Since my attempted Costa Rican blog fizzled with my dependence on internet cafes, I just want to offer some of the main highlights, experiences, cultural differences and travel advice I gained from my five-weeks on the rich coast.

Costa Rica is certainly a hyped travel destination, especially among the surfing community that I live amongst in San Diego, California. And a lot of the Pacific Coast beaches that I’ve seen do fit the stereotypical, big surf, long ride, tranquilo reputation. Pot, waves, warm water and hot sunny days are endless. If you just want to surf, you’ve found your “Costa Rica”.

Then there are the adventure seekers who want to hike through the rainforests and raft and kayak and dual-sport across the country. If you’re one of these types, as I am, things are going to get a bit pricy. From reading up about Costa Rica, most people have seen the “most expensive Central American country” notes. But it should read, “Prices equal that of the States.” Costa Rica’s main source of income is not bananas, pineapple or coffee, it’s tourism. If you want to hike, you pay per day and you pay more than Costarican Nationals. If you want to use the restroom in a bus station, you pay. If you want a cab, you will also pay more with a rigged meter or simply a bloated tourist price. I am well aware that travel costs, but when a guest in a country feels taken advantage of, the reputation suffers. Don’t get me wrong though, the country is stunning. From the lush tropical foliage to the unique calls of the birds and the awesome stand-off we saw between a cat and an iguana, the stories of beautiful nature is indeed here. But unlike the ability to climb Greek’s Mount Olympos or hike through the Italian Dolomites for free, or rent a car for around $300 a week, in Costa Rica you will pay.

Dollars are accepted in Costa Rica at most major tourist attractions; hotels, rafting trips, museums, coffee finca tours, national parks, and car rental companies. But, not only are dollars accepted, but most companies will advertise their prices in dollars, not Colones. Moreover, if you pay with Colones, you are more likely to get screwed on exchange rates. For example, our $523 car rental bill became $540 because the Alamo rental agency in Mal País charged our credit card in Colones at their own rate of 590:1 as opposed to the bank rate of 565:1. Thus, you will save money by paying in U.S. cash, although, it is also good to carry Colones for smaller transactions, like fruit vendors, smaller restaurants and internet cafes.

Now that my rant is over I want to note a few things worth seeing if you plan to follow the heards:

1) Cerro Chirripó – this is Costa Rica’s tallest mountain at 3,819 meters. The hike is stunning and there is a refuge at the top, although you must carry all of your food, utensils and cooking supplies. Bring warm clothes for the night and rain gear. There are showers available, but they’re so cold that shrinkage will indeed occur.

2) Corcovado National Park – After enjoying kayaking through the mangroves at the base-pueblo of Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula, you can take the 2-hour colectivo ride to Corcovado, where there is another 30 minute hike to La Leona; the campsite that lies at the trailhead. Make reservations a month in advance for camping at Sirena. It was booked when we arrive and thus had to do a round-trip day hike back to La Leona.

3) Tabacón – Tabacón is a 5-star resort at the base of the Arenal Volcano. It is extremely expensive, but honestly worth it! It had acres of stunning, private and relatively natural thermal pools. It cost us $45 per person for a night pass. Since that’s $90 and we were given a rate of $115 for the night including a pass to the thermals, we took it and had an excellent time. Bring your food though. The restaurants are pricy too.

4) Monteverde – This is a tourist trap, but if you ask around you can see special treats, like the baby sloth we saw or other

5) Termales Del Bosque – Just outside of Ciudad Quesada was an affordable thermals spa. At $85 for double occupancy, including breakfast and dinner, we soaked in the natural thermals next to a rushing river where we enjoyed the bar service. The hour-long, full-body massage for $28 was fantastic too!

If you go, enjoy. But three weeks is plenty and don’t get hit by the mess of tourist busses!