Welcome to our newest travel series, brought to you by YETI. In this series, we will be highlighting some of our favorite fly-fishing destinations around the world and providing you with some essential angler insight to help complete your mission. Just like the new YETI luggage, this guide will aim to help you get from point A to B, but whatever adventure you choose to have in-between is up to you.
In this edition, we’ll be reflecting on a recent trip to the tropical paradise of Costa Rica. We were in awe of the lush and endless expanse of flora and fauna and humbled by the righteousness of an eventual downpour. Our days were spent targeting tarpon and tempemechin as we rafted down pristine waters.
What to Know Before You Go
According to the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, all visitors must complete an online health pass 72 hours prior to arrival. All visitors, ages 2 and up, must also provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within 24 hours prior to arrival. If you are un-vaccinated and 18 years or older, Costa Rica requires you to purchase a travel policy that acts as insurance in the chance of contracting COVID-19. If you are fully vaccinated OR unvaccinated and under the age of 18 years old you don’t need to worry about this. Just make sure that your last dose is completed at least two weeks before your arrival date. For more details, click here.
Most nationalities do not need a special visa to enter Costa Rica. A valid passport is required, and upon entering Costa Rica travelers are granted a 90-day tourist visa. Some countries, however, will require a special visa. Inquire with your Costa Rican outfitter or your local Costa Rican embassy to be sure.
There are many direct flights to the capital city of San Jose (SJO), and this is typically the launch for most trips around the country. If your adventures are focused in the North Pacific portion of the country, you could also consider flying into Guanacaste (LIR).
Travel by air to Costa Rica has become easier over the years, but oftentimes due to the logistics of getting around the country as well as tricky and sometimes poorly marked roads, an overnight in San Jose is often required at the beginning and end of your trip. Renting a car is the best bet to give yourself flexibility for getting off the beaten path, but road travel can be bumpy, foggy, rainy, winding, and sometimes take longer than anticipated. It’s always recommended to leave a little extra time and to only travel during the day. And if you do get lost, chatting with friendly local people and finding yourself in a serendipitous adventure is all part of the joy of traveling to a foreign country.
Preparing for Your Trip
For all of your non-angling needs, here are a few items we suggest packing along for your journey. Needless to say, there’s always more (or less) you can choose to equip yourself with, but that’s all dependant on what kind of traveler you are. Here are a few items we were glad we brought, or more likely, wish we had.
The Right Luggage: YETI’s 2021 Luggage
YETI’s new luggage line is truly built for the wild. That is built to last a lifetime and practical. From suitcases to backpacks, to carry-ons – this new line is built to withstand anything from the harsh hands of baggage check to the exotic angling destinations of your dreams. With more space than you’ll know what to do with and bulletproof composure, you can kiss the days of travel turmoil goodbye.
2. Sun Protection: Hats, Buff, Sun Shirts, Sunscreen
Being that Costa Rica is near the equator, the sun is also very powerful here – be sure to bring plenty of strong sunscreen. Stay hydrated – Costa Rica is very proud of the fact that tap water can be safely consumed everywhere in the country, from the cities to the most remote reaches. Make sure to pack long-sleeved clothing that will protect you from the sun, apply lots of sunblock, and always have plenty of liquids (water, NOT Cerveza) on hand. Sunburn and dehydration are serious in these parts.
3. Rain Jacket
The only thing more unrelenting than the Costa Rican sun is the rain. The rainy season rears its head from June until November, with October being the rainiest of all. Jackets can be easily packed away when you don’t need it, and you’ll be thankful you have it when you do.
4. Waterproof Backpack
Don’t compromise your peace of mind when it comes to keeping your gear safe and dry. Whether you’ve got expensive camera gear, or just a change of dry clothes, a waterproof backpack is essential when traveling through uncertain weather.
5. Bug Repellent
Mosquitoes can also be bothersome in certain parts of the country, but a little repellent helps to keep the blood suckers at bay.
Anglers Packing List
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely planning on going fishing. Good for you. Below, we’ve coordinated with some the local guides to put together a list of some saltwater fly fishing essentials you should try to bring as there are no fly shops or sporting goods stores with fly fishing gear.
Info via Release Fly Travel.
Since there is so much to target with a fly rod, your bag can get pretty heavy pretty quickly if you don’t pack smart. Contacting a local guide service ahead of time is the best bet – they’ll let you know what the best setups will be, and which flies are producing. And many outfitters will have gear available for rent or loan – especially helpful for those who want to catch their first tarpon, billfish, or tuna!
Pacific Ocean Species
If your target is Pacific ocean species, an array of deceivers, streamers, and poppers will cover most species. 8-10 weights and floating and intermediate lines are best from shore, with 10-12 being called upon as you venture further into the deep blue. If you are targeting the very largest of the Pacific species, like marlin and sailfish, be sure to pack an even larger 14-16 weight setup. And as we often joke, all popper colors work for billfish, as long as they are pink.
Lowland River & Stream Species
Lowland river and stream fishing is similar to the US, and one can fish 3-7 weight rods with nymphs, hoppers, and streamers, usually with floating lines. The exception is the fruit-eating machaca. While they will sometimes attack a well-presented hopper, what they are really after are seeds and fruit, and large cork or wood fruit flies that give a nice solid “plook” will draw them to the surface. Rainbow trout can be fished using small 1-3 weight rods with dry flies and nymphs as one would any small mountain stream. Finally, tarpon and snook will eat a variety of deceivers and streamers. Depending on their size, one can use 8-12 weight setups, and a variety of conditions will call for floating, intermediate, and even sink-tip lines.
Not gear, but a critical component to success will be a local guide. Costa Rica has some dangerous critters, and walking along a lowland river may put you in direct contact with a venomous snake, a crocodile, or even a jaguar. For this reason, it’s generally best to not go into certain areas without the support of an experienced guide.
Additional Activities of Interest
While not everyone may not be a die-hard angler, there is plenty to see and do in Costa Rica. Here are some activities we recommend for the non-angler.
Feet in the Sand
Costa Rica has some of the world’s most incredible beaches. Be sure not to miss out by incorporating some beachcombing and R&R into your adventure. It’s also one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf!
Roughly 28% of Costa Rica’s national territory is set aside for wildlife. Visiting one of the country’s many national parks will help you immerse in some of the incredible biodiversity that makes this place so special.
Reconnect in Nature
Yoga and wellness have grown significantly in the past few decades in Costa Rica. Find inner peace in the rainforest as the howler monkeys and toucans serenade the soul.
Up in the Canopy
High ropes courses, zip-lines, bungees, hanging bridges, just to name a few… get a thrilling bird’s eye perspective in the treetops as you engage in one of many available adrenaline-packed ecotours.
Livin’ la Pura Vida
So, what are you waiting for? Get down to the land of “Pura Vida” (Pure Life) and release your inner explorer and rainforest wild-child. Target and catch a dizzying array of tropical fishes, in both the fresh and the salt. Hike through verdant national parks, surrounded by monkeys, sloths, and colorful birds. Relax on the beach, feeling the sand between your toes as you sip an ice-cold cerveza. However, travelers beware – Costa Rica will leave you begging for more. Repeat offenders welcome!
Tom Enderlin owns and operates Release Fly Travel (@releaseflytravel and @flyfishingcostarica), a boutique outfitter and guide service specializing in everything Costa Rica has to offer. Whether you want to book a single-day guided fly fishing trip or a once-in-a-lifetime multi-day eco-adventure combining fishing and non-fishing activities, Tom and his experienced team are the best in the business. If you are heading to Costa Rica, be sure to reach out to these pros – your trip will be that much better because of it!
Thank you to YETI for making this guide possible. If you’re planning an adventure anywhere, domestic or international, be sure to check out their new luggage line that will ensure you get from A-B without hassle or worry.
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