We both grew up in California; great weather and beautiful beaches are nothing new to us.
Our 9-day trip to Costa Rica was SO special and so beautiful. My words cannot begin to describe the awe-inspiring examples of the intricate minutiae of the Creator’s work on this earth that we only scratched upon on our visit: the mouth-dropping landscapes, flora and fauna, fresh rivers, beaches, and the myriad symbiotic relationships that we saw. We only stayed in three major areas (San Jose, Manuel Antonio, and Arenal/La Fortuna), and there are many others that we never explored.
If you decide to make a kosher trip to Costa Rica, reach out and we’d be happy to assist. You must know, however, that there are only daily minyanim in San Jose (to the best of my knowledge), and that the “attraction options” are very little in San Jose. In every other place, you are very unlikely to find a minyan, and San Jose is 2.5+ hours away from anywhere else where you will likely be. In other words, you will most likely be giving up on davening with a minyan for most of your trip. This may change during the high season, and certainly if you bring a minyan with you.
We departed TLV on Dec 10, 2019 at 7:30 AM (arrived at SJO the same day at 6:30 PM), and departed SJO on Dec 19, 2019 at 10:30 PM and arrived the next day, at the same time, in Tel Aviv. We had 9 full days and nights in the area (including one Shabbos).
We flew in mid-December, which is the beginning of the dry season. It rarely rained, but the rivers were also a bit lower. The place was green as can be, and literally a tropical paradise. This time of year is also the less expensive time of year, coming right before the XMAS break. It was a perfect time to travel: Right after the rainy season, so there was still plenty of water, and before XMAS, still less expensive.
In order not to spam people who helped us, you can contact me for the contact details of the people and places listed in this article.
We flew from TLV > CDG (France) > SJO (Costa Rica). The total trip time was 19:00 hours. It seemed like the trip from France to Costa Rica took 12 hours..it was very long. The Air France flights were good. We choose an aisle and adjacent seat in the middle row (of 4), so that the other people on our row would not ever climb over us. The flight back was only 16 hours. I’m pretty sure that these are the shortest flights possible from Israel.
(At the Duty Free in SJO, you can purchase Coffee/rum liquer with an OU – Flor De Cana Espresso. We actually didn’t see it in the shop on the way out, but local Ticos said that you can purchase it there. Maybe only at the arrivals store.)
We purchased our tickets with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. None of the other carriers had as short or convenient flights available, and this was also the best use of the points. The flight there, all daytime hours, was very long. Of course, if you fly from the US, the flight times will be shorter. None of the places that provide tefillah times on a plane provide for the SJO route. On the way there, it was fine. On the way back, when you are moving faster than normal time, it was a problem with Shacharis.
The Priority Pass lounge in SJO closes at 8 PM. Bummer. The one in CDG in Terminal 2E was a disappointment, though we were able to shower there. They gave you a 10 Euro credit towards food in their vending machine, which, other than the water didn’t seem to be kosher. There are luggage carts in SJO for free. The luggage took l o n g time to get out. Have patience. The airport is quite small. We rented a car from Adobe, which, unlike most of the other companies did not have a booth right inside the airport. We needed to walk outside and to the right to find the Adobe guy who was waiting for us. Cellphone SIMs and internet We were expecting to pick up SIMs at the airport from the Kolbi/ICE company. When we got there, the representative informed us that there were having temporary problems with service during a good part of the day and that they were not selling SIMs at the time. I had an Israeli World SIM with me so I figured that we’d be OK, at least until the next morning. Turns out that my SIM, while it did have calls to/from Israel and Costa Rica, did NOT have internet service. This made getting from the airport to our first night’s stay quite challenging. Basically, we used Waze to find our location and plan the route, but as soon as we left the rental car WiFi zone, the route was still on Waze, but no network for traffic updates. That was OK.
In the morning, I went to a grocery store to buy SIMs from another company. That part was simple enough. Activating and putting credit on them was a different story. The number to call was entirely in Spanish. No option for “For English, press 2.” I felt, for the first time, what people feel like in Israel when they have no idea how to speak the language. I had to find a kindred youth in a store who spoke a little bit of English and also understood how to use a smart phone to get the SIM activated. You need a passport for this, by the way. Then, I had to get in the cashier line to put either 1,000, 2000, 3, 4, or 5,000 Colones of credit on the line. I added 5,000 then 2,000 later. But, you need to pay in local cash – no credit cards or USD. So, I had to look around for someone to trade USD. I went to a bank and there were 25 people in line ahead of me. I found another bank with practically no line, got cash there, then went back to the grocery store. I probably burned close to an hour and had a lot of stress over something that could have been much simpler. If we did not have a car, this process would have been a lot uglier, too.
There is WiFi in many places there, but you cannot compare that to having a local SIM with service, more or less whenever. We did upload most of our pics when we were back at the hotel WiFi. Drinking water We drank water from the tap, everywhere we went. It was fine. In some places, tap water is actually spring water. We brought empty plastic bottles with us for daily drinking, and we also had water backpacks for our trips. They weren’t really necessary, but were nice to have. Research options We did a ton of research into activities, places to stay, clothes to pack, etc. We used these sites, primarily, to explore the attractions, areas, etc.:
Costaricatravelblog.com (run by the same people as DIY, below)
Diycostarica.com (we paid $5 for premier access – strongly recommended)
These sites will provide you with a lot more than you can possibly want to know. Note that they also offer discounts on certain attractions, as well as some offers of their own. They get kickbacks from ticket sales made through them, but they are also chock full of excellent suggestions, etc.
Two of the groups whose activities we booked were:
Exploradoresoutdoors.com – for the San Jose > Pacuera rafting > La Fortuna trip. They provided lunch for all the group. We brought our own. Just about every tour provided food. Great service.
Desafiocostarica.com - for the waterfall rappel trip (called the Lost Canyon). There was a little rappelling, and a lot more zip-lining (down, not straight across, so a bit more interesting). You’ll get wet, and have fun. They offer a more extreme tour, which includes some rappelling but its main focus is jumping from heights into deep pools of water, called Gravity Falls. If you are a real adventure seeker (like, “no fear”), this one is for you. Note that this company says that they can accommodate Kosher travelers. Check out exactly what that means if you choose to have them provide your lunch. They provided lunch for all the tour group. We brought our own. Great service.
After making our own reservations of flights and places to stay, and after compiling a list of the things we wanted to do most, we decided to enlist the assistance of a tour consultant. Pat Hewitt, of Costa Rica Travel (1-504-482-2800 or email@example.com) helped us rearrange our tour to make a lot more sense out of it. We switched some things around that turned out to be major improvements. We feel that the “Fly to SJO, travel to one good location, come to San Jose for Shabbos, then go to another location” was a great choice for our 9 days. The way the consultants work is that you pay them the same price you would pay, and they get a cut from the hotel or tour. So, we felt that we could use their expertise, and we’d pay the regular price instead of some minor discounts. This worked out really well, as we now had someone who knew about the activities and the distances, etc., to help us hone in on a program. There are many people and groups that offer this service.
Also, in our travels throughout the countryside, we passed hundreds, and I’m sure there are thousands of different places to stay, in all corners of the country at all different levels of price/comfort. There is no way that we would have stayed at the Nayara Springs had we needed to pay for it with cash (about $1000 per night). I can imagine that looking for a place can be rough with SO many choices. The folks at the Costa Rica travel blog strongly suggest to pick your activities, and only then to decide where to stay, based on that. I agree. Also, because there are SO many places, some of them are really out in the boondocks. That may be OK, but you should look on a map to see where a potential place is before you book it. Fortuna is a large area, and you may not want to be in the middle of the wilderness. I think that the cosatricatravelblog.com has a section about how close to the main attractions are several hotel choices. In the end, we had a great plan and with a lot of Siyata Dishmaya, things went practically without a hitch.
What we did, in order of our trip: Manuel Antonio (we had a rental car, which was a 4WD small SUV), from Tuesday – Friday:
Stayed in Los Altos Reserve – 7 score.
Private beach at the Los Altos Preserve – 4 score.
Playa Biesnza – 8 score
Mulguri horseriding (http://www.mulguri.com/) – 5 score. This was a 5-6 hour tour (about 1.5 hours on a horse). So-so.
Manuel Antonio Park with private guide – 8/9 score. Pat arranged for a private guide, Henry Cicada (+506 8897 4078), to meet us at our hotel. We drove with him to the Manuel Antonio National park. Henry was very well-versed in nature. He works with National Geographic and was just given credit on a recent television episode of theirs. He, like any other guide, will find animals that you’ll never see: Sloth, monkeys, lizards, frogs, bats, etc. Henry shared with us multiple example of symbiotic relationships between trees and the bugs that rest on (and defend) them. He attributed it to nature’s “adapting” to its challenges. We know that there is a Higher Power who rules the world. Being with a private tour enabled us to go at our own pace. Guides carry these scopes to see up in the trees up close, and they can show you how to put your camera in the scope, so you can get close-ups on your phone camera, too. We decided to do private instead of a public tour so we could go at our own pace. Note: this park is closed on Mondays, and you must get there early in the morning (from 8 AM). They have a limit of visitors and they enforce it. Outside the park there were several vendors hawking their parking spots and guided tours.
Canopy Safari Zip Line tour (canopysafari.com) – 9 score. They picked us up and brought us back. This was fun.
We should note that just about every tour included food. We declined a lot of food explaining that we only eat kosher. No discounts on price though. On some trips, we brought along our own butcher knife to prepare pineapple, otherwise, we had our own sandwiches and snacks. Just about everyone who deals with tourists will speak English, at some level. That said, the normal folk will not necessarily do so. We drove from Manuel Antonio to San Jose, with a brief stop in Jaco to say Hi to the Israelis there. Segal, the owner of our Shabbos BnB, had given us instructions how to get in to her place. It was raining a bit, which was unusual, right before Shabbos. San Jose Shabbos:
Stayed in a BnB – 7 score.
Get this…Kabbolas Shabbos is at 6:20 year-round (also in Jaco). Even though candlelighting was at 4:59 PM. That was weird for us. Shacharis is at 9 AM on Shabbos.
We ate Friday night with a beautiful young family, then had Shabbos lunch with the Centro Israelita shul. That cost us $20 per person. It does not need to be paid in advance.
The community has younger and older folks. Davening was nice. Drosha is in 98% Spanish with some Hebrew words mixed in. En route (with a tour operator who picked us up) on Sunday:
Rafting on the Pacuera river – 9/10 score. Again, brought our own food that we ate while they were feasting. Great rafting. It makes anything I’ve seen in Israel seem like a bathtub, when the water is off. They gave us a bunch of safety pointers on the way, and it was actually quite daunting. After we got past the first few rapids, it started to get easier. No one from our raft (2 guys and us) fell out. The Pacuera river was voted by National Geographic as one of the 10 (or maybe 5?) most beautiful rivers to raft in the world. The water was a little chilly, but was easy to get used to quickly. The scenery was really beautiful. The rapids were challenging, and the guide on each raft gave instructions when to paddle forward, back, left, right, etc. The rapids were from class 1 to class 4 (more challenging). My wife was fearstruck, and she also had a great time. The tour operator, Exploradores, runs a tight…raft. They pick up all over the country, then drop off also afterwards. We were picked up in San Jose, then they brought us to La Fortuna afterwards. That trip itself could cost $150, and for $200 we got that as well as a full day of rafting. This is a great bargain!
One thing we noticed is that all of the arranged pick-ups were there, either on-time or a bit early, so be prepared. La Fortuna Sunday night through Wednesday
Canyoneering – 8 score. Monday. They picked us up around 7:30 AM. On a thrill scale, this was a combination of zip lining and a bit of rappelling. Wife loved it. I was looking for more action.
Hot Springs – 8 score. Tuesday night. This was included in the Tabacon hotel stay. People come from all over the world for this. My wife liked it more than I did.
Souvenir shopping in La Fortuna – 6/7 score. Hey, we have kids at home…
Biking at Lake Arenal – 6/7 score. Wednesday, after 12 PM check-out and before our 3-hour ride to the airport. This was cute. Got drop-dead pics of Mount Arenal, the active volcano. This was the first day that we saw it without a cloud cover.
Where we stayed Night 1 (Monday) We arrived to SJO airport on Monday evening, rented a car, then drove 25 minutes to an Israeli “hostel” which is very near to the Jewish center. I’ve never been to a real hostel, and this place seemed more of a house with several rooms than a negative termed hostel. Our deluxe room had a double bed and bathroom. Some were just beds with an out of room bathroom. We paid $55 for the night. There is a kitchen area (assume it’s treif), WiFi, TV. The host, Itzik, is very nice. He lives in the other side of the house with his wife and their children. Speaks Hebrew and Spanish, not English. I communicated with him a lot via Whatsapp before our trip. We met in shul over Shabbos, too. I learned from him that you can walk in the street with a tallis, too. We paid him there, in US cash. Shacharis is at 6:15 (I think), and they daven much faster than I was used to. Nussach Sefard. I got lost on the way, even though I had Waze. I met the Rav, Rabbi Prober. Also speaks Hebrew and Spanish. Not much English. You can accompany Itzik, who davened at the same time, but he went to the Chabad. Nights 2-4 (Tuesday through Friday AM) We drove the rental car to Manuel Antonio, which is all the way West and to the south. The actual distance is not so far as the crow flies, but I guess it takes toucans a lot longer…3+ hours. We stayed at the Los Altos Reserve Thepreserveatlosaltos.com Their rooms are very spacious 3-bedroom apartments. Because we were just a couple, we were expected to use only the master BR, but all 3 bathrooms were left unlocked. The place was incredibly expansive, and we felt we had to walk a long way to get from one side to the other. Not in a bad way, just that’s what it was. Every room has a huge kitchen with a really nice dining table. We used their burners and heated meat meals in their ovens. This was really convenient. The room had a nice, large porch. Once, I saw a whole slew of monkeys from the porch, as they climbed over a nearby rooftop. There are toucans out, too, but not so easy to spot. Beautiful sunsets. Pretty hot and humid here. We had the 2nd-tier room, the Treetop suite (not the Rainforest). The only difference between this and the Rainforest is that this room was on a higher floor, thereby making the view a bit better. Either way, our view of the sea was partially obstructed. We met a great, religious couple from Deal, NJ that were staying in the penthouse suite, and their view was also blocked. I would take the lower room next time. The hotel staff was great. The hotel had a really nice gym, which was a main reason that we stayed there. Also, for the dates that we wanted, they had a “3 night for the price of 2” special. Pat told us to grab it. They also have a private beach. We walked down to their beach, just 5-10 minutes. The beach was cute, though rocky, so not so useful. They brought us back up in the hotel 4x4. Now, that was fun! We drove to Playa (that means beach) Bienzsa, just 5 minutes away, which was beautiful, quiet, and nice sand. You park your car on the side of the road, pray it doesn’t get broken in to, and enjoy the few minutes, through beautiful forest, down to the beach. We saw a bunch of monkeys there on one of tour visits. One thing that was not as nice…I left my laptop charger here and only realized a few days later. The hotel housekeeping staff did find it, but they did not call or email me to find it. I would have expected that. We heard from locals and other guests who had been to Hawaii that Costa Rica was the same, just cheaper. That made us feel really good. Also, that the beaches in CR were exquisite, upped only by those in Venezuela. We weren’t really there for the beaches, but they were indeed, beautiful. You literally go from the rainforest, with monkeys and birds, and walk out on to beautiful beach. As beaches are, there are bound to be non-tzanua people there. If you can walk around without your glasses, better for you. We skipped the Manuel Antonio, most-popular beach, and opted instead for smaller, off-the road places. Nights 5 – 6 (Shabbos and Motzaei Shabbos) We had planned to stay at Itzik’s Hostel for these nights, too, but as we were celebrating our 30th anniversary, decided to upgrade to some place that was more private. We ended up renting an AirBnb, but not through AirBnb, rather directly through the Israeli owner, Segal. The Rabbi put us in touch with her. Contact me if you want her details. Cooler in San Jose. Her place had 2 BR and 2 bath. There was also a full kitchen. It was very nice, at about $95 per night. It’s an apartment in a building, with a reserved, indoor parking space. Also, a 5-6 minute walk from the shul. It was ready for us for Shabbos, but we had to get them to turn off the light in the 2nd floor from automatic mode (Segal arranged this), and she also dealt with the lights in the fridge/freezer before we got there. I think that she set up Shabbos candles for us, but I cannot remember. The biggest problem we had is that there is no Eiruv, and the building guard spoke no English. We had trouble explaining to him to hold our keys for us and we would pick them up when we returned. We ended up finding another resident who spoke some English, and he explained. You could probably ask Segal to deal with this ahead of time, too. The guards were all very nice. On early Sunday AM, we returned our rental car, and were picked up at the Hilton Garden Inn (also an option for Shabbos) to our next trip. When dropping off a car, and especially in an off-site lot, be sure to leave plenty of time for returning the car. In our case, the guard wasn’t there, but our pick-up bus was waiting for us. This made us late for about 10 minutes and it was very uncomfortable. We really could have dropped off the rental at the Hilton before Shabbos, but we were running late and didn’t want the extra stress. We ended up paying Segal with a credit card. She had preferred cash in the apartment (we did not want to use AirBnb). Her building had a gym, which we enjoyed, by ourselves. There was also a rooftop jacuzzi, but it was open to all guests. Nights 7-8 (Sunday through Tuesday AM) We went to the Pacuera river for whitewater rafting today. We got picked up from the Hilton Garden Inn by the company bus (Exploradores Tours), and at the end of the rafting, they had another bus take us to La Fortuna/Arenal. We stayed in the Nayara Springs, which is the adult-only side of the Nayara Hotel. It was heaven, and it was almost not earth. The place was breathtakingly beautiful. The rooms were sinful, with an outdoor rainshower, a warm plunge pool, and a lot more. Just a perfect 10 of an experience, all around. The staff was superb. Everything was so, so, so nice. We would have stayed there forever if we could have. You’re in the middle of a rainforest, and at the same time, in the lap of luxury. The gym was nice, and my wife enjoyed one of the complimentary yoga classes in the middle of the forest. Speaking of complimentary, it seemed like just about everything was. This place did not nickel and dime you. They actually came through for us with a very sticky Chase Ultimate Rewards reservation mess, which could have cost us being kicked out after the first night. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that the hotel ate crow, very gracefully, and made sure that our stay was not flawed by a mess-up. We are very appreciative to them for this. We got these rooms with Chase Rewards points. We were staying there just before the XMAS season, so the room rates were less than outrageously expensive. We couldn’t eat any prepared food, but we did ask them to bring raw eggs and various uncut, fresh fruit to our rooms for breakfast, to which they were very obliged to do. We are sure that they would have been happy to heat our kosher meals in ovens, too, but we had alternate options for doing that. They have free international calls and free laundry service. We used that a lot. They returned all of our wet clothes the next day, including sneakers and water shoes. It was a real pleasure. We saw racoons, wild chazzir, red-eyed frogs, red and yellow birds, and more, some of these waltzing through our back yard. This was, by far, the absolutely most beautiful and romantic places we have ever stayed at. Tuesday was Assara b’Teves. We stayed low and did not do much. Night 9 (Tuesday) We took a taxi from Nayara Springs to the Tabacon, also in the Arenal/La Fortuna area. These two hotels are known to be the best in the area, and we were spoiling ourselves for the occasion. The night we stayed at Tabacon was the first night of holiday season, and to get even into the cheapest room was a lot of money. Also, there was 2-night minimum and we had to use Pat, our tour operator to use his contacts there to forgive that one. So, from our Orchid (cheapest) room, we can’t compare to the Nayara Springs, it simply wouldn’t be fair. That said, the general areas, while nice, didn’t reach the ankles of Nayara Springs. The main reason we chose to move to Tabacon is because our flight didn’t leave until late at night (10:30 PM), and by being guests at the Tabacon, we could use their hot springs for several hours after the 12 PM checkout. Entrance to the hot springs is usually $85 per person, so we were “saving” $170 by staying there. Our airport pickup (private, later) was only coming at 3:30 PM, so we needed something to do after checkout. Well, we had gone (with a hotel shuttle) to the hot springs for a looksie shortly after checking in (on Tuesday). We took some pics, and while the place was pretty empty, there were still many non-tzanua people all over. Then, after dark, we came back. This time, the place was practically empty. We had hot springs all to ourselves, and we enjoyed them a lot. Then, we checked out their pool and had a great time on the slide into the pool, also, all to ourselves. We even checked out the in-pool bar, something we’ve never done. We decided that we wouldn’t come back the next day, as we were bound to meet up with the same crowd that we saw earlier in the day, and that’s not what we wanted. So, our reason for coming to Tabacon was no longer valid, at least not for us. We made alternate plans for the day of our checkout, which worked out nicely, too. The hotel has a gym which we enjoyed to ourselves. There was nothing wrong with Tabacon. (By the way, the owner is Jewish, and the hotel can arrange for glatt meals if you give them notice.) We couldn’t really compare, and, having been much spoiled from Nayara Springs, there was not likely to be anything that could compare short of finding the entrance to Gan Eden. After we checked out, we took a cab with all our stuff to the Sky Adventure bike tour of Lake Arenal. We had a guide, just for the two of us. It wasn’t much of a bike ride, but we did get great views of the volcano. At about 3:30 PM, a private transport (payed with Chase points) picked us up. He was great and we really got VIP treatment. He took us to La Fortuna and we did some last minute shopping. He stopped on the side of the road for a picture, and he stopped and treated us to a free pipas (young coconut with a straw in it to enjoy the juice). When we got to San Jose, he dropped us off at the mall for 20 minutes for me to look for a replacement adaptor for my laptop (which I left at the Manuel Antonio hotel, by accident). Then, he took us across the street to the airport. We gave him a $20 tip. The airport (small) was very quiet. It’s not always like that, and you really should allow for 3 hours time before your flight to get there. We did not need to add any money at the airport for exit taxes (some people do), and they did not confiscate out mustard, so we prepared our final deli sandwiches in the airport, before our departure. San Jose We were in SJ a few times:
We landed there, and spent the first night in Itzik’s hostel.
We came back for Shabbos and Motzaei Shabbos.
We flew out from there.
The only kosher mikvah is in San Jose. That said, there are bodies of water all over the country, some warmer, some less. The shul in San Jose is a stunning complex. For Israeli standards, and maybe US, too, it was a huge compound that was very nicely decorated and designed. Security to get inside is very, very strict. You absolutely must send in your passports to the shul office before you come, or they simply will deny you entry. You can find them as Centroisraelita.com. Apparently, it is like this in many Central and Southern America communities, though to us, it was very strange. There are two kosher places in San Jose: Kosher Center and another whose name escapes me. We ordered double-wrapped meat meals from Kosher Center, for about $12-14 per person per meal. Kosher Center has a takeout menu (that we ordered from) as well as a bulk menu, meant for more than 2 people. If you wanted for a family, or for Shabbos, for example, you might use the bulk menu. They delivered to where we were in San Jose for about $5 each delivery. (They will deliver to just about anywhere in CR, but the delivery cost can be upwards of $100+ depending on the distance.) The owners Fraida and Marcos are very kind people, both speak great English, and their chessed extended far past being food suppliers. She is a great cook, too 😊. Kosher eating We are simple eaters. If you’re “foodies,” you’ll want something different. Try koshercasas.com. They will kasher a place for you and provide you with everything you need to cook up a storm. We made eggs or ate cereal for breakfast. We had deli sandwiches for lunch. We had the catered meat dishes for dinner. We were fine. Things we brought that are food-related:
Lots of plasticware. We needed more forks and knives.
Milk frying pan. We were only 2 people, and had only one burner. For breakfast, that was enough.
Pam, and other stuff needed to mix and make eggs
Meat frying pan and some meat serving and mixing things. We brought a small pan, and we really needed 2. One to warm side dishes and another for the main course. If you use an oven to heat, then you should still bring a frying pan to warm certain things, like broiled vegetables (Kosher Center makes them great)
If you need your own hot water for coffee (and you don’t want the home-brewed stuff), you may need something to heat water in. We bought a small metal kettle that we put on top of our burner. Tovelling it was simple…right in the ocean.
Pickles (we bought Vlasic pickles in CR…my favorite)
Breakfast cereal in bag
2 loaves of bread for lunch sandwiches – kept frozen
Nuts for snacking
Kiddush cup used for havdollah. We did not bring spices or candles. Should have.
Meat serrated knife
Dairy serrated knife
Meat large knife (for cutting pineapples)
Insulated food bag used for bringing frozen deli meat on the original trip
Bowl for mixing eggs
Plastic watertight salad bowls – cut up pineapple, pickl storage
Ketchup and mustard – deli sandwiches
Paper cups for coffee – so as not to use the treif ceramic cups
Ziploc bags of various sizes – to store all kinds of things
Small bottle of wine for Shabbos.
Best thing we brought – Collapsible cup for washing. Comes in very handy on day trips, in car, on plane, etc. Check out Amazon.
Long-lasting cholov Yisrael milk cartons (my wife needs milk with her coffee)
Snacks and chips (we did not bring enough, but there is an OU brand of chips – Soldanza )
Several frozen and vacuum-packed deli meats. We had 5 packs of 200 grams for us both, per day, so a total of 1 KG of meat. For us, that was enough for 1.5 sandwiches for each of us, for 5 days. We were elated when nothing got stopped on our way in to the airport. They did scan everything.
We also stopped in at Walmart. There is one right across the street from the airport, and another in Escazu, which is quite close to San Jose. You can simply type Walmart into Waze and it’ll send you there. We bought an electric hot plate burner and an ice chest. We found the stuff at the store by showing people Googled pictures of what we wanted to purchase. That worked well. (Also, one of the first words I learned is “Banyo,” which means bathroom 😊) These items were invaluable in heating and in keeping our purchased food cool. We couldn’t bring a burner from Israel because Israel is 220 voltage, also it’s very heavy. I think the burner was $13. On our last day, we gave the burner and the ice chest to the bell boy as a gift. Had we left from San Jose, we could have given them to someone from the community, but we were hours away from there. We did find some OU/OK goods at the local grocery stores. There probably were more, but we didn’t need so much. There are also goods that are known to be kosher in the community. They have an on-line list of those foods, but it’s in Spanish so it wasn’t so helpful to us. You can only buy Cholov Yisroel at the Kosher Store, and we never got there. We had our “chalav Amid,” and we should have brought sliced cheese with us. Next time. We did have some pareve chocolate mouse desert cake from the Kosher Center on Shabbos, and it was superb. Taxis and rental car We decided to rent a car for the first half of the trip (Monday through Friday). We needed to get from the airport to San Jose, then from San Jose to Manuel Antonio and back. In order not to pay big bucks for private transfers or to be beholden to the fixed schedule of the cheaper group transfer (especially on Erev Shabbos), we rented a car. There was no problem driving where we were at all. The car cost me about $170 for 6 days. We used the Chase Sapphire rental insurance waiver (we needed to get a written letter from Chase). There is required insurance in Costa Rica – no way around that. We used a few taxis in the La Fortuna area. It seems that they have fixed prices. They all accept dollars. Actually, just about everyone accepts (and some even price in) dollars. Be aware, however, that they generally accept only $1, 5, 10, and 20 denominations, not higher. Davening This was the biggest downer of the trip. The only organized minyan was in San Jose, and we were not there most of the time. There is a minyan at the Central Israelito center (need a passport approval to get in) as well as at the Chabad there. There is a minyan in Jaco, only on Shabbos, and sometimes only Friday night there. That may change during the busy season. Jaco This touristy beach town is on the Pacific coast. There is a Jewish place to stay and eat there, Izu’s place. It doesn’t have a hechsher. That may be because it is too far away for anyone to make the rounds to approve it. You should do your own checking into this. What we wished we knew We didn’t bring enough USD cash, and also didn’t have an ATM card with a PIN. This caused some problems for us. Not all places accept credit cards, so be sure that you can withdraw cash. There are many ATMs around. Clothing for a frum woman We did lots of very active and wet activities, so having a tzanua running skirt (Kosher Casual) and a ¾ sleeve bathing suit top was essential. We had 3 sets of these and more would have been even easier. Have a few simple weekday outfits and one Shabbos dress. Shul goers were not dressed fancy. Brought two bandanas, a scarf, baseball cap with a band fall, and a regular fall. 3 pairs of sneakers: one for gym, one for getting wet, and one for other. Pair of casual flats for Shabbos and the plane, etc. Real water shoes would have been good. Didn’t bring a lot of clothes, and wore things many times. It helped a lot that there was laundry service at the Nayara, and also a washer and dryer at the Shabbos Bnb. Rental car – Waze is fine, but you must have internet service. We went with Adobe on the recommendation of our tour agent. They were fine, actually, pretty nice. No hidden charges. Things we brought that are not food-related:
Battery chargers (everything is 110 v with US outlets)
Two USB cords per phone
Laptop and charger
Bug spray and mosquito bracelets
Personal hygiene stuff
Water backpacks – probably could have done with simple water bottles
Water shoes (not Crocs) – important for any action trips in water
Binoculars – didn’t use at all
Workout clothes for gym
Luggage scale – was really only important for us on the way leaving home. We were a lot lighter after using a lot of food.
2+ bathing suits per person – important. We got lucky as there were drying services in some of the places we stayed. YOU DON’T WANT TO GET INT O WET CLOTHES.
Google Translate app
Prescription goggles – great to have, for spoiled people