Costa Rica is an affordable family vacation destination as long as you know where to eat, what to do and how to get around.
My Italian husband considers Quepos as THE place to get great Italian food. To his credit, he did eat casado con pollo once and he tried the veggie soup (with plantain and casaba). After that, he stuck to pasta. L’Angolo, owned by a native of Rome, offers tasty and authentic pasta and the best pizza is across the street.
I loved the authentic Tica food at El Jardin. My favorite Must Try rec is Sandia – blended watermelon with ice and sugar. So good and so refreshing! This fresca is available with almost any type of fruit. Taste them all (starfruit is another favorite). I also ate the best ceviche at La Cevicheria after my $4 toenail paint job (with flowers!)
At the bus station, pick up a bag of Biscochos, a typical Tica snack and the LA Fortuna Yucatans – potato chips with lemon. Street vendors sell green mangoes with salt and lemon which are fantastic and the supermarket in town has everything you might need to feed your family (even Frosted Flakes). Groceries are not super cheap (a small bottle of real maple syrup was $32) but the basics were not super expensive (Frosted Flakes were $3.99).
Quepos is a five-minute, $5 ride from the Villas Tranquilas, where we stayed, and taxis were plentiful. We took the public bus from Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park without any problem. Very safe and although not air conditioned, comfortable. Fares are paid on the bus unless you are traveling a long distance (to San Jose). Bus fare to Manuel Antonio from Quepos was about 50 cents per person. To San Jose, around $7.
It is important to remember, however, that Costa Rico can be a little backward. We had trouble paying our airport tax with our debit card. After a long, long wait and international conversation, it turned out that the bank teller was inputting the date incorrectly. Just be forewarned: It would pay to let your bank know you’re headed to Costa Rico just in case.
Where to Stay
A friend said her stay at Wide Mouth Frog was a major deal at $25 per night – clean, private and in the center of Quepos. And the Best Western is on the main road, with a sea view. I did not see the room interiors, but it was well occupied.
If you prefer more tourists and closer proximity to the gorgeous Manuel Antonio beaches, I recommend you stay in Manuel Antonio. You will pay more but it might be worth it to you. If you like a more authentic Tica experience and you don’t mind riding the bus or taking short taxi rides, you will enjoy Quepos and Villas Tranquilas. You will save money and get to unwind in a relaxing environment.