We’ve put together the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide possible, including easy-to-follow itineraries, all in a compact format. Enjoy!
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide | Need to Know’s
The Best Costa Rica Travel Guide also gives you info on the basic stuff you need to know before boarding your plane on your way to paradise.
- Currency: Costa Rican colón
- Language: Spanish and English
- Visas: Not required for stays of 30 or 90 days
- High Season | December to April: Accommodation should be booked in advance. And some hotels or vacation rentals enforce 2 or 3-day minimum stays.
- Low Season | May to November: The stream of tourists slows down, and accommodation gets cheaper. Heavy rains bring swells to the Pacific and the best surfing conditions.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: What to Pack / Wear
Bring shorts, short sleeves, and sandals for the coastal areas. Also pack a lightweight jacket, a sweater, and hiking boots for high-elevation destinations such as Monteverde and Chirripo.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Things To Bring:
- Digital camera
- Bug repellent
- Refillable water bottle
- First aid kit
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Getting Around, Language
One thing that will get you confused is the lack of street addresses. Ask a friendly Tico, and they will offer you the relative distance from landmarks (soccer fields or churches for example) to your desired direction.
Spanish is the official Costa Rica language. So it’s always courteous to learn at least a few phrases, and it can be essential in rural areas. A long history of tourists from the United States and Canada has made English the country’s unofficial second language.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide – 6 Amazing Trip Ideas
The Best Costa Rica Travel Guide offers you some easy ideas on how to have the best possible time during your vacation in the country…
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide #1: Two-Week All-Round Trip
The first option in the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide is a two-week all-round trip.
Get a glimpse of everything: From Volcanoes to tropical parks to cloud forests… From San José, head to La Fortuna, Alajuela. Hike the Arenal trails, enjoy the hot springs, and then catch a boat across Lake Arenal. On the other side, take a bus to Monteverde, Puntarenas, to try to encounter the elusive quetzal. Now it’s beach time: Head west to Tamarindo, the biggest party town in Guanacaste. Stay there to enjoy the nightlife, and of course, the surf. Now head south, to Montezuma, and from there to Jaco on a boat ride. Now it’s time to slow down the party to head to Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can catch up with the local wildlife and enjoy a nice picnic and a dip in the perfect waters of any of the park’s stunning beaches. Then, back to San Jose.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide #2: Two-Week Northern Costa Rica
The second option in the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide is a two-week northern trip.
From San Jose, head to the Monteverde Cloud Forest to explore the canopy of the threes by zip lines or hanging bridges. Next, head to Arenal for some hiking and a hot springs session. And from there, to Sarapiqui river for some white-water rafting. Now hit the beach, starting with Tamarindo, eat fine and party with other travelers, plus take a few surf lessons. If you happen to be in this area during the turtle season, you can head to Playa Grande to watch a horde of nesting leatherbacks. Then, you can stay put, or take the bus to visit a stunning beach after the next. If you have to pick a destination, go to Mal Pais and Santa Teresa. Then, chill out with a yoga session at Montezuma, and from there to Jaco by boat, and finally to the capital.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide #3: Two-Week Pacific Coast
The third option in the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide is a two-week pacific coast trip.
Start this journey with a trip to the best Jaco Costa Rica hotels, and enjoy the nice restaurants, nightlife, and overall cosmopolitan vibe. Then, head to Carara National Park and catch a glimpse of beautiful scarlet macaws. Now take the road south and register at one of the best Manuel Antonio hotels Costa Rica can offer for a good dose of wildlife, adventure, and pristine beach relaxation. Now continue south to Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge to watch sloths. Next, visit Dominical for a little time in a real surf town of worldwide prestige. If you wish some time at a deserted beach, head to Uvita where you can watch whales at Marino Ballena National Park. From there, you can extend your visit south as much as you want to by visiting Corcovado National Park, or you can head back to San Jose.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide #4: Three-Week Southern Costa Rica
The fourth option in the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide is a three-week southern trip.
This is an itinerary designed for adventurers! You can head to the Pacific coast, or take a domestic flight to Puerto Jimenez, a place that will serve as your gateway to the Osa Peninsula. The highlight of this area is Corcovado National Park, hands down the best place in the country to spot wildlife. It will take you a few days to explore all the trails from one entry of the part to another, for an adventure of a lifetime. Now head back to Jimenez and from there to Uvita to wander empty beaches at Marino Ballena National Park. Then, head to the mountains, to San Gerardo de Rivas, where you can hike to the Cloudbridge Nature Preserve. Finish this exhilarating trip with a hike to the country’s highest peak: Chirripo National Park.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide #5: Two-Week Caribbean Coast
The fifth option in the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide is a two-week caribbean adventure.
This area is the capital of Afro-Caribbean culture in the country, and also the gateway to Cahuita National Park, Limon. Spend some time at best Puerto Viejo Costa Rica hotels, to experience the laid back vibe and nightlife of this mellow little town. And so, after registering at one of the hotels in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica, rent a bike at Puerto Viejo and explore Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge for some snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking. The ride continues to Moin, where you’ll board a boat that will take you to Tortuguero, where you can kayak the canals and get up close and personal with the animals and plants of the area (this is a real mini-amazon). Also at Tortuguero, you will get the chance to watch nesting leatherback and green turtles. From there, head back to San Jose.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide #6: One-Week Central Valley
The sixth option in the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide is a one-week central valley trip.
Start this adventure in the Central Valley by hiking the volcanic lakes and trails of Poas Volcano. From there, visit Guayabo National Park, the most significant archeological site in the country. Now it’s time for some adrenaline by doing some white-water rafting at the Pacuare River. The next part of this trip consists of visiting the Orosi Valley, and take a guided coffee tour at one of the local plantations. End this nice trip by visiting Costa Rica’s grandest colonial temple, the Basílica de Nuestra Senora de Los Ángeles in Cartago.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Where To Sleep
The best advice we can give you in the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide is to make an online reservation for one of these exclusive resorts and ecolodges and enhance your experience in the country even more…
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Exclusive Stays
These plush hotels are scattered throughout the country and many embrace sustainability practices…
- Florblanca: These eleven villas are on a league of their own. An ideal place for a once-in-a-lifetime luxurious experience.
- El Silencio: Situated at the edge of a canyon, this is an oasis of peace in the cloud forest…
- La Paloma Lodge: This is a chic lodge located far off the grid in the jungle…
- Hotel Villa Caletas: Located atop a Pacific cliff, this is a secluded, luxurious experience. The personalized service is like no other, and the breathtaking sunsets will leave you breathless.
After reading the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide, how about checking out the list of Costa Rica’s Top Luxury Hotels which are not mentioned here…
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Ecolodges
Now, when visiting Costa Rica, you also have the chance to make a minimum impact without sacrificing comforts by staying at an ecolodge.
See our full list of the Top Costa Rica Ecotourism Hotels…
- Casa Corcovado: This is the only top-certified ecolodge in Osa, and is far removed from civilization.
- Villa Blanca: This place offers the perfect combination of plush amenities and perfect sustainability practices.
- Arenas Del Mar: This architectural stunner overlooking the coast is by far the best ecolodge located near Manuel Antonio.
- Ecolodge San Luis: This is the top ecolodge in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve region.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide | Areas To Explore
If you wish to explore the country on your own, the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide offers you some great info about the best areas to visit
- Arenal Volcano: Come for an unforgettable climb to Cerro Chato:
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Canopy Tour & Hanging Bridges: This is a mysterious forest, dripping with mist, gushing with creeks, and the perfect place for a canopy tour.
- Chirripo National Park: Climb Costa Rica’s highest mountain peak! Take this two-day hike above the clouds, and make sure to take a predawn hike to watch the most beautiful sunrise ever!
- Manuel Antonio National Park: This is one of the country’s top destinations. It’s also the smallest National Park, and it remains a true rainforest gem.
- Corcovado National Park: Come and visit the vast, largely untouched rainforest of Corcovado National Park. Make room in your agenda, because it will take you a few days to go from one entrance to the park to the other. The further you go, the better it gets… Check out stunning desolated beaches, and be prepared for a wildlife adventure of a lifetime…
- Tortuguero: If you can’t book at least a week for Corcovado, then come to Tortuguero, another premiere area in Costa Rica to watch wildlife. Take a kayak trip and get up close with the shy caiman. Also, watch beautiful sloths and all kinds of monkeys. At night, take a guided tour to watch the turtles building nests and laying their eggs on the black-sand beaches of Tortuguero.
- San Jose: Take some time to visit San Jose, the heart of Tico culture, and the home of the best museums in the country. If you’re looking for the best nightlife or a sophisticated culinary experience, this is also the place where to find it.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Top Beaches
The Best Costa Rica Travel Guide wouldn’t be complete without a good list of the best beaches in the country:
- Tamarindo: A surf town that is also family-friendly, Tamarindo is the perfect destination on the Pacific Coast of the country.
- Manuel Antonio Beach: Perfect sand combined with dreamy turquoise waters. This beach alone is worth the admission fee to the National Park. The monkeys are lovely, but they are attention seekers, and also mischievous, so they will steal your food!
- Mal Pais & Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula: The hills here are lush and full of stylish boutique hotels.
- Puerto Viejo and Cahuita: Just imagine yourself lounging in a hammock, cruising with your bike to do some snorkeling at beautiful, uncrowded beaches, then hitting the open-air reggaeton bars or trying the Caribbean cooking at night… This is the kind of laid back experience the Southern Caribbean of the country offers you…
- Playa Grande: This is the country’s longest beach, making a perfect choice if you love long strolls. It’s also the favorite of leatherback turtles and worldwide surfers.
- Playa Guiones: The waves here are ideal for swimming and surfing.
- Playa Negra: This stunning black-sand Cahuita beach is one of the best ones in the country for swimming.
- Marino Ballena National Park: If you wish to spend some time on an isolated desert island, a visit to this beach can give you the same feeling of isolation, with all the modern amenities just a few steps away.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide | Top Activities
Now in the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide, Let’s have a look at the top activities in the country.
- Canopy Tour & Hanging Bridges At Monteverde and Arenal: Come and try any of the fabulous tours, including the Tarzan swing, the Superman flight, and much more. You can also take a walk across scary suspended bridges, allowing you to watch the top of the trees with your own eyes.
- White-Water Rafting: Pacuare, Reventazon, Sarapiqui, just pick any of these fun runs, with the rapids ranging from Class II to Class V. The smooth waters during the ride allows rafters to take in the luscious jungle scenery. The best white-water at Pacuare and Reventazon is between June and October. Our pick? Pacuare river.
- Kayaking: If you wish to take on the rapids and also do kayaking, your choice should be Sarapiqui. But, for a more exciting adventure that includes dolphins and exploring sea caves, head to Golfo Dulce. Tortuguero is another great choice to get up close and personal with abundant wildlife.
- Hot Springs: In La Fortuna, lava heats dozens of bubbling springs at a steaming 40°C (104°F). Some of these are free, and the locals can tell you where to find those. Others have been embellished by luxury resorts such as Tabacon.
- Coffee Tours: You can tour one of the large local coffee plantations and learn all you can about Costa Rica’s golden bean. See the whole process, from plant to cup.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Surfing
Costa Rica has been a favorite of surfers from all over the world for a while now. The mix of perfect waves and endless blue skies makes it a top destination. The best beaches for surfing are located on the Pacific coast. The best Pacific swells arrive during the rainy season, perfect for budget surfing.
- Dominical: Many foreigners come to try the surf and never leave!
- Pavones: It features one of the largest left-hand breaks on the globe.
- Salsa Brava: The country’s biggest waves are here. They can get to be as tall as 7m in December.
- Samara: The beach breaks here draws hordes as they are perfect for learning.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
If you’re around the Nicoya or Osa Peninsulas, these areas offer some of the best scuba diving spots in the country.
- Cocos Island: If you have the budget, Cocos Island is the dream destination of every scuba diver in the world.
- Isla del Caño: If you’re still not ready to make the one-week long trip to Cocos Island, take a dive here and watch barracudas, turtles, and even humpback whales.
- Bahia Salinas: These shallow waters are perfect for entry-level diving and some fun snorkeling.
- Playa Manzanillo: Come in September and October for the best snorkeling in the country!
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Sportfishing
Sportsfishing in Costa Rica is a thrilling adventure you want to experience!
- Golfo Dulce: Fish found here can challenge world records.
- Caño Negro: A great low-key option in the Caribbean. Come and try your luck at the abundant tarpon population.
- Quepos: Take a shot at sailfish and marlin between late December and May.
- San Gerardo de Dota: Come to the Savegre River for some trout fishing!
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Wildlife-Watching
Costa Rica is a thrill for wildlife enthusiasts as fascinating animals abound in protected areas. The country offers world-class parks, outstanding biodiversity, and it’s famous for its long-standing dedication to environmental protection. Come and watch a few of the 900 species of birds (more than the USA and Canada combined). Even if you don’t know much about these fascinating creatures, a pair of the right binoculars can turn this activity into unforgettable memories.
- Wilson Botanical Garden: This private reserve is located 1000m above sea level, and that altitude makes it perfect to attract many specialty birds.
- Osa Peninsula: This is the place to be if you want to watch scarlet macaws, which are rare in the rest of the country. They are frequent flyers of Puerto Jimenez and the Corcovado National Park.
- Los Quetzales National Park: Of course, the Quetzal is the top bird to watch in this bucolic mountain setting.
- Monteverde and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves: Keep your eyes open for a chance to spot the fascinating keel-billed toucan.
- Tortuguero: Macaws, herons, ospreys, kingfishers, kites: These are just some of the birds you can watch here. The list is just impressive.
Best Costa Rica Travel Guide: Hiking
The only way to see it all in Costa Rica is to put on a pair of reliable hiking boots and hit the trail.
- Chirripo National Park: This is the highest peak in the country. A thrilling adventure nonetheless.
- Corcovado: Some of the trails here are risky, but also rewarding as they will show you a unique look at the wonders of the rainforest.
- Monteverde: Perfect for day hikes throughout the cloud forest.
- Volcan Tenorio National Park: The stunning trails here circumnavigate volcanoes and misty waterfalls.
We hope the Best Costa Rica Travel Guide will help you to plan an exciting, unforgettable adventure, please share with others looking to come to this wonderful Central American paradise!