Costa Rica Travel Guide
- Everything you need to know for your trip to Costa Rica-
Costa Rica or the Republic of Costa Rica is a country in Central America. It has a population of more than 5 million and an area of 51,060 square kilometers. This country only shares borders with two other countries, Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast, and has an extremely rich land. Costa Rica’s name means “Rich Coast” for the richness of the land and the fertile grounds all around its numerous (about 60) volcanoes. Their rich land, stable politics, and economy make it a happy and thriving nation, which is ideal for traveling in several ways.
Why Visiting Costa Rica?
For people seeking adventure and nature, Costa Rica is like a paradise that has a lot of rainforest with all kinds of outdoor activities. Most of the best things to do in this rich environment include visiting the highlands, national parks, the wildlife and spending time in the forests. These activities will be mentioned further on. Just know that if it is the adrenaline that a traveler seeks, this is one of the best destinations for exciting trips.
Jungles, mountains, hiking, and adventuring aside, it also has a good number of beaches, especially the Caribbean coast to the north. As a result, one can also find limitless options on the waves and in the sea.
While having fun near the sea or on the soils of this country, it is a necessity to try the local cuisine. The fertile soil brings about some of the most amazing fruits and vegetables you can have while traveling. The seafood and the rest of the meat dishes are also delightful, and that is true about the entire country.
Seeking the best of their food is one of the best activities in Costa Rica, more so in their capital at San José. This well-developed city offers not only food but a touch of modernity, culture, and great drinks.
Whenever the need for a vacation rises, this destination can be suitable with limitless options. Relaxing is possible all year round, either in the city or out in nature and near the hot springs. Thrilling trips are also available all year long as the ziplines do not lose effect in different seasons, neither do the waves of the sea.
To make it just perfect, it is also affordable, and language barriers will not bother you. The locals mostly speak English but learning the local language can be fun and helpful. Despite being affordable, it can also be one of the most luxurious experiences of your life.
Besides the landscape itself, the people are also very kind and happy. Costa Rica is famous for being happy and being able to change your life. It is because this place is suitable for just about anybody. Traveling with any group and with any age is possible as it is just fun to be there.
There are more than just these mentioned positive aspects of the country. But it is probably best discovered as there are numerous hidden treasures all over. Visit the beauties of Costa Rican and just let go. Learn about “Pura Vida” which is another reason to visit. Live and enjoy life and get a memorable experience that you will never forget.
Costa Rica Top Destinations
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an all-year-round destination that is beautiful and fun all the time. The only factors are the rain and the cost of traveling at certain times of the year. During the Wet Season, the prices drop due to the decrease in the number of travelers and vice versa. Best and worst times aside, keep in mind to make reservations and book everything you want to try. It is really easy to miss out on things you seek as the country is basically popular all the time.
Dry Season (December – April)
Temperature: 15.2°C (59.5°F) – 25.7°C (78.3°F)
The temperature is mostly pleasant, and the amount of rain and humidity is tolerable. But the prices will rise as the crowds of travelers flock to visit the environment and the coast. Traveling during these months is almost impossible without booking several months in advance. These high prices are mostly visible in the hotels and resorts but expect them to be higher than normal inside the cities as well. Besides the outdoor activities and adventuring, exploring the cities is also one of the popular things for tourists. Just keep in mind that the climate patterns vary from north to south. In the northern regions, there might be more humidity but nothing too bothering.
Everywhere is suitable at these months. The best places are inside the rainforest and near the beaches. Despite having high prices, they are the most fun areas. The waves are best, and the adventures in the forests and natural environments are the top recommendations. The cities are also fun, but it would be best to seek events and festivals rather than blindly exploring. Make plans or take a tour to make the most of your time.
Wet Season (May – November)
Temperature: 16.2°C (61.3°F) – 26.1°C (79°F)
Rain showers are very frequent during this time of the year, but they are mostly predictable and make it possible to have fun almost in all areas. Nature is so full of life and flourishing that the Wet Season is also known as the Green Season. In some areas, there is less rain, but for some travelers, even the rain is something attractive. Expect fewer travelers and better prices but still book ahead as some activities can get full capacity real fast. The temperature is very pleasant, and if you make plans carefully, the Wet Season is also a very lovely time in Costa Rica. Again, the humidity and rain patterns differ from north to south. Therefore, you can try to spend more time in the southern regions with less rain.
If rain and humidity are tolerable, the rainforests are still very good to visit and have fun. The coast will not be very suitable unless the forecast shows calm weather, but still, it would be a risk. If you make your plans carefully, it is possible to see the wildlife and explore the cities to enjoy another aspect of Costa Rica.
Best Costa Rica Tours
Things to Do in Costa Rica
Central America is filled with fun, and Costa Rica is one of its best destinations. What makes this country stand out are the beaches and numerous fun things to do all over the land. The experience of adventuring will be at its prime as all around this land is filled with green forests and natural environments. Plan a trip in the most suitable weather and then do all kinds of outdoor activities you can.
Seek Out a Waterfall in an Adventure or Tour
Costa Rica is one of the best places to enjoy the beauties of the land, especially when visiting one of its Waterfalls. There are numerous Waterfalls that are ideal for some outdoor activities. Visiting a Waterfall is only one of the best things to do in this country, and discovering one during a hiking trip is just amazing. Among the most popular Waterfalls are the Del Toro Waterfall, Llanos de Cortes, Nauyaca, La Fortuna, and La Paz. Seeking any of them is great, either in a hiking tour or any other kind of tour. Be sure to bring some friends to make the most of the experience during a trip to a beautiful Waterfall.
Discover at least one of the Amazing Hot Springs
Another one of the beautiful things to do is to soak in a Hot Spring in Costa Rica. The rich nature of this Central American country is not just limited to marvelous Waterfalls, as it also has natural Hot Springs near its volcanoes. If you want to hit two birds with one stone, seek out La Fortuna Area, where you can also find a Hot Spring. Tabacon Hot Springs and the Arenal Hot Springs are also among the best places to spend some time with a group of other people. And if adventuring is not on your bucket list, finding a Hot Spring is also possible in several of the hotels around the country. Going to a Hot Spring is certainly one of the must-do activities for all travelers.
Try Ziplining Over the Rainforest
Ziplining is a top experience of Costa Rica, especially as it is both an adventurous activity and one that will take you to see the forest from above. To make it possible for all travelers to go Ziplining, there are tours known as canopy tours available all over the country. Seek out the fun Ziplining in the national parks or with tour providers and zoom above the rainforest all you like. And have no fears, as Ziplining is one of the safest things you can do with appropriate gear. Overcome the fear of heights and jump into a memory that you will not forget.
Since Costa Rica means “Rich Coast,” it is necessary to visit the coast and do some Surfing as one of the best things to do. Do not worry about training and having a board as it is possible to get classes and rent boards to enjoy Surfing. As a recommended place for trying numerous watersports and enjoying the beach, Porto Viejo Beach is a great place for Surfing. If you do not have a board or training, finding all of what you need will cost less than 100 US Dollars at one of the numerous beaches. Make sure to experience Surfing in one of the best Surfing destinations in Latin America.
Explore the Beauties of Manuel Antonio National Park
Adventuring in the Manuel Antonio National Park is a must-try thing to do in Costa Rica as it includes several activities. One of these possible adventures is going around a beautiful and rich rainforest which is full of beautiful animals and wildlife. Besides walking and hiking, there are beaches that are amazing for relaxing or taking pictures. And there are Walking Tours in the Manuel Antonio National Park that make it possible to get all the best things of this wonderful part of nature in the country.
See a Volcano Up Close
Some say visiting the Arenal Volcano National Park is the one and only, but seeing every Volcano in Costa Rica is worth it. The area around each of them is a rare beauty and the Volcano sitting in the center of a lush green forest is exceptional. Hiking trips, Zipline tours, and all other things to do are available around the numerous Volcanoes all around the country. Visiting these Volcanoes offers more beauties than you might think, especially if you climb to the top and get a view of the surrounding areas.
Feel the Adrenaline Rush with White Water Rafting Pacuare River
If none of the above activities are exciting enough for you, the best thing to do would be White Water Rafting in Costa Rica. With so many rivers, you will have a lot of options for Rafting depending on your level or just how many Rafting Experiences you seek. For White Water Rafting, the Arenal Volcano area is just ideal. Because of the several things in the same area Arenal Volcano and its surroundings have also become a hot spot for Rafting. There are of course, more rivers to choose from, just keep in mind that it would be best to go on tours for safety reasons.
Go Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
With so many beaches and amazing spots to visit the underwater world, Snorkeling and Scuba Diving are also among the top watersports of Costa Rica. You might find Snorkeling an easier activity, but Scuba Diving also has its fair share of fun. For Scuba Diving, travelers must have PADI certificates. Otherwise, it is necessary to pass a Scuba Diving course near the coast. As for Snorkeling, just find one of the towns near the coastline and start the adventure into the ocean. If you are seeking recommendations, the areas around the Caribbean are popular places for both of these watersports.
Go on a Canyoning Tour with Anyone You Like
One of the safest and extremity fun things to do in Costa Rica is Canyoning or Waterfall Rappelling. It is fun like Rafting but much safer that even children can participate. Check the level of difficulty and have fun with others while rappelling down the rocks near a Waterfall. The scenery is also something wonderful, so if you think you are up to the challenge, bring a waterproof camera and take some great pictures. After Ziplining and Rafting, Canyoning would be the ideal tour or group activity to select.
Give Paddle Boarding a Try in Costa Rica
Paddle Board is like Surfing but on the calm waters of a lake. It is an entirely different experience that should be tried in Costa Rica, and it should not be underestimated. It is a more relaxed thing to do, but it will be a bit challenging even though it will take place on a lake. For more fun activities in close proximity, Paddle Boarding in Lake Arenal is recommended. There is no fixed price for a Paddle Board rental, and it will entirely depend on the time of year and the quality of this activity. Tying the Paddle Boarding does not include any waves, but it is fun and exotic in its own way.
Local Transportation in Costa Rica
Not as many and reliable as other countries, but there are buses in most of the areas around Costa Rica. They might be a little difficult to locate. But if you ask the locals, they can show you to a bus station.
Some destinations have no other means of local transportation except for taxis. They are cheap and comfortable and available in all places. All you need to do is look for a cherry-red cab with a yellow triangle on the door of the car. These local taxis are flagged and visible, but be careful not to get in a Pirate Cab! City taxis also have meters, and in case the meter is not working, you can ask and negotiate a price. Uber is also available but not at all places due to a ban.
Intercity Transportation in Costa Rica
Domestic Flights in Costa Rica do not cost too much, and flying over the country can even be regarded as something fun. Most regions and major cities have airports which make it possible to quickly reach longer distances.
Ferries are only limited to the coastal areas and should be mostly regarded as a fun means of transportation. Of course, they can make traveling along with the coast and sea destinations possible, but with their limitations, they are not as useful as the other transports.
Buses are the cheapest and perhaps the best option for getting around in Costa Rica. They are not as boring as other countries as the route and the parts inside the cities you will see always offer amazing scenery. Just keep in mind that they sometimes get a bit too crowded and do not have any bus terminals. If you are seeking a long-distance bus or even a bus inside the city, you will have to find the company. Alternatively, ask around about the location of the stations.
Shared Shuttles are reasonably priced and have a network that covers almost all of the country. They are more comfortable, and chances are you will find more minibusses with air-conditioners than public buses. Even in cases that they charge much more than a bus, they are still a good and preferable ride as they can get you anywhere. They are also a bit easier to find, especially in San José. San José is like a transportation hub of the entire country.
Flight Deals to Costa Rica
Costa Rica Travel Costs
Some things in Costa Rica can cost too much, like accommodation, but the price of food in this country can be really low. The most staple things around the country are very cheap and available all around. Eating cheap would cost less than 20 US Dollars, but it would be better to spend more on food and drinks.
Accommodation in Costa Rica can be costly, and the factors on the price of a hotel room are many. One of the factors is the location, and the other one is the view. For example, a very simple room in the forest with a great view would not be cheap. On the other hand, out of peak season, one can find numerous cheap options with suitable facilities and lower costs. Rooms can be as cheap as 15-20 $ per day or as expensive as 200 $ per day.
If air travel is not something necessary, transportation will not cost much. Using the taxis and buses will cost about 4 $ a day if you watch your budget and spending. Even if you use transportations a lot, it will not cost more than 20 $ a day. That means too much traveling with taxis as well.
|Low-end (US $25-70/day)||Cheap rooms and dorms can cost low, but finding one will require searching. It is possible to stick to rice and beans, which are staple parts of their cuisine and do not cost much. Transportation generally costs low, and as long as car rentals and air travel are out of the picture, the spending will remain low.|
|Mid-range (US $70-170/day)||Food for a mid-range traveler will still be cheap. The same is true for transportation, but accommodation will cost much more. It is possible to have a wider selection of the local cuisine and drinks which will only cost much in case the amount increases.|
|Top-end (US $+175/day)||Top-end travelers can rent cars or travel on horseback to be more comfortable. Domestic flights will also be a very good means of traveling in the country. Food will still have the least of prices, but eating in luxurious restaurants will not be cheap. Most of the spending will perhaps be on the ecolodges and hotel rooms with the best views.|
Best Hotels in Costa Rica
Find the best hotels in Costa Rica using our best price search engine, or go with one of our All-inclusive tours with 4 Star hotels included. You can book our guaranteed hotels for your extra accommodation; before or after your tour days.
Costa Rica Travel Tips
This does not mean drinking is not safe. It only suggests that in some places, drinking will cost extra. If you want to drink whatever you like, it is best to check the prices first and find a suitable place.
It is perhaps one of the most important things in traveling to Costa Rica to book your accommodation and do some research about places to stay.
Tap water will not cause any sickness, and it is safe to drink. However, you can also drink bottled water.
Most Europeans and US citizens will not require to have a visa unless their stay in Costa Rica exceeds 90 days.
In some cases, it would be wiser to travel on horseback and find shortcuts in the forest to reach a destination. If you have a guide and know the way, in other cases, it would be a risk.
Extra charges are included in the form of taxes, and therefore it is not necessary to tip. But if you see good services, it would be better to tip.
The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish, but the people mostly know English. Therefore, this should not be a problem. But in any case, it would be better to learn a few important words or have a dictionary!
|EMERGENCY NUMBERS IN COSTA RICA|
|Fire Department & Paramedics||118|
|Tourist Police||506 2286 1473|
|British Embassy||506 2258 2025|
|US Embassy||506 2519 2000|
|Canadian Embassy||506 2242 4400|
|Australian Consulate||506 47006400|
Currency & Money Tips
The official currency of Costa Rica is colon (₡), but the country mostly accepts US Dollars as well. To get a better rate, it would be wiser to exchange first and then look for things to buy, even with a card. The best option for exchanging is the banks and the exchange offices.
To exchange money, the best rates are found in the state banks. Banco Nacional or Banco de Costa Rica are two of the easier-to-find banks in most of the country.
- Coins: 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 colones
- Banknotes: 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, and 20000 colones
Credit cards are widely accepted, and you will not require that much cash money in Costa Rica. The only situations where travelers will need cash are the smaller communities and the villages. This only means you will have to carry cash but not so much.
One of the easiest ways to get some cash is using ATMs to withdraw cash. The only thing to have in mind is checking the withdrawal fees before taking some cash. This is possible with your banks or the banks inside Costa Rica. Finding ATMs will also be easy, except for inside a forest.
Food & Drink (Costa Rican Food)
The suitable climate in Costa Rica makes it possible to have almost anything delicious in their cuisine. With limitless things to make food, their dishes are made with meat, vegetables, and even fruits. The abundance of these ingredients makes their foods and snacks rather mild, rich, and in many cases, heavy. The most staple parts of their cuisine are rice and beans, but countless other things are considered staple parts of their meals.
In Costa Rica, the morning begins with having some Gallo Pinto or Rice and Beans for breakfast. It is a traditional and simple breakfast of the locals that is also suitable for vegetarians. Gallo Pinto can become much richer and tastier with more vegetables and become your favorite thing to eat early in the morning. The Gallo Pinto can be found near the Caribbean Coast with spices and coconut milk. And if you are not a vegetarian, you can have your Gallo Pinto with some fish and eggs along with fries and a special sauce.
Casado is a combination of several things that are traditionally served for lunch. This rich meal of Costa Rica is very heavy, and it is a must-try dish of the country. The ingredients include cooked rice, beans, meat (chicken, fish, pork, or beef), tortillas, fried platano maduro, and vegetables. It is a dish to try all over the country as each city offers a different version of Casado. Casado is one of the heaviest and most energetic things you can eat as it was traditionally served for farmers and people who are about to do too much work in the day.
Costa Rican Tamale is a delicious meal that is very similar to the Mexican version, but they have some major differences. First of all, they are milder and have less spice as compared with the other version. Second, the wrapping is made with banana leaves instead of the usual corn-based dough that is used for the Mexican Tamale. Third, since people in Costa Rica love garlic, they use lots of garlic in their version of Tamales. The rest of the fillings, such as rice, meat, and vegetables, are the same. If the Tamale is not enough to feed you, order some beans as a side, and you will have a full meal.
Olla de Carne
Olla de Carne is a popular food for the weekends that is always prepared in large portions. The large portion of the Olla de Carne is mostly because of the numerous ingredients mixed inside the meal. These ingredients include beef, yuca, potatoes, chayote, carrots, corn, taro root, cassava, and plantains. The variation of the vegetables in the Olla de Carne can be different, but it is always food for several people. The mix is cooked for several hours and turns into a stew, but it is much heavier than the ordinary stew. Olla de Carne is a must-try dish since it is healthy and has a unique and delicious taste.
Sopa Negra (Black Bean Soup)
Sopa Negra is a light, warm, and delightful soup in Costa Rica that is ideal for vegetarians and all other tastes. Traditionally, Sopa Negra is made with black beans, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and spices. But several other ingredients can also be added. Among the possible additions for a Sopa Negra are eggs, but that entirely depends on the preferences of the locals. Sopa Negra is served as an appetizer or possible dessert, but if you want to taste it as a meal, it can become richer with more variations of vegetables and a special sauce.
Chifrijo is short for its own main ingredients; chicharrones and frijoles. Chifrijo can be a tasty meal, but it is best to make it in small portions and have it as an evening snack. The “chicharrones” is the name of fried pork rings in Costa Rica, added with frijoles or beans, makes a simple Chifrijo. This dish is made richer, and much better with several layers of other ingredients like tomatoes and avocado slices that are all served on tortilla chips or freshly fried corn tortillas. A larger quantity makes it a full meal, but the best version would be the addictive small snack Chifrijo.
Ceviche is a popular food in all of Latin America, including Costa Rica. The Costa Rican version of Ceviche is raw fish that is marinated and served with chilies. It is perhaps the best street food all over the country. Especially as the vendors, and restaurants, use all kinds of different tasty variations of ingredients to make Ceviche even better. Minced onions, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and a bit of special sauce are some of the amazing things that make Ceviche so delightful.
Arroz con Leche
Arroz con Leche in simple terms is a mix of rice, milk, sugar, and cinnamon. It is a sweet dessert in Costa Rica with an exotic taste and smell. Alternatively, you can spice things up by adding some chilies to this sweet and sticky mix and enjoy the Arroz con Leche on a new level. Some would even eat Arroz con Leche as a meal, but it is not heavy enough to fill most people. Therefore, they see it as a dessert or just a snack.
If you want to discover how many variations of vegetables, spices, herbs, and meat can be mixed together to taste like heaven, Picadillos is your dish in Costa Rica. Squash, green beans, chayote, arracacha, potatoes topped with garlic, spice, and bell peppers are some of the popular ingredients that are served with beef or chicken. Picadillos must be tried several times before you can claim you have given it a try. Some restaurants have several options for Picadillos, which allows you to decide your preferred version. Depending on the number of ingredients, it can become a full meal or a side dish. In any case, it is worth a try.
Naturales or Refrescos
Naturales or Refrescos is the local term for fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Since Costa Rice is full of all kinds of delightful fruits and vegetables, Naturales or Refrescos is a must-try drink of the country. The fertile grounds make it possible to have the best of mango, pineapple, strawberry, banana, melon, passion fruit, lychee, orange, lime, tamarindos, and more fresh things to turn into juice. There are more great drinks in the country, but the various Naturales or Refrescos is a priority as there are all kinds of amazing tastes to try with freshness.
Mobile & Internet
There are several things to consider besides selecting the appropriate SIM Card. First of all, know that there are several providers in Costa Rica, and they do not have a lot of differences. Coverage is generally good all over the country, and the prices change all the time to keep competition in the market. Some of these providers are namely Movistar, Claro, Kolbi, and Fullmóvil. Having a prepaid SIM Card is along with a new cheap phone in the country is a wise thing to do.
First of all, the new SIM will give access to calling, texting, and using data at lower prices. Second, it would be wiser to have a new and cheap phone since your own phone might malfunction in the forest and near the waterfalls (unless it is waterproof).
The best company
Since the prices are similar as well as coverage and internet speed, there is not much of a difference. But in case you are planning to travel more in Central America, Movistar can help you in several countries. Make sure to have your phone unlocked when purchasing a prepaid SIM Card.
Where to buy it?
Buying a prepaid SIM Card is not very difficult in Costa Rica as it can be acquired straight from the Airport as you arrive. If you miss that chance, there are offices for each company all over the country. Additionally, almost all phone and computer stores can also sell you a SIM Card and recharge your balance. As a last resort, supermarkets can be good places to look for a SIM Card as well.
Before you purchase a SIM Card, make sure to have enough cash as some stores do not accept cards. And have your IDs ready as well as your passport. When you purchase your card, ask the tech guy in the store to install the SIM and activate it to make sure you will have no problems.
- Movistar SIM card (~$2-20 Initial Purchase and Data)
- 2GB data
- 70 texts
- 70 mins domestic calls
Holidays & Festivals
|Name||Date 2021||Date 2022|
|New Year’s Day||1-Jan||1-Jan|
|Public Sector Holiday||29-Mar||29-Mar|
|Public Sector Holiday||30-Mar||30-Mar|
|Public Sector Holiday||31-Mar||31-Mar|
|Battle of Rivas||11-Apr||11-Apr|
|Labor Day / May Day||3-May||1-May|
|Annexation of Guanacaste||26-Jul||26-Jul|
|Our Lady of Los Ángeles||2-Aug||2-Aug|
|Day of Abolition of the Army||29-Nov||5-Dec|
Shopping in Costa Rica
Top-quality coffee is always a great gift and a great thing to bring home for yourself. Besides the coffee itself, you can purchase pots and cups as well.
Coffee is not the only thing that will be an enjoyable and memorable drink from Costa Rica. Cacique is one of the ideal alcoholic options for drinks to buy as souvenirs.
Traditional Ox Carts
Wooden Ox Carts are among the useful traditional items of the country that still exist. Some farmers use them, but they can also serve as decorations.
Bikinis and Local Clothing
Traditional clothes, shoes, or just T-shirts are all clothing options that are great in Costa Rica. The designs of both new and traditional wear are exotic and worth purchasing. Other than that, Bikinis are among the most popular items to purchase for the same reason; great design.
Cute little Stuffed Animals may not be ideal in all cases, but they are popular among tourists. Especially if you are considering a souvenir for children.
Costa Rica offers a wide range of hand-made and exotic Jewelry that is also made with organic materials. Some of them are even made with coffee!
Again, mostly suitable for children, Photo Books and Coloring books are among the top things to buy.
There are more Wooden items than just Ox Carts. They are both exotic and painted in beautiful designs. These Wood arts can be simple kitchen utensils or decorations.
Costa Rican cuisine is something marvelous that should be tested during the trip. You may not be able to take that experience with you (unless you learn how to cook), but you can buy some amazing Lizano Sauce.
Chocolate is among the top edible souvenirs of Costa Rica. It has been among the most popular for years, which makes it even more recommendable.