UK +44 (0) 20 8704 1216
USA +1 866 356 4691

A Tourist Guide to Costa Rica

Welcome to the South America Odyssey Blog

A Tourist Guide to Costa Rica

An introduction to Costa Rica
We have put together this guide to introduce Costa Rica to you knowing that is very easy to get bamboozled by too much information. We hope this short guide will be enough to set you on the right course, without being too detailed. As such it is not meant to be definitive – for further details we strongly recommend that you look at or get in touch as we would be delighted to talk to you all about Costa Rica.

Country summary
Costa Rica is a small and compact country about the same size as Switzerland in Europe. Visiting this carbon neutral and eco-friendly country is all about the outdoors. Whether you are relaxing by the beach in a cool surfery town, trekking through pristine rainforest in search of jaguar or twitching in the cloud forest you are sure to fall in love with this beautiful Central American country. Costa Rica is tranquil, fun loving and a perfect getaway for those searching tranquillity, nature experiences, adventure and fantastic hospitality.

Highlights of Costa Rica
The following locations have proven very popular with those that have travelled with South America Odyssey to Costa Rica. We know the pros and cons of each destination and if you have any further questions about these locations, as well as other destinations, please do get in touch as we would love to speak to you about them.

San Jose
San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and the majority of international flights fly into the Juan Santamaría International Airport. Flights normally arrive at night and we suggest one night in San Jose is about right before venturing deeper into the country. If you want to avoid the traffic then stay at one of the Costa Rica is all about the great outdoors, so instead of stopping overnight in the city, we think it is worth staying on the outskirts at a beautiful coffee hacienda like Xandari. For those that like city life and want to see the centre of the city then the best hotel is Grano de Oro.

Tortuguero is an excellent introduction into the biodiversity and wildlife of Costa Rica. Days are spent exploring the flooded waterways of this exotic Caribbean jungle. During the months of July to October sea turtles come in their thousands and lay their eggs on the beaches of Tortuguero at night- a spectacle not to be missed if you are lucky enough to be there during these months. The lodges here are simple and family friendly. Manatus is the smallest hotel that is relatively luxurious. Other good alternatives are; Mawamba Lodge or Aninga.

Staying at Arenal National Park means picturesque views of Arenal Volcano, hanging bridges over dramatic waterfalls, heated springs and an abundance of adventure activities from zip wiring to abseiling and river rafting. There is a wealth of accommodation options here your stay depends on your preference; an intimate, tranquil experience in Lost Iguana which is remotely located to the multi award winning and centrally located Nayara or an more basic, yet good option such as Lomas del Volcan. During peak seasons Arenal can get busy as international tourists come to experience the world class infrastructure and activities of this exciting tourist hub. During these months there is a really fun and exciting vibe. Perfect for families.

A perfect example of a cloud forest, Monteverde is ram-packed with life and a birders dream. A huge attraction here is the environment itself which is incomparable to anything else and feels truly timeless.
Experience this park from the comfort of Belmar, a remote boutique family hotel.

North Pacific Coast- The Nicoya Peninsula
There are three areas here, all with very different styles and accommodation. In the north is Peninsula Papagayo, where you can find accommodation similar to our favourite, El Mangroove – a big hotel in close proximity of luscious sunbathing beaches. Further south find Tamarindo; a cool surfery bustling province with nightlife and long beaches. Our favourite accommodation is Capitan Suzio, a boutique hotel right on the beach or the relaxed Cala Luna (15 minutes drive away). South again, and you get to the gorgeous Santa Teresa Beach with our favourite romantic hideaway Flor Blanca , the barefoot luxury option of Latitude 10 or the larger Punta Islitta that has panoramic ocean views.

The Osa Peninsula
Nestled in the remote corner of Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula is truly the jewel in the crown of Costa Rica in terms of biodiversity. The National geographic proclaimed it one of the world’s most biologically diverse places on earth. There are fewer lodges in this heavily protected national park, and the lodges do tend to get booked up far in advance. Most of the lodges operate a full board program with small group tours included in the price. Lapa Rios and Playa Cativo are the most luxurious eco lodges in majestic settings that we absolutely love. El Remanso is a little more economical and is also a superb option.

Costa Rica FAQ’s

When is the best time to visit Costa Rica? The best time to visit Costa Rica is from December to April when it is dry and hot in most places. A typical day would have temperature averages of 27° Celsius. During the “green season” that runs from April to November it rains most afternoons and at times you win need to put a poncho on. The rewards are that there are fewer tourists, the forests are lush and green, and if you head to the coast you can watch turtles laying their eggs.

Do I need a visa to visit Costa Rica? US and European citizens do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica; other nationalities should make their own enquiries with the nearest embassy. Travellers require a full valid passport with at least 2 clear pages, valid for at least 6 months beyond your date of departure.

How much dos a trip to Costa Rica cost? There is no easy answer to this one as all of our itineraries are designed from scratch to suit your interest and budget. As an idea, the itinerary below would cost roughly $4,800/£3,555 per person. See for more details.

How long do you suggest for a Costa Rica holiday? Speaking from experience we suggest that 10-14 days is perfect. But it really depends on what your interests are and how quick you like to travel.

What is the currency in Costa Rica? Cash withdrawal of Colón Notes is easy as many ATMs are credit/debit card friendly and can be found in most towns. Contact your bank first and tell them that you are going to Costa Rica. US dollars can be exchanged in banks and are also widely accepted.

What language do Costa Ricans speak? Spanish is the main language. English is widely spoken by those working in tourism.

What is the time difference? GMT -5 hours/EST +2 hours

How do I get to Costa Rica? There are direct flights from London Gatwick to San José on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursdays (11 hour flight). There are also daily flights via the main European hubs. If you are flying from the US then there are multiple options.

We are thinking of also visiting another Latin America country whilst we are that side of the world. Where combines well with Costa Rica? Combining Costa Rica with a cruise in the Galapagos makes for the ultimate wildlife experience. Mexico is also a country that combines history, art, pristine beaches and delicious food. You could fly over to Cuba for a unique experience in a fascinating and quickly evolving county. Please speak to us about all the exciting possibilities.

Peru’s Food Revolution

The juggernaut that is the Peruvian food revolution shows no sign of slowing as Lima, the capital city, now boasts three of the “World’s Top 50 Restaurants”.

What Peruvian restaurants made the top 50?

Astrid y Gaston, the pioneering restaurant of contemporary Peruvian cuisine was listed in position 33. This leading restaurant run by wife Astrid Gutsche and husband, Gaston Acurio, is a Peruvian food institution based in a leafy and affluent neighborhood of Lima.

Maido, a Japanese-Peruvian fine dining restaurant by Mitsuharu ‘Micha’ Tsumura was listed in position 8. Micha names his distant Japanese ancestry as a main influence on his palate and style.

Central, a restaurant by Virgilio Martinez, was the highest ranked Latin America restaurant coming in 5th place at the annual awards. Martinez also won the Chefs’ Choice Award for representing the biodiversity, history and culture of Peru. If a food pilgrimage to Lima is too long for your taste buds to wait then try one of his London based restaurants, Lima Floral and Lima.

Other noteworthy winners at the acclaimed awards went to the experimental Heston Blumenthal whose restaurant Dinner came 36th. Heston Blumenthal was also recognized with the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award.

What is Peruvian food?

The three distinct geographical region of Peru, combined with a diverse demographic influences create eclectic tastes and recipes. The coastal region supplies Peru with fresh fish from the Pacific Ocean; the fertile Andean mountain range is the birthplace of the potato, of which there are over 3,000 varieties, and the Amazon in the east boasts tropical fruits.

Japanese and Chinese influences mixed with traditional Peruvian staples have led to the creation of innovative fusion dishes known locally as Nikkei and Chifa. Nikkei and Chifa combine with Peruvian house hold ingredients such as corn, potato, chili and citrus fruits to create light, delicate and fresh dishes, often with a little kick.

Did any other Latin American restaurants make the list?

There were only three other Latin American restaurants on the prestigious list:

· Pujol in Mexico City which came in 20th. For reservations follow this link to their website.

· Quintonil also Mexico City based came 22nd. For reservations follow this link to their website.

· Borgao in Santiago de Chile came in 42nd. For reservations follow this link to their website

South America Odyssey has teamed up with Lima’s best chefs to offer a private Lima food tour as part of a bespoke Peru tour.

Currently offering high quality Peruvian imported foods and drinks, Viva Peru aims brings you access to everything Peru.


Galapagos Boat Deck Plans

Please see below a pdfs for the deck plans for various boats:

MY Eric and Letty Deck plan

MV Sky





Foodies and Art in Lima

Lima, the only oceanfront capital city in Latin America and gateway to Peru`s mi- llenary culture, will be the starting point of this extraordinary voyage of artistic and culinary discovery.
When in Lima, it is a must to immerse your- self in a genuine, local cevicheria experience. To delve deep in the understan- ding of Peru´s trademark dish we share the table with re-nowned chef Diego Alcantara, who enthusiastically recounts the history of ceviche and explains how its modern ver- sion has a tremendous Japanese influence.
What better way to understand 3,000 years of Peruvian history than through 1,200 sam- ples of the country´s finest art, ranging from pre-Columbian and Inca ceramics, textiles and metallury, up to modern abstract works. On a private tour with the curator, we explo- re the newly reopened Art Museum of Lima, known as MALI, which holds one of the most important art collections in Latin America, housed in an ironwork palace originally built by the Eiffel Company.
“Back in the 1500`s this was prime real state“ states Maru de Aliaga, after a warm greeting and a soothing pisco sour. Maru, who belongs to the 17th generation of the Aliaga family, hosts our private dinner in this oldest colonial mansion in Lima, and perhaps all of South America.
The Casa Aliaga was built in 1536 on a piece of land given by Francisco Pizarro to Geróni- mo de Aliaga, his main lieutenant. Maru has lived in the house since she was 7 years old, and knowing its past inside out, she master- fully intertwines Peruvian history with that of her own family.
Maru guides us on a 500-year journey back in time, exploring the mansion’s luxurious interior with rich decorative wood and trim carving, elaborated sculptures, as well as elegant colonial art and furniture.

We explore our Bohemian side and walk around Lima’s artistic Barranco district, arriving at the stunning bright blue historic residence that houses Las Pallas art gallery. This quality collection, founded 27 years ago by the charismatic Welsh immigrant Mari Solari, displays traditional crafts and folk art from the three major regions of Peru: coast, Andes and Amazon.
We stay in Barranco to dine on criollo cuisine at the stylish 1906-renovated tavern Isolina Taberna Peruana, gifted with the company of Jorge Riveros-Cayo, award-winning journalist and self-declared incurable foodie.
Criollo cuisine is inherited from the Spanish
and African slaves who cooked in their kit- chens, yet this food is found far more frequent- ly in the kitchens of Limeña grandmothers than in restaurants, making Isolina a rare
treat of home-style cooking. The owner, José del Castillo, who named the restaurant after his mother, has resurrected traditional fami- ly recipes such as cuchareo, slang for tender,
slow-cooked meats eaten with a spoon, like the rich osso buco estofado cooked for four hours in red wine and herbs.
A short drive takes us to the very traditional neighborhood of San Isidro, where we disco- ver one of the worlds most exquisite private colonial art collections in the residence of the

late Eduardo Barbosa and his wife Silvia Stern. Silvia and son Aldo personally guide us through the myriad of Vice-regal master- pieces of painting, sculptures, silverware and art objects that elucidate more than four cen- turies of Spanish art.

Peru, Bolivia and Argentina

My husband and I had never been to South America before but it was high up on our bucket list and when we found ourselves with a build-up of leave we decided to head out.  We knew roughly what we wanted to see and do: waterfalls, salt-flats, horse-riding and lots of good wine and food, but after that…

Odyssey suggested we start our trip in Lima and make our way down the continent.   I wasn’t such a fan of Lima but Cusco was beautiful and the people were wonderful.  It’s a really fun and lively town with masses of Andean charm – I would happily return another time.  We decided that we would miss out on the Inca trail and instead trained up to the base of Machu Picchu.  We overnight-ed here and then rose early to catch the sunrise by the Sun Gate, (this was a great tip from our Odyssey consultant as we missed the crowds).  Everyone has seen numerous photos of lamas in front of Machu Picchu, but seeing it in the flesh was incredible.

Although my husband is most definitely a horse-novice, I am obsessed and riding through the Andes has always been a dream.  I managed to convince him that of all the places in the world to ride this was it!  It was truly a once in a lifetime experience riding through the hills and even he enjoyed it, though I had to promise to join him on the Death Road bike ride in La Paz!  To be honest I would give it a miss if you are of a sound mind – it was truly terrifying!

From here we travelled down to the salt flats of Uyuni, these were stunning but freezing come nightfall!  We then crossed into Argentina and over to Iguazu Falls.  I have never seen such a totally sensory-overloading sight, the sheer scale of the falls, the birds flying over-head and the crashing sound of the water was incredible.  I recommend everyone visit!  With a few days left we headed up to Mendoza to enjoy some much deserved wine and steak and then onto the Pampas to stay in a real Estancia, eat from asados (BBQs) and ride with the gauchos.  This was such a peaceful and romantic place in the most glorious setting.

We ended our trip in Buenos Aires, a beautiful and very European feeling city, full of life, art and the perfect way to end our fantastic trip.

The whole trip was incredible, truly once in a lifetime and the itinerary Odyssey helped us build was perfect for the time we had.  Although we travelled a lot we never felt rushed or like backpackers.  This was a great mixture of adventure and luxury.  Now we are back we can’t wait to book our next trip, this time to Pagatonia and the Amazon!

Odyssey Travels  Africa Odyssey Tanzania Odyssey South America Odyssey