How to Plan a Trip to Costa Rica – Travel Guide

Things to see in Costa Rica
Planning a trip to Costa Rica

Nestled between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and fringed by the lush tropical jungles of Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast, Costa Rica is a democratic and prosperous nation with one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems on the planet. Home to verdant rainforests, steaming volcanoes, thick mangrove swamps and pristine beaches all of which support a fascinating variety of wildlife, Costa Rica enjoys breath-taking natural beauty with well comfortable laid-back life.

Best time visit Costa Rica

1. The best time to go to Costa Rica is during the dry season, which occurs from mid-December to April. This time of year boasts long, sunny days with pleasant temperatures, making it the perfect time to explore the rain forests or lounge on one of the many beautiful beaches. Bear in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, so be prepared for crowds of people and inflated prices.

2. If you want to avoid the crowds and don’t mind getting a little wet, head to Costa Rica between the months of May and November, when the weather is inclement, with sunny days interspersed with rainy days, and prices are cheaper. During June and July, the rain tends to stop, and the lush tropical rain forests burst into green foliage and teem with wildlife – a magical time to explore the many national parks.

3. Another thing to remember when planning your trip is that Costa Rica has a variety of different regions, and the weather will vary according to the area. The thick forests of the Northern Plains and Caribbean Sea coast tend to experience high humidity and temperatures ranging between the 70s and upper 80s year-round, while the North Pacific boasts lower humidity levels, but much higher temperatures that can soar into the 90s during the dry season.

How to reach Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is easily accessible by air from the USA, as well as Central and South America by a number of local, regional and international airlines. International flights arrive at the primary airport in Alajuela – the Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaria, while the second airport, Aeropuerto Internacional Daniel Oduber Quirós in Liberia also receives international flights, as well as regional and local flights.

Getting around in Costa Rica

Getting around Costa Rica is easy if you are willing to go with the flow. You can use the following modes of transport when traveling around the country:

  • Local buses
  • Tourist shuttles (gringo buses)
  • Hire car
  • Motorcycle / Moped / Scooter / Bicycle
  • Boat

Expert tip! Local buses are cheap and reliable, but can very crowded. There are two types of bus: directo and colectivo. The directo buses are more direct and have fewer stops than the colectivos, which tend to be quite slow due to many stops.   

Costa Rica’s Top Ten Attractions

  • Nicoya Peninsula- Boasting beach-centric towns with ivory-colored shores and verdant green forests, the Nicoya Peninsula’s sparkling 80-mile shoreline is a gem in Costa Rica’s crown.
  • Arenal Volcano- The perfectly symmetrical Arenal Volcano has been Costa Rica’s most active volcano since 1968, spewing enormous amounts of lava, gas and ash on a regular basis, attracting visitors from around the world to witness this spectacle.
  • San José- Vibrant and packed with a mix of European-influenced Victorian, Spanish and North American architecture, ‘Chepe’, as locally referred to, is a sprawling metropolis amidst a sea of jungle.
  • Corcovado National Park- Known for its diverse wildlife, this spectacular 11,000-acre misty rainforest buzzes with insects and birds and boasts myriad hiking trails to explore.
  • Manual Antonia National Park- Voted as one of the world’s most beautiful national parks, Manuel Antonio National Park (Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio) offers an unparalleled combination of exquisite beaches, glorious hiking trails and a plethora of diverse fauna and flora.
  • Monte Verde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve- Aptly named ‘the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves’ by National Geographic, this small mountaintop town in Puntarenas is a paradise of lush cloud forests, rolling coffee plantations, mischievous monkeys and swirling mists.
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca- Located on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, the village of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca bustles with vibrant energy, funky bamboo bars belting out funky reggae music, and a buzzing nightlife.
  • La Paz Waterfall Gardens- Short for “Catarata La Paz” (or “peace waterfall”), La Paz is a tranquil and serene wildlife lover’s paradise that teems with fauna and flora, from croaking frogs and fluttering butterflies to rumbling Jaguars and howling spider monkeys.
  • Tabacón Hot Springs- If you hike to Arenal Volcano, take the time to treat yourself to a soak in the Tabacón thermal springs, which feature tinkling waterfalls, lush foliage and mineral-rich waters.
  • Guanacaste- Guanacaste – Costa Rica’s “Gold Coast” – is one of the country’s most beautiful destinations, boasting white sandy beaches, sunny savannas, cloud-covered rainforests. The Cordillera de Guanacaste comprises majestic volcanoes, while the Rincón de la Vieja National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Santa Rosa National Park are must-sees.

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