Vegan family on holiday in Costa Rica
Our diet is always strictly plant-based and, whenever possible, mucus free. Most percentage of the food we eat in a day, consist of fruit. Therefore it was perfect and easy for us in Costa Rica, like nowhere else before. It really is a fruitarian and raw-foodist paradise! My daily consumption was more strict than the rest of my family, as I do eat lighter. But I did try some of the local food anyway. It was a nice experience. You will not get any problems as a vegan person travelling through Costa Rica.
Locals are in many cases quite obese. They eat (deep) fried, oily foods for breakfast lunch and dinner, which is typical for Costa Rica. I remember when I asked a local: "Why don't you eat fruits for breakfast?" He replied: "Fruits for breakfast? What? Why would I? We do not eat many fruits. Turists like fruits, not the locals". I was surprised. In many cases they consider fruits as the food for the poor. They do not like it a lot.
Almost in every restaurant you can buy rice-beans-veggie type of meal, or ask to adjust it to your needs. However not everyone understand the differences between vegetarian and vegan or even vegetarian principles itself.
Our days have usually started with fruits or fresh juices. Cooked foods were consumed for late lunch/dinner. Most of the restaurants we have visited, we have found through happycow App. I trully reccomend it. We use it always, wherever we go. Our food choices for eating outside were planned very carefully. I did want to try the local vegan specialistes, but without tummy problems afterwards. The best restaurant I have been to in Costa Rica was "Luv Burger" in Nosara. Fully vegan and gluten free restaurant has touched my heart. The food was delicious and not heavy, even though I ate a burger (yes!). It was the best vegan and gluten free burger I have had in my entire life. My favourite drink was fresh coconut water and kombucha.
Most of the restaurants add 10% service charge to the bill, therefore you do not need to get stressed about how much to tip. What I do reccommend however is to always double check your bill. I do not know if it is on purpose, or if they are so absentminded, but very often you can find stuff on your bill which you did not order. They will excuse themselves and adjust the bill to what you have really had without any problem. Just keep in mind to double check everything.
Costa Rica has a very poor public transportation network. If you come here for less than one month, with your family and want to visit many places, I would strongly recommend renting a car. We did so. Our itinerary was very intense, therefore it was the best option for us to choose from. Unfortunatelly renting a 4x4 car in Costa Rica is pricy so you have to keep that in mind. Why 4x4? The condition of public roads is sometimes catastrophic. When you come in the rainy season you might get stuck in a mud or might be forced to cross a river. It all comes down to how much time do you have and how many/what sort of places you want to see. You need to check the terrain elevation as well, as not all of the cars are able to drive up the steep hills. There are some private bus transportations, there are ferries and you can buy a trip which includes bringing you in and back to your location. There are definitely different options, but I would say that renting a car gives you more freedom, flexibility and is most suitable for families with children (especially small ones). Look out for the truck drivers, in many cases they drive like crazy.
Remember: travelling in the wet season by ground transportation has always a risk of delays: there is a greater danger of mud avalanches and landslides along the roads. Sometimes the rivers can grow in strength and rise its levels making some passages impossible, or more difficult to pass through.
Some people find it comfortable to get from one city to another by local airways and its small airplanes. The connections are ok. It is a good option when you are in a hurry and need to make great distances in a short time.
NATIONAL PARKS AND OTHER ATTRACTIONS:
For nature lovers there are plenty of National Parks to choose from in Costa Rica. It all depends on your budget, time and route. Most of the parks are overrated in comparison to their price. Eventhough the nature is incredibly beautifull, the entrance fees are in most cases too expensive. Before you make up your decision, it is definitely worth to check different blogs out, watch some photos, or speak to other people and ask them questions.
It is widely recommended to book a tour with a guide when you go to the park. However, we did not book any. Yes, you can learn from them some interesting stuff about certain plants and/or animals, they know where to look in order to show you things... but again you have to spend more money for that and you have no guarantee that you will see a lot of animals (if any). Some national parks are so loaded with people, that animals simply run away and/ or hide. Therefore it pays off to wake up early in the morning when the park opens. And if you are well prepared, you can spot some animals yourself. Just like we did for example with the Hummingbirds.
Check out as well some photos from the National Parks we have visited in Costa Rica.
There are plenty other activities you can do in Costa Rica. Diving, snorkeling, canoying, surfing, zip-lining, hiking, hot springs, horseback ridding, waterfalls, visiting wildlife rescues, island hopping, coffee and chocolate tours, as well as many many other. The variety is great. Again- it all depends on your budget, so think twice when planning your trip.
The Toucan Rescue Ranch we have visited near San Jose is a great opportunity to support these sorts of organisations, which help wild animals in need. It is much better to spend the money in a place like that, rather than in a zoo.
You can pay either in the national currency which is colones, or in the US dollars. However if you do the shopping and you pay in US dollars, you will get the change back in colones (and then they will use their own currency converter, so it is worth it to pay in colones). In some cases however, because of the amount of the American tourists comming to Costa Rica, some companies accept only US dollars as payment and if you want to pay with the local currency, you will get the price depending on the current exchange rate.
When planning to come to Osa Peninsula please remember to take the cash with you. There are no ATMs in this part of the country. You can pay by card of course, but you will not be able to withdraw any money.
I was surprised by the amount of money we spent doing groceries. If I had more time I would go deeper into this subject. Many shops have prices adjusted to the tourist, so if you are not local and do not know where to buy, it can get expensive. Some things were cheaper than in my home-country, like local fruits, veggies, etc. But sometimes I wondered how do the locals manage to live, as it is not cheap in Costa Rica.