Located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama is Costa Rica, one of the happiest countries in the world. Visitors come from far and wide to take advantage of Costa Rica’s affordable prices, lush rainforest, volcano treks, surf, yoga, conservation programs, and Pura Vida lifestyle. Most who visit once long to come back; don't be surprised if your own travel experience in Costa Rica inspires you to return again in the future!
If Costa Rica has been on your bucket list, there are a variety of tours and activities you just have to try while there. Travelers love Costa Rica’s diverse offerings and you’ll find that with the government’s effort to preserve the country's natural beauty, there is no shortage of memorable experiences.
Costa Rica offers plenty of tour options for travelers who love the outdoors, adventure, and wildlife. Here are some tours to consider for your trip:
Experience the cloud forest from a thrilling zip line, learn to kayak, raft through rapids, hike a volcano, and more. Costa Rica's adventure tours are some of the best in the world thanks to its diverse landscape. If you seek a more peaceful adventure, Costa Rica is also known for its many yoga and wellness retreats.
Beach & Sea Tours
If you want to experience Costa Rica beyond lush greenery and volcanos, head to the sea. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica has access to great waves for surfing lessons on the Pacific, scuba diving training, and fishing expeditions. You can even head to a sea turtle nesting site and learn more about marine life conservation.
During your visit to Costa Rica you can improve your Spanish, experience local life in a homestay, or volunteer at a school. There is an abundance of tours that help you connect with Tico culture on the ground in an authentic way.
Get in touch with one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet. If you love animals and nature, book a Costa Rican wildlife tour to get close access to howler monkeys, sloths, a variety of birds, and sea turtles (to name a few). These types of tours offer exciting experiences visiting mangroves, cloud forests, and jungles.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
There is no bad time to visit Costa Rica. The climate is generally divided into two seasons: dry and rainy. Because of its many microclimates, it is best to know how each region varies.
Pacific Coast vs. Caribbean Sea
- One side of Costa Rica touches the Pacific Ocean, where the best dry weather is from December to April, while the wet season brings lush green flora with rain showers in the early afternoon and evening. Many visitors prefer wet season on the Pacific coast because of the greenery and comfort.
- The other side of Costa Rica touches the Caribbean Sea -- where it rains almost year round, sporadically.
Central Valley vs. Highlands
- The Central Valley experiences moderate temperatures during the dry season, and rain showers throughout the late afternoon and evenings during wet season.
- Additionally, while the highlands (like Monteverde) see windy and occasional rain from December to April, they experience heavy rainfall during wet season. Note: some travelers boast about the beauty of the cloud forest in all of its wet season glory -- so don't let that stop you.
What To Look For in a Tour to Costa Rica
Before booking a tour be sure to check reviews, inclusions, and fees. Many tours may include meals solely as an additional fee, or charge extra for equipment. When booking adventure tours specifically, ask about their safety procedures and qualifications. Be wary of companies that do not take reasonable precautions. If possible, consult reviews from past guests to learn about how the tour operator work and what is included.
Typical Tour Costs
Most multi-day tour packages range from $800 - $3,000, and do not include flights. The average length fo a tour can range anywhere from 3 to 10 days, depending on the activities you are doing during the itinerary. It is also possible to book smaller add-on tours upon arrival.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
If you’re traveling for the greenery and fauna, warmer clothing and rain gear is necessary. Bring good hiking shoes or boots, a poncho or windbreaker, and layer-friendly clothing. Alternatively, whether in the highlands or Central Valley, you’ll feel warm one second, wet the next, and maybe cold thereafter. You never quite know!
If you are most focused on visiting beaches and surfing on the coast, you can either check your surfboard on the flight or get one when you arrive. When booking a surfing tour, be sure to check if boards are provided.
Other Tips for Travel in Costa Rica
- Transportation: Costa Rica is known for its forever delayed and changing bus schedule. If you decide to take a bus, plan ahead and prepare yourself for a full day of travel. As another option, many tours and hotels can arrange transportation for you. Expect this type of transport to be up to 5x the cost of a local bus if traveling long distances -- but totally worth it, depending on who you ask.
- Accommodations: Costa Rica offers accommodation selections that meet all budgets. From hostels and budget hotels to resorts and luxe getaways, there is something for everyone. Your tour package will likely include accommodations, so be sure to confirm what type of lodging is offered.
- Budgeting and currency: The costs of visiting Costa Rica may be rising, but it is still much cheaper than many North American and European destinations. Costa Rica uses the Colón (CRC) but also accepts American dollars. Expect a 1-to-1 exchange rate when paying in USD. Vendors typically do not accept large bills.
Health & Safety
All travelers visiting Costa Rica should have their routine vaccinations up to date, including measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, chicken pox, and polio vaccines. The CDC offers great detail on vaccine and health recommendations for visitors.
Key health tips to remember when traveling to Costa Rica include:
- Avoid raw or undercooked foods.
- Drink bottled water and avoid ice in your beverages (though many hotels offer filtered water).
- Bring bug spray and check for screens and netting in your accommodations.
- Carry a small flashlight and first aid kit.
- Never forget your sunscreen, even on cloudy days.
- Check that your health insurance provides coverage in the country.
Costa Rica is generally quite safe for group and individual travelers. Like any other country, however, use caution when walking alone, making purchases, and managing your personal and financial information. Before you begin your vacation, be sure to:
- Contact your banks and credit providers to provide a travel notice.
- Print a copy (or two) of your passport and credit card.
- Alert the US embassy of your arrival.
- Let a family or friend at home know about your itinerary details.
- Use caution when crossing the street and always wear your seatbelt when in a car.
- Avoid traveling at night as most of the towns do not have many street lights.
- Check travel health and weather warnings.