Costa Rica has a HUGE variety of places to visit and activities to do, where many vacation combinations can be done. Among the places to visit are volcanoes, beaches, rainforests, plantations (coffee, cocoa, banana, pineapple, etc.), wildlife viewing places, cloudforests, or typical towns to experience the culture. As to the activities could be zip lining, nature walks in rainforests, volcanoes or cloud forests, white water rafting, wildlife viewing tours, visits to hot springs, rappelling, suspension bridges, ocean activities, among many others. Some examples of vacation combinations could be adventure & beach, nature & beach, adventure & nature, culture & beach, or a combination of everything!
Planning a trip to our country could be hassle because of the large array of choices. A good start would be to determine the type of vacation of your preference.whether is adventure, romance, nature, etc. Then, based on the type of vacation, choose the regions you'd like to visit and the type of activities. Even though Costa Rica is such a small country, the landscape, temperatures and climate varies a lot. We would recommend to contact one of our expert advisors, which all have been tour guides in Costa Rica, to help you plan the best vacation for you (as tour guides we've been to every corner of the country, and have a much better perspective than travel sites selling packages outside the country, or foreigners who moved here and sell vacations).
That would depend of your particular interests. Even though Costa Rica is such a small country, the landscape, temperatures and climate varies a lot from place to place. Here are some examples of the most famous destinations of the country and their main themes, based on our experience as tour guides:
Arenal Volcano area: The Arenal Volcano area is considered as the “must see” destination of Costa Rica, highly recommended in all travel books and magazines. The region itself is very beautiful, very green perhaps, because is surrounded by rainforests and with a very developed tourism platform where one can find SEVERAL activities of all types. For those people who are more adventurous, there are VERY good zip lining tours immersed in the rainforest, white water rafting (highly recommend the Sarapiqui River), waterfall rappelling, ATV’s, mountain biking, kayaking at Lake Arenal, among others. For those who prefer nature tours, there are many rainforest walks and hikes, the famous Arenal Hanging Bridges, La Fortuna Waterfall, Cano Negro for observation of wildlife (one of the 2 best places in the country in our opinion), Venado Caves, among others. Last but not least, the best hot springs of the country can be found at the base of the volcano.
Monteverde: This area is considered as the best place to observe the Costa Rican Cloud Forests, which can be viewed from either one of the many reserves around the area or of course from its famous hanging bridges. We considered this place as very good for observation of nature and although there are many adventure activities offered, take in consideration that on any given day the weather could be cold, therefore, the adventure activities cannot be as enjoyable (there is not an specific weather pattern here as far as a dry season or rainy season, it’s cloudy and drizzling a lot of days of the year, that combined with the high altitude makes it a cooler place than the rest of Costa Rica).
Manuel Antonio: Its beaches and National Park have been rated as one of the most beautiful of the world. The great thing about this region is that there is wildlife everywhere you look, as a matter of fact, seeing wildlife at the hotels with a close range to the National Park is a very common thing (seeing monkeys on the roof or trees of the hotels is an everyday thing!). These area offers several good adventure activities, such as white water rafting, zip lining in the rainforests, waterfall rappelling (best of the country!), ATV Tours in the rainforests, horseback riding tours to waterfalls immersed in jungles (best place to ride horses), among others. As to the nature activities, must mention of course walking at the Manuel Antonio National Park, boat or kayaking tours at the mangrove forests and visiting the private reserves at the nearby mountain range. Also there are several water activities like snorkeling, jet skiing, surfing, among others.
Sarapiqui: Sarapiqui is one of our favorite places for many reasons: its attractions are never crowded, because this is not a very famous touristic area; also because the best white water rafting class II-III (ideal for families and beginners) is done at the Sarapiqui River; it has the best pineapple and cocoa plantation tours, and at the nature reserves is very easy to find wildlife, being very common to see 3 species of toucans, monkeys, iguanas, sloths and birds of all kinds; not to mention that the Sarapiqui’s rainforests are very beautiful and interesting to admire.
Guanacaste’s Beaches: This is the area of the country that concentrates the vast majority of the beach resorts, ideal for a beach vacation and even has its own international airport. Guanacaste is the driest area with a large choice of beaches, but it’s a place that we would recommend ONLY if you are thinking about relaxing at the beach or doing water activities (such as snorkeling, diving, sport fishing, etc.), because the natural areas and land activities offered are not as good as in other parts of the country, they are good, but not AS GOOD; in other words, in Guanacaste you won’t find many of the things that make Costa Rica famous, like the lush rainforests, cloud forests, wildlife, waterfalls, plantations, etc. (all these things can be found on the Caribbean side, the Northern Plains area of Arenal and at the Central and South Pacific Regions as well, which are at a long driving range from Guanacaste). A vacation in this area compares more to a beach vacation in Cancun, Jamaica, Punta Cana, Puerto Vallarta, etc.
South Caribbean Region: This is another place that we, as Costa Ricans passionate for nature, love to visit because of the lush vegetation and incredibly beautiful and unexplored beaches. It has the disadvantage that it rains pretty much all year, but as mentioned before, the beauty of nature is incredible. Another plus about the South Caribbean is that, regardless of the season, there are not too many tourists there. The amount of activities available is not a lot, therefore, the purpose of going there is to enjoy of the unique isolated beaches, the nature-wildlife and the Caribbean culture, which is very different than the rest of the country.
South Pacific Region: This is one of the most remote areas of the Costa Rica, and the main reason to visit this place would be to enjoy nature, because the place is not very populated and full of protected areas. Most of the beaches have a very unique look, made of black volcanic sand for the most part and surrounded by lush rainforests. The amount of activities is limited too, mainly water activities and nature walks or whale observation when in season.
Central Valley: The Central Valley of Costa Rica, where the capital city of San Jose is located, is normally considered as a “by pass area”, because most of the main touristic attractions of the country are outside of it. On the other hand, this would be the best place for those who love coffee and wish to take a coffee tour, because the vast majority of the plantations are located here, as well as the good coffee tours. Another good attraction in the area is the famous and active Poas Volcano, which is one the most visited National Parks and one of the very few volcanoes where there is an easy access all the way to the crater.
The official currency is the Costa Rican “Colones”, but US Dollars, debit and credit cards are widely accepted through the country. The recommendation we always give to our customers is to exchange US$80-$100 only to Colones, that should be enough in case that you find somebody who wouldn’t take US Dollars, credit or debit cards (even the people selling fruits on the side of the roads normally take at least one of these methods of payment). Also, we don’t recommend doing the exchange at the airport, because the exchange rates are normally very low. Our recommendation is to stop at an ATM machine on the way to one of your hotels, where you will get the official exchange rate.
As today, Costa Rica is the safest country of Latin America and is considered a very safe destination for travelers. Our recommendation is to coordinate your trip with a native Costa Rican so you don’t end up going to the bad parts of town. As precaution, we recommend to travel around the country with a hired transport service, rather than renting a car (the GPS’s here don’t work as well as in developed countries).