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Costa Rica
Travel Guide


Travel Guide to Costa Rica with Local Expertise

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Costa Rica at a glance

Costa Rica covers just a small area of the planet, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in the spectacular nature of its landscapes, wildlife and vegetation. An incredible 4% of all of the Earth’s species can be found in this tiny pocket of Central America, making it one of the most biologically diverse terrains in the world. Sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica enjoys the unique benefit of having both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts within a relatively short distance of each other. Because of its prosperity and safety, Costa Rica is often referred to as the Switzerland of Central America.

Our Costa Rica Travel Experts Recommend:

  • Adventures galore in and around Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna
  • Walk among the clouds and treetops of Monteverde
  • Be one with nature and wildlife in the Osa Peninsula
  • Endulge in the tropical beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula
  • Explore lush dense forests & villages of the Central Highlands
  • Enjoy the waves and relax in the paradise of Tamarindo
  • Jungle meets a Pacific beach paradise in Manuel Antonio
  • Explore waterways and giant turtles at Tortuguero Nat'l Park
  • Chill out in the laid back Caribbean beaches of Puerto Viejo
  • Get into adventure activities & hiking around Rincon de la Viejo
Costa Rica Weather   Infogram
 

Costa Rica Highlight Travel Guides

Costa Rica is a haven for travelers of all persuasions. Nature lovers will delight in the impossibly beautiful volcanic landscape that is spliced with rushing rivers, misty cloud forests and thundering cascades. Beach bums, surfers and backpackers flock to Costa Rica’s famous coastlines to catch waves, idle in the relaxed beach towns or chill out and soak up the sun on the pristine, white sandy beaches that line the coast. Thrill seekers will find no end to the adrenaline-pumping activities on offer, be it zip-lining through the canopies, white water rafting or kayaking through the mangroves. And, of course, wildlife enthusiasts will perhaps find no better place on earth to spot monkeys, crocodiles, sloths and a vast array of tropical birds in the jungle and fish among the coral reefs. Costa Rica boasts 26 protected national parks where travelers can immerse themselves in nature and truly disconnect from their daily lives. Costa Rica is a perfect destination year round, and whether you are looking to get back in touch with your inner child with some yoga, conquer some of the biggest waves in the world on your surfboard, take a boat trip deep into the lush jungle, or just wander around the mountain trails overlooking the glittering, azure ocean...Costa Rica has it all.

HIGHLIGHT TRAVEL GUIDES TO COSTA RICA

Important Info When Visiting Costa Rica

Useful Traveler Information

This is the section with a road map to help you in planning your trip to Costa Rica, give an idea of a general idea of the region, what areas may be of interest, visas and other great information worth considering when preparing for your journey to the region.

PASSPORT & VISA

Anyone traveling to Costa Rica will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date, but it is advised that your passport have at least a 6-month validity on it at all times. Costa Rica requires that you have adequate unused pages in your passport to allow for any necessary stamps upon arrival and departure. Check with your airline in case you have connecting flights overseas as part of your journey to Costa Rica. It may be the case that countries you pass through en route to your destination may require a separate transit visa, so check with your embassy or consulate in advance of your trip if you have any layover included in your flight itinerary. Costa Rica charges a USD 29 exit tax payable at the airport with USD/Costa Rican cash or credit card. This tax must be paid before you check in for your flight.

Family travel

Costa Rica is easily one of the best family-friendly travel destinations in Latin America. Kids of all ages and adults too will be endlessly entertained by the diverse and exotic wildlife, tropical beaches and outdoor activities. Costa Rica has plenty to keep even the most adrenaline-thirsty teen amused, and there are also plenty of options for younger children. Virtually every region in Costa Rica has something to thrill and occupy the entire family, so the most significant difficulty is often choosing where to go. Make some unforgettable memories and share some once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as zip-lining through the cloud forest, spotting a sloth, paddling a kayak among the mangroves, or taking a night hike through the jungle. Tour guides are used to dealing with families and children so there will be no problem getting around with the kids in tow.

Culture & Language

Locals in Costa Rica are called Ticos, and the country’s official language is Spanish. For novice Spanish speakers, Ticos speak relatively slowly and enunciate clearly, so it is a great place to practice listening, understanding and speaking. English dominates the tourist sector, and most tour guides, tour operators, and hotels will speak excellent English. It is easy to get by with English alone, although of course, your experience will be more exciting and enriching if you learn a few simple Spanish phrases before arriving. Ticos are very laid-back, but they are also very polite. To ask for help, say “disculpe” or “perdón” to apologize. It is common to greet someone when you make eye contact, and a smile will get you a long way. Ask to take photos if you are visiting indigenous communities, and hitchhiking is common in rural areas, with hitchhikers offering a small contribution towards the fuel. Topless sunbathing is not common, and surfers should observe the correct etiquette while in the water.

Food Scene & Dining

People in Costa Rica keep “Tico time,” meaning that they are never in a rush, and eating late is common. In the more touristy areas of the country, such as the capital San Jose, there are plenty of bars, nightclubs, dive bars, lounges, and dance clubs. Tamarindo, Santa Teresa, Sámara, Dominical, and Puerto Viejo are top spots for staying out til the wee hours, but almost every beach town in the country has at least one local bar where everybody goes. Costa Rica is a lively country, and locals enjoy going out to see live music, watching football matches, going dancing, attending regional and mainstream festivals and hitting the local carnival. Costa Rica is always ready to cater to tourists, so there is every type of cuisines available for travelers to enjoy. If you want a local experience, check out a soda, basic cafeteria-type eateries with plenty of budget-friendly set-meal rice dishes and soups.

VACCINATIONS & HEALTH

No mandatory vaccinations are required to visit Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a very safe country compared to more volatile nations in Central America. However, petty crime and muggings can occur as in any major urban area in the world, so it’s important to be vigilant with your valuables and belongings. Keep a close eye on your personal possessions and don’t wear expensive jewelry or be too obvious with cameras, laptops or iPhones. In fact, the majority of Costa Rica’s dangers are related to nature rather than humans, with riptides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as well as predatory and venomous wildlife posing threats. It is essential to hire a local guide to bring you safely through the jungle if you are going to undertake a trek or a hike.

Money & Currency

The Colón (plural Colónes) is the official currency of Costa Rica, although US Dollars are commonly used as a second currency and are accepted almost everywhere. It is practically impossible to obtain Colónes outside Costa Rica, so we recommend waiting until you arrive to exchange foreign currency or withdraw money at the airport or at border posts. Visitors can withdraw US Dollars from most ATMs in Costa Rica and, except for the smallest towns and shops in rural areas, debit and credit cards are widely accepted. When heading for the more remote areas, try to carry enough Colónes with you. As with many other countries in Central and South America, change can be hard to come by, so hang on to smaller denominations, especially in more remote areas.

Getting around

Direct international flights operate to Costa Rica from the USA, Canada, and other Latin American countries. There are two international airports, Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría near the capital San José and Aeropuerto Internacional Daniel Oduber Quirós in Liberia. Domestic flights within Costa Rica are inexpensive and flying to popular destinations such as Puerto Jiménez, Quepos and Tortuguero will save you the driving time, but be advised that internal flights are often prone to scheduling changes and delays due to the weather. Private and shared shuttles are a common way of traveling between popular destinations. Local buses are a cheap and reliable way of getting around Costa Rica. Fares range from less than US$1 to around US$20. There are two types of bus, direct and colectivo. The direct buses go from one destination to the next with few stops, while the colectivos make more stops and travel very slowly.

Electricity

Costa Rica’s volatile climate and mountainous terrain mean that power surges and outages are a common occurrence. When this happens, hotels will often run generators to keep the power going locally until the grid is restored, so it shouldn’t affect your trip too much. Electricity in Costa Rica runs at 120 Volts, so transformers are not necessary for visitors coming from the USA. As with any trip, it is always wise to bring a universal adapter to avoid having to buy one there. If you are planning to use anything with a three-prong plug, bring an adapter, as some establishments only have two-prong outlets. Costa Rica uses a 110V/60Hz power system that is compatible with North American devices.

Related Blog Articles

To find out more about the culture, lifestyle, and places to travel in Costa Rica, take a look at our Travel Blog, where we take a closer look at a range of destinations, traditions and travel tips for this incredible country. All of our blog articles are drawn directly from the source – people living and working right here in Costa Rica. Find out about our favorite restaurants from the Pacific to the Caribbean and beyond, and get excited about your trip by checking out our roundup of the best beaches and adventures all over the country, or just keep abreast of upcoming events and festivals that will take place in Costa Rica during your stay. Our blog page will really whet your travel appetite.

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