Ideally you’d need more than five days to see Costa Rica but I didn’t have any other option, with the tour ending on Saturday and having to be in San Francisco for a music festival on Friday. Therefore my plan was to stay in the capital, San Jose, roughly in the centre of the country. With Costa Rica being relatively small I could then access the stuff I wanted to see and do via day trips. The spanner in the works to this idea came when I realised how much such trips cost. I was somewhat surprised about how expensive Costa Rica is, not helped by prices often being advertised in US dollars. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it already but sterling is at a 30-odd year low against the dollar! For example, the most famous volcano in Costa Rica is probably Arenal. An excursion hiking around here for a day would set you back around £100. And despite some people thinking it’s an active volcano, it’s actually been dormant since 2010. Although if you’re going that close being dormant may not be a bad thing!
A new Costa Rica strategy was required. After some extensive research, mostly via Wikitravel and Trip Advisor, I established that I wasn’t interested in visiting Costa Rica’s beaches, which are supposed to be nice if you like the sort of thing, but not for me. Zip lining and white water rafting are the sort of thing you do with mates so they were out. I found a combination trip that visited a coffee plantation, a different volcano and some waterfalls, all in one day so that was booked for Wednesday. It wasn’t cheap but there’s no point in coming to Costa Rica to sit in a hotel room.
Talking of hotels, this one is certainly located is in an interesting spot. When I booked it on hotels.com, the neighbourhood looked to be bang in the middle of San Jose, which it kind of is. If you go straight on from the hotel the main pedestrian shopping street is two blocks away. Turn right and you’ve got a few historic-looking buildings. Behind the hotel is a park that’s quite nice in the day but best avoided at night as it’s a bit quiet. The other option is to turn left where within about 50 yards there’s a group of three or four casinos. These aren’t the flash, modern casinos you find in the UK. They’re more akin to Las Vegas in the 1970s, and I mean downtown Vegas in the 70s! The sort of establishments where they have a vice in the back room (as in the Casino film). The first thing I noticed about one of these casino was that there were quite a few young ladies playing the slot machines. I then headed over to the casino bar which was chockablock with more senoritas, seemingly overdressed for 3 o’clock on a Monday afternoon. Then the realisation hit me that I’d walked into a brothel! Well technically not a brothel, it’s still a casino but doing a bit of later research (which is now on my internet search history) I discovered that prostitution is legal in Costa Rica and the pick-up locations of choice are casinos! Funnily enough when I checked-in, the hotel receptionist mentioned something about no girlfriends and I thought he was making fun of me being a Billy No Bird. In fact what he was saying was not to bring any ladies of ill repute back to their hotel as that sort of seediness was banned there!
Overall it was a fairly lazy day spent having a look around San Jose. They love a US food chain here. I think I saw them all – McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Arbey’s, Carls Jr, Popeyes Chicken, Denny’s, and so. It was noticeable that plenty of locals enjoy a decent standard of living judging about how many were trendily dressed, hence the comparable prices to much of the western world.