As previously mentioned many Costa Rican roads are dirt and mud so if you add in a little rain to that they will quickly become impassable. We visited at the beginning of the rainy season in May and had absolutely no trouble driving. Although it did rain a bit more than we liked the lush jungle scenery was gorgeous, prices were cheaper, and it was indeed less busy than in the dry season.
Tabacon Hot Springs is the largest accessible network of natural hot springs in Costa Rica. The pools are located within a private rainforest reserve and part of the Tabacon Thermal Resort. You don’t have to stay there in order to use the hot springs, though: you can purchase a day pass. The highly mineralized and naturally heated water flows through the resort and fills multiple pools that vary in temperature. It is quite a relaxing experience to soak in a natural hot tub in the midst of lush landscape up in the mountains.
Costa Ricans do not eat tacos and enchiladas. Well, they do eat them, but only when they’re dining out at a Mexican restaurant. At its most basic, Costa Rican cuisine is hearty, inexpensive, filling, and not spicy. You’ll certainly get your share of chicken and pork and rice and beans. Indeed, you’ll swear that gallo pinto (literally “spotted rooster”), the country’s signature dish, is following you everywhere. Give this mix of rice, black beans, and finely chopped vegetables a try, and dress it up, Costa Rican style, with tortillas and sour cream. Some chefs here are doing amazing things with local and international cuisine, especially in locales with large foreign populations, such as San José, the Pacific coast’s Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo, and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean side.
Mauricio Ventura, Minister of Tourism, explained : “2016 was the year of the airlines. Costa Rica had never witnessed such an important increase in the arrival of new airlines, the growth of frequencies and the creation of new routes to the country. This strengthens the connectivity of the nation with the rest of the world, and this effort gave and will continue to generate, positive results. Therefore, it is essential that our tourism sector prepares even more to offer quality services that lead to rewarding experiences in the destination.”
You’ll find that people in Costa Rica are generally in less of a hurry than most North Americans or Europeans. This is particularly true on the east coast where a laidback, Caribbean attitude has been adopted thanks to a large population of migrant workers from Jamaica. Following what is affectionately known as “Tico time”, people will often be fashionably late, except for things with schedules – Tico time does not apply at work, the movies or the train station.
Similar to how it is done in the United States, there are apartments available in Costa Rica to rent for short-term (well, long-term for you but short-term as far as leases go). Apartments are great to rent if you want to get a really authentic feel for one of the major cities in Costa Rica, like San José or Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. With an apartment rental, you can be right in the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Costa Rican cities, instead of being housed away on a hotel property.
The waves can be a little rough out there and if you often get seasick, I’d stay away from this Costa Rica activity (or at least take some sea sickness pills before). A lot of beaches will have a place where you can rent sea kayaks. Our favorite spot is definitely at Playa Biesanz near Manuel Antonio. We rented a nice two-person sea kayak for only $12 an hour. Also, Thomas is dying to do some sea kayaking and fishing in Guanacaste. We’ll report back on that!
The Gulf de Papagayo is a well established dive location with three major diving options. Local diving, the Catalinas, and the Bat Islands are the options within the Gulf. Diving centers are mainly located around Playas del Coco and Playa Flamingo. Out of the three options, Bat Islands is probably the most exciting as this national marine park is home to the often feared bull sharks. The dive site "Big Scare" allows divers the chance to dive face to face with these sharks and is also home to other large pelagics such as manta rays and the occasional whale shark.
Manuel Antonio National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most famous parks, and one that should definitely not be missed. There are 1,680 acres of rainforests containing hiking trails that will take you through dense vegetation and out to white sand beaches. This is an incredibly picturesque place that is filled with all sorts of plants and animals – if you are on a search to see a three-toed sloth, this is where you will most likely find one. When you picture Costa Rica, you are probably picturing Manuel Antonio.
No matter how well you intend to keep yourself covered with insect repellent, mosquitos are elusive and an inescapable part of the travel experience, whether visiting the lowlands, coastlines, and valleys across Costa Rica. It is important to wear long pants, long sleeves, a hat, shoes, and fresh repellent, most notably at dusk when the mosquitos are their most active.
Our Wildlife Safaris, with the very best bilingual naturalist guides, can escort you into a variety of protected natural habitats, such as pristine rainforests, coastal canals, tropical dry forest, wetlands, and cloud forests to name just a few. Whether you are wanting to travel way into the wilderness or prefer being led into easier areas for mountain birdwatching and lowland river cruises, we offer excellent wildlife observation opportunities to choose from.
“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
Marijuana traffic, distribution and commerce is illegal in Costa Rica, despite recreational marijuana use being quite popular among locals, as there is absence of law when you carry marijuana for personal use quantities only (a few joints) although police could try to get money from you or keep you in the local commissary for up to 12 hours. The United States DEA is also present in Costa Rica and they have been known to disguise themselves as tourists. There is a Costa Rican equivalent of the DEA as well. It is not advised to do illegal drugs in Costa Rica. It is also not advised to bribe a police officer. Do so at your own risk.
At all the national parks you will be greeted by locals offering to be your guide. We have paid for a guide before at Manuel Antonio National Park and although I don’t regret it, it was also not necessary. The guides are great at spotting wildlife you might not otherwise see and most do carry quality scopes for up close viewing, but they don’t run cheap. I believe we paid $20 or more per person for a guide last time we were in Manuel Antonio. If you want to save some money skip the guide and just pay attention what other people in the park are looking at.
It should be easy to see all of Costa Rica in two weeks—the country is only the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, after all—but what’s that they say about the best-laid plans? Once you arrive, you’ll see how mountainous the center of the country is, and that the highway system leaves something to be desired. It takes a lot longer to get from place to place than you realize. Map out a couple of locales for a week or three or four stops in two weeks and get to know them well. You’ll appreciate that slower pace. And if you’re like many visitors, during your flight home, you’ll start planning ways you can get back to Costa Rica. What you didn’t see on your first trip, you’ll catch the next time around.
Located a few blocks west of La Sabana Park in the heart of San Jose, the Museo de Jade is an interesting and informative archaeological museum that traces the pre-Columbian history of Costa Rica. Not only will you find an impressive collection of jade jewelry and artifacts, you can also learn about why this particular stone was so revered throughout the history of the country and the part it played in trade. In addition to the jade collection, you can also see various decorative artifacts dating back to between 500BC and 800AD. You will probably need to spend about an hour to see most of the collection – entrance is free but admission is by appointment only.
Costa Rica hosts many refugees, mainly from Colombia and Nicaragua. As a result of that and illegal immigration, an estimated 10–15% (400,000–600,000) of the Costa Rican population is made up of Nicaraguans. Some Nicaraguans migrate for seasonal work opportunities and then return to their country. Costa Rica took in many refugees from a range of other Latin American countries fleeing civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s, notably from Chile and Argentina, as well as people from El Salvador who fled from guerrillas and government death squads.
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 2/5/16 - 2/12/16 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.
Register Your Trip with the State Department: Take a few minutes before you leave to register your journey with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. (Other countries’ foreign affairs offices should have similar services as well.) You’ll specify your arrival and departure dates, the purpose of your trip, your general itinerary, and identification details for everyone in your travel party. By registering ahead of time, you’ll alert local embassy or consulate staff to your plans and help them mount a speedier response should you run into trouble.
It is not realistic (or enjoyable) to be traveling a minimum of 7 hours for a day trip. If a week is all you have, come to terms with the fact that you won’t see it all and treat it like a little sneak preview. If you do have a limited time and want to make the most of it, check out our Costa Rica articles for loads of ideas. The Top 10 things To Do in Costa Rica will give you the ‘must-do’s’ for your trip and you can take your pick.
Did you know you can bring up to 5 liters of alcohol per person into Costa Rica? Yeap! It’s true. Alcohol is not that cheap here. If you plan on doing some drinking it may be best to bring your own (as long as you don’t mind lugging around alcohol bottles in your suitcase). You can buy alcohol from a duty-free shop in the airport at your departure location for some added savings. If you do buy alcohol in Costa Rica we suggest buying it at any of the mini markets you come across. As strange as it is, the hard at these mini markets is usually cheaper than in the supermarket. Also, if you like rum it is probably cheaper to buy it here than in your home country.
We had an amazing time and Geovanni our tour guide really enhanced our Costa Rica experience. It is amazing how much packed into one day. His stories and descriptions of the sites and the land and the history was phenomenal. His ability to relate to the children and engage them was also quite fantastic. We learned so much from Geovanni and had lots of fun. The driver Alex was great as well. I would highly recommend this trip to our friends & family. Thanks again Geovanni for making the trip memorable.
Let's go surfin now, everybody’s learning how, come on and safari with meeeee! With this classic song the Beach Boys introduced the idea of surfing to people around the world. Our Surfing Safaris, taught by dedicated expert surfers, will teach you either how to surf for the first time if you’re a beginner, or show an old pro some new board moves. If you’ve always wanted to try it, Costa Rica’s the place. Most people learn in one lesson. From regular rollers to epic waves, these ocean surf breaks rock! You’ll also enjoy traveling through the scenic countryside to get there. So what are you waiting for? Let’s go surfin now!
Many roads are unpaved, and even the paved roads have lots of unpaved sections and washed out or unfinished bridges. Bridges are often only wide enough for one vehicle; one direction usually has priority. Do not expect to get anywhere quickly; supposed three-hour journeys can turn into five or more hours easily: there are always slow cars/buses/trucks on the road. This causes a lot of crazy driving, which you begin to emulate if you are in-country for more than a day. The government does not seem to be fixing the infrastructure well (or at all!); 50km/h is good over unpaved roads. Some hotels located in the mountains require a four-wheel-drive vehicle to reach the destination. Call ahead. This is more for the ground clearance than the quality of the road. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are widely available at the car rentals near the airport, but call ahead.
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.
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)
Wildlife and bird lovers have to put a bird watching tour on their “things to do in Costa Rica’ list. Many hotels and tour companies offer bird watching tours, especially down in the Osa Peninsula, Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, Arenal and Monteverde as those are the top places to see a diverse amount of birds. They usually start around 530 AM since birds are more active in the morning and take you either to an observation platform or hiking around the forest.