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Costa Rica Travel Guide

Looking for an in-depth Costa Rica travel guide?

Then you’re in the right place!

Located in Central America, Costa Rica has become a top destination for ecotourism in recent years. It’s little wonder why; between the country’s gorgeous beaches, lush rainforests, and active volcanoes there are many natural wonders to explore.

Once you experience Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity, you’ll understand why the nation’s motto is pura vida, or “pure life.”

Sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica consistently ranks high on lists of the most environmentally-conscious and happiest nations in the world.

Here you’ll find friendly faces as well as incredible sights as you soak in the pura vida vibes. There’s so much to explore in this country of just 19,700 square miles and something for every kind of traveler.

Of course, Costa Rica is home to some of the best hiking trails in the world, thanks to its lush rainforests.

Slip on some comfortable shoes and load up on the bug spray as you make your way through the clouds of Monteverde or tackle the Arenal Volcano.

You can also make friends with monkeys before relaxing on the beach at Manuel Antonio National Park. Or, take a boat ride and spot nesting turtles at Tortuguero National Park.

Costa Rica is also home to miles of gorgeous coastline and plenty of beaches to check out.

Looking for an exciting beach town with some of the country’s best waves? Head to Jaco Beach, just a few miles west of San Jose.

Those looking for more seclusion should head up to Guanacaste, Costa Rica’s “Gold Coast” just a few miles from the Nicaraguan border.

Furthermore, caffeine addicts will want to sample some of Costa Rica’s own beans at one of the many coffee farms across the country.

Keep reading to dive into resources that will help you with planning a trip to Costa Rica, a destination you’ll definitely want to add to your Central America itinerary!

Note: This ultimate guide to Costa Rica travel contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Costa Rica Map

Use this Costa Rica travel map to begin planning your trip!

Costa Rica map

Click here for an interactive Google Map version of the above graphic.

Costa Rica Travel Adventures

Love active travel adventures? Check out these incredible Costa Rica adventure travel experiences!

Top Costa Rica Tours

Book tours by locals in Costa Rica and get to know the culture!

  • Volunteer Program and Tour at Wildlife Rescue Center in San Carlos
  • Amazing Mega Zipline: 25 lines & Over 11 Waterfalls in Miramar
  • Costa Rican Coffee and Chocolate Crafting Experience in San Carlos
  • Arenal Volcano and Tabacón Hot Springs Day Trip from San Jose
  • Tour of Farm and Bodega, with Tasting of Craft Beer, Honey Wine, and Mead
  • Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, Typical Lunch & Arenal Volcano Hike

Renting A Car In Costa Rica

Need a rental car for your Costa Rica trip?

Use Discover Cars to quickly compare your car rental options.

Their comparison tool does the homework for you, so there’s no need to have up 10+ tabs trying to figure out which company is the most affordable. Actually, you can save up to 70% using their tool!

Costa Rica Hotels

Click here to browse hotels in Costa Rica!

Prefer self-contained stays? 

Click here to check out unique local rentals!

You can also use this map to search for local stays:

There are also a number of unforgettable vegan resorts in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica Travel Insurance

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo or with a group on a Costa Rica tour. When visiting Costa Rica — or any other country in the world — make sure to get travel insurance to protect your health and safety.

In my opinion, the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

With coverage, you’ll have peace of mind as you embark on your Costa Rica itinerary.

Click my referral link here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

Costa Rica Travel Guide FAQ

Below, find answers to frequently asked questions about traveling Costa Rica.

Q: How long do you need to visit Costa Rica?

While you can have a great time in Costa Rica over a long weekend, most experts recommend blocking out 10 days to two weeks to really get a feel for the country. This way you’ll have time to fully enjoy Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches, exciting cities, and lush rainforests.

And while Costa Rica may be a small country, it can take several hours to travel between locations on the country’s winding roads. Depending on your itinerary, you may need to schedule at least a half-day between locations for travel.

Q: What do I need to know before traveling to Costa Rica?

Some important Costa Rica travel tips include scheduling ample time for travel between locations. Highways are rare in Costa Rica and many roads only have one lane, so it takes a bit longer to travel a short distance. Whether you’re driving yourself or hiring a shuttle, make sure to build travel time into your schedule.

Strong insect repellant is an absolute must in Costa Rica. The country’s tropical climate makes it heaven for mosquitoes and you will definitely encounter some on your trip. Dengue is the most common mosquito-borne disease in Costa Rica and while it is treatable, you can reduce your chances of infection by using repellant and covering up when necessary.

You may also want to brush up on a few Spanish phrases before your trip to Costa Rica. Luckily, it’s typically one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.

While you’ll find plenty of English speakers in the tourism industry, don’t assume that everyone can understand the language. A few common words and phrases will go far and show respect for those you meet.

Q: What is the best location to stay in Costa Rica?

The area around the Arenal Volcano is a particularly great “hub” for any trip to Costa Rica’s west coast. Arenal is a must-do for any trip to Costa Rica and its location between San Jose and Liberia makes it particularly convenient for travelers.

The volcano is also located just a few hours from the gorgeous Manuel Antonio National Park as well as some of the country’s best beaches.

Q: What are some must-have Costa Rica tourism experiences?

While in Costa Rica, you absolutely must visit the Arenal Volcano. Standing at over 5,000 feet, Arenal has been one of the world’s most active volcanoes since 1968. The area around the volcano is perfect for hiking and there are several nearby hot springs to enjoy.

Travelers looking to spot some of Costa Rica’s wildlife should head to Manuel Antonio National Park. Here, you’ll spot iguanas, sloths, monkeys, and more as you journey through the beachside jungle.

By the way, be sure to keep any food out of sight, or you might have to fight off a monkey for your snacks! The park is also home to one of the country’s best white sand beaches, perfect for soaking up some sun.

Zip-lining through the rainforest is a very popular activity in Costa Rica and there’s no better place to zip than the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Fly or hike through the trees as you check out some of Costa Rica’s best flora and fauna. This place is one you’ll have to see to believe!

Q: Is it dangerous to visit Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is considered one of the safest countries to visit in Central America. That said, tourists are the biggest targets for petty crime and theft. Learn how to avoid pickpockets by keeping valuables close to you, staying alert in crowded areas, and keeping things like smartphones, wallets, and jewelry out of sight.

Never leave anything unattended on the beach or in public places and if you’re renting a home or car, be sure to lock it before you head out.

Q: Do I need a visa to visit Costa Rica?

Citizens of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica as long as they are staying for less than 90 days and can provide proof of a return ticket to their home countries. Others may need a visa to enter Costa Rica depending on their country of origin.

It’s recommended to view your country’s Costa Rica International Travel Information page for the most up-to-date information on entry and exit requirements. You can also contact the Consulate General of Costa Rica.

Q: Are credit cards accepted in Costa Rica?

Major credit cards are accepted around Costa Rica — especially MasterCard and Visa — though it’s recommended to carry some cash for making purchases from smaller restaurants and street stalls.

Q: When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?

For dry and sunny weather, the best time to visit Costa Rica is December through April.

Q: What is the local currency in Costa Rica?

The local currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón.

What would you add to this Costa Rica travel guide?

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