A few years ago I was chatting online with a friend from Argentina and she told me that one of her biggest dreams is to visit a beach in the Caribbean. I replied that despite the fact that the Caribbean is less than a four-hour drive from my house in Costa Rica, I hadn’t been to that part of the country in the last 10 years or so. I didn’t have a car and I explained to her that I was short of time and money– the usual excuses to stay in your town. Of course, she wasn’t impressed with my answer and encouraged me to go on her behalf and share pictures with her.
My friend helped me realize that I was wasting a wonderful opportunity to enjoy all these world-class natural sites practically next door, and I began to look for options to visit the Caribbean online. I found several small tour operators offering one-day trips to several places throughout Costa Rica, including the Caribbean Coast, at very affordable prices.
These tours included transportation, meals and the entrance fee (if required) and allow you to be back home by the end of the day. Finally, I had no excuses to stop me from exploring Costa Rica and fulfill my promise to her.
Popular with Costa Ricans
One-day tours have become really popular with Costa Ricans, especially those that enjoy sharing their experiences on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook. When you take one of these trips you will find yourself sharing the experience with people from different backgrounds, from families to young couples and even lone travelers.
The improvement and expansion of the road network along with a growing desire to escape the stress and noise of the city motivate many locals to visit the jungles, beaches, and waterfalls that not so many years ago were reserved for international tourists. If you move to Costa Rica for business, to start a family or just retire, these tours are a great opportunity to leave the city and enjoy the country.
Benefits of booking Tours
Save money. Hotel rooms can be expensive, however, in a small country like Costa Rica, you can go to the beach or explore a national park and sleep in your own bed by the end of the day. This is a great option if you are on a tight budget and just don’t want to waste money on expensive luxuries.
Save time. If you are in Costa Rica for business or if you have a very demanding job, you can still enjoy the country by saving a day or two per month to leave the city. It´s a real shame to come to this country and only see the concrete jungle when there are so many breathtaking natural places around. Even if many of these places deserve more time to be fully enjoyed, at least you can get a taste of what they are like and consider returning in future visits.
Mingle with locals. Many people when they move to a different country create a bubble or safe space that stops them from really interacting with the local culture and people. Usually, the language barrier is the primary reason to avoid interacting with locals. Of course, you can book tours with English-speaking guides and surround yourself with the usual tourist crowd.
However, if you really want to experience Costa Rica, I believe that these tours give you a unique opportunity to meet Costa Ricans and make friends, practice your Spanish, and learn about the culture and traditions.
Prepare for Long Days
Although one-day tours are affordable and convenient, they also have some disadvantages that you need to take into consideration:
They Can Be Tiring
Most of these tours start very early, often before sunrise. Then you have to spend a few hours in a bus or van, so you only have a limited time to enjoy the destination before you are on your way back to San Jose. The experience can tire some travelers that prefer a more relaxed and slow-paced trip. Also consider other inconveniences such as traffic jams, poor weather, and crowded transportation.
The Language Barrier
If your Spanish is very limited or you don’t feel comfortable around non-English speakers, I would suggest seeking tours that offer bilingual guides. They are usually more expensive than the ones used by locals, but at least you can be sure that you are able to understand the instructions and recommendations provided by the guides and avoid misunderstandings and unpleasant experiences.
Due to the popularity of these tours, many unregistered operators began offering their services in social networks such as Facebook. These can lead to scams and even life-threatening situations. Before you book any of these tours, be sure to confirm that the tour operator is registered with CANATUR (National Tourism Board) or you can ask at one of the Government Tourist Information Offices.
Also always inquire about their insurance coverage and be sure that the guide is well prepared to handle emergencies. It’s known that many of these illegal operators have been trespassing private property or even leading people into dangerous places such as canyons and unexplored jungles without the proper knowledge or equipment.
Despite the fact that you can save money on hotels and food, beware that all tour operators charge more to foreign customers. One of the reasons behind this is the fact that most destinations, especially national parks, charge a higher entrance fee to foreign visitors.
It’s always a good idea to compare different operators before you book in order to get the best price. Also, check the opinions of previous customers to be sure that you will get a fair price for an excellent service.
A Great Place to Start
If you want to explore Costa Rica like a local, these tours are a great option to start. Despite its small size, Costa Rica has countless places to enjoy a rich and diverse set of natural wonders, and each year more hidden gems are revealed thanks to the widespread use of social media.
From hundreds of amazing waterfalls to picture-perfect beaches, if you live in this land, give yourself the privilege to enjoy it. Don’t let the excuses and the routine kill your adventurous spirit.
Are you currently living in Costa Rica or thinking of moving here? Let us know what are some of your favorite places to tour.
by: Juan Pablo Sáenz