No matter how tight your budget or how much you enjoy your independence one of the best pieces of advice we can give you is “at some point get a guide.”
We’ve seen amazing things on our own and had some incredible experiences just hanging out with the locals but trained professional naturalists, baquianos (indigenous guides), can literally show you a whole other world.
It’s incredible what they see and know. Even though we grew up with wilderness out the back door; even after more than 20 years of walking quietly, even using our training as scientists and naturalists, bicycling instead of driving, and even after watching the pros do it a hundred times they still amaze.
Besides their almost stupefying knowledge in the modern age they use technology to improve everyone’s experience. The first time a guide took a cell phone call in the middle of Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve I was sort of annoyed until I realized it wasn’t his girlfriend calling to tell him to pick up Chinese on the way home but another guide cuing him in to the location of a quetzal pair mating.
Some locations like Corcovado don’t have cell service so they communicate on the coconut telegraph passing information as they pass on the trails and hanging small color coded tags from branches to alert their compatriots to something interesting.
Whatever else you spend your money on in Costa Rica save some to go on at least one guided walk.
Not every guide in Costa Rica is qualified and there’s no government certification or regulation to prevent any Tom, Dick or Juan from selling you guide services.
Not every certified and qualified guide is actually good at their job (mangalars) and sometimes Juan is much better.