Okay, so you’re thinking about rolling around Costa Rica, huh? That’s admirable and I am sure you will have a great time while you are there. However, there are a few things to keep in mind as some portions of this country can be quite challenging to navigate. With that in mind, let me offer a few tips for the next time you find yourself rolling around Costa Rica.
All flights in and out of the country at the major airport are more than capable of handling your travel needs if you’re a wheelchair user. Due to federal and international regulations, standards have to be met and as such, airlines are always the first to be snapped into compliance.
Yet that is where a lot of the fun ends I’m afraid. As far as accommodating you for getting around while you are in the country itself, good luck in certain spots. The law stated that by 2006 all buses had to be wheelchair capable or handicap accessible. However, the legal deadline came and went, and unfortunately only the buses in San Jose complied.
However, take heart. The Association of Costa Rican Special Taxis has a specialty fleet of 40 vans that are wheelchair friendly and capable of holding up to 15 passengers each. You may still choose to take a normal taxi to save a few bucks if you can stow your manual chair. However, make sure that you clearly communicate your needs to the driver to ensure your wheelchair is properly stowed and you have safe transit. A word about roads in Costa Rica. They are horrible. Most of them are bumpy and contain numerous potholes, so make sure you are securely strapped inside and hold on for dear life.
Hotels and Costa Rica resorts are another matter entirely. In fact, they can be one of the nicer surprises in a country where accessibility laws and regulations are only loosely enforced. Take for instance the Crowne Plaza Corobici Hotel. They have things like automatic sliding doors and ramps. However, the ramp might be too steep for you to navigate yourself so to that end, they import their staff to help push you right along whenever they notice you are near. This can be a nice touch.
The bathrooms also feature roll in showers in their accessible rooms. However, keep in mind that the main mirror is not angled downward so good luck trying to see yourself in that one. You can always use the one outside in the room though. Other hotels in San Jose offer the same type of amenities.
Now as far as sightseeing, it is possible to explore places like the Manuel Antonio Beach and Rain Forest during your stay. Manuel Antonio is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, but you might want to start with a little tamer sort of environment like Central Market. There’s plenty of room for you to move around there and the wide walkways make moving easier.
Check yourself at the curb though. A lot of the streets have gutters that are extremely deep. It’s downright scary if you drop off the end so be forewarned. Many times those around will assist you if you simply ask.
The rainforest has paths that are pretty accessible if you know which ones to take. Ask the guide before you go on a tour of some of the parks. They will familiarize you with the best routes and easiest ways to navigate from your wheelchair. The beach should be pretty easy too. Just make sure that you stay on the boardwalk and try not to get bogged down in the sand. It is possible to roll along the wet sand, however, you need to make sure that you don’t have a dry patch or you will get wheels deep in it really quick!
During your visit to Costa Rica don’t miss Arenal Volcano and the surrounding area of La Fortuna; it’s breathtaking! Arenal Volcano is quite a sight and lies only about 90 kilometers from San Jose. Up until 2010, it was Costa Rica’s most active volcano and it spewed large amounts of ash and lava. It doesn’t really do this anymore unfortunately, but its beauty still remains. You could choose to make this a day trip with a tour company. With a quick Google search, you can find several accessible tour companies within Costa Rica.
Also, if you are a resident of the UK, consider getting travel insurance from The AA during your visit. This might be a good idea since Costa Rica is more of an adventurous destination. While travel insurance is always a nice safety net, in destinations like this it really makes me feel more comfortable about going. Not only can having travel insurance cover you in case you have to cancel your trip, but it can also cover medical expenses incurred on your trip. So if you decide to be a risk taker and happen to break your leg while ziplining, you’ll be extremely glad that you decided to get travel insurance. Personally, I’ve had some crazy travel experiences throughout my 24 years on this planet and I’m always glad to be covered in case of any unforeseen circumstances. Better safe than sorry!
If you are visiting the San Jose area there is plenty to see and do here too. Don’t miss Teatro Nacional, a historic theater built in 1897. Museo do Arte is also worth a visit. This museum won the Travelers Choice award in 2014 from TripAdvisor.
The restaurants in Costa Rica are not as accessible as you might think. Many of these places tend to stay crowded due to the tourists and resorts surrounding. As such, there are many pop up cafés on sidewalks that are hard to navigate between tables or they have table legs that make it almost impossible for you to wheel a chair up against.
The best option in this situation is to go for some of the bigger chain companies. There are several fast food and mid to upper level franchise restaurants in the area. They are always handicapped accessible since they have to abide by global standards. Another nice perk in this instance is that their restrooms are always accessible too. You should have no trouble rolling around these locations, but there are other local restaurants that will accommodate you as best they can. I am by no means axing them out, it’s just a little bit more of a headache and it is obvious that they are perhaps not accustomed to catering to wheelchair using individuals a lot of the time.
In saying that, this is a beautiful country and definitely worth a visit even if it does take a little more work. The wildlife is abundant and there are certainly plenty of things to do and see. You have no shortage of activity, just a slight inconvenience of accessibility. Yet with a little creative thinking and forethought, you will be rolling around Costa Rica in no time.
*I have not visited Costa Rica. All information was found online from various sources.
*A Note from Curb Free with Cory Lee: This post includes affiliate links. When you click on a link, I may receive a small compensation, which will help this blog grow into a better resource for disabled travelers.