Costa Rica Travel Guide
Meet the “happiest people in the world” whilst exploring the beauty of this small country that packs a big heart.
Costa Rica offers a rich diversity, not only in nature and wildlife, but also as a culture.
Pura Vida; not only a phrase, but this proud nation’s way of living.
Why Visit Costa Rica?
Vacation… Upon hearing this word, the mind evokes images of white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, palm trees, hammocks and perhaps a refreshing fruity cocktail. For others, the word vacation awakens their adventurous side and the desire try something new. Whether you call it vacation, holiday, or something else, we all need a little time away from the daily grind of work, school, meetings, and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A little escape does the body, mind, and soul a world of good. But where can you go unwind? Where can you travel to both relax and experience new adventures?
Popular Destinations in Costa Rica
One country, two different worlds. Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts not only have different seasons, but also offer different, even contrasting vibes. Discover each unique and exotic destination while admiring the awe-inspiring natural beauty of this small nation and being captivated by its charming culture. Explore the cloud forest in Monteverde, discover the raw beauty of Tortuguero and the ever-vibrant Caribbean Coast, surf the gnarly waves of the Pacific Ocean, or observe the electrifying volcano in Arenal – Costa Rica offers unending possibilities. Certainly, you’ll want to see everything that this natural jewel has to offer. However, it can be challenging to know what activities are possible within the timeframe of your visit. Browse our recommended trips further down this page, or contact us via our Trip Planner page and it will be our pleasure to take care of planning a trip to Costa Rica with all the details for you. The Vacation Planner is an ideal, stress-free way to discover the land of Pura Vida!
The Southern Caribbean, an endless stretch of pristine beaches and untouched rainforest. Puerto Viejo and its laid back atmosphere make many to stay longer than planned. Discover the coast to Manzanillo by bike or hike the Cahuita National Park which also offers great snorkeling.
Arenal stands for hot springs and the most famous volcano in Costa Rica. Monteverde is best known for its incredible Cloud Forest. But the Northern Zone has more to offer. Take some time to discover Rio Celeste, Caño Negro and the volcano range around Tenorio National Park.
A unique combination of wildlife and beautiful beaches, both to be found in the Manuel Antonio National Park. But the Central Pacific coast offers more than only this famous park, you can find rural towns, hidden waterfalls and big crocodiles.
The center of San Jose offers some hidden gems which are worth spending a night in the Central Valley. If you have more time, discover one of the surrounding volcanoes or get taught the secrets of coffee.
Tortuguero is also called the Amazon of Central America. Observe wildlife on a boat gliding through the canals or be part of the one in a lifetime experience, turtle nesting. The Northern Caribbean is known for deep untouched jungle and remote villages in the rainforest.
Fancy surfer towns, bays with calm water to snorkel, endless beaches and small villages are some of the highlights of this area. The Peninsula Nicoya has preserved a lot of its traditional character whilst along the coast you can experience a fusion of cultures.
Gauchos, waves and incredible sunsets, this is Guanacaste. This dry and sunny region, with one beautiful beach following the other, is one of the more developed coast lines in Costa Rica.
Nicaragua, our neighbor in the north, is considered one of the safest countries in the Americas. It is home to cultural highlights such as Granada and Leon, tiny tropical islands and an unspoiled coastline. Poetry and revolution are its passions. Smoking volcanoes and pristine lakes, Nicaragua indeed deserves the name “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes”.
The archipelago of Bocas del Toro is one of the highlights in Panama and also easily and fast accessible from Costa Rica. Our neighbor in the south also offers mist-capped highlands, turquoise seas and a cosmopolitan capital, Panama City, where you can find great shopping options as well as the world famous Panama Canal.
General Information About Costa Rica
With a climate that is diverse and varied, Costa Rica can be divided into several climatic zones. Because of the large number of
microclimates across the country, each zone has a different “best” time to visit. Overall, the weather can be thought of as a dry season and a wet or rainy season. Regardless of where in Costa Rica you visit, with about 12 hours of sunshine a day, the sun rises at about
5:45 am and sets at about 5:45 pm consistently throughout the year and the country.
Remember to keep in mind as we mentioned before that Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is rather unique and has its own microclimate. With trade winds keeping the weather hot and humid most of the year, there is no real dry season out here and it can rain even in dry season.
San José and Central Valley weather: Temperate climate. Dry season from December to April.
Manuel Antonio and Central Pacific weather: Manuel Antonio, Jacó and Puntarenas weather is very similar: hot and humid with some rains from June to November.
Arenal and Norhtern Lowlands weather: Humidity is expected in this area, but drier weather is from May until November.
Monteverde weather: Forests and high elevation mean a lot of rain and humidity.
Caribbean (Northern and Southern) weather: Rainy season here is opposite of other Costa Rican zones. The wet season is from July to August and from November to January.
Southern Pacific and Osa weather: September and October have consistent rain. Many hotels close for these months. During the dry season from December to March, it’s sunnier and therefore a bit hotter.
|San Jose and Central Valley||December to April||May to November|
|Guanacaste||December to April||May to November|
|Nicoya Peninsula||December to April||May to November|
|Manuel Antonio and Central Pacific||December to April||May to November|
|Arenal Volcano and Northern Lowlands||December to April||May to November|
|Monteverde Area||January to May||June to September; Nov and Dec windy|
|Tortuguero and Northern Caribbean||February to June, September and October||November to January, July to August|
|Puerto Viejo and Southern Caribbean||February to June, September and October||November to January, July to August|
|Peninsula Osa and Southern Pacific||December to April||May to November|
The official currency of Costa Rica is the Colon. However, most places will accept either US Dollars or Colones. It is not recommended to exchange money to Colones before visiting the country. Should you decide to exchange money before your arrival, it is recommend to only exchange a small amount. Costa Rica has many ATM/cash machines throughout each destination area, and many have the option of USD or Colones (CRC). It is recommended that before beginning your trip, you withdraw (3) to six (6) days worth of cash in USD in $20 denominations or smaller and bring that with you to Costa Rica. Canadian dollars and Euros are generally not accepted.
To avoid exchange rate fees, pay for items priced in USD with USD and those priced in Colones with Colones. Generally, change from a purchase with USD will be returned in Colones. Because of this, there is really no need to visit a Currency Exchange after a few days. If you choose to pay for items with your debit/credit card, be aware that there are usually fees associated with these purchases. These fees vary by bank. It is advisable to bring two (2) different cards in case one is eaten by an ATM, lost, or stolen. Please check with your bank before going abroad to ensure your cards will work in Costa Rica and to add travel advisories in case of fraud alerts.
Safety is important wherever you travel. Although Costa Rica is generally considered safer than many other countries, especially in Central America, it’s still prudent to exercise common sense and caution. You can think of travelling to Costa Rica as travelling to a large city in North America. Maintain awareness of your surroundings at all times. When out, do not carry your passport; carry a copy. Avoid walking alone at night. Do not leave your bags or belongings unattended in public. Exert caution when carrying bags or when you have valuables in your pockets. It is not recommended to carry large amounts of cash or valuables on your person. If confronted by a thief, do not resist. Try to stay calm, give them what they want, and they are unlikely to hurt you. Most victims of theft are injured when they try to fight back. Crimes like kidnapping, murders, robberies, and sexual assaults are not committed frequently against foreigners.
If you decide to rent a car, don’t leave any valuables unattended in your car, including the trunk. Additionally, a common scam is to puncture your car tires and then when you pull over, some people will come and “offer help”. They then try and divert your attention while one of them takes off with your belongings. Keep driving if possible and pull over where there are more people around, ideally at a gas station, police station, or restaurant. A similar trick is to gently bump the back of your car in attempt to get you to pull over. In this case, do not stop. Simply continue on to a safe place.
Traditional cuisine (comida tipica) and international cuisine are prevalent in any area of Costa Rica. Typical Costa Rican food is simple but delicious. Costa Rica has a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables which can be found at farmer’s markets across the country. Many spices and herbs are used in typical food, the most common of which is a famous sauce known as Salsa Lizano.
The most common breakfast of choice for Ticos is Gallo Pinto, the national dish of rice, black beans, onions, red pepper, and cilantro. This is usually served with eggs either sunny side up or scrambled, bread with butter or “natilla,” which is similar to sour cream, a cup of coffee and/or a cup of fresh juice.
Eat This, Not That recently ranked Costa Rica as #6 in the world for healthy breakfast. Mike Dunphy explains:
Black beans—and the heavy amounts of iron, zinc, potassium, thiamin, and folate inside—play a central role in breakfast here. Mixed with rice, spiced with cumin, pepper, and garlic, Gallo Pinto often comes with eggs on the side and a host of vitamin-rich tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, papaya, and plantains. The breakfast might have a lot to do with Costa Rica’s ‘Blue Zone’ designation, given to countries with long-living populations.
Lunches and dinners in Costa Rica are very similar and quite well balanced meals. The most common is called a “casado” (“married man’s dish”). A casado includes some type of meat such as beef, chicken, pork, fish, or other seafood, a side salad, rice, black beans, and fried plantains served with a natural fruit juice. These casados range in price from $4 to $6, on average. If you are unsure about where to eat, the general rule is to eat where you see many locals eating. This is generally a good indication that meals are economical, tasty, and trustworthy. A few must-try recommendations for foodies while exploring Costa Rica include: Rice and Beans with Pollo Caribeño (Caribbean style chicken), Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken), Chifrijo, Tamales (Christmas time only), Picadillos, Tortilla Alignada (corn tortilla with sour cream), Arroz con Leche (milk rice), Tres Leches (sweet dessert) and Granizados (Costa Rican way of slushies).
Imported drinks may be expensive, and the national beers are quite popular and refreshing on a sunny day. The most popular national beers include Pilsen and Imperial but the craft beer scene is on the rise.
Tap water in Costa Rica is drinkable and, in many areas of the country, quite good. However, if you are just visiting and not accustomed to the local tap water, it’s recommended to refrain from drinking the tap water in beach destinations. A general rule is to avoid drinking tap water in the provinces of Limon, Puntarenas and Guanacaste as that is where you find the coast.
What is the norm for tipping in Costa Rica?
Should you feel that you received an exceptional level of service, tips are always welcomed and appreciated. How much you leave is certainly your decision, but usually at least 10% is a good rule of thumb. As official guides in Costa Rica must complete special schooling and certification to perform their job, it is especially nice for them to receive tips.
By law, restaurants must add the 13% sales tax and 10% tip to their menu prices. If for some reason these are not included in the menu prices, the restaurant is obligated to advise patrons (usually on the bottom of the menu or posted on signs).
When thinking of tipping for transportation services, it is typical to consider the length of your journey. If you only take a short-medium length taxi ride, it is not necessary to tip. However, for longer trips in a shuttle/van, leaving a tip is more common. After all, driving in Costa Rica is no easy task!
Costa Ricans will go out of their way to ensure you enjoy your visit and that everything is Pura Vida, so any gratuity you decide to leave will surely be appreciated!
Costa Rica has some of the best healthcare in Latin America and has the lion’s share of Latin America’s “Medical Tourism” market. There are two systems, both of which residents and citizens can access: the government-run universal healthcare system, Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (the “Caja”), and the private system.
There are three large, private hospitals that most expatriates in the Central Valley utilize: CIMA hospital in Escazú, Clínica Bíblica in San José, and Hospital La Católica in San José-Guadalupe. All these facilities are in and around the capital of the country, San José. Even if you do not have private insurance, costs are low. Doctors, for instance, rarely charge more than $80 a visit, even for house calls. And visits to see a specialist, of which there are many throughout the country, will run you $80 to $150. Tests like ultrasounds are generally around $150-200. Even major surgeries cost half to a quarter of what they’d be in the U.S. Most major pharmacies have a doctor on the premises. In the case of illness or medical issue, most Costa Ricans head to the pharmacy first and consult with the pharmacist or doctor on staff. If he or she cannot diagnose them or they believe further treatment is needed, they then head to the hospital.
Three of the main diseases extant in Costa Rica are transmitted from mosquitoes: Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue fever. Although these diseases are not very prevalent in Costa Rica, they do still exist and therefore, prevention is always advisable. The main preventative measure for each is avoiding mosquito bites. Wear long sleeves and long pants in infested areas, stay indoors around dusk when mosquitoes are most active, sleep under mosquito netting, and use an effective repellent (DEET). Many people infected with Zika virus do not feel sick. If a mosquito bites an infected person while the virus is still in that person’s blood, it can spread the virus by biting another person. Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from Costa Rica should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so that they do not spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes.
Another health consideration to take while travelling is altitude sickness. Depending on where you will spend your time, several Costa Rican attractions sit at an altitude above 8,000 feet (2,500 meters). This is high enough to trigger mild altitude sickness, especially if you are acclimated to sea level. Symptoms include headache, disorientation, nausea, and irregular breathing. It is recommended to gradually adjust to higher elevations as to prevent altitude sickness. Move to lower elevation as soon as possible and the symptoms should ease. If they don’t, seek medical attention.
With so many activities to do, what to pack can be a challenge. It boils down to what you are doing during your time in Costa Rica. Kids add a few more items to be prepared for. Here is a checklist of items that are most likely to be used if you are doing a broad range of adventures.
We recommend quick drying
3-5 T-shirts, one or two long sleeved
2-3 pairs of shorts or convertible pants and one long pant
1-2 dressy shirts and slacks or dresses
Jacket or sweater for cooler temperatures in elevation or the cool coastal evenings
Swimsuit(s) and beach coverup
Underwear and Socks
Hat or visor
Bag for dirty clothes. Some hotels do have washers/dryers but expect to pay per item or by weight.
Dressy sandals or lightweight dress shoes
Money belt or passport pendant-somewhere to carry your documents
Passport including copies
Money (US Dollars) and credit/debit card (Ensure you have alerted your bank about travelling)
Insurance card and contact information (A Travel insurance is recommended)
Water bottle or bag
Camera and Binoculars
Glasses, contact lenses and cleaning solutions (Recommended to pack a spare set)
First Aid Kit (Basic)
Personal prescriptions should be filled before you leave home
Band aids®/ bandages
Eye drops or artificial tears
Imodium® OTC or Lomotil® (by prescription in the US) to treat diarrhea
Dramamine® or other motion sickness prevention
Neosporin® (over the counter) or terramycin® (by prescription in the US) to prevent infection of small cuts, scrapes, and insect bites
Tweezers- needle point/surgical
Insect repellent- > 95% DEET for mosquitoes
Pain relievers/fever reducers (Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and/or Aspirin)
Sunscreen- at least SPF 30, waterproof
Items to leave home
Other than your most basic key, don’t bring them!
Wallet and Purse contents – only carry what you really need. A debit card and some cash. Leave spare debit/credit card and cash at your hotel.
Sheets/Sleep sack-great for hostels in Europe, but not necessary in Central America.
If you’re visiting from the U.S. or Canada, you can leave the electric converters and plug adapters at home. The current and plugs are the same.
The main international airport, known as Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO in airport codes), is located near San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Be careful when booking flights to and from San Jose as the name and airport code are very similar to that of San Jose, California. The exact location of this airport is in Alajuela, about 10 miles from San Jose. We can arrange transportation to and from the airport. We can also arrange private shuttle transportation to anywhere in Costa Rica. Should you decide to take a taxi from the airport, please be sure to only use the official orange taxis and discuss the cost prior to getting in for the ride.
The other international airport is located in Liberia, Guanacaste. Operating under the name Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR in airport codes), this airport is located about 7 miles west of the city of Liberia. Due to its proximity to dozens of beaches, this airport is ideal for those wishing to visit Guanacaste and the Northern Pacific coast.
Both airports are in the process of expanding its number of daily flights, as well as the number of airlines that provide service, so be sure to shop around for the best deals!
Considering the extensive and unparalleled beauty of Costa Rica’s flora and fauna, the country decided to declare around 25% of its landmass as protective parks and reserves in 1970. This was a measure taken in attempt to safeguard the lush, unique ecological zones of the nation from deforestation and logging. This movement led to creating 32 national parks, 51 wildlife refuges, 13 forest reserves and 8 biological reserves.
Most national parks and reserves are easily accessible from anywhere in the country and offer affordable entrance fees. Because of the large quantity and accessibility of protected lands, Costa Rica stands out as the perfect destination for those who enjoy being surrounding by Mother Nature’s untouched, uninterrupted splendor. With Costa Rica’s natural masterpiece of 12 key ecological zones and 5% of the world’s biodiversity, Costa Rica is often referred to as ‘the living Eden’ by many scientists and naturalists from around the world.
Costa Rica also boasts 4 areas that have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. These areas include the Conservation Area of Guanacaste, La Amistad (Friendship) International Park, Cocos Island and the Stone Spheres. These areas are all a special treat to experience in real life, but it’s important to note that Cocos Island can only be accessed after receiving special permission from the Costa Rican government and does not have any places for tourists to stay.
Below you can find a brief description of some the Costa Rica’s most spectacular national parks and protected areas.
Arenal Volcano National Park
Throughout the world, Volcano hikes are becoming more popular than ever. Despite being considered “dormant”, Arenal volcano erupted in 2010 and is now considered one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanos. Another area highlight is Lake Arenal, which generates 40% of Costa Rica’s hydroelectric power.
Cahuita National Park
Cahuita National Park is one of the most amazing national parks in the country and protects Costa Rica’s biggest coral reef. Encompassing a land area of just 1,067 hectares, this national park protects over 22,400 hectares of ocean and marine life, and is one of the most gorgeous regions in the entire country. Other common underwater inhabitants here include; sea urchins, angel queen fish, blue parrot fish, green turtles, eels, barracudas, sea cucumbers, shrimps, lobsters, sponges, manta rays, remoras, 3 species of sharks and Carey turtles. Among the many mammals found on land are sloths, opossums, monkeys, coatimundis, frogs, pacas, iguanas, basilisks, porcupines and several bird species including ibises, herons, gulls and kingfishers. There are several ecological zones present within the park, including a swamp forest, rainforest, littoral woodlands and coastal flora. Cahuita National Park is also unique in that it is the only National Park with the distinction of not charging an entrance fee but rather relying on donations.
Carara National Park
Bordering the Pan-American Highway, a rare feature of this park is that the Amazonian and Mesoamerican ecosystems converge here to form a distinct biological reserve where the climates of the dry, Pacific North meet the humid Southern coast. This national park is home to several ecosystems such as marshlands, lagoons, and gallery forests. Monkeys, crocodiles, armadillos, peccaries, waterfowls, opossums, sloths, boas, coati, kinkajou, tayra, margay cats, jaguars, white tail deer and ocelots can be found here, as well as a wide assortment of birds and other reptiles and amphibians. The Carara National Park is also one of the few places where visitors can get to see the rare Scarlet Macaws, Jacamars, and Trogons.
Corcovado National Park
Mostly undisturbed because of its isolation and inaccessibility, it is home to the beautiful Scarlet Macaws as well as the Resplendent Quetzals, the Red-Eyed Tree Frog and the Tapir, the largest terrestrial mammal in Central and South America. Encompassing over 41,000 hectares the park protects over 140 different mammal species; 400 bird species, 20 of which are endemic; 116 amphibian and reptile species, 40 species of fish and at least 500 species of trees. Habitat of the rare Harbor Squirrel Monkey and the Harpy Eagle, the Corcovado Park also is a great place to spot the poison arrow frog, indigenous wild cats, crocodiles, pumas and jaguars as well as four species of sea turtles.
Gandoca – Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife reserve is very important because it contains the only intact mangrove swamp in the Atlantic, and the primary lowland small rainforest found here is the only one of its kind in the region. A unique habitat, this reserve includes a 10 kilometer beach strip, a 740 acre forest, a coral reef and 2 swamps. The Refugio Gandoca Manzanillo is also the nesting area for several species of turtles, manatees, crocodiles, caimans, tarpons and dolphins. The turtle nesting season here lasts from March to May.
Manuel Antonio National Park
The most popular national park in Costa Rica, the Manuel Antonio National Park is the most visited park in the country. The snorkeling here is terrific, while swimming conditions on some of the beaches in the park are fantastic. The four beaches here include; the Espadilla Sur, the Playita, the Manuel Antonio, and the Escondido. Of these the Playa Manuel Antonio is the prettiest beach with silky white sand and a stunning offshore coral reef.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
Extending across eight distinct biological zones, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is home to more than thousands of species of plants and animals. The most popular birds in this region are the elusive quetzal and the three-wattled bellbird. Discover the flora and fauna, including jaguars, toucanets, pumas, monkeys and the red-eyed tree frogs. There are also 420 species of orchids and 200 species of ferns.
Palo Verde National Park
This remote sanctuary spans more than 45,492 acres of land that includes lagoons, mangroves, limestone, grassland and forests. Additionally, Palo Verde protects one of the last remaining deciduous dry forests of the Neotropics. In addition to the substantial number of bird species, visitors to Palo Verde National Park will also see their fair share of animals, including some of Costa Rica’s treasured mammals like the howler and capuchin monkeys. White-nosed coatis and white-tailed deer can also be found within the park’s grounds.
Rincón de la Vieja National Park
Rincon is home to two volcanoes, the Rincon de la Vieja and the Santa Maria, as well as six different volcanic peaks, and thirty-two rivers and streams. Perfect for hiking and horseback ridin, the park contains fantastic sceneries, beautiful waterfalls, soothing hot springs, boiling mud pits, a fresh water volcanic lagoon, picnic areas and long-winding trails.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
Comparatively less crowded, one can enjoy the beauty that this cloud forest has offer at his/her own pace and take in the scenic splendor of the surrounding area. As it is a cloud forest, the weather here tends to be misty, moist and damp all year round. Aside from a small restaurant, coffee shop and gift/souvenir store, there is not much else to do on the reserve, except enjoy the quiet beauty of this cloud forest. Beside day tours, night time hikes can also be arranged.
Tenorio Volcano National Park
Named after the Tenorio Volcano, this national park has river views and plenty of opportunities for wildlife adventures. The park features four different life zones as well as the beautiful aqua-hued Rio Celeste. This park is considered one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets as well as one of the best places for hikers. Not only can travelers trek alongside the stunningly beautiful Rio Celeste while enjoying an abundance of flora and fauna.
Tortuguero National Park
Frequented by tourists from all over the world, the Parque Nacional Tortuguero is another significant turtle nesting site in Costa Rica. Among the most important nesting areas in the Western Hemisphere of the endangered green turtle, the stunning Parque Nacional Tortuguero lies on Costa Rica’s beautiful Caribbean coast in the northeastern region of the country. Home to around 170 species of reptiles and amphibians, this park is also the habitat of 60 species of mammals and 300 different species of birds as well. Tortuguero which means ‘Region of Turtles’ in Spanish is nesting ground for sea turtles every year from March to mid-October. This nesting period known as the arribadas occurs when the moon is fading. Therefore, if you wish to see these turtles nest, it will be after 6:00 pm with a guide, as no one is allowed to explore the beach unaccompanied after this time. A great way to see the turtles nest is from a boat, canoe, or kayak off shore, so as not to disturb the turtles during their nesting or mating period.
How do tips works in Costa Rica? I heard they are included.
10% service tax is generally included in restaurants and bars but an additional tip is welcomed if you feel you received a good service. Usually in Costa Rica, both the tip and the tax is included in the price you see for each item on a menu. However, it is a bit more common in heavily touristed areas for these charges to be added onto the bill later. This information will be indicated on the menu, so it’s always prudent to carefully read the menu. Cleaning staff, bellhops, tour guides and drivers do not receive this 10% tip, so it is requested (but not mandatory) to tip them after the service.
Does the shared shuttle take longer than the private shuttle?
Yes it does. The private vans take the passengers directly from their requested pickup to drop-off points. However, shared shuttles have to pickup and drop off at many different locations for various clients. Additional time is set aside for snack and bathroom breaks, typically about 15-20 minutes. In general, there is an additional transportation time of about 45 minutes to an hour.
How long it takes to exit the airport?
On average, it takes 45 to 60 minutes to exit the Juan Santamaria/San Jose Airport. However, we have experienced cases in which clients do not exit the airport until 1 1/2 or even 2 hours after landing. This is not common, but certainly can happen. The exit time depends on the time of year, time of day, and how many other passengers are also going through Immigration and Customs. Flights that arrive in Costa Rica around the 12:00 noon hour can expect to take a bit longer to exit the airport than flights arriving at other times of the day. Christmas time/end of year and the week leading up to Easter (Holy Week, or “Semana Santa”), also experience longer airport exit times than the rest of the year.
Due to the smaller size Liberia airport, the exit time is generally quite short and can be a little as 15-20 minutes some days.
How long prior to my flight departure should I be on the airport?
We recommend to be at the about 3 hours prior departure in order to check-in, pass through security, and find your gate.
What happen if a book a shared shuttle and I am delay with my flight?
Because there are other passengers, shared shuttles are only authorized to wait 10 minutes after the assigned pick up time. If you do not show up in time, it will be considered as a no show and no refund applies.
Do I need to carry Costa Rica currency?
Most hotels and restaurants accept US Dollars and return the change in Costa Rican Colones. This is not always done at the current exchange rate (sometimes done at a rate of 500 colones to 1 dollar), so it is best to ask before making purchases. It is generally advised to pay in dollars when prices are listed in dollars and to pay in colones when prices are listed in colones. Since many places accept dollars, it is generally not necessary to have a large amount of colones. If you decide to exchange any currency for colones, we recommend doing so at a bank where the exchange rate is the best. Just don’t forget to bring your passport to the bank as the bank does not accept a copy of your passport as a valid ID.
When is the latest that I can book a shared shuttle service?
We recommend to book at least 48 to 72 hours prior departure time in order to avoid problems. During high tourist season, shared shuttles can be full if you wait too long.
How is Costa Rica weather, what is the best time to travel?
For most parts of the country except the Caribbean, the rainy season is generally May – November with the dry season being December – April. The Pacific Coast has a dry season (November – April) and a rainy season (May – October). The further north you go up the Pacific, the drier the climate and the shorter the rainy season. In this region, the peak of the rainy season is September and October. Further down south, you have a longer rainy season, but it’s usually dry in the morning and then starts raining in the afternoon.
The Caribbean coast does not have a distinct wet and dry season. There is rain and sun all year long, with months where the sun wins and months where the rain wins. Typically, November, December and July are the rainiest months. Best time to visit is September and October, followed by March, April and June.
Which vaccines are required to enter Costa Rica?
While there are no specific vaccines required to enter Costa Rica, your country should have a list of recommended travel vaccines. We recommend ensuring you have been vaccinated against Hepatitis A ,Typhoid, and are current on your Tetanus shots. One exception to the “no vaccines required” rule is if you are coming from a Yellow Fever country. In this case, Customs will not allow you entry unless you can show your vaccination card for Yellow Fever.
Is Malaria a problem?
No, Malaria is not common. However, if you are concerned, please speak with your doctor about obtaining antimalarial treatment. Protecting yourself against mosquito bites is the first step to avoiding a mosquito-borne illness.
Will the restaurants accept credit card payments?
Yes, the majority of restaurants and supermarkets do accept credit or debit card payments. However, do expect that in rural areas and smaller towns, as well as in some sodas (local restaurants), only cash will be accepted and getting change for large bills may be impossible. It’s advised to carry dollars in denominations of $20 or less as many establishments cannot accept $50 or $100 US bills.
Do I need to carry cash for my whole trip or are there ATM machines everywhere?
We do not recommend carrying large amounts of cash. There are usually ATMs or cash machines in each town. However, if you go off the beaten track, make sure to bring enough cash. Please check with your bank as some Costa Rican banks do not accept debit cards or certain type of credit cards. Be sure to ask your bank about a travel notice so they do not block your card.
What is the cost of the exit tax at the airport?
The exit fee is $29 and it can be paid in dollars, colones, or by credit card. However, please check with your airline because it may be included in your ticket price. As of October 2016, some airlines have already begun including the Exit Fee in the cost of their flights from Costa Rica. If your airline does not icnlude the exit tax, you will need to wait in line at the airport to pay this tax before you will be allowed to check-in with your airline.
Can I go with my rental car to Nicaragua or Panama?
Unfortunately not. In order to drive into another country with a vehicle, you must be the registered owner or have a notarized permission to drive the vehicle. This is not an option with most rental car agencies.