Plan Your Dream Costa Rica Trip

Step by step walkthrough to plan the perfect tropical travel

mal pais beach

Step One

Decide Where you want to go

There are just so many amazing places in Costa Rica that it can be overwhelming to narrow down which spots to visit during your trip.

To help you out we created an entire collection of Destination Guides.

These detailed guides will tell you everything you need to know about all areas of the country including weather, transportation tips, hotel suggestions, and great activities for all budgets.

Travel Tip– The Pacific and Caribbean coasts have opposite rainy seasons. Check out the guide to Costa Rica weather to get an idea of which areas of the country will have the best weather during your visit 

Clickable Destination Map

COSTA RICA VIBES Placeholder
COSTA RICA VIBES

Our Favorite Destinations

some of the places we love to visit

Step Two

create an itinerary

Time to make a trip plan!

We suggest doing this in combination with the next section (booking your flight) so you can simultaneously decide which Costa Rica international airport is best for you to fly in to. 

We created a whole section of itinerary ideas for one, two, and three week Costa Rica trips. These will make a good foundation for your vacation. 

Travel Tip– It is best to pick about two destinations for a one week trip plan. We suggest one beach location and one jungle spot for a great intro to the country.

If coming from the San Jose Airport we suggest Manuel Antonio (for beach) and La Fortuna (for jungle). 

From Liberia we suggest any of the Guanacaste beach towns and La Fortuna for jungle. 

pool playa avellenas

Step Three

Book a Flight

There are two international airports in Costa Rica.

The most popular airport is located in San Jose. From here it is easy to get almost anywhere in the country because it is so centrally located. This airport is called Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO).

The other international airport is located in the northwest corner of the country near the city of Liberia. This airport is called Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR).

This is a great place to fly into if you want a short drive to the beautiful Guanacaste beaches and aren’t as focused on seeing the Caribbean Coast or Southern Pacific

We almost always book flights on Skyscanner. They typically have the best deals and are easy to navigate.

With COVID being an ever-evolving situation, we suggest booking travel insurance for if you need to cancel your flight and trip. 

Travel Tip – Make sure you book your flight to airport code SJO if flying in to San Jose. The full name is Juan Santamaria International Airport.

There is also a San Jose International Airport in California and, yes, we have heard about people flying to the wrong location.  😉 

Find Your Flight

santa teresa hotel

Step Four

Find Accommodations

hotels, resorts, Airbnb’s, treehouses, villas, and more!

There are so many accommodation options in Costa Rica it can be difficult to even know how to begin finding a spot.

We suggest first determining your accommodation budget. This can be helpful for determining if you would like to splurge for a few days and stay in a luxury resort or if you are going to keep things more budget-friendly. 

To help you out, we first suggest checking out our Costa Rica hotel page. It covers all topics from planning your honeymoon to great places to stay near the airports.

We also suggest our destination guides. They are filled with great suggestions at all price points for every area.

Book Your Hotel

Step Four

Transportation

find the best way to get around in Costa Rica

You might find that you use a variety of ways to get around during your trip to Costa Rica.

Here are all the transportation options you have to consider.

The most convenient way to get around in Costa Rica. 

A car will allow you to take many fun day trips without depending on tours with transportation. 

However, be aware that some of the rental car companies here will charge you a much higher rate than you are originally quoted online.

We always suggest renting your car through our favorite local car company called Adobe. They are upfront with their costs, dependable, and just an all around excellent company.

They have given us a 10% discount plus some other great perks to pass on to you.

Private shuttles are perfect for those of you who are traveling with a family or group of friends. 

We love this option for destination wedding groups, groups renting a villa, groups staying in resorts, and for those of you who don’t feel comfortable driving a long distance in Costa Rica.

One thing we suggest to those of you who want a rental car but don’t want to drive from the airport to your destination is to take a private shuttle to your destination and then rent a car once at your destination.

We suggest Adobe Transfer for all your private shuttle needs.

This company is run by the same great team that operates Adobe Rent a Car. They will take great care of you.

BOOK YOUR PRIVATE SHUTTLE HERE

If you need to get around in the town you are staying in or need a ride that is an hour or less from the airport, a taxi is generally the cheapest and most convenient option. 

Just be aware that you need to make sure you are taking a legal registered taxi. You will know because the taxi will be red with a yellow triangle on the drivers and passengers side door. 

This is super important because fake taxi drivers have been known to scam tourists.

If you are flying into the Liberia airport and need to get to your hotel in this area (Papagayo, Coco, Hermosa, Tamarindo, Flamingo) we suggest reserving your taxi with our favorite registered taxi drivers.

This family of four adult brothers and their father all operate as legal registered taxi drivers in Costa Rica. They will take such great care of you. 

Because we like them so much and they like us, they have given us a $10 taxi discount to pass on to you.

Reserve Your Liberia Area Taxi

Public bus is by far the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica, but it is definitely not the most convenient.

Most busses pass through San Jose and Liberia so, if you are visiting multiple destinations it can be difficult to find good connections.

The one time we definitely suggest the public bus is if you are going from San Jose down to Panama.

The bus is not the most comfortable. Actually last time I took this bus the inside temperature gauge said it was 96° F …and I believe it!

But, it will bring you right to the border for an easy crossing experience. 

 

 

The main domestic airline in Costa Rica is Sansa.

You can find out more in our domestic flight guide

The two main cruise terminals are on the Caribbean coast in Limon and on the Pacific coast in Puntarenas. 

There are actually a decent amount of cruises coming to Costa Rica. Most of these cruises pass through the Panama canal on their way here. 

Transportation Travel Tips

– We have a Guide to Transportation that goes into further detail on all the transportation options.

– Check out the post on driving directions for all the info you need on GPS and distances. 

– Check out our guide to driving to learn all about traffic laws in Costa Rica. 

Step Five

Activities

zip lining, surfing, hiking, catamaran tours, snorkeling

There are activities for everyone and all interests in Costa Rica!

The best ways to find more info about all your activity options are to check out our Guide to Activities in Costa Rica as well as all of our Destination Guides

A few things that we think are “must do” in Costa Rica are:

Visit some National Parks

Enjoy the beaches

See a waterfall

Visit a volcano

Try Surfing

Travel Tip – Often it is possible to book activities last minute, but during the peak travel season we suggest booking things ahead of time if possible. Things can get really filled up!

Our Favorite Activities

some of the things we love to do

Step Six

Find places to Eat

Are you a foodie? I (Sarah) tend to organize all of the places I want to eat before I go anywhere. Thomas thinks I’m crazy.

– Check out the Destination Guides for restaurant suggestions at all price points.

– Learn all our restaurant advice including tipping. 

– Check out our guide to traditional food. For all the amazing food options that the country has to offer.

– Discover all the best beach bars.

-Find the best places to try local craft beers.

– Learn about Costa Rican grocery stores and cook your own meals