All you need to drive in Costa Rica is a valid North American driver’s license. The local road system is rudimentary, with one main highway on which traffic moves at about 65 miles per hour, a decent network of curvy paved roads on which traffic moves at an average of 20 to 40 miles per hour, and a ton of unpaved roads (some comically rutted) on which you’ll be lucky to average 15 or 20 miles per hour. Speed limits and other rules of the road are more suggestion than law. Watch for frequent slowdowns and backups caused by animals, workmen, and trucks struggling up steep grades.
Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous peoples before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces of Central America, from which it formally declared independence in 1847. Since then, Costa Rica has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive[peacock term] nations in Latin America. Following the brief Costa Rican Civil War, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming one of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.[16][17][18]
The central location provides access to American markets and direct ocean access to Europe and Asia. The most important exports in 2015 (in order of dollar value) were medical instruments, bananas, tropical fruits, integrated circuits and orthopedic appliances.[97] Total imports in that year were US$15 billion. The most significant products imported in 2015 (in order of dollar value) were refined petroleum, automobiles, packaged medications, broadcasting equipment and computers. The total exports were US$12.6 billion for a trade deficit of US$2.39 billion in 2015.[97]
First, check on international flights—sometimes you will be able to find some very good deals on airfare flying to either San Jose or Liberia. San Jose usually offers the best options, and it’s a great place to start your vacation if you are interested in seeing the Arenal Volcano, Monteverde or the Central Pacific. If, on the other hand, you are able to find a good deal to Liberia (which are becoming more common), it’s perfect for a beach vacation as Liberia is much closer to all the beaches in the North Pacific of Costa Rica. Even if you wait to get flights until after you plan your trip, it’s good to know what to expect for availability and cost. And if you find an amazing deal, don’t sleep on it—they don’t last long!
For the best beaches, we suggest the North Pacific Coast. Tamarindo is one of the most popular beaches in this area. It can get pretty crowded, but it has lots of restaurants, shops, and other facilities. Alternatively, we love the quiet area near Playa Avellanas (just south of Tamarindo). It’s more rustic down here and less developed, but easily accessible by car and a great place to relax and enjoy the Pura Vida lifestyle!

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.


The La Fortuna Waterfall is one of the top waterfalls to visit in Costa Rica. There are multiple ways to get to the hiking trail, one being via horseback, where you will then walk down 500 steps to the basin of the waterfall; La Fortuna Waterfall is 230 feet (70 meters) high! The raw power of this waterfall is mesmerizing. After hiking down, you can swim in the pool beneath the cascade of water, which is an incredible experience in and of itself. The surrounding forest is stunning and it is likely that you will see toucans, butterflies, monkeys, and sloths.
Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) is near Liberia in the Guanacaste province. This airport is closest to the Pacific Northwest coast. Liberia receives flights from Delta, American, Southwest, Sun Country, United, JetBlue, Air Canada, Westjet, CanJet (charter), Sun Wing (charter), and First Choice (charter). Connecting the airport with Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Newark, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, London, etc. The new terminal is open and is a wonderful addition to this airport.
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.
“On my Sunday radio program, I’ve several times mentioned the attractive price of $995 per person plus airfare for a 10-day, fully-escorted trip to Costa Rica offered thoughout the year by the distinguished Chicago tour operator called Caravan Tours. The price includes all accommodations, all meals, and all motorcoach sightseeing and transportation...highly affordable vacations. ” ‘The Travel Show with Arthur Frommer’
Accommodations in the hotels and lodges are rooms with two beds and private bath or shower. A limited number of single rooms are available. Triple rooms are usually two beds, sometimes with a cot or rollaway. On your Costa Rica tour, Caravan sometimes uses more than one hotel or lodge in a given area. Although each property is wonderfully different and may have many unique features, Caravan's goal is to offer a comparable overall selection so that you can experience the same enjoyment regardless of which property combination you find on your actual tour departure. Scheduled Caravan sightseeing will be the same from all the hotels.
These men’s Vaha pants are lightweight and weigh nothing in a carry-on bag. I could literally live in these pants if it were acceptable to wear them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner out. While in the Costa Rica, they were a wardrobe staple for nighttime as they are appropriate to wear barefoot out to a restaurant or bar while covering our legs from the pesky mosquitos.

San José’s Juan Santamaría Airport (SJO) sits smack-dab in the middle of the country and makes a convenient, centrally located arrival and departure point for most visitors. But if you’re spending all your time in northern Costa Rica, say, lazing on a north Pacific beach with a trip to the Arenal volcano, you have a second option: Daniel Oduber Airport (LIR) lies just outside the small northwestern city of Liberia and receives flights from all the major airlines too. Fares do skew slightly higher to Liberia, but you’ll save a lot of overland hours to and from San José. Both airports are capricious places—upon departure, you might breeze through check-in and security in 15 minutes, or you may encounter lines stretching out the door. Whether or not you abide by the recommended three-hour advance check-in depends on your aversion to risk.
There are also miles of quiet coastline and pristine beaches to explore (some of them are among the best beaches in Costa Rica), plus activities like mountain bike riding, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and horseback riding. Birdwatchers can find much of interest in this part of the country too. Easy to see why this part of the country is among Costa Rica attractions.
Whether in Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Santa Theresa, or Tamarindo, Costa Rica has a lot of waves and lots of places to learn to surf. In fact, most travelers come here to surf because the waves are world renowned. If you never learned but always wanted to try and Australia, Hawaii, or Bali seem too far, this is your best place to in the region to learn.
Many Costa Rican roads are in terrible shape, and short distances can take a very long time. Even the only road in and out of popular tourist destinations are riddled with major potholes. To avoid potholes, drivers will often snake through the left and right lanes, usually returning to the right when oncoming traffic approaches. While this may seem erratic, you can become quickly accustomed to it. If you see a tree branch or pole poking out of the middle of a road, that is a "sign" that there is a deep sinkhole, pothole or manhole without a cover. Stay away from it.
These men’s Vaha pants are lightweight and weigh nothing in a carry-on bag. I could literally live in these pants if it were acceptable to wear them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner out. While in the Costa Rica, they were a wardrobe staple for nighttime as they are appropriate to wear barefoot out to a restaurant or bar while covering our legs from the pesky mosquitos.
Bird Watching - One of the most wonderful activities for people who love nature is bird watching. You can enjoy bird watching in many areas of Costa Rica. Due to the great diversity of climates, temperatures and forest types in Costa Rica, there is a wonderful variety of birds, with over 800 species. Some helpful books available on bird watching are Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch (Cornell University Press) or An Illustrated Field Guide to Birds of Costa Rica, illustrated by Victor Esquivel Soto. These books can be found at certain bookstores in San José or before coming to Costa Rica. They are both heavy books; many people tear out the plates of the Stiles & Skutch book to carry into the field and leave the rest of the book in their car or room. Plastic cards with the most common birds are available for many areas and are sold at gift shops.
The Del Toro waterfall is Costa Rica’s largest and most spectacular waterfall. The sheer magnitude and power of this waterfall that appears out of the dense jungle will surely take your breath away. There are great trails and lookout points throughout the property surrounding the waterfall. Visiting the Del Toro Waterfall is an amazing way to spend the day surrounded by nature. This is also a chance to see an abundance of wildlife. If you are only going to visit one waterfall on your trip, visit this one.
Like the rest of Central America, Costa Rica never fought for independence from Spain. On 15 September 1821, after the final Spanish defeat in the Mexican War of Independence (1810–21), the authorities in Guatemala declared the independence of all of Central America. That date is still celebrated as Independence Day in Costa Rica[40] even though, technically, under the Spanish Constitution of 1812 that had been readopted in 1820, Nicaragua and Costa Rica had become an autonomous province with its capital in León.
×