Michael Bond

Correspondent

  • Costa Rica

Michael Bond is a correspondent who lives in Costa Rica and covers the country for Forbes Travel Guide. Bond is a writer, musician, and web consultant who left Chicago and his Midwestern roots in 2010 for jungle life in Costa Rica. He currently lives on the Central Pacific coast with his wife, illustrator Leigh Cox, their trusty dog, and a half-dozen iguanas who’ve made a home on their roof.

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  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Bond answered the question: Michael Bond

    Should visitors see the Caribbean or Pacific Coast of Costa Rica?

    The Caribbean and Pacific Coasts of Costa Rica each offer fantastic options for eating, lodging and more, but the atmosphere is very different for each, say our Forbes Travel Guide editors. The Caribbean Coast is best suited to the more adventurous, laid-back traveler; a beautiful but at times trying three- to four-hour drive from the airport in San Jose leads you to miles of pristine beaches south of the port city of Limon. Far less developed than the Pacific Coast, it offers visitors a rare chance to come face-to-face with nature in Costa Rica. Puerto Viejo and the areas south offer plenty of fun, surfing, nightlife and reggae-tinged “Pura Vida,” with sleeping options ranging from hammocks to four-star resorts. Share a beer with the backpackers you met surfing that morning and settle in for a relaxed vacation with no need for a watch. The Caribbean tends to be drier when the rest of the country is in its September/October rainy season, but it’s also more isolated — it’s easier to reach Panama’s sights (like Bocas del Toro) than San Jose’s.
     
    Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast offers a more varied range of options. You can reach the water in a little more than an hour’s drive from the airport, and the extensive shoreline offers everything from exclusive private resorts with spas and golf (Tamarindo, Jaco, Manuel Antonio) to small fishing towns offering hostels and cozy bed and breakfasts (Esterillos, Quepos, Montezuma). The roads are better paved and marked, but this isn’t to say that there isn’t nature and adventure to be had — the Pacific Coast boasts half a dozen national parks along its shores. Those looking for high-end lodging and upscale dining will be more than thrilled with their options here, but the overdeveloped beach towns and tourist prices can be a bit much for travelers seeking a more rustic getaway.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Bond answered the question: Michael Bond

    What is the best thing to bring home from Costa Rica?

    One of the best things to bring home from Costa Rica is decorative wood, which comes in many beautiful varieties. You’ll probably find a wide range of options for sale during your trip; the size and quality can vary greatly, but for the very best, our Forbes Travel Guide editors say it’s hard to go wrong with a visit to Biesanz Woodworks. Nestled in the hills of San Antonio de Escazu, their beautiful bowls, humidors and boxes are made from eco-friendly fallen wood that’s collected by Barry Biesanz himself; they’re guaranteed for life against breaking. The workshop offers short but enjoyable tours of their private gardens and artists’ studio, and is a convenient 30-minute drive from San Jose and the airport. Taking a well-crafted bowl back home with you will put you in the esteemed company of four U.S. presidents, Pope John Paul II and the Queen of Spain — not bad for a souvenir.
  • On August 16, 2012
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    What are the best Costa Rica food experiences?

    Costa Ricans like their food straightforward and direct — and once you try their fresh ingredients, you’ll see why. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ entire list of the best Costa Rica food experiences features simple pleasures, done right.
     
    1. Batidos/Refrescos Naturales. Order a simple lunch and it’s all but assumed that you also want a Batido, or Refresco — the Costa Rican term for freshly squeezed fruit juice. It’s a testament to the abundance of fresh fruit here that the same raw juice that you splurge for at the gym or Whole Foods is cheaper than soda, not to mention more healthy. It’s hard to go wrong with sandia (watermelon) or piña (pineapple), but be sure to also try some of the flavors you can’t get back home: tamarindo, guanabana and maracuya.
     
    2. Chifrijo. Costa Ricans often joke that they’ll eat anything, as long as it’s rice and beans, but the existence of the chifrijo makes us wonder why they eat anything else. A portmanteau of chicharrones (fried pork belly), frijoles (beans) and arroz (rice), this bowl of hearty goodness is usually topped with pico de gallo salsa and sometimes another scoop of vigorones (fried pork rinds) to boot, with tortilla chips for scooping it all out. The mixture works perfectly, and while fairs and outdoor events are your best bet to catch a bowl in the wild, you can also find it served at roadside stands or as an appetizer in casual restaurants.
     
    3. Fresh fish. The Central Pacific’s abundance of sportfishing, especially near the port town of Quepos, makes it the perfect spot to enjoy fresh-caught fish. The best restaurants serve it direct from that morning’s catch, whether it be red snapper (fried or grilled whole), mahi mahi, corvina or our favorite, fresh tuna. For those accustomed to their tuna coming from round cans or the freezer section, a fresh tuna steak, seared rare, is a near-religious experience. Sushi lovers should do their best to track it down as sashimi, as you’re not likely to find it better, fresher or cheaper anywhere else.
     
    4. Gallo Pinto. Again, we’re back to rice and beans — but this time, as the traditional breakfast of Costa Rica, gallo pinto. Spanish for “spotted rooster,” every family and restaurant has their own specific take on this mix of black beans, white rice and Lizano sauce, a sweet cumin condiment found on nearly every table in the country. Adorned with an over-easy egg or sweet fried plantains, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll take to this most tipico dish.
     
    5. Coffee. If you’re like most, your very first exposure to Costa Rica’s culinary culture has been while standing in line at Starbucks; coffee is still the country’s main export, and its dark green bushes cover much of the country’s landscape. As the demand for high-quality java has increased in recent years, the country has become famous for its gourmet beans, with a focus on organic and single-origin blends. While simply buying a local bag from the market may impress casual drinkers, real coffee connoisseurs will want to catch one of the country’s many coffee tours — from the Central Valley’s Doka Estate to Finca Christina, on the slopes of Irazú Volcano.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Bond answered the question: Michael Bond

    Where is the best nightlife in Costa Rica?

    Nightlife in Costa Rica means dancing, with salsa and reggaeton clubs that look empty before midnight, but then fill up with young locals sweating until the break of dawn. San Jose has its own scene, centering around El Pueblo, a massive complex with more than a dozen clubs, and San Pedro, the University of Costa Rica’s suburban home, but travelers may find the larger coastal towns more their pace. Jacó and Tamarindo are both (in)famous for their party atmosphere and bar-lined beachfronts, and it’s easy to follow the line of taxis to the hotspots at night. Unfortunately, the influx of tourists has also made them home to a seedier element — if the ladies getting out of those taxis look like a casting call for Pretty Woman, it’s best to move on to the next spot. The backpacker havens of Puerto Viejo, Dominical and Montezuma all offer a more relaxed take on beachfront nightlife, with a younger crowd and chilled-out reggae as the soundtrack.
  • On August 16, 2012
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    What is the best way to see Costa Rica?

    For visitors to Costa Rica with little time to waste, Forbes Travel Guide’s editors recommend getting out of San Jose for a day trip to Irazú Volcano. Just a scenic hour’s drive outside of the capital, Irazú’s lagoon-filled crater is easily accessible by car and, on a clear day, you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans from its peak.
     
    If you’ve got more time in Costa Rica, head the other way, toward the Central Pacific coast. Some of the country’s best beaches are hidden away at resorts less than an hour and a half from the airport — check out Villa Caletas and Punta Leona for the absolute quickest routes from seat to sand.
  • On August 16, 2012
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    Where is the best shopping in Costa Rica?

    While Costa Rica isn’t an international destination for high fashion, what you will find in here is shopping that runs the gamut — you can buy ornamental gourds and handmade chocolate direct from the indigenous Bribri tribe in the morning, while browsing Carolina Herrera at the Multiplaza Mall that afternoon. Somewhere in the middle lies the small town of Sarchí, Costa Rica’s most famous crafts center. Well-known for its long history of producing quality wood furniture and leather goods, the tiny burg is bursting with more than 200 family-operated stores. The most colorful of the bunch is the Joaquin Chaverri Oxcart Factory, built in 1902, and the birthplace of oxcart painting in Costa Rica. Their elaborate style of painting “carretas” has become a Costa Rican symbol, and the factory store offers a wide range of souvenirs, as well as the chance to see the artisans at work.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Bond answered the question: Michael Bond

    What are the best things to do with kids in Costa Rica?

    If your children are into wildlife, they’re going to be easy to please in Costa Rica — and it’s easy to get back in touch with your own sense of child-like wonder in a land of volcanoes, jungles and giant lizards. Here are some of Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for kids both young and old.
     
    1. The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. On the Caribbean Coast, a small family-run wildlife reserve north of Cahuita National Park began gaining a reputation as a place where locals could bring injured animals. However, their lives were changed when a crippled sloth was dropped at their door; they quickly fell in love with the slow-moving tree-dwellers. Now the sanctuary focuses almost entirely on the health of injured or orphaned sloths, and opens its doors daily to visitors who want to meet the friendly mammals up close. Best of all is their adorable cast of baby sloths — try and get there in the late morning to see them at their lunchtime best.
     
    2. La Paz Waterfall Gardens. In the foothills of the Poas volcano, and only an hour from the airport, La Paz (as well as its luxury boutique hotel, the Peace Lodge) offers a more straightforward take on Costa Rican flora and fauna, built around a series of five waterfalls and surrounded by pristine cloud forest. The zoo-like setup and short, paved trails can be a shock to those used to the wildlife in Costa Rica being a little more untamed, but it also means kids are guaranteed to see animals rarely glimpsed outside a cage, like jaguars, ocelots and marmosets.
     
    3. The “Crocodile Bridge” at Tarcoles. For parents looking for a break on the road from San Jose to the Central Pacific beaches, the sight of a bridge covered with tourists looking downward is their lucky break. In the water beneath, there’s almost always dozens of crocodiles swimming and sunning themselves in the Tarcoles river — a free, fun glimpse into the wilderness surrounding you. Nearby stands offer refreshing coconuts with straws to drink their water (“pipa fria”), as well as fresh fruit and assorted snacks.
     
    4. Ziplining at Los Sueños. Ziplining is big business in Costa Rica, with nearly every tourist destination offering some sort of dash through the treetops to thrill-seeking visitors. Vista Los Sueños (north of Jaco) is not only one of the biggest and best, but also offers guided rides to children as young as four. The fifteen-platform zip through transitional rainforest is not only an exhilarating ride, but also a great way to see the canopy and ocean from a different angle.
     
    5. Sabana Park. San Jose may not have a lot to offer the younger set, but Sabana Park, on the city’s western side, is a prime exception. The enormous park, built over what used to be the city’s airport, is a favorite among locals looking to run or skate on its outdoor tracks or just grab lunch in the shade of its colorful eucalyptus forest. Kids are sure to enjoy the climbable dinosaur bone sculpture jutting out into the park’s artificial lake, as well as the pony rides trotting along the perimeter. Overhead, the Urban Canopy Tour runs an eight-cable zipline through the treetops, while vendors on the ground sell fresh fruit juice and granizados, a fruity snow cone made with sweetened condensed milk. Make sure to visit the park’s dual museums of Contemporary Art and Natural Sciences and, if you’re lucky, the new National Stadium (located on Sabana’s western edge) — the true center of culture for most Costa Ricans — will be hosting a soccer game.