Bamboo Bass Festival 2019 – Back 2 Bass-ics
Hola, orta vez! Bamboo Bass Festival is now less than a month away, and it’s getting down to crunch time when it comes to prepping for the adventure of a lifetime. Most of you reading this probably have your flights and accommodations already in order (and if you don’t…get on that, yesterday), but what about the other details? Things like transportation, food, what to bring, and what to do before you leave? If you haven’t traveled much before, there’s a lot more to it than you’d expect…and if you do have the experience, then you know how easy it is to miss something!
This will be my third trip to the jungle, and while that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, trust me when I say there is plenty to learn with each visit. With the last two years being some of my best festival experiences to date, I couldn’t be more excited to return to the jungle surrounded by friends and the jungle crew that is quickly becoming la familia.
From everything you need to know about to Bamboo Bass, to the basics of traveling to & from the Rich Coast, this guide is a collection of tips and tricks to ensure your experience in paradise be the absolute best one it can be!
Bamboo Bass has moved locations in 2019 to a stunning new site in the vicinity of Playa Hermosa, a small surfing village just beyond the resort town of Jacó. Accommodations are available in both Jacó and Hermosa, but don’t expect the small village of Hermosa to have many options in the way of amenities. Jacó has everything you will need, with significantly more places to stay, and is home to a beautiful stretch of Pacific coast that offers a 2.5 mile (4km) long beach with some of the best surfing in the country.
The festival itself is now located at The Park at Ocean Ranch in Playa Hermosa, and while the festival may have moved to a new site, getting to the site is just as easy as before; just a 15 minute cab ride from Room2board in Jacó and you’re there!
Accessible by vehicle via the Costanera Sur Highway 34 (or Route 34), Jacó is roughly a 90 minute drive from the Juan Santamaría International Airport, and about two hours south west of the capital, San José. Once you’ve gone through customs and collected your bags, your options for getting into Jacó include renting a car, taking a bus/cab, or ideally booking yourself on Bamboo’s private shuttle, which takes you from the airport directly to where you need to go within Jacó. The airport has a reputation of being hectic, especially once you get outside, so make sure you come prepared!
If you’re planning to rent a car, the internet or the airport can get you on your way. But keep in mind Costa Rica has one of the highest accident ratings of the Americas, and that you may also be a target for petty theft, which is common from vehicles; especially rentals.
If you choose to take a bus, hail one of the red/burgundy coloured taxis and pay the $25 USD cab ride to the 7-10 bus terminal, where you can catch a $5 USD bus that will take you to Jacó in about 3 – 4 hours. Should you choose this option, plan accordingly, because while the transit system in Costa Rica is generally safe, it is known to be unreliable at times. Alternatively, you can take that same taxi all the way down to Jacó, but be prepared to pay upwards of $100 USD for the trip.
Once you’ve arrived at your accommodations, taxis are a great way to get around quickly and avoid the hot sun. Unfortunately the move to a new venue will make walking to the event inaccessible to most in attendance, but thankfully cabs are cheap and plentiful.
Located between 8 and 12 degrees from the equator, it should come as no surprise that the temperature in Costa Rica is hot, year round. As with all tropical countries, their seasons are based off the amount of precipitation during certain times of the year, commonly known as the wet & dry seasons. February is smack dab in the middle of a dry season, known as ‘summer’ to the locals. That means you can expect a little less humidity than the wet months, but generally higher air temperatures, consistently reaching temperatures of 35°C (95°F). Regardless of where you’re from, it’s hot as shit. So make sure to pack lots of sunscreen and a hat! Sunscreen is very expensive down there and my pasty Irish ass is the reason why. Do yourself a favour and pack a couple bottles in your checked luggage – you’ll need it…or at the very least I will.
The Costa Rican currency is known as the Colón, and it is one of the stronger forms of currency in Central America, a testament to the country’s growing economy thanks to flourishing industries like ecotourism. At the time of writing this article, one US dollar would get you 609₡ (or 465₡/$1 CDN), which won’t get you much, but is well on the way towards a beer, or a bottle of water.
Colónes are accepted basically everywhere, and while many places accept US dollars as well, don’t expect to get a great exchange rate for them. Due to the amount of tourism in Jaco, many prices are marked in US dollars, but constantly trying to figure out the exchange rate in your head gets tiresome. Memorize the numbers or download a currency converter app to save yourself at the till. Ideally, you’ll want to bring colónes, and maybe some USD for backup, but as long as you have one of the two you should be alright.
Canadian dollars are difficult to exchange in Costa Rica, especially in smaller towns like Jacó, so make sure to buy some colónes before getting on the plane. ATMs can run out of money rather quickly with the surge of people in town, and withdrawal amounts can be limited on some machines, so avoid lineups and frustration by coming prepared. Personally, I’ve never had a problem using my debit card in restaurants and shops, but that isn’t always the case. Credit cards are widely accepted, although you may want to check with your bank, as many users get charged a fee for using it in another country.
Prices will obviously vary depending on where you go and what you do, but the bargain tourist can easily get by for under $45 USD (27,000₡) a day. Expect prices to be a little bit less than what you pay back home, but not by much. While domestic items tend to be pretty cheap, imports, and items in high demand such as sunscreen, cost drastically more than we’re used to. For a better understanding of what you can expect to spend, check out this breakdown of the cost of living in Costa Rica.
Like most of central and south America, the official spoken language of Costa Rica is Spanish, but with a 95% literacy rate in the country it means you’ll be able to just squeak by on English. Figures say about 10% of the population is fluent in English, but many people will understand a few basics should you find yourself in a situation that requires it.
A translator app on your phone is a great way to combat the language barrier but why not take the time to learn some words or phrases and see where it takes you? Costa Rica is known as a popular destination to learn Spanish because people speak slowly and their dialect is easy to understand. Even if you’re no good, just attempting to speak in Spanish will gain a lot more respect from the locals. Most people are friendly and willing to help you out anyway, so don’t be shy.
If there’s a phrase to remember while you’re in Jaco, it’s definitely Pura Vida, which means “pure life” or “good life”, a phrase that reflects the way of life in Costa Rica. An interchangeable phrase, it often replaces hello as people walk down the streets, or when being used in response to a question, such as “cómo estás?” (how are you?).
What to do in Jaco
Even though we’re going down to bask in the bass, you’re inevitably going to find yourself with some down time at some point during your trip, so why not experience some of the unique things that Costa Rica has to offer?
A leading destination of ecotourism, Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, covering just 0.1% of the earth’s landmass, yet accounting for 5% of the planets biodiversity. There are hundreds of flora and fauna that are unique to the country, and options for adventure include a range of activities like white water rafting, rappelling waterfalls, climbing an active volcano, crocodile adventures, ATV tours, plus some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Many of these activities can be found right inside the venue itself, with the Ocean Ranch staff available to show you another side of Costa Rica all together!
With some of the best waves on this side of the Pacific, the surfing in Jacó is nothing short of world class. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’ve never stepped foot on a board in your life, the water in February brings consistent waves of all sizes, meaning somewhere around Jacó , there’s a wave with your name on it. Lessons are cheap and boards are plentiful, so find one near you and hit the beach!
Costa Rican cuisine is probably a completely different experience that most of us are used to, but I enjoy it so much I’ve incorporated many of the dishes into my daily meals back home. You can expect lots of fresh fruit, lots of protein (much of it plant based), lots of seafood, and in my opinion, the best fucking coffee on earth. Some favourites include dishes like ceviche, chifijo, and Costa Rica’s national dish – gallo pinto. Oh, and don’t forget the salsa lizano!
Things to Remember
It goes without saying that when you’re in a different country, you should familiarize yourself with the local culture and the basics on getting by. So here are a few more pointers to remember and then we’ll leave the rest up to you, because it will be different depending on what you want to do.
- Ensure your trip is the best it can be by prepping as much as you can at home. Since you’re travelling to a tropical country, you’ll want to make sure you’re up to date on your Hep A & B shots, and if you’re traveling around the country you should consider typhoid as well. Shots take about 2 weeks after you get them to be effective so make sure you leave enough time between the doctor and your flights!
- Any festival vet knows that proper footwear can make or break a weekend. Costa Rica may be home to lots of sand and beaches, but it’s also home to some rather rough terrain when you get away from the water. Bring comfortable, closed toe footwear whether it be shoes, boots, or even those weird finger toe shoes, because the jungle at night is the least forgiving place for someone in sandals in the world.
- Smoking is illegal in most places of the country, and many places do not have smoking areas, so be aware of where you are before you choose to light one up. There is no smoking on site at Bamboo Bass, but there will be an area provided at the entry grounds to the festival. Just please dispose of your butts in an environmentally friendly way.
- Costa Rica is a safe country, but just like everywhere else in the world there are people that ruin the fun. Avoid any negative impacts on your trip by always showing respect (because why wouldn’t you?), keeping valuables locked up or out of sight, not drawing unwanted attention to yourself, and discourage any would be troublemakers by sticking together with friends, particularly at night.
- Free drinking water IS available on the festival grounds, and tap water is safe to drink in all but the most remote parts of the country (although it’s heavily chlorinated) so make sure you bring a reusable bottle or buy one there while you’re enjoying the bass! It gets hot in Costa Rica, so make sure to drink plenty of non alcoholic fluids and ensure others do the same! We all know how shitty being dehydrated is, so if you feel weird, irritated, cranky, sick, or mad…GO DRINK WATER!
- If you plan to take a taxi at any time during your trip, always flag down a red/burgundy coloured cab, as they have proper meters and will get you where you need to go safely. Beware of pirate taxis, also known as piratas, who are easily spotted without the same yellow emblem that legitimate cabs have on their doors.
- Drink Guaro (after you’ve had some more water of course).
- Although WiFi is readily available throughout much of the country, it tends to be slow with so many people connected at any given time. An effective alternative is to purchase a Costa Rican SIM card and get a cheap data/cell plan so you can connect to their network, which will allow you to make calls, text, and connect to the internet to use things like google maps.
- We are guests in another country, so treat the land, the people, and the laws with the same respect you’d expect in your home. The people of Costa Rica are very friendly, and extremely polite, so give that right back and you’ll have no problem making friends! Swamp them in kindness and hopefully we’ll all get invited back next year!
- Most importantly, HAVE FRIGGING FUN! You’re basically going to be living in a post card (do they still make those?) for at least a weekend, so get out and enjoy everything that Jacó has to offer! Because before you know it, you’ll be on your way home to the cruel mistress that is a winter on the west coast
That should cover all the bass-ics! We’ll leave the rest up to you, because now it’s time to go searching for that ever evasive passport. Let us know if we missed anything, otherwise…see you in the jungle in a couple weeks!!
PS – DON'T FORGET YOUR PASSPORT!