Discover the natural wonders and adventure-packed landscapes of Costa Rica, a small but extraordinary gem in Central America. With its diverse landscapes, lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture, Costa Rica offers an unforgettable experience for travelers.
Costa Rica is one of the most popular countries to visit in Central America. Interestingly enough, they have two pretty massive international airports. It’s one of the biggest hubs, like Europe, and Canada, from the US. It is a very popular country, mainly because of its nature.
Likewise, it’s eco-friendliness and the overall friendliness of the Ticos. Today we’re going to be talking about everything you need to know about traveling to Costa Rica.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide all the necessary information you need to know before visiting Costa Rica.
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Entry Requirements of Costa Rica
To enter Costa Rica, a round-trip flight ticket is a must, often checked by immigration authorities upon your arrival. It’s a good idea to keep a photocopy or a photo of your passport’s entry stamp during your stay.
Duration of Stay
Your nationality often determines how long you can stay in Costa Rica as a tourist, with immigration officials sometimes specifying this period in your passport.
On occasion, immigration officials may request evidence of your financial capacity to sustain your stay within the country.
Visitors must have a valid passport and demonstrate their intention to leave Costa Rica before their visa or entry stamp expires, typically within 90 days.
Onward Travel Requirement
All non-resident travelers are obligated to show proof of an onward or return ticket as a confirmation of their planned departure from Costa Rica. This is applicable under these circumstances:
- Holding a one-way ticket
- Possessing a return ticket with a date more than 90 days after arrival
- Arriving in Costa Rica and subsequently departing to another country
Legally, an onward ticket can take any of the following forms using an approved commercial mode of transport:
- A pre-purchased bus ticket exiting the country
- A pre-purchased flight leaving the country
- Verification of passage on a cruise ship
Please keep in mind that entry conditions can evolve, so it is imperative to verify the latest requirements from authoritative sources and your chosen airline before your journey.
Best time to Visit Costa Rica
If you’re considering traveling to Costa Rica, the best time to do it is between December and May, during its dry season. The rainy season starts in May all the way to Nov.
The temperature is consistent across the year, from 74°F to 79°F for the highs and 59°F to 63°F for the lows. There are 2 seasons: The rainy season and the not-so-rainy season.
What to Visit in Costa Rica?
Now, the main thing about Costa Rica is that it is a multi-destination country. I guess you could say, because of the majority of the eco-environment, it has a lot of different biodiversities that you normally would go and visit at least two, most likely three or four different locations.
So, for instance, the most popular thing, if you have, let’s say, seven to ten days, you would go to the coast, the rainforest, and maybe the cloud forest.
Here are some of the top places to visit in Costa Rica:
Begin your journey from the Costa Rican capital city, San Jose, a city full of adventures. While it’s not as lush and picturesque as the country’s natural wonders, it’s still worth a visit for its historical sites, museums, and vibrant arts and culture scene. Don’t miss the National Theater and the Gold Museum.
So mainly you would do Manuel Antonio, which is in the southern part of Costa Rica, along with the ocean in the middle south. The coastline, the wildlife. It’s fascinating because of the wildlife there, you could have constant daily personal interactions. The next place that you would visit is the rainforest.
Arenal and La Fortuna
Located in the northern lowlands, Arenal is an active volcano that attracts adventure seekers. You can hike the nearby trails, relax in hot springs, or take on the adrenaline-pumping zip-lining and white-water rafting.
Those two places are the most popular, and the rainforest is the Arenal and La Fortuna area. This is also where the volcano is and the best adventure tour.
Monteverde is a really popular cloud forest and a must-visit for nature lovers. It’s renowned for its unique biodiversity and cloud-shrouded canopy, offering opportunities for canopy tours, hiking, and birdwatching.
📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out Cahuita National Park: Things to Do and Useful Information.
Situated in the south, the Osa Peninsula is an untouched paradise filled with rainforests, mangroves, and abundant wildlife. It’s a fantastic spot for hiking and wildlife photography.
For a more laid-back experience, head to the Nicoya Peninsula. This region is known for its pristine beaches, surf towns, and wellness retreats.
Corcovado National Park
Renowned as one of the most biologically intense places on Earth, Corcovado is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Hike through the jungle and spot jaguars, tapirs, and scarlet macaws.
Essential Travel Resources
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What to Do in Costa Rica?
Swim in the Thermal Hot Springs at the base of Arenal Volcano.
Go Rappelling off a waterfall in the middle of a rainforest.
Spot Capuchin Monkeys in Manuel Antonio National Park
Go surfing in Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica.
Go Snorkeling off of Cano Island
Discover the unique Biodiversity of Corcovado National Park.
One of the most popular activities to do in Costa Rica, the number one activity is the canopy tour. You can find them pretty much anywhere, but I highly recommend if you’re going to be in Arenal or Monteverde, those are the best ones. Please go to the ones that have insurance that is well known.
Because everybody in Costa Rica has built a canopy tour, a lot of them are not safe, but some of them are safe and it’s not hard to find out which ones because they’re the ones that have the insurance.
SkyTrek is one of the number one for Monteverde, and there are a few others in Manuel Antonio and around the area.
But please make sure to find out if they are insured, and how often they maintain it. It’s really important. Some could be dangerous, and you just don’t want to risk it.
Hanging bridges is another really popular, really fun thing to do in Costa Rica.
The best ones to do are in Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio. Again, make sure you find out which ones are kept up a lot.
📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out Rainmaker Conservation Park: Hidden Gem in Manuel Antonio.
Rafting and Canyoneering
Rafting is another very popular activity to do. There is canyoneering, which is repelling off of waterfalls. Again, you need to go with a tour group that has insurance because the fact that they have spent money on being insured takes them to the next caliber.
A lot of them are not insured, but when they are insured, they have to uphold certain standards. So please guys, go to one and spend that little extra to do that.
In the coastal areas, you have surfing also, sailing is a really big thing. Fishing is really popular, and then you have the entire OSA Peninsula, which is far south, and I recommend flying there. It’s not the easiest place to get to, but once you’re there, everything is compact, so you can pretty much get around easily.
In that area, there’s Drake Bay, there’s Puerto Jimenez, areas that you could get around. If you go during the dry season, you can drive there and you’ll be able to pass through places like Dominical and Uvita, a lot of these cool little beach areas.
Other Activities to do in Costa Rica
Fly through the treetops on thrilling zip-line adventures, offering exhilarating views of the rainforests and volcanoes.
Whether in a national park or your exploration, keep your eyes peeled for the diverse wildlife, including monkeys!
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Discover the colorful marine life and vibrant coral reefs along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
Explore the indigenous cultures of Costa Rica through immersive tours and community visits.
Relax and rejuvenate in the natural hot springs near Arenal and other volcanic areas.
With numerous national parks and reserves, there are countless hiking opportunities for all levels of adventurers.
Learn about the country’s famous coffee culture and its world-class coffee production with guided tours.
Usually, there are ways to get around Costa Rica. I have a good, really interesting episode about renting a car in Costa Rica. So make sure you go and listen to it because there are quite a few things that you need to know about it.
From insurance to gas there are so many essential things. Renting a car in Costa Rica is probably one of the most common ways to get around.
You can find taxis across Costa Rica (from local, rural to regional). In San Jose, most taxis have a meter (locally called marias) but outside the city, most taxis don’t, and you must talk the price with the driver. You can find shared taxis in some areas, but those are hard to come by.
The cyclist movement in Costa Rica is gaining a lot of popularity, you can find a vast network of paved roads and an increase in cyclist awareness but you must know there are no bike lanes so far. You can rent mountain bikes and beach bikes in towns popular among tourists, prices vary a lot, from $10 to $20 American dollars per day. Also, you can find some bike tours too.
In San Jose, you can find some cheap domestic flights to popular destinations in the country, like Quepos, Puerto Jimenez, and Quepos. You’ll notice that Avianca dominates the majority of domestic flights, almost as the national airline. Also, they offer flights to Latin and Central America and the USA. You must know that flight schedules are altered constantly due to the weather, and delays happen often.
Like in many Central and Latin countries, you can find Regional and Local Buses. Regional buses travel across Costa Rica, and local are those you can use to travel within a city. You can find many regional buses in San Jose since it’s the country’s transportation hub. You can find local buses in most central areas of the country, it’s a cheap way to travel from urban and suburban areas.
Many people like to rent a car and drive in Costa Rica, to do that you must have an up-to-date driver’s license or an IDP (international driving permit). This way you can drive in the country for 90 days, after that you’ll need to process a diver license from Costa Rica. Gas stations are located on Interamericana road and are available 24h. In remote areas, you may find fuel at corner stores (pulperias).
Also, another way is definitely through shuttles. They have a great shuttle system. The problem with the shuttle system is they’re very limited on time. A lot of times you won’t even make it if your flight comes in not on their schedule. But if you’re going from one area to another area, you could undoubtedly take that and it’s a little bit cheaper.
However, if three or more people are traveling, it’s going to end up being a little bit cheaper if you get a private transfer.
And I highly recommend private transfers because then they stop along the way in all these incredible places. So, getting a private transfer is the most likely second most popular way to get around Costa Rica.
Where to Stay
Costa Rica has many great hotels of all prices and amenities. Discovering them is part of the adventure.
Costa Rica is not a cheap country. It is pretty expensive because it is so geared towards tourism. And the majority of the decent hotels will start to cost between $250 to $1,000 per night.
Anything around fifty dollars to one hundred dollars is quite mediocre and not what you would think you would pay in a Central American country. Very low standards.
Find the best hotels, resorts, villas, and villas in any place around the world and the best prices.
Get the best prices for houses, condos, apartments, villas, and a ton of other options.
If you’re looking for cheaper options, check out Hostel World and browse budget-friendly accommodations.
Where to Eat
However, there are incredible eateries called SODAS. Make sure you go and listen to my entire podcast about where to eat in Costa Rica. They’re called SODAS. Interestingly enough, for less than $10, you can get a huge homemade, delicious Tico-style meal, including drinks and dessert, and they are located all over the country.
Other Types of Eateries in Costa Rica
Costa Rican cuisine is a vibrant blend of indigenous Mayan, Spanish, and African flavors. It features hearty stews, corn-based dishes, and an abundance of fresh tropical fruits.
Restaurants: You’ll find a range of dining options, from casual to upscale, serving both local and international cuisine in Costa Rica.
Street Food: Costa Rica has a vibrant street food scene, with vendors selling snacks like empanadas, plantains, and fresh fruit.
Beachside Cafes: In coastal areas, you can enjoy fresh seafood in open-air cafes with beautiful ocean views.
Farm-to-Table: Some restaurants focus on farm-to-table dining, offering fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
International Cuisine: Costa Rica also has a variety of international restaurants, including Italian, Chinese, and more, especially in urban areas.
Costa Rica’s History
- Costa Rica, known as the “Rich Coast,” boasts a rich history that has shaped its culture and identity. Indigenous tribes, such as the Caribs and Borucas, inhabited the land long before the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 16th century.
- Unlike other Central American nations, Costa Rica did not have a prominent indigenous civilization or mineral wealth, which led to a more peaceful coexistence between the natives and the Spanish.
- The country declared its independence from Spain in 1821 and later joined the Central American Federation.
- In 1848, Costa Rica became an independent nation, adopting a unique path of abolishing its military and promoting democracy, which it continues to uphold today. The absence of a standing army has allowed Costa Rica to invest more in education, healthcare, and environmental conservation.
- Costa Rica’s commitment to sustainability and ecotourism has earned it a global reputation for being an environmentally responsible destination. With over 25% of its land protected in national parks and reserves, it’s a pioneer in preserving its natural beauty.
Celebrations and Festivals
Costa Rica is home to some fascinating festival and celebrations, in fact there are at least 50 festivals in Costa Rica each year. Many people say it’s the best way to know and immerse in the culture. Make sure you visit one of the many lively cultural fiestas, events, carnivals, or topes (horse parades) that are held all over the country.
Fiestas de Palmares
It is one of the largest and most anticipated celebrations in the country. Each year, the festivals start on the second Thursday and last two weeks.
Travel Tips for Costa Rica
Costa Rica is safe: While the country has a well-deserved fame for being a safe place to visit, it’s crucial to be aware and have extra caution of your surroundings. Use common sense precautions, such as hiding your cell phone and being aware of flashing costly items or money, especially at night.
But be wary in some areas: Some areas of Costa Rica, such as the capital city of San José and the port city of Limón, have a higher crime rate than other areas. Use caution and follow common sense safety precautions throughout these areas.
Learn some basic Spanish phrases: While a ton of people in Costa Rica speak English, learning some Spanish phrases will let you communicate with locals more effectively and show respect for the local culture.
Bring sunscreen and insect repellent: Costa Rica can be very hot and sunny, but insects are abundant and mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria are a concern. Be sure to protect yourself from the sun and bugs with sunscreen and insect repellent.
Respect the local culture and environment: The country is known for its natural charm and unique culture. Be considerate of the environment and the local people when traveling in Costa Rica.
Avoid the rainy season: Costa Rica has a rainy season (around May through November), and some areas can be affected by heavy rain and flooding. Be prepared for rainy weather and avoid traveling to areas with the highest risk of flooding.
Gasoline and diesel are widely available in Costa Rica: 24-hour service stations can frequently be found along the Interamerica and other major roads. This means that it is easy for travelers to get fuel quickly and easily, and continue on their way without any delay.
Traffic can be insane in Costa Rica: As the roads can get quite busy and crowded. However, with careful planning and thoughtful driving, you can take in all the lovely sights and scenery that this beautiful country has to offer! You’ll have an amazing time. So, be careful when driving, and keep a keen eye on the road.
Currency: The currency is the Costa Rican colón (CRC), but U.S. dollars are widely accepted in tourist areas. Dollars are definitely accepted everywhere, and while colones are local, credit cards are pretty much taken anywhere too other than at local restaurants and the market.
Vaccinations: Check with your healthcare provider for recommended vaccinations before traveling to Costa Rica.
Visa and Passport: Check the entry requirements for your nationality before traveling. Most tourists are allowed to stay for 90 days without a visa.
Adventure Insurance: If you plan on partaking in adventure activities, consider travel insurance that covers potential injuries.
Ready to explore Costa Rica? Book your tickets now!
Costa Rica Travel Advisory
- Be mindful of your surroundings and exercise caution.
- If faced with a robbery attempt, avoid physical resistance.
- Refrain from displaying signs of wealth like expensive jewelry or watches.
- Exercise caution when traveling abroad, and stay informed.
- Review the Country Security Report for Costa Rica for essential information.
- Prepare a contingency plan for potential emergencies. Refer to the Traveler’s Checklist for guidance.
Pros and Cons of Visiting Costa Rica
|Natural Beauty and Biodiversity||Relative Cost|
|Adventure Activities||Tourist Crowds|
Is Costa Rica expensive or cheap?
Costa Rica can be moderately expensive, but you can manage costs carefully and budget-consciously.
Which Side of Costa Rica is Better to live on?
The choice between the Pacific and Caribbean sides of Costa Rica depends on your preferences. The Pacific side is more developed and offers a variety of activities, while the Caribbean side has a unique cultural and natural charm. It’s a matter of personal choice.
Costa Rica is more than a tourist destination; it’s a transformative journey into a land of staggering natural beauty and eco-conscious living. With a rich history, abundant natural wonders, and a commitment to sustainability, it’s a country that offers an experience like no other. So, pack your bags and set off on an adventure to Costa Rica, a true paradise on Earth.
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