Chepe, as San José is fondly known, is the cradle of art in Costa Rica. The largest city in the country offers a neoclassical appeal in form of historic architectures aficionados will revel in. Take a jaunt into colonial mansions, now converted into fine art galleries and boutique hotels. Among your best stops: Museo de Oro, Teatro Nacional and Barrio Amón.
You will find the fascinating Butterfly Conservatory located close to the shores of beautiful Lake Arenal in the Alajuela Province. Within the conservatory, nature-lovers of all ages can take an interesting and educational tour, which will introduce you to the life of butterflies and other creatures that inhabit the four different microclimates found around the lake. You can visit the greenhouses where the butterflies are bred, the frog habitat, and an orchid exhibition as well as follow the Rainforest River Walk, where you have the chance to spot monkeys, sloths, toucans, and parrots. From the Volcano View Gazebo you can get an excellent view of Arenal Volcano, Arenal Lake, and more.
The tropical landscape provides stunning fruits most often associated with South America or Southeast Asia due to their introduction to Central America by historical trade. Dragon fruit, star fruit, and rambutan are examples of the delicious and distinctive produce once uncommon to the landscape and markets of Costa Rica, but can now be found growing on the plantations around pineapple or mango. Achiote is an example of a native fruit Costa Rican’s have harvested for millennia, often turning the scarlet seeds into a paste to use as food coloring.
Land use: This entry contains the percentage shares of total land area for three different types of land use: agricultural land, forest, and other; agricultural land is further divided into arable land - land cultivated for crops like wheat, maize, and rice that are replanted after each harvest, permanent crops - land cultivated for crops like citrus, coffee, and rubber that are not replanted after each harvest, and includes land under flowering shrubs, fruit trees, nut trees, and vines, and permane . . . more
Drive past Lake Arenal from Tilaran and you’ll eventually run into La Fortuna, the biggest and most tourist-friendly town in the Arenal area. This is a natural overnight spot for tourists continuing on to the volcano or the mountainous national parks between there and San Jose, and the hotel supply reflects that: you’ll find everything from $400-a-night luxury resorts built around hot springs to $30-per-night ecolodges half-hidden in the jungle here.
There are a few things that are important to know about Costa Rica before visiting. The following Costa Rica travel tips will help you better understand the country. The busiest travel times in Costa Rica are during Christmas and New Year's, as well as the week leading up to Easter Sunday, which is known as Semana Santa, or “Holy Week.” If you plan to travel during these weeks you must book your hotel well in advance — but it’s a better idea to simply plan your visit to Costa Rica for another time.
The park, one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica, is a crucial sanctuary for wildlife and serves as a bridge between the Northwest’s dry, tropical forest, and the wet rainforest of the southern Pacific. As such, it supports a wide variety of waterfowl and other species, including woodpeckers, toucans, manakins, jacamars, and hundreds of other birds. Even the scarlet macaw can be found here, with an estimated 450 birds living within the park. This makes it the only area in the north Pacific to be home to a significant population of the endangered bird.
One of the most fun things to do in Costa Rica is going on a boat tour. This is the best way to admire the beaches and the islands of the Pacific Coast. I recommend opting for a private tour as opposed to a public boat, as these may only take you to specific places, whereas a private tour will follow your requests and stops wherever you like, for however long you want.
When it comes to souvenirs, head to the Mercado Calle Nacional de Artesania y Pintura (National Craft Market) in San Jose for the best selection of handmade goods and souvenirs. Here you can stroll through dozens of stalls selling handmade hammocks and painted ox-carts as well as tank tops and shot glasses that say “pura vida”. Also in San Jose, the Mercado Central is a great place to grocery shop and pick up souvenirs. Vendors offer up everything from fresh produce to coffee to leather goods.
Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the 16th century. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African workers during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Football is the most popular sport in Costa Rica. The national team has played in five FIFA World Cup tournaments and reached the quarter-finals for the first time in 2014. Its best performance in the regional CONCACAF Gold Cup was runner-up in 2002. Paulo Wanchope, a forward who played for three clubs in England's Premier League in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is credited with enhancing foreign recognition of Costa Rican football.
Costa Rica’s culture is rooted in a peaceful, Catholic, agrarian society, and many of Costa Rica's most interesting cultural experiences are on the coffee farm, visiting the pineapple plantation, or eating a delicious helping of *gallo pinto* at the local soda (Costa Rican restaurant.) The country’s few museums and performing arts are mostly centered in the capital...
Since the late 1980s Costa Rica became a popular nature travel destination, and its main competitive advantage is its well-established system of national parks and protected areas, covering around 23.4% of the country's land area, the largest in the world as a percentage of the country's territory, and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, in a country that has only 0.03% of the world's landmass, but that is estimated to contain 5% of the world's biodiversity. The country also has plenty of world renowned beaches, both in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, within short travel distances between both coasts both by air and land, and also several active volcanoes that can be visited with safety.
From the tall viewing platform, zipliners then start riding down on a track that stretches across canyons, sits in between treetops, and heads down mountainsides. There are seven zip lines in total, which can get up to around half a mile long, and the duration of the experience is two and a half hours all together. To me, it is one of the most incredible things to do in Costa Rica.
“If you are a coffee lover, there’s a lot of good coffee to be found. Head to Cafeoteca, Franco, or Café la Mancha and order a Vandola (a Costa Rican pour over), and pick up a free San José coffee walking tour pamphlet – it’s both a great reference, and a gorgeous piece of art. In addition, most shops in the San José/Alajuela area use lactose-free milk, which is fantastic for someone lactose-intolerant like me.”—Alan Ray
Costa Rica has a long-existing love affair with chocolate; it has been used as drinks, dessert and even currency! There's no surprise that chocolate farm tours are among the best things to do in the country. Have yourself a piece — or more, if you wish — as you go wander into a garden of Cacao Trees. You may even get a chance to make chocolate with your own hands.
The Rainforest Safari sends you cross country from the Caribbean to the Pacific seeking out wildlife found in incredible habitats. This 14-day quest starts by going to Tortuguero, only accessible by boat or plane, where you’ll cruise the famous jungle canals. Next you’ll explore the Arenal Volcano region, go on a river safari, and leisurely hike the base of the volcano. Afterward, you can soak in your eco-resort’s onsite hot springs. From there its up to the unique Monteverde Cloud Forest with a naturalist hike taking you over hanging bridges. Finally, you’ll relax at the beach and enjoy a guided tour of the abundant wildlife living in Manual Antonio National Park found over on the Pacific coast.
When you need a break from surf, sun, and hiking, you should consider a visit to the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum in San Jose, which is home to an astonishing 1,600 individual gold artifacts that date back to the pre-Columbian era. You can start your visit by watching a short orientation video (in English), which will pave the way for you to explore the exhibits in your own time – audio guides are available for rental and you can pre-book a guided tour if you prefer a more in-depth experience. Located in the same building, you will also find the National Coin Museum and the Casa de Moneda, which documents the history of minting in Costa Rica.
Action-packed Costa Rica has plenty of idyllic beaches to lounge on, but adventurous locals and visitors prefer surfing. Hermosa Beach on the nation’s Caribbean coast is off the beaten path and a favorite for its curling waves and soft sand. If you’re not looking to hang ten, opt for sea kayaking, beach horseback rides, or simply lounging on the sand and watching surfers instead.
One of the nicest places to visit in Costa Rica Tortuguero National Park, which is famous for turtle nesting. Both the park and Tortuguero village can only be accessed via boat – getting there is an incredible ride but it requires a bit of planning – going on a 3 day organized tour of Tortuguero from San Jose may be a good idea. Here’s a great one.
international: country code - 506; landing points for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1), MAYA-1, and the Pan American Crossing submarine cables that provide links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2015)
If you plan on driving in Costa Rica it’s best to know that the roads can be pretty awful, some of the worst in all the Americas to be exact. It all depends on where you travel, but almost any road not part of the national highway we found to be pretty meh. The worst we personally traveled on was from Nicoya to Santa Teresa (I may or may not have had back spasms from the constant crater-like potholes).
Micro mills and microclimates within these regions can also affect the way the coffee tastes due to the different minerals in the soil and how the coffee is cultivated. Much of the coffee cherries are harvested by hand and treated in a wet-process, setting the standard for Central and South American nations eager to participate in the coffee trade. Visiting coffee plantations across Costa Rica has become a popular activity eager to learn more about the cultivation process, along with the proper flavors they should find in a delicious cup of coffee. A number of places around Costa Rica celebrate the pleasures of local coffee by highlighting the flavors particular to the different regions, along with producing quality drinks, including cocktails, representing the micro-mills.
A local Naturalist accompanies you on a leisurely BOAT RIDE along remote, unspoiled sections of the park’s waterways, explaining the bountiful flora and fauna. Enjoy a fascinating stroll through an accessible portion of the nearby RAINFOREST. During the peak nesting season (mid-July to mid-October) you may be lucky enough to observe an endangered green turtle laying her eggs under the starlight on an optional tour. Later this afternoon, meet a local Naturalist for an informative talk on the ecology of the area.
Hi Stacey! Yes definitely that’s one of the greatest (and most confusing) thing about Cost Rica is that there are soo many places to go but it’s so hard to get around, even with a car because of times and schedules for places opening, traffic and long drives. Right now is rainy season so it does get pretty cold in the mountains and central Valley. Always best to bring a rain jacket!
Costa Rica is more than a vacation destination; it is an interactive sensory experience. The country has an intense array of environmental attractions - majestic volcanoes, misty cloud forests, stunning river valleys, and hundreds of beaches along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Costa Rica has a fascinating ecological story, woven into the history of a peaceful and family-oriented culture.
One good dock for water taxi excursions is Los Chiles but our favorite ride was from Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui to Trinidad on the Nicaraguan border. The other half dozen passengers kept making the captain pull up to the bank and idle while we took pictures of caimen, kingfishers, monkeys, sloth and other wildlife they spotted. Even though they were all locals who where just trying to get home after a shopping and banking excursion in Puerto Viejo no one complained that the two gringos doubled the time for the trip.
You can certainly change your dollars into colones, but it won't matter either way, as most taxis, restaurants, surfboard rental shops, boutiques, bars, tour companies—you name it—take both forms of currency, often giving change in a mix of American dollars and Costa Rican coins. If you're in a particularly touristy area, such as Tamarindo or Jaco, you'll find prices listed for goods and services in U.S. dollars, with nary a colón in sight. Pro tip: Spend those colones, if you do have them, before you hit the airport for your return trip, as the conversion rate back to dollars is pretty dismal.
Planning a vacation abroad is exciting, but let’s face it: it can be overwhelming. There is so much information on line that it’s hard to know what is current and what sources you can trust, not to mention what is useful and what is just wasting your time. That’s where we come in! Not only can you find everything you need right here, but we can assure you that our expert travel consultants are a fountain of information and willing to help when you decide it’s time to start planning.
GDP - composition, by sector of origin: This entry shows where production takes place in an economy. The distribution gives the percentage contribution of agriculture, industry, and services to total GDP, and will total 100 percent of GDP if the data are complete. Agriculture includes farming, fishing, and forestry. Industry includes mining, manufacturing, energy production, and construction. Services cover government activities, communications, transportation, finance, and all other private economic activities that do not prod . . . more
While I do not support the use of animals in tourist attractions and will always advocate for responsible tourism, I am all in favor of sanctuaries that rescue ill-treated animals with a view to rehabilitating them. The Jaguar Rescue Centre is one of the places to visit in Costa Rica for that reason. It was created by a biological and herpetologist couple who decided it was time to make a difference after witnessing years of others mistreating and killing native wildlife.
The National Theater is a marvelous architectural and cultural attraction in San Jose. This iconic Neoclassical building is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. Inside there are exquisite murals and interior decorations. The theater hosts all sorts of different live performances ranging from theatrical plays to concerts. If you are in San Jose, you should definitely visit the National Theater for its architectural and interior beauty and definitely try and see a live performance there, if the timing is right.
In the more developed parts, you can use your credit card and find ATMs fairly commonly, but smaller stores and more remote destinations will likely be cash-only. Fortunately, most of our tours are are all-inclusive, so all of the meals and activities from the beginning to end of your itinerary are included in the price, unless you decide to depart from the itinerary or add on extra activities.
If you are heading to La Fortuna it is definitely worth checking out the hot springs. There are a lot of hot springs geared towards tourists where you can expect to pay up to $100 for admission. These hot springs are nicely maintained and look absolutely beautiful. If you are looking for a more local experience check out the smaller hot springs which cost about $10 per person.
The biggest complaint about travel towels is that they often feel nothing like the plush cotton towels we are accustomed to at home and in hotels. However, with the PackTowl you can forget about all of that because they set out to create a towel that mimics its cotton counterparts with the technical features of a travel towel. It comes pretty close to the real thing.
The cooler climate and moss-strewn trees provide perfect nesting grounds for the rare and endangered resplendent quetzal. The smaller, yet equally majestic neighbor to Monteverde Cloud Forest is Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, which overtakes 765 acres. The less-visited terrain contains trails that lead through the hanging vines as vegetation drips with moisture from the passing clouds. Guided tours in the region include suspension bridges, zip lines, butterfly gardens, nature walks and horseback riding.
In 2011, there were over 104,000 Native American or indigenous inhabitants, representing 2.4% of the population. Most of them live in secluded reservations, distributed among eight ethnic groups: Quitirrisí (in the Central Valley), Matambú or Chorotega (Guanacaste), Maleku (northern Alajuela), Bribri (southern Atlantic), Cabécar (Cordillera de Talamanca), Guaymí (southern Costa Rica, along the Panamá border), Boruca (southern Costa Rica) and Térraba [es] (southern Costa Rica).
Corn is a popular ingredient often used in Costa Rica both in tortillas or pancakes. Plantains and yucca often take the place of potatoes as an accompanying side dish and are fried, dressed with salt, and favored for their starchy qualities. Near the coastal waters, you can find an abundance of delectable ceviche dishes with locals squeezing sour lemon over fishes such as tuna, swordfish, red snapper, or shellfish like shrimp, lobster, or conch.
“Be careful where you put your hands while walking in the rainforest. There are fire ants and other nasty stuff in the jungle. While hiking in La Fortuna, we had a guide who showed us lots of spiders and caterpillars and tarantulas and other nasties. One boy in our group kept putting his hands on everything, and at one point, the guide suddenly stopped him, because he was about to put his hand on a deadly caterpillar.”—Tony Baloney
La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a privately owned ecological center that features magnificent rainforest scenery combined with an animal sanctuary. The complex includes both rainforest and cloud forest and there are over 2miles of hiking trails to be explored and a large number of educational animal exhibits, which include the aviary, the butterfly observatory, the serpentarium, the frog exhibit, and the jungle cat exhibit. You can probably see a bit of everything in about 2hours, but a half-day excursion is recommended to get the most out of your visit. Highlights include hand-feeding the humming birds and seeing rare South American jungle cats, such as the jaguar.
Playa Hermosa is a comely, uncrowded gray sand beach on the Papagayo Peninsula. The beach itself fronts a deep cove that’s sheltered from the open Pacific, moderating local wave action. Even if you’re not staying at one of the four- or five-star properties near the cove, or at one of the upscale condos just over the ridge on the Pacific side, you can access Playa Hermosa without paying at the public beach along the area’s main paved road. Get the full local resort experience for less at Papagayo Golden Palms Resort, just off the beach: we spent less than $150 per night there and got as nice a five-star resort experience as I’ve ever had.
Hi Mickey, I recommend reading this post: Best places in Costa Rica for first timers to help decide which destinations to go to (I list how long it takes to get there from both airports, things to do and convenience). Costa Rica is very family friendly and there’s a lot to do everywhere but for your specific requests, I’d look into Gulf of Papagayo (families love Playas del Coco and Playa Panama) as you’re close to beaches, volcanoes and hiking and there’s great seafood of course.
One of the most adrenaline filled things to do in Costa Rica is canyoning – that is, going down waterfalls on a rappel. This literally is a once in a lifetime adventure, and a great way to appreciate all the incredible nature Costa Rica has to offer. The best places to visit in Costa Rica for canyoning are La Fortuna and Arenal, but this activity is now offered in Jaco now.
Six of seven sea turtle species are in danger of extinction, and four of those six call Costa Rica home. The leatherback sea turtle population has declined by over 90% since the 1980’s on the Pacific Coast. In hopes of reversing this trend, Costa Rica has established turtle conservation efforts along both the East and West coast of the country. Join a program to help protect the endangered species from further damage.
As of November 2012 to cross the border you need to show a return ticket from Costa Rica. The ticket must be "from Costa Rica", so for example flights from Panama are not accepted, although you need to leave Costa Rica to get to Panama. At the border crossing with Nicaragua there is a small Tica Bus office that sells tickets without a fixed travel date. At the main border crossing with Panama there is a Tracopa office where you can buy a return ticket without a fixed date. Note that if you use this ticket when re-entering from Nicaragua they want to see a ticket with a fixed date.
At the bottom of the Nicoya coast is the hippy backpacker town of Santa Theresa. This “town” really nothing more than a beach with a road lined with eateries, surf shops, and hostels. Not much goes on here as everyone is up early to hit the waves. I like this place as it is a good place to just go, lay on the beach, hang out with people, and relax. It’s an easy place to fall into and spend weeks. Or, like most people, months.
We’ve been back from Costa Rica for a month now but just wanted to tell you what an awesome adventure you planned for us. Your service in helping us plan it was terrific. Everything went really well. We actually felt like royals with everyone waiting for us when we were being chauffeured about. Rafting on the Pacuare was totally amazing and hiking in Corcovado with monkeys so close to us were the highlights. Thanks again. I look forward to you planning another trip for us.”
I mean, who doesn’t love dinner with a nice sunset view, am I right? One of our absolute favorite places to enjoy dinner with a view is in Manuel Antonio. we like Manuel Antonio because there are a lot of restaurants up on the hills. This means you get the perfect sunset viewing spot. Just a warning though, bring plenty of bug spray. The second the sun goes down it gets super mosquito-y.
Hi Barbara, that’s definitely way too many places for only 4 days and all the destinations are very far apart for driving (arenal – monteverde around 3.5 hours, monteverde to MA is 5, MA to Uvita is around 1.5 and Uvita back to San Jose is around 3.5-4). I would cut out a couple places, for only 7 full days we usually recommend two destinations. You could stop by MA on your way to Uvita but Monteverde to MA is already a 5 hour long drive (and to and from Monteverde is a long, windy, curvy mountainous road that can be very tiring to drive because you have to go slow and carefully) and you would want to spend at least 3-5 hours in the park to get a good experience and the park closes at 4 PM. Remember it also gets dark by 6 PM every day.
Price is per person, based on double occupancy, and includes hotel rates, hotel taxes, roundtrip airfare, and gov't taxes/fees applicable to airfare based on specified departure city. Price may vary for other departure cities. Price shown is sample price found 11/10/15 on jetblue.com/vacations for travel departing JFK on 1/23/16 - 2/6/16 and may not represent current savings. Package/price subject to availability; may change without notice; valid for new bookings only; capacity controlled; may not be available on all dates or with all flights; and may be restricted to certain hotel room categories.
Warning: taxi drivers await incoming bus passengers at almost all terminals in San José. Many of them focus on foreigners and try to rip you off. They claim it is necessary to make a detour to reach your hotel or they offer to call your hotel and call a friend who says it is full. Then they offer you another hotel. The standard rip off fee is 50 USD or an invisible commission from another hotel. It is now (March 2017) almost a standard practice in San José. The police are aware of the problem, but do not address it effectively. Often hotels send warnings after you booked.
Due to the insurance, the price you see online is a lot more expensive than you may think, we suggest adding the insurance on to your booking to ensure you aren’t met with a surprise cost addition when you land in Costa Rica. For 25 days we were able to get a small 4×4 for $436 from Alamo and had a great experience. Read more about renting a car abroad here.
Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica and can be a destination for those looking for more than sun and surf on their vacation. San Jose and Jaco are hot spots for this activity. As with any other sex destination, there are some tourists that hire minors. Prostitution with minors (less than 18 years old) is considered a crime in Costa Rica. The majority of sex tourists in Costa Rica are from the United States, and, if they engage in prostitution with a minor, are prosecutable by the Protect Act of 2003. This act gives the US government the power to prosecute US citizens who travel abroad to engage in sex tourism with children under the age of 18. Several other countries including France, Canada, the UK, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and Australia have similar laws. Arrests, warrants and prosecutions are being made under these laws.
“NO paper at all in toilets, NOTHING. Use the barrel provided alongside every toilet, yup, you got that right, that’s how it’s done here so do not clog the toilet. Excepting high end hotels in SOME places. The law requires public toilets in most all stores including grocery stores. Some roadside tourist spots want you to buy or pay maybe C1000 ($1.67) for the privilege.”—CaptBrad617
Costa Rica has some of the best Sport Fishing in the world and is the first country to practice catch and release fishing. The Pacific side has incredible fishing for Sailfish, Marlin, Dorado, Tuna, Wahoo, Roosterfish, Snapper, Grouper and more. The Caribbean side is famous for big Tarpon and big Snook. Over sixty-four world records have been caught in Costa Rica. Half day, Full day and Multi-Day Trips are available.
While you are in the country, our customer service team is on-call 24/7 throughout your stay. If you need a restaurant reservation, a travel tip or would like to make an adjustment to your vacation plan…just give us a call. No other Costa Rica travel agency can match our commitment to guest happiness, and we have over a decade of satisfied clients to prove it.
Tabacon, Baldi and Titoku are just a few places you can bathe in and enjoy the thermal waters. Baldi is best for kids, Tabacon is ideal for couples and Paraiso and Ecotermales are great for those who don’t want to be around a lot of people. If you’re visiting La Fortuna, going to the hot springs is a must! You can read more about the best hot springs in Arenal in this post.
Yeap, this is probably completely contradictory of everything you’ve ever heard. Usually, if you book ahead of time it’s cheaper right? We’ll, not in Costa Rica. See all the big tour companies that you find on the internet have the money to set up websites and try to hook tourists. We have had much better luck asking at our hotel if they know anybody who offers similar tours. Usually, these local tour companies will partner with hotels and you will get a cheaper rate.
Beyond altitude-related temperature considerations, the biggest issue for first-time Costa Rica visitors is the timing of the rainy season. On the Pacific side, the rainy season runs from April or May through October or November, with a brief pause in June and July. Precipitation levels are highest along the southern Pacific coast, where late summer and early fall are washout seasons. The balance of the year is dry. At low elevations in the northwest, you’re unlikely to encounter anything more than a brief shower between December and April.
Illicit drugs: This entry gives information on the five categories of illicit drugs - narcotics, stimulants, depressants (sedatives), hallucinogens, and cannabis. These categories include many drugs legally produced and prescribed by doctors as well as those illegally produced and sold outside of medical channels. Cannabis (Cannabis sativa) is the common hemp plant, which provides hallucinogens with some sedative properties, and includes marijuana (pot, Acapulco gold, grass, reefer), tetrahydroca . . . more
Costa Rica is smoke-free, with lighting up prohibited in all public buildings. That takes in all businesses, so the law governs bars and restaurants too. The smoking ban also includes your hotel room and all public areas, indoors and outdoors, of all lodgings. You’ll see the red, white, and black PROHIBIDO FUMAR signs everywhere. Compliance is good; fines are steep for both the errant smoker and the business.
Costa Rica was facing a market liquidity crisis in 2017 due to a growing debt and budget deficit. By August 2017, the Treasury was having difficulty paying its obligations. Other challenges facing the country in its attempts to improve the economy by increasing foreign investment include a poor infrastructure and a need to improve public sector efficiency.