Traveling Alone to Costa Rica
So you are thinking about traveling to Costa Rica solo?
That is fantastic!
Solo travel can be an enjoyable and freeing experience. With nothing but your own desires to consider, you can set your own agenda and follow your own whim. However, travel is usually more enjoyable when you can share the experience with other people. Plus, the idea of traveling to a foreign country alone can also seem scary. A rewarding solo travel experience to Costa Rica balances flexibility and interaction with others.
I know many solo travelers, both men and women, that have the time of their lives while visiting Costa Rica. Maybe you could be one of them.
There are three keys to enjoying a solo trip to Costa Rica:
- Create situations where you can meet like-minded people.
- Use common sense measures to stay safe.
- Adopt a low-stress tico mentality
Create Situations Where You Can Meet Like-Minded People
Traveling alone doesn't mean that you should always be alone. Enjoying a solo trip to Costa Rica is often enhanced by being open to meeting new people that are interested in some of the same things that you're interested in.
Here are a few ways in which you can find your tribe while traveling alone in Costa Rica:
If you've ever aspired to learn a new language, a solo trip to Costa Rica could be exactly what you need to get started learning Spanish. The country boasts some of the best Spanish language immersion schools in the entire world. With an education level well above that of the average in Latin America, Costa Rica has well qualified Spanish language teachers.
You don't need to be a traditional college student age in order to be a student an immersion school. Students range in age from young children all the way to senior citizens.
The Spanish Immersion School experience in Costa Rica often involves a home stay, which in which you live with a local Costa Rican family. learning about their lives and culture. And, most Spanish Immersion schools will allow you to study for as little as just one week.
Most Spanish schools provide opportunities for excursions with fellow students, cultural exchanges with local English students, dance lessons, and other fun activities.
There is even a Spanish school right on the beach.
If learn another language isn't your thing, then maybe learning to surf is. Costa Rica has some of the best surfing beaches in the entire world. It is also a good place for the beginner to learn how to surf.
One way to learn how to surf is to attend to surf camp. A surf camp is like summer camp that you may have attended as a child, except for they are for adults, too; and, you learn how to surf.
Mixing volunteer service with vacation travel is an excellent way to meet like-minded travelers in Costa Rica. There are organized volunteer opportunities in touristic-oriented places in Costa Rica such as Manuel Antonio and the coastal areas of Guanacaste.
Like Spanish immersion schools, volunteer opportunities can last a few as one week.
Common volunteer projects include childcare, healthcare, eco-agricultural conservation and teaching English.
VolunteerHQ has good resources for learning more about volunteering in Costa Rica.
Yoga is super-popular in Costa Rica. There are yoga retreats, yoga programs for aspiring yoga teachers, yoga on the beach, yoga in the mountains and yoga culture permeates many part of the expat community.
The country’s culture of sustainability and healthy living dovetail nicely with a yogic lifestyle.
Day-trips originating from the Central Valley are a great way to meet new people while enjoying Costa Rica’s interesting and fun tourist destinations.
You will want to book your day-trip in advance, either online or at your hotel. On your scheduled day, a bus or van will pick you up at an appointed time, in the morning. Once everyone in the group is onboard, you will start your journey to your first destination.
Almost every day-trip that I have been a part of includes, at least a few, solo travelers. The drive to the first destination is a great time to get to know other people in the group.
Popular day trips from the Central Valley include:
- Manuel Antonio National Park
- Sarapiqui River Adventure and Canopy Tour
- Horseback Riding in the Rainforest
- Tortuguero National Park
- Classic Coffee Tour
- Doka Coffee Tour / Grecia / Sarchi
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens
- Traditional Dinner and Folkloric Dancing at Ram Luna Restaurant
Stay in the Middle of Everything
Book your hotel or lodging right in the middle of the area that you want to explore. You will enjoy your solo trip so much more if you can walk right out of your front door and into the action, whether that be on the beach, in the mountains or right in the middle of one of Costa Rica’s many charming small towns, such as La Fortuna.
Use Common Sense Measures to Stay Safe
The idea of traveling alone to a foreign country may seem daunting. Fortunately, with a little common sense, preparation, and precaution, you can avoid trouble while enjoying a satisfying solo Costa Rican vacation.
The overwhelming majority of crime that occurs in Costa Rica is petty crime like pickpocketing and theft from unlocked automobiles. Violent crime, especially against tourists, is rare. Costa Rica has significantly less violent crime than other vacation spots such as the Dominican Republic, Belize, and Jamaica.
Participating in organized programs like those described above will provide a built-in support system for you in case that you run into problems.
If you are a US citizen, traveling alone, you should consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, also known as STEP. Members of STEP receive safety updates, helps the local embassy assist you in the case of emergency and helps your family and friends contact you in an emergency.
Here are some specific tips on how to stay safe while traveling alone:
- Leave your jewelry at home.
- Be discreet with your money.
- Only take what money and/or charge cards that you need on your person when you go out. Leave excess cash in your hotel safe.
- Leave your passport secure in your hotel safe. Ask the staff at your hotel to make a photocopy of your passport’s ID page and the page where immigration stamped your visa.
- If you are driving a rental car, don’t leave anything inside of it. Theft from rental cars is one of the most common forms of crime in Costa Rica.
- Lock your hotel room door from the inside and attach the chain lock when you are in your room.
- Don’t hang your purse or bag on the back of your chair at a restaurant or bar.
- If you get a flat tire on the road, don’t stop in a sparsely populated area. It is better to continue on to a populated area.
- Avoid isolated parts of urban zones, especially at night.
- While the average tourist would rarely find themselves in any of these places, you should probably avoid these place, all together:
- Los Hatillos in San Jose
- La Carpio in San Jose
- Desamparados in San Jose
- Pavas is San Jose
- Downtown Limon
- The Zona Roja area of San Jose, bounded between Avenues 5 & 9 and Streets 2 & 10
- If you are traveling via bus and will be embarking from the 7-10 bus station, keep your wits about you. The 7-10 bus station (at Avenue 7 and Street 10) is on the edge of the Zona Roja.
- Only take official taxis, which are red with a yellow placard on the door. In the Central Valley area, Uber is inexpensive, convenient and safe.
- Don’t get too drunk.
- If you are drinking, always keep your cocktail within your sight.
- Let people at home know where you are going. Advise the concierge or staff at your hotel, too.
- Walk confidently when you go out. Before you embark, have an idea regarding how to get to your destination. You will stick out as a potential victim if you are constantly consulting a map or a smartphone.
Adopt a Low-Stress Tico Mentality
Costa Rica often tops the Happy Planet Index list of happiest nations on Earth. Despite a GDP and average income that is approximately one-quarter those of the United States, Costa Rica has a higher sense of well-being and longer life expectancy. In fact, there is a place on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica that researchers refer to as a Blue Zone, where adults commonly live into their 90s and even reach 100 years old or older.
One theory regarding happiness in Costa Rica, is that Costa Ricans (or ticos) benefit from a thread of healthy peacefulness that winds through tico culture. The government is officially pacifist; the army was abolished in 1948. High tariffs for imported goods and subsidies for local products make unhealthy processed foods expensive and fresh, unprocessed food cheap for the average tico. While the country does suffer from a significant level of income inequality, there is a social safety net comprised of universal health care, retirement benefits, and inexpensive food.
All of the above results in a lifestyle that may seem unrushed and low-stress to many North Americans.
If you want to enjoy your solo Costa Rica trip, then adopt a low-stress mentality. Breath in the warm florid air. Watch the rhythm of the local people around you. And, then, simply blend in.