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How to Plan a Trip to Costa Rica: Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: April 29, 2024

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Jaco Beach in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica

Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica

Whether you’re after wildlife excursions in the jungle or surfing in the Pacific, Costa Rica promises limitless adventure and charm.

The country is a peaceful collaboration of culture and nature, be it ziplining over a forest canopy or lounging on pristine beaches.

The following information can help guide you in choosing the right trip, while offering insight into the most frequently asked questions about a vacation in Costa Rica.

  1. When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?
  2. How many days should I spend in Costa Rica?
  3. Where is Costa Rica?
  4. What is Costa Rica known for?
  5. What are the most popular places in Costa Rica?
  6. What should I do on my trip to Costa Rica?
  7. Is Costa Rica a good place for hiking?
  8. What are the best beaches in Costa Rica?
  9. Is Costa Rica good for adventure experiences?
  10. Is Costa Rica good for sustainable travel or eco-tourism?
  11. Where can I see wildlife in Costa Rica?
  12. Is Costa Rica suitable for families?
  13. Is Costa Rica suitable for senior travelers?
  14. Is Costa Rica suitable for couples or honeymooners?
  15. Is Costa Rica safe?
  16. What language do they speak in Costa Rica?
  17. What vaccinations do I need to travel to Costa Rica?
  18. Which airports should I plan for?
  19. How can I travel when in Costa Rica?
  20. What currency does Costa Rica use?
  21. Should I tip in Costa Rica?
  22. How can Zicasso help me plan a trip to Costa Rica?
  23. Where can I find recommended itineraries for my trip?

When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?

The best time to visit Costa Rica is in the latter halves of April and November. During these times Costa Rica experiences its least rain and small crowds. These times act as transition periods between the dry and rainy seasons to provide visitors with greenery and clear skies.

The dry season generally starts in mid-November and lasts until mid-April. February and March are popular months to visit Costa Rica because they fall within the borders of the dry season. September and October are also great months to visit because of hotel deals and diminished crowds.

These months fall in the rainy season when, most often, the mornings are sunny and dry, rain falls for a couple of hours in the afternoon, then the skies clear again. September and October are not good for whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River or visiting Corcovado National Park. Heavy rain makes the rapids unsafe and floods trails in the rainforest park.

Learn more: Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

How many days should I spend in Costa Rica?

Our advice is to plan for seven to 10 days in Costa Rica, depending on what you want to do and how you want to experience the country.

This amount of time will provide the opportunity to visit San Jose, explore small villages, and discover national parks, while allowing plenty of time to transfer between destinations. A seven-day trip is good for travelers who have limited time, but still want to visit popular places like Arenal and Manuel Antonio.

The more time you have to experience the scenery, culture, and history of Costa Rica, the better the experience you will have as you travel in dense rainforests, cloud forests, or along gold-sand beaches.

Learn more: 1 Week Costa Rica Itineraries8 Day Costa Rica Itineraries10 Day Costa Rica Itineraries

Where is Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is in Central America. Nicaragua makes up the northern border and Panama makes up the southern border. The Pacific Ocean is to the west and the Caribbean Sea is to the east.

Because of its location, the warm weather, mountains, and temporal rains create some of the world’s most diverse and intense microclimates.

What is Costa Rica known for?

Costa Rica is known for its incredible natural beauty, relaxed lifestyle, wildlife, tourism, and coffee. It is often rated one of the happiest countries in the world and hosts more than 500,000 species of wildlife, including sloths, sea turtles, macaws, and quetzals.

Volcanos, rainforests, and beaches add to the scenic and environmental diversity visitors love to explore, while also giving rise to activities like rafting, ziplining, and wildlife spotting, as well as relaxing on a world-class coastline.

Costa Rica is also known for its high-quality coffee. The microclimates make the yield unique in flavor and body because of the nutrients in the soil that feed the coffee plants and cherries.

Find more information about the country’s diverse ecosystems and how they encourage and support different travel experiences with our guide on Costa Rica’s dazzling regions.

What are the most popular places in Costa Rica?

Here is a list of the seven most-popular cities, regions, and national parks in Costa Rica:

  • Arenal
  • Manuel Antonio
  • Monteverde
  • Tortuguero
  • Osa Peninsula
  • San Jose
  • Cahuita

The best places to visit in Costa Rica provide new perspectives and different experiences for every vacation, from vistas to museums, lush rainforests to golden beaches. Hike in search of wildlife or learn how to make chocolate. Depending on your timeline, you might not see them all, but you can discover the best places based on how you wish to experience Costa Rica.

What should I do on my trip to Costa Rica?

Costa Rica overflows with possibilities. Here are some highlights and top things to experience on your trip:

  • Zipline through the rainforest in Arenal
  • Uncover Arenal National Park's 29,692 acres of protected rainforest along the slopes of an active volcano
  • Discover the glassy water of Lake Arenal on a kayaking excursion
  • Sample chocolate and learn about its history
  • Taste Costa Rican cuisine during a private cooking class and learn about regional delicacies and typical dishes
  • Kayak or cruise down the canals of a mangrove forest for exceptional views of wildlife such as iguanas, spider monkeys, and spectacled caimans
  • Delight in white sand and the relaxing ambiance of celebrated beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Enjoy bountiful birdlife in a cloud forest, while searching for the resplendent quetzal
  • Embrace the stunning views of a cloud forest canopy when following hanging bridges at approximately 2,400 feet above sea level
  • Discover the diverse vegetation and fairytale ambiance when hiking the trails around a cloud forest nearly 5,000 feet above sea level

These are just a few of the things to do in Costa Rica. To learn more about these experiences and other opportunities that make a trip special, take a look at our top things to do in Costa Rica.

Is Costa Rica a good place for hiking?

From the trails of Manuel Antonio to the summit of Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica’s geologically diverse regions make for some of the most captivating hikes in the world.

Trails guide visitors beneath greenery and wildlife, or around lava fields with breathtaking views. Hiking in Costa Rica can be comfortable on short-distance trails or offer more challenging ascents to the rims of volcanic peaks. Whether traveling with young children, as a senior, or looking for adventure, Costa Rica can accommodate anyone.

Best hiking trails in Costa Rica: Arenal Volcano Park • Rio Celeste Waterfall • Manuel Antonio National Park • Arenal Hanging Bridges • Los Angeles Cloud Forest • Bajos del Toro Waterfall • La Fortuna Waterfall

What are the best beaches in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica’s beaches define its beauty on the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. The expansive shores accentuate the country’s personalities, with pure-white sands or views to passing whales, tropical rainforests, or rugged coves.

Costa Rica’s beaches are idyllic. Many are protected due to their marine or wildlife, which adds to the pristine ambiance, heightened by tropical sunshine. Whether along the vibrant Pacific or the quieter Caribbean, you can find the right beach for any occasion.

Best beaches in Costa Rica: Tamarindo Beach • Manuel Antonio Beach • Conchal Beach • Dominical Beach • Costa Ballena • Nacascolo Beach • Montezuma Beach

Is Costa Rica good for adventure experiences?

Costa Rica offers a wide variety of adventure experiences for travelers of all experience levels, from small children to thrill-seekers. The diverse landscapes provide endless opportunities for exciting excursions into the land and sea.

Costa Rica is among the countries leading the way in ecological tourism. This coincides with a progression of adventure experiences, the aim being to protect the land and wildlife it supports. Volcanic peaks, waterfalls, whitewater, and crashing waves all offer great opportunities for adventure, while the land and sea provide new and exciting wildlife experiences.

Popular adventure activities in Costa Rica: Whitewater rafting • Rappelling • Ziplining • Scuba diving • Surfing • Volcano hikes • Waterfall hikes • Kayaking • Snorkeling

Is Costa Rica good for sustainable travel or eco-tourism?

Costa Rica is a world leader in sustainable and eco-friendly tourism. The government and tourism industry have prioritized nature preservation in the development of travel practices, making it core to why people visit the country on Costa Rica eco tours.

By focusing on how to protect the beaches, rainforests, wildlife, and local culture, Costa Rica has made these aspects part of the experiences people wish to have, be they surfing in crystal-clear water, cooking classes in a local village, or rainforest hikes to view endemic birds.

As an early adopter of eco-friendly and sustainable tourism, Costa Rica made a point of celebrating, defending, and uplifting its biodiversity, while sustaining conservation efforts and finding new ways to support excellent national infrastructure.

Where can I see wildlife in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is one of the world’s most biodiverse destinations, making it possible to see wildlife around every corner. From rainforest terrain to open coastline, wildlife sanctuaries to cloud forests, the environment celebrates diverse wilderness in which you can spot an abundance of creatures:

  • Jaguar, Osa Peninsula
  • Humpback whales, Marino Ballena National Park
  • Quetzal, Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • White-headed capuchin monkey, Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Sea turtles, Tortuguero
  • Tapir, Osa Peninsula
  • Scarlet macaws, Osa Peninsula

Is Costa Rica suitable for families?

Costa Rica is one of the best family destinations. With established tourism infrastructure, you can enjoy the adventures it offers safely, from engaging with macaws to walking on hanging bridges, searching for tropical fish while snorkeling to horseback riding across a quiet jungle stream.

From lounging on the beach at Manuel Antonio to looking after sea turtles in Tortuguero, our top things to do in Costa Rica with family provides a list to inspire activities for your trip. These experiences can bring your family together, while enjoying the country’s beauty.

Learn more: Costa Rica Family Vacations

Is Costa Rica suitable for senior travelers?

Costa Rica has an established tourism infrastructure that makes traveling comfortable, safe, and easy for seniors, no matter their level of activity. The landscape is diverse but manageable, with friendly locals who move at a relaxed pace that encompasses pura vida, the pure life.

Instead of hustle and bustle, Costa Rica is a joy to explore at a leisurely pace that gives you plenty of time to soak up the sun on the coastline, walk the jungle trails, or enjoy the thrill of a volcano hike at sunrise.

As a senior traveler, you can enjoy the best of Costa Rica with guides who understand how you want to explore, as they share stories or interesting facts about the biodiversity. Porters help handle your luggage, accommodations have representatives who can cater to your needs, and the duration of the trip is up to you.

Learn more: Costa Rica Tours for Seniors

Is Costa Rica suitable for couples or honeymooners?

Costa Rica is a celebration of romance perfect for couples or honeymooners. Its dynamic biodiversity sets the perfect ambiance, whether on the coastline or in a cloud forest. It is easy to find a hidden corner in which to nestle together while searching for birdlife or embracing the panoramic views of thundering waterfalls. Romance flourishes in the endless vistas and countless wildlife wonders.

The different regions all support romantic opportunities, whether they be celebrating a honeymoon, enjoying an anniversary, or looking for the perfect couples’ getaway. As you consider planning your trip, take inspiration from our most romantic places in Costa Rica for couples.

Learn more: Costa Rica Honeymoon Packages

Is Costa Rica safe?

Costa Rica is incredibly safe. Its citizens are renowned for their friendliness and are eager to welcome visitors to their country. As with any foreign country, it is essential to consider the local culture and pay attention to your belongings when in highly populated areas like San Jose. Your overall safety is never in jeopardy. Your travel specialist only works with experienced and vetted tour companies that provide the best service.

When traveling in Costa Rica there are other safety considerations. For instance, when visiting the Atlantic coastline, certain beaches are known for crocodiles and are, therefore, not swimming destinations. If traveling during the rainy season, the rapids of particular rivers may be too dangerous to raft, especially in September and October.

What language do they speak in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish.

Most locals speak Spanish, but other languages are also spoken, especially English. Due to the high volume of travelers from countries like the US, Canada, and the UK, as well as the large number of ex-pats from North America, English is widely spoken.

You should have little trouble communicating, except possibly in rural villages or remote towns, but your guide can help navigate language barriers.

What vaccinations do I need to travel to Costa Rica?

Vaccination requirements in Costa Rica depend on where you visit, where you are traveling from, and what you plan to do. To clarify requirements, explore the CDC Costa Rica vaccination information.

Your Zicasso travel specialist can also give you more information should you have any additional questions. Always discuss vaccinations with a travel nurse or your doctor beforehand.

Which airports should I plan for?

For most travelers, the most convenient airport is San Jose (SJO), followed by Liberia (LIR). The busiest international airports are:

  • San Jose International Airport (SJO), San Jose
  • Liberia International Airport (LIR), Liberia
  • Limon International Airport (LIO), Limon

How can I travel when in Costa Rica?

The best way to travel around Costa Rica is by flight. Regional airports connect the majority of the country, making it easy and quick to explore the farther corners or travel between distant places.

The combination of short-distance flights and private cars makes traveling around Costa Rica comfortable and convenient, as it is scheduled around your flight and time, rather than you having to wait on buses, trains, or shared cars.

Learn more: How to Get Around Costa Rica: Best Transportation for Travelers

What currency does Costa Rica use?

The official currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (₡).

You should carry these, especially if you plan on visiting smaller towns or villages.

Accommodations, larger restaurants, and establishments such as shops known for souvenirs or larger purchases generally accept major credit cards like Visa and Mastercard. ATMs and electronic banking also make payments stable and easier to manage in areas with more consistent tourism infrastructure.

Should I tip in Costa Rica?

Costa Ricans do not generally tip and when visiting the country travelers are not expected to do so either.

The idea is that tipping when traveling the country is never mandatory, but always appreciated, especially when the service is above expectations, such as that from a great guide or an exceptional dinner service. In these instances, an additional 10% is appreciated. Note that in most hotels and restaurants a service charge is often added to the bill.

How can Zicasso help me plan a trip to Costa Rica?

Our Costa Rica tours and vacations are a collection of curated trips where you can get a better idea of what your itinerary may look like.

You can select a sample trip that aligns with your ideal vacation, be it a family trip, honeymoon, adventure tour, or something else. These sample trips are often a stepping stone from which our travelers create unique itineraries.

When you are ready, you can complete a trip request to begin planning your vacation. We ask for more information on where you would like to go, how long you would like to spend in Costa Rica, the size of your party, and traveler ages to help streamline your planning.

You can also provide additional ideas and set a travel budget, after which our Travel Care team will contact you to match you with a top Costa Rica travel specialist. Our travel specialists will use their expertise and understanding of your preferences to curate your dream vacation.

Learn more: How to Plan Your Zicasso Trip in 4 Easy StepsHow to Plan Your Zicasso Trip Budget in 3 Easy Steps

Where can I find recommended itineraries for my trip?

Arenal, Costa Rica's largest active volcano

Arenal volcano in Costa Rica

Costa Rica provides an opportunity to adventure into the wild and endless wonders of pura vida, the pure or simple life. A balance between misty volcanic peaks and rolling ocean waves, fascinating wildlife, and modern comforts, our Costa Rica vacations and tours can inspire the perfect trip for any traveler.

Explore our Costa Rica travel guide for more information on how to plan the right vacation for you, discovering helpful tips and recommendations for your adventure.

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