My wife and I returned from Costa Rica yesterday. We used this guide and checked its recommendations against TripAdvisor. Wi-Fi is practically ubiquitous in tourist areas and most connections are unprotected. The rest you can easily access by virtue of sitting down for a cup of coffee and asking for the password. Therefore, our standard MO was to scout out an area using Frommer's, then look on TripAdvisor for reviews. We were rarely disappointed.
TL;DR version: Buy this excellent guide and use it along with TripAdvisor. I usually use two guidebooks, since I find the contrasts and convergences to be interesting. The Lonely Planet Discover Costa Rica guide has some useful information, but others may be better. Have fun in Costa Rica!
Below, my pros, cons, and a few general Costa Rica tips.
* Itineraries are excellent and give a good sense of your options. Feel free to deviate, however! We took the author's advice and planned a San Jose to Arenal to Monte Verde to Manuel Antonio trip by car. We ended up deciding to skip Monte Verde and added Jaco.
* Well-written compelling style.
* Great organization, chapters flow according to region.
* Handy removable map included--though a road map would be more helpful.
* Fails to include some good, lower priced options. Costa Rica is not cheap by Latin American standards, and the Frommer's guide gives no help in finding cheaper options.
* Information is already out of date in some instances. For example, the Rioasis cafe in Jaco moved in October 2012. Luckily, my wife speaks fluent Spanish and we were able to discover the new location.
* Compared to older editions, some interesting editorial writing has been truncated. For example, the 2011 version includes a long, accurate vignette about the superiority of Nicaraguan Flor de Cana and Cuban Havana Club rums to the local product. The 2013 version eliminates this, and merely notes the national rum is Centenario. This is a shame and makes one wonder what other interesting, if not entirely politically correct musings have been given the ax.
* Travel times are sometimes off in both directions.
* Sometimes omits salient details. For instance, the Arenal Observatory Lodge is great for nature lovers, but it includes no mod cons and is truly a challenge to access. Most travelers want to know if a hotel does not have air conditioning, as in this instance.
* The roads north and west of San Jose are awful. Add a significant amount of travel time to any distances traveled here. Try to avoid traveling at night. The roads along the southern coast are good, though not without their pulse raising moments.
* Frommer's advice to book your car rental well in advance is well heeded. Online rentals only take reservations two days in advance. There are definitely games and annoyances involved in last minute bookings. Beware fancy accounting that makes some deals look better than others.
* GPS is absolutely confounded by Costa Rican roads. It is useful only to give a general impression of where you are going. Use your phone's compass as well.
* I don't know if Androids can do this, but Iphones have the ability to go into airplane mode and then turn on wifi. This is the best mode to put your phone in to avoid unwanted calls and texts yet retain the ability to use the many wi-fi networks in Costa Rica.
* If you are planning on visiting Arenal, be aware that the volcano is entirely dormant and there are no light shows to be had as of May 2013. Also, consider staying at the pricey Tabacon one night if you want to go to the hot springs. Why? You get included admission to their hot springs spa both the day you check in and the day you check out. Get the cheapest room, however. The Tabacon as a hotel is somewhere between a Howard Johnson and a Courtyard by Marriott in terms of rooms. Nice ambience, however.
* Airport departure tax is $29. It can be paid in colones or dollars. It can be paid by Visa and Mastercard, but is treated as a cash advance.
* There is a great sport in cheating foreigners through the exchange rate. Best move is to withdraw money from ATMs. Check with your bank to see what their fee is beforehand. Service at banks is the worst we've experienced in over 40 countries. Short of literally burning your money in front of you, it is hard to imagine more disregard for the customer than banks in Costa Rica show you.
* Expect minor inconveniences, don't expect people to hop to. The country's motto is pura vida. While this leads to Costa Ricans being some of the friendliest, most mellow people imaginable, it is not conducive to a high standard of efficiency.
* We experienced absolutely no problems with theft, but were exceptionally diligent. We assumed anything left out would be stolen. We put everything in the safe whenever we were out of our room and made sure to park where we could see our car. However, we did not experience any pickpocket activity nor did we ever feel unsafe.
This guide is a guide. Don't be a slave to it, and use other resources. Also, be flexible. Accommodations are plentiful in all tourist locations. An example of how spontaneity can lead to happiness. We were without a hotel in Manuel Antonio. We discovered, via the internet, the excellent Villa Oasis, a charming little place not listed in Frommer's. Our hostess there directed us to a wonderful "happy hour" with half price drinks and tapas and an absolutely fantastic view at the Gaia hotel. Opportunities for unexpected pleasures abound in Costa Rica. With the aid of this guide, you will be well on your way to finding them. Pura Vida!