Costa Rica is Central America at its finest. Home to lush jungle and golden beaches, a trip to the ‘rich coast’ can be as adventurous or relaxing as you desire. As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with half a million different species, Costa Rica is the poster child for ecotourism. This Costa Rica travel guide will tell you everything you need to know about planning a trip to Costa Rica.
Tourist Visas for Costa Rica
Visitors from some countries will require a visa to enter Costa Rica, however many countries in the Americas, Europe and the Pacific (including Australia) can enter visa-free for up to 90 days. All visitors must travel to Costa Rica on a valid passport, that is valid for at least 6 months after your expected departure date.
Visitors must pay a departure tax when exiting Costa Rica. The tax is approximately $29 USD however some flights include this fee in the ticket price, so be sure to check so you don’t pay twice.
To find out more about visa requirements, click here.
Currency in Costa Rica
The currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colon (CRC). USD are also widely accepted. You can use the XE currency conversion tool to check the exchange rate
Arriving in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has two international airports in San Jose and Liberia. If you are coming from Nicaragua or Panama, you can easily also take a bus to Costa Rica.
Getting around Costa Rica
You can get around Costa Rica via bus, private shuttle, taxi or hire car.
Public buses are a common way for budget travellers to get around Costa Rica but can take longer to arrive at your destination than a private shuttle. Travel by taxi in Costa Rica is a quicker but more expensive option. A hire car will give you complete freedom to travel around Costa Rica at your own pace and is affordable. If you have an international license, I suggest hiring a car.
The quickest way to travel around Costa Rica is by flying. Costa Rica’s two main domestic airlines offer economical flights all across the country.
Accommodation in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has plenty of accommodation options, ranging from hostels to luxury hotels and Airbnbs. Prices vary from city to city and, of course, the quality of the place you’re staying at.
I recommend using booking.com to search for hotels and hostels. You can search through the box below.
Bucket List Experiences in Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the most famous cloud forests in the world, and for good reasons. The impressive tropical cloud forest has a rich ecosystem with over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 120 species of reptiles and over 3000 plant species. Everywhere you look is a vibrant shade of green and if you look hard enough you are guaranteed to see animals. Within the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, you will find a hanging bridge and waterfall. If you do plan to travel to Monteverde, check out this guide.
No trip to Costa Rica is complete without a trip to Arenal Volcano National Park. Arenal Volcano is known for beautiful scenery and endless adventure activities. Additionally, be sure to visit the hot springs here for relaxation amid lush rainforest and volcano views.
The zipline was invented in Costa Rica, so if there is one place to soar through the rainforest, its Costa Rica. The best zipline tours in Costa Rica can be found in Monteverde and the Arenal region.
White Water Rafting
For those seeking adventure, a white water rafting excursion is the ultimate way to discover the Costa Rican landscape. Many different white water rapid levels are available in Costa Rica for all levels of experience. For the best white water rafting experience, I recommend the Pacuare River.
Visit Coffee and Chocolate Plantations
Coffee and chocolate are commonly grown in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. For a unique experience, book a tour to learn how coffee and chocolate are made, and you’ll get to do lots of taste testing!
There is wildlife absolutely everywhere in Costa Rica and no trip is complete without seeking it out. Here you can find 5% of the world’s biodiversity and 25% of the country’s land is preserved as national parks, reserves and sanctuaries. Some of the best spots to see wildlife in Costa Rica include Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, Corcovado National Park and Palo Verde National Park.
Costa Rica is one of the most coveted destinations for surfers from around the world, who visit to catch the year-round waves. However, even if you have never surfed before, Costa Rica is a great place to start. Coastal hotels can arrange surf lessons for beginners and experts alike.
Explore Costa Rica’s Beaches
Costa Rica’s coastline boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Central America. Bordered by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, visitors to Costa Rica must make time for a beach day or two.
The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica is a popular yoga destination however the entire country is perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation. Even if you aren’t visiting Costa Rica for a yoga retreat, everyone should take at least one-morning yoga class during their trip.
Book a tour in Costa Rica
Map of Costa Rica
Budget for Costa Rica
$ – Expect to pay around $10 – $15 USD for a bed in a hostel dorm room.
$$ – Expect to pay around $50 – $100 USD for a mid-range hotel room.
$$$ – Expect to pay $200+ USD for a luxury hotel room.
Public buses are the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica. Expect to pay around $3 USD to travel between towns or up to $20 USD to travel across the entire country.
Private shuttle buses cost around $40 – $80 USD to travel from one town to the next.
Renting a car in Costa Rica will cost between $300 – $700 USD per week.
Domestic flights around Costa Rica start from around $30 if booking in advance.
Expect to pay between $8 – $15 USD per meal, depending on what you want to eat. A can of beer will cost around $2 – $3, while cocktails are more expensive at $4 – $6 USD.
Costa Rica Food
Some traditional Costa Rican foods include:
A casado is a typical plate of Costa Rican food, traditionally including rice and beans, a salad, fried sweet plantains and some sort of protein, whether it be fish, chicken, beef or pork.
Gallo Pinto is a blended dish of rice, beans, onions, red peppers and cilantro and is usually served at breakfast with eggs, fried cheese, sweet plantains and corn tortillas.
Arroz Con Pollo
Arroz Con Pollo, or rice with chicken, is a staple food in Costa Rica and is served at most meals.
Patacones are made from green plantains, boiled and then fried until crisp and topped with lime and salt.
Typically served in bars, chifrijo is a bowl of rice and beans topped with fried pork, avocado, pico de gallo, chimichurri and lime.
Weather in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s climate is described as subtropical, with year-round warm temperatures. Costa Rica has two tropical seasons: dry season, from December to April, and green season, from May to November.
Dry season is the best time to visit Costa Rica.
Travel Insurance for Costa Rica
Travel insurance is a necessity when planning a trip to Costa Rica. I recommend World Nomads.
Safety in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a relatively safe country to travel to, but safety precautions are recommended.
- Avoid flashing your valuables
- Keep an eye on your belongings at all times
- Lock your belongings in the hotel safe
- Remain aware of your surrounding
- Avoid unknown streets at night
- Don’t drink too much and don’t leave drinks unattended
- Only use licensed taxis
For more tips to keep safe while travelling, click here.
Language in Costa Rica
The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish.
I suggest learning a few key phrases when planning a trip to Costa Rica.
Hola = Hello¿Cómo está(s)? = How are you?
Mucho gusto = Nice to meet you
Estoy bien = I’m fine
Por favor = Please
Gracias = Thank you
De nada/Con gusto = You’re welcome
¿Cuánto? = How much?
Adiós = Goodbye
Lo siento = I’m sorry
¿Dónde está el baño? = Where is the bathroom?
¿Qué es esto? = What’s this?
Quiero una cerveza. = I want a beer.
¡Salud! = Cheers!
Vaccinations in Costa Rica
Check the Travel Doctor website to find out what vaccinations you need when planning a trip to Costa Rica. If you have any further questions regarding vaccinations required for Costa Rica, I recommend consulting a doctor.