EXPLORE COSTA RICA
Pack a surfboard or yoga mat and head to Costa Rica for an abundance of beautiful beaches, volcanoes, biodiversity and spider monkeys. Roughly a quarter of this rainforest-filled Central American country consists of protected jungle. Coco Island, 550 km off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica is a diver’s dream. San José, the capital city, should not be neglected; stunning architecture, beautiful parks and delicious food await those who can part with the laidback surf scene and yoga retreats for a day or two.
COSTA RICA TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
From simple beginnings as a quiet fishing village Tamarindo has become one of the top destinations in the Guanacaste province on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Tamarindo is a great spot for surfing and sport-fishing, diving and sunbathing. To the north, Playa Grande beach is a major nesting site for huge leatherback turtles along the beaches from October to May. For some nesting of your own, gorgeous B&Bs, beach houses, and luxury hotels line the beaches.
If you are visiting Costa Rica, don’t miss spending a few days in the capital San Jose which is located in the centre of the country. While Costa Rica is mostly known for its breathtaking natural beauty, San José is like most contemporary cities: packed with craft beer bars and Costa Rican coffee shops. Some of San José’s most beautiful buildings are within walking distance of each other. Check out the parks, museums full of ancient artifacts belonging to the pre-Columbians of South America and San Pedro’s vibrant night-life dominated mostly by students.
Sitting along the southern Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in the province of Guanacaste, Sámara is small town with beautiful picture-perfect beaches and stunning scenery. Samara has been a long time favorite vacation spot for travelers looking for a family friendly relaxed beach town that is friendly, fun and safe and it has one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica inside a long crescent shaped bay. Horse riding, fishing and yoga are just a few of the myriad of things to do here.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Along the central pacific coast in the North Puntarenas area of Puntarenas Province sits a Costa Rican paradise known as Manuel Antonio National Park. The park was created in 1972 to protect the rainforest and animals that inhabit it from private development. It also ensured locals would permanently have access to the beaches and forest. This is the most popular National Park in Costa Rica for wildlife watching and you can see all four species of monkeys and both species of sloths.
Arenal Volcano National Park
A trip to Costa Rica isn’t complete without a visit to Arenal Volcano. This active andesitic stratovolcano is in north-west Costa Rica around 90 km northwest of San José, in the province of Alajuela, canton of San Carlos. Hiking, canyoning, waterfall rappelling & hot springs are just a few of the attractions in and around Arenal Volcano National Park. You can also discover the forest canopy by Aerial Tram or Zipline and go spelunking at Venado Caves. The easiest way to get to Arenal is by driving. If you are coming from San Jose, it should take you no more than 3-4 hours to get to La Fortuna.
Read more: Top 10 amazing things to do in Costa Rica
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COSTA RICA TOP 3 FESTIVALS
Immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture and celebration by checking out Las Fiesta de Zapote, located in the town of Zapote. This holiday marks the end of the year Costa Rican style. The Zapote Fairgrounds transform from tranquil farmers’ market to a free-for-all party with amusement park rides, street food, inflatable mega-bars!
Costa Rica’s equivalent to Octoberfest, Fiestas Palmares is the longest party of the year. About a million people join this street festival from every corner of the country to enjoy the horse parades, carnival rides, rodeos, live music and an infinite supply of beer.
Tucked into a corner of Costa Rica where the jungle meets the Pacific Ocean, the transformational four day Envision Festival takes place in February and brings together an international community. Expert art, spirituality, yoga, music, dance, performances and an abundance of nature.
COSTA RICA BASICS
Language: Costa Rica’s official and predominant language is Spanish however the variety spoken is Costa Rican Spanish, a form of Central American Spanish. Along the Caribbean coast a Creole-English language, Jamaican patois (also known as Mekatelyu), is also spoken.
Currency: Costa Rican Colon.
Visa: Visitors to Costa Rica require a visa unless they are citizens of one of the eligible countries who are visa exempt up to 90 days. US nationals do not require an entry visa to Costa Rica. However, they must have a current valid passport and a return ticket to exit Costa Rica within 90 days. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Costa Rica is required (which may depend on the country you are from) and how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: Costa Rica uses 110 volt, 60 cycle electricity, which is the same as in the USA. Plugs are typically the 2-pronged flat type. Buy a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Costa Rica: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN COSTA RICA
Here’s some traditional Costa Rican cuisine that you must try!
Casado: When you want to fully experience the unique flavors of Central American cuisine
Olla de Carne: Olla de carne is one of the jewels of Costa Rican cuisine. Spanish for “pot of meat,” this was traditionally the mid-day meal for most Costa Ricans and sometimes eaten several days a week. It’s a traditional and hearty beef stew fortified with taro root, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Sopa Negra: Ticos are known for eating rice and beans pretty much with every meal and this black bean soup is delicious. This vegetarian black bean soup recipe is thickened with refried beans and flavored with tomatoes, garlic, onions, bell peppers and cilantro.
Ceviche: One of Costa Rica’s favorite seafood dishes is Ceviche. The ingredients for ceviche are usually fish, lime juice, salt, ground black pepper, onions, cilantro, and minced peppers. Ticos often serve it in a cocktail glass with a lettuce leaf and crackers or chips on the side.
WHERE TO STAY IN COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is a reasonably affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Costa Rica is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Costa Rica affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Costa Rica will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Costa Rica can cost less than $50.
If you’re looking for accommodation that includes luxury amenities and comforts then there will be endless options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Nosara Beach, Tortuguero, Coco Beach and San Jose. Whatever month you choose to visit Costa Rica, it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have been snapped up already. Costa Rica is an extremely popular year-round destination.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Costa Rica. However, if you are backpacking in Costa Rica or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Costa Rica very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies where ever you go.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
BEST TIME TO VISIT COSTA RICA
Although Costa Rica is a small country, there is a lot going on here in terms of weather. Costa Rica can be divided into 13 different climatic zones and is 8-12 degrees from the equator so it is a tropical climate. The best time to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season from mid-December to April. This peak tourist season is the ideal time to explore rainforests and relax on the beaches although it’s also, for this reason, the most expensive time to visit.
COSTA RICA TRAVEL BUDGET
Costa Rica is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Costa Rica really depends on the level of comfort you want. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between $35 to $50 per day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $50 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget at least $250 plus per day.
IS COSTA RICA SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Just like most countries in Central America, Costa Rica is a relatively safe place to travel to. Thefts, bag snatching and scams are prevalent in all big cities so be mindful of this. Based on my own travel experiences in Central America I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your trip to Costa Rica.
COSTA RICA VISA CHECKER
COSTA RICA FLIGHT DEALS
COSTA RICA TOURS & ACTIVITIES
COSTA RICA PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Costa Rica, like most other places in Central America, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Costa Rica.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our awesome finds with you.
Packing for a trip to Costa Rica, like most places in Central America is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for dry season and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during the rainy season. Be prepared for the weather to get extremely hot during the summer so pack a high factor sunscreen and a sun hat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Costa Rica. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques (aimed at tourists) than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your Central America trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Costa Rica include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.