Overview – When to Visit – Things to do – Cost – Insider Tips – Bonus
Costa Rica is an incredible, unique area of the world. Packed with lush rainforest, lined with beautiful beaches and rich in culture and wildlife, I am positive that this country will not disappoint. Whether you love nature and are looking for an epic adventure, need some time to slow down in the warm, salty air, or if you’re seeking small towns with authenticity and delicious food options, this is the country for you!
PS. Don’t be shocked when you see other tourists with the same idea as you (who wouldn’t want to experience this Central American treasure?!) With a little prep and the right info, you will be ready to get off the beaten track and start exploring with confidence!
Language: Spanish is the official language. English is commonly spoken in Tourist areas.
Conversion rate: 1USD=619 Colónes (as of August 2021)
Tipping: Most restaurants add a 10% service charge to the order. Tipping additional colones is not required, but always appreciated.
Outlets: 120v and US style outlets.
Emergency #: 911
People: Costa Ricans are incredibly friendly, love conversation and appreciate when you try to speak their language. They often refer to themselves as “Ticos”.
Safety: Generally a safe country with friendly people, but it’s always a good idea to be aware of what is going on around you. Use common sense and don’t leave valuables unattended.
Water: In big cities and tourist areas, the water is safe to drink. In smaller towns, it’s a better bet to stick to bottled. If you are in doubt, bring a filter with you.
Seasons of Costa Rica:
“Green season” (Rainy)-May to November
Note: During the rainy season, it rains a lot. This can cause many issues during your stay; Many days of your trip may become ‘indoor’ days, some roads may become impassable, causing you to miss out on specific towns/activities, and views on hikes or from jungle stays may be obstructed by rain clouds.
Dry season-November to April
Peak tourist season- Dec to April. This is when the weather is best for outdoor activities, but is the most expensive time of the year.
My recommended time to visit: This depends on which region you are planning to explore. The Northern regions and along the Pacific, temperatures will be a little hotter and less humid, but along the Caribbean, weather tends to be more humid with lower temperatures. On my most recent visit, I traveled the Pacific coast in April and ran into a few rainy days, but overall, had great conditions.
Things to do:
Costa Rica is a haven for nature activities and you are sure to find something for everyone.
Surfing-There are many amazing spots to hit the swell on both sides of Costa Rica. A few spots that are known for their surf are Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Golfo Dulce. In these surf towns, you are almost sure to find board rentals, but if you have never been before, I recommend taking one of the MANY surf lessons that are offered around the country.
Hiking-Arenal Volcano offers some incredible hikes, but this is far from the only spot to explore. Poas Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest, and Manuel Antonio National Park are all fantastic spots for a dip into the woods!
Beaches-Both the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts are lined with beautiful beaches, perfect for relaxing the day away in the sand and sun or snorkeling till your heart’s content.
Nightlife-Jaco is a great place to stop if you are into the party scene. Personally, it’s a bit touristy for my taste, but it’s certainly a good place to go out for the night and find deals on drinks.
Shopping- Nearly every tourist town has some kind of market to purchase souvenirs, sarongs or jewellery. This can be a great way to remember your trip, but I encourage you to pay attention to the items you are purchasing. It’s better to support local artisans making handmade goods to support their families, than purchasing something that was made of cheap plastic and shipped to CR.
National Parks- The list of national parks in Costa Rica is a long one, each with a unique landscape and ecosystem. My top parks are Manuel Antonio, Rincon de la Vieja, and Monteverde Cloud Forest. A few lesser-known (and equally amazing) are Corcovado, Piedras Blancas, and Palo Verde. PS. If chasing waterfalls is more your thing, check out Nauyaca Waterfall!
Note: I highly recommend paying the small fee for a guide in these parks when available. They see creatures tucked away in the brush that you would otherwise miss and are a wealth of information about the local flora and fauna.
Tours- Feeding monkeys, exploring mangroves, zip lining, horseback riding, night jungle hikes, coffee and cacao tours….the options here are nearly endless. The hardest part is choosing which ones to fit into your itinerary!
Still looking for more things to do? (I know, the adventure fuels me too!) Check out The Ultimate Costa Rica Bucketlist for some more great ideas!
Food: Street food is somewhere in the $5-$10 range.
Accomodation: Hostels with shared rooms start at $15 per bed, up to $30.
Transportation: Local buses run all over the place all day. The cost is dependent on the route and distance, but can range anywhere from $1 to $15.
Activities: There are many free activities like beach days, hiking and meandering small towns, cheap options like park entrance fees and snorkel rentals cost about $5-$15.
Food: Cost of food is comparable to many western countries and it’s not unusual to find menu items for $12-$20.
Accomodation: Mid range, local hotels cost about $35-$75 a night.
Transportation: Tourist minibuses are a good ride share option if you need transport from your hotel directly to the tourist hotspot. A little nicer than local buses, they run around $35-$90usd.
Activities: Adrenaline seekers will pay around $30-$50 for ziplining and hanging bridge tours. Similar costs for night walks and horseback rides.
Food: If you’re feeling luxurious, high end restaurants like those in a resort can run $30-$70 for a dinner.
Accomodation: High end or chain hotels run $100-$200+
Transportation: Renting a car is a little more spendy per day, but if you like the spontaneity of side road adventures, it might be worth it. (see: Insider tips)
Activities: You are sure to find tour packages both online and on the streets, typically with multiple activities and transportation for $75 to $200+.
1 You will get bonus points if you say the phrase “Pura Vida” to the locals. This means “Pure Life” or “Good life” and is commonly used to send well wishes.
2 Costa Rica is a very eco conscious country and recycling is widely available. Woohoo, CR! Do your part to separate your trash from recycling and pick up after yourself when you spend a day outdoors.
3 As always, it’s a great idea to learn a few words in the local language. If you don’t know any Spanish, bring a pocket sized dictionary with you.
4 If you are planning on renting a car, set aside some additional funds for hidden fees. On top of CR’s mandatory insurance costs, rental companies also tend to tax on additional fees when you arrive.
BONUS: Check out my favorite way to take several tours at a discounted rate! ￬ ￬ ￬
My favorite way to see Costa Rica:
If you are looking for a way to see the country with ease, this tour package is it! Kendi World Adventures offers two different Costa Rica Tours, both of which are packed with amazing sights, experiences and activities. They try to put as much money back into the Costa Rican economy as possible, so they have partnered with locals to support small businesses and family-owned hotels. Their small group tours are personal, educational, exciting and fun, and you can feel the owner’s passion for travel oozing every step of the way.
Ps. I’m not an affiliate for them, nor do I receive any kind of kick back for posting this, they are just a great company that gives great tours! -In fact, I’m going on a second tour with them this Spring!