Costa Rica's


Global Mark : 10.83

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 


 3 2 2 4 2 3 3 3 11.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
9 78%(7) 33%(3) 56%(5) 8 to 15 10.67

Description :
A relaxed provincial town

Comment : There isn't much to do or see in town but it makes a pleasant introduction to Costa Rica and it is surrounded by three national parks and numerous beaches

What to do ? Check the bus schedules at the station / Wander around the green streets / Relax on a bench at the Parque central / Check the few colonial houses and the church / Visit the free Museo de Sabanero (or Cowboy Museum), Mond to Sat 7:30-11:45 & 13:30-16:45, Sund 7:30-13:30) / This is also the place to get tourist information / Listen to the birds cacophony by the plaza in the evening / Eat ice-creams or pastries (or better : both !) / If time, explore the surrounding natural attractions

What you may not like ? Having little to do / Finding the tourist office closed because the guy is away from town / Finding the Iglesia's doors closed except 13 to 15:30 / Feeling more in a village than a town / The dirty & smelly river / The cars with loud speakers / The lack of street signs / Finding birds' dropping on your ti-shirt / The cost of the parks and lack of public transport to Rincon de la Vieja, the best in the areas / A few dogs barking

How long ? Half a day for the town (1 hour would do actually) plus one day for each national park and beach.

Where to stay ? Quite a few budget options in town :

  • ® Cabinas Michelle (6663951, Av 5, 150m North of Parque central, 500m east of bus station / C2088, w. shower C2500 / The rates are per person but I tried to convince the friendly owner Noel (speaks French & English) to make it cheaper for two. Check it out / Cable TV C500 extra / Go there for the lovely & spotless rooms, the excellent location and to get stuffed at a ridiculous price: morning(C600), lunch & dinner ($2). Best place in town ! / What you may not like : no place is perfect, the kids are noisy !
  • Hotel Liberia (6660161), 75m S of Parque Central / C2000 w. shower, nicer 2760 p.p. / Go there for the cheapest price w. shower / What you may not like : the cheapest are tiny and a bit grungy and the garden is a bit messy
  • Posada del Tope & Hotel Casa Real (Sgl $5 ($6 w. cable TV), better Dbl $12 w. TV / Common shower / Go there for the comfortable Dbl / What you may not like the Sgl are real basic and it is it is expensive as without shower. Nice historical house however.
  • ® La Casona (6662971), S of the above, lovely pink house / 2000(1) or 3500(2), w. shower & cable TV 3200(1) & or 4800(2) / Common TV with sofa in the pink house plus fridge / Go there for the correct large rooms at acceptable prices / What you may not like : the cheapest rooms are rather empty
  • Hotel La Fiesta (6660678), C4-6Av, West of Museo / 3000(1) or 4500(2), w. shower 3500(1) or 5500(2), w. AC 7500(1) or 11000(2) / Swimming pool / Go there for the nice rooms by the swimming pool and the general cleanliness / What you may not like : the cheapest in another building are rather basic and therefore expensive
  • ® Hospedaje Condega (6661165), S of the above on Av 6 / 1500 p.p., w. shower 2000 p.p. / Go there for the cheapest prices, the clean rooms and the family atmosphere / What you may not like : the rooms are rather small & empty and two Italians stole the common TV
  • Hotel Guanacaste (6660085), 200m S of bus station, follow the signs / w. shower $15(1) or 28(2) / $2 saving if HI Card / Ridiculous prices considering the rooms : tiny, grungy and bunk beds. A rip-off !

Internet ? The best place in town is Libernet (, E of plaza on the way to the Iglesia : C250 for 30mn (min), big screens and free coffee. If you need less time, the place N of the plaza on Calle Central charges C200 for 15mn

Change ? Most banks change TC but nearly all will charge a commission of 0.75% to 1.5%. Banco Custatlan (lovely yellow building on Av Central, W of plaza) was an exception. Although the rate is a bit lower (325.75), it was the best deal in town. For cash, the best rate (326.15) plus free water & coffee was Banco "I-forgot-the-name-sorry-about-that" on Av. Central, C12, West of the Cafeteria Pan Y Miel. It also has a visa ATM.

Shopping ? Two supermarkets in town but ridiculous prices for food.

Where to eat ? The best deal in town and probably of Costa Rica is offered by Cabinas Michelle to its guests : an enormous dinner of meat, rice, beans, bananas, salad & fruit for $2 ! Breakfast is as filling and cost C600. What is more, it is served in the room and this Haiti guy knows how to cook ! If you are not staying here, the cheapest bets are by the bus station. You may however prefer the atmosphere of one of the town's restaurant. Cafeteria Pan Y Miel, near the banks on Av central was reasonably priced (Pollo w. rice C975). Restorant Gran China (C5-Av3) was even cheaper w. Cantonese rice for C800. For breakfast, head for Jardin de Azucar, N of plaza on C. Central : from C350 to 825. Cenar also reasonable at C700 for already prepared dishes or C1400 for fish. 

The national parks ? It did not go to any of them so you are welcome to participate if you did. They all cost $6 to enter and all offer places to stay or camp. PN Rincon de la Vieja offers a dry landscape and an active volcano but, as there is no public transport, it is the most expensive to visit ($18 with Hotel Guanacaste for transport only !) / PN Santa Rosa should therefore be your first choice : mangrove swamp, forest, savannah and beaches / PN Guanacaste is the less developed with few facilities and visitors

Playa del Coco ? The nearest beach, 35km away, could be worth a trip or even used as a base to explore the surroundings (budget accommodations at around $8 p.p.). Reports about it are however contradictory : most were ecstatic and gave it an excellent rate (up to 20/20) but at least one found it dirty and polluted with a bad atmosphere...  What is sure is that the surroundings beaches are much better and that it is crowded and best skipped during WE. Snorkeling tours are available for C8000 (6 hours). If you have been, please contribute !

Backpacker's Tips : Rodrigo González Mera, Chile (April 03)
« Cabinas Mitchell: US$ 13 for two person (with discount), clean, laundry service, not dinner and breakfast at the moment (they will give in the future), nice owners, there is a roof terrace / Bus: Taxi Cabinas Mitchell - Terminal buses: 350 colones; León to Peñas Blancas: 1 ½ hr., 600 colones one ticket, try to take the bus at 4 AM direct to Guasaule, this terminal is near the Terminal where you come from the south (ask the taxi driver better) / Exit tax in Costa Rica: 200 colones for person / Entry tax Nicaragua: US$ 8 » 

Leaving ?
Check the schedules on the boards by the bus station and double check by asking around. To Penas Blancas (C500, 1.5 hours) at 5:30, 8:30, 9,11,12,14,16:45 & 20. This is the bus to take for PN Santa Rosa / To Canas (toward Tilaran for Monteverde or Fortuna), the best option is to take a El Pulmitan De Liberia reliable bus from the station just S of the bus terminal. At 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, 18 & 20. C365. 1 hour. Direct to San Jose at 4 & 5. C1410. 3.5 hours. Also buses to Canas from bus terminal but schedules not clear and C400. / To Playa de coco at 5:30, 7:30, 12:30, 16:30 & 18. C230. 45mn / Also Puntarenas & Santa Cruz Nicoya & other.

The trip to Tilaran via Canas : SS + SSS / Left / C365 + C150 / 1 hour + 30mn 
There was supposed to be a bus to Canas at 5:45. There wasn't ! Suddenly, the whole schedules board of the bus terminal became unreliable. And with nobody to ask info from, this is a rather unpleasant discovery. Most bus companies should comply more or less with the schedules but it would be a good idea to double check.
I headed for the only place with very reliable departure : El Pulmitan's terminal, 200m S. A bus to San Jose was leaving at 6am. There weren't too many people waiting so getting a seat on last notice wasn't a problem. It was a nice bus with, a rarity, rooms for both legs. 
15mn after departure, a passport control ! I was just starting to miss them... The scenery was nothing special, with some mountains in the background on the left side.
One hour later, we stopped in front of a red bullfight arena : this was Canas. After a 5mn walk, turn left for the bus terminal or right for the plaza and its mosaic church (worth a quick look). The bus station is another 5mn away. 
According to the board, the first bus to Tilaran was at 9am only. Two hours wait for a 45mn journey : welcome to Costa Rica ! But, asking a third person, I was told that there would be another one at 8am : unreliable schedules again ! This time, it was however good news.
We left nearly on time and the trip was pleasant, with mountains and pastureland panoramas on the left. We reached Tilaran within 45mn.A quick look at the schedules' board and I understood why I could have stayed in bed longer : the first bus to Monteverde or Fortuna was leaving at 12:30 only ! 3.5 hours to wait !

Buses from Canas (in theory) : To San Jose at 6, 9:15, 12:30 & 14:15 plus a few more from the main road / To Tilaran at 6, 8, 9, 10:30, 12, 13:45, 15:30 & 17:30. C150. 45mn / To Liberia at 5:45, 7:30, 9, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30 & 16:15. C400. 1 hour. Also possible from the main road. / To Puntarenas at 6, 6:40, 9:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30 & 16:15

See also the trip from Penas Blanca (Border with Nicaragua)