Hacker Paradise in Costa Rica

hacker paradise costa rica
Hacker Paradise 2014
Hacker Paradise is a a coworking / programming retreat in Costa Rica. It will happen this September to November. As a professional Nerd I would love to visit this 12 week experience in costa rica, but I won't have the time to arrange this.
Hacker Paradise is a programming retreat in the beautiful country of Costa Rica, inspired by Hacker School. Our HQ is El Sueno Tropical, a boutique hotel located on the edge of the jungle in the coastal town of Playa Carrillo. Students come from all over to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spend 12 weeks writing code and building things with other passionate individuals.
Make sure to check out their website http://www.hackerparadise.org/

Chikungunya in Costa Rica


(Picture: Verdy license: Public Domain via wikimedia commons)

What is Chikungunya

Chikungunya is a virus transmitted by virus-carrying mosquitoes. The virus is very similar to dengue fever. Thats why a chikungunya infection is often mistaken for dengue fever. The bad thing about chikungunya  is, that it is much worse then dengue. You will have much more pain when infected with chikungunya. Dengue fever is called the breakbone fever, because the intense pain feels like your bones are breaking. Chikungunya is translated something like "that bends up", people cannot even walk anymore because of the extreme pain suffered from this disease.
Chikungunya costa rica
Mosquito bites

Chikungunya even has another thing with dengue fever in common. There is no immunisation or even medicine for it. All you can do is take some painkillers and wait for it to finish. This might take 2-5 days. After this you will still suffer a long period of joint pains in the extremities. This pain might persist for years. Some people are still suffering from the infection. If you have been infected you will probably never have chikungunya again. Most people are immune after a first infection.

Symptoms for Chikungunya 

  • Incubation Period:  1-12 days
  • Fever up to 40 °C / 104°F
  • Rash of trunk & limbs
  • Joint pain
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Taste
  • Photophobia

How to prevent Chikungunya

There is no immunisation or medicine agains an chikungunya infection. The only thing you can do is to use mosquito protection. Every mosquito bite is a possible infection for dengue fever, chikungunya or other viruses in costa rica. Mosquitos will hunt for your blood the whole day. The first thing you should do in the morning is to put on your mosquito repellent. There are a lot of different mosquito repellents available on the market. I would recommend Anti Brumm Forte.
Anti Brumm is a quite strange name. It contains a lot of DEET and when properly used, this stuff will keep all mosquitos away from you. You should put on anti brumm every 8 hours. When sweating or swimming you should re-new it more often.
Always ask the locals or the staff at the hotels, if they have heard any cases of dengue fever or chikungunya in the area.
anti brumm forte
The best mosquito repellent available

Latest news about Chikungunya in Costa Rica

There are not many known infections from chikungunya in costa rica until now. But lately six cases of chikungunya have been confirmed. Most of these cases have been to dominican republic or the Quepos area. So you should double check your mosquito repellent when travelling there.

Update 08.13.2014:
US assesses virus of the Caribbean
Researchers warn that a change of mosquito host could accelerate spread of chikungunya across the Americas.

More information about chikungunya infections can be found on the official who webpage.

Map of Chikungunya spreading

Chikungunya map
Source: PAHO/WHO

Good to know
Chikungunya (Makonde for "that which bends up") virus is anarthropod-borne virus, of the genus Alphavirus, that is transmitted to humans by virus-carrying Aedes mosquitoes.
CHIKV is transmitted similarly to dengue fever and causes an illness with an acute febrile phase lasting two to five days, followed by a longer period of joint pains in the extremities; this pain may persist for years in some cases.
The best means of prevention is overall mosquito control and in addition, the avoidance of bites by any infected mosquitoes.There is no specific treatment but medications can be used to reduce symptoms. Rest and fluids may also be useful (read more on wikipedia)

Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin Rincon de la Vieja

Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin Rincon de la Vieja

hacienda guachipelin
Entrance to Hacienda Guachipelin side buildung


This is not only a hotel, it is a hacienda. Let me help you with a definition of a hacienda from wikipedia:
Hacienda ... is a Spanish word for an estate. Some haciendas were plantations, mines or factories. Many haciendas combined these productive activities.
The area of hacienda guachipelin is really huge. As you can see on the lower map you can do a lot of different activities like a canopy tour, zip-lining, canoying tour, visit a waterfall or hot springs and of course visit the Rincon de la Vieja national park. You can stay at this hotel for a few days and never get bored.
The hotel rooms are really big and equiped with air condition, a private bath and a fan. The hotel is split into several small buildings gathered in the center of the huge hacienda area. Even if there are many tourists at the area it does not feal like filled up with people.
They even have a great bar with good cocktails and drinks. Try the "guaro sour".

map hacienda guachipelin
Map of hacienda guachipelin
  • very friendly staff
  • access to rincon de la vieja
  • huge area to explore
  • very beautiful nature

Rincon de la Vieja national park

While still on the hacienda you can use your car to drive the the ranger station of the national park. From the main building this will take like 10 minutes. On the sides of the road you can see some geothermal energy systems they are doing experiments with. 
rincon de la vieja warning
A warning near the mud volcanoes

Entrance to the park is 10 dollars. You can walk on some trails through the forrest untill you find some of the hot springs, steam fountains and mud volcanos. A very bizarre area! Keep distance from the small volcanos and steam fountains. This is very hot and should not be underestimated.

mud volcano
A mud volcano at rincon de la vieja

How to get to Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin

You can reach Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin easily by car. You have to pass through a private road where you have to pay 700 colones per person to enter the area. You cannot use any other road, because this is the only way to reach the hacienda guachipelin and rincon de la vieja national park.
From Curubande it is a 10 minute drive.
The exact adress is:
Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Las Pailas, Liberia, Guanacaste
Click on the lower map to view the location or plan your route:

bedroom hacienda guachipelin
A very big bed at hacienda guachipelin

Monkeys in Costa Rica

Capuchin monkey

The capuchin monkey is known from various movies, shows and circuses. This kind of monkey can be found almost everywhere in costa rica. They are small and very clever monkeys. Do not feed this monkeys or let your stuff lay around somewhere. If you do not watch your belongings, these little monkeys will steal your bags and food. It has been observed, that some monkeys will try to get your attention while another one will try to steal your food while your are distracted by the other monkeys.

capuchin monkey cute
A cute little capuchin monkey

But on the other hand they are very cute little monkeys and they are incredible intelligent animals. Have a look at this video:
This was clipped out of recent TED talk given by Frans de Waal regarding moral behavior in animals. In a nut shell we get to observe reaction and response of two Capuchin monkey when they receive different reward for same type of work.

There are a lot capuchin monkeys at Manuel Antonio National Park, especially at the main beach.

capuchin monkey manuel antonio
Capuchin monkey in manuel antonio

Howler Monkeys

This is a kind of monkey you will probably not see very often but you will hear it. The howler monkeys are living high up in the trees. They start howling in the morning and continue for the whole day. It is like an alarm clock to wake up. 

These monkeys sound very dangerous and aggressive, but as long as you will leave them alone they are peaceful monkeys. After a few days you get used to the sound of howler monkeys in the trees. On the image you can see one of them sleeping with its baby. The image is taken in Manuel Antonio National Park. In Cahuita we could hear and see a group of howler monkeys right next to our hotel  inside a big tree.

howler monkey costa rica
A howler monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park

How to rent a car for Costa Rica

All about how to rent a car in Costa Rica

costa rica suv
This car will bring you everywhere in Costa Rica
If you plan to travel Costa Rica on your own you need a car. It is very comfortable to travel to the national parks of costa rica by your own car. The best advice is to rent the car online while at your home country. This way you can compare prices and choose the right car for you. To travel all roads in Costa Rica with some kind of comfort you need to get an 4WD. You do not need such a big one as on the picture. But its a cool car I saw at Juan Santamaria Airport on my last day in Costa Rica. To compare the available cars, you should keep the following things in mind: capacity, gasoline consumption, price and insurance.
Most car rental services in costa rica are offering the same cars. You should consider choosing either a Suzuki Jimmy, a Daihatsu Terios or a Toyota Rav 4. These are reliable cars for a good price.
costa rica car
A typical tico car :)

Choosing the right rental car

The Suzuki Jimny is a small, two person 4WD-SUV. It is on of the cheapest 4WD available at Costa Rica. Many people like the Jimmy because it is a very reliable car. But it is also a very uncomfortable car, as you can feel the road while driving.
suzuki jimny
The Suzuki Jimny in an ugly white color
(Picture: TTTNIS license: Creative Commons by-sa 3.0 de / short)
The Toyota Rav 4 is a reliable 4WD-SUV. You will see hundreds of this car on your Costa Rica trip.
There is enough space for up to seven people including luggage.On our holiday trip to Costa Rica We had choosen the Rav4 because of the additional space in comparison to the Daihatsu Terios. The price was just 50 dollars additionally a week, compared to the Toyota Rav 4.
costa rica rav4
The Toyota Rav 4.
We rented the car at a typical car rental comparison site. Later we got to know it was rented by europcar. I did not have any bad experiences with europcar yet so I was happy.

Have a look at this table. You can See all relevant attributes for the Suzuki Jimmy, Daihatsu Terios and the Toyota Rav 4.

- Suzuki Jimny Daihatsu Terios Toyota Rav 4
Persons + luggage 2 persons with light luggage up to 4 persons with luggage up to 7 persons with luggage
Gasoline consumption 37.3 MPG or 7.6 litres/100km  34.3 MPG or 8.3 litres/100km  38.0 MPG or 7.6 litres/100km 
Comfort quite hard comfortable very comfortable

GPS Navigation for Costa Rica

Most car rental services will try to offer you an additional GPS navigation for about 5 dollars a day. Read my article how to use your android smartphone as GPS navigation with a free navigation software and free offline maps for Costa Rica.

Picking up your rental car at Juan santamaria Airport

After you have rented your car and arrived in Costa Rica international Airport. You have three choices to get your car:
  • take the car rental bus shuttle
  • pick it up at the car rental station,
  • or let the car rental bring it to your hotel.
The first is the easiest way. After exiting the airport, look for a guy with a sign of your car rental service. He will bring you to your car. If you do not see a sign of your car rental service, friendly ask a guy with another sign to contact your car rental. He will surely help.
The shuttle bus operates the whole day and drives from the airport to the car rental station and back.

You can also let your car rental service bring the car to your hotel. Just make sure to call them to arrange everything. From the airport, take your hotel shuttle to your hotel and if your car rental service arranged everything properly, your car will already be waiting for you.

Obey the costa rica traffic laws

The traffic laws and fines in costa rica are very high. Please make sure you read my article about these traffic laws. You can get in big trouble not following these tips. For example making a simple U-Turn can cost you up to 250.000 colones!

How to check a rental car

When picking up your car, make sure that all dents and defects are marked on your papers. Have a look at the receipe I got. My car was covered with dents. ;-) Because of the ugly gold paint you can barely see them. At the beginning of my trip I was unsure about this ugly color, but a lot of cars in costa rica have this color. The reason is simple, you can almost not see dust, mud, dents and defects. 
In case you are unsure, you should make pictures from your car.

costa rica rental car
My rental car in costa rica

Free android navigation for costa rica

Free android gps navigation for costa rica

costa rica gps
Nexus 5 with Open Street Maps

It is time for some more advices for costa rica. This article will explain to you how you can use your android smartphone as a full feature gps navigation device with free offline cards. Without a GPS based navigation you are lost in Costa Rica. There are barely any signs on the roads and you do not want to get lost in a shady or lonely area.

As a tourist you will probably not have data roaming in Costa Rica. So you cannot use google maps for online maps navigation. You can also rent a gps navigation with your rental car, but this costs 5 dollars a day.
costa rica android navigation app
Navigator free app with costa rica map

Mapsfactor Navigator with open Street map

A free android app you can use in combination with free and good openstreetmap maps is Mapfactor Navigator.People from all over the world collaborate at openstreetmap to create free navigation maps for everybody. I use open street map maps on regular basis and I am fully satisfied with the quality of the maps.

navigator gps costa rica
The simple, but powerful Navigator interface

Install the app

First you need to install the free app. Download it for your platform from this link. After this, start the app and at the first screen select that you whish to use free openstreetmap maps.

costa rica free gps
Select the maps you want to download.

Download the free maps

To download the maps, open the app and click on the "Map Manager" button on the bottom. After this click on "download maps". Now you have to select all maps you want to download. To download the free costa rica map, open the "America" tab, scroll down to "Costa Rica OSM". The map package for Costa Rica is very small. Currently it is only 3mb.  Check how big the map data of your home country. The map data for Germany is about 600 mb.You should also download the maps of your current location, so you can test the app and get comfortable with it.
Now press "Download now", do download the selected maps. Thats it. Your navigation is ready.

Try out Navigator App

You should now try the app and use it to navigate somewhere in your home country. It has a lot of cool features, like google search api, favorites.
costa rica gps favorites
Some favorite places in costa rica

The app even switches the color theme to dark in the night-time. You will find various tools inside the app like calculate route, simulate route, record or replay gps files an Odometer and many more.

costa rica gps app tools
Cool tools inside the app
You can also use this app as a navigation while walking jungle trails in costa rica. Sure, you do not always need directions while walking or hicking. But if you want to see where exactly you are on the current trail so you can estimate the remaining time, this app is very usefull. Openstreet map even contains the path of most jungle trails in costa rica. Even very small paths you would not have noticed are inside this app!

costa rica gps android favorites
Favorite POI Options

Use the gps history as a travel log

The app logs your journeys. This is a cool feature I recently notices when I was back from costa rica. Below you can see the odometer. 1875 kilometers does not sound much, but in costa rica all distances are travelled very slowly because of the bad road conditions.

costa rica odometer
Three weeks in costa rica

As you can see on the next picture, even short distances in costa rica need some time to travel. When you can travel on the main roads, try to do so and avoid the small side roads.
gps log costa rica
Detailled history of my travel log

The right phone holder

I use a quite cheap phone holder I bought at amazon. Most cellphone car holders are made for just this one device and you cannot fit any other devices into it, when buying a new phone. The mumbi car holder can be used with a lot of different devices.
You can see the phone holder at the first picture in horizontal mode.
Check it out at amazon.

mumbi cell phone holder at amazon

Arenal Volcano National Park Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano National Park Costa Rica

arenal volcano no clouds
The arenal volcano
The Arenal Volcano is a huge and beautiful volcano inside the Volcano National Park. Unluckily the volcano does not errupt anymore. Not many years ago you could see lava running down the volcano.

But the beautiful nature around the National Park is almost as good as a active volcano.
The volcano has two different sides. On side of the volcano is covered with ash and stones which are getting slowly overgrown by nature. Most of the trees have been destroyed by lava and thousand of anymals have died. This is a very surrealistic area and you are not allowed to walk up to the crate, because it is very dangerous. The volcano is still very unstable.

arenal volcano dark side
The dark side of the arenal volcano

The volcano crate seems to crash and collapse from time to time and even people died during that. There are videos of people walking up a crashed plane on the arenal and finding hot lava stones on their way. Here you can actually see "flying" lava stones. So don't go past the allowed paths.

arenal volcano warning
The area around Arenal volcano is dangerous.

The other side of the volcano did not suffer so bad from the erruptions and is covered with trees and nature. If you are lucky, you will be able to see to volcano without any clouds like on the first picture. The next picture shows the volcano covered in clouds. It is made just 10-15 minutes later. As you can see the weather can change quickly here.

arenal volcano clouds
15 Minutes later the volcano is covered in clouds

Trails & Senderos in Arenal National Park

Right at the ranger station you will get a map with the available trails/senderos you are allowed to walk in arenal national park. Have a look at this picture of the map. You can walk almost all trails one after another and you might be finished in 2-3 hours. 
arenal national park trails
Trails/Senderos in Arenal National Park

Good to know:

Arenal Volcano, in Spanish Volcán Arenal, is an active andesitic stratovolcano in north-western Costa Rica around 90 km northwest of San José, in the province of Alajuela, canton of San Carlos, and district of La Fortuna. The Arenal volcano measures at least 1,633 metres (5,358 ft). It is conically shaped with a crater spanning 140 metres (460 ft). Geologically, Arenal is considered a young volcano and the age is estimated to be less than 7,500 years. It is also known as "Pan de Azúcar", "Canaste", "Volcan Costa Rica", "Volcan Río Frío" or "Guatusos Peak".(read more on wikipedia)

arenal volcano clouds and cloud free
15 minutes difference at the arenal volcano

Hotel La Rosa De America Costa Rica

Hotel La Rosa de America in San Jose

la rosa de america san jose
La Rosa de America is a nice small hotel
A very nice place to start your journey to Costa Rica is staying at La Rosa de America. The hotel is located inside a wonderful garden very near to the airport.
It has very friendly staff which is used to introduce tourists to their first days at costa Rica. They have catalogues with activities to do and even funny FAQs for their guests. The owner is a friendly guy and always tries to make it a pleasant stay.
Inside the garden you can get a first impression of Costa Rica flowers. They have nummerous plants with labels growing in the garden. Outside the hotel are a lot of huge mango trees where you can get some free snacks. This hotel is a good location for the first few days. From here you can easily start excursions to Paos Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens etc.

  • very friendly
  • pool & a nice garden
  • good food & cocktails
  • excellent location
  • free wifi

How to get to La Rosa de America

As you can see from the map, the hotel is very near to the Juan Santamaria international airport, but still very quiet. The exact adrdess is:
La Rosa de America, La Rosa Place, 1 Calle La Rosa, Costa Rica
You can reach the airport by car in about 15-20 minutes. Click on the map to customize your desired route.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica

La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica

la paz waterfall
A huge waterfall at la paz (37 meters)
While driving to Poas Volcano, we were blocked by the police. My spanish is too bad, but I understood that we cannot go there. So we decided to drive to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It is about 15-20 minutes to drive from Poas volcano. Luckily no roads were blocked :) 

Country Inn & Suites San Jose Costa Rica

Country Inn & Suites in San Jose

country inn & san jose suites costa rica pool
Country Inn & Suites is located near the Juan Santamaria Airport

This is a not yet typical airport business style hotel. You can reach it by car in about 10 to 15 minutes from the Juan Santamaria international airport in Costa Rica. It features the comfort (like an air-condition and gym) of a typical business hotel, but has the flair of a very chilled oasis. There are several small buildings around a nice pool. The sideways are planted with beautiful flowers and a lot of palms are growing near the pool.

The rooms are clean, the restaurant is good and the staff is very friendly. I had my first "olla con carne" here :) Even the hotel is located next to the autopista, it is quite at night.

country inn & san jose suites costa rica pool
A beautiful pool at Country Inn & Suites

  • Pool & Gym
  • located near the airport
  • free wifi

How to get to Country Inn & Suites San Jose
This classy and comfortable hotel is located on the right side at the autopista coming from Juan Santamaria Airport to San Jose City. If you see the sign for "Double Tree Hilton" get of the autopista! The exact address is:
Country Inn & Suites, Cuidad Cariari, Costa Rica
When you miss this exit you have to drive the autopista for a few more miles until you can turn around. Depending on the time and traffic this might take 30-45 minutes. Click on the map to customize your route.


Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

manuel antonio beach national park
A beautiful beach at Manuel Antonio
Park Manuel Antonio is the smallest national park in Costa Rica. It is not only the smalles national park in Costa Rica, but also the most beautiful one. And it is the one with the most tourists. The park is crowded with hords of tourists each day. I have nowhere in Costa Rica seen anything like this. My holiday was in the rain season, where normally only a very small amount of tourists is out there. Sometimes we were even the only guests in our hotel :) But in Manuel Antonio City and the park are really a lot of tourists from all over the world.

manuel antonio national park sign
Entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park

How to get to Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is the most crowded area in Costa Rica. Near the Park entrance all parking spaces can be rent. People will stay on the side of the road or walk on the road to call you in for their parkings. I drove all the area to turn and finally parked there. I had to pay 3000 Colones and my car should be save for the day. The best way would be to leave your car at your hotel. But remember not to leave anything in your car. You can check the map below for the parking area. Before you go, buy some fresh water. You can also buy it at the entrance, but its very expensive.

The beaches of Manuel Antonio

This national park has the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Most of the tourists do not come for the animals and the nature, they just come for the awesome beaches. And it is true, the beaches are beautiful. There are multiple beaches around Manuel Antonio. The first beach after the main trail through the jungle is the most crowded beach. On the map you can see the other beach right next to this one.  Its a five minute walk and less crowded.

parque manuel antonio
Manuel Antonio beach

Book a tour for the park
You are allowed to walk on designated trails through the park. Please do not leave the trails. Your best chance to see a lot of animals is booking a tour. It costs like 20 dollars. There will be a lot of people selling your some strange tickets for tours.
baby sloth
A baby sloth
Try to get near the entrance of the park (check the map) and get to the house of the official guides. Book a tour with one of these guides. These guides carry a small but powerful telescope. Equiped with this gadget and 5-10 other tourists you will walk the same way as all other tourists without a tour, but your guide will show you every animal.
On our tour we saw some Boa Constrictor hanging in the trees, a lot of smaller Snakes, a huge crowd of howler monkeys in the trees, capuchin monkeys, Spider monkeys and even a sloth with its baby!

baby howler monkey
A sleeping howler monkey

Map for Manuel Antonio Park

Here on this map you can check all the explained positions at Manuel Antonio like the beaches.

Good to know

Manuel Antonio National Park, in Spanish the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, is a small National Park in the Central Pacific Conservation Area located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, just south of the city of Quepos, Puntarenas, and 132 km (82 mi) from the national capital of San José. Established in 1972 with a land area enumerating 1 983 ha (the smallest of any Costa Rican national park), it is the destination of as many as 150,000 visitors annually and well known for its beautiful beaches and hiking trails. In 2011, Manuel Antonio was listed by Forbes among the world's 12 most beautiful national parks. (read more on wikipedia)

Landing at Juan Santamaria Airport airport Costa Rica

Landing at Juan Santamaria Airport airport Costa Rica

landing at costa rica
Landing at costa rica
So you fullfilled your dreams and finally decided to travel to Costa Rica. After long weeks of preparing your journey, you borded your plane and are flying right to Costa Rica. When traveling from Europe to Costa Rica you have had a long journey. Flying from Madrid is about eleven hours. These long flights are exhausting, but the easiest way to escape from your home country and explore something new.

After you arrived at Juan Santamaria Airport airport and you picked up your lagguage all you want to do is get to your hotel and take a nap.

Mastering the airport exit

But the first thing you have to master is theairport exit. The moment you exit the airport you will be introduced to a large crowd of ticos trying to get you a taxi. Dozens of ticos will shout and you will think. Oh my god. What is this country?
But keep in mind there are a few police men around which will keep you save.

The airport exit in san jose costa rica
The crowd introduces new tourists to Costa Rica
If you have a rental car, try to find a guy carrying a sing of your car rental. He will help you to get to your car. In the case you don't have a car, make sure to get picked up by your hotel shuttle service. If this fails just ask a friendly looking tico to help you. He might call your hotel or car rental.

Hotels near the airport

There are two hotels near to the airport I would recommend. They are reachable within 10-15 minutes. Hotel La Rosa de America is a very nice hotel inside a beautiful garden located about 10 minutes from the airport. Hotel Country Inn & Suites is located about 15 minutes from the airport on the direction to san jose.

costa rica airport
The Costa Rica airport