I finally had time to write this post up. How I spent my 5 Days in Costa Rica.
What a wonderful trip, minus the damn rain.
During the Victoria Day Long Weekend 2022, my parents and I traveled to the beautiful country of Costa Rica. I always wanted to visit because I actually had never met any fellow traveler who DIDN’T absolutely love it there. Had to find out for myself.
Now, I got VERY lucky with the cost of this trip, which you can read about here.
Food, nature and kindness – I assure you that Costa Rica didn’t disappoint.
Thursday, May 19th
On this day our flight wasn’t leaving Pearson until 515pm.
We had booked the trip with Avianca Airlines and I have to say I was a little apprehensive as my coworker, who is Costa Rican, had mentioned they aren’t too reliable.
The days leading up to the trip I had a shitty experience with trying to book seats with them and between their app and calling, still didn’t manage to pick the seats I wanted for my parents and I. Thank goodness, that ended up being the only issue with the airline. The remainder of the experience was fantastic.
From the gentleman who checked us in at Pearson letting us pick whatever seats we wanted when we arrived, to being fed on both the 5hr flight AND the 1hr flight, the leg room on the planes and also the punctuality of all the flights – Avianca? Great. Absolutely no complaints.
We were also fortunate that when we arrived at Pearson between checking in and getting to our gate it only took 40 minutes. I’m sure you had all seen the photos and videos of the mess that airport has been recently.
As our flight was at 515pm, we arrived at 230ish just to be on the safe side – and ended up waiting 90 minutes at our gate to get on the plane since our process went so quickly.
The flight from Toronto to San Salvador was great. This was my first time transiting through SAL and I have to tell you, Pearson Airport should really be ashamed of itself. During PEAK hours I swear Pearson has like four restaurants to choose from and heaven forbid you have a red-eye flight? Not even Timmie’s is open, you just have to starve.
At SAL airport though? There must have been no less than 15 restaurants of all kinds. Local foods and also international restaurants like Burger King and Pizza Hut. Yeah, feel shame Pearson, feel shame.
The layover in San Salvador was quick and then we hopped onto the flight to San Jose, our final destination. Everything went very smooth, going through customs there was straightforward and no proof of negative test was required.
We landed in San Jose around 1130pm so by the time we needed to catch a ride to our AirBnB it would have been about midnight.
I had read that Uber was kind of illegal or troublesome to come get people at the airport, but I checked just in case. 27 minute wait. No thanks. So we grabbed one of the national taxis (you can tell who they are as the whole car is red).
This ride was, something. This car was so old, the smell of the fuel was so pungent that I had a headache in the first 3 minutes of being in the car. Furthermore, the cost of the taxi was 35,000.00 Costa Rican Colons – this is about $64.00 Canadian. I didn’t think much of the cost because we all know there’s always a higher cost to catch airport rides and also it was midnight. I watched the meter the entire time we were in the car as well and man, that shit moved QUICK.
Do not take the damn taxis in San Jose okay? Stick to using Uber.
I know I’m jumping way ahead of this blog post but you see how the ride in the taxi from airport to our AirBnB was 35,000.00? The day we took the Uber back to the airport to fly home (at 330am) the total cost on the app was 4,980.00 Colons, which is $9.17 Canadian. So, 1/6th of the price to the taxi. Yeah. Insane.
We arrived at our AirBnB at a decent time and man, this place has some serious security. Upon arriving we had to all give our passports to the guy at the gate to check us in and our driver had to show his government ID just to drive us in.
As we got to the concierge desk they were the ones to give us keys to the condo.
Here are photos of our AirBnB during the time we were in San Jose, if you want to book it yourself, the link is here.
The photos are of the outside of the building as well as the outdoor pool they have, with a gym on the floor above the pool. There was two full bathrooms, two bedrooms and a walk in closet in the master bedroom (which my parents took). My room was neat too though because it seemed to be a great space for anyone who wanted to work remotely, with a chair, desk and computer in the corner of it.
Also, both bedrooms and the living room had televisions and there was a small balcony to stand on and see all of San Jose. Unfortunately, 99% of the time we were in San Jose it was pouring rain, so I’m sure the rest of the time the view is beautiful.
Time for sleep though.
Friday, May 20th
After a nice long sleep, we were able to wake up on San Jose time. I’m usually unphased by time differences but these two hours that San Jose was behind were fucking me up BAD. I kept waking up and doing things on Toronto time for the entire trip. Super fail.
Of course, it was still pouring rain when we woke up in the morning. The tropical and sunshiny getaway we thought Costa Rica would be wasn’t happening for us yet. One great thing was that just up the ramp from our condo building was a small supermarket so we were able to go up there and get some necessities to have in the kitchen.
We hung out a bit more around the AirBnB to get some rest because if it’s one thing we all needed, it was rest. I know I am someone who is always go go go on vacation so it was nice to kind of do a whole bunch of nothing for a bit.
As the afternoon came I got hungry and also wanted to see some of San Jose so my mom and I hopped in an Uber to the Mercado Central (Central Market).
Downtown in this city is really cool with a lot going on. Unfortunately because of the damn rain, I don’t think we got the full experience of it.
First we wandered the streets and went in and out of random stores to 1) get out of the rain temporarily and 2) do some shopping.
I have to say, the central market was my favourite part of downtown. Easy to get lost amongst all the trinkets, souvenirs, restaurants, fresh meats/seafoods/vegetables and also the very loud roosters for sale. We actually couldn’t remember even which door we used to enter the market so getting out was interesting.
After being in a maze for a bit, we had to go get some actual food to eat. I had been eyeing a place I read about online called Gente di Mare. On a normal, sunny day, we probably would have walked the distance to this restaurant but not today. The rain made everything more difficult and that is exactly why Uber was so useful here.
We didn’t have to wait long for the Uber and I swear for all of the Ubers we took within the central core of San Jose, not a single one came to over $5.00 -$7.00 Canadian. Awesome.
Now, this restaurant was so damn cute. The service was so damn good. Oh, the food? SO DAMN DELICIOUS.
First off, they start you with this vegetable soup that we enjoyed so much that we ended up ordering it on Uber Eats the last night we were in San Jose, before flying home. That good, and I’m not even that much of a soup person.
Then my mom got the seafood pasta and I got these huge shrimp with fries, and I ordered some fish tacos because usually fish tacos are something like an app right? Wrong. Largest fish tacos I’d ever seen in my life. So big that we ended up having to take them home so we could finish them at a later time.
Oh, and of course we finished the meal with some pecan pie with ice cream. Necessary.
We went back to the AirBnB at this point to ….. take a nap. With the pouring rain and a full belly, the only option here was napping. I regret nothing.
So as the night progresses, my parents and I had talked about hitting up a casino at some point so we decided it is a Friday night, let’s do that today.
We chose to go to the Taormina Hotel & Casino, which wasn’t that far in an Uber.
Now I have a funny story for you here, but I can see why it wasn’t funny to my parents at the time. They have only been to the Caribbean/Latin America within the confines of all-inclusives you know? The experience of traveling outside of those confines can be very different, as I have learned in my personal travels. I don’t scare easily because I am just so accustomed to seeing certain things.
Don’t we pull up to this casino and as we are getting out of the Uber, like 10 military dudes are walking into the casino at the same time as us! I mean, full Kevlar-looking gear, balaclavas and AK’s in hand. My parents both looked at me with the same ‘where the fuck are you bring us?‘ look (imagine that sentence, full Bosnian accent). I told them it’s no big deal that they probably were just looking for someone or coming in for a drink, and again, they both looked at me like I must be crazy.
Thankfully, I was right.
They literally entered and exited the casino within four minutes, it was nothing serious.
I think it was only about 8pm when we got to the hotel/casino, but there was a decent amount of people around.
The casino is very small and next to it there was a small bar with the Dallas Mavericks vs Golden State game on, so I knew where I wanted to go. My parents went and played on the slots and I made my way to the bar to drink my Cuba Libre and watch the game.
To say this bar and casino, and overall atmosphere of the hotel was super sketchy would be an understatement. Between the creepy old foreigners and the uncomfortably-aged young women trying to get their attention, there was A LOT going on around me. I will say, I don’t know who the DJ was but shout out to him, all he was playing was dancehall music (Vybz Kartel, yay) and I didn’t see that coming.
For all my years of travel, I had yet to see this many sex workers in one place. I believe by the time I left this bar, aside from the two bartenders, there must have been 20+ ladies in the place looking for clientele for the evening and maybe five men looking to be those clients. Although I support sex workers and I understand why they do the work they do, I will never be accustomed to the old, dirty men there looking at teenagers. There was one girl who my parents and I were 100% sure was nowhere over 16-years-old and that was just totally fucked up. We went home by I think 10pm.
Saturday, May 21st
Today was going to be an awesome day, with hopefully no damn rain.
For our Saturday we had a trip to Jaco Beach planned. As San Jose has no beaches to enjoy, there had to be at least one trip to go swimming in Costa Rica.
So, let me explain this because it totally caught me off guard too. I had been researching how to get from San Jose to Jaco for a while before the trip.
The shuttle? $50USD per person, each way. Takes about 3hrs because of the stops. Therefore the cost for us three would be $300USD total and take super long AND on someone else’s schedule? No.
Renting a car? I read A LOT of reviews, and the prices of the rentals weren’t actually too bad, but $1500USD deposit for a rental for two days. Hell no.
Taxi? LOL. We knew not to try that again because Lord knows what the cost would have been.
We chose to take an Uber from San Jose to Jaco. The cost was about $120.00 Canadian each way and it was a 90 minute ride each way as well. This was another thing I was slightly confused about because the distance was only like 100km between the two places. Why the hell did Google Maps and Uber constantly show that it would take a minimum of 90 minutes and ALL THE WAY TO THREE HOURS to get there?
Found that out. There were three tolls from San Jose to Jaco, oh, and the maximum speed on the highway? 80km an hour, and at some points it even dropped to 40km. It now made sense why it takes so much longer than it should to get to Jaco.
Our Uber driver to Jaco was awesome and all the Ubers we took also were cars that weren’t hella old with the smell of gasoline. So that’s great. We left at about 8am and arrived in Jaco around 930am.
The drive to Jaco is beautiful.
I thought St. Lucia was the greenest country I had seen, but Costa Rica can definitely give it a run for its money. There was also people walking on a bridge to see alligators at some point, I guess some tourist excursion. Overall, beautiful drive and as we got further from San Jose, there was more and more sunshine. Our biggest worry was that we would get to Jaco and still have to deal with the crazy downpours.
When we arrived at our hotel, Selina Jaco, we just dropped our bags and went on to enjoy the property since check in wasn’t until 3pm.
I came prepared with my bathing suit on under my clothes because I knew that I had to get into the Pacific Ocean as quickly as possible.
So, Jaco Beach. Uhm. Okay, I realize I am a bit of a beach snob and people had given me the heads up that this beach wasn’t too great. They were right. I’m definitely a white sand and clear water type of girl and this beach is definitely not that. This was dark-almost-mud-looking-sand and also very dark water and high tides. I can see why there were so many surfers.
Not my favourite. I’ll say that. But I was warned and I knew that I still just wanted to go in for a bit, so I did, like up to my waist and then came back out. Bring water shoes ok? Smart idea.
My parents and I mostly hung around the pool and the bar/restaurant at Selina. The super cool thing was having everything accessible on the property and all the guests also got a wristband to use for purchasing food and drinks. The items would be billed directly to your room and you’d pay when you check out. I loved this concept because carrying around cash while you have just a bathing suit on is complicated.
We had a delicious breakfast to start the day at Selina, and there was a guy doing balancing tricks on some elastic band above it for entertainment.
As the day went on, we really just relaxed and had a couple drinks by the pool. I had to start hiding under shade because it was 28 degrees outside and very sunny in Jaco. Not a complaint. I am just scary pale and my skin can’t handle too much of that.
3pm was time for check in and I went to get our room keys, only to find out there are no room keys. All the rooms had codes to get in and out. We got the family room which consisted of a big bed, bunk bed and a bathroom.
I thought this room was perfect as we were only there for one night. Plenty of towels and a good shower.
The majority of the people we had met at Selina were staying there way longer in the shared rooms (hostel-style) or in these super cool individual pods. There was tons of activities to do and also co-working spaces. This was for those people working remotely who wanted to be by the beach. I saw folks with their laptops by the pool and by the beach numerous times while there and I think that’s awesome. What a wonderful place to work away from home.
We met a bunch of (specifically women) who had told us they came to Costa Rica for a week and now had been here for months, one even said it had been three years. So awesome. Good for them. They got there and loved it so much they chose to stay. The vibe of this hotel was really relaxed and chill. The ‘pura vida‘ concept for Costa Rica was on full display here.
Because I like eating, it was time to get some more food at sunset at the Selina restaurant. Now, they had this MASSIVE Covina fish available and I destroyed that thing. It was so good and fresh. Also, I noticed a lot of Costa Rican dishes included yucca on the side and that it something I enjoy eating and made me happy.
You must experience the sunset here at the bar/pool/beach. It is so beautiful and relaxing.
Because it gets very dark here so early and it wasn’t like I was going to go out clubbing, I think we went to sleep pretty early this night after dinner.
Sunday, May 22nd
I swear my mom and dad were up at 6am to go have espresso by the pool this day. I woke up and was a lazy bum for a bit.
My mom had messaged me and told me to come by the pool because it was a really nice and sunny morning. I figured I’d get up since we’d be leaving for ugly rain and gray skies back in San Jose soon.
It truly was a beautiful morning. The calm and sunshine of the morning and of course, breakfast.
Two awesome things that happened before we left the hotel were that we met this nice American girl named Mary and I swear my mom and I talked to her for an hour about a variety of things. Shout out to her because she had told us about the volunteer work she had done with the refugees in Greece and as refugees ourselves, that really touched us.
Also, big hello to Paige. As we were walking back to our room after talking to Mary, a young lady stood up and said ‘are you the Impatient Tourist?‘ and I said HECK YEAH. So there was another fun Toronto person at the hotel at the same time as me. What a coincidence. Love it.
We hung out until check out at 11am and then caught an Uber back to San Jose. We figured that Jaco is probably a popular weekend destination for those who live elsewhere and that maybe later in the day the traffic would be crazy, so we got outta there.
The drive back was fine, about the same as the drive to Jaco. Nice views and oddly slow maximums on the highway.
Probably at around 1pm we were back in our AirBnB in San Jose. To do what? You guessed it, be lazy bums. We just hung out and did a whole bunch of nothing at home, as it poured rain outside. Stupid rain such a bummer man.
Luckily, we had something to still look forward to this evening as I had made reservations at a place called Mirador Tiquicia. If you enjoy gorgeous views and massive portions of food, you should make your way here.
The views here were amazing, as was the Uber ride TO the destination because we kept going higher and higher. During the meal we also met the owner who gave us some history on the name of the restaurant and also let us know the Canadian ambassador lived nearby.
The food I think was good, but make sure you come hungry because all of our portions were gigantic. I also finished my meal with a tres leches cake because, duh, it is tres leches cake.
I feel like this is a popular date destination for couples since there were so many places to take photos and selfies, especially with the big light up hearts outside. Very romantical.
Monday, May 23rd
There was zero plans for today. We were just going to wing it.
Woke up, had some snacks that we had bought from the corner store. Watched some Netflix, it was still raining outside.
I think mid-afternoon my mom and I decided to go check out a mall we had seen with Zara and Forever 21 in it. I checked Google and it was the Multiplaza Curridabat. We bought nothing.
The prices here for clothes were higher than the price of clothing in Canada. Even with the exchange rate. No way. Whoever shops here is definitely a bit more fancy pants than me. The mall was pretty empty for a Monday afternoon, that’s fine. Also, I got a giggle out of the security riding around on that Paul Blart standing wheel thingy.
I will say some of the clothing stores they had there were really nice and the bright colours for summer were beautiful. Not so sure they really catered to humans of my size as I didn’t see anything past a size 12 in any of the stores we went into. So fellow fatties/tallies, this isn’t for us.
Because I can’t go anywhere without eating something, we made our way to the food court to get some lunch.
This is where I will mention that outside Panama City, I have never seen such an Americanized food selection outside of America/Canada before, as I did in San Jose. I must have seen no less than 20 McDonalds, 20 KFC’s, Subways, tons of Taco Bell and Pizza Huts etc. There were SOOOO many. I even saw a Walmart and an Ashley’s Furniture at one point. I imagine MANY expats must live here to cater to their appetites for food and shopping.
In this food court we chose to go for the non-American option and try a place called Ta’Bueno. I loved my plate. Yucca, beans, rice and some spicy chicken. This plate was yummy and filling. My kind of eating.
After eating we also had to go splurge on some gelato. I have to tell you that came through as well because they had Nutella flavoured ones. I looooove Nutella.
Before we left the mall we wanted to take something back to the AirBnB for my dad to eat. We saw a Pizza Hut and thought a pizza to go would suffice.
What the fuck? FIFTEEN AMERICAN DOLLARS for a medium pepperoni pizza.
Let me get out of this mall as quickly as humanly possible. That’s crazy.
We got back to the AirBnB and packed up our things. Our flight to San Salvador was departing at 525am the next morning.
Tuesday, May 24th
Early early morning.
We caught our ($9.00) Uber to the airport at 330am.
Everything at SJO airport went smoothly. We got on our Avianca flight to San Salvador for another layover. Again, unlike Pearson, EVERYTHING at San Salvador airport was already open and bustling. So many restaurants, waffle places and bars to hang out at.
Only thing I should mention is do not buy water or any beverages at the airport to bring onto the flight back to Toronto here. Any liquids in your checked luggage from San Jose are fine but I usually buy a bottle of water to bring on a plane with me, nope. There is a secondary bag check at the gate for the flight to Toronto, no liquids over 100ml like all carry ons. Do not waste your money, you will have to pour it out.
We landed on time back in Toronto and again, luck struck, between landing, deplaning, going through customs and getting outside it was maybe 20-25 minutes! We landed at 3pm and I was home in downtown Toronto by 415pm. Awesome.
What’s crazy about that is the next day I had seen someone’s TikTok made it to the news, she had landed 90 minutes after us on the same day and was on tarmac for 90 min and another 90 min to get through customs and collect bag. Very thankful that was not our experience.
Should you visit Costa Rica? 100000%
Should you be in San Jose more than arrival day/departure day? Probably not.
I think if I had done this differently I would have spent more time on the coasts of Costa Rica. (Yes with the not my fave beach and all) We really liked the vibe there more than San Jose. I think if I ever return I’ll try to be up by the Liberia area or over by Limon. Heck, I’d even head back to that same hotel in Jaco because I just really liked hanging out there. My alternative to 5 Days in Costa Rica would be spending 4/5 days NOT in San Jose you know?
Hope you enjoyed the post, and totally go experience pura vida in Costa Rica. It is a wonderful country with wonderful food and super duper nice locals.