Costa Rica is a small country full of happiness and good vibes.
So much so, in fact, that Ticas and Ticos (the demonyms for Costa Ricans) frequently use the phrase “pura vida” (meaning “pure life”) as their national philosophy.
If you plan on visiting Costa Rica, whether it be the bustling capital of San José, hiking through the jungle, or relaxing on its gorgeous beaches, there are several things you should know before visiting.
Here are our top Costa Rica travel tips to know before you go:
1. Know When to Go
One of the most important travel tips for Costa Rica, whether you’re on a budget or a luxury retreat, is when to visit.
As the most-visited country in Central America, it’s a great idea to know when the high season is in case you wish to avoid it. Though it’s tropical all year, the summer dry season is from December through April, which is when you’ll find it the busiest. And, even though it’s called the “dry season,” sudden downpours occur frequently.
May through November is the winter rainy season, but if you get the transition periods, known as the shoulder season, you could get a great mix of good weather and cheaper prices.
2. Take Sunblock
As you’ll be in a tropical environment, the sun can be much more powerful and potent. Make sure to take a high-SPF sunscreen lotion while there. Also, get one that’s sweat-proof, as the high temperatures and humidity may very well rinse the lotion off quickly.
3. Stay Safe
Costa Rica might lure you in with its beauty and slogans, but it can be dangerous for tourists. Some of the more dangerous areas include San José (especially at night), Limón, Cahuita, and Puerto Viejo. Some instances to watch out for include robberies at gunpoint and pickpockets. For the latter point, it’s best to keep your passport locked up in the hotel safe as you tour around, while carrying a photocopy of your passport in your wallet for ID purposes.
One of the other Costa Rica travel safety tips to mention is regarding nature. As the country is located in a seismically active zone, there is always a small threat of earthquake activity, particularly between May and November.
4. Carry ID Everywhere
One of the most important Costa Rica travel tips to remember is that police can ask you at any time for identification. Keep your passport in the hotel safe when possible, and carry around a photocopy of your passport or your driver’s license to be prepared.
5. Get Your Shots
Before traveling to Costa Rica, or anywhere, for that matter, it’s a good idea to make sure your vaccinations and immunizations are up to date. The recommended shots for Costa Rica include rabies, tetanus, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B.
6. Hire a Tour Guide
While it may be fun to venture off on your own when exploring the rainforests, tour guides really get you your money’s worth. You’ll save time, stay safe (and not lost), and they can easily be hired at the entrances to many popular Costa Rica destinations for a relatively cheap price.
7. Plan to Spend
Compared to other countries in Central America, Costa Rica is expensive. Eating out can cost a fortune, as you also have to remember they’ll add on a 13% tax and 10% service fee onto your bill. 13% is the VAT added to many sales, so always plan for that. To save money, dine at small eateries (sodas), or, better yet, buy groceries and make your own food.
Also, seeing natural sights such as waterfalls and parks may be more expensive than you imagine, so check their respective websites before planning your trip. Finally, save some money when visiting Costa Rica by drinking the tap water.
US Dollars are widely accepted throughout Costa Rica, as well.
8. Support the Environment
Costa Rica is one of the top ecotourism destinations anywhere, and it takes pride in its sustainable goals. To do the least amount of harm, patronize establishments which have received a certificate of sustainable tourism.
9. Have Enough Money to Leave
There is an exit tax (departure tax) upon flying out of Costa Rica which is around $29 (USD) per person. You can pay in USD, colones (the local currency), or by card.
10. Go East to Avoid Beach Crowds
Costa Rica is ideally situated with a coast on both the Caribbean Sea and on the Pacific Ocean. Because Liberia, with one of the main international airports, is near the Pacific, it makes that coast more popular with beachgoers. The Caribbean coast will require a drive, but you’ll find far fewer tourists there.
All in all, Costa Rica is a small country with a lot of amazing things to do and see!
That’s all our Costa Rica travel tips for now, and we hope it helps you plan an amazing trip there. Got any questions, feedback, or other travel tips for Costa Rica to share? Let us know below in the comments, and thanks for reading!