Best Central America Destinations

Costa Rica Travel Guide

Despite its relatively small size, Costa Rica overflows with life. In fact, the country contains 5% of the world’s entire biodiversity!

This includes sweeping, verdant rainforests and 500,000 species of wildlife. Of the latter, 900 are birds alone.

Of equal importance, Costa Rica consistently ranks as one of the world’s happiest countries, regularly outperforming far wealthier nations.

With warm people, inherent charm, and a remarkable variety of natural wonders, it’s no wonder why people flock from around the world to this part of Central America.

At Martsam Travel, we have carefully curated a range of tours in Costa Rica that showcase everything the country has to offer.

For the ultimate in luxury, freedom, and flexibility, consider our tailor-made custom tours of Costa Rica

Our expert trip planners love going above and beyond to deliver bespoke itineraries that turn dream vacations into reality!

Of course, if you have any questions for us about any aspect of our tours in Costa Rica or anywhere else in Central America, please feel free to get in touch.

For now, though, we present our Costa Rica travel guide. We hope that it’s full of all the inspiration and information you need.

Where is Costa Rica?

If you’re unfamiliar with the geography of Central America, let’s start by getting our bearings.

Costa Rica shares a border with Panama to the south and Nicaragua to the north. This also means that Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Belize are all further north on the subcontinent too.

The azure waters of the Caribbean Sea wash over the eastern shores while the Pacific Ocean does the same to the west.

And best of all — it only takes a couple of hours to fly to Costa Rica from many US cities!

Are you planning a trip through multiple Central American countries?

Our Guatemala Travel Guide and Belize Travel Guide are both useful resources for anyone looking beyond Costa Rica.

What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Costa Rica?

When to go to Costa Rica is a subjective decision influenced by your own personal circumstances, such as interests, preferences, budget, and freedom to travel.

However, you can use the information below to help in your decision-making process.

Costa Rica’s topography includes everything from volcanoes and mountains to valleys and beaches. 

As such, it has multiple climate zones, all of which create varying weather patterns across the country.

Due to its proximity to the equator, Costa Rica is a tropical country. This means it has no true winter season and is warm year-round.

Coastal areas have an annual average temperature between 80°F (26.7°C) and 90°F (32.2°C). 

The average for the countryside and mountainsides varies between 75°F (23.9°C) and 80°F (26.7°C).

Generally speaking, Costa Rica is divided into two seasons — a dry season (December to April) and a rainy season (May to November).

Is Costa Rica Safe for Tourists?

Personal safety is another highly subjective matter. Anything from gender to previous travel experiences can influence this. As such, we will avoid sweeping generalizations here.

It’s important to note that Costa Rica places significant importance on international tourism. As such, practically all locations on the tourist trail are safe and welcoming.

To underline the safety in Costa Rica, the country holds a “Level 1” travel advisory (at the time of writing) from the US Department of State.

In comparison, that’s lower than both France and the UK!

Ultimately, you only need to take the same precautions you would when traveling to any new destination.

We recommend planning your trip to Costa Rica with plenty of time in hand. This means you can research the locations and attractions you want to visit without rushing.

What’s more, you can use this pre-travel period to assess the most highly rated tour companies, like Martsam Travel.

Is Self-Drive in Costa Rica Safe?

Yes, the vast majority of overseas visitors find driving in Costa Rica no more challenging than in their country.

Of course, it’s important to familiarize yourself with Costa Rica’s rules of the road before arriving.

And take it easy when you first get out on the road. Driving defensively is advisable, just to be overly safe.

Needless to say, you must always stick to the stated speed limit.

There has been plenty of investment in Costa Rica’s roads over the years, so many are now paved to a high standard.

However, you should always remain aware of potholes during and after heavy rain.

And finally, you should be extra vigilant when driving at night. Pedestrians may have to walk on the road, and bikes often fly by with lights, so they aren’t always easy to spot in the dark.

Generally speaking, once you leave the main hubs behind, Costa Rica’s roads are fairly quiet.

What is the Best Way to Get Around Costa Rica?

While driving a rental vehicle offers unrivaled freedom and independence, it’s not for everyone.

Despite the investment in the roads, some are still tricky to navigate, especially those spotted with potholes.

Some intersections are confusingly marked too, which can result in heading in the wrong direction, or even getting lost.

Many travelers (and locals) get around on Costa Rica’s excellent public bus system.

Buses run frequently and reliably. They’re also inexpensive. And best of all, you can rely on them even in remote areas, not just the major towns and cities.

What Languages do People Speak in Costa Rica?

Spanish is the official and most widely used language of Costa Rica. But English is just as common in all areas catering to tourists too.

What is Considered Impolite Behavior in Costa Rica?

Every country has its cultural nuances, and being aware of Costa Rica’s can help to avoid awkward faux pas.

  • Kissing on the cheek is a customary greeting. However, women kiss women, and men and women kiss each other, but men do not kiss men. Men tend to shake hands or engage in a one-armed hug. If in doubt, a handshake is always acceptable.
  • Pointing at things or people with your finger is considered rude. If there’s something or someone you want to point out, do so using your whole hand.
  • It’s disrespectful to put your feet on furniture. This is as true for someone else’s home as it is in public settings, including public transport.
  • Dress appropriately for your environment. use common sense when choosing your clothes. Beachwear is fine for beach and coastal towns, but you will need to dress up if heading to a restaurant, theater, or museum. 
  • Certain topics are best avoided. These include Abortion, pre-marital sex, and gay marriage. Costa Rica is a conservative country, although places that cater to tourists and ex-pats are more liberal.
  • Accusations and confrontations are considered impolite. Courteousness is a key aspect of this friendly society, so you’ll rarely see displays of anger in public.

What are the Entry Requirements for Costa Rica?

Holders of valid US, EU, and UK passports do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica.

Upon arrival, you must be able to show proof of your intention to leave the country (an outbound flight ticket) before the expiration of your visa or entry stamp. These typically last for 90 days.

We advise travelers to stay up to date with the latest entry requirements for Costa Rica.

What Do I Need to Pack for a Trip to Costa Rica?

With such a wide range of activities on offer in Costa Rica, it’s impossible to list everything that every visitor may need to bring on a trip here. After all, what works for a relaxing beach vacation won’t apply to adventures in rainforests and national parks!

Broadly speaking, it’s worth packing the following items:

  • Casual and comfortable clothing
  • Quick-drying clothing and towels
  • Raincoat or light waterproof jacket
  • Sturdy sneakers or hiking boots
  • Sunglasses and sun hat
  • Flip flops and sandals
  • Swimwear and sarong
  • Rain covers

If you plan to spend time in San Jose or you want to attend a nice restaurant, bring slightly more refined options. Think a polo shirt and pants for men and a simple dress and flats for women.

Don’t forget other essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and medication. If you’re heading to more remote areas, we also advise bringing a flashlight.

Needless to say, you should always travel with copies of your necessary documents.

Costa Rica’s currency is the colón, but US dollars are widely accepted, as are credit cards.

What are Some Must-Do Activities in Costa Rica?

There aren’t many destinations in the world that can compete with the sheer range of spectacular scenery, natural wonders, and wildlife on offer over a single week in Costa Rica.

To see the extent of what’s possible, read through the itinerary for our incredible Highlights of Costa Rica Tour.

How you decide to spend your time here will depend on your personal interests and travel preferences. But there really is something for everyone!

Just some of the adventures and activities you can enjoy include:

  • Eco-Tourism
  • River Rafting
  • Surfing
  • Scuba Diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Canopy Tours
  • Ziplining
  • Canyoning
  • Waterfall Rappelling
  • Golfing
  • Sportfishing
  • Relaxing on Pristine Beaches

You can find all the above and much more in this tropical paradise.

Around 20% of Costa Rica’s land falls within national parks and reserves, so there’s ample opportunity to join activities focused on nature and wildlife. We even have a dedicated Costa Rica National Parks Tour.

Some of the most well-known national parks and reserves you can explore include:

  • Chirripo
  • Manuel Antonio
  • Braulio Carrillo
  • Santa Rosa
  • Guanacaste
  • Corcovado
  • Tortuguero
  • Arenal
  • Poas
  • Irazú
  • Cahuita
  • Cabo Blanco

There also are many protected wetlands plus the renowned Monteverde Private Reserve.

Costa Rica truly is one of the most unique vacation spots on Earth, and it’s ready for you to explore!

What's the Best Place for a Beach Vacation in Costa Rica?

Given the sheer variety of Costa Rica’s natural wonders, it’s no surprise that its beaches are equally varied.

There’s everything here from soft, white sand Caribbean beaches to rugged spots renowned for surfing.

Some of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches include:

  • Manuel Antonio Beach (in Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Conchal Beach (Guanacaste)
  • Tamarindo Beach (Guanacaste)
  • Flamingo Beach (Guanacaste)
  • Costa Ballena (South Pacific Coast)
  • Dominical Beach (South Pacific Coast)
  • Nacascolo Beach (Papagayo Peninsula)
  • Montezuma Beach (Nicoya Peninsula)
  • Mal Pais and Santa Teresa Beach (Nicoya Peninsula)
  • Nosara Beach (Nicoya Peninsula)
  • Ostional Beach (Nicoya Peninsula)
  • Samara Beach (Nicoya Peninsula)
  • San Juanillo (Nicoya Peninsula)
  • Punta Uva Beach (Southern Caribbean Coast)
  • Manzanillo Beach (Southern Caribbean Coast)

What are the Best Travel Hacks when Traveling to Costa Rica?

Some of the best travel hacks for traveling in Costa Rica are:

  • Bring a pocket English-to-Spanish dictionary as a handy backup to Google Translate, just in case you can’t get cellphone service.
  • Costa Rica has its own currency (the Costa Rican colón), but US dollars are also widely accepted. To cover every eventuality, carry a mix of currencies from the start of your trip.
  • Hire a local guide if you want to see the very best of Costa Rica’s wildlife. Animals aren’t always easy to spot, but an expert (like our own local guides) knows exactly where to look.
  • You can use the rainy seasons to your advantage. Yes, you won’t always have ideal conditions, but there are fewer tourists, cheaper rates, and the greenery is incredibly lush. And for a bonus hack, buy rain boots in Costa Rica!
  • Locals know the best deals for everything, so don’t be afraid to ask. The inherent friendliness of the people means recommendations and introductions are easy to come by. On a Martsam Travel tour, you will always benefit from this local insight.

Discover Authentic Costa Rica with Our Carefully Curated Tours

At Martsam Travel, we take pride in our reputation as leaders in first-class Central American vacations. No matter where you want to go or what you want to do, we can arrange it on your behalf.

Our pre-planned Costa Rica tours cover everything this amazing country has to offer.

And remember, you can always build a tailor-made itinerary with one of our custom tours of Costa Rica.

For more information about any of our tours, please feel free to contact us. We’re here to answer all of your questions.

For the ultimate in flexibility and freedom, consider a tailor-made itinerary. Our custom tour packages let you design your own experience. The type of hotel, methods of transport, and places to visit — the choice is yours!

Adventure Tour

Costa Rica Panama Tour

Our Costa Rica & Panama Combo package is a two-week journey that allows you to experience the major highlights of each country in one trip.
Culture Tour

Costa Rica Eco-Luxury Tour

Costa Rica became the poster child for eco-tourism in the 1990’s and remains at the forefront of that movement today.
Culture Tour

Nature Corners of Costa Rica Tour

To experience the very best rainforest and wildlife that make Costa Rica so famous head to two opposite corners of Costa Rica.
Classic Costa Rica Tour
Culture Tour

Classic Costa Rica Tour

This week-long package shows you all the things that make Costa Rica so popular: rainforest, volcanoes, wildlife, and gorgeous beaches.
Culture Tour

Highlights of Costa Rica Tour

Visit the highlights of Costa Rica – the Arenal Volcano, the cloud forests of Monteverde, and the beautiful tropical beaches & rainforest in Manuel Antonio.
Costa Rica Coast to Coast Tour
Culture Tour

Costa Rica Coast to Coast Tour

Choose a mix of adventure and nature tours as you travel Costa Rica from one coast to the other!
Costa Rica National Parks Tour
Culture Tour

Costa Rica National Parks Tour

In just 16 days, get to know Costa Rica’s top 6 national parks, and 4 nature reserves, from the Caribbean Coast to the Pacific Coast

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Visiting the Maya ruins in Peten Guatemala is a fabulous travel experience. Lily and the team at Martsam Travel in Guatemala are experts at making your travel plans come true. ln addition to the immense cultural value of the sites, you have chances to see unusual tropical animals. Totally great experience!


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A travel agency that makes you feel assisted every step of the trip – what a nice experience. Lily was checking every day to make sure things were going as well as possible, and went out of the way to accommodate last minute changes to my trip.


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I am beyond thankful that we found Martsam as they made our 10 day trip so perfect. We learned so much about Guatemalan and Mayan history. The hotels they booked for us were beautiful, luxurious, and affordable. I HIGHLY recommend using Martsum to plan a trip to Guatemala!!!


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