How To: Using Instagram to Plan the Perfect Trip

I love social media and I love to travel, so it probably isn’t much of a surprise when I say that I always use social media when planning a getaway. Instagram is particularly helpful, because people share the most beautiful place they saw during their day, which usually means it’s worth your time as well. This was really helpful in Costa Rica (check out all the highlights in this post) because it was a shorter trip, which meant less time to wander and happen upon the coolest places on our own. Here are 3 ways I used Instagram to make our trip extra-amazing:

1. Research Local Hashtags Before You Go

Start with basic location-based hashtags (like #costarica, #sanjose and #manuelantonio) and let Instagram’s suggestions lead you down a rabbit hole. Collect a list of 15 or 20 of the the most promising, based on how the photos look, how many posts there are and how relevant they are to what you want to do on your trip.

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
There are 3 reasons you should do this:

  1. Take a look at what people are already posting to discover unique must-dos and restaurants.
  2. Post pictures of your own trip with these hashtags for more likes AND to help future travelers.
  3. Help local attractions find you. Cafe Milagro in Manual Antonio commented on a photo I posted and we ended up going 3 times. We would have never chosen it on our own, but the craft beer, live music and local coffee were all amazing!

2. Search the Cities You’ll Be Visiting

Instagram’s “Places” are also really helpful when you’re looking for things to do. I like this feature because it not only lets you scroll through all the photos tagged as in that city (Quepos, Costa Rica for example), but also at locations within that city (like Playa Manuel Antonio).

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
This really helps when you’re trying to figure out which must-dos are where, especially when they’re not in a book or on Google Maps (like the can’t-be-missed Playa Biesanz). Plus, Instagram’s new location stories make this easier than ever!

3. Follow Local Attractions You Want to Visit

This goes for local businesses you’re planning on patronizing too. To stay up to date on hours, special events and even coupons, give places you really want to visit a follow. Their posts could help you decide what day you stop by or other nearby stops you should make. This tip can also be applied to Facebook and Twitter, depending on where the attraction or business is most active. If you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language, Facebook’s native translation will do a good enough job to get the point across.

Now go and plan a killer vacation! And let me know how you use social media to find the coolest places on your next trip.

Sunny, Sunny Costa Rica ☀️️

Cody and I spent a week in the beautiful country of Costa Rica, celebrating our college diplomas and a break from the grey weather at home. We planed the trip ourselves, reading countless blogs, guide books and hotel reviews. We ended up splitting our time between the capital city of San José and the coastal town of Manuel Antonio.

San Jose is a bustling city, and it deserved the full day we gave it. Our hotel was near both the beautiful Parque Metropolitano La Sabana and a bus stop. We took the bus downtown (we decided not to rent a car, thank goodness!) and wandered the car-free Avenida Central before spending time at the Museo del Oro Precolombino. Our favorite part was The Numismatic Museum, an exhibit on the history of the Costa Rican monetary system.

Our second day started with a Nature Air flight to Quepos, a small town on the Pacific Coast. The flight over the mountains was bumpy, but beautiful, emerging out of the clouds into a sunny ocean view. The plane landed on a driveway-sized strip of blacktop in the middle of a field of palm trees and we had arrived at the Quepos Airport, a building the size of our garage. We traveled by taxi and bus to our Airbnb in Manuel Antonio in the 85° heat, which we welcomed.

Our apartment was in the perfect spot, in the hills with a beautiful view of the National Park. We loved the nearby restaurants, and when we opened our windows at night, we could hear music and laughter, and chants of “Green Bay, Green Bay” from the sports bar full of Americans. We could walk to the National Park and the beautiful public beach, and shared our view with monkeys, toucans and a giant iguana.

In Manuel Antonio, our days started with the sun and we were sound asleep, tired from a day in the sun, before 10 pm every night. This is without a doubt my favorite sleep schedule and I felt so rested by the end of our trip.

Our day in Manuel Antonio National Park was hot and sweaty, but also really cool. We saw spider, white-faced and howler monkeys, deer, raccoon and a sloth! While in the park we swam at every beach: Playa Manuel Antonio, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Las Gemelas. The next day, we followed questionable instructions to Playa Biesanz that actually worked really well (turn off the road after Shana Hotel – there’s a gap in the fence) and were treated to incredible views and delicious drinks.

We read a lot about what our weekend in Manuel Antonio was going to be like, but we were so pleasantly surprised by so many things. Firstly, the humidity is high, but not suffocating, and it didn’t rain at all! The ocean water was the same temperature as the air, and in the cove beaches (Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Biesanz) the water was incredibly calm. Everywhere we went, but especially in the beautiful beach town, people are so kind and so willing to help you get wherever you need to go!

Manuel Antonio was incredible, mesmerizing us so fully that we attempted to change our flight to have one more night there. It didn’t work out, but that was okay, because our last night in San Jose changed my perception of the city. Our first day was fun, but I was still wary in this big Central American city. After a long weekend on the beach, I was more able to enjoy the details that make San José a beautiful place.

It didn’t hurt that our dinner at Tenedor Argentina was delicious. Frozen yogurt in San José isn’t the same as home though, which was slightly disappointing. The traditional Costa Rican breakfast at our hotel and two hours by the pool before heading to the airport the next morning more than made up for the frozen yogurt.

We arrived at home refreshed and sunburned, with a new stamp in our passports and the burning desire for even more. We even dared to talk about where to next (after our bank accounts recover). Possible upcoming trips: the Pacific Northwest, Yellowstone National Park, Germany and Italy!

Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica? I highly recommend these resources: Nomadic Matt, Lonely Planet, Two Weeks in Costa Rica and our Airbnb in Manuel Antonio.