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Old 02-22-2011   #1
Fayetteville, AR and Banks, Idaho
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 30
Costa Rica Beta (for an Extended Stay)?

I am graduating from grad school in December and am interested in going down to Costa Rica to boat/explore for a few months starting in the December/January time frame. I have boated in Mexico and Chile, but I have never boated out of country for an extended period (more than two weeks).

I was curious to get some beta on the best way to go about doing this. Is it worth it to consider purchasing a vehicle? How much would an old beater truck run? Are there paddling hostels in the Turrialba area? Are there enough paddlers floating around to figure out logistics and find people to boat with?

Really I am just curious to hear some stories and pointers on how people have spent a few weeks or months down there boating. Sorry if this has been discussed in length.

- Matt

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Old 02-24-2011   #2
Turrialba, Costa Rica
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 15
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Hey Matt,

I'm 5 months into my 6 month stay here in Turrialba, Costa Rica. I looked in depth at driving down here and decided against it due to cost. Buying a vehicle here is quite expensive due to upkeep laws and import costs. Without a vehicle here, it is very difficult to go boating unless you're working as a guide with a company. Guides here generally don't go boating in their spare time. I haven't found a group to boat with here outside work. Shuttles are quite difficult and/or expensive without your own vehicle, although getting around without a boat is quite easy due to a good transit bus system. There aren't many hostels in Turrialba, but there's the Hotel Interamericano and I heard a rumor of a small 4 bedroom hostel (converted house) for $8/night but haven't seen it for myself. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about specifics. It's a beautiful country!


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Old 02-24-2011   #3
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 17
I just got back from 3 months working/paddling in Costa Rica. Worked a bit with Shannon down there - hey Shannon!!

Here is what I would add.

Boating in Costa Rica without a car is almost impossible to accomplish. It will cost around $70 to get a shuttle driver and car for a day. On top of that, Costa Ricans don't really kayak that much on their days off (it always felt like being on the water for them was a job, not a lifestyle) so you will be hard pressed to find kayakers to go with and to split the shuttle cost with.

But... getting a car isn't exactly a great option either. Everything is expensive in Costa Rica (including cars). You could likely get an old beater for pretty cheap in Nicaragua and drive it into Costa Rica but I don't know what kind of paper work you would need and fees you would have to pay to make that work. Also, there is a huge cost for having a car registered in Costa Rica (but I think that if you drive one in it can be there for 6 months without needing to register it). At the end of the trip you will probably be unable to sell the car because of the insane import tax and registration fees that the buyer would have to pay. Even with a car you would need a group of paddlers so that you could have a shuttle bunny each day (bus systems are great but they won't get you to put-in or take-out). Having a car there could just be a good way to burn through your money without increasing your paddling.

If you are really set on paddling in central america I would suggest going back to Mexico and exploring it some more.

If you are really set on paddling in Costa Rica I would just concede the fact that it will be very expensive. Once you are okay with that, use your money to pay a company for your paddling trip. With the unreliability of roads, drivers, weather, and fellow kayakers that you will encounter with private boating, going with an outfitter will at least guarantee that you will get on the water after spending your money.

If you are set on Costa Rica and unwilling to pay an outfitter, don't go to Turrialba. I would suggest going to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui and La Virgen. In that area you will be much closer to a good number of rivers (Sarapiqui, Toro, Toro Amarillo, Sucio, Bravo, etc.). That will make your shuttle costs a bit cheaper. Also, if you stay at the Sarapiqui Outdoor Center you can camp for $5 a night (i think) or get a bed (plus breakfast) for $10. Although I was not at all impressed by the owner of the place, kayakers do seem to go to the SOC and use it as a base for paddling in the area. If you are there you will probably be able to find paddling partners.

here are some write-ups and videos I did of the sarapiqui area when I was there in early January of this year.

One more thing to keep in mind. Kayak rentals are expensive as well ($30 bucks/day). Just fly with your boat and pay the fee. If got a used boat for cheap you might be able to sell it down there and make a buck (and avoid paying the cost to fly it back). Don't go down with a nice new boat and try and sell it. Paying $900 for your barely-used 2010 all-star isn't something that most ticos would likely do; they would probably rather pay $400 dollars for that inazone that they can take on the water just the same as a new boat.

Hope that helps even if helping means dissuading you from going.
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