Costa Rica is the perfect place to vacation. Despite only encompassing about 0.03% of the world’s total land mass, the country boasts some of the most spectacular sights and adventures for the traveler. It overflows with rainforests, volcanoes, rivers, valleys, and breathtaking beaches. This appropriately named “Rich Coast” offers many complex ecosystems, history, and traditional culture; all inviting you to experience them first-hand. What can you expect from a trip to Costa Rica? Imagine yourself surrounded by stunning scenery, amazing biodiversity, and the happiest people on Earth and you just might begin to get an idea.
At Locos4Travel we have created this travel guide full of tips and facts about costa rica, plus our good-humored video series to help you sort out your travel plans – and maybe inspire a chuckle or two. We hope you enjoy it!
Costa Rica travel tips
What should you pack? What can you expect when you travel to paradise? Maybe you’re wondering if there are manatees in Costa Rica, or where to take a coffee tour. It’s easy to get intimidated by all the questions that arise when traveling to a new country. Fear not! We are constantly posting great travel tips and helpful overviews of the country. (Oh, and the answer is yes, there are definitely manatees).
When to visit Costa Rica
Costa Rica is beautiful year-round and that’s a fact. However, if weather is a concern you can easily plan around it, as Costa Rica has only two seasons: Green and Sunny. The green season lasts from May to November (October and November are the months with heaviest rains), while the months of December though April have little to no rain.
As can be expected, the busiest times of the year are during the sunny months. These months are considered High Season and will be more expensive. The holidays will also increase the number of people in tourist areas; Christmas, New Year, and Easter Week are all very busy days so be sure to book your hotel room and tours in advance – especially if you’re headed to the beach.
What to pack
Remember that this is a tropical country. How does this affect your trip? In a nutshell: be prepared for rain. A sudden downpour can catch you anytime, anywhere. In these cases a good poncho or windbreaker can be your best friend. Sandals and impermeable shoes are also a good idea, especially in the more rural areas. The city can get chilly at night, so a pair of jeans and a hoodie are a good idea. But for the most part, you’ll be fine wearing shorts. Depending on where you’re staying, it’s also a good idea to bring your own towels and toiletries, but most hotels will provide the basics.
How to get around
Public transportation is cheap and easy to figure out. Experimenting with bus routes can be an adventure in itself, and you might find yourself becoming on expert navigator before long!
The roads are bumpy and winding, especially after a good rain, so driving in Costa Rica is always an adventure. A good GPS should help you puzzle out the country‘s byways – and remember to take your time. There’s no reason to hurry in Costa Rica, and the views from a car window are spectacular.
For travelers not in the mood for adventuring, there are also a large number of private shuttle companies that will get you anywhere you need to go. These will be more costly than public transportation but will get you there quickly and comfortably.
Facts about Costa Rica
Where is Costa Rica
Located in Central America, Costa Rica borders Nicaragua to the North, Panama to the South, the Pacific Ocean to the West and the Caribbean Sea to the East. Costa Rica’s size is small compared to most states in the U.S, with a land area of 19,653 square miles and 277 square miles off coast. Mountain ranges dominate the landscape in the center of the country, especially in the south. The highest peak is Cerro Chirripó, with an altitude of 12,500 feet. The northern region is covered with grassy plains and dry forests. To the east you will find the wet and dense rainforests. There are 14 known volcanoes, plus more than 100 volcanic cones. (Worry not – the rare eruptions are scenic, not dangerous).
Costa Rican biodiversity
This amazing country covers only 0.03% of the entire world’s landscape and yet it is home to 5% of the total species on the face of the Earth. More than 500,000 species of flora and fauna call it home, making it one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet.
Costa Rica Weather
Costa Rica enjoys warm tropical weather throughout most of the year. Its temperatures vary between a balmy (90º F.) to a cool (65º F.), but the average is a comfortable 76º F. The country is checkered with microclimates: Some regions are humid and moist, while others are dry and parched, and a few places are downright brisk. Just when you think you have the weather patterns figured out, you’ll find an exception. The Caribbean coast alone breaks all the meteorological rules.
During the “green season” (May-November) afternoon rains enrich plant life and the country blooms from coast to coast. This is the best season to see full foliage and beautiful forest flowers. (They’re not called rainforests for nothing!) Check our destinations travel guides about the weather in the specific area you will be visiting. Remember that Costa Rica is full of different microclimates, so it’s important to know what to expect and to be prepared before heading out! .
Costa Rica currency
The national currency is the Colón, printed on colorful bills. The Colón is very stable, and its value is about 500 to 550 colones to $1 USD. Many establishments also take U.S. currency, and you’ll find that prices are comparable to a reasonable North American city. (As in Cleveland, not New York). You can find a delicious typical Costa Rican meal for 1500 to 4000 colones ($3-$7).
Costa Rican food
Costa Rica has well-rounded traditional meals, drinkable tap water, and some of the tastiest coffee, chocolate, and tropical fruits in the world. Never had rice and beans for breakfast? Just wait – soon you’ll be ordering “gallo pinto” every morning. Steak, fish, or pork will most likely accompany your “Casado” for lunch; along with plantains, salad, and (you guessed it!) rice and beans. Don’t forget to add some of the local Lizano sauce to your dishes to add a little more flavor. And you can’t leave without trying the Patacones, Chifrijo, and Vigoron; all staples of the local cuisine. Costa Ricans eat lots of vegetables and fruits as well; so all you veggie travelers don’t panic. There is plenty for you as well!
Things to do in Costa Rica
It is said that the best things always come in small packages; this is certainly true for Costa Rica. Despite its small size, there are more activities for travelers than would seem possible! Are you looking for adventure or relaxation? Whether it is adrenaline you crave or peace and quiet, you’ll find it all here.
Zip-lining, canopy tours, rafting, surfing, horse-back riding, hiking, and snorkeling are just a few of the many activities that can be easily be booked while in the country.
We feel that Costa Rica has something for everybody: Alluring beaches on both coasts, majestic volcanoes, lush river plains, rainforests, rich wildlife, and diverse cultural groups. You can plan an exhilarating adventure of white-water rafting and zip-lining, or you could spend entire days lounging on a hammock. Whatever it is you’re looking for, you can find it here.
No matter what you plan to do, spend some time outdoors: 25% of the country's land mass is protected as various types of reserves and national parks. Costa Rica is a Shangri-La for sustainable development, renewable energy, and eco-friendliness. How committed is Costa Rica to the environment? The government hopes to make Costa Rica the first “carbon-neutral” country.
Life in Costa Rica
Costa Ricans call themselves “Ticos,” and their motto is “Pura Vida” (which basically means “life is good”). How good is the life here? Costa Rica has been rated as the happiest country on the planet, thanks to a high life expectancy (79 years), high quality of life, and careful environmental stewardship. “Pura Vida” might be the most easygoing philosophy there is – and you’re guaranteed to find pleasant and friendly folks wherever you go.
Costa Rica doesn’t have a military, ever since the army was abolished in 1948. Instead, the country invests in teachers, and the government works to provide the highest quality education possible. The result: a literacy rate of 96%, one of the best in the world. Foreign companies frequently open businesses here, taking advantage of a qualified work force, political stability, and proximity to the United States.
For such a small nation, Costa Rican culture is a cosmopolitan mix of Spanish, Afro-Caribbean, Native American, and even Asian influences. The beach towns of Limón are very different from the haciendas of Guanacaste, as are the urban neighborhoods of the Central Valley and the Tortuguero channels. We guarantee that, at some point, you’ll hardly believe you’re in the same country!