Costa Rican Adventure w/ EF College Break FULL REVIEW

Hey fellow adventurers!

I am back with another EF College Break review!

It hasn’t even been a full 24 hours since I’ve arrived from Costa Rica and yet I am already eager to start writing about my trip.

For those of you who decided to click on this article, chances are you’re admiring this trip from afar or you’ve already booked this trip with EFCB and you want to know what awaits you. Well, I am here to give you a FULL review based on my personal experience and hopefully it will lend you all the information you may need.

Please keep in mind it’s not my job to tell you to book a trip with EFCB ( I am not employed by them), I am just a girl who loves to travel and then write about it.

You should know that this was my second time traveling with the company therefore my focus will be entirely on the Costa Rica trip, if you want more general information I would suggest my first article: Traveling with EF College Break FULL Experience + Review + 411

And to make it easier I will also break down all the information into sub categories so that you can pick and choose what to read.

Enjoy!

18342477_10203207614026701_1463113724726732149_n

Day One: Arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica 

Prior to your trip you will be given all your flight info. If you’re one of the lucky ones you will be arriving early in the day. Since I departed from Los Angeles, I was one of the first people to arrive along with three other girls. Most of the group arrived in the afternoon and a few at night.

I am glad I arrived early because it gave me the chance to nap, shower and explore the town prior to our group introduction.

Meeting Tour Director

My tour director was insanely AWESOME. I cannot be more thankful for the tour director we got. He was genuinely friendly, kind and knowledgeable about the country, sites, culture and animals. He was the best tour director out of both my EF trips. ( Note: Tipping will be discussed below.)

Group Introduction

Once the majority of the group arrives in San Jose, you will have the chance to meet everyone. It isn’t necessarily a mixer of any kind but more of a quick meeting. Everyone introduces themselves and plans to either go out for the night or have dinner. The first day you are pretty much allowed to do and go where you please.

Hotel #1 Review: Hotel Villas Tournon

First of all I am the only person who hit the jackpot on this subject. Because I traveled alone and our group was an uneven number and I arrived early, I was the only person who scored the single room.

Everyone shared a room with one other person the entire trip. Which is not bad compared to Europe -where you have to share room with up 4 to 6 girls.

Our first hotel was nice, a little far from downtown but only a 15-20 minute walk. The room was clean for the most part and was provided with the basic toiletries. For breakfast they provided toast, eggs, rice and coffee. All which were delicious!

Keep in mind that this is the hotel you arrive in and the hotel you will be leaving from.

 

DAY TWO: COFFEE PLANTATION TOUR & CORSO LECHERIA TOUR + Travel To Next City

For the most part this is an easy breezy day. Please note that on the EF website Day Two is different. The reason it’s different is due to timing. Because the Paos Volcano erupted a few weeks prior to my trip – the area was closed off to all travelers therefore we were unable to hike the volcano. Instead, it was replaced with a farm tour.

Coffee Plantation Tour:

This was a simple tour letting you know how coffee is made and a bit about the history. To be honest this was one of my least favorite portions of the tour. Even though it was nice and interesting and I definitely learned a lot about the production of coffee, I still found myself daydreaming a little.

Corso Lecheria Tour:

This tour was a little more fun because they take the entire group on a farm tour all while riding a tractor.  The views from this spot are fantastic because it’s all hills and greenery. The cool part was when everybody got the chance to milk the cows. Being a raised a city girl, I never thought that I would do something like this. I was kinda freaking out but in the end I was super excited about milking cows! LOL!

We also fed chickens, saw rabbits and pigs and ended the tour with some incredible cheese.

18301617_10203195049272590_3130184581551389770_n

 

Travel to Next City

After the farm tour, there is a lunch break and then a 3 hour bus drive to the La Fortuna region.

Tip: Download movies and music to your tablet or phone. Do this prior to your trip. Wi-Fi is not always the best in some areas. 

Hotel #2 Review: Las Colinas

Out of all the hotels we stayed at this one was my second favorite. It was located right at the city center, it had a balcony and bar overlooking the city and the rooms were clean. The breakfast was also well served here: toast, eggs, pancakes, and coffee.

 

DAY THREE: Hike La Fortuna Waterfall + Kayak on Lake Arenal + ( BONUS: HANGING BRIDGES) + HOT SPRINGS

This was one of the busiest days! The wettest, the most fun and one of my personal faves! So be ready to do a lot this day!

Hike La Fortuna Waterfall

The day starts at 7 am with breakfast and then a short drive to the waterfall. The waterfall itself is SPECTACULAR and one my favorite activities from the entire trip. However, the hike down was not the easiest and the hike back up was extremely difficult. I suggest taking breaks, going slow and comfortable shoes. The hike is only a few minutes but strenuous because it’s all stairs.

The waterfall though is worth every minute though. The water was so nice to swim in and it was my favorite photo opp. We stayed here for roughly an hour and a half.

18274869_10203197880503369_8090075560232172169_n

 

Bonus Activity: Hanging Bridges

This is not an item listed on the official EF itinerary, instead something that I and a couple of other girls in the group decided we would do during our four-hour gap.

I honestly highly recommend doing this activity. When I think back to my most adventurous moment of the trip I think of the hanging bridges. The entire area was super cool and really gave that jungle feeling. I felt like an explorer here, of course it started raining like crazy while we were there but it was definitely worth it. If you decide to do this activity, I highly suggest wearing COMFORTABLE SHOES. YOU WILL WALK A LOT.

KAYAK ON LAKE ARENAL

Lake Arenal is right by the hanging bridges, and by “right by”, I mean a 30 – 40 minute hike. It was a brutal walk to the lake but we did it. We met the rest of the group here about mid-day for our kayak tour. I was pretty exhausted at this point so I opted for the boat ride instead. EF gives you the choice to either kayak or ride the boat.  Myself and a few other girls chose to take the boat ride. It was a nice, relaxing ride overlooking the lake and what they call snake island.

Those that did the kayaking tour loved it and even got to swim in the water.

Hot Springs

After the kayaking we went straight to the hot springs. This was an overall fun night. Essentially it was a small water park with hot springs, a wet bar and water slides. There were no lines and basically a great way to unwind. They also provided us with a nice dinner here.

 

DAY FOUR: DRIVE TO MONTEVERDE AND NIGHT WALK TOUR

Again this day may look different on your EF itinerary. The first thing you do on the fourth day is drive 3 hours to Monteverde. The guide then gives you time to settle in. We were suppose to take a nature walk afterwards but due to the heavy rains we rescheduled. So you may or may not go on the nature walk this day.

Night Walk Tour

What we did do was the night walk tour. This was an optional tour for an additional $20. About half of the group decided to take this tour including myself. And it was a very unique experience.

We spent about an hour and a half exploring a jungle area in Monteverde. We got extremely drenched but saw lots of cool creatures. The point of this night walk is to see more animals. We saw tarantulas, all sorts of bugs, snakes, birds and even a horse. The night walk was fun because it’s just the group, a guide, the darkness and your flashlight.

Tip: Take closed-toed shoes, if possible rain boots. Don;t take shoes you’re planning on wearing the next day. They will get soaked. 

Hotel #3 Review: Hotel El Sueno

Out of all the hotels we stayed at this one was by far the worst. My room was clean but I had zero hot water. Other people had roof leaks, bugs or an overall dirty room. I had a few bugs and was careful not to leave anything out that would attract more bugs. The staff was nice and the breakfast was okay. This hotel did not win best breakfast for me. I also ate lunch in the hotel and ended up getting a stomach ache after. Nothing severe, but enough for me to not have lunch there again.

 

DAY FIVE: HORSEBACK RIDING+ ZIP LINE + LOCAL FOOD EXPERIENCE

Similar to-day three, we had an action packed day five. Everything place we went to and every activity we did was a memorable adventure!

Horseback Riding

This was a lot harder than I imagined but something I will never forget. We rode horses up and down a trail in Monteverde. The views here were extraordinary so try to look around you even if you find yourself too concentrated on your horse. The horses understand what they are there to do and know the trail well but each horse does have their own personality.

18033228_10203211961535386_6077891795808298278_n

ZIP LINE

The most THRILLING part of the trip was the zip lining! It was easy to do and the views were GRAND & MAJESTIC! There were nine platforms, two long ones. The last one was about a mile or more long. And the views were enough to take your breath away.

At this location you can do other extreme activities including bungee jumping, Tarzan swing and more.

Tip: If you buy the DVD with photos make sure your pictures are indeed inside. I ended up paying $10 for a blank disc and don’t want this to happen to anybody else. 

Local Food Experience

The rest of the day is pretty much free to explore or book another activity. It’s until 8 pm where you have the local food experience. Which, is pretty much a night out at the bar and some dancing.

 

DAY SIX: NATURE WALK +TRAVEL TO CENTRAL PACIFIC COAST + FREE DAY

Again, this day will look different on your EF itinerary. Due to the rain certain things were shifted. Before our three-hour bus drive to the Central Pacific Coast we took our nature walk that we were suppose to take on day four.

Nature Walk

This was a very simple one-hour nature walk around the cloud forest. This is where your guide will talk about the trees, plants and animals.

Free Night

Once you arrive at your next stop, the rest of the day is pretty much yours to enjoy.

Hotel #4 Review: Hotel Mar de Luz

After the horrible hotel in Monteverde, we were blessed with an awesome hotel. This hotel was by far my most favorite of the entire trip. It was clean, we had hot water and the rooms were super nice. I again rejoiced in my single cozy room. It was also right by all the shops and restaurants and across the street from the beach.

 

DAY SEVEN:  BEACH DAY!

This is the day to splash around in the waters, lay out on the sand, see loads of monkeys and make sure the raccoons don’t take your bags!

Manuel Antonio National Park

After a short hike to the beach, you pretty much have the entire morning to yourself at the beach. The beach is beautiful, the waves are super calm and the animals make it so much more entertaining. I saw so many monkeys and had to keep my eye out the entire time because the raccoons kept trying to get everyone’s bags.

Tip: Don’t take any bags of food. If you take food, only take it in zip-lock bags and have your food pre-made. Also, don’t leave your bags unattended they will get taken away. AND WEAR TONS OF SUNSCREEN. 

18358909_10203216390766114_3625067324316260973_o

 

DAY EIGHT: CROCODILE TOUR AND DRIVE BACK TO SAN JOSE

For my trip the crocodile tour was moved to the eighth day. This was a relaxing and cool way to see all the crocodiles living in the Tarcoles River. We were able to get up close to the crocodiles and even see some of the baby crocodiles. There were also tons of different bird species to see on this boat ride.

After the crocodile cruise we drove back to our first city and our first hotel. The rest of the day was a free day.

18451762_10203220809236573_2749457963128336030_o

 

DAY NINE: WHITEWATER RAFTING + GOODBYE DINNER

 

Whitewater Rafting

This was our last activity on the trip. Whitewater rafting in the Sarapiqui river and it was super cool. I think it was the best way to end the trip. Our guides were so much fun, and really made the experience that much better. They provided us with pineapples and watermelon during the rafting and afterwards fed us a very delicious lunch.

18489788_10203233070663101_5582338028077680404_o

Goodbye dinner

This was a very nice way to say goodbye to everyone. They fed us a great dinner and then provided us a bar area to drink and dance. This is also when you tip your guide and bus driver.

Tipping

I mentioned above that my tour guide was AMAZING. And because of that I truly felt he deserved a generous amount. EFCB recommends that you tip $3-$5 a day. So, if you tip $5 for 10 days that should be about $50 per person. To me this is a personal thing that depends on how you felt about your tour guide and the amount you choose to give. But to be honest, my tour guide was so good I felt that $50 was not enough. I chose to give $80 and I know of others who also gave more than $50 but again it really depends on how you feel. The bus driver should also get a tip, our bus driver was helpful and timely and EFCB recommends you tip $2 per day, so that would be $20 for a 10 day trip.

After this trip, I do think that guides should work hard to earn those tips. I don’t think a tip is earned by just going through the motions but by providing a genuine and memorable experience for us their customers.

 

DAY TEN : FLYING BACK HOME

EFCB not only arranges a pick up from the airport but also a ride back to the airport. Chances are many of the people in the group will leave at the same time. They make the transportation really easy and hassle free.

 

OVERALL OPINION

I truly enjoyed my trip to Costa Rica. I chose this place is the first place for the adventure and I think that that’s what I got and more. I would go back to Costa Rica, but this time I would explore more beaches and more of the waterfalls. That’s one of the drawbacks of traveling with EFCB is that I really hoped we would see more waterfalls. And even though this was second trip with EFCB, I think I would do another trip with them.

 

WHAT TO PACK (10 days)

If you are going to Costa Rica during the wet/rainy season I HIGHLY suggest you bring the following:

  • Rain Jacket (2 if possible)- you could also bring a poncho but I think the rain jacket is better
  • Tennis Shoes- for the hiking
  • Water shoes
  • Rain boots
  • Sunscreen- even if its cloudy you can still tan/sunburn
  • Bikinis- I used 5 in 10 days
  • Board Shorts- for the rafting
  • Beach Towel- I brought one and just washed it in the hotel
  • Long Pants- 1
  • Shorts- 1 or 2
  • Light t-shirts
  • Dresses- for going out

 

FAST FACTS

  • IT RAINS EVERYDAY (WET SEASON)
  • THEY ACCEPT VISA AND AMERICAN DOLLARS PRETTY MUCH EVERYWHERE
  • THERE ARE BUGS ALL OVER, BU SPRAY COMES IN HANDY

 

QUESTIONS

I am happy to answer any questions you may have, leave them below! I hope my article helped you and if there’s anything I may have forgotten to write about let me know below!

Either way, ENJOY YOUR TRIP TO COSTA RICA!!!

PURA VIDA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Advertisements

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Corey says:

    Hi Denise! I am planning on doing the Costa Rica trip as well.

    What is the “dry/sunny season?” compared to the wet season when you went.
    I read your Europe trip review too, so cool!
    What is the typical gender breakdown/ratio?

    I noticed you stayed in hostels in Europe and hotel rooms in Costa Rica. Do they tell you this before hand? Can you op to have your own hotel room?

    What’s the nightlife like with the group in your expierence? Do people go out to the bars and clubs or most people stay in each night? I myself am a beer drinker and love to try local brews. Do people hook up at all? I keep imagining something like the “Real World” on MTV jaja.

    Sorry for my english and so many questions.

    Thanks!

    Like

    1. Hi Corey!

      Thank you for checking out both my articles.

      Honestly after going to Costa Rica during it’s “wet season”, its hard for me to imagine a dry one! However, the dry season is like their summer. Wet season is like their winter.

      So for my Europe trip the group was larger and mostly consisted of girls. There were about 4-5 boys. And for my Costa Rica trip, the group was smaller and there were only 2 boys. So, plan on there being mostly girls.

      So, I think the reason why in Europe we had hostels and Costa Rica hotels is most likely due to price. I know EFCB tries to travel the cheapest way and hostels are more common in Europe. I don’t think there are many , if any, in Costa Rica. So, they don’t actually tell you until 30 days before your trip where you’ll be staying at exactly and what time you will actually be leaving. But if you’re doing the Costa Rica trip I would plan on hotels. if you are doing Europe, I would plan on hostels. Also, to be honest the hostels weren’t terrible. I mean they are not as great as hotels but they get the job done. We had some nice hostels in Europe and some ‘whatever’ hostels in other parts. As for booking your own stay, I would try to speak to a EF rep, but it would be more difficult to stay away from your group because there are alot of group excursions. And easier for your tour director as well.

      So in both Europe and Costa Rica most of the group went out every night. ESPECIALLY THE BOYS. lol Most people went to bar hopping and to clubs. In Europe they did a lot of pub crawls. So I would not worry too much about their not being enough night life, but I do recommend to be safe and stay in a group while out at night. As for “hooking up”, YES! LOL They keep it “quite” but rumors spread. Chances are people in your group will hook up. lol

      Anyways Corey, I hope I answered all your questions!!! If you have any more feel free to ask! Have an amazing time!!!!

      And thanks for reading.

      -Denise

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s