Costa Rica Guide
Five Things First Time Travellers To Costa Rica Should Know
- Pack insect repellent. You'll need it to keep you safe from dengue fever and the zika virus. Even though Costa Rica is doing their best to remove places where mosquitoes reproduce, it's better to be overly cautious.
- The tap water is safe to drink. This means you won't have to spend a ton of money on staying hydrated. You will also find water dispensers at most hotels so bring your own reusable bottle from home.
- You can use US dollars in Costa Rica. In places like hotels and restaurants, the prices are in dollars to make things easier. But for public transportation or shopping at supermarkets, you will need to use the local currency.
- You don't have to pay an exit fee. Costa Rica has mandated that airlines must now incorporate this cost into their airfare price. However, not all carriers have implemented the change. Double check with your airline to see if you need to factor in this extra expense into your budget.
- Most of the time a service fee is included in your bill. If it's not, the standard gratitude fee is 10%. It's good practice to tip on top of this as it's split between more than one person.
Best Time To Visit Costa Rica
The best time to visit Costa Rica is during its dry season. From December to April, you'll have clear skies and warm, sunny days. It's the ideal period to relax on the beach or explore the spectacular rainforests.
You'll also find plenty of fiestas taking place across the country in January. Including one of Costa Rica's most famous events, the Fiestas Palmares.
But the dry season is also the busiest and most expensive time of year to visit Costa Rica. With travellers from the northern hemisphere flocking to the south to escape the cold, you'll need to make reservations well in advance.
If you don't mind the frequent downpours, visiting Costa Rica during their rainy season isn't a terrible idea. From May to November, hotel rates, airfares and car hire prices will be at their lowest. Plus, you'll have the country's top attractions all to yourself.
And don't worry about the rain ruining your trip. The storms tend to come in bursts during the afternoon, giving you more than enough time to sightsee.
Another thing to keep in mind is Costa Rica's unusual weather patterns. Pack clothes not just for hot and humid environments, but a few warm layers for the chilly nights.
Costa Rica Cities
San Jose is Costa Rica's capital and largest city. It's home to one-third of the country's population and is a great place to base yourself for exploring nearby destinations.
San Jose is the epicentre of Costa Rica's culture. It has a bustling nightlife scene, a vibrant culture and delicious restaurants.
But even in its most built-up areas, it's not hard to forget where you are. Located in the Central Valley, the jungle birds and towering mountains are never far away.
Located on the Pacific coast, Tamarindo is the most accessible and developed of Costa Rica's beach towns.
It's famous for attracting throngs of surfers. Especially around November and December when the waves are at their biggest.
The area around the town is a haven for intrepid travellers. Spend your days snorkelling, diving, zip lining and even watching baby turtles make their way into the ocean for the first time.
Only 7 km away from Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos is a gateway to the region's natural heritage. It's also considered one of the best places in the world for big game sport fishing.
Although the area has rapidly grown to accommodate the ecotourism boom, it hasn't lost any of its charms. Explore the town's burgeoning foodie scene, art galleries and buzzing nightlife.
Top Attractions in Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio National Park
Established as a national park in 1972, Manuel Antonio welcomes over 150,000 travellers each year.
The park is home to an abundance of wildlife, housing 109 different species of mammals and 184 kinds of birds. One of the best ways to see the animals is to go on a hike through the forest. Whether you go by yourself or join a guided walk, you'll have no problem spotting an array of monkeys, sloths and colourful birds.
For beach bums, Manuel Antonio National Park is famous for its coastline. Espadilla Sur and Teodoro are the most popular, known for their turquoise waters and unspoilt sandy white beaches.
Tortuguero National Park
Located on the Caribbean Coast, Tortuguero is one of Costa Rica's more remote destinations. While the area is only accessible by boat or plane, it's well worth the effort.
The park also plays an important role in the conversation of the endangered green turtle. Each year, hundreds return to lay their eggs on Tortuguero coastline, making it the park's most popular attraction. You will need a guide for this activity as the nesting happens at night and predators are active during this time.
Tortuguero also has many hiking trails and boat rides you can take along the canals. Some of the other wildlife you may spot are monkeys, sloths and if you're lucky, the elusive jaguar.
The National Theater in San Jose
The National Theater is the finest historic building in Costa Rica's capital city. Built in 1897, it features classical Renaissance architecture with statues symbolising dance, music and fame.
Inside the theatre, you'll find lavish furnishings and beautiful murals. Its most famous artwork is a piece by Artur Fontana. Painted in 1897, it depicts the harvesting and export of the country's biggest export, coffee.
The three-story auditorium is still in use today and can seat 1,040 people. If you have the time, stop by for one of the regular performances or visit its gallery featuring exhibitions by local artists.
Located in the Arenal Volcano National Park, it's one of the most visited natural attractions in the country. Standing at 1,633 metres high the Arenal volcano was dormant from 1500 AD until 1968.
Since its massive eruption that destroyed two villages, the volcano has been active ever since. Depending on when you visit, you might see anything from clouds of ash to red lava flowing down the mountainside.
There are many hiking trails in the area which lead to waterfalls and lava flows. The park also boasts a wide range of biodiversity, it's home to half of all birds, reptiles, and mammals found in the country.
The Cloud Forests
The Cloud Forests are one of the most popular ecotourism destinations in Costa Rica. Located four hours away from San Juan, it's a must-visit for any nature lover.
The moisture from the clouds creates a unique environment, that's home to creatures like the Golden toad who hasn't been seen since its discovery in 1988. You'll also find other common species like jaguar, pumas, frogs and monkeys.
The best way to experience this unique natural wonder is to go on an organised hike. But if that's not thrilling enough for you, there are also canopy tours with zip-lines running through the forest.
Major International Airports in Costa Rica
- Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport
- Juan Santamaria International Airport
- Limon International Airport
- Tobias Bolanos International Airport