Costa Rica Travel Guide

I wanted to create one central page that has all the information you need to safely visit Costa Rica.  This page is evergreen and will be updated as I uncover new information or as laws change.

Things to Know About Costa Rica

You’ll find all walks of life in Costa Rica.  Everything from expatriates like myself who relocated to Costa Rica, to backpackers, to eco-tourists, to luxury travelers, Costa Rica offers something for everyone.  There’s a wide margin of price points you’ll find in the country, from frugal, to ultra luxury, which leads to my first point.

#1:  Costa Rica is Expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

Visit any of the popular beach towns and stay in a luxury hotel, (The W Conchal is my favorite for weekend getaways) and you can expect to pay resort prices.  As a rule of thumb, anything exotic, imported, or high end, will be much more expensive in Costa Rica.

the W Costa Rica
A photo from my last stay at the W Hotel in Reserva Conchal.

On the flip side, Costa Rica offers many places to stay, as well as local cuisine, if you are a budget traveler.  Hostels are popular in beach towns like Tamarindo, and there are many boutique hotels that cater to all budgets.

Costa Rica has no doubt become more expensive as it’s been popularized by the Internet and as development has increased more tourism, but I really hate the narrative that Costa Rica is expensive.  Miami is expensive, but there are ways you can stay in Miami and not spend all your money on $300 per plate dinners in South Beach.  The same goes for Costa Rica.

On that note, it’s great that a budget airline like Jet Blue offers flights to Costa Rica.

#2:  The Activity List is Virtually Endless.

As I said earlier, there is something for everyone in Costa Rica.  You can’t possibly see and do everything the small country offers in just one week!  Unless you stay multiple months, you really can’t cover a lot of ground in Costa Rica, even if you were to fly into San Jose, enjoy the Southern Pacific beaches, and then drive to Guanacaste.

jet ski costa rica
My son going jet skiing from Playa Conchal.

Here are some things you can do in Costa Rica, for example:

  • Climb a volcano
  • Visit Monteverde National Park
  • Visit white sand, golden sand, and even black sand beaches
  • Visit a rain forest
  • See monkeys
  • Go ziplining
  • Eat local cuisine
  • See the crocodiles in the tarcoles river
  • Visit Puerto Viejo
  • Visit Tortuguero national park
  • Go surfing
  • Scuba dive
  • Snorkel
  • Visit San Jose – the Capital City
  • Go sport fishing
  • Learn Spanish
  • Visit a coffee plantation
  • Swim in the hot springs
  • Watch a local soccer game
  • Take a local cooking class
  • Explore San Antonio de Escazu

And so on, and so on.  There are many things to do in Costa Rica and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

#3:  Get Travel Insurance

You’ll want to have travel insurance for those “what if” situations.  For years I’ve had all of my friends and family use Safety Wing, a company that specializes in global travel insurance.

Whether you have a short stay, or are looking at a longer stay because you want to live the digital nomad life, they offer something for everyone and you’ll be able to see local physicians for all of your health needs as well.


Use the widget above to see for yourself and get a free quote.

#4:  You’ll Want to Rent a Car

Rent a Car

  • If you really want to see and enjoy Costa Rica at your own pace, rent a car.  Another company I’ve worked with for many years is Discover Cars.

They are a third party search engine that curates prices at any pick-up location and finds you deals BETTER than the actual rental car agency offers.  On top of that, they offer the best car rental insurance policy available and you will have an easy experience when you pick up your vehicle.  Simply show your booking voucher and off you go.

I recommend a 4 x 4 as Costa Rica has potholes and some challenging terrain.

Suggested Reading:  How Much to Rent a Car in Costa Rica?

#5:  Be Aware of Your Surroundings

I’ve never had a problem with crime in Costa Rica, but having moved around a lot as a teen I never really knew my surroundings so I’ve always been cautious. While most crime is limited to petty theft, you’ll want to keep your head on a swivel and your wallet in your front pocket when in dangerous San Jose. I’m not saying to avoid San Jose, just know that it’s a dirty city full of a lot of homeless people along with people who seek out obvious tourists who are flashy.  Dress down, don’t stick out, don’t show off your new watch, and you’ll be fine. I have been for almost 30 years.

I wouldn’t be a good Costa Rica Travel guide if I didn’t tell you that women especially should be aware of their surroundings.  Try to travel with someone you know and don’t ever go out drinking alone, especially in San Jose.  Costa Rica men can be aggressive, but usually it’s just limited to whistling at you.  However, again, I’m a cautious person and like to give fair warning.

#6:  Think About Travel Insurance

Costa Rica does not require travel insurance, but it’s a good idea to have, especially if you have any health factors personally, or may have to return home early to deal with a family member who may be having issues.

I made this page discussing more about travel insurance and will be recommending companies for shorter term stays in the near future.