Costa Rica Natives
When it comes to traveling in Costa Rica, we know what we’re talking about! Adobe Rent a Car is one of Costa Rica’s largest and most reliable, 100% Costa Rican-owned rental car agencies. We’ve been leading the national rental car industry for nearly 30 years.
As transportation experts, we want to make sure that your visit to Costa Rica is the safest most enjoyable experience possible. Whether for business or pleasure, you deserve the best!
The following TOP TEN list of Travel Tips for visiting Costa Rica will ensure that you’re well informed and prepared the moment your flight touches ground in the land of Pura Vida!
Top Ten Costa Rica Travel Tips
Tip #1: Getting to Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Ministry of Tourism and the Institute of Tourism (ICT) have invested a lot of time and effort into promoting the country as a prime vacation destination. Because of the growing interest from overseas airlines, international flights to Costa Rica are increasingly more affordable.
In recent years several international airlines chose Costa Rica to be their Central American hub. Adding direct international flights to their rosters on a regular basis.
When you’re planning your trip, start looking for flights ahead of time. Especially if you want to visit during peak season. Costa Rica’s peak, or high season, coincides with North America and Europe’s winter months, from December to April. Peak season then reappears during the traditional summer months of July and August.
Tip #2: Top places to visit in Costa Rica
It’s not so much a matter of where to go in Costa Rica. It’s how to see as much as possible while you’re here. And no matter where you go, you’re likely to find a national park nearby!
Costa Rica is literally brimming with fascinating places to visit. Choose from cool mountains blanketed in rain and cloud forests. Or steamy volcanoes with mineral-rich hot springs bubbling forth from underground rivers. Or mile upon mile of palm-lined beaches, and huge swaths of lush jungle lowlands interspersed by quiet mangrove canals and rivers. This little country has it all!
It’s good to do your homework ahead of time. If your vacation is only one week, then we suggest you visit a total of two–maximum three–destinations. Getting from one place to another can be time consuming. So, it’s best to get the most out of each experience and spend less time on the road.
Most Popular Costa Rica Destinations
A visit to La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano is a national favorite. The iconic Volcano with its abundant hot springs, waterfalls, adventure tours, and a huge national park is a must do. Located in the central lowlands, getting there takes about the same amount of time (3 hours) from either the San Jose (SJO) or Liberia (LIR) international airports.
Another favorite for visitors who are short on time but want to experience as much as possible is Manuel Antonio. Located on the Central Pacific Coast just past the port town of Quepos, Manuel Antonio is an authentic Costa Rican paradise.
Although it’s the smallest park in the country, Manuel Antonio National Park is a national treasure. Visitors will see a plethora of wildlife when walking the well-maintained trails. The park’s three pristine beaches are also considered some of the world’s most beautiful.
See our articles on The Top Places to Visit in Costa Rica, Corcovado National Park, Isla Tortuga, National Parks, and Uvita for more information.
Tip #3: When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?
Dry Season = High Season
The best time to visit is generally during the dry season from December through April. The tropical climate is more conducive to serious exploration and the roads are usually in better condition. Even the rainforests have a few hours during the day that are dry.
July and August are another good time to visit. A seasonal meteorological phenomenon over the Caribbean provokes a reduction in rainfall over much of the country. This is known as St. John’s Little Summer.
One downfall is that the dry season is also Costa Rica’s high tourist season and prices are literally at their highest. Around major holidays and New Year’s Eve, you’re likely to find that most hotels are fully booked, and the most popular beaches and towns can get crowded.
Nonetheless, if you book your hotel and transportation ahead of time you shouldn’t run into any problems. Most tour providers are working overtime during these months, so you’ll have plenty of exciting tours to choose from as well.
See our Costa Rica Weather article for more Costa Rica weather tips.
Rainy Season = Discounts and No Crowds
Traveling during the rainy, or green season from May through November has its perks. Firstly, “green season rates” mean that hotels, in-country flights, and even car rentals are discounted. The tropical environment is in full bloom, and visitors don’t have to fight the crowds when frequenting popular restaurants or hotels.
Discover your Caribbean Side
When the rainy season is at its heaviest throughout most of the country, the Atlantic Coast comes alive. September and October are the official summer months on Costa Rica’s Caribbean side.
Wildly popular destinations like Tortuguero National Park and the vibrant beach towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo are thriving, and the warm beats of Reggaeton can be heard far and wide. Surf, snorkeling, and scuba diving conditions are at their peak, and numerous beautiful national parks await exploration.
See our article on Puerto Viejo for more information.
Tip #4: Getting around Costa Rica
Renting a car is indisputably the best way to get around Costa Rica. Nothing beats the freedom that having your own car offers. Choose where you want to go and when you want to get there.
Unlike most other car rental agencies, Adobe Rent a Car guarantees no hidden fees. What’s more, we also have the largest fleet of vehicles, and all of our cars are less than two years old.
See our article on The Car Rental Process for more information.
Mandatory Liability Insurance
Costa Rican law dictates that all car rentals must include third-party insurance coverage. The fee is charged as a daily rate and determined by the type of vehicle you rent. Customers will then need to either purchase additional insurance coverage or use their credit cards insurance waiver (CDW).
Mandatory Damage Deposit
It is customary to provide a damage deposit when renting a car in Costa Rica. Most companies ask anywhere between $1,500 to $3,000. At Adobe Rent a Car we ask a low, flat-rate $1,000 damage deposit for all of our rentals.
We’ll refund your deposit within two to three business days once your rental is concluded and if no fines or additional charges were incurred.
Tip #5: Money, Money, Money
The official currency in Costa Rica is the Colón. At the writing of this article, the exchange rate was 589 colones to 1 USD. Use the helpful XE app or online converter to determine the going rate when you travel.
U.S. Dollars are accepted virtually everywhere. Be aware that some hotels, restaurants, and tour providers may charge you a higher exchange rate when you pay with dollars. Large grocery stores, gas stations, and banks will always honor the official exchange rate.
To avoid being overcharged when paying with USD, follow these simple guidelines:
- If the bill is in colones pay with colones, and vice versa regarding dollars (it’s always a good idea to carry a small amount of both currencies).
- For larger expenses like hotels and rental cars, use your credit card (many internationally recognized credit cards don’t charge overseas transaction fees).
- When in doubt, ask.
See our article on Costa Rica Currency for more information.
Getting the Most out of Your Vacation Budget.
Costa Rica is not cheap – but it’s definitely worth it! In fact, the country is considered one of Latin America’s most expensive. Nonetheless, there are plenty of ways to stretch your budget without sacrificing authenticity or fun. The following tips will help you save the Pura Vida way.
- Choose your tours wisely. Several tour companies offer combination tours that allow you to experience several exciting adventures for the price of one.
- Travel during the green season when tourism-related rates are at their lowest.
Tip #6: Eating and Drinking in Costa Rica
The water in Costa Rica is safe to drink. However, many visitors are sensitive to the difference and prefer to buy bottled water or bring a water bottle with a built-in filter. We recommend supporting Costa Rica’s conservation efforts and avoiding the purchase of plastic bottles whenever possible.
Another great way to stretch your vacation budget is to eat and drink locally. By choosing local eateries and national beers and liquors over ritzy foreign food and cocktails, you’ll not only enjoy yourself, but you’ll also get a great “taste” for Costa Rica’s charming culture.
A classic and affordable Costa Rican meal is called a Casado. Casados, meaning married, are large-size meals consisting of rice, beans, salad, a side dish like potato salad, and a protein such as grilled fish or pork chops with caramelized onions. The meal is topped off with delectable fried sweet plantains for dessert. Other favorites are fish ceviche, whole fried red snapper, and side dishes made from local vegetables called Picadillos.
Tip #7: Is it Safe to Travel in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is considered one of Central America’s safest countries. However, a thriving tourist economy means there’s also a fair share of thieves. Use common sense and remember, “when in doubt, don’t!”. People traveling alone, in particular women, should take extra precautions.
Check out our suggested recommendations for personal safety:
- Avoid walking alone at night in sparsely populated areas.
- Don’t trust that strangers are looking out for your best interest.
- If you’re exploring alone, let your hotel reception know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
- Keep your belongings in the hotel room safe.
- Keep a photocopy of your passport, credit cards, and other important information on your person.
- Always use extreme caution when swimming, rip currents and submerged rocks are common.
- Always use extreme caution hiking around, or swimming in waterfalls. Slippery rocks and submerged tree trunks and boulders are common.
Purchase Travel Insurance
There are several inexpensive travel insurance options to choose from. And trust us, you’ll never regret the added expense.
Tip #8: Will There be Internet Reception in Costa Rica?
No matter where you go in Costa Rica, you’re likely to find internet service in your hotel or (higher end) restaurant. Reception strength is another matter. However, communicating with loved ones or work back home shouldn’t be a problem.
We at Adobe recommend you rent an internet hotspot along with your rental car. The daily rate is less than $12, and up to four devices can be connected at once.
Internet reception in your car also ensures that you’ve got continuous access to GPS navigation tools. WAZE is Costa Rica’s most popular navigation-app and is continually updated by its tens of thousands of users.
Cell Phone Connectivity
If your phone company doesn’t offer low-rate roaming, we suggest you buy a prepaid phone card from a communications provider if you need cell service around the clock. Kolbi and Claro are the country’s largest providers. Most grocery stores also sell prepaid international calling cards.
Adobe Rent a Car will provide you with a cell phone and service at a low daily rate. Ask your Adobe agent or look online for additional information.
Tip 9#: What to Pack for Your Costa Rica Vacation?
When packing for Costa Rica, remember to be prepared for anything. The diverse topography and climate mean that during your vacation you’re likely to experience cool nights, hot and sunny days, rain, insects, and probably even a little mud.
General attire is casual. Unless of course, you’ll be staying in a five-star resort. Many visitors plan to work in Costa Rica, as well as play. In this case pack normally in consideration of your anticipated job position.
Your best bet is to bring a little of everything. And don’t forget the essentials such as medications, prescription eyewear, electronics chargers, important passwords, insect repellent, sunblock, and of course – a bathing suit.
See our article on Packing for your Costa Rica Vacation for a more detailed list of what to bring.
Tip #10: Visiting National Parks and Other Attractions
Costa Rica is literally packed with national parks, reserves, wildlife refuges, and more. And each one is worth visiting.
Visitors should factor in park entrance fees when planning for their trip. Nonresidents will pay anywhere between $10 and $30 for a day pass to a national park. Additionally, most parks are closed on Mondays.
Remember that the entrance fee for any protected area goes towards the maintenance and preservation of Costa Rica’s noteworthy national park and conservation system. By paying your part you ensure that nature’s bounty will remain available for future generations of visitors.
See our article on National Parks for more information.