It is no secret that traveling internationally can be tricky, especially if it is a destination you have not visited before. Here are some hints and tips for getting the most out of your travels to a Costa Rica fishing adventure. Let’s assume you already know the basic requirements of international travel, such as a valid passport and focus instead on specific caveats involving travel to Quepos.
Pre-flight for international travel to San Jose, Costa Rica:
Call banks and credit card companies and inform them when you will be in Costa Rica. This helps avoid any lock up of credit and debit cards with activity generated in Quepos, which can and does happen if financial institutions are not notified of travel plans. In addition, when notifying your bank or credit card companies, ask for the international collect call numbers to take with you in case you run into debit/credit card issues, while you are fishing in Quepos, and need to call them to unlock your accounts.
As a rule of thumb, one thousand Costa Rican Colones (CRC) is roughly the equivalent of two US Dollars (USD). Even though CRC/USD is a fairly well rounded conversion, converting it in your head or “on the fly” can cause confusion. So print a wallet size currency converter at Oanda to carry with you. Enter your source and destination currency, and then click on the “Traveler’s Cheatsheet” tab for printable currency converter.
Pack clothing for sun protection that is comfortable, breathable, and moisture wicking if possible. Don’t be afraid to bring your favorite wide brimmed hat for those sunny Costa Rica fishing days! If you have a specific sunscreen you like to use, pack that as well, odds are you will not find that sunscreen in Costa Rica shops. If you are trying to blend in with the locals in Costa Rica, definitely keep your solid white athletic shoes at home…that is a fashion phenomenon popular in North America only. Colored athletic shoes are less conspicuous.
En Route to Quepos from San Jose:
Flying from San Jose to Quepos is the most comfortable, hassle free, and quickest mode of transport. Two airlines provide shuttle service to/from San Jose/Quepos, Nature Air and Sansa. Both airlines provide direct online booking at their respective websites, but are usually not available to book via popular travel reservation websites.
NatureAir flies out of Pavas/Tobias Bolanos airport (SYQ), a different airport than Juan Santamaria airport (SJO), where most international flights arrive. Pavas is about 11 kilometers from Juan Santamaria, and can take 20 minutes to an of hour driving time to Pavas. You can use taxi or prearranged shuttle (a shuttle is usually cheaper, and less stressful than taxi) to get to/from both airports. Checked baggage allowances vary based on type of ticket purchased, from 15 to 40 lbs for one bag, and a small carry on is allowed. Nature Air fares are competitive to draw travelers to Pavas airport.
Sansa flies out of SJO/Juan Santamaria airport, but is in a different terminal which is walking distance from International arrivals area. You must exit airport and take a left turn outside to reach Sansa terminal in another building. Weight limit for checked bag is 25 lbs, and anything over that the airline charges by the pound. A small carry on is allowed. The overage charge is entirely variable as well, if the flight is not full, over 25 lbs may not incur a charge. Sansa does provide a shuttle to towns of Quepos & Manuel Antonio for a nominal fee.
Don’t let the small size of the aircraft fool you; both NatureAir and Sansa have very professional and capable pilots manning the planes. This is my favorite part of the actual journey, flying from San Jose to Quepos, where you can enjoy some pretty awesome views of mountain ranges, rivers, the Pacific, and palm tree plantations on a quick 30 minute flight. This is where the excitement usually begins to rise, as it becomes obvious you are arriving in a pristine rainforest area, and it is visibly clear from the ocean views that you are very close to experiencing some great Costa Rica fishing! Both airlines can be fairly strict about being checked in 45 minutes before departure time, so give yourself plenty of time to clear customs and make it to respective terminal.
Rental cars are available at San Jose and Quepos airports. With the newly opened Caldera Highway/Autopista del Sol, which stretches from the western San Jose metropolitan area to the Pacific, the days of being forced to drive treacherous roads over mountain ranges are over…but driving is not recommended for first time travelers to Costa Rica as road signs can be tricky and traffic laws are not consistently obeyed. For groups of up to 5, private shuttles can be arranged via Gray Line tours. This can take three to five hours of travel time.
If you are on a strict budget or have lots of time to kill, or a sense of adventure, you can take a bus from San Jose to Quepos/Manuel Antonio, but you will have to arrange transport to downtown San Jose bus terminal. You cannot book bus tickets online, they must be bought in person, but, the buses are modern and typically a bargain at less than 10 dollars each way, and there can be some great scenery to be had on the bus ride. I have yet to try this and it is not recommended for families! This can take anywhere from four to six hours of travel time.
Once in Quepos/Manuel Antonio:
There are ATMs in Quepos and Manuel Antonio, most dispense both Costa Rican Colones and US Dollars, and usually have English option for display. I prefer to go to ATMs once I reach Quepos for both Colones and US Dollars, rather than carrying cash while traveling and paying exorbitant currency conversion fees at the airport. In addition, many of the local businesses accept US Dollars, but you should plan on receiving Colones as change.
Budget about 15-20 US dollars, in cash only, for a Costa Rica fishing license, they are sold at the marina by Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura (INCOPESCA) staff, usually just outside the tackle shop at the marina. The fishing license price and duration tends to vary year by year, but the INCOPESCA team does check licenses before you are allowed down on the dock, so keep it in a safe place throughout the duration of your trip. After paying for license, you should be on your charter boat in no time. Sit back and relax on the ride out to the fishing hotspots, and get ready for some magnificent Costa Rica fishing!
Budget 30 US dollars for departure tax from Costa Rica. Two dollars for Quepos airport exit, payable at the entry gate, and 28 dollars for San Jose exit, payable in the departure area before you check in for your international flight. You will have to fill out a form given to you by taxing agent before you are allowed to check in for international flight.
Finally, this list is not all inclusive. Use common sense as you would in any new environment or a big city, listen to your instinct when dealing with new circumstances, and the odds are stacked heavily in your favor for a great Costa Rica fishing vacation!