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Brown Throated Three Toed Sloth in Tortuguero National Park, Limon Province, Costa Rica

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"From beaches to jungles to volcanoes, and all the weird and wonderful wildlife in between, I could never choose just one favourite place in Costa Rica. Relax and enjoy the pura vida, mae!"

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Visit Tortuguero National Park

A spectacular wilderness of rainforest, beaches and lagoons, Tortuguero National Park is filled with incredible wildlife. We’ll take you through the canals on a river boat to spot caimans, howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, toucans, crocodiles and scores of bird species, plus endangered ocelots, river otters, manatees and six species of sea turtles.

View Arenal Volcano

One of the most active volcanoes in the world, rising to 1,670 metres over the lush rainforest, Arenal Volcano is a magnificent sight. Our Costa Rica vacations will take you up close to the volcano, from guided treks through old lava rocks, to ziplining on the slopes of the volcano.

Indulge in gourmet chocolate from the best cacao beans

Dive into Culture with Trafalgar, as we journey to San Isidro de Heredia, where you’ll meet master chocolatiers, Julio Fernandez and George Soriana. You’ll learn about the history and production of chocolate in their workshop, and sample some of the sweet delicacies made from the world’s best cacao beans.

Have Costa Rican lunch at a traditional working ranch

When you visit Costa Rica with Trafalgar, we’ll meet the people behind the country. Join Don Alberto and Doña Ana Quintana for a traditional Costa Rican lunch at their eco-friendly Hacienda Pozo Azul, a 2000-acre working ranch. You’ll learn about classic Costa Rican cuisine and life on a working farm.

Spot wildlife at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Take to the sky in Monteverde Cloud Forest, where you’ll join your Local Specialist for a walk through the rainforest along the treetop Sky Walk bridges. The forest is home to a staggering abundance of wildlife, with around 2.5 percent of the world’s species, including jaguar, puma, tapri, coatis, toucans and hummingbirds.

Our top 5 things to do in Costa Rica

From hiking up volcanoes to walking through treetops, our Costa Rica guided holidays take you to the heart of the country in ways you could never imagine.

Museo de Jade

Founded in 1977 by Fidel Castro, the Museo del Jade is an archaeological museum with a massive collection of pre-Columbian items. Located in San José, you can discover the world’s largest collection of American jade, along with ceramics, stone tables and ceremonial heads.

Museum of Costa Rican Art

With more than six thousand pieces of art, the Museum of Costa Rican Art holds one of the world’s largest collections of Latin American art. You’ll find pieces from artists like José Sancho and Max Jiménez, with paintings, sculptures and pieces dating back to the early 19th century.

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

The National Museum of Costa Rica is set in the Bellavista Fortress, built in 1917 with bullets still lodged in the exterior walls from the country’s civil war. The building became a museum in 1950, and today has an excellent collection of colonial furniture and pre-Columbian artefacts like ceramics and stone tables.

Best museums in Costa Rica

Our Costa Rica tour packages delve deeper into the history and culture of Costa Rica through their wonderful museums.

The tamale is a quintessential Costa Rican dish, made from dough filled with a mix of meat (like chicken or beef), corn flour and broth. The tamales are then wrapped in banana or plantain leaves, and although they are traditionally enjoyed at Christmas, our Local Specialists will show you where to taste tamales all year round.

Gallo Pinto

A beloved dish of rice and beans, Gallo Pinto is the pride of Costa Rica. The name translates as ‘spotted rooster’ and the local saying ‘mas tico que el gallo pinto’ means ‘more Costa Rican than spotted rooster’. It’s usually eaten at breakfast, but can be enjoyed throughout the day.

A classic staple of Costa Rican cuisine, casado is a dish of rice, black beans, salad, plantains and a tortilla, with an optional serving of meat like beef, pork, chicken or fish. The dish comes in many variations with added flavors like corn, eggs and avocado, and you can mix and match as you please.

Best food in Costa Rica

Full of fruits, vegetables, rice and beans, Costa Rican food is fresh and filling, and we’ll show you all the best places to taste the country’s most-loved dishes.

What to pack for Costa Rica

People packing for a tour

Spanish phrasebook

Learning a few Spanish phrases is highly appreciated and will make it easier to connect with the locals. The first Costa Rican saying to learn is ‘pura vida, mae!’

Waterproof coat

No matter where you go, it can rain at any time in Costa Rica. Pack a waterproof jacket and keep it in your day bag on your daily adventures.

Mosquito repellent

Costa Rica has plenty of mosquitoes, so to avoid any nasty bites from mosquitoes or other insects, bring a strong repellent with DEET (diethyltoluamide) and apply it regularly.

Adaptor plug

In Costa Rica, the standard voltage is 120 V and the power plugs and sockets are of type A and B. The standard frequency is 60 Hz.

Reef-safe sunscreen

Protect yourself from the harsh sun with SPF 30 or higher and protect the environment with reef-safe sunscreen. It’s recommended to bring your own, as sunscreen is expensive in Costa Rica.

Pack for sustainable travel

Consider your environmental impact when you next take a trip and go single-use-plastic-free by packing a reusable water bottle, a steel straw, your own shopping bags and refillable toiletry bottles.

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Costa Rica Tours & Trips

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Costa Rica Adventure

Manuel Antonio National Park

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250+ Costa Rica tour packages with 2,377 reviews

Essential Costa Rica - Package with Manuel Antonio National Park Tour

Essential Costa Rica - Package with Manuel Antonio National Park

"It was self guided so tour radar set up everything for travel excursions and accommodations. We had a blast!" Janey, traveled in July 2021

Essential Costa Rica - Package with Guanacaste Tour

Essential Costa Rica - Package with Guanacaste

"The itinerary was very thoughtfully planned. The tour was impressively well-organized." Mahin, traveled in April 2024

Eco-adventure in Costa Rica Tour

Eco-adventure in Costa Rica

"This was a trip of a lifetime! Zip lining, snorkeling, and white water rafting were all on my bucket list." Robin, traveled in March 2024

Raft, Hike and Explore Costa Rica Tour

Raft, Hike and Explore Costa Rica

"The nature guide in Monteverde was outstanding and it was clear he knew a lot about the forest." sheila, traveled in November 2023

Costa Rica Adventure Tour

"She did everything she could to make everyone feel at home and the vibe in our tourgroup was so amazing because of it!" Roos, traveled in April 2024

Costa Rica Quest Tour

Costa Rica Quest

"The beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park were amazing. The guided walking tour to explore the wildlife was great." Ralph, traveled in March 2024

Costa Rica Experience Tour

Costa Rica Experience

"Her knowledge and respect about culture and biodiversity is outstanding. Her care and attention to all our needs is beyond anyone expectations." Chantal, traveled in April 2022

Looking for tours beyond just Costa Rica?

Explore tours with itineraries going through multiple countries, including Costa Rica.

Classic Costa Rica Tour

Classic Costa Rica

"great trip awsome people in are group make the trip." janharmen, traveled in February 2024

Costa Rica: Ocean Waves & Sunsets Tour

Costa Rica: Ocean Waves & Sunsets

"Loads of activities crammed into the week and the CEO Cesar was great, he went above and beyond to help us." Ian, traveled in January 2022

Journeys: Highlights of Costa Rica National Geographic Journeys Tour

Journeys: Highlights of Costa Rica National Geographic Journeys

"A wonderful experience. Lots of activities to choose from depending on how active you want to be." Dottie, traveled in December 2021

What people love about Costa Rica Tours

The trip was absolutely amazing and a beautiful country! The booking was great and filled with a good amount of activities at each location, but also was able to have some free time in each location to visit the town, hang out at the pool or ocean, or just relax if needed. All transportation pickups were relatively smooth and on time. The hotel in Monteverde was a little disappointing compared to all the other hotels.
Very organized. Good communication. Always kept me informed and answered all my questions in a timely manner
We had the best time on this tour; the adventures, the guides, the drivers, the hotels and the food were all great! What an amazing and fun experience. This trip is a bit frontloaded with activities so after a few days a break is needed.

Most popular destinations in Costa Rica

Famous for its stunning cloud forests, Monteverde is calling you to explore its lush trails, discover exotic wildlife, and visit its vibrant butterfly gardens. Get your adrenaline pumping with exciting zip-line tours and walk among the treetops on hanging bridges.

Northern Lowlands Costa Rica

Find the right tour package for you through Northern Lowlands Costa Rica. We've got 39 trips going to Northern Lowlands Costa Rica, starting from just 3 days in length, and the longest tour is 13 days. The most popular month to go is November, which has the most tour departures.

Tortuguero National Park

Discover amazing wildlife and landscapes in Tortuguero National Park. Most travelers enjoy exploring our Tortuguero National Park adventures in November, making it the most popular time of the year.

Discover amazing wildlife and landscapes in Manuel Antonio National Park. Most travelers enjoy exploring our Manuel Antonio National Park adventures in November, making it the most popular time of the year.

Travel Costa Rica your way

An explorer's vacation in Europe promises thrilling adventures and diverse landscapes. Trek through the Alps, discover hidden coastal gems, and explore ancient ruins. Europe's vast and varied terrain offers great opportunities for hiking, biking, and discovering off-the-beaten-path destinations, ensuring an exhilarating and unforgettable journey.

Dive into a family adventure in Costa Rica! Zipline through Monteverde canopies, cycle around Arenal with volcanic views, or discover unique wildlife in Corcovado National Park. Enjoy the sandy beaches of Cahuita with surfing lessons or swimming with dolphins. From tropical escapes to jungle adventures, Costa Rica is a playground for all ages.

Partially Guided

Find the right partially guided tour for you in Costa Rica. There are 113 trips to choose from, that range from 3 days in length, up to 15 days. The month with the most departures is November, making it the most popular time to visit Costa Rica.

Fully Guided

Select from our extensive range of 107 fully guided tours to enjoy a worry-free experience through Costa Rica with our expert guides leading the way.

More travel styles:

Top operators in Costa Rica

Destination Services Costa Rica

"This trip was so relaxing because we never had to worry about a thing. Each time we were picked up and dropped off it was on time. The tours and tour guides were amazing. The knowledge and helpfulness was appreciated. All of the hotels except our last one were friendly, clean and comfortable. I would recommend finding a new hotel to replace that one. it lacked any type of service.

Destination Services Costa Rica is an expert in:

  • In-depth Cultural

Green World Adventures

"Great adventures, tour guides on time and friendly. Overall nice experience however had very unexpected travel days of 9 hours car-boat-car that was not communicated and took up 2 days of our trip that could have otherwise been spent on vacation. Asked tour operator during tour who communicated incorrectly so we were unable to change our itinerary to avoid another wasted day. This was disappointing. Apparently the main bridge was closed a month prior to our arrival and planned closure for another 2 months. This would have been nice to know before we sat in a very cramped van- and good thing we don’t get too car sick.

Green World Adventures is an expert in:

TruTravels

"This trip was amazing! I did things I never thought I would do and really stepped out of my comfort zone! I made friends for life and it was such an amazing adventure and healing journey for me. I will cherish this trip forever.

TruTravels is an expert in:

Best time to visit Costa Rica

  • March 2025 popular 193 tours
  • April 2025 185 tours
  • May 2025 168 tours
  • July 2024 93 tours
  • August 2024 popular 201 tours
  • September 2024 196 tours
  • October 2024 205 tours
  • November 2024 popular 228 tours
  • December 2024 popular 200 tours
  • January 2025 189 tours
  • February 2025 193 tours

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Expert in Costa Rica at TourRadar

Alex is one of our seasoned Costa Rica Travel Experts. Reach out to us to get all your questions about Costa Rica tours answered!

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  • Costa Rica Travel Guide | All You Need to Know
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Costa Rica Natural Paradise 8 Day Tour from USD $1139 #1 In Value 8 Day Tour from USD $1093 #1 In Value

Dear Traveler, Welcome to a great vacation at an affordable price. Your Costa Rica tour is fully guided and includes all meals, all hotels, and all activities. Happy Travels! Caravan

2024 Daily Tour Itinerary

Day 1 • san josé, costa rica, day 2 • sarchi, coffee plantation, day 3 • sloth park, volcanic hot springs, day 4 • hanging bridges, guanacaste, nicoya peninsula, day 5 • scarlet macaws, wildlife hike, day 6 • playa tambor, day 7 • gulf of nicoya, tarcoles cruise, day 8 • san josé, arthur frommer’s budget travel, february 2013, september 2007, january 2006, december 2005, 2025 daily tour itinerary, day 2 • coffee farm, wildlife rescue center, sarchi, day 5 • scarlet macaws, wildlife observation hike, 2024 hotels, days 1, 2 • san josé, barcelo san josé, day 3 • fortuna, magic mountain, days 4, 5, 6 • nicoya peninsula, barcelo tambor beach resort, day 7 • san josé, quality hotel real san jose, 2025 hotels, airport transfers, arrival transfers, departure transfers, passports & visas, weather & clothing, temperature °f (high/low) rainfall (inches), clothing tips, travel tips & faqs, language spoken in costa rica, costa rica immigration, san jose, costa rica baggage claim, airport porter tips, caravan does not arrange airline transportation, costa rica customs, customs duties for items purchased in costa rica, customs duties for personal items in costa rica, drivers license, fishing in costa rica, activities in costa rica if arriving a day early or staying a day longer, my tour price includes, preparing for the tropics, are meals included, children on tour, family trips, my tour price does not include, age of travelers on a caravan tour, forms of payment, many tours sell out each year, fully guided tours since 1952, size of tour group, a well-paced itinerary, caravan’s $129 travel protection, customer reviews.

"I took the tour to see the nature and beauty of Costa Rica. It was beyond my expectations. Several friends had recommended this Caravan tour to me and now I am ready to recommend your company to others." Mrs. D.T., Story, Wyoming
"This was the best vacation I've had. It is the only way to see Costa Rica." Ms. P.H., Plano, Texas
"The sights were absolutely fabulous! We visited all the places we were interested in seeing. This was an exceptional tour at an exceptional price. The guides were very eco-minded. We received a good education from them and their passion for preserving their environment was contagious. We totally get it. Your Costa Rican tour was awesome." Mr. & Mrs. B.H., Burton, Michigan
"The superior lodging and food made our concerns seem silly. We found all the hotels clean and modern. We always try to support local artists when we travel, so we were delighted to visit Sarchi with its oxcart factory and its shop with an extensive selection of goods made in Costa Rica. We enjoyed the spectacular and clean pools at Baldi Hot Springs, cruising the Rio Frio; the focus on flora and fauna attracted us to this trip in the first place." Mr. & Mrs. M.C., Kenai, Arkansas
"I was in awe. I was in Costa Rica on vacation. Couldn’t have asked for a better ride from our driver. A first class guy. My first Caravan trip and I would recommend you guys to anyone." Mr. H.T., Waterloo, Illinois
"It is almost impossible to visit a country in one week, but Caravan is doing a wonderful job in Costa Rica. Food was incredible, very fresh, great variety and plentiful. Love all activities. Got to see all birds and animals including the elusive sloth. We had a smooth ride, everything was just wonderful." Ms. V.N., Terrytown, Louisiana
"I definitely want you to know our feeling about this tour considering it is one of if not the best tours we have ever taken. Every hotel was very good with outstanding locations. The efficiency that Caravan developed in hotel check-in was easy and fast. The sightseeing was outstanding for sure. We had been to Costa Rica previously and this was by far superior by the extensive destinations geographically seeing most of the country that tourists would be interested in. This coupled with the extremely skilled guide made it superior to what we had seen before. He was so very knowledgeable concerning every possible thing we were witnessing and much more. In addition, he has an extremely entertaining wit. We both had a wonderful time and were amazed at all we got for the $’s." Mr. & Mrs. J.M., Marysville, Washington.

Why Travel with Caravan?

Excellence since 1952, caravan care, caravan's proud history, great hotels, complete sightseeing, fully guided by tour directors, all-inclusive, shopping freedom, great value, book early, how does caravan tours sell these tours for such a low cost, trade association memberships.

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"pura vida,” meaning pure life

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Destination must-see's.

Costa Rica ms1

Guanacaste:

One of the most popular provinces in Costa Rica, it is called the tropical paradise. Located in the far northwest corner of Costa Rica, it is not only diverse, but exotic as well. It lies between two mountains with a beautiful sandy coast. Its hot and dry climate makes it a popular location for surfers trying to escape the cold winter months in the northern latitude.

Costa Rica ms2

Manuel Antonio National Park:

This is the smallest of Costa Rica’s national parks, but it is considered one of its best. It is recognized for its vast biodiversity and is home to many of Costa Rica’s endangered species. It features lush tropical forests, lagoons, mangroves, and white sandy beaches. You’ll find well-marked trails that allow visitors to explore freely, but there they limit the amount of visitors because of the park’s popularity

Costa Rica ms3

Arenal Volcano:

Currently lying dormant, this massive, ancient volcano was the country’s most active volcano for over 40 years. Looming over the landscape, Arenal dominates the horizon in the rainforest. Around the volcano you can visit the wildlife refuge, take a sky trek, raft the river, or repel a waterfall.

Costa Rica ms4

Tortuguero National Park:

This Park is unique as it is better traveled by boat rather than by foot. There are boat tours or kayak and canoe rentals available for visitors. There is a trail that travels along the beach where you can observe turtle nesting in their natural habitat. Other than turtles you will also find a variety of animals here such as jaguars, macaws, tapirs, and over 300 species of birds, reptiles, and other mammals.

Destination Must-Do's

Costa Rica md1

Lake Arenal Cruise:

This vast and pristine lake sits at the base of the majestic Arenal Volcano. It is considered the country’s most spectacular lake offering numerous water activities and of course a beautiful view. They have a multitude of cruises such as a volcano viewing and nature tour, romantic sunset cruise, fishing excursion, or bird watching cruises.

Tamarindo Beach:

Once a sleepy fishing village, it has grown into the area’s most developed and accessible tourist town. This sun-drenched setting consists of soft beige sand, tide pools, and some of the most stunning sunsets. The beach hosts several international surf competitions. Besides surfing, the main activities to do here are sport fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, and horseback riding.

Costa Rica md3

Monteverde Cloud Forest (Hanging Bridges):

The skywalk is a combination of suspension bridges and walking trails that bring you through the lush Montverde rainforest. There are six bridges and the trails are about a mile and a half long. Local guides lead you on the tour teaching you about ecology. The canopy of this tropical forest was widely unknown due to its towering height until these suspension bridges were created and opened up a whole new world to visitors.

Costa Rica md4

Coffee Plantation:

Costa Rica is known for its impeccable coffee. The coffee bean is socially, economically and politically important to the country. The highland areas surrounding San Jose and the Tilaran Mountain range is where you will find many coffee plantations as they have the ideal climate for growing coffee. To fully understand the importance, take a plantation tour that gives you a chance to try the world’s freshest cup of coffee.

Expert Advice

PaulVieira

With some free time in San Jose I would visit the popular Spirogyra Butterfly Garden, a small piece of paradise.

Costa Rica e2

When packing, think in layers to account for temperature changes. I also highly recommend a raincoat or poncho and sturdy shoes you can get wet. It’s called a rainforest for a reason!

Costa Rica e3

The local currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colon. US dollars are also widely accepted in most tourist areas, though colones may be required for some small purchases.

Featured Tours to Costa Rica

TS294 Costa Rica World Of Nature

Costa Rica: A World of Nature featuring Tortuguero National Park, Arenal Volcano & Manuel Antonio National Park

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Costa Rica Tours & Vacations

Travellers walking with tour guide in the jungle near Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica

Biodiverse, brilliantly colorful and naturally breathtaking, Costa Rica embraces a slower pace of life.

An adventure hotspot for some, a cultural haven for others and a tropical paradise for most, Costa Rica definitely lives up to its translation as the ‘rich coast.’ And as you journey under lush jungle canopies and through laidback surf towns, you’ll soon be rich with  memorable experiences.  Lean into the slower pace of life as you become a pro at spotting toucans in Monteverde’s  steamy cloud forests  or listening out for the distant whoop of white-faced capuchins in Manuel Antonio. The phrase ‘hustle and bustle’ isn’t in Costa Rica’s vocabulary, as you’d expect from a country whose unofficial motto is ‘ pura vida ’ – the pure life.

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My time with the Juanilama community in Costa Rica will always stay with me

Costa Rica or Mexico: Which country to check off next?

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6 ways you can celebrate, support and connect with Indigenous cultures in 2023  

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Costa Rica at a glance

Capital city.

San Jose (population approximately 340,000)

Approximately 5.1 million

(GMT-06:00) Central America

CALLING CODE

Electricity.

Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type B (American 3-pin)

Learn more about Costa Rica

Culture and customs.

Costa Rican culture can be summed up in two words: 'pura vida', or the pure life. It's a greeting, farewell and a way to show appreciation. Like any good life motto, pura vida is better experienced than explained. It means being friendly and polite, taking it easy and being thankful for what you have. Costa Ricans' carefree way of life, coupled with living in one of Central America's most progressive and prosperous nations, makes the locals some of the happiest in the world.

You'll find that people in Costa Rica are generally in less of a hurry than most North Americans or Europeans. Following what is affectionately known as 'Tico time', people will often be fashionably late, except for things with schedules – Tico time does not apply at work, the movies or the train station.

Costa Ricans (or Ticos and Ticas) are known for their conflict-averse nature. Peace is so highly valued here that their army was abolished in 1949, with all funds reallocated to create an 'army' of teachers instead.

History and government

Ancient history.

Like most Central American countries, indigenous communities thrived for thousands of years as hunter-gatherers, and it's believed that humans have lived in Costa Rica's jungles and rainforests for as many as 10,000 years. However, with no urbanized civilization like the Aztecs or Mayas, and little to no cultural preservation during the time of Spanish colonization, not much is known about Costa Rica's true indigenous populations.

Colonization, independence, and trade

At the time of Spanish colonization, it was estimated that 400,000 people lived in what is now known as Costa Rica. Christopher Columbus arrived in the region in 1502 on his fourth voyage, leading to the settlement of the first Spanish colony in Costa Rica.

As settlements grew, indigenous populations dwindled due to disease and forced labor. After around a century, the population had fallen to 20,000, and a century later, down to 8000.

In 1821, the Americas broke free of Spanish control following the Mexican War of Independence. Costa Rica became part of the Federal Republic of Central America in 1823 before gaining complete independence in 1838

Costa Rica eventually found its feet in the global coffee trade, and by the end of the century, coffee crops accounted for nearly 90% of Costa Rica's exports and 80% of its foreign income. Not only was coffee production an indicator of wealth in Costa Rica, it was also a powerful political tool prompting the emergence of other industries, including the banana trade, which surpassed coffee exports in the early 20th century.

Costa Rica's economy relies on eco-tourism, and the country has championed the idea that the 'rich coast' refers not to resources dug from the ground but to the natural wonders above ground. The easygoing attitude of Ticos comes from a love of their country and pride that their democracy has endured in a conflict-ridden region.

Eating and drinking

Costa Rican cuisine is wholesome and fresh, with influence from  Spanish ,  South American , and  Caribbean  culinary traditions. On the Caribbean coast, you'll find dishes with Afro-Caribbean flair, usually featuring more meats, spices and coconut milk. 

Capital city, San Jose, not only has an up-and-coming food scene but has established itself as the craft beer hub of Costa Rica. Enjoy seasonal samplings on a San Jose Bites and Sites tour with Urban Adventures 

Look out for these favorite dishes and drinks across Costa Rica:

What to eat in Costa Rica

  • Gallo pinto Gallo pinto, the most common side dish in Costa Rica and across the Americas is served alongside meals morning, noon and night. It’s made of rice, beans, onions, peppers and spices, and the name translates to ‘speckled rooster’ because of the pops of color in the rice.
  • Casado If you eat at a ‘soda’ or a traditional Costa Rican restaurant, when traveling, chances are a casado will be on the menu. Although there are multiple variations of this tasting plate, you’ll likely get served up some gallo pinto, fried plantains and salad with either chicken, beef or fish, and freshly squeezed juice, covering all your food groups in one.
  • Chifrijo Chifrijo is a common bar snack in Costa Rica. The word is a combination of its two main ingredients – chicharrones (fried pork rinds) and frijoles (beans). The chicharrones and beans are layered together and topped with guacamole and pico de gallo and served with fresh tortilla or plantain chips for dipping.
  • Ceviche While ceviche is probably more often associated with Peru, the Tico version is a delicious variation. Made with raw fish cured in citrus juice, onions, coriander and peppers and served with tortilla chips or fried plantains, this dish is light, refreshing and a great start to a meal.
  • Patacones Patacones are deep-fried green plantains that are ideal for a snack or as a dipping device for chifrijo, guacamole or pico de gallo.
  • Sopa negra Sopa negra is a Costa Rican black bean soup, often flavoured with tomatoes and spices and served with egg and coriander.
  • Rondon Rondon is a seafood chowder that comes from Jamaica. Other Caribbean countries who’ve adopted the recipe have put their own spin on it with their choice of seafood – fish, crab, small lobster – as well as the coconut milk broth and spices.
  • Arroz con leche Sweet tooths can rejoice with this Central and South American dessert staple of arroz con leche – a spiced, sweet rice pudding made with cinnamon, cloves and raisins. Try it as a warming snack or a special dessert.
  • Pejibayes This unusual fruit comes from a type of palm known as the peach palm – the same tree that heart of palm comes from. After boiling for a few hours and discarding the inner seed and outer skin, the fruit is finished with a squeeze of lime or a dollop of mayonnaise to eat the local way. The taste has been likened to a mix between a squash, potato and cashew.

What to drink in Costa Rica

  • Coffee Costa Rica produces some of the best coffee in the world, so you’re set for your caffeine fix during your time in Costa Rica. It has both the ideal soil composition and the perfect elevation to grow the perfect coffee crop, so be sure to sample as many fresh local brews as you can.
  • Alcohol If you’re looking for drinks of the alcoholic variety, try guaro – a liquor made from sugar cane, best enjoyed in a guaro sour (with lime, simple syrup and soda). The craft beer scene is growing quickly here as well, so look for microbrews from a multitude of small local breweries. And if you’re wondering how to say cheers, just say ‘pura vida’ again!
  • Naturales Naturales – sometimes also called refrescos or batidos – are delicious fresh fruit juices blended with either milk or water. You can find them all over the country at small kiosks or booths in a variety of flavors like mango, pineapple and guanabana.

Geography and environment

Costa Rica is known for its incredible beaches and magical rainforests. But the backbone of this coastal nation is truly stunning mountain ranges, many of which contain both active and dormant volcanoes. You’ll also find heaps of waterfalls, lakes and rivers throughout the country. For this reason, adventure sports such as zip-lining, whitewater rafting and cycling are popular in inland destinations such as La Fortuna and Montverde, and adventure-packed activities are a popular way to experience the country.

Costa Rica’s diverse topography is home to many microclimates, and the temperature and weather can vary dramatically depending on elevation and how close you are to the coast. Rainforests, cloud forests, jungles and mountains exist side by side. The varied land and climate foster over 5% of the world’s total biodiversity.

Costa Rica is home to over 500,000 species of plants and animals. Those seeking to  spot local wildlife  will be enthralled by Costa Rica’s unique flora and fauna. And the spectacular variety of wildlife isn’t limited to the land – scuba diving is another popular activity, with Costa Rica boasting some of the most beautiful bays, beaches and reefs in the world.

Four of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica

  • Tortuguero National Park One of Costa Rica’s best-kept secrets, this national park is the unspoiled paradise you’ve been searching for. Take a dip in Tortuguero’s warm turquoise waters or just relax on the idyllic shores
  • Manuel Antonio A true eco-playground, you can spend a day exploring misty rainforests and searching for sloths and monkeys before cooling off on one of the delightful beaches. Head into Quepos town for some good food and fiery nightlife after the sun sets.
  • Jaco Once a sleepy beach town, Jaco’s proximity to San Jose has made it a one-stop shop for those seeking big waves and even bigger parties. The gateway to national parks and  active adventures , there’s no denying Jaco’s uber-cool surf-town vibe.
  • Corcovado Well off the tourist trail, Corcovado isn’t your average beach experience. Boasting a diversity of colors, landscapes and wildlife, Corcovado is perfect for those seeking beaches with character and charm. Oh, and it’s got the largest primary forest in the American Pacific, if you needed another reason to visit. 

Whether you’re buying souvenirs or groceries, your best bet in Costa Rica is to shop at local markets. Head to the Mercado Calle Nacional de Artesania y Pintura (National Craft Market) in San Jose for the best selection of handmade goods and souvenirs. Here you can stroll through dozens of stalls selling handmade hammocks and painted oxcarts as well as t-shirts and shot glasses that say ‘pura vida’. San Jose's Mercado Central is also a great place to grocery shop and pick up souvenirs, and vendors offer everything from fresh produce to coffee to leather goods.

You’ll often see carved wooden masks for sale but, while all of them are beautiful, for a truly authentic mask, you should aim to buy directly from indigenous communities who make them.

As in any destination, check that any souvenirs made from natural materials have been ethically sourced. Avoid buying products made from rainforest woods that were not sustainably harvested,  sea turtle  shells and other animal products. Before heading home, check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand, for example, have strict quarantine laws regarding some materials, such as food and wooden objects.

Festivals and events

Costa Ricans definitely know how to throw a party, and place a lot of importance on food, family and community. Many Costa Rican festivals celebrate the country’s farming and ranch heritage, and a lot have a Catholic element. No matter which festival you’re celebrating, you’re pretty much guaranteed a deep dive into Tico culture. Here are a few of the biggest festivals in Costa Rica:

Las Fiestas de Zapote

This festival, celebrated from Christmas until New Year’s Eve every year in the town of Zapote, is a week-long fiesta. It’s home to the biggest rodeo in Costa Rica, many carnival games, as well as rides and food stalls.

Palmares Fiestas

After the festivities of Christmas, New Year’s and the Zapote festival have wound down, it’s time for the Palmares festival. In mid-January, more than one million Ticos and tourists head to the town of Palmares for one of the largest festivals in Costa Rica. Revelers drink beer, enjoy food, listen to international acts and watch traditional bullfighting and the ‘tope’ – a horse parade through the streets.

Fiesta de los Diablitos

The ‘Festival of the Little Devils’ is celebrated twice each year (in December and February) in the indigenous communities of Boruca and Rey Curre. The festival celebrates the triumph of the original inhabitants over the Spanish conquistadors, with dancing and performances featuring costumes and painted masks.

Limon Carnival

If you’re traveling to Costa Rica in October, you’ll probably find yourself in the festive spirit as you touch down, as this is the month of Carnival. Notably, it’s when the Caribbean town of Puerto Limon celebrates this annual festival, with elaborate costumes, floats, parades and food stalls aplenty, spread across two weekends.

Public holidays that may impact travel include:

Juan Santamaria Day

Guanacaste Day

Our Lady of Los Angeles Feast Day

Independence Day

Natural Cultures Day

Please note:  Costa Rica's public holidays may vary.

Further reading

For inspiring stories to prepare you for your Costa Rica adventure, check out these books:

  • Green Phoenix: Restoring the Tropical Forests of Guanacaste, Costa Rica – William Allen
  • The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica – Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz
  • Off the Map – Dorien Kelly
  • The Costa Rica Reader: History, Culture, Politics  – Steven Palmer and Ivan Molina
  • Mamita Yunai – Carlos Luis Fallas
  • Unica Looking at the Sea – Fernando Contreras Castro
  • Monkeys are made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica – Jack Ewing

Costa Rica travel FAQs

Do i need a covid-19 vaccine to join an intrepid trip.

Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards

From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travelers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).

However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travelers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.

When is the best time to visit Costa Rica?

Year-round tropical warmth means there really isn’t a bad time to visit Costa Rica. December to April are normally the driest months; however, Costa Rica’s diverse topography and blanket of rainforests suggest that you should be prepared for at least some rain any time of the year – a very small price to pay for such lush surroundings.

The good news is that even during the rainiest of seasons, the rainfall tends to be limited to a couple of hours a day – just enough time for you to enjoy a cup of Costa Rica's acclaimed coffee in one of its many cafes.

The most popular time to visit Costa Rica is between December and March – the driest and hottest months along the Pacific Coast. May to October brings the most rainfall across the country, but this is dependent on the region, as the wetter seasons are extended on the Osa Peninsula and northern sections of the Caribbean Coast.

Do you need a visa to travel to Costa Rica?

Generally, Costa Rica grants visas to most countries’ passport holders for a period of 90 days, providing travelers have a valid passport, a return or onward ticket and their trip is for leisure. Some countries’ citizens must apply for a visa before leaving their home country, but most do not.

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveler. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Check the Essential Trip Information section of your tour itinerary for more information. This is for general information only and may be subject to change. It is your responsibility to obtain relevant visa and travel information required for entry, departure and travel to each country or region you visit on your trip. You should confirm these with the relevant embassies and/or consulates. 

Last updated: 14/12/2023

Is tipping customary in Costa Rica?

While tipping isn't mandatory in Costa Rica, rounding up the bill and leaving spare change at restaurants and cafes is standard practice. Many restaurants do add a service charge to the final bill which is usually a 10% gratuity; however, 500 colones (or around USD 1) of local currency is an appropriate extra amount.

What is the internet access like in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica's cities and tourist centers have wi-fi and internet access available in hotel lobbies and internet cafes. Internet access is less available in rural and remote areas.

Can I use my cell phone while in Costa Rica?

Cell phone coverage is generally good in Costa Rica's cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your carrier if you wish to use your phone while in Costa Rica, but, be sure to check with your service provider first to find out about any fees you may incur, as sometimes this can be expensive.

Costa Rica has one state-owned phone provider – Kolbi – as well as a selection of private companies, should you wish to purchase a SIM while abroad. Depending on what connection and coverage you need during your stay in Costa Rica, a prepaid option with one of these providers may be the cheapest way to go.

What are the toilets like in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica's toilets are a mixture of flushable and squat toilets, so be prepared to encounter both. Carry your own supply of toilet paper and soap or hand sanitizer, as these aren't always provided.

Can I drink the water in Costa Rica?

Although tap water is considered safe to drink in Costa Rica's cities, it's probably a good idea to avoid drinking tap water in Costa Rica. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying small bottles of water. Ask your leader where filtered water can be found as some hotels provide this, so you’re able to use a reusable bottle. It's also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and to peel fruit and vegetables rather than eating washed or unwashed produce.

Are credit cards widely accepted in Costa Rica?

Major credit cards are accepted by most large shops, hotels, and restaurants, although smaller vendors and market stalls often only accept cash, so be sure to have a combination of both when traveling.

What is ATM access like in Costa Rica?

ATMs are easily found in large cities and airports, although are less common in rural and remote areas. When traveling out of the city, come prepared by having enough cash, as ATMs aren't always an option.

Is Costa Rica safe for LGBTQIA+ travelers?

Generally speaking, Costa Rica is a safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travelers. Same-sex relationships are legal and, in 2015 Costa Rica became the first country in Central America to recognize gay relationships; however, recognition of same-sex marriage is currently pending government approval. In many places in Costa Rica, public displays of affection might attract unwanted attention, but there are a few places in Costa Rica with a thriving LBGTQI scene. Quepos has long been known as the LGBTQIA+ capital of Costa Rica, and the actual capital, San Jose, has a good number of gay bars and clubs.

For more detailed and up-to-date advice, we recommend visiting   Equaldex  or   ILGA   before you travel.

If you are traveling solo on an Intrepid group tour, you will share accommodation with a passenger of the same gender as per your passport information. If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at time of booking and we’ll arrange the rooming configuration accordingly. A single supplement is available on some tours for travelers who do not wish to share a room.

What is the weather like in Costa Rica?

Being in the deep center of Central America, Costa Rica gets hot and oh so humid. However, there’s a whole number of microclimates inside its borders – that’s a fancy way of saying that the terrain is pretty hilly – so depending where you are in the country, the temperature may fluctuate. Generally speaking, Costa Rica enjoys a tropical climate year-round with temperatures averaging at 64°F minimum and 81°F maximum.

Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast has tropical heat almost all year round. March is the driest and hottest month, and May to October brings the wet season to the region. The Western Central Valley, including cities like San Jose, indirectly follow the Pacific Coast’s weather trends.

The Caribbean Coast has pretty steady rainfall all year round with no distinct dry season. September to October and February to March are considered the best months to travel to this side of the country as they are drier than most, but still experience rainfall. The Eastern Central Valley usually follows a similar weather pattern.

Is Costa Rica accessible for travellers with disabilities?

Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. We’re always happy to talk to travelers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them toward the most suitable itinerary for their needs and, where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Much of Costa Rica’s travel highlights are based around the coast and in nature, so depending on travelers’ level of mobility, this may present obstacles. Many national parks are difficult to visit for travelers using a wheelchair, as jungle paths are mostly remote and not stable. Manuel Antonio does have wider paths and more accessible routes to venture into the rainforest, and the wide boardwalks and beaches are wheelchair friendly. The capital, San Jose, is a bit tricky to get around, with rough sidewalks and a lack of ramps. There are, however, taxi companies in the capital that offer wheelchair-accessible vans.

If you do live with a visual, hearing, or other impairment, let your booking agent or group leader know early on so they’re aware and suitable arrangements can be made. As a general rule, knowing some common words in the local language, carrying a written itinerary with you, and taking to the streets in a group, rather than solo, can help make your travel experience the best it can be.

What to pack for a trip to Costa Rica

Packing for a trip to Costa Rica doesn't have to be difficult as long as you take into account the weather conditions you're likely to experience while you're over there. This means packing lightweight, comfortable clothing, walking shoes for exploring, appropriate sun protection items like sunscreen and hats, and a backpack so you can carry your camera and a reusable drink bottle. 

What language is spoken in Costa Rica?

Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, however, there are five indigenous languages that are still spoken throughout the country, as well as a mixture of English, Portuguese, German, and French spoken by a percentage of the population. 

How do I stay safe and healthy while traveling?

From Australia?

Go to: Smart Traveller

From Canada?

Go to:  Canada Travel Information

From the UK?

Go to:  UK Foreign Travel Advice

From New Zealand?

Go to:  Safe Travel

From the US?

Go to:  US Department of State

The World Health Organisation also provides useful health information.

Do I need to purchase travel insurance before traveling?

Absolutely. All passengers traveling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance

Does my trip support The Intrepid Foundation?

Yes, all Intrepid trips support the Intrepid Foundation. Trips to this country directly support our global Intrepid Foundation partners, Eden Reforestation Projects and World Bicycle Relief. Intrepid will double the impact by dollar-matching all post-trip donations made to The Intrepid Foundation.

Eden Reforestation Projects

Eden Reforestation Projects are helping to mitigate climate change by restoring forests worldwide; they also hire locally and create job opportunities within vulnerable communities. Donations from our trips support restoration across planting sites in 10 countries around the globe. Find out more or make a donation World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief provides people in low-income communities with bicycles to mobilize school kids, health workers, and farmers in far-out areas – giving them access to vital education, healthcare, and income. Donations help provide Buffalo Bicycles – specifically designed to withstand the rugged terrain and harsh environment of rural regions – to those who need them most. Find out more or make a donation

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