For our 2017-2018 High Season Print Edition, we brought together a group of long-time Costa Rican residents – and our favorite urban tourism guru – to discuss their tips for a successful visit to Costa Rica during its busiest time of year. This week, we’re presenting more of their do’s, don’ts and secrets. To download our full print edition, pick up a copy, or learn more about distributing or advertising in The Tico Times, click here.
Costa Rica's seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season known to the residents as summer (verano), and the rainy season, known locally as winter (invierno). The "summer" or dry season goes from December to April, and "winter" or rainy season goes from May to November, which almost coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season, and during this time, it rains constantly in some regions.
The road to Tenorio Volcano National Park where Rio Celeste is is pretty bad – it is definitely recommended to get a 4×4. If you get stuck, car rental companies have an emergency hotline you can call and they also give you an emergency kit with an extra tire, fire extinguisher and if you get the full insurance, most rental car companies have you covered 100% up to a certain amount, say $5 million.
Just west of Parque Nacional Guanacaste is Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, probably the country’s second best place to experience a Pacific dry forest. Sadly, much of the original habitat was destroyed by intentionally set fires and replaced by imported a mix of cultivated and non-native plants; it’s been a long, mostly fruitless slog to get things back to the way they were.
The name is a bit misleading: I don’t think anybody ever saw any jaguars there (the center’s name is a dedication to the memory of an abandoned baby jaguar whose mother was murdered by farmers). Yet, the sanctuary does have wildcats, anteaters, owls, marsupials, sloths, monkeys, deer, parrots, toucans, snakes, and frogs, which make it worth supporting, a visiting is one of the nicest things to do in Costa Rica.
A longtime favorite, the 7-day Smooth Tropics Inclusive Adventure sends you first to the rainforest and river area surrounding Arenal Volcano, then over to one of Guanacaste’s beautiful beaches at Playa Flamingo. From hot springs to cool lagoon, you’ll enjoy a perfect balance of ecolodge jungle adventures and vegging out at the beach pampered by an all-inclusive resort.
There is such biodiversity in Costa Rica not only because it's a land bridge between North and South America, but also because the terrain is so varied and there are weather patterns moving in from both the Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean. There are impressive volcanoes, mountain areas, rivers, lakes, and beaches all throughout the country. There are many beautiful beaches - most of the popular ones are on the Pacific side but the Caribbean has many excellent beaches as well.
For a developing country, Costa Rica is an expensive destination, something that is particularly noticeable when compared to its neighbours, Nicaragua and Panama. Prices for hotel accommodation, restaurant meals, and private transportation are on par with what's found in the United States and Canada, and only slightly less than typical prices found in Western Europe.
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.
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Costa Rica does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts declined in 2014, with fewer prosecutions and no convictions and no actions taken against complicit government personnel; some officials conflated trafficking with smuggling, and authorities reported the diversion of funds to combat smuggling hindered anti-trafficking efforts; the government identified more victims than the previous year but did not make progress in ensuring that victims received adequate protective services; specialized services were limited and mostly provided by NGOs without government support, even from a dedicated fund for anti-trafficking efforts; victims services were virtually non-existent outside of the capital (2015)
This is my favorite tour I’ve ever done in Costa Rica and there are also multi-day white water rafting trips for the more adventurous ones. You can even go white water as a way to get around Costa Rica as many companies pick up in San Jose and drop off in La Fortuna or Puerto Viejo! This is definitely one of the top adventure activities in Costa Rica.
Our Sport Fishing Adventures will cast you into waters where numerous record billfish have been caught off the Pacific side and huge tarpon regularly reeled in off the Caribbean coast. Lake Arenal provides a freshwater hot spot for the elusive (and delicious!) Guapote. Costa Rica is home to some of the best sport fishing in the world. We utilize only the best captains plus top of the line equipment and boats for our famed fishing expeditions.
Vegetarians will find it surprisingly easy to eat well in Costa Rica. There are several International cuisine options also. In addition to American style food, Italian, Mexican, Peruvian and Indian are also available. Indian food generally has vegetarian, vegan and gluten free dishes. Try Indian Naans & Curries dishes. They taste better in Costa Rica because of natural ingredients.
We understand the importance of providing high value Costa Rica Travel services for our clients and therefore we’ve negotiated the best deals from hotels and resorts to river rafting, zip lining and para-sailing tours. Every hotel or resort listed on our site has been experienced by at least one of our travel experts in order to ensure all live up to the high standards our clientele have come to expect from CRV.
Keep in mind that most banks and credit unions charge not only fees to get money out of an ATM in a foreign country, but also a foreign exchange fee (usually 2% or 3%) for the amount of the transaction. So to withdraw USD100 worth of colones with your ATM (debit) card you could pay a fixed fee to the ATM operator (often USD3 or more), a fixed fee to your bank (USD2 or more), and then 2% to 3% of USD100, so you end up paying USD108 for USD100 worth of colones. Paying a merchant directly with your card only incurs the foreign exchange fee.
They aren’t exactly a substitute for trails through the rain forests in the national parks because any area that has road access has also been mostly clear-cut for pasture or farmland. There’s rarely shade and except for a couple of hours early in the morning or late in the afternoon the lack of tree cover can make it excruciatingly hot under the tropical sun.
Costa Rica offers many exciting ways to immerse yourself in its natural elements. It is the consummate destination for exploring ecosystems and connecting with a peaceful culture. Whether discovering fascinating species with a friendly Costa Rican guide, zipping across the rainforest canopy, or relaxing in a volcano-heated hot spring, there are a variety of tours and activities to engage travelers of all types.
Great trip, the four of us enjoyed it almost as much as our trip to Peru and that one was close to a ten. The tour guide is a top selection for this trip; very knowledgeable in bio-science and the local and mix that with enthusiasm and devotion to duties and willingness to give of his time, and you have the best of the best. I'm quite certain we will travel with and recommend Gate 1 in the future.
Any good traveler knows they should question whether the water is potable when touring a new country. Costa Rica contains safe tap water around the more developed areas, but you should always take caution with the water as you travel through more rural or underdeveloped regions. If you are worried about the tap water around the area in which you are staying, you can always buy and drink only bottled water sold in the markets and small shops throughout the country. Otherwise, you can boil water for three minutes, use iodine droplets, or carry a SteriPen, which utilized UV light.
Crocodiles are quite common in certain parts of Costa Rica and, although not as dangerous as the Nile or saltwater species, are still considered occasional man-eaters and can grow to lengths of up to 20 feet/6 meters. The biggest spot for them is the Tarcoles river bridge in the central pacific as posted in the Jaco wiki. It is recommended to stop the vehicle nearby and walk across it. Some locals throw chicken meat and watch them eat. Great care should be taken when swimming or snorkeling, especially near areas where fishing is common or near river mouths.
I wasn’t there at the right time unfortunately, but I highly recommend arranging a trip to Costa Rica to coincide with the migration seasons for humpback and pilot whales, so that there is a chance to see these creatures passing through (after all admiring wildlife is one of the things to do in Costa Rica). The good news is that the humpback whale watching season in Costa Rica is really long, so if you plan your trip carefully you’ll have great chances to see them – it’s one of the things to do in Costa Rica. Other than Drake Bay, the other places to see whales in Costa Rica are Uvita and the Gulf of Papagayo.
You might get a discount (such as between 5% and 10%) when paying in cash, but it is not common enough to be expected. Also, it is not really necessary to get colones at the airport because you can pay everywhere in USD and receive colones as change. Most places except smallest restaurants take credit cards and many places including the gas stations take American Express.
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.”
How shall we put this? Those wonderful “con mucho gusto” Costa Ricans have a reputation for being some of the world’s most impatient and least compliant drivers. But don’t take that as license for you to do the same. Traffic fines are steep—a speeding ticket could set you back hundreds of dollars—and some evidence exists that the transit police target foreign drivers. Buckle up. Obey speed limits religiously. Don’t phone or text while driving. Don’t drink and drive. Place the kids in the back seat. And just because you don’t see the traffic cops doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Mounted cameras patrol the highways too.
Costa Rica is home to six active volcanoes, a few of which are safe enough to be widely popular for hikes. Trek to Poas Volcano’s steaming blue crater pool, visible from a lookout point at its namesake national park; or explore Arenal Volcano’s biodiverse foothills formed by lava flows. The most accessible volcano, Irazu, is ringed in a cloud forest that’s accessible by car–it’s also the most visited national park in Costa Rica.
Located in Alajuela, the Territory of Strays is a rather unique dog shelter, which has been established in response to the vast number of stray dogs that roamed the streets of Costa Rica. Animal euthanasia is a criminal offence in Costa Rica and although several animal shelters take in stray dogs, most mixed breeds will never be adopted. At Territory of the Strays one enlightened veterinarian hit upon the idea of advertising one-of-a-kind unique breeds of dogs with invented names, which were suddenly far more attractive than simple mongrels. Adoptions increased dramatically and now the shelter arranges mountain hikes, where the public can go walking with hundreds of stray dogs.
“Gringo buses,” or tourist shuttles, are much more expensive than intercity buses. They’re also far more convenient for tourists traveling from the airport to coastal resort towns, where door-to-door service is available. (If you take the regular bus, you’ll have to walk a kilometer or two with your luggage.) Easy Ride, one of several aboveboard operators, runs regular routes from San Jose to Jaco and other coastal towns for $45 to $90 one-way, depending on destination and demand. Private rides cost roughly double.
You can also find luxurious houses, condos or apartments anywhere along the coast, in the jungles or on the hillsides overlooking the spectacular Central Valley. Some of these rentals might come with perks, like cleaning and laundry services, as well. These options are definitely something worth considering if you want to stay in Costa Rica long-term and worry free.
Tourists are unaware of this system. Some even have the notion that they can get a discount on a ticket if they go straight to the desired attraction to buy it; short answer is no, the attractions will not give you a discount if you purchase directly from them but they will make a greater profit on your visit. If you are with a large group and make all of your arrangements through one hotel or travel provider, you are generating a substantial amount of commissions. Be aware of this in your planning and negotiations. You as the tourist cannot have an impact on the commission spigot, but you should be aware of its power… Ask questions and make sure the recommendations you receive align with your needs/desires.
The impact of indigenous peoples on modern Costa Rican culture has been relatively small compared to other nations, since the country lacked a strong native civilization to begin with. Most of the native population was absorbed into the Spanish-speaking colonial society through inter-marriage, except for some small remnants, the most significant of which are the Bribri and Boruca tribes who still inhabit the mountains of the Cordillera de Talamanca, in the southeastern part of Costa Rica, near the frontier with Panama.