For solo vacation destinations, it is hard to beat Costa Rica. It has something for everyone and at an affordable price. If you choose as I did to go off-season, it is an even better buy considering the surcharges routinely added to solo travel packages making it hard to find well-priced luxury travel options for single travelers. These price drops come about quickly after the summer crowds head home so I took the opportunity to visit in September. Although it was still the rainy season, I don’t recall having to dust off my umbrella even once. Fall deals may also reflect smaller crowds where some tourists may avoid the entire Caribbean because of publicity about hurricanes. In actuality, Costa Rica is seldom impacted by direct hurricane hits and despite its size has several different climate zones. All in all, it was one of my very best solo travel destinations.
Hotels are abundant at a wide range of prices from global high-end chains to smaller locally-owned properties. TripAdvisor lists 120 hotels in 20 different locations within Costa Rica. A local site listed 61 hotels categorized as 5-star with nightly rates from a modest $113 soaring to $1240, providing virtually unlimited luxury travel options for single travelers. Seven of those 5-star hotels were in the $200-$299 range and although not inexpensive, they compare favorably with resort prices around the world.
Costa Rica is one of the best resorts for singles since it offers 4 different types of top vacations for those traveling alone: 1. historic and cultural travel packages that reflect both the Caribbean and Latin American heritage, 2. ecotourism or green travel packages, 3. adventure tour deals and 4. beach getaways not just for honeymooners.
I began my trip in the capital, San Jose, piecing together my own cultural travel package as I went along. The country’s Spanish colonial history began in the early 16th century when Christopher Columbus in his travels was credited with naming it Costa Rica. After its first Spanish settlers arrived in 1522, approximately 300 years followed before independence was achieved.
The city has a number of museums to explore, such as the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica. However, it was the Museo de Oro (Museum of Gold) that really intrigued me. Not only was it filled with gleaming gold artifacts, they represented the much earlier, pre-Columbian figures from before the arrival of the Spanish. (In addition, the adjacent gift shop sold copies of these unique items, perfect to take home as presents for friends and family.)
History scholars and architectural enthusiasts may be disappointed to find that most of the intact buildings in the capital only date back to the 1800’s rather than the colonial period. The impressive Metropolitan Cathedral of San José was built in the late 19th century replacing the original structure destroyed by an earthquake. Newer, but regarded as San Jose’s finest historic building, is the National Theatre of Costa Rica, also dating only from the end of the 19th century. Now celebrating its 117th anniversary this year, it is known for its ornate interior of pink marble and gilt but also houses an elegant Viennese-style coffee shop. Out front two imposing statues, Ludwig van Beethoven and the 17th century Spanish playwright, Calderón de La Barca, keep a watchful eye on 21st century visitors as they enter.
After leaving San Jose and going into the countryside, it is easy to see that Costa Rica is one of the top worldwide ecotourism destinations which provides affordable trips for single travelers. The rainforest, parks and wildlife sanctuaries constitute 25% of the country. Although small in square miles, Costa Rica has some of the richest biodiversity in the world. In keeping with its green focus, the government has undertaken a program over time to voluntarily achieve 2007 carbon neutrality. The highly photogenic Red-eyed Tree Frog is most typically depicted to represent Costa Rican wildlife. As I found, you don’t have to go very far to see colorful examples. From my hotel patio, I was joined for breakfast each morning by a low-flying hummingbird, one of 26 local species. The rainforest, with its 3-4 distinct levels, provides an opportunity to see sloths lounging in the trees and screeching monkeys atop the canopy; however, the dense growth can make it difficult to spot them.
A third option exists for single travelers looking to pick up the tempo. Beyond placid bird watching and snapping photos of wildlife, Costa Rica offers abundant opportunities for adventure vacations for singles from zip lining high above the treetops or rappelling down waterfalls at LaFortuna/Arenal. Six to seven rivers have whitewater rafting while both coasts offer snorkeling and scuba diving. Although the Arenal Volcano no longer draws evening crowds after its nightly eruptions ended in 2010, six major volcanoes remain for trekking. The resulting hot springs are still an ideal venue for “Happy Hour” watching the sun set. Not being prepared, I was glad to see that the gift shop sold attractive bathing suits in bright tropical colors although a little short on fabric!
Lastly, no trip to Costa Rica is complete without visiting the almost 300 beaches from the Pacific Coast on the west and the more tranquil Caribbean on the east. I recommend trying out both sides.
For me having my local home base in San Jose in the Central Valley was ideal since it was an easy day trip to the rainforest but with the beaches and boating still in easy reach. The quality and prices were definitely quite good even for solo travelers. If you can’t decide whether you want to go to the Caribbean or to Latin America, Costa Rica gives you “2-for-the-price-of-1” rather than as single travelers often find “1-for-the-price-of-2”! Whether you are looking for boomer travel or a millennial adventure, go ahead and add Costa Rica to your bucket list.