One of the most beautiful countries from Central America, Costa Rica is heaven on earth for beach lovers and nature explorers as well.
You definitely have to visit Costa Rica as it has about 5% of the world’s biodiversity and more than 1.300 kilometers of beaches in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
The most common phrase used by Ticos, as Costa Ricans are called is “Pura Vida” or pure life and it is used as a greeting or if somebody wants to show his/ her appreciation for something.
The most populated part of the country is Valle Central known also as Meseta Central and is also the place where you can find the capital city of San José.
The country is an independent republic that gained its independence on September 15, 1821, and has the first constitution in 1949, November 7th.
Where is Costa Rica located
Visiting Costa Rica should be on your travel list as it is conveniently located in Central America, just 4 and a half hours away from the United States.
This small country is neighboring Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
The country has a total surface of 51.000 square kilometers and has a total population of 4.4 million people.
The country became famous for its ecotourism and according to the Costa Rican Tourism board about half of the visitors that came to Costa Rica were interested in ecotourism.
Trekking, bird watching tours, and visiting the rural communities are among the most popular activities to do when in Costa Rica, besides perfecting your tan on one of the many beautiful beaches from the two coasts.
Currency of Costa Rica
The currency that you need to have in your pocket when you visit Costa Rica is the colón.
The name of the Costa Rican national currency came from the first European who discovered the country, Christopher Columbus ( Cristóbal Colón in Spanish).
The symbol of their national currency is “C” crossed by 2 diagonal strokes ₡, its abbreviation is CRC and it has the following exchange rate at January 1st, 2021:
1 ₡ = 0.0016 USD
1 ₡ = 0.0014 EUR
Or let me put it another way to be easier for you:
1.000 ₡ = 1.6 USD
2.000 ₡ = 3.2 USD
5.000 ₡ = 8 USD
20.000 ₡ = 32 USD
The currency was introduced in 1896 in order to replace the peso and it is divided into 100 centimos.
Today you can find the following banknotes and coins:
Banknotes: the most commonly used are 1.000, 2.000, 5.000, 10.000, 20.000, and 50.000 colones and you can rarely find banknotes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 colones.
Coins: the most commonly used are: 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 colones but you also find coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50 centimos and 1, 2, 5, and 20 colones.
It is perfectly normal to ask yourself how you can get the costa Rican currency before you travel to this country and here are a few ways to get it.
First of all, I want you to know that the US dollar is widely accepted at shops, restaurants, and markets from all over the country, but the main downside is that the exchange rate used is very poor for you.
That is why I personally advise you to have in your pocket some colones when travel to Costa Rica.
The first, safest, and most comfortable way to get some local colones is to withdraw some money from a local ATM.
In order to do that you need to authorize your card for international usage before you leave your home country for visiting Costa Rica.
Once you do that, all you have to do is to find an ATM that does not charge you any additional fee and withdraw money from your credit card.
Some of the banks limit the amount that can be withdrawn from your card at 100 US dollars per transaction and 200 USD dollars per day like Banco de Costa Rica does.
If I am not wrong the only bank that does not charge an ATM fee at withdrawal is the Banco de Costa Rica, but they limit your withdrawal amount as per above.
If withdrawing money from an ATM isn’t for you then there is another option and that is to exchange money at a bank or exchange office.
I advise you to choose a bank as it is safer and has better exchange rates; the main downside of this option is that it is extremely time-consuming as the queues at banks are generally long and the waiting time is high.
There is also a commission for exchanging at the office which is generally about 3% of the exchanged amount.
And there is something else: when visit Costa Rica bring with you small bills as the banknotes higher than 20 US dollars are not widely accepted.
No matter which option you choose to get some local currency, under no circumstances do not exchange money at the airport as they have one of the poorest exchange rates in the whole country.
Is Costa Rica expensive to travel?
I would say that Costa Rica is a little bit expensive for that part of America, but it is extremely beautiful and visiting Costa Rica is a great choice.
What will break the budget besides the hotel costs are the entrance to different attractions that are quite pricey for foreign visitors.
Don’t budget less than 40 USD per day as it is not realistic, especially if you want to taste a little of the local vibe.
In 40 USD per day, you have included just the transportation costs, the food and beverages and of course the accommodation without any entrance fee.
And going to Costa Rica without experiencing any of the local attractions is like going to New York and not taking a walk in Central Park.
I will show you below the costs for an entertaining holiday abroad that will include also some activities and attractions:
Note: all the amounts stated in the table are listed in USD
Is Costa Rica safe to travel?
In the last couple of years, you might hear news about Costa Rica and its involvement in drug traffic activities and money laundering, but the good news is that it is still a safe country for tourists.
Based on the recent data, I would say that Costa Rica is the safest country in Central America, so safe that it is one of the very few countries in the world that does not have an army.
Still, you don’t have to let your guard down as pickpocketing and small crimes are quite often as most of the population is pretty poor and they do anything for living.
So, here are some tips that will help you stay safe while traveling in this magnificent country:
- Don’t leave your items unattended no matter if you are on the beach, on a restaurant, or even in your rented car as not just locals but even some of the tourists might steal your valuable things
- Don’t wear jewelry or expensive watches and keep your phone in your pocket, don’t wave it around as you might become an easy target for pickpocketing.
Stay safe while you travel
- medical safety abroad
- medical assistance including COVID-19
- emergency medical evacuation
- trip interruption -up to $5.000
- travel delay - up to $100/day
- Avoid isolated places or traveling during the night as the risk of getting robbed into such places is higher
- Keep your backpack in front of you when using public transport as most of the thefts occur in buses and other public transportation means
- Don’t take a taxi unless it is authorized and pay attention to the meter as some taxi drivers might try to turn off the meter and ask you for more money
Best time for visiting Costa Rica
Definitely, the best time of year to visit Costa Rica from a weather perspective is from December to April, during the dry season.
The main disadvantage of Costa Rica travel in this period is that it is extremely crowded and that the prices for hotels, food and rented cars are quite high.
The most interesting thing about Costa Rica is that even if it is a small country it has many microclimates which means that one part of the country might be extremely dry while a few hundred kilometers further flooding might occur.
For those of you interested mainly in the beach season, then definitely January, February, and March are the best months of the year to go to Costa Rica.
Another advantage of going to Costa Rica in the dry season is that the sky is clear and you have better views of the volcano peaks like Poas volcano or Arenal volcano.
On the other hand, the color of the forests is less intense during the dry season because of the lack of water, and also the waterfalls might be less spectacular.
This is why we recommend you to visit the mountainous side and the waterfalls at the beginning of the dry season, early in December and not in April.
Another great time to travel to Costa Rica is in July or August, when the number of rainy days is still low although it is rainy season and you will find reasonable prices for accommodation and food, too.
During these two months of the year (July and August) the weather is mostly sunny and warm, the forest canopy is green but afternoon showers are quite common as the forest loads the air with water and rains occur to clean the air.
Best places to visit Costa Rica
This tiny country is home to about 5% of the world’s biodiversity and has many incredible and rare habitats where beautiful creatures live.
The country is on top of the list for best holiday destinations for Americans and European tourists and became home for many retirees and ex-pats because of its amazing scenery and affordable costs.
You find here amazing beaches, incredible volcanoes with their hot springs, many natural parks full of wildlife and endangered species of animals and plants, not to mention the breathtaking waterfalls and unique microclimates.
Let’s discover together which are the most interesting places to visit in this country on your next holiday:
Beaches in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is blessed with more than 800 miles of amazing beaches and more than 310 beaches on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea so picking the most popular beach for your holiday might be quite challenging.
You will find here everything you could dream of, from secluded beaches to strips of sand with all the facilities you need, some of them awarded with Blue Flag prize.
From pink, black, and golden sandy beaches, each strip of sand from Costa Rica is unique and spectacular, ideal places to relax and chill off.
- These are the most beautiful beaches in Jaco Costa Rica
- 7 of the most stunning beaches in Limon Costa Rica
- Playa Flamingo -why not skip this pink sand beach Costa Rica
- Discovering the best swimming beaches Costa Rica has
Snorkeling in Costa Rica
Dive into the crystal-clear depths of adventure as you embark on an unforgettable journey of snorkeling in Costa Rica. With its stunning array of marine life and vibrant coral reefs, this tropical paradise offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the wonders beneath the waves.
From the Pacific to the Caribbean coast, Costa Rica’s aquatic landscapes boast a kaleidoscope of colors, from the graceful dance of sea turtles to the mesmerizing ballet of tropical fish.
Immerse yourself in the warm embrace of the ocean’s embrace, exploring hidden coves and vibrant underwater gardens.
To truly experience the magic of snorkeling in Costa Rica, check out my in-depth article on the best spots and insider tips for an unforgettable underwater escapade: Complete guide for snorkeling in Costa Rica.
Discover how this tropical haven beckons with its aquatic treasures, inviting adventurers like you to uncover the secrets of its mesmerizing marine world.
Waterfalls in Costa Rica
With a few hundred waterfalls spread all over the country, Costa Rica is definitely one of the most amazing countries to visit in Latin America as some of the most beautiful attractions are located quite close to San Jose, the city capital.
Get deep into the rainforest to reach these falls and cool off in their amazing swimming holes from the bottom of the falls after a tiring hike across the jungle.
Year after year, more and more waterfalls have been discovered by tourists and become popular attractions, no matter how difficult the hike is and how long does it take to get to them.
- All you need to know about Nauyaca waterfalls Costa Rica
- Your best pocket guide for Montezuma waterfalls Costa Rica
- Complete guide for Llanos de Cortez waterfall Costa Rica
- La Paz waterfall gardens Costa Rica: the hidden paradise
Rainforests in Costa Rica
Don’t forget to include in your trip to Costa Rica at least one visit to a rainforest as it is a unique habitat, home to many species of birds, mammals, and insects.
In Costa Rica, there are 6 types of tropical forests, out of which rainforests are the most interesting of them all.
These can be found mostly in the southwestern part of the country but also in the lowland Atlantic areas and are filled with big trees and it is a place where it rains a lot.
The important amount of annual rainfalls sustain its unique climate and ecosystem and because of their varied fauna and flora are considered to be the most amazing places on Earth.
- Piedras Blancas National Park a hidden gem of Costa Rica
- Your complete guide to Carara National Park Costa Rica
- Your pocket guide about Costa Rica Cahuita National Park
- Manuel Antonio Costa Rica, Latin American's hidden paradise
Cloud forest in Costa Rica
Another type of tropical forest is the cloud forest, quite a unique habitat that covers just about 1% of the planet’s woodlands.
These forests are specific for tropical and subtropical mountainous environments and appear in those parts of the world where the atmospheric conditions are favorable for the creation of a significant cover of clouds.
The clouds appear most commonly as fog in the upper part of the forest, more exactly in the canopy and it condenses onto the leaves and drips onto the plants located on the bottom of the forest.
The humidity from the cloud forests is favorable for many species of plants, especially for those known as epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants without being considered parasitic plants).
Walking on the hanging bridges from these forests through the clouds is a very special moment that you definitely don’t have to miss on your trip to Costa Rica.
- Hidden world of Bajos Del Toro cloud forest in Costa Rica
- Exploring the secret Los Angeles cloud forest Costa Rica
- Discover the unique Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica
Volcanoes in Costa Rica
When visit Costa Rica don’t forget to stop for a short visit to one of the many Costa Rican volcanoes spread all over the country.
At the moment when you are reading this article, there are 6 active volcanoes and another 60 extinct or dormant ones.
The most active volcano is Arenal that is also the most visited one, although starting with 2010 it entered into a resting phase.
A volcanic adventure is something you definitely have to try when in Costa Rica so take with you hiking shoes, a backpack and prepare to explore one of the most hostile landforms in the world.
- Visiting the stunning and unique Irazu Volcano in Costa Rica
- Your guide for visiting Rincon de la Vieja National Park
- Complete guide for a trip to Poas Volcano Costa Rica
- Discover the hidden world around Arenal Volcano Costa Rica
Animals in Costa Rica
With so many landforms and such rich biodiversity, Costa Rica is a great place to go especially if you are a nature lover.
This small country from Latin America ensures you many unique encounters with endangered species but also elusive animals.
About 25% of the country’s surface is part of a protected area, offering secure places to live for more than 500.000 species of plants and animals.
All over the country, there are 27 national parks, 59 sanctuaries, 31 protected areas, 8 biological reserves, 14 wetland zones, and 12 forests.
Without any doubt, this tiny country is the perfect place to go if you are looking for wild encounters with special animals like sloths, jaguars, monkeys, coatis, and many other mammals, insects, and birds.
- All you need to know about turtles in Costa Rica season
- These are the best places to see toucans in Costa Rica
- When and where to see the emblematic sloths in Costa Rica
- These are the best places to see monkeys from Costa Rica
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.