rock that is obstructing the trail, step on top of it and look before you step down. The soil and leaf litter on the forest floor is generally a random pattern. Many (not all) of the poisonous snakes have a coloration that blends into this pattern.
They are, however, usually coiled before they strike. In the back of your mind connect round with danger. If you even have an inkling that there is something round on the forest floor near where you are walking, STOP AND STEP BACK.
While a snake bite is not a common accident, falling down is. Slipping and falling while walking the steep slippery edge of a trail trying to avoid a puddle. (Sometimes they are more like lakes.), is a particularly common accident. In tropical rain and cloud forests sooner or later you’ll probably get your feet wet. To avoid the suspense-and perhaps a nasty fall, our recommendation is to walk through the first puddle you see.
In general, much of what is interesting in the tropical forest is up in the trees, and much of what is dangerous is on the ground. Therefore, for your safety it is important that you remember these two simple rules:
When you’re looking up, don’t move your FEET.
When you’re moving your feet, LOOK DOWN.
Getting on and off buses and vans is for some reason a lot more dangerous than one would think.
Watch Your Head!:If you observe carefully, you will notice that very few natives spend extended periods of time standing under coconut palms.
IN THE CITY:
Statistically you are safer in San José than in most other capitals in the world.
On the other hand, crime has risen in San José, and, worldwide, tourists are better victims for theft than local citizens. Tourists are often distracted and,. even if the thief is caught, tourists are usually not around to testify at a trail. Getting in and out of a bus, or entering or leaving hotels, are particularly vulnerable times.
If you are going to spend your whole trip being paranoid about theft, you may as well stay home. But do take a few simple precautions:
Be aware of the people around you. Avoid flashy jewelry. Wear your day pack on your chest rather than on your back. Hold firmly onto your purse. Keep money in front rather than back pockets and do not flash around large amounts. Feel free to wander around San Jose. If you find yourself wandering in a neighborhood that seems a lot worse than the last neighborhood you walked in, WANDER BACK. Local custom is that cars do not yield to pedestrians.
ON THE ROAD IN A RENTED CAR:
Local custom is that cars usually do not yield for other cars. Drive defensively. Rental cars can be identified by their license plates. To thieves this indicates there are probably valuables in the trunk. A suitcase full of clothes might not be considered worth stealing in most developed countries. It is in Costa Rica. Park where you can keep an eye on it. If you are going to leave, look for someone who will take care of it for you.
7. SAFETY — THE PLANET’S
“I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one”
–Edna St. Vincent Millary
It is our strong belief that environmental codes of ethics for travelers are either too general to be useful or too specific to always be appropriate and applicable in what is often a dynamic and changing situation. For this reason, you will not get a list of do`s and don`ts from us. Recently we have been bombarded by a virtual plague of queries, surveys, questionnaires, etc., in which one of the major themes has been whether we are supplying you with an environmental code of ethics. Given this situation, we`ll say this much: Please make every effort to have a minimal negative impact on the natural resources both during your stay in Costa Rica and when you return home. If you have any questions about specific behavior, please ask. Thank you.
8. COMPLAINTS / PROBLEMS
If you have any complaints during this trip, any problems with your hotel room or anything else, please let the appropriate people know about it immediately, not at the end of the trip when it is too late. Our office hours are 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week.
Try not to interrupt the people in what they are doing. Simply focus, snap and move on, trying to be as unnoticed as possible. When we visit a village, home or group of people on the road, we strongly recommend that you interact first, with the guide’s help (if there is one), and then see whether a picture is appropriate. Normally, people don’t mind, but you cannot generalize.
10. SENSE OF VALUES
It is better not to compare our country with yours directly on an item by item basis. Our economic, social and political characteristics are intimately related to our culture and heritage. Per-capita income, minimum wages, political parties, social structures are somewhat abstract concepts which, if treated independently of other societies, are better understood. There are many factors in each of our systems which might well be beneficially adopted by the other. One of the justifications for travel is the cultural heritage exchange which eventually may lead to this kind of adoption. To each his own. In the meantime: Slow Down, Learn and Enjoy.