Thinking about planning your first trip to Costa Rica? Use our insider Costa Rica Travel Tips to make the most of your vacation. Famous for its spectacular scenery, which includes everything from white-sand beaches and verdant rainforest to fiery volcanoes. Costa Rica offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for the perfect family holiday or a romantic escape. We’re pretty sure that after you experience the Pura Vida, you’ll be looking forward to your next vacation in paradise. Follow these Costa Rica travel tips on visiting, so you get the most out of your vacation!
This is one of the best and most flavorful Costa Rica Travel Tips! For a tasty meal that’s easy on the wallet, visit one of Costa Rica’s countless sodas. They are small, mom and pop restaurants that serve hearty portion and order a casado. Translated as “married man’s meal,” a $5 casado will delight your taste buds with your choice of meat (chicken, fish, pork or beef), rice, beans, salad, and plantains. And if you’re lucky, your meal will also include a serving of savory picadillo. This is a hash of perfectly seasoned potatoes or squash. For dessert, look for tres leches. A moist vanilla cake made with three kinds of milk. Another great option is the local version of a snow-cone, known as a Granizado.
Take our advice and pack light for your Costa Rica vacation. We understand that it’s easy to get carried away with your clothing choices, but keep in mind that regional airlines impose strict weight limits (usually a maximum of 25 pounds per person on Nature Air and Sansa) when traveling within the country. Many hotels and resorts provide onsite laundry service for a small charge, and if you’re staying on the beach, lightweight, quick-dry clothes are highly recommended. Remember that you can always pick up lost or forgotten items in Costa Rica, at one of the many shopping malls or pharmacies.
There are plenty of reasons why travelers book their lodgings and tours but don’t rule out the advantages of an all-inclusive vacation package to Costa Rica. Besides saving you the hassle and headache of researching reputable tour operators and highly-rated hotels, a vacation package may save you money if your vacation desires include upscale accommodations and plenty of activities in Costa Rica’s more popular destinations. If you’re looking for a stress-free holiday with everything is taken care of by travel professionals – a vacation package is worth considering.
Cash is absolute king when traveling through Costa Rica. Though most hotels, stores, tour operators and restaurants accept credit and debit cards, paying in cash will often get you significant discounts. The country has numerous banks scattered in every city and town, so exchanging money a simple affair. You can also use your ATM card to withdraw local colonies or dollars; just ask your bank ahead of time about transaction fees. In general, you’ll always get a better deal when paying with Costa Rica colones, unless the price is advertised in dollars. Having a little of both is always handy, as some stores in rural areas will only take local currency.
In Costa Rica, the Spanish word for tip is “propina.” And unlike in the U.S., tipping is relatively uncommon outside the tourist industry. For example, most restaurants include a 10% service tax in the bill, so adding 15% isn’t necessary. Taxi drivers don’t expect a tip either, but always appreciate a little extra when the service warrants it. If you book a nature or adventure tour, tipping your guide is completely up to you, and many travelers feel a $5 or $ 10 tip is appropriate for a particularly attentive guide.
Gone are the days of expensive international phone calls or slow Internet speeds. Costa Rica enjoys a well-developed communications system. High-speed Internet (wireless, cable and DSL) is available countrywide, and Internet cafes are common in tourist towns. Most cost less than $1 per hour, and myriad hotels offer free Wi-Fi to their guests. Costa Rica supports 3G and 4G service, and prepaid phone cards can be found at both airports, for cheap calls during your travels. Some people bring a cheap[ phone to use locally and buy pay-as-you-go minutes.
Most people use their smartphone in Costa Rica for navigation and communication using their data. Check with your provider on roaming costs or getting extra data beforehand! Convenient Apps, while you are in the country, are Google Maps and Waze for navigation. Uber for taxis,; it’s less expensive than regular taxis. WhatsApp and Skype for a phone call and instant messaging, WhatsApp has better reception in general, and you can call internationally for free!
You’ve probably heard of the high and low tourist seasons, which correspond with Costa Rica’s dry and rainy months. December through April is the dry season when most visitors arrive. While you’ll enjoy tons of glorious sunshine, prices are a bit higher, and crowds are more intense. On the flip side, the rainy season (aka “green season”) months of May through October/November are a lot less crowded, and in exchange for some periodic afternoon thunderstorms, you’ll get lower hotel rates and get to see the country when it’s green and verdant.
Sunburn can quickly ruin your trip so make sure to bring plenty of sunscreens, ideally, from your home country as it can be quite expensive here. One of the best Costa Rica tips is also to buy cream and not an aerosol. While it may be fun to spray your friends, using aerosol results in sunburn streaks and a lack of good coverage. Make sure you apply the sunscreen (called bloquedor) liberally and apply often. And use common sense; if you are going to be on the ocean or doing an activity which will result is sweating, buy waterproof. Choose sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher that have titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as active ingredients. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, these ingredients block both ultraviolet-B (UVB) and ultraviolet-A (UVA) harmful rays. And don’t forget your lips! And if you are bald, your head!
The nearer you get to the equator, the stronger the sun is. Costa Rica lies between 8-11 degrees north of the equator. As a comparison, Southern California lies 32 degrees north of the equator. A good guideline is to not stay in the sun for more than 60-90 minutes at one time. If you are in the water, use a higher SPF, as the reflection of the sun on the water makes it more likely to get burnt. Use sunblock, and not just at the beach. Some areas of the country have very high elevations, for example in the San Jose metropolitan area, the higher altitude increases exposure to the sun’s radiation by up to 30%. Additionally, there is as much risk on a bright day as there is on a cloudy day. So stay vigilant and wear sunscreen in Costa Rica! Your skin will thank you.