I am a 22 year old traveling yoga teacher and this is my guide to backpacking Costa Rica.
A little backstory:
My trip to Costa Rica was planned very last minute. A sudden life change inspired me to leave my ordinary life. So in one month I saved up $2000 and left for Costa Rica. I wouldn’t suggest doing this for every trip you go on, but sometimes sudden life changes need to happen so we can grow and become truer to who we are.
I have backpacked quite a few countries and I must say that Costa Rica was the most difficult, but if you crave life changing and wild adventure, then Costa Rica is where it’s at.
Ojochal– A little french village south of Uvita. It is a jungle paradise!
Uvita– Hidden waterfalls, whale beaches, and delicious veggie burgers.
Dominical– THE surfer town and where Yoga Girl started her journey.
San Isidro– Beautiful mountain town with the biggest farmers market I’ve ever shopped at!
Quepos– A great “city” for a weekend getaway!
Manuel Antonio– The most beautiful hidden beaches and incredible national park full of wild animals!
San Jose– Everyone will tell you that it’s unsafe and to not give it a try. I say the opposite! I am a city girl and I needed to explore it for a couple days just to get my city fix. It is full of culture, club’s, great food, beautiful parks, and people from all over the world!
Montezuma– If you go to Costa Rica without going here then you didn’t go to Costa Rica! I am madly in love with Montezuma. This is an artist’s village with exotic beaches surrounding it. There are natural jacuzzis, magical waterfalls, yoga studios, beautiful people and the best vegetarian food around!
Santa Teresa– This is a surfer/artist town that is great for a weekend getaway. The beaches are sandy white and it’s a great place to catch a wave or a beautiful sunset. There are art galleries, gourmet food, and the sky is always full of stars!
What you need to know:
♦Rain doesn’t mean a little drizzle, it means downpour for many hours.
♦Mosquitoes are evil creatures so you may be against chemical bug spray, but when you are covered head to toe in bites, I promise that 100% DEET repellent will save your life. Ceiling fans, Citronella candles, and coils also keep them at bay.
♦Costa Rica is a wild place and it will take some adjustment. There are monkeys, caiman, bugs the size of birds, lizards of all sizes, sea turtles, whales, sloths (amazing), snakes (big ones), jaguars, scarlet macaws, scorpions, bats, and the list goes on. My suggestion is to not be afraid, but also don’t pet a crocodile. You would not want an animal in your space, so don’t invade theirs!
♦Charge your electronics in the morning just in case the power goes out during the rainy afternoons.
♦Buy and apply SPF 50 or higher for those hot sunny days. It will always be between 85-98 degrees even during off season.
♦Buses are interesting. I feel like they do what they want. So if they say the next bus is at 2pm, it could also mean 5pm.
♦Waterfalls are the secret holders of life, don’t you dare miss out on their magic.
♦One large backpack– Get one that fits your body and straps around your chest and hips. No back pain needed. And if you do yoga, get one that has clips or straps at the bottom to hold your mat. I tried on many backpacks to find the proper fit. I use an Osprey Backpack.
♦A purse or carry-on bag that straps over the shoulder and chest so it is always in front of you. I tried on many carry on bags until I found one that worked for my trip and my style.
♦Lululemon travel size yoga mat. I LOVE my lulu mat. Both sides are made to do yoga on and they’re lightweight so carrying them is not a hassle.
♦Yoga mat holder– For the days you just want to go to the park and do yoga without your backpack
♦Journal/Pens– Write about your adventures so you will never forget them or take notes in your Buddhism class.
♦Combo lock– Lock up your stuff at hostels.
♦Water Bottle– Instead of spending money on many bottles just refill yours.
I was in Costa Rica during the off season AKA rainy season. A fun fact about rainy season is that it doesn’t start raining until 3pm so it is HOT in the morning. So pack accordingly for both.
♦Flip Flops (Great for the beach or shower shoes)
♦Hiking Boots- You will NEED these as the roads alone can be a hike
♦Crop Top (1)
♦Sports Bras (2)
♦Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf that can be used in 11 different ways!
♦Travel size towel
What’s in my hygiene pack:
♦Bobby Pins– I packed 6
♦Lip Balm (Do not buy or apply SPF lip balm, stick to the norm)
♦A pack of razors
♦Cold Medicine– Pill kind
♦Antibiotics (Good to have just in case)
♦Travel size Tide detergent packs
♦Toothbrushes with caps
♦Head and Shoulders shampoo & conditioner
What I had to buy and why:
♦Lip balm that is not SPF- I couldn’t smile for a week due to a terrible case of chapped lips.
♦Flipflops– I ruined my nice Toms in the mud (poor life choices)
♦Cortisone cream– So funny story, the jungle is full of tropical plants, grass, trees and things that make your skin itch. Buy ALL medicine before entering Costa Rica as it’s really expensive in the country.
♦Bottled Water– Some places in the country do not have clean water. I recommend buying a gallon instead of many bottles.
♦Iphone 6– Get a waterproof case
♦Apple Ipad mini 4– To get work done on the road
♦Foldable Keyboard Ipad Case– Get a waterproof one
♦Skype– The best way to call and video chat
♦Whatsapp– Free texting
♦Instagram (optional) – To post pictures of the adventures
♦Bank Apps– To budget while traveling and put a travel notice before traveling on all credit/debit cards and accounts
♦Find Friends– An app to show friends/family your exact location of where you are in the world. Only for people you are connected with on this app. I used this as a safety precaution being across the globe on my own.
♦Email– To check into train rides/flights
♦Podcasts (optional) – I downloaded yoga podcasts for at home classes if I wasn’t near a studio and books to read while at the beach
Every beach in Costa Rica has its own personality. These ones happen to my favorite!
Playa Tortuga– Turtle beach! There is a turtle reserve on the way to the beach and you can volunteer to go on a turtle walk to protect the turtles. It’s a pretty magical experience that you don’t want to miss!
Playa Ventanas– This place is mystical. It’s quite the walk and almost hidden, but you will know when you find it. There are wave caves that you cannot miss out on!
Playa Uvita– The whale tail! This is where the whales come every year. This beach is huge! It is by far the most tropical beach I have ever been to.
Playa Dominical– There is something about this place that feels like home. This beach has some of the best surf coaches around. You can also explore the market, eat some fresh chips and guac, or enjoy a massage on the beach.
Montezuma– The beach will take you 45 minutes to walk. It’s HUGE! Half of the beach is sand and the other half rock. This is a great beach to go kayaking at, star gazing, and the BEST beach to stack rocks at-which is a great meditation!
Hostels I recommend:
♦Hostel Pura Vida Montezuma– $10/night for a PRIVATE room. This includes a towel and lock for your door. They also have a big kitchen, hammock area, clothing line, and the second floor has an ocean view.
♦Hostel del Parque, Montezuma– $10/night for a PRIVATE room. I loved this hostel because it’s on the beach so every morning I woke up and went for a swim. They also had the most adorable puppy!
♦Kokua Hostel, Santa Teresa– $15/night for a bunk. If you are an artistic person or need a place to creatively zen out, then this hostel is for you. There is art on the walls and you can create mandalas. It’s a rustic vibe with a big kitchen and dining space. They also have a filtered water system, clothing line, nice bathrooms, and outdoor hammock area.
♦Casa Colon Hostel, San Jose– $15/night for a bunk. It’s a castle and the rooms are dormitory style. It is right next to a grocery store and eight blocks from a lovely park with a mountain view to do yoga!
♦Costa Rica Backpackers, San Jose- $13/night for a bunk. This is a pretty chill hostel. They had a pool, outdoor hammocks, computer room, TV, bulletin boards full of travel information. I really enjoyed my stay here because it’s a community. This was the first hostel I stayed at where everyone interacted with one another.
*Something I noticed while staying in all of these hostels is that Costa Rica is a place where people tend to travel to in groups or as couples. It is rare to find other solo travelers here. I think it is because Costa Rica is not the easiest country to travel solo in.
♦Workaway.info– This is an amazing website where you can apply to work ANYWHERE in the world. Work is five hours a day in exchange for housing and food. It’s only $40 to make a profile on Workaway. Before traveling, I would highly recommend a Skype session before meeting. However, I was beyond blessed with a great opportunity in Costa Rica. I was hired for the summer to teach donation based yoga classes. I met many travelers and locals. I took Buddhism, Meditation, and Tai Chi classes where I was staying. I also learned the ins and outs of running an alternative hotel. Not every Workaway is like this, but these opportunities are rare. So when they do come, JUMP ON THEM! So for the majority of my trip I had housing, food, and sometimes even free transportation. Now you know my secret, you are welcome.
Transportation in Costa Rica is an adventure all in itself. I rode the buses and shuttles and somehow I am still unsure of how it all works.
♦EasyRide– This is a shuttle to anywhere in Costa Rica from San Jose Int. Airport. This service is $65 and if you’ve never been to Costa Rica, I would highly recommend doing this.
♦Local Buses– There is a bus schedule, but that does not mean the bus will be on time. On weekends take the earliest bus to get the most out of your day.
♦Tracopa Bus– This is an express bus that goes to tourist areas (San Jose, Quepos, Uvita)
♦TicaBus– This bus can take you to other countries. I took this bus to Panama. These buses have outlets for your phones. It is about $100 round trip and although they have a website, you MUST buy the tickets at a TicaBus station.
♦Hitchhiking– This is quite common to do in Costa Rica. You just need to follow your instincts and always do it in groups, NEVER alone.
Luckily I crossed the border via bus and airport.
If crossing the border via bus/foot, you will get your passport stamped and they will put a sticker in it.. They charge $1 for this. You will then go into a room to fill out paperwork. Then you will go into a second room to get your bags checked. You then cross the border. This is a two hour process minimum and keep an eye on your bags while crossing the border.
No matter which way you come into Costa Rica, you MUST have a return ticket proving that you are leaving the country.
♦Farmer’s Markets– They have the BEST and highest quality food. This is where you will find homemade food, tropical fruit, freshly squeezed juice, and art- all locally made. They’re usually open anytime between Thursday-Saturday. My personal favorites were in San Isidro and Uvita.
♦BM Supermarket’s– Sometimes they have food in bulk and they have more options than the smaller supermarkets.
Waterfalls you MUST jump off, climb, or swim:
♦Cascada Verde in Uvita
♦The waterfalls on TOP of the Montezuma Waterfall
Costa Rica is a beautiful country that changed my life for the better. I’ll be honest though, it was incredibly hard to do alone. When traveling to Costa Rica, I highly suggest traveling with a friend and knowing how to speak the language. However, there is really nothing to worry about. Just use common sense and you will be A-okay!
♦Buy Travel Insurance. Travel insurance covers ALL parts of travel. This includes: healthcare, classes you teach, classes you take, and ANY activity you participate in. I use World Nomads. travel insurance and HIGHLY recommend that you use them too! When I lived in Costa Rica, I had a very bad skin reaction to the jungle and World Nomads covered the cost. Plus it’s WAY more affordable than paying doctor bills while traveling or worse, having to quit your trip early to go back home and pay insurance bills. So do yourself and your travels a favor and buy yourself travel insurance!
♦Get vaccinated. You will need Hep. A and Typhoid vaccines. Your city’s health department should offer these. Ask about Yellow Fever too-Malaria is quite common in Costa Rica.
♦Drink double the water intake you would at home.
♦Go out only a few hours out of the day and take breaks in the shade- your body will need this.
♦Make sure to dump out or close any containers that have water in it-to avoid mosquitoes.
♦Sunscreen- Protect your skin. That sun is hot!
Costa Rica is truly the good life and don’t ever doubt it. Everyone is open to life and to showing you the good life. The amount of opportunities I had simply because I said YES! You must hike the mountains, eat all the guacamole, catch a wave, go swimming under a waterfall, do yoga under the treetops, explore the jungle and let yourself be wild! You will find that you are more in harmony with this Earth than expected. Trust that harmony, and listen to the waterfalls, for they are the secret holders of life. Lastly, fall madly in love with this life and yourself.
To finish this post, these are my last words of advice for you:
I almost left Costa Rica six times because something about it intimidated me, but I decided to stay every time. So when life intimidates you or gets uncomfortable, please stay. There is a lesson in everything. I had to learn stillness and to trust myself when the going gets tough. And trust me, it does get tough, but if you can backpack and travel throughout Costa Rica, then you can do ANYTHING.
Pura Vida and Namaste!
Brytta is a world traveling yoga instructor from NYC. She is a lover of glitter, SUP Yoga and climbing waterfalls. When she's not adventuring around the world and teaching yoga, she's writing about her adventures and coming up with new ways to take her yoga off the mat and into the world! When she's not doing any of that, she's outside studying constellations and making wishes on shooting stars. A big fan of discovering new sounds, her current favorite artists are: Nahko Bear, CloZee, & DJ Drez.