Costa Rica covers less than 0.01% of the planet, yet it has almost as many birds as the USA & Canada combined, more reptiles than Europe and five times more butterflies than Australia. This simple fact alone makes Costa Rica one of the most unique tourist destinations in the world.
However, not all that’s wild in Costa Rica is wildlife. If you take your inspiration from the birds and not the sloths you can bungee jump from the Rio Colorado bridge in San José. And if you’re more manatee than macaw, you’ll find legendary surf at Witches Rocks, Ollie’s Point. Land mammals will appreciate the dry season for some great hiking among fumaroles and tropical dry forest in Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja or in the cloud forest reserves of Santa Elena and Monteverde. And those who want something with the lot will appreciate the wildlife sanctuaries of the Peacelodge and The Springs, located just out of San José.
Currency: 576 CRC = 1USD
Region: Central America
Capital: San Jose
Our Top 5 Must-Do's
VISIT AN ACTIVE VOLCANO
Chuck on your hard hat and venture up to Poás Volcano. This day trip offers an awesome opportunity to see a real-life active volcano from up close.
ZIPLINE THROUGH JUNGLE CANOPY
While there are over 80 zip lines across Costa Rica, Santa Elena seems to be the most sought after spot to strap into a harness and launch yourself flying through a jungle canopy. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for monkeys!
SEE THE WILDLIFE
DIVE WITH HAMMERHEAD SHARKS!
The waters around Cocos Island offer probably the best shark diving in the world! The best time of year to see them is around August through to the end of September. The best way to visit is via a 10-day liveaboard that will take you to Cocos island.
SURF PLAYA GRANDE
Costa Rica is a paddlers’ paradise and among the most developed white-water centers in Latin American.
The Rio Pacuare, located near the town of Turrialba, is considered among the 10 best river runs in the world. Wild and wonderful, it’s home to toucans, herons, monkeys and sloths, with the river plunging through a series of spectacular canyons clothed in virgin rainforest. Rapids are separated by calm stretches that enable you to stare at the near-vertical green walls towering hundreds of meters above the river.
Dozens of operators, both in Turrialba and throughout the country, arrange a variety of trips down the Pacuare in rafts or kayaks.
Costa Rica is a bird watchers paradise, and Monteverde is one of the best spots to do it.
You can spot any number of birds from parrots, cuckoos, the brown pelican, eagles, herons, owls, blue-throated toucanet and even hummingbirds.
Birdwatching in Monteverde also has the added benefit of being one of the most densely packed homes to Costa Rican wildlife. These forests hold all types of species, including; jaguars, monkeys, tapir, sloth, toads, snakes and amazing colorful frogs that can be found here. You never know what you’ll see!
The Arenal (La Fortuna) region is famous for its wide choice of natural hot springs. Allowing visitors to soak in the mineral-rich water while taking in the tropical rainforest setting.
If the $60 – $90 price to use the hot springs is a bit too steep for you there is one free hot spring right across from Tabacónany, or alternatively, many hotels in the region that offer their own Natural Hot Springs on property. We stayed at The Springs Resort and Spa, which offers some of the best in the area.
Stuck in the Capital for a day? On a short trek of less than a kilometer, you can visit three of the most significant museums in the Costa Rican capital on a solitary ticket.
The ticket covers the Central Bank Museum, the Museum of Jade and Pre-Columbian Culture, and the National Museum of Costa Rica. You can find the museums in the the Plaza de la Cultura in San Jose.
The ticket is ₡5,000 for Costa Rican citizens and $33 for tourists.
Budget & Costs
Hostels are easy to find in any of the ‘Touristy’ towns but are very rare outside of them. Expect to pay $8 – $15 a night for a bed in a shared dorm.
You can find budget hotel rooms or private hostel rooms for about $20-25 a night.
Accommodation in Costa Rica can quickly blow out your budget, however, with a lot of resorts charging upwards of $500 a night. For good reason, however, Costa Rica holds some of the most luxurious hotels & resorts that we’ve ever seen.
Costa Rican cuisine is known for being fairly mild, with high reliance on fresh fruits and vegetables. Rice and black beans are a staple of most traditional Costa Rican meals, often served three times a day. Costa Rican meals are nutritionally well rounded, and nearly always cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients.
Western dishes are easy to find in any of the major tourist towns and thanks to the large number of foreign travelers that visit, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out.
The bus systems in Costa Rica were surprisingly messy and confusing. We advise getting there at least a half-hour early and don’t trust the schedules you see online!
Despite being smack bang in the middle of Central America and surrounded by some of the cheapest countries in Central America, Costa Rica is by no means cheap.
We used the ‘somewhat’ organised, but by no means convenient, bus system to get ourselves across the country.
You can save a lot of money in San José by using Uber. Use this link for $15 off your first ride.
CRC$42, 000-84, 000 / 75-150 USD
(Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. This also depends greatly on the number of tours you do! Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, you can expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
1. Buy Cell Service
Cell service is surprisingly cheap in Costa Rica and the money you will save with Ubers alone will make up for the cost of data.
2. Stay away from the Taxies
Each time we used a taxi in Costa Rica we were left heavily disappointed. Each time the driver would insist on using the meter (a big red flag for me) and each time I would sit in the backseat and watch the number skyrocket.
We had one of our worst taxi experiences ever in Costa Rica. He essentially lied and told us that our bus wasn’t running and that the only way we could make it to our accommodation was if he was to drive us an extra half hour to the next town. All whilst using his (what I can only assume) tampered with taxi meter. Anyway, long story short we paid $140 USD for a 34 minute taxi ride! All of which could have been avoided by following the previous tip and using cell service to call an Uber! Use this link for $15 off your first ride.
3. Save Money on Water.
To my surprise, you can actually drink water in many parts of Costa Rica. Save a ton of money by just sticking to re-usable water bottles and filling up at any fountain, tap or bathroom that you find. Just make sure you’ve got a good water bottle!
However, it’s generally recommended to refrain from drinking the tap water in most destinations on the coast. To deal with this, we either fill up our 2-stage filtered water bottle or simply use a LifeStraw.
4. Travel the Caribbean Side
By traveling to the Carribean side of Costa Rica you will find that it is much cheaper than the ‘more touristy’ Pacific side. You will still get to see the beauty of Costa Rica, but your money should go a lot further!
5. Book During the Rainy Season
By booking between the months of June and November you can save a fortune on your Costa Rican holiday. Due to Costa Rica having such large amounts of rainfall and having such an extreme wet season, certain times of year has the country almost devoid of tourists. Leaving a lot of very high-end resorts trying to fill rooms with some pretty incredible deals. We visited during the rainy season and were able to find deals up 50% off regular prices for just about everywhere we stayed.
6. Learn the Language
We’re big advocates of cultural immersion, which includes learning the language! You’d be surprised just how much money you can save by talking to locals, haggling/bargaining, or even just being given a lower price because they’re happy you’re trying! We found that especially in Colombia, there aren’t that many people who speak English fluently, and while they may want to help you they’re simply unable to due to the language barriers.
By knowing the language you can also find out about local hotspots, directions, and other tips and tricks (usually money-saving) that most tourists wouldn’t know about.
7. Cook For Yourself
If you are staying at hostels (which you should be if you’re trying to save money!!) then always try to find one with a kitchen available. When you’re travelling it can be tiring but this single habit will save you more money than anything if you can adopt it. Shop at a supermarket and cook your favorite meals for a fraction of the cost of eating out!