Colorful marketplace in tropical mountainous landscape

Welcome to Costa Rica, a tropical paradise filled with stunning natural beauty, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality.
Whether you’re an adventure seeker, nature lover, or beach bum, this Central American gem has something for everyone. In this comprehensive travel guide, we’ll provide you with all the practical information you need to plan an unforgettable trip to Costa Rica.

From the best time to visit and must-see attractions to budgeting tips and useful phrases, we’ve got you covered. So grab your sunblock and sense of adventure, and let’s dive into the wonders of Costa Rica!

Why Costa Rica ?

Costa Rica offers a myriad of reasons to entice travelers from all around the world. Here are a few compelling reasons why you should consider visiting this enchanting country:

  1. Breathtaking Natural Beauty: From pristine beaches and lush rainforests to majestic volcanoes and cascading waterfalls, Costa Rica is a nature lover’s dream come true. The country boasts an astonishing biodiversity, making it a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and eco-adventurers.
  2. Outdoor Adventures: Whether you’re into zip-lining through the treetops, surfing epic waves, hiking to hidden waterfalls, or snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, Costa Rica offers an abundance of exhilarating outdoor activities. Get ready to unleash your inner adventurer!
  3. Sustainability and Ecotourism: Costa Rica is a global leader in sustainable tourism. The country is committed to protecting its natural resources and promoting responsible travel practices. By visiting Costa Rica, you’ll not only have an unforgettable experience but also contribute to the conservation of its unique ecosystems.

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

Weather

Costa Rica is a tropical country with two distinct seasons: the dry season (December to April) and the rainy season (May to November). The best time to visit depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to engage in. If you prefer sunny skies and minimal rainfall, the dry season is ideal. However, the rainy season offers its own charm, with lush green landscapes and fewer crowds.

Touristic Seasons

Costa Rica experiences two peak tourist seasons: the Christmas/New Year holidays and the summer break (July and August). During these periods, the country sees an influx of visitors, higher prices, and more crowded attractions. If you prefer a quieter and more affordable experience, consider traveling during the shoulder seasons.

Holidays

Festive Days

Costa Rica celebrates several festive days throughout the year, offering a glimpse into its vibrant culture and traditions. Here are some notable festive days to keep in mind:

Main Events

Costa Rica hosts a variety of exciting events and festivals throughout the year. Here’s a monthly calendar highlighting some of the main events:

Note: The dates of some events may vary each year, so be sure to check the latest schedules before planning your trip.

Transition: Now that you have an overview of the best time to visit Costa Rica and the exciting events that take place throughout the year, let’s dive into the various itinerary options to help you make the most of your trip.

Getting to Costa Rica

To begin your Costa Rica adventure, you’ll need to make your way to the country. The main international airport is located in the capital city of San Jose, which is well-connected to major cities in North America, Europe, and other parts of the world. Several airlines offer direct flights to Costa Rica, including American Airlines, Delta, United, and JetBlue.

Circuits Ideas in Costa Rica

Whether you have a few days or a whole month to explore Costa Rica, there’s an itinerary to suit your travel style and time constraints. Here are some circuit ideas for different durations:

1 Weekend

1 Week in Costa Rica

10 Days in Costa Rica

2 Weeks in Costa Rica

3 Weeks in Costa Rica

1 Month in Costa Rica

Transition: Now that you have an idea of the various itineraries, it’s time to delve into the must-see places in Costa Rica.

Places to Visit in Costa Rica

Must-See

Costa Rica is a relatively small country, but it offers an incredible array of destinations to explore. From vibrant cities to pristine national parks, here are some of the must-visit places in Costa Rica:

  1. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: Immerse yourself in the mystical beauty of the cloud forest, home to countless species of birds, monkeys, and orchids.
  2. Manuel Antonio National Park: Explore the stunning beaches, hike through lush rainforests, and encounter diverse wildlife, including monkeys and sloths.
  3. Arenal Volcano National Park: Witness the majestic Arenal Volcano, relax in natural hot springs, and take part in thrilling outdoor activities like zip-lining and white-water rafting.
  4. Tortuguero National Park: Discover the rich biodiversity of this remote park, known as the “Amazon of Costa Rica,” and witness sea turtles nesting on the beaches.
  5. Corcovado National Park: Venture to this untouched wilderness in the Osa Peninsula, where you’ll find incredible biodiversity and pristine beaches.
  6. La Fortuna Waterfall: Take a refreshing dip in the cascading waters of this beautiful waterfall, located near the Arenal Volcano.
  7. Tamarindo: Relax on the idyllic beaches of this vibrant surf town, known for its lively atmosphere and world-class waves.
  8. Santa Teresa: Discover the laid-back charm of this beach paradise, perfect for surfing, yoga retreats, and rejuvenation.
  9. Rincon de la Vieja National Park: Embark on thrilling hikes, witness volcanic activity, and swim in natural hot springs in this remarkable national park.
  10. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca: Experience the unique blend of Afro-Caribbean and indigenous cultures in this lively beach town, known for its vibrant reggae music scene.

Off the Beaten Track

If you’re looking for lesser-known gems and off-the-beaten-track experiences, Costa Rica has plenty to offer. Here are ten hidden treasures to explore:

  1. Cahuita National Park: Snorkel along the coral reefs and hike through the lush rainforest trails of this underrated national park on the Caribbean coast.
  2. Rio Celeste: Marvel at the enchanting turquoise waters of this celestial river in Tenorio Volcano National Park, known for its mystical color.
  3. Playa Conchal: Lounge on the unique beach composed of crushed seashells, offering a truly memorable coastal experience.
  4. Uvita: Visit the Marino Ballena National Park, where you can witness humpback whales during their migratory season and explore the mesmerizing Whale’s Tail formation.
  5. Montezuma: Discover the bohemian spirit of this charming coastal village, known for its waterfalls, yoga retreats, and alternative vibe.
  6. Tortuga Island: Embark on a day trip to this secluded island paradise, where you can snorkel, relax on pristine beaches, and indulge in a beachfront seafood feast.
  7. Palo Verde National Park: Take a boat tour along the Tempisque River and witness an abundance of bird species and crocodiles in this hidden gem.
  8. Punta Uva: Escape the crowds and find tranquility on the white sandy beaches of Punta Uva, a hidden treasure on the Caribbean coast.
  9. Bijagua: Explore the lesser-known side of Costa Rica in this small village, located near the Tenorio Volcano National Park, offering breathtaking views and stunning hiking trails.
  10. San Gerardo de Dota: Immerse yourself in the cloud forest and spot the elusive resplendent quetzal, one of the most beautiful birds in the world.

Transition: Now that you have an idea of the must-see and off-the-beaten-track destinations in Costa Rica, let’s dive into the budget aspects of your trip.

Activities and Experiences in Costa Rica

In addition to visiting the top destinations in Costa Rica, there are plenty of activities and experiences to make your trip even more memorable. Here are some of the must-do activities in Costa Rica:

1. Zip-lining through the Rainforest Canopy

Experience an adrenaline rush like no other by zip-lining through the lush rainforest canopy. Costa Rica is famous for its thrilling zip-line tours, and there are numerous options available throughout the country. One of the most popular places for zip-lining is Monteverde, where you can soar through the cloud forest and enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or a first-time zip-liner, this activity is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories.

2. Wildlife Spotting in Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. Located on the northeastern Caribbean coast, this remote park is known for its dense rainforests, winding canals, and abundant wildlife. Take a boat tour through the park’s canals, where you’ll have the opportunity to spot monkeys, sloths, toucans, and even nesting sea turtles (if you visit during the nesting season). Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the jungle as you navigate through this unique ecosystem.

3. Relaxing on the Beaches of Guanacaste

Guanacaste is Costa Rica’s premier beach destination, with miles of pristine coastline and crystal-clear waters. From popular resort towns like Tamarindo to secluded beaches like Playa Conchal, there’s a beach for every type of traveler. Whether you’re looking to surf, swim, or simply soak up the sun, Guanacaste has it all. Don’t forget to catch a breathtaking sunset over the Pacific Ocean, as the sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors.

Budget for Traveling to Costa Rica

Costa Rica can cater to various budgets, from backpacker-friendly accommodations to luxurious eco-resorts. Here’s an overview of the cost of things in the country:

Hotels

Costa Rica offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget. Here’s a general price range per night:

Meals

Food in Costa Rica can range from affordable local eateries to upscale restaurants. Here’s an average price range for meals:

Transportation

Getting around Costa Rica is relatively easy, but transportation costs should be factored into your budget. Here are some estimated costs:

Tours

Costa Rica offers an array of exciting tours and activities. Here’s a range of prices for popular tours:

Tips for Traveling on a Budget

Transition: Now that you have a better understanding of the budget aspects, let’s explore the money-related information you should know before traveling to Costa Rica.

Money in Costa Rica

Paying

In Costa Rica, the official currency is the Costa Rican Colón (CRC). However, US dollars are widely accepted, especially in tourist areas. Here are some tips for paying in Costa Rica:

Money

To ensure a smooth trip, here’s what you need to know about money matters in Costa Rica:

Haggling

Haggling is not a common practice in Costa Rica, especially in established businesses. However, you may have some room for negotiation in local markets or

when purchasing goods directly from artisans. Be respectful and polite when engaging in haggling, and remember that the final price should be fair to both parties.

Tipping

Tipping in Costa Rica is appreciated but not always expected. Here’s a guideline for tipping in different situations:

How Much to Give?

Restaurants & Bars

Transition: Before you embark on your journey to Costa Rica, there are a few essential things you should take care of. Let’s explore the necessary preparations.

Before Leaving for Costa Rica

Visas and Entrance Requirements to Travel to Costa Rica

Most visitors to Costa Rica do not require a visa if their stay is for tourism purposes and is less than 90 days. However, you will need a valid passport with at least six months’ validity from the date of entry. It’s essential to check the visa requirements for your specific country of residence before traveling.

Useful Addresses

Here are some useful addresses and contact information that you may need during your trip:

Vaccines

Before traveling to Costa Rica, it’s advisable to check the recommended vaccines and consult your healthcare provider. The following vaccines may be recommended:

Health Recommendations

Packing List

Here are some essential items to include in your packing list for your Costa Rica adventure:

Safety in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is generally a safe country for travelers, but it’s always wise to take precautions. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

Useful Phone Numbers

It’s important to have emergency phone numbers readily available during your trip. Here are some useful phone numbers in Costa Rica:

911

Transition: Now that you’re well-prepared with important information before your trip, let’s delve into practical information that will enhance your overall experience in Costa Rica.

Practical Information

Traditions (Do’s and Don’ts)

Costa Rica has rich cultural traditions that are worth experiencing. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

Phone, Wifi, Hour, Electricity

Phone

Getting a local SIM card in Costa Rica can be a convenient way to stay connected during your trip. Here are some options to consider:

Wifi

Wifi is widely available in most hotels, restaurants, and cafes in tourist areas. However, the connection speed may vary depending on the location. Some remote areas may have limited or no wifi access, so it’s best to check in advance if you need a reliable connection.

Jet Lag

Costa Rica is located in the Central Standard Time Zone (CST). If you’re traveling from New York, San Francisco, London, or Paris, here’s an approximate time difference:

Electricity

Costa Rica operates on 110-120V electricity with Type A and Type B outlets. The standard voltage is the same as in the United States and Canada. However, some hotels and accommodations may provide 220-240V outlets for European devices, so it’s advisable to bring a universal travel adapter.

Transport

Getting around Costa Rica is relatively easy, thanks to its well-connected transportation network. Here’s an overview of the transportation options:

Getting Around by Planes

Domestic flights are available between major cities and tourist destinations in Costa Rica. Several airlines, such as Sansa and Nature Air, operate domestic routes, making it convenient to travel longer distances quickly.

Getting Around in the Cities

In cities like San Jose, taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber are readily available. Taxis in Costa Rica don’t use meters, so it’s important to negotiate the fare before getting in the cab or use a ride-hailing app for transparency.

Long Trips Across the Country

For long-distance travel, buses and shared shuttles are popular options. The public bus system in Costa Rica is affordable and extensive, connecting major cities and towns. Shared shuttles are more convenient for tourists, offering door-to-door service and the flexibility to stop at various destinations.

Buses

Public buses are a common mode of transportation for both locals and tourists. They are an affordable way to get around Costa Rica, but keep in mind that the schedules may not always be punctual. It’s advisable to check the bus schedules in advance and arrive at the station early.

Train

Costa Rica’s train network is limited, with only one major route operating between San Jose and Heredia. The train is primarily used for commuting and is not a popular choice for long-distance travel within the country.

Accommodation in Costa Rica

Camping

Camping is a popular option for outdoor enthusiasts in Costa Rica. National parks and private campgrounds offer designated camping areas with basic facilities. Be sure to check park regulations and obtain any necessary permits before camping.

Bnbs

Bed and breakfast accommodations are available throughout Costa Rica, offering cozy and personalized experiences. You can find B&Bs in various locations, ranging from beachfront properties to mountain retreats.

Hostels

Hostels are a budget-friendly option for travelers, especially backpackers. They provide affordable dormitory-style accommodations and communal areas where you can meet fellow travelers.

Hotels

Costa Rica offers a wide range of hotels, from budget-friendly options to luxury resorts. Whether you’re looking for a beachfront hotel or an eco-lodge nestled in the rainforest, there are accommodations to suit every preference.

Lexicon in Spanish

Costa Rica’s Slang

Costa Rican Spanish has its unique slang and expressions. Here are a few common Costa Rican slang words:

Basic Spanish Phrases

Learning a few basic Spanish phrases can enhance your travel experience in Costa Rica. Here are some essential phrases to know:

Polite Formulas

Costa Ricans value politeness, so using polite formulas can go a long way in your interactions. Here are some polite phrases to remember:

Useful Expressions

Here are a few additional expressions that can come in handy during your time in Costa Rica:

With these phrases, you’ll be able to navigate your way through conversations and interactions during your trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s Dishes to try

1. Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica and a staple in every Tico’s (Costa Rican) diet. This hearty dish consists of rice and beans cooked together with onions, peppers, and spices. It’s commonly served for breakfast, accompanied by scrambled or fried eggs, plantains, and tortillas. The combination of flavors and textures makes Gallo Pinto a true Costa Rican classic.

2. Casado

Casado, which means “married” in Spanish, is a traditional lunchtime meal that brings together a variety of flavors. It typically includes rice, black or red beans, meat (such as chicken, beef, or fish), plantains, salad, and sometimes a fried egg. Casado is a wholesome and satisfying meal that showcases the diversity of Costa Rican cuisine.

3. Ceviche

Costa Rica is blessed with an abundance of fresh seafood, and ceviche is a popular dish that highlights the country’s coastal flavors. This refreshing dish features raw fish or shrimp marinated in citrus juice (usually lime or lemon), mixed with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and peppers. The acidity of the citrus juice “cooks” the fish, resulting in a tangy and zesty flavor that is perfect for hot summer days.

4. Olla de Carne

Olla de Carne, or “meat stew,” is a comforting and filling dish that is often enjoyed during cooler months or as a Sunday family tradition. It typically includes beef, vegetables (such as potatoes, yucca, and corn), herbs, and spices. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, creating a rich and savory broth that warms the soul.

5. Chifrijo

Chifrijo is a delightful appetizer or bar snack that originated in Costa Rica. It combines two popular ingredients: chicharrones (crispy fried pork) and frijoles molidos (refried beans). The dish also includes diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and sometimes avocado. The combination of textures and flavors, especially when paired with tortilla chips, makes Chifrijo an addictive and satisfying treat.

6. Tres Leches Cake

No culinary journey in Costa Rica is complete without indulging in a slice of Tres Leches Cake. This mouthwatering dessert is a sponge cake soaked in three different types of milk (hence the name “Tres Leches”). It’s then topped with whipped cream and often garnished with strawberries or other fresh fruits. The result is a moist and creamy cake that will leave you craving for more.

Costa Rica’s cuisine is a true reflection of its vibrant culture and natural abundance. By trying these local dishes, you’ll not only satisfy your taste buds but also gain a deeper appreciation for the flavors that make Costa Rica so unique. So, don’t miss the opportunity to savor these delicious delights on your visit to this tropical paradise.

Conclusion

Costa Rica is a destination that truly has it all – from stunning beaches and lush rainforests to thrilling adventure activities and a rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a combination of both, this Central American gem is sure to exceed your expectations. With this comprehensive Costa Rica Travel Guide, you now have all the information you need to plan your dream trip to the “rich coast” in 2023. So pack your bags, embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through this tropical paradise. Happy travels!

About the author

At the helm of Remote Expeditions, Tristan adeptly combines exploration, photography, tour design, web development, and tour leadership, encapsulating the essence of a versatile travel entrepreneur. His mission is to offer a limited number of high-quality tours each year, ensuring an unparalleled travel experience steering clear of mass tourism. He aims to guide you towards the true essence of each destination, facilitating a deep connection with both nature and yourself.