Planning a Trip to Costa Rica: Your Essential Guide to Costa Rica


Costa Rica is well-known as the 'treasure' for travel in Central America, and with good reason. Few other destinations pack in quite so much in so little area. Costa Rica tours cover the slopes of the Arenal Volcano to the beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula as well as the wetlands of Tortuguero National Park. The only difficulty in planning a trip to Costa Rica is managing to fit in all the things to do! Let us help with this guide to planning the perfect Costa Rica escape!

Best time to visit Costa Rica

Crashing waves with tropical trees in background in Jaco, Costa Rica
Experience the waves crashing on the beach through various beaches across Costa Rica. If you're planning a trip to Costa Rica, you'll have to add its beaches to the itinerary

The peak seasons are December to April on the Pacific side and March to September on the Caribbean side. March is one of the best times to visit Costa Rica since it’s one of the few months when it’s possible to fully discover both the Pacific and Caribbean halves of the country.

What not to miss in Costa Rica

Aerial view of Arenal volcano on a bright sunny day, Costa Rica
Hiking to Arenal Volcano is a must on your Costa Rica itinerary plan
The view of Playa Tambor in Nicoya Peninsula with palm trees and blue water
Different places in the Nicoya Peninsula are favorite among travelers as the underbelly of this region possess a diverse ecosystem
  • Arenal Volcano: A stunning vista as you bathe in natural hot springs or a wonderland of hiking opportunities, Arenal Volcano is not to miss when planning a family trip to Costa Rica or even an adventurous honeymoon.
  • Nicoya Peninsula: Although a must for anyone planning a surf trip to Costa Rica, there’s far more to the Nicoya Peninsula than just surfing. Eco-tourists have a range of lodges to choose from, and it’s difficult to tire of charming villages surrounded by perfect stretches of sand.
  • Tortuguero National Park: Get away from it all by heading to the remote beauty of Tortuguero National Park, where waterways are nesting sites for endangered sea turtles and jungles are inhabited by everything from caiman to jaguar.

How long to stay in Costa Rica

A Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) sitting along a vine
Observing the wildlife in Costa Rica should be on your mind while planning an itinerary. Who knows maybe you'll encounter unique wildlife there

Because of its small size, even five days in Costa Rica is enough time to take in its main sights and destinations. But, our recommendation of how many days to spend in Costa Rica is a minimum of 10 days. With tours to Costa Rica of this length, there’s no need to rush on a 10-day tour in Cost Rica. Instead, absorb the laidback nature the country is known for.

How to get to Costa Rica

Panorama of the Catarata del Toro waterfall in Costa Rica
Hike deep into the Juan Castro Blanco National Park to observe its secret natural gems
Whitewater rafting in Pacuare river
Pacuare River is a great place to go whitewater rafting in Costa Rica

International flights are relatively easy to find when planning a trip to Costa Rica. Most will arrive at San José International Airport, however, Liberia also possesses an airport where international flights come and go. The country is also becoming an increasingly popular cruise stop, although this will limit your time to a day or two. If you’re planning a larger regional tour, crossing the country’s overland borders is generally a simple process.

Getting around

Plan a trip to Costa Rica and you might want to give some consideration to hiring a car. Doing so gives you the freedom to do what you want when you want, and road conditions are generally good. If you don’t drive, shuttle taxi services now link up to many of the country’s top destinations, while Costa Rica’s long-distance bus network will also get you where you want to be, but perhaps in a little less comfort!

Budget and money

Costa Rica is a backpacker’s paradise, with plenty of accommodation options for those on a tight budget. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are a growing number of exclusive luxury lodges where you can indulge in five-star spa treatments or yoga practice.

Street food is usually safe to eat and will set you back just a couple of dollars, while there are also plenty of restaurants in the major tourist destinations offering up everything from burgers to local cuisine. A 13% tax and 10% service fee are normally added automatically to checks.

Hiring a car will set you back around USD 50/day in the low season and double that in the high season. Intercity buses start at less than USD 10.

Fees to enter National Parks range from USD 7-15 per person per day.

What you didn’t know (but should)

Costa Verde road trip
Relax at Copacabana, the iconic beach, at the end of your road trip in Costa Rica
  • Tap water in Costa Rica is safe to drink.
  • Lunch is traditionally the biggest meal of the day, with many places to eat and drink running meal deals at this time, making it a good way of saving a little money.
  • US dollars are widely accepted. Change may be given in Costa Rican colón, the national currency. ATMs and foreign currency exchanges are common.
  • Spanish is the main language of the street, although many Costa Ricans speak at least some English.
  • Dial 911 to contact the police in an emergency. The service is trustworthy and can be relied on.

If you’re thinking of planning a trip to Costa Rica, there is a lot to consider and all of it is good! To simplify the process and get exactly what you want on a custom tour to Costa Rica, our local travel experts are on hand to help.

Tour Options in the Country

Create your custom-made trip to Costa Rica

Traveling to Costa Rica? Chat with a local travel specialist in Costa Rica who can help organize your trip.

  • Karla Naranjo
    Karla Naranjo
    Travel Expert in Costa Rica
  • Alberto Molina
    Alberto Molina
    Travel Expert in Costa Rica
  • Randall Jiménez Moreno
    Randall Jiménez Moreno
    Travel Expert in Costa Rica
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