Everything you need to know before visit Costa Rica

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.

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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.

Cocos Island visit Costa Rica Island
Cocos Island visit Costa Rica Island

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).

Costa Rica Money
Costa Rica Money

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

Visiting Costa Rica
Visiting Costa Rica

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.

Exchanging money

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.

Money in Costa Rica exchange Money
Money in Costa Rica exchange Money

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:

Expenses
Backpacker
Mid Level
premium
Accommodation 15 30 50
Food 10 35 45
Transportation 10 15 20
Activities 10 80 90
Total costs 45 160 205

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.

Costa Rica Travel Restrictions
Costa Rica Travel Restrictions

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 abroad during COVID-19 pandemic

  • 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 in one part of the country might be extremely dry while a few hundred kilometers further floodings might occur.

Costa Rica Weather in June
Costa Rica Weather in June

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.

Costa Rica best places to visit in February
Costa Rica best places to visit

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.

Manuel Atonio Beach in Costa Rica
Manuel Atonio Beach in Costa Rica

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.

Playa Blanca Costa Rica Limon beaches
Playa Blanca Costa Rica Limon beaches

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.

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.

Upper Nauyaca Waterfalls Costa Rica
Upper Nauyaca Waterfalls Costa Rica

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.

Nauyaca Waterfalls Costa Rica
Nauyaca Waterfalls Costa Rica

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.

La Fortuna waterfall in Costa Rica
La Fortuna waterfall in Costa Rica

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.

Sun Rays Shine Through Jungle Rainforest in Corcovado National Park Costa Rica
Sun Rays Shine Through Jungle Rainforest in Corcovado National Park Costa Rica

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.

Piedras Blancas National Park Costa Rica Rainforest
Piedras Blancas National Park Costa Rica Rainforest

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.

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.

Suspended bridge in cloud forest Costa Rica
Suspended bridge in cloud forest Costa Rica

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.

Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud 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).

Costa Rica Waterfall La Paz Gardens Cloud Forest
Waterfall La Paz Gardens Cloud Forest

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.

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.

Costa Rica Arenal Volcano
CostaRica Arenal Volcano

At the moment when you are reading this article, there are 6 active volcanoes and another 60 extinct or dormant ones.

Irazu Volcano of Costa Rica
Irazu Volcano

The most active volcano is Arenal that is also the most visited one, although starting with 2010 it entered into a resting phase.

Turrialba Volcano in Costa Rica
Turrialba Volcano

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.

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.

Toucans in Costa Rica Animals
Toucans Animals

This small country from Latin America ensures you many unique encounters with endangered species but also elusive animals.

Sea Turtle Turtoise Costa Rica Animals
Sea Turtle Turtoise

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.

Three Toed Sloth Costa Rica Animals
Three Toed Sloth Costa Rica Animals

All over the country, there are 27 national parks, 59 sanctuaries, 31 protected areas, 8 biological reserves, 14 wetland zones, and 12 forests.

Female Jaguar Costa Rica Wildcats Animals
Female Jaguar CostaRica Wildcats Animals

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.

Blue Whales Animals in Costa Rica
Blue Whales

Plan your trip to this beautiful place: Logistical tips and tricks

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

We never leave home without World Nomads Insurance or Safety Wings Insurance as they offer the best services and a good value for money.

Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, 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 Rentalcars. com as they have free cancellation 24 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.

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