Considering a Costa Rica vacation? As part of Central America, Costa Rica is a beautiful country with lush rainforests, active (and safe) volcanoes, and pristine beaches. It’s a natural wonderland that’s become a favorite destination for those who want to explore its beautiful landscapes.
It can also be a convenient trip: Many cities offer direct flights, which means you shouldn’t have to devote too much travel time. Plus, if you’re happy with mid-priced restaurants and lodging, it’s an affordable country to visit compared to other popular travel destinations.
Keep reading to find out the best and worst times to visit, how much you can expect to spend, as well as some fun experiences and locations worth checking out while you’re there.
Best Times to Go to Costa Rica
There are two things to consider when planning a trip to Costa Rica: people and weather.
If you want to avoid heavy rain and tourists, the sweet spot for visiting Costa Rica is January and February. Not only is the weather dry and warm, but you won’t feel like you’re in a sea of people.
If you’re researching how to save money for a trip to Costa Rica, one of the best things you can do as a frugal traveler is book during the off season. With its rainforests, beaches, and and volcanoes, Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination for a variety of reasons. Determine what excites you the most to narrow down when you should travel so you’re not overwhelmed by fellow tourists and heavy rainfall.
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Bad Times to Go to Costa Rica
As briefly mentioned above, the two things you want to keep in mind when visiting Costa Rica are weather (especially rainfall) and fellow tourists.
Costa Rica has an average temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, so you don’t need to plan around the temperature so much as the rain. May through November is when the region typically experiences its heaviest rainfalls (with September usually being the peak month).
Tourists often visit the country once the rainy season ends and kids are off for school break. Therefore, from December to April is when many people choose to travel. If you don’t like crowds and the possibility of bumped-up prices, avoid those months.
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Average Cost of a Costa Rica Vacation
Here are some estimates of what a Costa Rica vacation can cost if you seek out mid-range restaurants and lodging. Knowing these prices can help you budget, decide where to keep your travel fund, and get started saving.
|If traveling alone:||If traveling with a spouse:|
• $18 per day on meals
• $19 per day on transportation
• $88 per day for lodging
Average amount spent per week: $602
• $36 per day on meals
• $38 per day on transportation
• $88 per day on lodging
Average amount spent per week: $1,205
These costs don’t include your travel to and from Costa Rica. This expense will obviously vary depending on when you travel, where you are traveling from, and how you like to travel (say, business class vs. basic economy with no checked bags). Another factor: how well you do your research on how to get cheap flights and hack your way to the lowest possible prices.
Financial prep for travel can begin with considering how to finance your trip.
• Do you have a year to save? Could you create a travel fund and have some money automatically transferred in with every paycheck?
• Or, to afford a Costa Rica trip in the near future, could you take advantage of a book now, pay later travel deal without taking on too much debt?
• Could you find a travel deal that makes the trip a too-good-to-pass-up prospect? That does happen sometimes, meaning spending time on research can reward you well!
10 Fun Things You Must Do in Costa Rica
Looking for fun things to do in Costa Rica? This list was developed by scouring online forums, review sites, and travel guides to formulate the top 10 things you should do in Costa Rica. Plus, there’s advice from savvy travelers who’ve explored the country.
1. Explore Monteverde Cloud Forest
One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is visit Monteverde Cloud Forest, which, for nature lovers, is like a vast playground. Here, visitors can explore the reserve via zip lines, go birdwatching, visit butterfly and hummingbird reserves, and take a nighttime guided tour to see and hear the park’s nocturnal residents. With almost 26,000 acres, it’s no wonder the reserve sees almost 70,000 unique visitors each year.
If you put this one on your list, you’ll want to purchase tickets in advance. On its website you can buy a day pass, book an experience, or reserve a room at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge. Typically, a day pass is $12 for kids, $25 for adults. cloudforestmonteverde.com/
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2. Trek Around Arenal Volcano National Park
Located near La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano is an active volcano in Costa Rica. While it hasn’t had a major eruption since 1968, it still has frequent, minor eruptions that visitors can safely view and appreciate. Because of this, it’s one of the most unique things to do in Costa Rica.
Visitors should also consider spending time in the town of La Fortuna. While it provides great views of Arenal Volcano, there are also numerous restaurants and attractions to explore.
3. Soak in Tabacon Hot Springs
Just west of La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano National Park is Tabacon Hot Springs, which is one of the most popular hot springs in Costa Rica, if not the world. Here you can lounge in one of the many clean, natural pools heated by the Arenal Volcano. You’ll want to book your visit well in advance because spots are limited. Day passes start at about $80 for adults and $38 for kids, depending on the season; a full array of treatments, from facials to massages, are available at the spa. tabacon.com/
4. Take a Surf Lesson
If you’re looking for things to do in Tamarindo Costa Rica, one of the best things you can do is surf or take surfing lessons. With coastlines on both the Caribbean and the Pacific, it’s a dynamic country to get some great waves for both beginners and experts. If you’re just starting out, book a surf lesson to get the most of your time.
5. Bask on the Beaches of Guanacaste
Located in the northwestern part of Costa Rica (and about two and a half hours away from Arenal Volcano) is Guanacaste, which has some of the best beaches in the country. Note for those traveling with pets: Yes, dogs are allowed at these public beaches!
If you’re not one to soak up the sun, there are a ton of outdoor activities you can do in the area, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing. So, if you and your traveling partner have different tastes, one of you can enjoy a spa day at a local resort while the other has a little adventure.
It can be wise to work those credit card rewards when touring Costa Rica. Whether you use points to help pay for purchases or swipe a credit card to accumulate rewards doesn’t matter because both are smart financial moves.
6. Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
If you’re learning how families afford to travel, one of the ways they do so is by visiting locations that offer great experiences at reasonable prices. At Manuel Antonio National Park (manuelantoniopark.com/), you can reserve day passes and hike the trails, or you can book a variety of unique experiences, such as:
• ATV tours
• Medicinal plants tours
• Jungle night walks
• Zip line
• Whale watching
Prices start at around $40 for kids and $60 for adults for a guided tour.
7. Go Whitewater Rafting
Costa Rica has a host of spots perfect for whitewater rafting. Depending on your skill level and taste for adventure, you can likely find a fun outing to splash through the scenery. It can be wise to book a rafting experience close to your hotel. For example, if you plan on staying in Guanacaste for the beaches, then the Tenorio River is close by and offers both class III and class IV rapids.
8. Chow Down at Lola’s Restaurant
Located in Guanacaste, Lola’s Restaurant has exquisite food and photo-worthy views. You’ll be tucked amid palm trees by the beach. Soak in the sights while also enjoying some of the best food in Costa Rica, whether you’re craving a guanabana smoothie or some seared ahi tuna. If you’re lucky, you may even visit during a surfing competition or get to meet Lolita, the pet pig. lolascostarica.com/
9. Venture into Venado Caves
One of the top things to do in Costa Rica is visiting the Venado Caves. Located near the Arenal Volcano, Venado Caves can offer an all day experience if you have ever wanted to go spelunking. Not only can you take a guided tour, but you can also swim in underground pools and rivers. FYI, you will get wet and muddy, so be prepared! cavernasdelvenadocr.com/index.html
10. Hike to La Leona Waterfall
If you’re comfortable hiking 30 minutes to and from, La Leona Waterfall is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in Costa Rica. Group tours start at $30, while private tours are $45. Once you reach the bottom of the trail, you can even take a dip in the natural pools to cool off. leonawaterfall.com/
Costa Rica is an exciting country to visit. Because it’s so popular, it can be wise to book your trip as early as possible to ensure you get to do everything you want. There are waterfalls, parks, whitewater rapids, and other natural wonders to see, as well as great food and spa treatments to enjoy, among other attractions.
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Is Costa Rica safe to visit?
Yes, it is. The Department of State lists it as a safe country for Americans to travel to, but does warn to exercise increased caution due to crime. To help combat petty crime, the Costa Rican government provides additional security personnel for areas frequently visited by tourists.
What vaccinations are recommended for traveling to Costa Rica?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends standard vaccines be up to date and also receive the following when traveling to Costa Rica: Yellow fever, hepatitis A and B typhoid, malaria, and possibly rabies.
Can I travel with my dog to Costa Rica?
Yes, you can, but travel forms and vaccinations are required.
Photo credit: iStock/SL_Photography
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