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Costa Rica Travel Guide

In Costa Rica, rainforest dominates the landscape, the wildlife is abundant, and extraordinary jungle adventures are essential. Thick tangles of trees pause only to give room for volcanoes, lakes and cascading waterfalls. Here, you can hike to the top of a volcano, cruise down a river, surf the many waves then top off your day with a dip in a hot spring. Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica!

The Highlights

  • La Fortuna Waterfall

    Even from a distance, the 200-foot waterfall of La Fortuna set in a lush landscape is dressed to impress. It is, however, best seen and experienced up close and a quick, 15-minute scenic hike through the forest is all it takes to reap its rewards. Best to pack your swimsuit as you might be tempted to take a short swim.

  • Manuel Antonio National Park

    Set along the Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio National Park is every bit a tropical paradise and is teeming with natural marvels. There are waterfalls, beaches and more. Its prime attractions, however, are its inhabitants. This park is brimming with animals including several species of sloths and monkeys.

  • Balsa River Rapids

    With a wide range of whitewater rafting adventures within your reach in Costa Rica, it would be hard not to take the plunge. Tackle the class II and class III rapids of Rio Balsa, just a stone’s throw away from the Arenal Volcano. Enjoy the chase of fast, thrilling waves as well as laid-back streams on a rafting adventure. Get ready for the ride of your life.

  • Guanacaste

    Costa Rica’s Gold Coast is an irresistible jewel where splendid beaches are dotted with volcanoes. Here, you will find several national parks including Manuel Antonio National Park and Rincon de la Vieja National Park. It’s also a hotspot among surfers, beach lovers and diving enthusiasts. A horseback ride at sunset might just round out your perfect day here.

  • Tortuguero National Park

    It’s hard to ignore the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. In the north, not too far from the Nicaraguan border, Tortuguero National Park is the venue for all water-based explorations. It’s home to swamps, mangrove forests and lagoons and is best seen on a kayak or a boat tour. Keep an eye out for monkeys, sloths, turtles and jaguars and visit a banana plantation if time allows.

  • Cahuita National Park

    Also on the Caribbean coast is Cahuita National Park, a protected marine area known for its unspoiled coral reefs. Every day, these reefs welcome many snorkelers and divers who come out to see manta rays, eels, turtles and even sharks. Onshore, there are also many creatures to see that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else including tamanduas, coatis, pacas and agoutis.

The Basics

When to Visit

when to visit
  1. Peak Season

    November to May

    The best time to visit Costa Rica is from late November through early May when the country boasts dry, cooler weather, with December through April seeing the most traffic. If you’re looking for fewer crowds, January might be your best bet, right after the holiday peak ends and family vacationers have gone back to their regular routine. Chances to see the humpback whales from the north in January are high, so be sure to schedule a whale watching tour. Fiestas of Santa Cruz and Fiesta of the Diablitos are the two must-see events during this time.

  2. Low Season

    June to October

    From June through October, Costa Rica is at its warmest. On the other hand, the country is at its wettest in June, September and October. If you’re on a budget and you don’t mind a little precipitation, come for a visit during the Green Season from May through August when there are less rain and the country is incredibly lush. This season is best for wildlife viewing while July and August are great months to see the southern humpback whales, so don a raincoat and brave the weather. If you don’t mind the rain, September and October offer the cheapest rates.

Costa Rica Tours

  • Visit Responsibly

    Travelling responsibly means respecting the communities, culture and environment of the places you visit. Keep these tips in mind when travelling to Costa Rica:

    Go green. Be environmentally conscious on the road by taking short showers; turning off the lights in your hotel room when you leave; and resisting the urge to collect any plants, seashells, or other natural flora.

    Respect cultural differences. Before travelling, read about the local culture and customs – even just knowing the dress code and a few basic phrases in the local language will go a long way.

    Support local businesses. Enjoy a more authentic experience and directly support the local economy by travelling with a local guide, eating in local restaurants, buying from local artisans, and staying in locally-owned and operated accommodations.

    Wherever possible, avoid single-use plastics. Pack reusable items such as your own shopping bags, utensils, a water bottle, and a straw. These items are typically lightweight and compact, and will greatly reduce your consumption of plastics.

    Be conscious of overtourism. Opt to visit the lesser-known regions of Costa Rica or travel outside the peak season – you'll likely even get a better deal and won't have all the crowds!

  • Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica

    In Costa Rica, sustainability is a way of life! As part of its pursuit to become the first carbon-neutral country in the world, sustainable practices are embraced by locals and visitors alike.

    Clean Energy
    Costa Rica is a world leader in running on clean energy. Currently, renewable resources account for almost 100% of Costa Rica's electricity.

    Protected Nature
    Though the country is small in size, it holds 5% of the world's land-based biodiversity and 3.5% of its marine life. In order to conserve the bountiful flora and fauna, 25% of the national territory is protected by the National System of Conservation Areas.

    Certificate of Tourism Sustainability
    The Certificate of Tourism Sustainability (CST), run by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), categorizes tourism organizations according to how they approach sustainability on a scale of 0 to 5. This esteemed certification program is also recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council for its impact on holding tourism businesses accountable for their impact on the planet. 

FAQs about Costa Rica

  • Do you tip in Costa Rica?

    Tipping is not mandatory in Costa Rica, and restaurants add a 10% service fee to every bill anyway. It’s not unusual for tour operators to have a tip jar. A USD$5 per person tip is suggested for tour guides, while USD$2 per day for housekeepers is acceptable.
  • What is the internet access like?

    WiFi shouldn’t be a problem in most of Costa Rica. There are internet cafes throughout the country as well as free hotspots. It’s also available in most hotels alongside many cafes and restaurants.
  • Is the tap water safe to drink?

    Absolutely! Costa Rica has some of the safest and highest quality tap water around.
  • Can I use my credit cards?

    Yes. Visa, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted throughout Costa Rica. However, it’s still best to carry a bit of cash around. ATMs are available in most areas.
  • What are the public holidays?

    Besides New Year’s Day and Christmas Day, Costa Ricans also celebrate Good Thursday and Good Friday, Labour Day on May 1st, Guanacaste Day on July 25th, Independence Day on September 15 and National Cultures Day on October 12th.
  • What are the toilets like?

    Though plumbing is not the best, toilet facilities in Costa Rica are generally modern. Just remember to dispose of your toilet paper and hygiene products in the rubbish bin.
  • Is Costa Rica safe for travellers?

    Costa Rica is well-versed in keeping its streets safe for travellers. The occasional pickpocket or thief might attempt to steal your valuables, but as long as you keep them safe and secure, you shouldn’t have any problems.
  • Is it safe to eat the street food in Costa Rica?

    Costa Rica offers amazing street food and it is generally safe for tourists to consume.