How I picked this trip
Costa Rica has been on the short list of places I wanted to go. Here's why I decided to go now:
--Somewhere exotic, but safe.
--Somewhere not Mexico, but similar.
--No shared bathrooms.
--Enough different to cause some cultural discomfort.
--Enough variety to cause us to think and learn.
--Fun things to do, especially of interest to my 14 year old grandson
--Someone else to do the driving
When I went to Italy, the tour guide made an offhand comment about how some countries are harder to travel in. Neophyte travelers, he thought, should start out with an "easy" country, like England, where the language and cultural are most like mine.
Costa Rica is on the "easy" end of that scale. Most locals speak some English, you don't have a lot of contact with non-tourist related locals, getting around was easy, whether walking or public transportation. The food was good. Some water was drinkable--at least I had no problems.
For travel recommendations, i.e. restaurants, guides, activities, I downloaded Fodor's Essential Costa Rica, 2019. It was great to have an on-line guide; you know how heavy these travel books can be.
James Kaiser's Costa Rica was a good resource. Useful information about the culture of the Ticos and a good short history of the country. Don't slam car doors.
I admit I finally read, Happier than a Billionaire by Nadine Pisani, a New Yorker who gave up a career and moved to Costa Rica. Sometimes funny and interesting if you want to know more about the whole ex-pat interest in Costa Rica.
Amazon.prime has quite a few travel/info videos about Costa Rica. Check it out.
Check LIst of Things to Do/Take
You need your passport. If, like me you're traveling from the US, you don't need a visa. You don't need to carry your passport around with you in-country. Other than customs and the airport, I never needed to have it on me..
I took 2 spray bottles of 40% deet (got it from Amazon). I expected to defeat clouds of hostile mosquitoes. Even the mosquitoes are busy shouting Pura Vida! I also wore long pants--usually jeans--and long sleeve shirts most of the time. I think this did more to keep me unbitten than the deet.
I got my flu shot (I was behind). I had a Hepatitis A vaccine (wasn't covered by insurance so cost almost $100). My doctor recommended the Typhoid series--it's 4 pills taken a couple of weeks before the trip. It was expensive too. Finally, I had a prescription for a cipro type antibiotic in case of diarrhea. The doc said to try pepto-bismo first if I had symptoms.
I ordered colones from the bank about a month before the trip. I like to have some local money on hand when I get in-country. Several reasons--the airport is the worst place to change dollars; it gives me a chance to become familiar with the money. It turned out US dollars worked everywhere and were preferred.
I'd read to take a bunch of low denominations (ones and fives) for tips, souvenirs, etc. I did, It worked great, though it's awkward to have a stack of 50 ones. It looks like a lot more than it is.
I took binoculars, but never used them --I did use the telephoto lens on my camera a lot, and it worked pretty well.
I took my iPad, which I used to download all of my day's photos, and then upload them to Amazon Prime. It worked but the internet was slow, and often stopped without constant supervision. But it got done.
I thought about taking a flashlight, but worried about the batteries, and then left it home. I was glad. I figured I had my phone in case I needed extra light.
Also used my phone for an alarm clock, which I needed every single morning.
Purchased a 30 day international phone plan. Cost a surprising $60. Did a lot of Marco Polo, but all the emergencies were saved til I got home.