A First-Timer's View of Costa Rica

By Jamie Lehane

This July, I went to Costa Rica on a G-Adventures “Classic” 9-day tour. This tour was a great introduction to Costa Rica; I got to see a lot of the country’s unique wildlife and its diverse ecosystem which was the main reason why I choose to travel to this destination.

I was part of a 16-person group, which was the maximum number allowed on this tour. There were travelers from all over the world, including England, Canada, Australia and the United States. I enjoyed meeting people in the group and learning about their diverse backgrounds. I was most impressed with how diverse our ages ranged (from teenager to retiree). I met some great people on this tour and have kept in touch with some of them via social media and emails.

I also discovered that G-Adventures is a great option for solo travelers. I have never felt comfortable traveling alone, even with a tour. However, after experiencing the G-Adventures product first-hand, I am much more open to the idea in the future. About 40% of the people in our group were solo travelers, and most of those travelers were women!

The River Boat tour in La Fortuna (lunch Included)

While traveling, my main expenses were allocated for meals and optional tours. I somehow assumed that one meal a day would be included in the tour price. That was not the case and on G-Adventures’ website, it states when a meal is included or not. The restaurants that we went to were good and affordable. Meals averaged around $25-$45 per person for dinner and around $7-$10 for breakfast at the hotel. When we ate as a group, which almost every night for dinner, the wait staff always itemized individual checks so there was never the headache of splitting the bill. In fact, you always have to ask for the bill they will never just bring it to you. When I first arrived I went to a local restaurant and sat there for quite some time after I finished eating because I didn’t ask for the check. Usually they would give us the amount in both Colonies (Costa Rican Currency) and US Dollars. US currency is widely accepted there, which made paying for cab rides and in some cases even meals very easy.

G-Adventures offers some great included and optional tours in their itineraries. The included tour on this itinerary was a trip to an organic coffee plantation and a guided nature walk in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest. For the optional tours you can either book in advance, book the day of, or do something on your own. Because I didn’t know what kind of tours they offered and if I wanted to do something every day, I chose to book while I was there. Usually our guide would go over the optional tours the day before or right when we arrived at our destination. There were a couple of travelers that booked in advance with an “Adrenaline Package” during the G-Adventures booking process. There isn’t much savings if you pay for a package in advance, but it does give you priority when choosing what excursions you want to do. July is not their peak season so tours where never full, but our guide mentioned the benefits of pre-purchasing tours during peak travel times to insure you get the excursions you want. I believe you can book specific tours in advance when you pre-bundle. This is something I would recommend if you know you are travelling during the peak seasons. Some of the most popular tours were white water rafting, waterfall repealing and zip lining. On average the optional tours ranged for $35-$80 per person and depending on the tour length some included a complementary meal or snack.

Organic Coffee Plantation (G-Adventures Include tour with lunch) and Ziplining in Monteverde

Costa Rica Coffee Plantation Costa Rica Coffee Grinding

Snorkeling in Quepos (lunch and drinks included)

Costa Rica Snorkeling in Quepos Costa Rica Quepos

Guided tour through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest (G-Adventures included tour)

Costa Rica Santa Elena Cloud Forest Costa Rica Canopy in Santa Elena Cloud Forest

Our accommodations and transportation were clean, comfortable and seamless. Almost all of our accommodations were located within easy walking distance to local attractions. The only exception was in Quepos where we had to take a bus from our hotel to the beach, which was a fun culturally immersive experience and was easy to navigate. Another great feature that G-Adventures offers is free WiFi on their tour buses. This was something I was not expecting, so I was pleasantly surprised. The longest bus ride was 5 hours from Monteverde to Quepos, and having access to the internet was a great distraction. On average the bus rides where 2-3 hours between destinations with 20min stops for bathroom breaks or food.

Throughout the entire trip our guide and driver did an excellent job providing us with cultural and historical information. This was my first time in Costa Rica and I learned a lot from our guide about the country’s history, trade, environmental policies and everything in between! He was very personable and did a great job of balancing the needs of the group. He did a lot of the activities with us and always around during included and optional tours. He always recommended places to go, restaurants, and even dance clubs! I felt immersed in the culture while I was there and it made this an experience I will never forget.

I would definitely recommend G-Adventures to anyone who loves to explore. This itinerary was the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure. I am very impressed with their unique roaster of destinations, and I am already researching my next tour!

The content of this blog originally appeared on the Signature Travel Network.