Beautiful beaches, towering jungles and mangroves extending for miles greet you in this tropical paradise. The incredible diversity in landscapes allows travelers to experience a wide range of activities, no matter their interests. There are volcanoes, hot springs, beaches, jungles and beautiful little towns.
Locals living the Pura Vida lifestyle have nothing but kindness to share with travelers and there is so much to experience from food to coffee culture. Costa Rica has approximately 5% of the world’s species of biodiversity, which creates an incredible environment to explore the natural beauty of the country.
Flying into San Jose is the easiest and cheapest option, but if you’re hoping to explore the north or Papagayo region, it’s best to fly into Liberia or rent a care in San Jose.
Costa Rica offers endless options in terms of lodging. We personally did not spend much time in San Jose, choosing instead to head straight for what Costa Rica is known for: epic, beautiful eco-conscious resorts. In recent years, high end resorts have popped up all over the country, like the JW Marriott Guanacaste, Four Seasons Papagayo, Andaz Papagayo and several Autograph collection resorts, like El Mangroove.
We stayed at two properties and they both had similar vibes: eco-conscious, down to earth and felt like they fit in so perfectly to their natural surroundings. Prices for 4.5-5 star accommodations will range extensively between low and high season, rates running around $200-400.
While some all-inclusives do exist in Costa Rica, they’re typically the larger 4-star brands like Margaritaville and Barcelo.
Depending on your plans, it may be worth renting a car. There is a lot to explore in the country and one can drive from San Jose to Liberia in about 8 hours. We rented a car for the week for about $300.
Taxis are available for quick trips at reasonable prices as well. Most tours do offer hotel pickups and it is included in the cost of the tours.
Costa Rica has it all, from Michelin starred restaurants in San Jose, to local holes-in-the-wall places all over. Historically, Costa Rica was not known for its fine dining, better known for its beans, rice and meat. In the last ten years, international chefs have popped up, putting spins on the traditional and elevating the cuisine. Luxury resorts offer diversity in cuisine, many serving up tapas, fish dishes and a twist on the traditional sautéed meats. Local shops will be on the cheaper side, while the resorts are typically serving up American resort prices.
San Jose and Liberia will have your typical big-box stores. As you get closer to the coastal or mountain towns, you’ll end up finding great local shops with handy-crafts, jewelry and sculptures.
Negotiating is acceptable and expected.
“Pura Vida” defines the culture of Costa Rica. The laid back, friendly attitude of locals is absolutely infectious. The vibrant Spanish colonial influence mixed with the immigrant cultures of China and Jamaica make Costa Rica and incredibly colorful and beautiful culture. Song, laughter and general happiness of the society make it such a fun country to explore.
While not known for its food, you can find a delicious meal at many high end resorts. One of the best meals we had was at the Tapas restaurant at the Andaz Papagayo.
Two hours along winding mountain roads from the capital city of San Jose, lies a jungle oasis at the base of a protruding Volcano. The clouds linger around the top, casting bright rays down across the valley.
Costa Rica is a very reasonable country to travel in. Taxis are cheap for short rides, activities cost between $50-100 USD per person and dining out at a casual restaurant will cost around $10 per person pre-alcohol.
Hotels will be the most expensive part of your trip- and trust us, it’s worth it! There are some incredible properties. If you choose to use points for your hotels, there are a number of brands to choose from: Marriott and Hyatt in particular have several stunning properties.
Suggested daily budget – Typical food & beverage costs range depending on how high-end the hotel brand is, but we typically budget $300 per day for food & alcohol, allowing us the flexibility to eat the resort. Transfers to & from the hotel to the airport range as well, but we typically budget $20-30. Be sure to budget for activities like the Tabacon Hot Springs (we recommend the Day Pass with Lunch for $85).
The best time to visit Costa Rica is from mid-December to April, the dry season. This is also the most expensive time to visit, so if you don't mind a little rain, visit between May and November when prices are at their lowest. During June and July, rain lets up, bringing beautiful greenery and flowers to the jungle.
Check out some of our favorite Costa Rica resorts and what we like and don’t like about each of them.
Two hours along winding mountain roads from the capital city of San Jose, lies a jungle oasis
The vastly diverse landscape and biodiversity sets Costa Rica apart as one of the most incredible natural experiences in the world. Imagine waking up to Howler monkeys at your doorstep, colorful birds chirping as you sip on your Costa Rican coffee and the water softly lapping against the mangroves. Costa Rica’s people welcome you with open arms and greet you consistently with the Pura Vida attitude. It’s not surprise that many people move to Costa Rica for the slower pace of life.
To start planning your trip, be sure to decide where in the country you want to visit. If you plan on staying in the south, book a flight into San Jose. If you plan to visit Papagayo or the Tabacon area, we recommend flying into Liberia.
Next, consider the activities you want to do and base your hotel choice on that. Many hotels offer free pickup for their excursions, as long as you are located in the main tourist zones. There are a lot of big brands that may offer great points deals, like Hyatt and Marriott.