Costa Rica Vacation Packages | Tico Travel

What to Consider when Planning a Trip to Costa Rica

Costa Rica Vacation in Arenal | Tico Travel

Costa Rica, while small, is an extremely diverse country. The following advice and suggestions will help you plan a trip to Costa Rica and discover all the wonderful things you can see and do when travelling to this beautiful and friendly country.

When planning a trip to Costa Rica, there are a few important things to consider ensuring that you have a safe, fun, and memorable experience.

  • Travel dates: Costa Rica has two main seasons: the dry season (Dec-April) and the rainy season (May-Nov). Each season offers different experiences, the dry season is better for adventure activities and beach vacations, while the rainy season is better for nature lovers and bird watching.
  • Budget: Costa Rica is a relatively affordable destination, but prices can vary depending on the type of accommodation and activities you choose. Make sure to research prices in advance and budget accordingly.
  • Accommodation: Costa Rica offers a wide variety of accommodations, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury resorts. Consider your needs and preferences and make sure to book in advance during peak season.
  • Health and Safety: Before you go, check for any necessary vaccinations or health precautions. Costa Rica is generally safe, but it’s still important to take normal precautions such as not leaving valuables in plain sight and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Language: Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. It’s a good idea to learn a few key phrases before you go or bring a translation app.
  • Transportation: Costa Rica has a well-maintained road system, but traffic can be heavy in the cities, consider renting a car or taking public transportation. Also, most of the tour companies provide transportation as part of their package.
  • Packing: Consider the climate and activities you will be doing and pack accordingly. Bring lightweight, breathable clothing, comfortable walking shoes, a waterproof jacket, sunscreen, and insect repellent.

Let’s go over a few of these recommendations in more detail.

Airfare to Costa Rica

Trip to Costa Rica

Many major airlines, such as American Airlines, Delta, and United, offer direct flights from several cities in the United States, as well as from other countries in North, Central, and South America, and Europe.

While most international flights land in the capital, San José, there are also international flights to Liberia. If you plan to spend your time in the northwestern part of Costa Rica you may want to consider this option. For most of Costa Rica, San José is still the best choice.

Once you land in Costa Rica, you can either take a taxi, rent a car, or a bus to move around the country depending on the location you choose to visit.

Due to the local geography (I do not recommend driving over the mountains at night), I suggest you spend at least your first night in San José.

If you would like some assistance on where to stay in San Jose, you can see my post on my Recommended Hotels in San José  and from there you can select one that fits your budget and taste.

Keep in mind that rates vary widely depending on when you go and which airport you decide to fly into. If you are planning on visiting Costa Rica during a holiday period such as say Christmas… I highly suggest you book as early as possible as those flights fill up the quickest and almost never go down in price.

Choosing Areas of Costa Rica To Visit

Map of Costa Rica

This map points out the most popular tourism areas in Costa Rica and the ones that most first-time travelers to Costa Rica go to.  It’s also a list of places that the frequent traveler will go back to time and time again and there is always something new to see or experience.

I have been going to Costa Rica for over 25 years and I still go these places and I am always surprised to discover something new.


This small town located in the mountains of the Puntarenas province, known for its cloud forest and diverse wildlife. This region is particularly popular among ecotourists and nature lovers, the area boasts several nature reserves, including the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Arenal National Park.

The cloud forest reserve is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, including over 400 bird species, such as the Resplendent Quetzal, monkeys, sloths, and more. Visitors can explore the forest via a network of hanging bridges and trails, guided tours are available for those who want to learn more about the forest’s inhabitants.

Arenal Area 

The Arenal area of Costa Rica is a popular destination for tourists due to its proximity to Arenal volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the country, and its natural hot springs. The Arenal volcano National Park offers hiking and wildlife-watching opportunities, and the volcano’s activity can often be seen at night.

The base of the volcano offers a great spot for observation, and the area around the volcano offers a variety of activities such as ziplining, horseback riding, and white-water rafting.

Northern Pacific Coast (Guanacaste & Nicoya Peninsula) 

This is a popular destination for tourists seeking a combination of natural beauty, adventure, and relaxation. This region is known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and a diverse array of wildlife. The Nicoya peninsula, that part of the coast, is known for its dry tropical forest, and also for its beautiful beaches that are ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and exploring.

Some of the popular beaches in this region include Santa Teresa, Malpais and Montezuma, which offer excellent surfing, snorkeling, and diving opportunities. The region also offers a wide range of adventure activities such as horseback riding, ATV tours, and kayaking, as well as eco-tourism experiences such as hiking through the forest and wildlife watching.

Central Pacific Coast 

It is known for its beautiful beaches, diverse wildlife, and numerous adventure activities. This region is home to Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the most visited national parks in the country, and Jaco beach, a popular spot for surfers and beach-goers. The Central Pacific coast is also home to the Marino Ballena National Park, a marine protected area with excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. The region also offers various adventure activities such as zip-lining, white-water rafting, and sportfishing, and it’s a great location for those who like to combine nature and adventure activities.

Southern Pacific Coast & Osa Peninsula 

This part of Costa Rica is a less-explored region of the country, known for its remote, pristine beaches and its beautiful rainforests. The Osa Peninsula, which is located in the southern part of the coast, is one of the most biodiverse regions of the country and it’s a protected area where you can find Corcovado National Park, Piedras Blancas National Park and many more.

The Southern Atlantic coast is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, such as Playa Matapalo, Playa Hermosa and Playa Ballena, which are great for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.

Northern Caribbean Coast (Tortuguero) 

Tortuguero, Costa Rica is a small coastal village located on the northern Caribbean coast, known for its stunning beaches and important sea turtle nesting site. The village is surrounded by Tortuguero National Park, a protected area of rainforest, lagoons, and canals that is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna.

Tortuguero is one of the most important nesting sites for sea turtles in the Western Hemisphere, and it’s an attraction for visitors who want to see these magnificent creatures. The park is also home to other animals like monkeys, sloths, crocodiles and a variety of bird species.

Since this area cannot be reached by car, I recommend the two or three day tour as the best way to visit this area.

Southern Atlantic Coast 

This area is known for beautiful beaches and a laid back lifestyle with a definite Jamaican influence.

It is a less-explored region of the country, known for its remote, pristine beaches and its beautiful rainforests. The Osa Peninsula, which is located in the southern part of the coast, is one of the most biodiverse regions of the country and it’s a protected area where you can find Corcovado National Park, Piedras Blancas National Park and many more.

The Southern Atlantic coast is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, such as Playa Matapalo, Playa Hermosa and Playa Ballena, which are great for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.

Pro Tip: I suggest that if you are staying one week or less you don’t try to visit more than two areas outside the central valley.  This to make sure that you are not on a constant march around Costa Rica and to give you the opportunity to experience each area and the activities.

Deciding how you want to travel around Costa Rica

If you are traveling independently instead of opting for a package your next step is to decide how you want to get around this beautiful country.


Taking a bus in Costa Rica is a common way to travel and it’s a relatively affordable and convenient option. There are two main types of buses in Costa Rica: public buses and shuttle buses.

Public buses are the most economical option, they are usually operated by the government and they cover most of the main routes in the country, they can be crowded and not always on time, but they are a good way to experience local culture.

Shuttle buses are a more comfortable and efficient option, they are operated by private companies and they have a more flexible schedule, they also have air-conditioning and some offer WiFi, but they tend to be more expensive than public buses.

If you don’t speak Spanish and I do not recommend them for most tourists.

Rental Cars

Driving in Costa Rica can be a unique experience, as the country’s roads and driving customs may be different from what many visitors are accustomed to.

It’s important to note that many roads, particularly in rural areas, can be in poor condition and may not be well-marked. It’s also important to note that Costa Rica has a lack of signage, and unpredictable wildlife on the road. It’s recommended to get a good insurance policy that covers all contingencies.

It’s also important to note that most rental cars companies require a credit card deposit of up to $1,500 and restrict some types of travel such as crossing borders, or going to specific places.

Remember, if you choose this option, to have your driver’s license, passport, and the car registration with you while driving.

Overall, driving in Costa Rica can be an adventure, but it’s important to exercise caution and be prepared for the unique challenges of the country’s roads.

Private Transfer

A private transfer in Costa Rica is a convenient and comfortable way to travel, it provides a door-to-door service and it can be scheduled to suit your itinerary. Private transfers are operated by private companies and they offer different types of vehicles such as cars, vans and buses to accommodate various group sizes.

One of the benefits of a private transfer is the flexibility and comfort it offers, you can choose your own departure and arrival times, and the driver will take you directly to your destination. The driver will be able to provide a more personalized service and can also help with any requests or additional stops along the way.

Local Airlines

Taking a domestic flight in Costa Rica typically involves booking a flight with one of the country’s major airlines, such as Sansa or NatureAir. You will need to arrive at the airport at least one hour before their scheduled departure time to check in, clear security, and board their flight. The airports in Costa Rica are usually small and simple to navigate.

The flight itself is usually uneventful and offers scenic views of the Costa Rican countryside. Once at the destination airport, passengers will collect their luggage and go through customs before exiting the airport.

Choosing Multi Day Activities

White Water Rafting Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its diverse range of activities that cater to all types of travelers. Some popular activities include:


Costa Rica is home to an incredible array of flora and fauna. Visitors can go on guided hikes through the rainforest to see monkeys, sloths, and exotic birds. Also, Canopy tours and zip-line tours are a thrilling way to experience the rainforest.

Wildlife and bird watching

The country offers a wide variety of environments including cloud forests, tropical dry forests, wetlands, beaches and more, where you can spot animals like jaguars, tapirs, macaws, and scarlet macaws.


The Pacific and Caribbean coastlines of Costa Rica offer endless miles of sandy beaches with warm waters perfect for swimming, surfing, and stand-up paddleboarding.

Hot Springs

Visiting hot springs can be a great way to relax after a day of adventure, the natural hot springs are scattered around the country and have an therapeutic effect.

Adventure sports

Costa Rica is also known for adventure sports such as rafting, canyoning, rock climbing, and bungee jumping.

Volcano Hikes

The Arenal volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Costa Rica and hiking to the crater is a great way to experience it.

Yoga and Wellness: Many retreat centers offer yoga, meditation and wellness classes, you can take advantage of the beautiful surroundings and enjoy some self-care.

Sport Fishing 

The fish come big in Costa Rica and hooking trophy contenders comes easy; the fish almost seem to line up to get a bite on the hook, well.. maybe not that easy!. Costa Rica is the undisputed sailfish capital of the world on the Pacific, the tarpon and snook capital on the Caribbean.

Fishing varies from season to season, but hardly a month goes by without some International Game Fish Association record broken; the IGFA’s World Record edition lists 18 all-tackle records for Costa Rica, 41 line test records, and 18 fly-fishing records. For more information on Fishing in Costa Rica check out my post on the best way to book a charter boat.


For many in search of the perfect wave, the search has ended in Costa Rica. Long stretches of beaches provide thousands of beach breaks. Numerous rivers offer quality sandbar river mouth breaks, particularly on the Pacific coast.

And coral reefs on the Caribbean coast, says Costa Rica surf expert Peter Brennan, “take the speed limit to the max.” And there are plenty of surf camps so take a look at my post on Surfing in Costa Rica for more information.

These are just a few examples of the many activities that Costa Rica has to offer. With its rich culture and diverse landscapes, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Choosing Single Day Tours

San Jose 

San Jose has the most day tours and some that only operate from the capital. One of the most popular is white-water rafting on the Pacuare River or Reventazon Rivers. If you would like more information on Rafting in Costa Rica, check out my post!

Arenal Volcano Area

Arenal is beautiful area and there is lots to do besides waiting for the volcano to erupt. The hanging bridges are a popular tour as well as many others. You can check out my post on Hotels in Arenal if you need any recommendations.

Monteverde Cloud Forest 

There are several reserves in this cloud forest and a diverse selection of tours. I would recommend a morning cloud forest tour, which you can reserve at your hotel or on your own when you get there. Believe me! You will see a lot more with a guide.

North Pacific Coast 

This covers in part Tamarindo and Flamingo Beach area. Canopy tours and National Park tours are popular here. If you go this direction look into flying into Liberia instead of San Jose.

Southern Guanacaste Area 

This includes Tambor, Mal Pais, Santa Teresa, which are the main destinations and have days tours such as surfing and sailing and relaxing by the beach (not sure this would count as a day tour!)


In the Jacó Beach area there is a good selection of day tours available from sea kayaking to canopy tours. One of the most popular is the Isla Tortuga Tour.

Manuel Antonio 

There are a lot of water related activities in this area. Sea kayaking, white-water rafting and world class sport fishing in addition to the nature tours. All of which can be booked on your own or at your hotel

Southern Pacific Coast

A hikers Paradise! Most of the hotels on the Osa Peninsula include hiking and snorkeling in their packages

Southern Caribbean Coast 

Hotels in Tortuguero on the Northern Caribbean have tours included. These tours are for people staying at hotels in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo.

By considering these factors when planning your trip, you can ensure that you have a smooth and enjoyable experience in Costa Rica.

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