Make life sweeter, go to Costa Rica. Not only is this lush little piece of heaven in Central America a nature lover's paradise, it is also easy to get around; you can eat the tomatoes, drink the water without getting sick and it is safe. It hasn't employed an army since 1948.
My guide was the travel book, The New Key to Costa Rica by Beatrice Blake and Anne Becher. Its detailed information on transportation, hotels and sights gives you confidence to travel safely alone.I had no difficulty on my own, although, in San Jose the capital city, I did have to get used to looking over my shoulder while crossing streets. Drivers whip around corners whether or not pedestrians are crossing and they don't necessarily stop on a red light, I found.
Car rentals are available, but I decided to stick with walking or public transport. Buses go just about everywhere and are punctual and inexpensive the country.
The Balmoral Hotel in San Jose compares to older, good, first-class though not deluxe, hotels in Canadian or American cities. it's in the centre of town, two to seven blocks from most popular attractions.
Restaurants in San Jose are good, safe health wise and reasonable. A 10% service charge and 13% food tax is added to your bill, so it isn't necessary to tip extra unless exceptional service warrants a small sum.
Spend a few days sightseeing in San Jose. The New Key to Costa Rica outlines a nice walking tour. The National Theatreis a heritage site worth a visit as is The National Museum of Costa Rica, located in an old fortress. If you're fascinated by reptiles and snakes you can visit the Serpentorium.
You'll find reasonable prices at the Central Market (at Calle 2 between Avenidas 1 and 3), but don't expect to bargain here much. Sellers might lower the price by 10% if you buy two of something. I bought a pair of leather sandals for $9.50 that cost $35 in Vancouver. The leather is so soft, it's like wearing slippers — now I wish I'd bought several pairs.
For $10 I had a haircut, pedicure and manicure with sculptured designs on each finger and toenail. At that price I'd like to fly down several times a year just for beauty treatments.
Twenty-seven percent of Costa Rica is given over to national parks and biological reserves where you can observe the country's exotic wildlife.
I took a 2-night, 3-day bus and hotel package over to the Caribbean coast and up the Tortuguero Canal to the Ilan-Ilan hotel. A naturalist/guide accompanied the group. I donned hotel issue mud boots and needed them wading through forest and streams — once I got stuck in the mud and fell headfirst. We saw crocodiles, howler monkeys, green turtles, a tiny poisonous frog, and lovely toucans with huge yellow bills.
It's a four-hour bus trip to the Caribbean coast, to the town of Cahuita where the mixed Spanish and black residents speak a very colourful English. “Wh'appen (what happen) means ”How are you?" You might better appreciate Costa Rica's Talamanca coast if you pick up and read Paula Palmer's folk history appropriately titled What Happen.
It's hotter on the Caribbean side. Two beaches at Cahuita are good for swimming and surfing, one, in town, has white sand, and the other, opposite the hotel Cahuita Jaguar, has black. Three Canadian lads have built the lovely Hotel Cahuita Jaguar. I got a single there for $US24, including a breakfast of herbed omelet with fresh green peppercorns and a dinner of fresh shrimp with orange sauce.
To the west of San Jose, on the Pacific coast, Tamarindo Resort is a 5-hour 40-minute bus ride. Adjacent, on the Playa Grande beach, from October to the beginning of March you can have the thrill of watching 600 pound leatherback turtles hauling out to lay their eggs.
A four and a half hour bus ride north from San Jose got me to La Fortuna where I stayed at the Buria Inn owned by fishing guide Peter Gorinsky. At night Peter arranges a great tour of the live Arenal volcano. After the excitement of seeing the volcano spewing fiery red coals we relaxed under starry skies in the outdoor Tabacon natural hot springs. This itinerary made a great, three-week, going-solo holiday.
>> From Shana Azria: I am planning on traveling to Costa Rica on my own for about 10 days and I would love to go on a similar 3-day trip like you did. How exactly did you organize that? Thanks!
Editor: This article originated in 1993 and is useful today (2015) only as a source of inspiration. As the author, Lenora Hayman, points out, you'll need a good guidebook as your travel companion. She used The New Key to Costa Rica, and the 19th edition is readily available online in paperback or e-book format. I'm sure an Internet search using keywords such as "travel guidebook Costa Rica," will provide other current choices as well. As for costs, you must take those given in the article with a large grain of salt.