5 important tips if you want to climb Chirripó

Did you know that we are located at the foot of Mt Chirripó , the biggest mountain in Costa Rica? Second biggest in Central America? Thousands of outdoors enthusiasts visit each year to climb the mountain. From the peak you can see both oceans (Pacific and Caribbean), the ridge of volcanoes that run through Costa Rica and beyond, as well as lakes, incredible rock formations and the ‘paramo’ ecosystem typical of this elevation.

Costa Rica Holiday Homestay has recently begun helping our guests arrange their permits to hike the mountain which is a national park, and services such as overnight accommodation, meals, portering etc. If you are considering climbing Chirripó while you homestay with us here are 5 very important tips:

• Mt Chirripó is over 3,000 meters tall – a good challenge for mountaineers and hikers in good condition. You will enjoy yourself if you book to stay over one night, preferably two, as there is a lot to see and just climbing to the top and descending will take a lot of your allotted time.

• The experience of climbing Mt Chirripó varies throughout the year: from January to March we experience dry, sunny days with clear skies and very cold nights. Come prepared! From April to December there will be some rain of varying degrees but warmer temperatures at night.

• You MUST reserve permits to enter the National Park months before you arrive. See SINAC. We can make the bookings for you but likewise we need lots of time to be sure you get the dates and time you want. All bookings are now online. The process isn’t too difficult, but we’re here to help if it becomes mystifying!

• Also important to know is that you must arrive at least one day before your hike as you need to sign in at the National Parks Office before 4 pm the previous day. In fact we really recommend you arrive a few days ahead of your climb to acclimatize yourself to the altitude (San Gerardo is at 1,300 meters above sea level), take a few short hikes and gather your provisions. Likewise, you will need at least one night at your homestay afterwards to rest up!

• Most of our homestay families have years of experience hiking, guiding or portering on Mt. Chirripó. They are here to help you. They can prepare food for you to take with you and check your supplies so you don’t try and carry too heavy a load (pack light!).

Climbing Chirripó is an experience of a lifetime – it will take your breath away – and putting in some time to prepare thoroughly beforehand will make the hike all the more enjoyable.

Email us at costaricaholidayhomestays@gmail.com for more information and support.

Summer’s here! Come see the beauty!

Resplendent Quetzal

The last great rains of the season are passing and summer is showing itself in the bright mornings, visiting birds and yes, the Christmas shoppers! It always seems paradoxical to wish someone a Merry Christmas when the temperatures are in the mid twenties and people are in shorts and sunglasses! But summer is definitely upon us opening up so many possibilities for Costa Rica Holiday Homestay visitors.

See more testimonials

Wander through the pretty farming village of Los Angeles on horseback or hike Cloudbridge Reserve and count the magnificent waterfalls; this is definitely the time of year for long and leisurely excursions. Take a stroll with your homestay host and meet the neighbors, watch a game of soccer in the plaza or pop in to one of the cafes or hotels for a delicious smoothy or a local coffee – yum!

Whether you want to structure your homestay vacation or hang loose it’s your choice and it’s the right time!

See you soon in San Gerardo de Rivas!

Recent shout-outs for Costa Rica Holiday Homestays!


When you’re making a decision about your vacation plans it’s always good to hear from other people. All the more so with homestays that are, let’s face it, a new and edgy way to visit a country and learn about its culture.

We collect voluntary comments from our past visitors encouraging them to tell us just what worked and what didn’t. Here’s a sampling from recent stays:

“Dona Leyla was a wonderful host – warm and generous. I really enjoyed talking to her about the village and her family.
The house was beautiful and characterful. Small thing – would be good to find a way to hold open the window shutters in the bedroom, which kept closing in the wind.
Also I hadn’t realised how incredibly beautiful San Gerardo was until I arrived!” James, UK, 2016

“Dona Graciela is an excellent cook and was very accommodating when our children requested some alternatives to the traditional meals. Dona Graciela and her family were very gracious and we felt very at ease in their home. We were all interested in learning more about each other. Graciela spoke with us patiently and tried to find other words to use when we didn’t understand. We especially enjoyed Nancy’s company, since she reminded us so much of our niece. It was lovely spending time with her and she showed us the ropes of the town, helping us find a ball, so that we could play soccer in the plaza. This was another highlight of the trip for our children. Julie, Canada, 2015

About volunteering through CRHH, one of our activities available:
“I really enjoyed [the] volunteering [arranged] with Proyecto San Gerardo. The students were really dedicated to learning English and it felt good to be able to help out and be part of the local community. There was plenty of support and advice available and it was great experience to put on my CV.” Elfie, UK, 2015

About volunteering with the community:
“I learned how make tamales and how to cut fruit and vegetables muy rapido and how to prepare food for large groups of people efficiently. The village women were helpful and friendly and working with them made me feel like a part of the community. [Some of the other CRHH volunteers envied me the kitchen assignment.] Mimi, New York, 2014

About learning Spanish:
“Spanish Conversation with Karol went very well. I was surprised at how quickly the sessions went. She was very accommodating and reliable” Daniel, Colorado, 2014

“Karol was obviously very well prepared for the lesson and succeeded in adapting it to make it interesting for both adults and children. We found that we remembered some of the useful things she taught us, which came in handy during our stay! Thank you, Karol.” Julie, Canada, 2015

“My homestay was amazing, I had a great time! The family were lovely, their house was really nice and the gardens were beautiful. Bernan was so funny and Shirley was incredibly kind, I didn’t feel like an outsider at all and they made me feel really welcome in their home. They were very helpful with my Spanish and they frequently corrected me 🙂 The food was amazing and I loved the cookery classes, Shirley can really cook! The Spanish teacher you provided was lovely and I enjoyed our relaxed conversation lessons. The visits to the schools have restructured my masters postgraduate project completely, wonderfully invaluable visits- thanks so much for organising those.” Cathy, UK, 2014

If you like what you’re reading contact us at costaricaholidayhomestays@gmail.com We can promise you the welcome of a lifetime!

Cheese! Homestay family falls in love!


Recently one of our visiting homestay families decided to tour ‘Quesos Canaan’ – a small handcrafted cheese farm that produces a Swiss-type cheese from their small dairy herd. They milked the cow, listened to the weird and wonderful story of how Wilberth Mata and his family got started in hard cheese-making and then helped to make it themselves. Afterwards they bought some and returned to their homestay at Dona Graciela’s to enjoy it with their hosts.

Well, they liked that cheese so much that they’ve been ordering it up from anyone who happens to travel back to their hometown in Canada! The rules state that up to $20 worth of hard cheese can be brought into Canada and so that’s what they arrange. Only Costa Rica cheese will do! We bet that wasn’t an outcome they expected from their Costa Rica Holiday Homestay. Pura vida Quesos Canaan!

PS To include a similar tour in your homestay itinerary simply let Jenny know and she will reserve it for you. The tour lasts 2 – 3 hours includes a walk around the farm to milk the cow, view the biodigester and organic composter, making the cheese from scratch and, of course, a chance to taste it! Although Wilberth speaks Spanish Costa Rica Holiday Homestay provides an interpreter. See: Cheese Factory for more pictures. Tour price: $17 per person includes tour, transport there and back, guide and interpretation – tasters free!


Summer plans! Learning Spanish in Costa Rica

Our homestay families welcome you!

Our homestay families welcome you!

Summer is calling: vacations, downtime, hobbies and everything that’s just not work! Now’s the time (or anytime really) to start acting on that dream of the Costa Rica vacation you’ve been wanting.

How do you see yourself?

You really want to learn or practice your Spanish. It’s a goal you’ve had for a while. Imagine taking Spanish lessons but also staying with a welcoming family and sharing your newly learned phrases over homemade meals or a cup of local coffee. Our lovely teacher Karol offers lessons at all levels and works closely with our homestay families to keep the practice going after class.
We offer:
• Private classes of 2 or 4 hours
• Couples classes
• Group classes (when available)
• At your homestay or in Café Bambú in the center of the village.
Before or after class you can choose from many tours and activities we offer at reduced prices for our language students. Enjoy a hike, the fabulous thermal springs or a visit to the chocolatier or the cheese maker – whatever your fancy.
Check out the website and contact us here to make your Spanish language vacation a reality!

PLUS! Check out our new Facebook page and give us a LIKE!

10 Reasons why Costa Rica Holiday Homestay is right for you

Dona Leyla's pioneer home is a local treasure

Dona Leyla’s pioneer home is a local treasure

Here’s 10 reasons why Costa Rica Holiday Homestay can promise you a vacation to cherish:
1. You want to learn Spanish – no way better than to live with a family!
2. You want to explore Costa Rican cloud forest – in San Gerardo it’s all around you – wake up and see it all!
3. You have children and you want them to meet children from another country and learn another language – welcome to our family homestays!
4. You want to climb Mt. Chirripo – we can help you with your planning and provide you the best base for your climb and security.
5. You want something different – experience the real Costa Rica by living in a traditional village with a campesino family instead of a hotel.
Cosy in the kitchen at Dona Leyla's

Cosy in the kitchen at Dona Leyla’s

6. Get back to basics – a vacation to rediscover cultural values – the family, living close to the land and…living with less.
7. Pick your own dinner! Our meals are composed of produce grown in our backyards: vegetables, fruits, poultry and local trout. Our Sunday farmer’s market even offers local cheeses and chocolate!
8. Support and more in making your plans for your Costa Rica vacation! We take time to answer all your questions and help you plan the best experience ever.
9. Local transport provided to all your activities and on arrival and departure.
10. Your stay supports a local family and keeps traditional villages like San Gerardo alive.

We promise you a warm and genuine welcome – Bienvenidu a San Gerardo de Rivas!

Fresh, local food always available

Fresh, local food always available

Chirripo National Park Celebration and Race

Carrera Chirripo

August 24/25 will see the annual celebration of the founding of Parque Nacional Chirripó and a weekend full of fun events. The event is organized between MINAE – Oficina de Parques San Gerardo de Rivas, the Guides and Porters Association – Los Arrieros, and the Asociacion de Dessarollo de San Gerardo de Rivas (village council) Make sure you come by to enjoy:

Saturday August 24

  • Football tournament
  • Delicious food available all day in the Salon
  • Dance in the evening

Sunday August 25

  • Marathon covering Los Angeles, the National Park limits and Cloudbridge Reserve.
  • Bingo – 4 pm in the salon
  • Expo of local handcrafts
  • Children’s events related to the Park

Proyecto San Gerardo at Café Bambú will also be featuring:

Saturday August 24

  • 10 am – Cachivache (second hand sale)
  • The Café will open with our new super cook Angie Chavez

Sunday August 25

  • 8:30 am – our regular Feria La Union (Farmer’s Market – get all your fresh food in one place and grown locally)
  • Super breakfasts and morning pastries in Café Bambú.

See you there!

For more information (in Spanish) about Parque Nacional Chirripo and the Anniversary event see Parque Nacional Chirripo

NEW! Costa Rica Cooking Classes in San Gerardo de Rivas


Yummy corn tortillas


So you’ve come to love your ‘gallo pinto’ in the morning – literally ‘painted rooster’! That delicious mixture of rice, beans and flavorings goes down a treat with fresh eggs and coffee first thing.

How about tortillas? Enjoyed with ‘natilla’ (sour cream) or cheese, tortillas with fresh coffee are traditional afternoon snacks in Costa Rica.

So when you have to go home wouldn’t it be handy to know how to make your favourite Costa Rican dishes? We thought of that too, so starting the first week in January we’re offering cooking classes twice a week in San Gerardo de Rivas:


LESSON 1: A full lunch (almuerzo)
Learn how to make gallo pinto, tortillas and ‘agua de sapo’ (fresh ginger lemonade)
Served for lunch with eggs and fried plantain
Cost $20

LESSON 2: Tortillas
Learn how to hand make delicious corn tortillas! It takes some practice!
Served with natilla (sour cream) and locally produced blackberry jam
Cost $10


Every Monday and Wednesday in January, February and March
Lesson 1: 11 am
Lesson 2: 2pm

Call 2742-5356 or 8793-7783
    or 2742-5102
Or email: costaricaholidayhomestays@gmail.com

Teachers: Dona Leyla, Dona Xinia & Dona Shirley – all Costa Rica Holiday Homestay hosts.

Gallo pinto with all the trimmings



Frisbee Fun in Costa Rica!


One Costa Rica Holiday Homestay family made a big difference in the lives of San Gerardo kids this week! Holly had packed up a bunch of Frisbees to bring with her thinking perhaps the children would enjoy them – never knowing how much they did!

Once the word got around that there was ‘’frisbi ultimo’’ in the plaza around 20 children appeared – aged between 3 and 14 – and Frisbees started to fly!

Holly, Jack and Marcela taught the children how to throw the discs (as accurately as possible!) and they practiced and practiced for hours until the light began to fade. They invented a new form of ‘Monkey’ – one or two kids trying to intercept the frisbee passed by 2 on the outside. They ran and ducked and leapt and ran again till everyone was exhausted. Holly then sent a Frisbee home to every household represented there in the plaza and they took off to the Roca Dura for a well-deserved pint!

Such a simple gesture – but such a great feeling of playing, and enjoying the warm summer afternoon together. And who knows where this will end! An ultimate frisbee team in the making? A chance to share with visitors from all over the world this well-known sport. Thanks Holly and your family – really nice!

(CRHH provides opportunities for inter-cultural activities such as this one. There are also many volunteer opportunities you can match with your homestay. Contact us for a downloadable information sheet about homestay/volunteer options in San Gerardo de Rivas)

Coffee picking tours start in San Gerardo de Rivas


How many of these baskets could you fill?

November sees the start of coffee picking in the highlands and the beginning of tours to the coffee plantation – cafetal – for Costa Rica Holiday Homestay. This week we hosted four novices who quickly learned what it takes to pick a cajuela (basket) of coffee and enjoyed an experience campesino for a few hours.

Our tour starts with some general information about the history of coffee growing in Costa Rica, and in the Talamanca highlands in particular, as well as a description of the type of coffee grown, processing, and the worldwide market.

Next we set off to size our pickers for their canastas or baskets, and train them in how to pick as well as balance! Right now the coffee is a mix of ripe and unripe (red and green berries) so our pickers learn to leave the green fruit to mature and pick only the red.

The coffee plantation is set half way up the hillside with magnificent views of the river valley and surrounding farms. We take time to stop and eat bananas, oranges, guayabas and anona – fruit that we encourage on the farm to satisfy hungry birds and animals – and keep them away from the sweet coffee fruit!

After 2 hours we check out how much coffee we’ve picked – hmmm! About ½ basket – equivalent to about $1 in pay for the picker! Better speed up if this is your livelihood! Thankfully it’s not and we retreat to the farmhouse for a cup of the real thing and scrumptious banana muffins. Left with mud on our boots and some great photos we all agree that coffee picking is a fun tour.

Tours run now until March, $17 per person. Contact us soon to arrange your tour and experience coffee picking yourself!

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