Il Costa Rica is the "easiest" country in Central America: every year millions of tourists visit it, it goes without saying that it is a country with exceptional hospitality, hotels for all tastes and endless activities: from the Monteverde canopy tour to excursions on the Arenal volcano, Costa Rica is the ideal destination for those who love adventure… and nature of course!
General information in a nutshell
When to go: best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and the first half of April. However, this is also the busiest time for tourists. April / May and October / November are in my opinion the best times. Summer is the rainy season.
Money, Credit Cards and ATMs: the official currency is the Costa Rican Colón.
Almost everywhere you can withdraw cash with a mastercard and visa at ATMs.
Safety: Costa Rica is among the safest countries of Central America, but it is not free from theft or robbery. Despite this, acts of crime are not very frequent, especially if common sense rules are used, such as not leaving suitcases and backpacks on display in the car. In the Mercado Central in San Josè it is better to be careful and not to expose too much objects such as valuable cameras or smartphones.
Public transport and transportation: Public transport (buses) are very cheap but also very slow. If you don't have a lot of time, your best bet is to rent a car.
Wi-Fi: present practically everywhere.
How much does it cost to travel to Costa Rica?
Unlike extremely cheap countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras, the Costa Rica is a fairly expensive destination especially if you want to fully enjoy the country by participating in guided tours and taking part in the various activities proposed.
Hotels and hostels: the average price of a private room in a hostel is around 20 - 30 euros with a shared bathroom. Hotels are more expensive, from 50 euros upwards. If you want to stay overnight in some ecolodges (do it at least one night) the price of a room goes from 70 euros upwards, but it's worth it.
Restaurants: the price of the restaurants depends mainly on the location. In tourist places like Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo a dinner in a good restaurant costs 20-25 euros each, but if you choose sodas (small family-run restaurants) you can easily stay around 10 euros each.
Activities and guided tours: the sore point. They are all quite expensive. A birdwatching or trekking excursion in the forest starts at 30 euros to go up. The canopy tour starts at 60 euros while a visit to the coffee plantations is around 40 euros. The entrance to the parks is generally around 10 euros.
What to pack
- Rain jacket or cape: even in the dry season it can often rain. A cape or a kway is especially needed if you want to hike in the rainforest.
- Trekking boots: when walking in the forest it is better to have closed shoes that protect the foot and help not to slip.
- Personal safety: it is better to always pack a money belt (those that hide under your clothes) and a padlock if you are staying in a hostel and want to secure your belongings inside the lockers.
- Protection: sun protection creams and a stick for insect bites must be brought.
What to do and what to see in Costa Rica
Tortuguero National Park: although difficult to achieve the Tortuguero National Park it is a must visit as the park was established to protect green turtles (one of the most endangered species), manatas and some types of monkeys. A must to take part in a night tour to see the turtles lay their eggs.
Volcanoes: volcanoes are among the main attractions of the country. Don't miss the Vulcano Poas and the Arenal famous for its lava flows which have stopped since 2010. On theArenal many activities can be organized such as rafting, trekking, kayaking or just relaxing at the spa.
Manuel Antonio National Park: Visit the Manuel Antonio National Park and relax on the most beautiful beach in all of Costa Rica.
Canopy tour: one of the best adventures of my trip to Costa Rica was the Monteverde canopy tour. This location became famous and developed thanks to an article in National Geographic which identified it as the best place to see the famous resplendent quetzal. Since then, photographers and travelers have set out in droves in search of this beautiful (and particularly rare) bird, and the small community of Monteverde has become one of the most popular destinations in the whole country.
Coffee plantations: organized in Monteverde a visit to a coffee plantation. Costa Rican coffee is among the best in the world, both Robusta (less valuable) and Arabica qualities are grown here. Tasting included!
Toucan Rescue Ranch. In this small center for the protection and recovery of injured animals, in addition to supporting the center, you have the opportunity to have breakfast with some cute baby sloths: clearly there must be some, not always (fortunately) in the center there are small ones in recovery .
Corcovado National Park: located in the area of the Osa peninsula, Corcovado is a top destination especially for its biodiversity, for the quantity of animals.
Tamarind: Relax in Costa Rica's favorite surf destination.
Whale Watching a Uvita: if you want to see whales, Costa Rica is one of the best destinations. Tours are available from both Manuel Antonio, but my advice is to go to Uvita in the Marino Ballena Park.
San Jose: one day is more than enough to see the capital of Costa Rica.
Puerto Viejo: the most famous destination on the Caribbean side of the country, loved by backpackers especially for its beautiful beaches and party atmosphere.
Waterfalls: do not miss the Catarata del Toro, the Rio Celeste waterfall and Plains of Cortez.