Costa Rica Travel Guide

Costa Rica Travel | Two Wandering Soles

With jaw-dropping landscapes, friendly locals and epic adventures to be had, it’s no wonder why tourists flock to Costa Rica. With a booming tourism industry, you won’t be the only one seeking the waterfalls, volcanoes and amazing surf in this Central American gem. But don’t worry, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path places in Costa Rica if you know where to look!

Side note: If you are planning to get off-the-beaten-path, getting there is easiest if you rent a car. It’s surprisingly cheap and a really easy way to get around in Costa Rica. Plus, you’ll have total freedom and maybe even save on transportation costs!

Travel Guide Contents

Important Info   |   Best Time to Visit   |   Things to Do   |   What to Eat   |   Typical Budget

Travel Tips   |   What to Pack   |   Costa Rica Articles   |   Book Now

Costa Rica Important Info | Two Wandering Soles

Important Information About Costa Rica

Costa Rica at a Glance: Many people visit Costa Rica for its unspoiled beaches, lush rainforests and abundance of wildlife. It’s easily fall in love with this country. Not to mention the active volcanoes, hiking, and adrenalin-pumping activities that you can experience, Costa Rica is every adventurer’s dream destination.

Currency in Costa Rica: Costa Rican Colón | 2018 Conversion Rate: 100 CRC = $0.0017 USD

Tipping in Costa Rica:  There are no rules for tipping in Costa Rica. Tipping is optional in restaurants, however, there will be an optional 10% gratuity added to your bill. It’s up to you if you want to tip your server or not. On the other hand, it is customary to tip around $1 per bag, and $1 per drink if you are staying in high-end resorts. For long cab rides, around $1 to $5 tip is already enough. Lastly, when it comes to tour guides, $5 to $15 is considered to be polite.

 Language & Helpful Phrases: Spanish

  • Hello = Hola

  • Thank you = Gracias

  • Beer = cerveza

  • Delicious = delicioso

  • Where is the Bathroom = Dónde está el baño?

  • How much does it cost? = Cuanto cuesta?

  • Too expensive = Demasiado caro

  • Don’t want = No quiero

  • A common phrase heard in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida” which literally means “pure life,” but the loose translation is “the good life”

Religion and Culture: Most of Costa Rica’s religion and culture is influenced by the Spaniards during the colonization period. Because of this, most of the indigenous culture has been erased. Today, as much as 90% of the Costa Rican population identify themselves to be Roman Catholics.

Transportation around Costa Rica: For most visitors, the best way to get around is with a rental car. Depending on your group size, budget and destination, you can opt for private transfers, public transportation, taxis, ferry boats or small planes.

Transportation Tip: Here’s an article to guide you on renting a car in Costa Rica.

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica | Two Wandering Soles

Best Time to Visit Costa Rica

For an in-depth guide on the regional seasons, weather patterns and other factors, check out our complete guide on the best time to visit Costa Rica. We’ve also listed out some of the basics below to give you a general idea.

Climate in Costa Rica

When planning your trip to Costa Rica, it is important to know that the weather differs vastly by region. In the North Pacific, prepare for high temperatures and low humidity. On the other hand, the Northern Plains and the Caribbean coast with its dense forests is very humid with lower temperatures.

  • Dry season: mid-November to April

  • Rainy season: May to mid-November

Peak season for tourists is mid-December to April during the dry season. It is the ideal time to visit the beaches and explore the rainforests. 

Travel Tip: During the rainy season from May to November, the unpaved roads in Costa Rica can sometimes be impassable. Keep this in mind if you are planning on traveling to Costa Rica during these months.

Major Festivals in Costa Rica

All year round there are many festivals celebrated in Costa Rica. Here are some of the major festivals that you shouldn’t miss.

  • Envision Festival, February: During this music, art & yoga festival, foreigners and locals alike flock to the beaches of Dominical for yoga, live concerts, communing with nature, wild artistic expression.

  • El juego de los diablitos de Boruca, Dec 30 – Jan 2 in the community of Boruca & the first weekend of February in the town of Rey Curré: If you love to watch people dress up in traditional costume and dance, then you’ll love this festival. There is also fireworks and lots of great traditional food!

  • Límon Carnival, October, This is probably the most colorful festival in the country. Here you will see float parades and lots of costumes.

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Things to Do in Costa Rica | Two Wandering Soles

Top Things to Do in Coast Rica

Try Surfing

Whether you are an experienced surfer or just a beginner, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica is the place to be. If you are just starting out and want some direction, you will find lots of surf schools here.

How to book your surf lesson in Santa Teresa:

During our stay in Santa Teresa, we found Audrey who is originally from France but has been living in Santa Teresa for several years. You can find more information about Audrey’s company on her website, Costa Rica Surf and SUP. Contact her via the website, email or WhatsApp and she will get back to you quickly. And when you do, tell her Katie & Ben from Two Wandering Soles sent you!

Tip: If you’re headed to Costa Rica to surf, you’ll want to check out the other fun things to do in Santa Teresa & Montezuma to keep you occupied when you’re not out riding waves.

Go Beach Hopping

If you love beaches, you’ll surely love Puerto Viejo. This place has a lot of beaches to explore. Some of the best ones here are Playa Punta Uva, Playa Grande, Playa Chiquita, Playa Negra, and Playa Puerto Viejo.

Hike Around Arenal

Arenal Volcano National Park has a lot of hiking with mostly flat trails. In the park, you’ll see plenty of lava rock formations and glimpse some great views of Arenal Volcano.

Looking for some other outdoor adventures? Check out our guide to La Fortuna & Arenal for all of the best adventurous things to do in this part of the country.

Learn Some Spanish

Costa Rica is one of the best places to go to if you want to learn Spanish. The country’s dialect is pretty easy to understand so a lot of people look for a homestay with a Costa Rican family for a faster learning experience.

Go Zip Lining

You can fly through the jungle on a zip line in Arenal, Costa Rica. We tried Sky Adventures because of their great reviews and half-mile zip line. It was pretty fun and definitely a must-do when you’re here!

Insider Tip: If you have a tour and need to grab a quick breakfast to go, My Coffee (south of the park in front of the main church in town) has a great option and they’re open early.

Order the croissant of the day for 3,500 colones ($6.17 USD). This comes with two croissant sandwiches (one with egg and cheese and the other lettuce, tomato and ham), and is easily sharable between two people. You can get coffee to go here as well if you need a little pick-me-up! We found it a bit difficult to find to-go breakfast options in La Fortuna.

Best Food to Eat in Costa Rica | Two Wandering Soles

Foods to Eat in Costa Rica

Depending on where you are in Costa Rica, most cuisines feature vegetables, exotic foods and lots of fresh fish. Rice and black beans are also a staple in most traditional cooking.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Salsa Caribeña: On the Caribbean coast, this stew or curry is a very common dish. It is made with either shrimp, fish, or lobster and a mixture of coconut milk, peppers, sugar, spices, tomatoes, veggies, butter and oil. 

  • Rice and Beans: If you are staying near the coast, you have to give this dish a try. It is often called gallo pinto and includes coconut milk, red beans, thyme and various spices.

  • Rondon: More of a home-cooked meal than a dish you’d find on a restaurant menu, you may have a hard time finding it. This Caribbean fish stew is made with plantains, local veggies, peppers, coconut milk, spices and the catch of the day.

Costa Rica Budget | Two Wandering Soles

Typical Budget for Costa Rica

A lot of people think that since Costa Rica is in Central America, it would be less expensive. However, traveling to this country might cost more than you think. Due to the accessible tourism from North Americans, the cost of traveling in Costa Rica has risen dramatically over the past decade. However, if you are on a budget, it is still possible to visit here without making too many sacrifices.

How much to budget in Costa Rica per Day

Budget traveler: If you are on a tight budget and watch your spending closely, $30 – $50 could be a sufficient budget.

Mid-range traveler: If you want to have a few splurges and stay in nicer accommodation, plan to budget $75 – $100 per day.

We had the pleasure of staying in a private villa near Uvita during our trip and would highly recommend it for anyone seeking a bit of romance and luxury near the beach.

Travel Guide | Two Wandering Soles

Dorm bed = $10-$15

Budget room = $50-$75

Mid-range = $100-$200

Luxury hotel = $250+

Travel Guide | Two Wandering Soles

Sodas (local restaurants)= $5-$8

Mid-range restaurant = $8-$12

Fancy restaurant = $20+

Local beer = $2-$3

Travel Guide | Two Wandering Soles

Car Rental = $300-$700

Bus = $3-$20

Shuttle Buses = $40-$80

Domestic Flights = $30+

Travel Guide | Two Wandering Soles

Tortuguero National Park = $40-$60 for kayak and boat tours

Zip Lining = $50-$90

Whitewater Rafting = $60-$130

Walking through the treetops = $60-$80

Coffee Tour = $15-$35

Costa Rica Responsible Travel Tips | Two Wandering Soles

Responsible Travel Tips for Costa Rica

We are passionate about sharing tips anyone can use to travel more responsibly. Here are some easy ways you can travel better in Costa Rica.

1. Leave no trace

If you plan on visiting the jungle, a nature preserve or natural hot springs, be sure to leave it just as you found it and pack up your fruit peels, organic waste and trash to take with you when you leave until you find a proper place for disposal.

2. Do your research

Beyond this travel guide, read about the country’s culture, customs and tourism practices before your trip so you are able to make informed decisions about your own travel. 

3. Support local artisans

One place with locally made souvenirs that that we loved in Puerto Viejo is Casa Mandala. With lots of eco-friendly home goods, handicrafts and pieces of art, you’re sure to find something to remember your time in Costa Rica by while also supporting local artisans.

4. Cut out plastic

Make it a habit to remove and recycle plastic packaging of things you buy. Also, bring an eco-friendly reusable bag for your shopping and politely refuse plastic bags at markets and shops.

Related Reading: Here are 18 simple ways to reduce your use of plastic on a daily basis.

5. Practice Responsible Animal Tourism

When traveling in a country with as much biodiversity as Costa Rica, you are sure to come across wild animals at some point. Always remember not to touch or feed wild animals and practice keep a cautious distance so as not to disturb their wild habitat.

What to Pack for Costa Rica | Two Wandering Soles

What to Pack for Costa Rica

As always, the best thing to keep in mind for any travel is to pack light and only bring the necessities. This way, you can easily go from place to place without hauling tons of baggage. In Costa Rica, the many adventurous things to do and differences in climate can be tricky when you are deciding on what to pack. 

Here are some specific items we’d recommend packing for Costa Rica:

Costa Rica Packing List

Costa Rica Travel Articles

Find all kinds of information on traveling to Costa Rica that will help you in planning the perfect trip. From how to rent a car to travel guides for all the best place to visit in Costa Rica, we’ve got it all!

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Rio Celeste Waterfall, Costa Rica: ULTIMATE Guide

Rio Celeste Waterfall is one of the most anticipated destinations on any adventure around Costa Rica. Discover exactly how to visit this mythical gem nestled in lush, volcanic landscapes using this detailed guide. ...

Renting a Car in Costa Rica: ESSENTIAL Tips & Warnings

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8 Amazing Things to Do in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

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27 Adventurous Things to Do in Costa Rica

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10 Fun Things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is one of Costa Rica’s most famous Caribbean cities. There are so many things to do in Puerto Viejo, from touring the BriBri indigenous village to seeing sloths to exploring Costa Rica’s best beaches. And of course you can’t miss the delicious Caribbean food! You’ll quickly...

Bri Bri Indigenous Village & Chocolate Tour in Costa Rica

If you’re looking to dig a little deeper into the culture in Costa Rica, take a break from the adventure sports and beaches for a day and venture to an indigenous village not far from Puerto Viejo. Learning about the Bribri people, speaking with a shaman and supporting their livelihood...

10 Fun Things To Do in La Fortuna & Arenal, Costa Rica

Arenal is the adventure capital of Costa Rica and has many things to do to keep your heart pumping. Whether it’s whitewater rafting, canyoning, ziplining or hiking around the Arenal Volcano, we have you covered with this detailed travel guide. We are also sharing our top places to stay in...

12 Best Things to Do in Santa Teresa & Montezuma, Costa Rica

If you’re looking for great surf, gorgeous sunsets, good food and laid back vibes, look no further than Santa Teresa. With Montezuma a short drive away, these two towns are a backpacker’s dream. There are plenty of things to do in Santa Teresa and Montezuma and we have a list...

Rancho Mastatal Sustainable Eco Lodge in Costa Rica

Tucked away in the mountains of central Costa Rica, Rancho Mastatal is a sustainable education center and lodge. Whether you want to explore a hidden waterfall, unplug in an hammock or learn about permaculture and natural building, this off-the-beaten path destination has so much to offer....

Oxygen Jungle Villas: Luxury & Romance in Costa Rica

Whether you’re looking for the perfect stay on your honeymoon, or a special experience during your trip to Costa Rica, Oxygen Jungle Villas is the perfect combination of romance, luxury and comfort all in a beautiful natural setting....

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