Costa RicaTravel Guide

The tropical paradise of Costa Rica is renowned for its natural beauty, unique wildlife and diverse ecosystems, from misty cloud forests, jungles and mangrove swamps to coral reefs. If you’re an eco-traveller, this small Central American country is for you, as it’s committed to conservation and sustainable tourism.

Situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is also an adventure lover’s hotspot with many adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities like cliff diving from waterfalls, hikes through the jungle and white-water rafting.  

But if a laid-back holiday or cultural immersion is more your style, you’ll love the pristine beaches, visiting coffee plantations and the pura vida (the simple life) lifestyle. 

Costa Rica is also a culturally rich destination of indigenous, Spanish, African and Caribbean influences. Local traditions are celebrated at colourful festivals like the Las Fiestas Palmares in January and the Carnival of Limón in October.  

As you can see, Costa Rica’s a little country that’s big on experiences. Read our Costa Rica Travel Guide and prepare to be inspired! 

Explore Costa Rica

Where to stay in Costa Rica?

From accommodation on sun-kissed beaches, surrounded by untamed nature, or a combination of both, Costa Rica’s got you covered. 

The four-star Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio offers front-row seats to a pristine sand beach PLUS the rainforest. Add gorgeous accommodation, an outdoor pool, a Jacuzzi, a Turkish steam bath, and a national park rich with wildlife on your doorstep, and you have the ingredients for a truly unique stay. Several eateries are within easy driving distance, as are the Tennis Club Quepos and Raindrop Spa. 


Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s many beach towns known for its beautiful beaches and surfing opportunities, as well as its diverse range of activities, such as horseback riding, snorkelling and birdwatching. The Beach Bungalows Tamarindo  is the ideal place to stay if you’re looking for a tranquil getaway with an environmentally friendly, conservation-minded cabin look and feel. Choose between pool-facing or garden-side bungalows. This private bed and breakfast retreat is only a five-minute walk to the beach.


Ready for a wild adventure in the heart of nature? Look no further than Tortuga Lodge & Gardens. Give the hotels a miss and embrace jungle life in Tortuguero. Trust us, this river lodge has it all, with 20 hectares of private jungle trails, pristine rainforest, and did we mention that it’s on the riverbank and offers loads of activities?  From here you can also do a day trip to the famous Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, less than a four-hour drive away, to experience laid-back vibes in this Caribbean beach town, excellent surfing, and colourful culture. 


SantaFe Hostel in the centre of La Fortuna is perfectly situated for you to be able to enjoy a wealth of experiences, adventures and excursions. (Read what to do in La Fortuna below). The hostel has a communal kitchen, various dormitories, and a sunny terrace. The very affordable rates include friendly staff, free Wi-Fi and a social atmosphere!


Believe us when we say, this is just the start. Book your accommodation today!

  • A colourful shipwreck in Limon, Costa Rica
    • A couple walks along a tropical beach in Costa Rica
    • An aerial view of Costa Rica rainforest and beaches
  • A colourful shipwreck in Limon, Costa Rica
    A colourful shipwreck in Limon, Costa Rica
    A colourful shipwreck in Limon, Costa Rica
  • A couple walks along a tropical beach in Costa Rica
    A couple walks along a tropical beach in Costa Rica
    A couple walks along a tropical beach in Costa Rica
  • An aerial view of Costa Rica rainforest and beaches
    An aerial view of Costa Rica rainforest and beaches
    An aerial view of Costa Rica rainforest and beaches

Things to do in Costa Rica

The diverse landscape in Costa Rica includes beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, and towering volcanoes. This means activities for any kind of traveller. Does trekking through the jungle appeal to you? How about ziplining, waterfall abseiling (also called rappelling) or surfing? Or are you more interested in local culture? This tiny country won’t disappoint!

The  Arenal Volcano National Park is a must-visit in Costa Rica. Head towards the little town of La Fortuna, set at the foot of the Arenal volcano. Stay a while at this tourist attraction to enjoy its hot springs or opt for a hike into the surrounding jungle. You’ll be able to choose from a variety of accommodation options here. The literal centrepiece of the park is, of course, the active volcano, and while you are not allowed to climb it, there are several trails through the park, hanging bridges to cross and wildlife to spot.  


Cocos Island is a small, uninhabited island located off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, much loved by scuba divers and snorkellers because of its clear blue waters and abundant marine life. Dive into the depths and explore the striking coral reefs, shipwrecks, and underwater caves. 


Costa Rica is coffee heaven, and here’s an insider tip: the best coffee is sold at the plantations. You can also learn about the bean-to-cup journey on one of the many plantation tours available.


If you’re visiting Costa Rica for adventure, you’ve come to the right place! In the Arenal Volcano National Park you can also visit the magnificent 70m high waterfall and get your adrenaline fix with waterfall abseiling or cliff diving!

Then there’s kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or even white-water rafting on the Pacuare River, where you can navigate the churning waters through dense rainforests, waterfalls and indigenous communities.

Or experience the natural beauty of the forest from a unique perspective by taking a canopy tour – a series of ziplines that allow you to “fly” across the treetops in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. It’s home to a staggering variety of flora and fauna, including more than 100 types of mammals, 400 species of birds and 1200 amphibians and reptiles. 


The Tortuguero National Park in Limón Province is home to the most important, protected green turtle nesting beach in the Western Hemisphere. These endangered turtles nest here between July and October. Explore the park by boat on the rivers and canals running through it and learn about local culture while you’re at it. The communities living here still proudly uphold their long traditions.


The country's history is rooted in its indigenous heritage, and the stone spheres in the Diquís Delta made by the extinct Diquís culture are fascinating to see. Stories about ETs and Atlantis pop up all the time, but scientists believe the stones were simply sculptered into balls, although their meaning and purpose remain a mystery. Also fascinating are the ancient gold artifacts made by indigenous Latin American civilizations and now housed in the Museo del Oro Precolombino in San José.


Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Flights to Costa Rica

Costa Rica food and drink

Get ready to tantalise your taste buds in Costa Rica with cuisine that’s flavourful, has a kick and is carb-rich! The country’s rich cultural influences pull through on menus across the board, from sodas (local, unpretentious, often family-owned eateries where traditional Costa Rican food is served) to upmarket restaurants and street food. Diverse fruits and vegetables are grown here, including unusual varieties like red bananas and chayote squash.

Looking for the best place to get stuck into local dishes and inexpensive too? Head to a soda! Most towns in Costa Rica have a soda and these eateries are well sign-posted, often with a Coca-Cola sign outside. You probably won’t find a website or a social media page about them, but they’re well worth experiencing, whether you’re on a budget or not.

Some offer buffets, others are simply lunch counters. Sodas across Costa Rica serve pretty much the same traditional dishes, such as casado, a staple dish of meat, rice, beans and sides, and arroz con pollo (fried rice with chicken). Regional twists are then added. 


The Mercado Central (Central Market) in San José is a feast for the senses. This bustling indoor market is a hub for tourists and locals alike, where you can indulge in traditional Costa Rican dishes. From fresh produce to seafood and handcrafted goods, you’ll find it all here. Be sure to try the famous gallo pinto and the delicious snacks and drinks on offer. Open daily, it’s also the perfect spot to buy unique souvenirs.  
 
Street food is everywhere, making it easy to sample the most popular local dishes. Vendors can be found next to the road, on beaches, and even on public buses and at traffic lights! The street-food hotspots, though, are the port cities of Puntarenas and Limón. Some recommended dishes are estofado (oxtail stew in tomato sauce), chorredas (corn pancakes, among the oldest foods in Costa Rica, topped with sour cream or honey) and copo, an ice cream treat mainly sold at the beaches and made of ice, powdered milk, condensed milk and kola syrup.


Don Rufino in La Fortuna is one of the top dining spots in the Arenal area. Known for its steakhouse and Lebanese dishes, as well as its mix of Peruvian and Chinese flavours, the restaurant also offers a variety of traditional dishes, such as gallo pinto, the national hearty breakfast dish of black beans, rice and spicy salsa lizano sauce, served with eggs, tortillas and sour cream.  

 

With seafood plentiful in Costa Rica, it’s not surprising there’s sushi! Tsunami Sushi in Jacó is a vibey, modern eatery set on the beachfront. The exciting menu features tempura, sushi with a twist, teriyaki-glazed meats and salmon and American desserts such as brownies.


Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Costa Rica through your eyes

Where to shop in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica offers opportunities to buy everything from locally made artisanal goods to designer labels. The best place to start your shopping spree is in the capital city, San José, where you’ll find some of the top malls and shops in Costa Rica.  

Multiplaza Escazú in San Rafael de Escazú is a shopping mecca made for all you fashion-forward travellers! There's something for everyone, from high-end designer brands to affordable fast fashion, accessories, décor and more. Offering more than 160 stores under one roof, the mall has become a centre of activity in the city, with many locals and tourists arriving to shop, dine and be entertained.  

The Mall San Pedro in San José near the San Pedro International Airport is even bigger with more than 500 stores. It’s a one-stop shop for all your retail needs, including gift shops for those last-minute souvenirs. Entertainment options range from an ice-skating rink and bowling alley to a movie theatre and a live performance stage. Add banks and a food court and it’s clear to see why the mall is a hit with locals, tourists and students alike. 

City Mall, also in San José, is another mega shopping destination offering an array of shops, cafés, restaurants and entertainment. Shop for the best of both local and international brands at this upmarket centre. 


Stock up on famous Costa Rican coffee, paintings and handmade items at the souvenir and craft markets. We like the Craft Market in Palmira, and while it’s a small set-up with a hands-on owner, it offers a delightful shopping experience if you’re looking for souvenirs. Find wooden crafts and jewellery and the best frozen cappuccino in Costa Rica here! For the freshest and most exotic fruit and veg, seafood, artisanal sauces and some great handmade gift items too, head to the Farmers Market in Quepos.


Looking for a safe and simple way to bring your money when you travel? Our Travel Money Card has you covered!

When is the best time to travel to Costa Rica?

The best time to visit Costa Rica depends on what you want to do, especially if outdoorsy activities or lying on the beach are high on your itinerary.

The seasons in Costa Rica are split into the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season spans December to April, and you can expect average temperatures of 25-30°C (77-86°F) in the coastal areas and 20-25°C (68-77°F) in the highland regions. The weather is generally dry and sunny, with beaches at their best, but this is also peak tourist season, meaning higher prices for flights and accommodation.

The rainy season in Costa Rica runs from May to November, with September and October being the height of the rainy season, and October the month with the most rain. It’s also humid but if you don’t mind getting a bit sticky, you can take advantage of lower prices and fewer crowds. The average temperature during the rainy season ranges from 25-30°C (77-86°F) in the coastal areas and 20-25°C (68-77°F) in the highlands, sometimes dropping as low as 15°C (59°F). Despite the rain, the lush green landscape and abundant wildlife make the rainy season a unique and exciting time to visit. 

Don't miss out. Book your flight today!

How to get around Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a reliable public transport system and the bus system in Costa Rica is one of the best in Latin America! It’s an inexpensive and convenient mode of transportation. There are two main types: public buses and shuttle buses. Public buses are cheaper and stop often along their routes, while shuttle buses offered by companies, such as Interbus and Gray Line Tours, are comfier and travel direct. In San José, city bus fares are very affordable but must be paid in cash. Inter-city buses are government-subsidised, which means you can travel anywhere Costa Rica at a low fare.

Taxis are plentiful in Costa Rica and there are five options: airport taxis, official red taxis, private chauffeurs, private taxis and Uber. Fares vary depending on the distance travelled, and it’s always recommended to agree on the fare upfront.

If you need to cover long distances or save time, consider taking a domestic flight. Several airlines operate in Costa Rica, including SansaAir, which goes to the main tourist attractions.

If rental cars are your preferred way to do sightseeing, then you should know that sorting you out with the perfect ride is one of our superpowers! You don’t need an international driver’s license; you just need a valid one from your own country. A heads-up that road conditions deteriorate out of the capital city and the towns, and you can expect dirt roads in the rural areas and a general lack of road signs throughout the country. Let your navigation app come to the rescue! We also suggest researching and mapping out your route before hitting the road. 

Let us help you organise your own wheels for exploring. Hire a car today.

What are the best beaches in Costa Rica?

Costa Rican beaches are known for their gorgeous white sand, crystal-clear water and wide range of recreational activities. Did you know there are about 600 of them dotted along the coast of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea? So, yes, you’re spoilt for choice! 

Playa Manuel Antonio is a gorgeous tropical beach in the Manuel Antonio National Park. You need to pay an entrance fee, but it’s worth it to experience the warm waters and soft white sand bordered by lush jungle. It's a child-friendly beach but remember to supervise the little ones and be cautious of wildlife. If you’ve had enough sunbathing or swimming, enjoy a hike through the jungle and see if you can spot playful monkeys, colourful birds and iguanas. 


Set in the tropical paradise of Guanacaste, this beach boasts crystal-clear turquoise waters lapping against a sandy shore that shimmers like a million tiny pearls. That’s because the beach is made of crushed seashells. It’s also a popular spot for swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing and surfing.


Situated on the northwest Pacific Coast, this beach is a surfing utopia for both novice and seasoned surfers and it’s dotted with surf schools and rental shops. A beautiful stretch of sand makes it ideal for long walks, while the clear water beckons snorkellers to explore its fascinating marine life. And if you’re looking for a party spot, you just found it!


The little town of Punta Uva is where the Caribbean Sea meets the jungle with golden sandy shores in between. It’s popular with tourists for its beaches, marine life and activities like kayaking, horseback riding and hiking. Tuck into local cuisine here and enjoy the lively nightlife.  


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Costa Rica Frequently asked questions

Costa Rica is a small country which packs a big punch. Costa Rica is one of the most diverse places on the planet, where you spend your morning on the beach and be deep in the mountains by evening. There are over 100 beaches to explore in Costa Rica on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean sides, each offering beachgoers a unique experience. Surfers will want to head to the Pacific Ocean side where you can find world-famous wave breaks, while those seeking calmer waters will want to find lodgings on the Caribbean sea side. The capital, San Jose, makes a great base from which to explore Costa Rica, particularly if you’re visiting for the first time. Believe us when we say you won’t want it to be your last!


Do yourself a favour and make sure you spend at least two weeks discovering Costa Rica. There is so much to discover here – from untouched beaches, to volcanoes and cloud forests, wildlife spotting, hiking and adventure sports – you name it, Costa Rica has it.


Generally, December to April is generally the best time to visit Costa Rica, during the high and dry season.


Costa Rica is a paradise for nature lovers. Spend your days relaxing on Costa Rica’s pristine beaches, explore the cloud forests, spot macaws and sloths in the jungle, scale volcanoes and take a dip in natural hot springs. If you’re feeling adventurous, strap on your hiking boots and go for a walk or get the adrenaline going with ziplining or rafting. There really is something for everyone to enjoy in Costa Rica.


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San Jose provides a ‘soft’ introduction to Costa Rica. The capital of Costa Rica, San Jose has all the conveniences of a modern city, while also being close to some of the sights that entice you here. Beautiful beaches, cloud forests, volcanoes and hot springs are all within easy distance of San Jose, making it the perfect base from which to explore Costa Rica.


Think four seasons in one day! Bring all the gear you need to enjoy some downtime at the beach (swimwear, sunnies, hat and sunscreen), smart casual clothes and comfortable shoes for wandering around towns, long sleeved clothing and hiking shoes for visits to the cloud forest, and a light jacket for when temperatures drop in the mountains or in the evenings. You also want to make sure you have some decent insect repellent handy, particularly when visiting the mountains.


It really depends on what brings you to Costa Rica. San Jose is a great place to get your bearings before venturing further afield. Surfers will want to head to the Pacific Coast, while families and those seeking more calmer waters will want to hit the beaches on the Caribbean sea side. You’re definitely going to want to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest, as well as Manuel Antonio National Park.


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