Costa Rica Travel Guide
Costa Rica is an exciting travel destination for visitors from around the world. With its close proximity to the USA, it’s the ideal place to head for a vacation all year round. Whether you enjoy spending time at the beach, hiking, or visiting vibrant cities, Costa Rica really does have it all. In this Costa Rica Travel Guide we’re going to share with you some of the must-see locations in the country and our top tips for planning a Costa Rica vacation this year.
Where Should I Visit in Costa Rica?
Choosing where to visit in Costa Rica can often be one of the most difficult decisions you have to make about your trip. There’s so much to do here that you could easily spend three or four weeks traveling around and only just scratch the surface of what’s on offer. When it comes to deciding where to visit, it’s mainly dependent on the length of your vacation. We encourage you not to spend too much time rushing around and instead take it at a slower pace and embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle. Our Tarbaca mountain vacation home is the ideal base for your Costa Rica trip, and from there, you can head out and explore the surrounding area on day trips or overnight trips. To help you plan your next vacation here, these are just a few of the top locations that we believe any visitor to Costa Rica will enjoy seeing.
As the capital city of Costa Rica, downtown San José is a vibrant and exciting area that will give you a glimpse into local life in the country. Most travelers from the USA will fly into San José to start their trip, so you may want to tag on a day or two here before heading to your vacation rental. If you are interested in learning more about Costa Rica’s history and culture, consider visiting some of the museums in the city. We particularly recommend the National Museum and the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, which are both great to spend a couple of hours exploring. Of course, take the opportunity to enjoy some of the delicious Costa Rican food in the city, where you’ll be spoiled for choice with restaurants to dine in.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Located not too far away from our vacation home, you’ll find the spectacular Manuel Antonio National Park. While it’s certainly not the largest park in the country, it’s known for its rich biodiversity and its wide variety of activities to enjoy. You’ll find Manuel Antonio National Park near the town of Quepos on the Central Pacific Coast. There are three beautiful beaches here, and you can also explore the rainforest, which is packed with exotic creatures.
Most visitors head to Espadilla Sur Beach or Manuel Antonio Beach, which are both about a half-hour walk from the park entrance. Here you can enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the clear waters the area is so renowned for. The park itself is teeming with wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for howler and squirrel monkeys, sloths, iguanas, agoutis, and dozens of species of birds. For the best chance of viewing these creatures, we recommend getting here bright and early and touring the park with a naturalist who will know the clues and sounds that indicate these animals are nearby.
For a slower pace of life and to see another side of the country, head to La Fortuna. This is one of the top picks for our Costa Rica Travel Guide. There are many great hotels to stay at here, and you’ll enjoy relaxing in this small town which is located northwest of San José. The majority of visitors to this area are here to visit Arenal Volcano National Park, which is home to two volcanoes, including the active Arenal Volcano. At the bottom of the volcano, you can enjoy a trip to the hot springs, which are located on the Tabacón River. Chato Volcano is a dormant volcano on the site, which has a crater lake and some beautiful rainforest trails to explore. Don’t miss taking the short walk to La Fortuna Waterfall, where you can swim to cool off once you arrive.
One of our top recommendations for a trip to La Fortuna is heading out on a 4-wheeler excursion, which will allow you to explore the area even more. If you are able to stay in the area for two or three days, you can enjoy kayaking, horseback riding, or mountain biking. It’s a great spot for adventure sports, and kayaking on Lake Arenal is a great way to see the volcano from another viewpoint. If you are traveling with teenagers, don’t miss heading out on a ziplining excursion, where you can see the forest from up above. For those looking for something a little tamer, consider visiting the coffee or cacao plantations in the area.
San Gerardo de Dota
At the base of the Talamanca Mountain Range, you’ll find the town of San Gerardo de Dota. While it may be a smaller town, you’ll find it offers so much in terms of natural beauty for visitors. Most visitors to the area enjoy hiking through the wilderness and viewing the plants and birds that call this area home. If you’ve come to Costa Rica to escape the busyness of your day-to-day life, this is the ideal spot to rest and immerse yourself in nature. We highly recommend staying at the Savegre Hotel, which has beautiful landscaped gardens and a spa onsite. For a slower pace and a place you will talk about for a long time, this is one of our top picks for the Costa Rica Travel Guide.
No trip to Costa Rica would be complete without a day or two at the beach. From our vacation rental, we recommend heading to Jaco Beach for a day or two. This is a great spot for anyone traveling to Costa Rica on a budget, and the lively beach town is only a couple of hours away from San José. It’s known for offering a wide range of water-based activities and its great nightlife once the sun goes down. There’s something for visitors of all ages to enjoy here, including surfing, fishing, kayaking, and ATV tours. For anyone looking to admire more of Costa Rica’s wildlife, book a nature boat ride during your time in Jaco Beach.
While Jaco Beach is great for anyone looking for a lively Costa Rican beach experience, for a more private and secluded beach, head to Los Suenos. When visiting here, you’ll find many condos to rent for the night, or you can stay in the local Marriott. The Marriott has all of the facilities you would need for a couple of days, including a golf club, an adults-only pool, and an onsite spa. We have Los Suenos in our Costa Rica Travel Guide for those that want a more private setting. From here, you can also head to Carara National Park or just enjoy spending time relaxing in this peaceful beach resort.
When discussing the best beaches in Costa Rica, one that always comes up is Tamarindo. Located in the northwest of the country, it’s particularly renowned for its excellent surfing. The beach attracts a lot of young couples and long-term travelers, and there’s plenty to keep you entertained during a visit here. Once the sun goes down at night, you’ll find many intimate restaurants and beach bars to spend the evening at, reflecting on another day in paradise.
Playa Flamingo is known for its white sand beach, which looks pink to visitors, and it’s an excellent spot for swimming. The waves aren’t as dangerous here as in other beach resorts, and it very rarely experiences high crowd levels, even during the busiest times of the year. The area is slightly lacking in upscale resorts and hotels, but you’ll find some great budget-friendly accommodation options for a relaxing few days away from the crowds.
How Many Days Should I Visit Costa Rica For?
Now that we’ve covered some of our must-visit locations in the country, you are possibly wondering how you can fit everything into one trip. While you are probably keen to see and do a lot on your vacation, try to avoid overextending yourself if it’s your first time in the country. If you are traveling from the USA, you’ll still be able to see a lot in a week in Costa Rica, but if you can extend your vacation to two or three weeks, you’ll enjoy seeing four or five of the most popular locations in the country.
Between ten days and two weeks will give you a chance to visit San José, La Fortuna, and Manuel Antonio National Park while also factoring in some downtime at our vacation rental. Once you see our Tarbaca mountain vacation home, you’ll certainly want to carve out some days to just relax and spend time together as a family. We encourage you to embrace the Pura Vida life and enjoy taking your time exploring the country on your visit.
Getting Around Costa Rica
One of the most commonly asked questions we receive is regarding getting around Costa Rica. We understand that many international visitors don’t want to rent a car and drive in an unknown country, and that’s perfectly understandable. When you are staying in our vacation rental, we have a local 13-passenger van service available to take you around the country. They can pick you up from the airport and drive you directly to the house, and can also arrange visits within the San José area and to the local beaches. There are many great options when it comes to exploring the country without a car, so you’ll still be able to see and do everything you planned to with private transportation.
When is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?
No doubt by now you are itching to get booking your Costa Rica vacation. Honestly, there is no bad time to visit Costa Rica, and it will be dependent on what you want to see and do. If you have limited vacation time, don’t let that put you off coming to Costa Rica. The peak tourist months are between December and April each year due to the great weather. Of course, expect crowds to be much higher around Easter, especially in the popular beach resorts. If you are limited to traveling in the summer break, July and August offer lower prices due to the fewer visitors who come at this time of year. If you can get time off between September and November, this is the low season, making it ideal for exploring some of the locations that experience higher crowds come December.
Costa Rica is a welcoming and exciting country for travelers of all ages. Regardless of your personal travel style and your interests, you’ll find activities and locations in Costa Rica that will appeal to everyone in your travel party. We certainly hope you have enjoyed our Costa Rica Travel Guide. For more information about our vacation home rental in Costa Rica, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Pura Vida World, who will be happy to help plan your Costa Rica trip for you. You’ll be impressed by the luxury amenities our vacation rental will offer you, which will make you feel right at home when visiting Costa Rica this year.