Costa Rica -- September 2010. This is the rainy season but overall it did not rain except for a few hours each day , mainly in the evening. There were a few days that did not have any rain and then a day which rained a lot in the morning. It also can vary depending on what part of the country you are in.
Tour: Horseback ride to La Fortuna Waterfall
I can't remember who we booked this through but it was $35 at one of the tour booths in town, cheaper than other companies that offered this. The horses were older and did not look like they were cared for. The ride on the horse took about 50 minutes each way. There was a dog that kept following us and the horses who seemed insane. I'm not sure if she had rabies or was just crazy. She would stop every few yards to relieve herself. Very gross and not a pleasant and beautiful ride. The waterfall itself was nice, but the guide only gave us a short amount of time there. Afterwards, we saw some butterflies and frogs at this little garden.
I would not recommend this tour. If you want to go to the waterfall, you can walk (takes about an hour) or take a cab to the entrance. Wear secure water shoes. Something that has tread at the bottom because rocks are slippery. Flip flops or the flimsy water shoes are not good.
Tour: Volcano Lava and Natural Hot Springs (evening)
This isn't really an official tour that is widely advertised, it was something we saw on a sign at one of the tour companies. It basically is transportation to a small bridge to view the volcano and wait if there is any lava. We never saw any, but had a good time just chatting with the other people in the van with us even though we stood outside in the rain. The hot springs was basically the same river that supplies Tabacon Resort their water, but it's down a path across the street and it's free. You needed a flashlight to navigate there. It was really pretty and awesome, and the water was hot -- about 90 degrees (F). The guide/driver was really nice and he said we could take as long as we wanted. I thought this was worth it because we probably would have not found this on our own, nor did we have any flashlights (he supplied the flashlights).
I recommend this. At $10 per person you pay more than you would to take a cab ride but for us we didn't have a clue where we were going. You could do this yourself as well and take a cab to Tabacon and just go to the springs down the path yourself. Bring a flashlight though. I heard that you really don't or ever see lava anyway so waiting and watching the volcano isn't really a must-see.
Tour: White Water Rafting
We booked the Rio Toro (Class 3&4) through Desafio, but they were unable to do that river due to a dam issue, so they took us to Rio Sarapiqu instead. It was pouring rain for the first half of the tour. Our guide was Jonathan. The rapids were pretty rough and I think for most of it they were class 4. I think the guides were even not used to being in this type of conditions. The river was moving very fast as well. We all stopped for snack break (pineapple and watermelon). They told us they were giving us an extra part of the river because we went through the first half so fast. The rest of the river was a class 2-3. We started again and our raft ended up flipping. It was quite scary as it's not easy to stay afloat or swim in rapids. Jonathan was on top of the raft and helped me up. We had to then flip the raft. My friend and the others in our raft were rescued by the two other rafts in the same tour group. This was my first time white water rafting. It was quite an experience.
I recommend doing this. We didn't do the Toro river but definately do class 3-4. It was my first time rafting. I'm also pretty adventurous. You will get completely soaked. You won't have anywhere to carry your camera while rafting so don't bring it. Wear secure water shoes for rafting.
Tour: Lost Adventures of Canyoneering
I went on this tour with Desafio and it was a great experience. I repelled down four waterfalls -- two are very small and two are quite large. The walk involved going through some water, rocks, and the forest. It was a very beautiful tour. At the end there was a waterfall that was were able to stand under. It was like paradise.
I recommend doing this. It isn't scary even though it sounds like it would be with tall waterfalls. The best part is just going through the forest and checking out scenary. Wear secure water shoes. Something that has tread at the bottom because rocks are slippery. Flip flops or the flimsy water shoes are not good. You will be doing a lot of treaking. A lot of people wore sneakers. But you will be walking in some parts in water that is up to your waist.
"El Salto" Secret Swimming Hole
We walked to the swimming hole which is on the main road coming into La Fortuna. We tried the "Tarzan Swing" which was little scary. I only did it once! The swimming hole was really pretty. Didn't stay too long as it started to rain.
This is definately something to check out if you have time. It isn't a far walk. They pointed it out on the way back from one of the tours so I knew how to get there, but if you don't, stop by Desafio and they can send you in the right direction.
Baldi Hot Springs
Shop around for the best deal for tickets on this. We paid $22 for admission and dinner. Took a cab to Baldi. The dinner was not good, not recommended. The hot springs were very nice but drinks there are expensive and did not have much alcohol in them. We should have brought in our own - I'm not sure if you are allowed to but if you have something in a soda or juice bottle I doubt anyone will stop you.
This is a nice place to go. I would give yourself at least 4 hours. I wish we had more time but we got there about 7 and ate dinner so we really only had a couple hours to enjoy the springs.
Manuel Antonio National Park
We saw Iguanas and Sloths on the way. I kept looking up in trees for monkeys. Didn't see anything. So then we get to the beach to lay out and go swimming. The monkeys were at the beach. They would come to try to take things from people's beach bags. There were also racoons doing the same thing. It's crazy! The beaches were definately more beautiful than the public beach, but the public beach is not bad. There are two beaches at the park. I thought the prettiest one was the first one you will come across. The day we went, everyone was at this beach and when we were walking on our way out, saw the second beach and it was completely deserted. Maybe because it is the rainy/slow season there are less people in general.
The park is beautiful and must check it out for one of the days. The good thing about their beach is there are restroom and shower facilities so you can rince the sand off. The exit to the park, however, is a little tricky. You end up at this far end of a beach and it isn't smooth to get back to the main road. You could also walk all the way back the way you came in though.
What to bring: Durable water shoes, beach towel, long pants, light jacket, umbrella, sunscreen, insect repellent, clothes to get wet in and plenty of changes of clothes. My BEST INVESTMENT was the water shoes. I never owned a pair and found a pair of New Balance water shoes on sale for $40 online. These were so comfortable and the best thing I bought.
Suncreen is very expensive there. I forgot mine and paid about $18 for a bottle the first day. then I went to Mega Super and found "No-Ad" that was only about $5. So if you forget yours, go to the grocery store and look for the brand. Otherwise, everything is $15-$20 for sunscreen. It was pretty cloudy the first few days so I really didn't need to rush to buy it.
When doing tours like rafting, you will get soaked. Your clothes will smell like a river. Many hotels offer laundry service. I guess they wash clothes differently because my clothes got clean but really were not how I'm used to having them clean. but it was better to have them cleaned and get the smell out since I didn't want it smelling worse in the suitcase.
What not to bring: Lots of makeup, hair dryers, tons of jewelry, and anything else to beautify yourself. I didn't bring any makeup but wished I had at least brought a few things as we did go to some clubs in Manuel Antonio. I had a few pieces of jewelry. The dress at clubs is pretty casual, sundress or even shorts is fine. If you are going to a town to do some clubs, bring some things but not a lot. If you are sticking to adventures and outdoors than you won't need it.
Other advise: at manuel antonio park beach, put your bags on a branch or a lot on your bag so the animals cannot open it. Dont' bring any food because the racoons kept bothering some women who brought bread. don't feed or try to pet animals, they bite.
make friends and socialize. I wished I was a little more socialable with locals but I wasn't sure what to say or talk about. make friends with other tourists as well.