Frequently Asked Questions
Get Answers To Your Costa Rica Questions
We’ve created an entire page dedicated to this question. Click here to see our suggested packing list for normal vacations as well as adventure trips and kayak trips with our team.
We create trip plans and itineraries for people all day long. We do request a fee of $72 which is later applied to your vacation. Once you decide to have us book the trip for you, we do require a deposit to hold your reservation and then require full payment no later than 45 days before your trip so we can pay the hotels and tour operators.
Our rates will typically be the same and sometimes better than if you booked directly through the hotels and tour companies as well as many of the large online travel sites. It is often times better than large online travel sites.
Our team actually sends both emails and makes phone calls to our local hotel contacts to finalize hotel reservations for our guests. We’ll have confirmation directly from the hotels and tour operators to place in your itinerary.
Having this direct confirmation is a BIG deal! Just ask anyone who has had a nightmare situation with booking through an online “discount” travel website… ie. showing up at a hotel with a printout that isn’t recognized or accepted by the hotel because the hotel didn’t get the reservation and didn’t have rooms available.
Cell service is consistent and available nearly everywhere in Costa Rica. If you plan to make phone calls, you will want to add international service with your cell provider. International data plans can be pretty expensive, but the WIFI at most hotels, restaurants and airports are free so you may not even need to use data while you are visiting Costa Rica.
Many of our guests just switch their phone to Airplane mode for the entire week once they land in Costa Rica and they’ll even use WIFI to make calls via skype or FaceTime, get emails, etc. The WIFI really is good enough that you probably won’t ever need to worry about your phone plan.
Remember, you’re on vacation and unplugging from your phone for part of the day is actually a really great thing to experience. 🙂
Central America can be an interesting place when it comes to this question. If you look at the US State Department’s travel advisory website you will likely see that Costa Rica is rated with a travel advisory level of 1, with the label of “Exercise Normal Precautions”. This is the same travel rating assigned to Canada by the US State Department. This is the “best” rating you will find for traveling outside the United States. In comparison, the United Kingdom in 2018 was listed as a level 2 “Exercise increased Caution” with the reason being “Increased risk of terrorism.”
There are other countries in Central America with a much different travel advisory that you should be careful in if visiting. Unfortunately, people sometimes think all Central American countries are the same, and a perception that it might be unsafe continues for those that have never been to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica continues to be one of the safest countries in Central and South America, and while we can’t guarantee that a person will be safe when visiting, if asked about safety, many travelers tell us Costa Rica feels very similar to a visit to a US territory island in the Carribean such as St. Thomas.
Just like all places in the world, including the United States, there are a handful of neighborhoods that have higher crime in some of the bigger cities. Most people aren’t planning trips to see a big city when they come to Costa Rica, so our recommendation to guests is to arrive at the airport and let us have transportation waiting for you so you can get to the beach or jungle, away from the busy city and start enjoying your vacation with the peace and quiet that Costa Rica is known for.
Our Costa Rica team has been doing this for more than 15 years and they love what they do. We’ve intentionally built a team in both the United States and Costa Rica to bring the right set of talents and skill sets to make our guests feel 100% comfortable and also to give them an American perspective on what to expect. We’re happy to trade text messages with you, but we feel like having a live person to talk to on the phone goes a long way to helping build that trust. We love talking about Costa Rica, but if you’d like to find out more about us, we’re happy to share that as well. If you’d like to reach out to our team members, click here.
#1) We know the areas and hotels and have visited and experienced nearly all of the hotels and tour operators that we offer. Think of us as a friend that you know who can give you input and advice on other locations.
#2) For most hotels and activity providers, we will have access to better pricing than you will find online. If you happen to find a better price for a hotel, please let us know and we’ll match that price.
Because of our relationships with quality local hotels and activity providers throughout the country, we are able to talk to the right people to quickly compile an amazing trip, that also includes transportation and experienced drivers and typically includes better rates than you’ll be able to find online on your own. We also have some really cool software that allows us to build a trip plan/itinerary that you can access online and via your phone, even if you don’t have internet. It’s just one more way we’re trying to simplify the travel planning process for you.
We could go on and on about “service” and you’d probably start rolling your eyes… so we won’t do that.
But… When we started the company, and as we traveled, we recognized the quality of the guide was what would make all the difference. From day one, we made the decision to pay our employees and guides more than any other company so that we would be the place where the best guides would want to work. In addition to pay, we’ve tried to create an environment where everyone’s opinions are valued so that we can continue to make our trips better than the last time. We also wanted to create a company that our team could be proud to work at and where they would feel a sense of ownership in everything we do.
By taking care of our team, the result is that our guests also get treated incredibly well.
In addition to having the best guides, many of them have trained multiple times with some of the top whitewater rescue instructors in the world. Some of our guides are even ACA certified. Costa Rica is a favorite place for these instructors to come and they often work with us to schedule swift water rescue courses.
Many of our guides have either trained with or participated with the Costa Rica Olympic Kayak team or Whitewater Rafting International Competition team from Costa Rica. They love teaching people and are very safety conscious. Some of our guides even work in the evenings as Paramedics.
We pay what some local companies think is an outlandish amount for a guide, but from our first day we all agreed that we would pay more than other companies in Costa Rica because we wanted to work only with the best guides who we could also provide with training.
We hope you’ll agree that our team is one of the best you’ve ever worked with anywhere in the world.
The official currency in Costa Rica is the Colón. The ATM’s in Costa Rica give you the option to get Colones (the national currency) and also US Dollars. When you land at the airport, don’t waste your time trying to exchange dollars for Colones. The airport exchange rate is terrible and everyone takes dollar bills in Costa Rica. If you are stopping at a grocery store or small kiosk shop, prices will be in Colones, but all stores take dollars and will typically give you a much more fair exchange for your dollars than you will find at the airport.
You can also use your credit card and nearly all retail, hotel and even small kiosk shops. If you pay someone with dollars at a store, they will give you change in Colones, so you’ll likely have a few “US Dollars” worth of Colones at the end of your trip. The money is actually really cool and makes a great souvenir to share when you come home.
We can’t guarantee anything, but having been on multiple trips to Costa Rica, we haven’t gotten sick from the water. If you ask people if their water is safe to drink, you will likely get a funny look because for the most part, Costa Rica’s infrastructure and water is much more advanced than many other countries in Central and South America. There are a handful of spots that might be questionable that your guides might make you aware of, but bad water is not a problem we have experienced. Many of our clients will have us stop at a grocery store so they can purchase water bottles but we find that most everyone ends up realizing the water at the hotels is cleaner and tastes better than what they drink at home in the US.
We do want to add a note here about plumbing in Costa Rica. Unless you are in a chain hotel, the plumbing is not what you’ve come to expect. So, if you see a small garbage can next to the toilet, that is for your used toilet paper. We love the country, we love the people, and we don’t want to cause them any undue difficulties. I know it’s not what you are used to, but please don’t throw any paper products in the toilet, but use the provided garbage can. Thanks!
Nope. You can plug right into the outlets at your hotels. The plugs often times will allow both US electrical plugs as well as the rounded plugs that you sometimes see in South America. Most of the hotels will even have a power strip so you can plug in multiple devices, ipads, computers, etc.
All of the hotels we work with, except for the jungle camp offer free internet. If you are at the jungle camp, you won’t have electricity, cell service or internet. For the most part we find that we don’t have any issues doing a Facetime or skype call as long as you are within a reasonable distance from a router. You may find that some rooms aren’t close enough to the router from time to time, but chances are pretty good you’ll be able to be chilling in your hotel room and won’t have any trouble using your phone with wifi. We’ve even streamed videos from our ipads from a hammock at some of the hotels. However, when there are 10+ people all trying to do video calls at the same time in a hotel, you might experience some bandwidth issues. You probably won’t get 50+ MB download speeds in a lot of locations, but in general, the internet is pretty good. Many people will actually just switch their phone to Airplane mode for the entire week they are visiting and find that they are able to make free phone calls just fine via Facetime, Skype, Google, etc.
Jungle camp is consistently one of our guests’ favorite parts of the trip. There are three lodges along the Pacuare River in the middle of the rainforest. You’ll typically arrive by raft during a two or three day float trip. One of our favorites is the Pacuare Outdoor Center that requires a short 300-400 yard hike uphill from the river. It includes your own private bungalow that is enclosed with screens so you can see out into the jungle. Each bungalow has beds, a flush toilet and sink and it even has a shower with warm water. There is an amazing common area with a gourmet kitchen, rocking chairs and hammocks that overlook the river from the top of the hill. It’s not a 5 star hotel, but there are very few places in the world that you can sit in a rocking chair and watch the mist from the jungle settle in on the mountains all around you. We do recommend bringing a flashlight with you since the tiki torches and candles around the dinner tables only provide limited light. This is a great compromise for people who want a “camping” experience but still want a bed and hot water. 🙂
The other thing that we love about the Jungle camp is the activities available. They have an amazing Tarzan swing that is almost part bungee jumping part zipline feeling where you jump off the side of a mountain and swing out several hundred yards over the river. The ziplines at jungle camp are incredible and there are lots of other things to see and do here.
Finally, our guides are amazing cooks and you’ll have gourmet meals in the common area surrounded by tiki torches or candles in the evening.
Depending on the activity you are doing, we have a variety of meal options. If we’re traveling, we have several favorite restaurants along the way that we will stop at. If we are somewhere with you that doesn’t have access to a kitchen, such as rafting on the river all day, we’ll stop along the beach, flip over a few of our boats and do our best to create an amazing meal with fresh cut fruits and vegetables from the area. A common lunch is taco, burritos, or sandwiches, with plenty of Costa Rican cookies and desserts. Obviously if we are on a kayak only trip, there will be a limit to what we can carry in our boat, but we’ve never seen anyone go home hungry from one of our trips.
The temperature are rivers in Costa Rica are swimming pool warm. We’re not talking cold weather swimming pool, we’re talking about that perfect pool temperature that you could sit in all day long, but not so warm that it feels like a hot tub. The air temperature in the mountains where we kayak will usually range from 68 as the low at nights with a high of 82-84 degrees during the day. If you are paddling on the Pacific, closer to the ocean, you’ll find that it gets a bit warmer and a bit more humid.
When you are whitewater kayaking in Costa Rica, roughly half the group will normally just paddle in a quick dry t-shirt or long sleeve shirt to protect their arms from the sun. If you are paddling on a rainy day, it can be nice to have a dry top or a semi dry top, preferably a shortie drytop, just to keep your core temperature normal. There really is no need at all for having anything but a swimsuit on below your sprayskirt.
Our recommendation is to bring your drytop, but depending on the temperature when you get to the river, make a game time decision and decide whether or not you really need it. In our experience, most people will wear their drytop during about half of the paddling days and go with a quick dry t-shirt the other days.
The rivers in Costa Rica are always changing. Some of the rivers we paddle can be a bit shallow depending on water levels and others will be amazingly deep channels. You’ll experience a little bit of everything when you come to paddle on rivers with the Amazing Vacations Costa Rica team.
Most of the rivers will have smooth river rocks that have been tumbled over thousands of years. Some people like to paddle with elbow pads but most people don’t use them or need them. It’s up to each individual to decide what they are most comfortable with on the river. It’s definitely possible to hit your elbow on a rock, but probably not any higher likelihood than any other river somewhere else.
The rivers here are always changing and rocks move all the time. If you paddled a year ago on the Pacuare River, it will probably have several new rapids and changed rapids from when you last were here. That’s one of the reasons it is so important to paddle with local guides who know the river well. The safe lines are always changing on the rivers, so we highly encourage anyone planning to kayak or raft in Costa Rica to make sure you are with a team of locals who know the area, current river and different river flows.
There are very few gear shops for kayak gear in Costa Rica. Most will be in and around San Jose, but from where you’ll be paddling, you may be anywhere from 2 to 6 hours from one of these shops. And… Chances are they won’t have what you need to fix a broken helmet anyway. We recommend that everyone come prepared if they think their gear is likely to fail. It sounds like you might have a good excuse to buy a new helmet! 🙂
On a positive note, we have extra helmets, sprayskirts, PFDs, paddles and other equipment. It won’t be as comfortable as what you are probably used to, but we always bring extra gear just in case someone forgets something or has something go wrong with their gear.
Bottom line is, don’t expect to find any elite kayak or raft shop with gear. When we order equipment from NRS or CKS, it often needs to come by container, which can take about 2 months. Then, you have to figure in shipping costs, import taxes and other costs for picking it up from the container.