Costa Rica, with its extremely diverse terrain has something to offer every kind of traveler. From amazing wildlife reserves, lush green forests and mighty volcanos, to bustling cities, worldwide cuisine and beautiful beaches, you’re sure to find the perfect spot for your trip to this vibrant country. No matter what time of year you visit Costa Rica, you are almost guaranteed warm, sunny weather, with the exception of the ‘green’ rainy season. If you want to know more about the amazing things to see and do there, then check out our Insider’s guide to Costa Rica.
If you’re heading to beautiful Costa Rica, here are some of the highlights you won’t want to miss. Natural beauty, awesome adventures, and delicious food await!
Located on the north-west tip of Cahuita, this famous black-sand beach is one stunning natural wonder. Playa Negra proudly carries the bandera azul ecológica flag, meaning that area is held to the highest possible ecological standards. Because of this extreme level of protection, swimming in the waters here is an absolutely magical experience! You can see many tropical fish here, and even a few turtles. This beautiful black beach is also unknown to a lot of tourists, so the beach and water are always wonderfully quiet.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
This enchanting network of waterfalls is located just east of Volcán Poás in Vara Blanca. You can spend the day hiking the winding forest trails, in search of the 5 beautiful waterfalls that call these gardens home. There are also purpose built viewing and photo platforms in some of the waterfalls, such as Templo and Encantada, so you can get some amazing shots of the cascade. Also in the complex is a butterfly garden, many wild hummingbirds and toucans, and a serpentarium.
With its regular eruptions stopping in early 2010, this impressive volcano now stands at 5,000 feet high and is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica. Some people choose to head to the Arenal Observatory Lodge to get panoramic views of the majestic volcano, while others stroll along the many trails and enjoy the surrounding forest. Inside Arenal Volcano National Park, there are also many hot springs, the perfect place to rest weary feet after a long day hiking.
Curi Cancha Reserve
This breathtaking reserve is actually inside the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Although it may not be quite as large as it’s counterpart, Curi Cancha is cheaper, attracts fewer crowds, and has much more intimate guided tours than the main Monteverde reserve. Visitors can enjoy a private guided tour, hike the many jungle trails, biplane across the lush canopy, or simply listen to the soothing sounds of the cloud forest.
This cosmopolitan city is the capital of Costa Rica and has so much to offer travellers of all kinds. From high-rise offices and modern bars, to culturally magnificent museums and local diners, San Jose has it all. When visiting Costa Rica, it is advisable to spend a few days exploring the city before moving on to the rainforests or beaches, to truly get a feel for the diversity of Costa Rica.
Despite Costa Rica’s small size, it has extremely varied weather conditions throughout the country. One thing that doesn’t usually change is that there’s around 12 hours of sun every single day, with the sun rising and falling at 5:45 each day.
Around the lowlands the average temperature is 26°C, but it can climb to a staggering 32°C in the height of summer. Around the coast and San Jose, you can enjoy a present average temperature of 22°C, but in the highlands it drops to 13°C. Throughout Costa Rica, the hottest months are from March through until May, and the coolest are from November to January.
The Dry season is the best time of year to visit Costa Rica if you want to explore the beaches and cities. However, if you wish to see the rainforest at its peak, or go white water rafting, then coming in the ‘green season’ is advisable. The rainy or ‘green season’ runs from June to September in Monteverde.
Costa Rican food is one of those cuisines where you just can’t go wrong. Fresh fruit and vegetables are always a must, and rice and black beans are a staple in most dishes. Costa Ricans pride themselves on cooking each and every meal from scratch, so it feels like you’re eating a home cooked meal in almost every restaurant.
Because of the boom in tourism, you can find almost any type of cuisine in the major cities of Costa Rica. Japanese, Peruvian, Mexican and Italian are some of the most popular with the Costa Ricans. However, there are also plenty of local delicacies to try. Rondon, Cacao Fresco, Naturales and Casado are some of the most typical and delicious foods of this vibrant country.
Travel like a local
Throughout Costa Rica, there are two kinds of buses, local and tourist. While they both take the exact same route, the tourist buses can cost up to double. Ask around for the local bus stop, and take those buses to save money throughout your trip.
Don’t change money in the airport
The rates for money exchange in San Jose airport are alway extremely bad. Instead, if you are carrying dollars, ask at your hotel reception, or in some of the larger restaurants if they can do it for you. They have the best rates.
Get map savvy
If you choose to drive around Costa Rica, be sure to use both a paper map and GPS. The maps don’t show nearly enough detail to get through some of the winding forest roads, but the GPS won’t show you the all important bigger picture.