FAQs

Answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions.

 

Q. Where is the house located?

La Fiaca is an oceanfront villa located on Playa Bandera (also known as Playa Palma), just west of the town of Parrita, between Jacó and Quepos, in the state of Puntarenas on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. See the map on our Map & Directions page.

 

Q. Are you located on the beach?

Yes, most definitely. The property is right on the beach. We are about in the middle of a four mile sand beach that is mostly deserted and quite spectacular.

 

Q. How is the property laid out?

There are two houses on the property: the caretaker’s house toward the road and the main house in the front toward the beach; a two car garage, plus other smaller outbuildings. There are approximately 2 acres of grounds consisting of 75+ palm trees and gardens at the front, fruit trees and more gardens at the back, and about 100 meters of front footage on the beach. To one side of the house, there is a lap pool and terrace and a covered bar and barbeque area, known as a rancho, for entertaining. There is also another rancho on the beach. The beachfront road runs behind the property, which is somewhat unusual in Costa Rica and very desireable. View our Video to get a much better idea of the property, plus check out our Gallery for photos.

 

Q. How many people can the house accommodate?

The house sleeps up to ten persons comfortably. It has three generously sized bedrooms and three baths on two floors. The house works equally well for two persons, and we often host honeymoon couples. All the bathrooms feature large walk in showers. There are two king-sized four poster beds, two full/doubles, plus a pull out couch. Each bedroom features custom built hand crafted teak wardrobe shelving and rattan easy chairs with tropical upholstery. The house has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room with a custom built hardwood table & chairs with seating for ten, and a large living room with comfortable seating. Outside on the pool terrace, there is an elegant black wrought iron round umbrella table with space for eight, plus another smaller umbrella table with seating for four. The upper floor consists entirely of a master suite which has a private screened veranda, a bedroom, sitting area, master bathroom and dressing room area. The poolside bathroom includes an open air double shower, with bougainvillea cascading overhead.

 
Q. Which airport in Costa Rica should we use when booking our flights?
International flights arrive at the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica (technically, the suburb of Alajuela), which is located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. From there, it is approximately a 2 to 2.5 hour drive from the airport to our house on the beach via major highways. This is the method we generally use. Some of our guests prefer to fly in or out of Liberia airport. This can work too, but it will add about an hour to your drive.  If you prefer, connecting flights from San Jose to the Quepos airport 30 minutes from the house are also available using one of Costa Rica's domestic airlines. Quepos airport is the closest commercial airport to La Fiaca.
 
 Q. How easy is it to fly to Costa Rica from the US or Canada?
Very easy. There are direct flights from 11 North American cities to the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). Flights originate in Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, New York, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Toronto and Los Angeles. The are also direct flights from Madrid, Spain, and several destinations in Latin America. Major airlines that fly into SJO include Alaska, American, Delta, US Air, United/Continental, Taca, JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier and Avianca. Costa Rica's international airport is only a 2.5 hour flight from Miami, 3.5  hours from Houston, 4 hours from Atlanta or Dallas, and 5.5 from New York or Los Angeles.
 
Q. What is the best time of day to arrive or depart Costa Rica?

Assuming you are traveling directly to/from the airport, we find that we prefer to time our flight arrivals and departures at the airport in San Jose somewhere in the range of a couple of hours before or after midday (eg. 10 AM to 2 PM ish), if at all possible, to allow plenty of time to drive to and from the house during daylight. If your flight arrives late at night or departs early in the morning, you may wish to consider staying overnight before or after in the vicinity of the airport, or alternatively, hire a driver to do the drive in the dark. We can provide you with some good hotel recommendations  as well as a recommendation for a wonderful driver if you need to do either of these.

 

Q. I want to see various areas of Costa Rica on my first trip. Is this feasible?

We recommend you concentrate on only one or two areas of Costa Rica on your first trip and don't try to do too much. Though the country is relatively small, the travel time between different areas can be more than you anticipate and may take time away from your ability to enjoy each location.

 

Q. Should I rent a car?

If you plan on driving yourself in Costa Rica, you can rent a vehicle at the airport upon your arrival. If you wish to rent a vehicle for only a portion of your stay, car rentals are also available in Jacó and Quepos.

 

Q. Which car rental agency should I use?

All of the major car rental agencies are represented in Costa Rica. There are also many smaller, local companies that generally provide less expensive rentals but whose vehicle quality may not be equivalent to that provided by the majors.  Which you choose is a matter of personal preference and what extra services you think you might require. Also, if you plan on picking up or dropping off a car in a location other than the airport, keep in mind that the major rental companies are likely to have more branch offices in more locations and can be more accommodating on this point. Some agencies are even willing to come directly to the house to pickup or drop off a vehicle for an additional charge. If your budget is tight, one way to save money is to rent a vehicle for only a portion of your stay. A good place to comparison shop is at a site like www.kayak.com that compares across many other travel sites at once.

 

Q. If I rent a vehicle, do I need a 4-wheel drive vehicle/SUV?

Roads have improved tremendously in the past several years, but if you choose to go exploring off the main highways, it is still common to find dirt roads with large potholes. If you are venturing out to explore Costa Rica, an SUV is nearly always a good idea. La Fiaca is located 5 km off the main highway, so an SUV is not essential to travel to the house, but if you plan on going elsewhere, it's certainly desireable.


Q. Can I rent a single vehicle to accommodate my entire (large) party?

Yes, larger vehicles are available at many of the car rental agencies. We suggest shopping on a travel comparison site like www.kayak.com. It is best to book early, so you are not disappointed, especially in the high season. This should definitely be less expensive than renting two smaller vehicles. 

 

Q. Do I need a GPS to drive in Costa Rica?

We highly recommend having a GPS loaded with Costa Rica maps to drive in Costa Rica. Directions can be challenging, signage is spotty at best, and street addresses are non-existent.  A GPS eliminates this stress. The rental agencies can rent you a GPS with Costa Rican map information on it along with your car. If you already own a portable GPS unit, it is generally less expensive to download the Costa Rican maps to your own unit and bring it with you instead. There are several good suppliers of this software, but the one we prefer and use with our Garmin unit is EZFind aka NavSat. They have a website as well as an E-Bay store and can sell you a 10 day or 30 day version of the maps that are perfect for vacationers. You just tell them the make and model of your GPS, and then download the appropriate version. Their maps are excellent and updated continuously.  If your smart phone's data plan works in Costa Rica, you may also wish to consider using a navigation app such as Waze. This app is widely used in Costa Rica and will get you anywhere. We also recommend purchasing a good paper map of Costa Rica prior to your trip, as a backup. You can find these maps in the Travel section of well-stocked bookstores or online.    


Q. How do I get to the house from the airport?

Once your booking is complete and we have received your full rental payment, we will send you specific driving directions to the house by email. We do not post these here on our website, for obvious reasons.

 

Q. What else do I need to know about driving in Costa Rica?

Avoid driving at night as much as possible, as there are many hazards, not the least of which are pedestrians and bicyclists who often travel on the side of the road far too close to traffic to be safe. Be aware that there is zero tolerance in Costa Rica for driving under the influence, so if you’re driving, think twice before tossing back that libation, use a designated driver, and don’t even think about having an open container in the car. Transit police have certain spots on the road where they do inspections, and they may pull you over to check out the vehicle to see if it has the required safety equipment and your annual inspection sticker & personal property tax (Marchamo) is up to date. Mostly they don’t bother tourists in rental cars, however.  Also, mind the posted speed limits. The fees for traffic infractions can be high for infractions like speeding, passing on a curve, running a red light, driving without a license, neglecting to use your seatbelt, using your cell phone while driving, children under the age of 12 without the appropriate car seat, or parking infractions. If you use the toll road between San Jose and Orotina, you will need to have some cash available for the tolls unless your vehicle is equipped with the sensor device which handles this automatically and debits your existing account.


Q. I'm planning on doing some day trips. How to I figure out how long it will take to drive from Point A to Point B in Costa Rica?

You can do this easily. Just to go a site such as Google. Enter mileage from [insert Costa Rican location A] to [insert Costa Rican location B] and various mileage program options will pop up, which will help you calculate your mileage and drive times within Costa Rica. 

 

Q. I prefer not to drive myself. Are there other options?

Shuttle service or private car service is available. Depending upon the size of your party, one or the other may make sense. We can provide recommendations. See also our Resources page.

 

Q. Is there public transport available between the airport and Parrita?

There is an excellent and very inexpensive bus service that goes directly between the bus depot in Parrita, the nearby town, and the airport. The cost is around $2.50. It is a regularly scheduled run and departs several times a day. The bus can accommodate your luggage underneath. You'll want to take the Directo vs. the Collectivo (the latter makes many stops) and take the bus which shows Quepos as its final destination [or origin, depending on the direction you want to go]. Reservations are necessary, and the plush high backed seats are preassigned in the air-conditioned bus.


Q. Can I get around and sightsee using public transport?

For more adventurous travelers, the local bus service is excellent. It is frequent, scheduled, and very inexpensive, departing from the bus station in downtown Parrita, just west of the bridge. It's how many of the local people travel. The bus travels along the major highways. You can find schedules and destinations on the Internet. You will have to get yourself to and from the house to downtown Parrita, a 10-15 minute drive, which you may choose to do by taxi, but once there, it is possible to travel between major destinations in this manner. Taxis are also available, and the main taxi stand is located immediately beside the bus depot in downtown Parrita, near the bridge.


Q. I'm planning on getting around by taxi. Anything I should know?

Taxis can be a great way to get around in Costa Rica, a country with few street names and zero addresses, where directions are nearly always given referencing local landmarks, some of which may have disappeared years ago (eg. "Turn left where the Coca-Cola plant used to be..."). Stick with the "official" taxis. They are always red (or occasionally orange) with a yellow triangle on the door. Taxis painted colors other than this are unregulated "pirate" taxis (piratas) and may overcharge or worse. Watch to make sure the meter, nicknamed the Maria, is engaged when starting out. It's always a good idea to ask the approximate price to your destination before you get in the cab. Taxis are not commonly taken from the airport to the house, as it is quite a distance and the fare will be substantial.

 

Q. What is the house like?

The villa is a large, two story structure, Spanish in style with tropical overtones. There are three bedrooms. The master suite is on the top floor, which includes a bedroom, master bath, screened veranda, and dressing area. Two bedrooms, the living room, dining room, bathroom, kitchen and laundry room are on the main floor. The house is roomy and comfortable. All rooms are equipped with ceiling fans. Some windows are screened, and some are screened and also have glass jalousie windows which can be opened or closed.  The house is equipped with stainless steel appliances, including a side by side refrigerator/freezer with icemaker, gas range with oven, dishwasher, and microwave, plus full size washer and dryer. The floors are traditional Saltillo style tile on the main floor, and hardwood on the upper floor. Outside, the pool terrace features a large, private lap pool, outdoor dining spots, and a rancho, or entertaining area that contains a bar and barbeque. There is a second rancho on the beach. Make sure to check out our Gallery for lots of photos, plus view our Video for a property tour.

 

Q. What is the temperature at the beach?

The temperature at the beach is usually in the 80’s to low 90’s F (26 to 32 C), depending on the season, typically about 10 degrees hotter than the Central Valley. We are right on the beach. The house is completely screened, and cooled with ceiling fans throughout. Each room has one or two ceiling fans, even the poolside rancho. During the day, a light breeze comes off the water. The breeze shifts and comes off the mountains at night. The house is architect- designed and positioned especially to catch these breezes. You will go to sleep each night lulled by the sound of surf. The ocean temperature is around 82 F year 'round. 

 

Q. What clothing should I bring?

With our casual beach lifestyle, you will find that you do not need much to wear other than a bathing suit and a cover up at the house. Many of our female guests actually prefer dresses to shorts, since they’re cooler. Tahitian pareus or swim cover-ups are a favorite. Men usually wear swim trunks or shorts and a t-shirt. That’s about all you need! You might want to dress up a bit more to go to town or out to dinner, but you don’t need to do much, so a sundress or two for women and shorts for men is about all you need. Fairly bullet proof flip flops are usually the best at the beach, as it’s a bit dusty for nice leather sandals. Don’t forget your sun hat or baseball cap. If you plan on taking advantage of the many activities in the area, make sure to bring appropriate clothing and footwear for each.

 

Q. Where are the best places to shop for groceries?

There is a brand new grocery store, Maxi Pali,  on the highway a short distance from the turnoff to our road, about 10 minutes from the house. It is air conditioned and well stocked. It will have everything you need. Another of our favorite grocery stores in the area is the Automercado at Playa Herradura, just before Jacó, on the drive to the house from the airport.  For longer stays or larger groups, there is a PriceSmart, a Costco membership warehouse equivalent, with branches in Escazu and Alajuela, though this will rarely make sense for visitors. There is a Walmart a few hundred meters from the entrance to the SJO airport. You will probably see it on an adjacent road as you depart the airport, or you can use your GPS to find it. This store is extremely well stocked and has everything. There are several very good grocery stores in Jacó: Maxi Pali, Mega Super or Automercado chains.  Quepos and Manuel Antonio have good grocery stores too, including a Maxi Pali at the turnoff from the highway to the town of Quepos. There are also grocery stores close by us in the nearby town of Parrita: Mega Super and Pali.  For fresh and frozen fish right off the boat, try Martec, located in downtown Quepos (inside the bus station complex) and Jacó, or the small fish market just in front of the Mega Super in Parrita. Parrita also boasts several specialty food shops, including several butcher shops and bakeries worth trying. Last, but by no means least, is a tiny soda (small café) and store on the road between the highway and the beach. The tiny storefront also serves as a social center for the beach community. Look for the sign reading Abastecedor y Cabinas. There are also many roadside fruit stands for fresh fruits and vegetables, and don’t forget the weekly ferias (farmer’s markets).

 

Q. Where can I buy the freshest local produce and seafood?

Colorful farmer’s markets, ferias, take place in the nearby towns of Jacó (Friday), Quepos (Friday after 4 PM and Saturday) and Parrita (Saturday). This is a chance to see the freshest local fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and seafood straight off the boat, as well as check out the local "scene". This is one of our favorite activities. Many locals do the majority of their grocery shopping at these ferias. Also check out the fresh seafood markets noted in the section above.

 

Q. Where can I buy wine, beer and liquor?

One of the best and least expensive places to buy wine and spirits is at the duty free liquor store in the baggage claim area at the airport as you arrive in the country. Each visitor is entitled to purchase up to 12 bottles of liquor. You will need your passport to complete the purchase. They accept credit cards. Other than the duty free, wine, beer & liquor is readily available at grocery and liquor stores.

 

Q. What nearby restaurants can you recommend? 

There are excellent restaurants within a few minutes of our house in either direction, so if you wish to dine out, there are lots of great choices. See the separate Dining Out page.

 

Q. Can someone cook for us at the house from time to time during our stay?

We will be pleased to provide a private chef who will be happy to provide meals for you from time to time during your stay, with advance notice. You may arrange for as few or as many meals as you require. Our chef specializes in traditional, authentic Costa Rican cuisine, and can also provide instruction in preparing the Costa Rican regional specialties, if desired. Instruction is in Spanish only. Additional charges apply.  Let us know if you are interested.

 

Q. What activities are available in the area?

Beach walking, beach combing, swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, sport fishing, golfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, whitewater rafting, mangrove tours, canyoning, hiking, nature walks, zip lines/canopy tours, bird watching, a butterfly farm, sea turtle release, full service spas. See the Activities and Resources  pages for more details. 


Q. Can we have a bonfire on the beach at the house?

Yes, you can have a bonfire on the beach. This is a great thing to do on one of your nights at the house. With a day or so of advance notice, our caretaker will be glad to gather the firewood and light it for you when you are ready. We also love to bring down Sky Lanterns in our luggage, light them at night, when the breeze is always offshore, and set them off to sail out over the ocean. Some of our guests describe this as the most special memory of all of their stay here. 

        

Q. Is the beach safe for swimming? 

Our home is located directly on the Pacific Ocean and the coastline is unprotected, like most beaches along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The waves vary, but are usually a few feet high - great for surfing and boogie boarding, but not calm enough for good snorkeling. There are often strong rip currents in the waters on the beach. There are no lifeguards. We recommend that you exercise caution, and familiarize yourself with the safety precautions related to rip currents, if you are not already familiar, to educate yourself about how to recognize a rip current, how to avoid getting into trouble and what to do if you are in fact caught in one. See the Resources section for links.


Q. Is there a good snorkeling beach nearby?

Yes. Manuel Antonio has several excellent snorkeling and calm, protected swimming beaches just a short drive away. Make sure to check out the ancient Turtle Trap, an area on the edge of the sea that is surrounded by large rocks that was used by the indigenous peoples thousands of years ago to trap turles at low tide. There are lot of species of fish visible here.

 

Q. What national parks are nearby? 

Two national parks are close by: Carara National Park, and also Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the most famous and beautiful parks in all of Costa Rica. The beaches there are perfect for snorkeling, scuba and kayaking, and a nature walk through the park is sure to reveal amazing wildlife, including sloths and monkeys. There is a non-resident entry fee to the park of approximately $16. A guide is highly recommended. Group or private tours are available. See the Resources page. Manuel Antonio Park is closed on Mondays.

 

Q. Are there Canopy Tour / Zip Lines nearby?

Canopy tours, aka zip lines, through the treetops abound in Costa Rica and are available for the adventurous. There are several good operators to choose from in the area. These include operators at Orotina, Jacó, Parrita and Quepos. Trams are also available for those who are like their thrills a little less adrenaline-charged.  

 

Q. I'm interested in seeing wildlife. What can I expect?

Costa Rica is blessed with an amazing abundance of wildlife, and you can expect to see plenty of it. Some of the animals that live or travel nearby our home include monkeys, sloths, iguanas, crocodiles, sea turtles, a couple of species of whales, butterflies, plus lots of birds, including the scarlet macaw, several species of parrots, pelicans, many varieties of hummingbirds, and various shore birds, just to cite the most common examples. Costa Rica is home to 4% of the world's species, despite its small size. This is due to its lush climate, nutrient-rich volcanic soils, and its strategic location on the land bridge between North and South America. See also our Wildlife page. From time to time, the sea turtle rescue program on nearby Playa Palo Seco releases baby turtles that they have hatched in their program. You can take part in the release for a small donation. Contact the program coordinator to learn if they are doing a release during your visit. See the Resources page.


Q. I want to see the rainforest. How close is it?

You're in it. The house backs up on to the rainforest on the side opposite the beach side. This part of Costa Rica, the Central Pacific coast,  is very lush and green, and is considered "transitional rainforest". Costa Rica boasts numerous microclimates, ranging from arid savannah to cloud forest. There is amazing diversity and a little something for everybody.

 

Q. I'm a golfer. Is there a golf course nearby?

La Iguana Golf Course, an 18 hole, par 72 championship Ted Robinson- designed course is available at nearby Los Sueños at Playa Herradura.

 

Q. I want to visit a spa. What do you recommend?

If you’re interested in being pampered, there are several full service spas only a short distance away. An excellent one is located at Alma del Pacifico at Esterillos Este, 15 minutes away. Call ahead to book massages and other sybaritic treats. There are several other superb spas in Quepos/Manuel Antonio, a 20-30 minute drive, as well as at Los Sueños Resort on Playa Herradura, a 1 hour drive. 


Q. I'd rather just do a spa day at the house. What services can you provide?

We can arrange to have a masseuse as well as a manicurist/ pedicurist visit the house to provide treatments without even leaving home! Many of our guests describe having a massage under the almond trees at the edge of the beach while being caressed by gentle sea breezes as an amazing "Bucket List" experience! We totally agree! Advance notice is required. See our Resources page for more information.

 

Q. I'm interested in fishing off the beach at the house. What do I need to know?

If you would like to fish off our beach, we recommend that you bring your own rod and reel with you, as there is no place to rent this equipment in the area. A medium sized spinning reel strung with 20-30 lb test on a medium weight casting rod is ideal. The local fishermen usually fish at the edges of rip currents for best results. 

 

Q. I'd like to do some off shore or near shore fishing. What about charters? 

There are experienced local operators doing half day and full day charters out of Los  Sueños (Playa Herradura) and Pez Vela (Quepos) marinas. The Pez Vela marina has been entirely rebuilt within the past few years, bringing it up to world class status. There are now extensive upscale onshore facilities, including restaurants and services. You can check out our Resources page.  In both marinas, the better operators have state of the art vessels and gear and know where and how to get the fish. Depending on the time of year,  the offshore boats go after billfish: blue marlin, black marlin and sailfish, all catch and release; plus mahi-mahi/dorado, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, snapper, and mackerel. Most charters will filet the edible non-release fish for you to bring home to cook on the grill, or you can have one of the local restaurants prepare it for you, if you prefer. You can find a Fishing Calendar on one operator's website, which will let you know what time of year the fishing is best for each particular species. Typically, we suggest sticking with the larger offshore boats and avoiding the smaller "pangas" from a comfort standpoint. There are several significant, world-class tournaments that occur during the year, and you can charter a vessel to take part, if this appeals. Check the tournament schedules online.  Anglers on boats leaving from Los  Sueños or Quepos docks are required to purchase and carry a valid Costa Rica fishing license, available at the marina on the day of your charter for approximately  $24 US, payable in cash. You can contact each of the marinas in advance by email to book your charter if you prefer, or make arrangements during your visit.

 

Q. Once I decide which activities or tours I'm interested in, how should I select the tour or activity provider? How do I know who is the most reliable? 

We recommend checking out the activities that interest you for current recommendations as to good providers on well respected travel websites such as www.tripadvisor.com, by location. For instance, search under Quepos, and look up Things to Do to see the most highly rated activities based on actual visitors' reviews. The ratings are up to date and frequently change as conditions warrant. We also use a Costa Rica guidebook. Our personal favorite is the DK Eyewitness Guide to Costa Rica. Also see our Resources page for a list of websites and contact information on some of our favorite providers that we have personally selected for you. 

 

Q. Can you handle the booking of activities for me?

Unfortunately, we are unable to handle activities bookings on your behalf due to the fact that we are not on-site. If you prefer to make your arrangements in advance, you will find contact information listed for many of the attractions in the Resources section of this website. Many of the better operators have websites, and it is easy to handle the these arrangements and make bookings from home before your trip, leaving more time to enjoy your vacation. If you're not a big planner, or you want to see how you feel when you get here, that's fine too. You can easily contact the operators by email or phone once you are at the house. If you need assistance with arrangements following your arrival, our on-site caretaker will be happy to help you. See the Resources page for more details. 

 

Q. Are there ATMs in Costa Rica? Can I use credit cards? Do I need cash?

ATMs are not difficult to find, though you may have to find one in your own particular network to get it to work. As you arrive at the airport, there is an ATM in the baggage claim area at the airport which will give you cash in dollars or colones. Avoid the foreign exchange desk at the airport, as the exchange rate is terrible. There is really no need to get cash in colones until you arrive.  If you do go to a bank to get cash, expect a long wait. However, if you need to do this, there are two banks in the town of Parrita. You will need to have your passport or a copy with you for any transactions. Most larger stores accept credit cards, although you will likely see on your statement a foreign transaction fee of ~2%+ on each transaction unless you have a credit card that does not assess these charges. Check your credit cards before your trip, as more and more cards are offering no foreign exchange fees as a benefit. This is a great thing as these can really add up. We also recommend that you contact your credit card company prior to your departure to advise them that you are traveling to Costa Rica so they know the charges you make while in the country are valid. This can save some headaches. You will need to have cash on hand to pay smaller vendors. Traveler's checks are not often seen, and are not generally welcomed by vendors. In a pinch, you can also usually use US dollars. Most vendors will accept them, but only in smaller denominations of $20 or less. 


Q. How do I calculate the exchange rate between US dollars and Costa Rican colones?

Even though the actual exchange rate fluctuates constantly, as a rule of thumb, the exchange rate from US dollar to colones is roughly $1 = 500 colones. The conversion is easy, as you just take a price in colones, double it and drop off three zeros to get the equivalent price in dollars.  Therefore, an item that costs 2000 colones is approximately US $4.

 

Q. Do I need a passport to travel to Costa Rica? How about a visa?

To travel to Costa Rica, you will need a valid passport from your country of origin. Make sure it is not within six months of expiration, or you will likely not be allowed to board your flight to Costa Rica. A visa is not required for stays up to 90 days, but your entry and exit will be stamped in your passport.  


Q. Do I need to carry my passport while in Costa Rica?

Bring a photocopy of the photo page of your passport – color is best- and keep that with you when out and about. You will need to show it from time to time, for example when you make a large purchase or change money, but carrying the photocopy is safer and guards against loss of your passport. Once you arrive in Costa Rica, take another copy, this time of the page in your passport that contains the entry stamp that Costa Rica Immigration placed in your passport when you arrived. Keep that together with the other copy. Keep your original passport in a safe place.

 

Q. Will my cell phone work in Costa Rica? 

Some US  cell phones work in Costa Rica if you have an international voice or data plan, but be sure to check rates before your trip, as the minutes, especially for data, can be very costly. If you do not wish to use your phone when out of the US, make sure to turn your phone off or place it in airplane mode before your flight departs the US so you do not incur international roaming charges unintentionally. If you have a smart phone, and wish to use some of the apps that require the Internet once you arrive in Costa Rica, but do not intend to use your phone to make calls, you can always leave the phone in airplane mode and use its features when you have Wi-Fi access, which is relatively easy to find.  If you have a VOIP app on your smart phone, such as Skype, Vonage, or FaceTime you can make calls to the US from any location with Wi-Fi, including La Fiaca. There are a number of apps that allow you to communicate without using your data minutes. Check out Viber, Whats App and Line. We have used Whats App quite a bit, and we love it! It allows you to communicate by voice, text, or audio recording, send photos or videos, and to set up a chat group, which is very useful to keep everyone up to date during your vacation. Each person must have the app downloaded on their phone for it to work. We highly recommend this app. If you need a Costa Rica cell phone, one good option is the cell phone kiosk in the airport baggage claim where you can purchase a data card from ICE, (pronounced “ee-say”), the Costa Rican telephone and electricity monopoly. These cards may also work in your existing phone if the hardware is compatible. Check with your carrier before your trip. You can also rent a Costa Rican cell phone at the airport.

 

Q. How about making local calls within Costa Rica?

The area code for Costa Rica is 506. Calls made from a Costa Rica phone within Costa Rica are all local calls. Numbers that begin with a “2” are land lines. Numbers that begin with an “8” are cell phones. All phone numbers are eight digits. If you see a sign posted somewhere with a seven digit phone number, it means the sign is old and you will need to add a number , usually "2", sometimes "8", in front of the printed numbers. Make sure you do not use the local Costa Rica phone at the house for international calls. 


Q. How do I make an International Call from my own phone? 

To make an international call from phones other than those at the house, first dial 00 (exit code from Costa Rica); then the country code (1 for US/Canada; 44 for UK; 353 for Ireland; 61 for Australia; 64 for New Zealand, etc.) then the phone number. 

 

Q. Does the house have Internet? 

The house is equipped with high speed DSL Internet and Wi-Fi, so feel free to bring your computer if you need to stay in touch and get e-mail. Unlike your cell phone, sending or receiving email on your computer incurs no additional cost. If there is a technical problem at the house, which sometimes occurs, the high speed Internet may then work only in wired mode with a LAN cable. There should be a 50' LAN cable at the house. There are also a several Internet cafés in Parrita: El Sesteo, next to the Banco de Costa Rica, and Don Camilo, across from the bus station, are two that have free Wi-Fi if all else fails. You should have little trouble locating an Internet café in other locations if you are out and about. They are all over.

 

Q. Can I call the US or Canada from the house?

We have Vonage VOIP phone service at La Fiaca, which uses a US number. Make sure to use the VOIP phone for international calls, not the local phone. We use this number for calls to/from the US when at the house and the cost is reasonable. The phone is set up with a Seattle (206 area code) phone number. Dial as if you are in Seattle from this phone. If the call is a local Seattle call, use only 7 digits. If not, use 10 digits, including the area code as if you were dialing within the US. We also use WhatsApp and Skype. Consider downloading your preferred VOIP program or app to your computer and/or smart phone and setting up an account to use to call home before your trip, particularly if you anticipate signficant usage. See the discussion about the available apps in one of the questions above.


Q. What are the entertainment options at the house?

We have two flat screen televisions and two Roku boxes that are tied to the Internet. You will have access to streaming content including movies from our own personal Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts, plus additional content available on Roku. We have several iHomes available for you to use with your iPhone or iPod. The connectors on these are the 30-pin style (iPhone 4 or earlier). Some of our guests like to bring small portable bluetooth speakers to pair with their smart phones to play their own personal music collection. These have gotten so small and portable that they are easy to travel with. If you wish to play DVDs or CDs, you'll need to bring your own portable player. 

 

Q. Does Costa Rica use the same electric plugs as the US? Do I need a converter? 

Electrical plugs are the same as in the US. All of your electrics will work fine here. The house is equipped with hair dryers, and also a whole house surge protector to protect against electrical spikes. Power outages are not unusual, but they usually do not last long. Despite the surge protector, we recommend you use your own portable surge protector with any delicate electronics, just to be safe.


Q. What else do I need to know about power and using my electronic or digital devices?

The house is equipped with several automatic AVRs, Automatic Voltage Regulators, for use with delicate electronics. Power can fluctuate a lot in Costa Rica, and without these devices, it is easy to "fry" equipment. Most of ours look like big black bricks. Use them with anything digital, eg. computers, the TV, the Computer/Internet gear - router, modem, phones, the microwave. Plug your device into the AVRs rather than into the wall directly. The kitchen microwave also has a dedicated AVR, which is indicated by a little green LED light to show it is active.

 

Q. Can I drink the water in Costa Rica?

Absolutely. Costa Rica, unlike many Latin American countries, prides itself on its water quality and the standards are stringent. Our local water is tested frequently and exceeds the standards. Even so, just to be extra safe, we still prefer to run our water through a filtration system at the house. We recommend filling the Britta pitcher and using that for drinking. The refrigerator has its own independent water filtration system. When out and about, you can be comfortable drinking the water in restaurants and other establishments.

 

Q. What else should I bring?

Bring or plan on buying plenty of sunscreen and bug spray or wipes. You are in the tropics. We are completely screened, but we are surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and the mosquitoes can be healthy! They are most prevalent in the green season. If you are an insect magnet, you can try taking vitamin B-1 daily for a couple of weeks prior to and during your trip. The scientific support for this is controversial, but it seems to help for us! Sunscreen and bug repellent are readily available in stores in Costa Rica, though as imported goods, they can be expensive. We recommend bringing these products with you, if possible. Some of our guests report that they have had found insect repellant wipes (vs. spray) and report good success using those.

 

Q. Is there shopping nearby?   

In addition to our new nearby grocery store, the nearby small town of Parrita has nearly everything you could possibly need, you just have to figure how to find it among the small shops scattered throughout the town. Exploring is part of the fun!... If you are looking for a specific service, an online directory of the businesses located in Parrita may be found here. If you notice a Parrita address referring to "La Julieta", that is the section of Parrita located just before you get to the bridge. Jacó and Quepos/Manuel Antonio are bigger towns and, in general, have more selection in their shops. Serious shoppers may want to head to the central valley where the selection is far more diverse. Escazú, a suburb of San José, is noted for its upscale shopping, and is host to the Multiplaza, home of numerous international luxury brands.

 

Q. Where can I find local handicrafts to purchase? 

If you are looking for something special to take home that is evocative of Costa Rica, check out one of the galleries or souvenir shops that you come across. One of our favorites is a shop located on Highway 34 about 1 km east of the junction with the autopista (Hwy 27). It has a vast selection of handicrafts, including molas, intricate, many-layered reverse appliqué textiles made by the Kunas of Panama, which are highly sought after. They also offer handmade wooden crafts created from Costa Rica’s amazing variety of hardwoods, ceramics, clothing, artwork, books, and even furniture. If you’re looking for a gift or a memento, this is a good place to consider stopping. They will be happy to ship your purchase home. The shop has an adjoining café and very clean bathrooms, so it’s a great break in your journey coming or going to the San José area.  Watch for the beautiful wrought iron gate and plantings and the sign that exclaims, Artisanas y Molas. There are also numerous galleries in Herradura, Jacó, Quepos & Manuel Antonio that sell a variety of handicrafts, jewelry and artwork. Don’t overlook the hotel gift shops, as these can be excellent places to find treasures.  The town of Sarchi, not far from San Jose, is renowned for its handicrafts and furniture. If you are traveling near there, it is worth a stop. If all else fails, the gift shops at the airport have a surprisingly good selection of handicrafts and books on Costa Rica to choose from as you await your flight home.

 

Q. Where can I go for nightlife?     

Jacó and Manuel Antonio have vibrant nightlife scenes and are the perfect spots to head for if you’re looking for live music, dancing, and a lively bar scene. Los Sueños Resort is noted for its live music as well.

 

Q. What if I have an emergency, need to visit a doctor, or need medication during my trip?       

Pharmacies (Pharmacias) in Costa Rica are staffed by very knowledgeable pharmacists, often English speakers, and they can help diagnose and prescribe a remedy for minor issues. There are three in downtown Parrita. For emergency care, there is a clinic/hospital right on our beach road, near the junction with the highway. There is also a hospital in Quepos on the road to the airport. Other major hospitals are located in the central valley near San José. Costa Rica is renowned for its excellent health care system. Private providers are noted for their reasonable cost and world class training. The burgeoning medical tourism industry has become another draw to Costa Rica for those seeking excellent care at a cost substantially lower than what is available in their home countries. See the separate listing of Emergency Numbers in Costa Rica for important phone numbers.

 

Q. Is there a departure tax that I must pay at the airport as I leave the country?

Yes. There is a departure tax of approximately $29 per person.  Several airlines have recently moved to a new system of incorporating this tax into the airfare you paid, so it is effectively prepaid, and there is no longer any need to stand in line at the airport to pay it. Those that have not yet transitioned to the new system will do so soon. If your airline is one of those who have not yet moved to the new system, then you will still need to stand in the line to pay it yourself. Check with the attendants at the tax station. They can tell you which group your airline is in. If you have to pay it directly, the tax is payable in colones or dollars. When you enter the departure level at the airport terminal, turn right and go directly to the tax payment line. You must do this before you check in for your flight, then fill out the form they give you before you reach the ticket counter for your airline. You can charge the tax to a credit card, but you will be charged as if the transaction were a cash advance. It’s better to plan ahead and have the cash, if you can. They’ll accept colones or US dollars.

 

Q. Should I tip your caretakers at the end of my stay?      

We are often asked for guidance on this subject by our guests. If you feel that you have been well taken care of during your stay by our caretaker or our housekeeper, a tip for each is both welcomed and appreciated. The amounts are entirely up to you, but roughly C10,000 colones (~ $20) per day of your stay, is about right for the caretaker, depending upon the services provided, and about $3.00 or so per day per day of your stay is about right for our housekeeper. She works very hard to prepare the house before your arrival and after your departure, and also maintains the house during your stay. It is usually best to keep the payments separate. 


Q. What about tipping in restaurants?

When dining in restaurants, a tip, usually about 10%,  is nearly always automatically included in the total bill, and labeled  "Servicio". If the service is good, we generally add another 5% to bring the total to around 15%. Sometimes, when paying by credit card, you can just add the extra tip to the credit card receipt, sometimes it's easier to use cash for the difference.  It is also considered good manners and is customary to also leave some spare change on the table- literally just a few coins-  when you leave in addition to the service charge that has already been included in the bill.

 

 Q. What else do I need to know about Costa Rican people?

Costa Rican people are, in general, extremely polite and well mannered people. They are very welcoming, generous and kind. Costa Ricans will always greet each other with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek and inquire about the health of the family and make other small talk before getting down to business. Politeness is essential here and goes a long way toward getting your goal accomplished. Costa Ricans are typically uncomfortable with conflict. Good manners will get you further.

 

 

 

 
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