It doesn't take St. Patrick's Day for us to feel lucky. We've had a ton of fun here in Costa Rica and will find it difficult to leave when the time comes.
Our guest room has been occupied most of the last two weeks. My sister was here for 10 days and, when she checked out, dear friends from home visited for four days. We had a list of activities planned for these visits. Looking back now, it's like we crammed an action-packed 2-week vacation into the middle of our 2 -month stay.
This was a package deal: 14 platforms, 13 zips, approximately 1 and 1/2 exhilierating hours of fun, followed by an unlimited time to soak in Las Lagos Hot Spring pools. (US $50.00 per person.) Reservations were required but, contrary to what I read on most web sites, we had no trouble at all getting into the time slots we wanted, booking only a couple days in advance.
David Vargas at Infinity Adventures in La Fortuna was most helpful in suggesting and arranging our reservations here as well as at Mistico. And no deposit or credit card was requested. Perhaps tourism is down or it may be because we had spent about an hour in person with David on a previous trip to La Fortuna. He speaks excellent English, showed us videos and answered questions about many area attractions, even ones he doesn't represent. We never felt as if he was trying to sell us anything, and there's no charge for his services. Reach him at 506-2479-9835.
Our next visitors arrived by rental car so we took advantage of the opportunity to go to new places. We hiked at viento Fresco ($15.00 per person entry) and, the next day, toured the far side of Lake Arenal - a scenic drive with several leisurely stops.
There's a local joke: "In Costa Rica you can expect variety at every meal: beans and rice for breakfast, rice and beans for lunch, and pinto gallo for dinner." The typical local fare is, indeed, repetitive and we've had a few restaurant meals that are "so-so" but we've also had some absolutely wonderful food. And at very reasonable prices! Brisas del Lago in San Luis is a good example. Their most expensive dinner entre is 6000 colones (US $12.00) - filet mignon (cooked perfectly). Every dish we've tried is excellent, you can bring your own beer or wine for which they provide lovely stemware, the service is first-class, and it's only steps from our house.
We can hardly afford NOT to eat out! Grocery store food is more expensive than in North America, but eating out is far cheaper. There must be an explanation for this. As far as we can figure, it’s the same reason all services (gardeners, housekeepers, mechanics, landscapers, general repairs, manicures, massages, hairdressers, etc) are much cheaper in Costa Rica. Labor is cheap and taxes are low.
Before we arrived we had read the recommendations that travelers on a budget should seek out the local "sodas" for a cheap meal. Indeed these small mom and pop restaurants can be found everywhere. However, many restaurants now seem to bill themselves as a soda (perhaps because of tourists being told to seek those out). The food may be mediocre and prices not much lower than at the better restaurants in the area. Of course, in tourist-oriented areas like La Fortuna, you'll pay a lot more (tourist prices) unless you're prepared to shop around. We ate at Snappers in La Fortuna: good food, reasonable prices.
One final cost-saving tip: restaurants near a church or school (like Brisas del Lago) are not permitted to sell alcohol and most often they'll let you bring your own.
Expenses to date: (for the two of us and converted to US dollars):
Posted on day 52 of our 62-day trip. (Jan 27 to Mar 28, 2016)
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