Step by step walkthrough to plan the perfect tropical travel
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
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.
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. 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
some of the things we love to do
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
it’s not all bathing suits and sunglasses
Your packing list for your trip to Costa Rica will vary depending on which time of year and which destinations you are going to.
To help you out:
– Check out our packing list for women
– Check out our packing list for men
– Read up on rainy season packing
– Discover our must-have Costa Rica gear items.
*note that this will also sign you up for our email list filled with great Costa Rica travel tips*
Yeay!!! You have officially planned your entire trip.
Just to make your travel day a bit easier we suggest you read our guide to entry requirements. It explains the whole Customs process and what you can expect.
Also, make sure you are aware of the current COVID regulations and how they may apply to you.
And feel free to leave any questions you have about planning a trip to Costa Rica in the comment section below. We are happy to help you out!
We hope you have an amazing vacation in Costa Rica filled with adventure, relaxation, beaches, and jungle vibes!
a few last Costa Rica travel tips for you
here are some good places to start….
Detailed info on all the greatest spots in the country
Trip plans of varying length for all your interests
Discounts with the best companies in tourism
This website has been fantastic. My family is hoping to come to CR in Feb. After two weeks of site seeing my husband will have to return to the USA for work. I am thinking of staying another week with our 4 young children. Do you think this is a safe idea? I would have to navigate on my own to get groceries, drive to parks and get us to the airport..
Hi Jessica. I’m so happy to hear our site has been helpful for you! I think you will be completely fine. Which area are you thinking of staying for the last week alone with the kids? I’m happy to give you tips for activities that you can do with them and easy grocery stores and stuff.
Hello! Thanks for all the information! I have a question about alcohol…if we bring up to the 5 liters, does it really save us money? For example, are the vodka prices in the US cheaper than CR?
Alcohol is definitely cheaper in the US because of the high import tax here, but they actually just opened a duty free shop after you go through Customs to enter at the San Jose airport. I didnt pay too much attention to the prices last time I went through there but if you dont want to lug stuff with you the prices at the duty free shop are probably pretty good. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have more questions as you plan your trip. 🙂
My name is Aubrey and I will be moving to Playa Samara in Costa Rica in May. I am a type 1 diabetic and I am worried about the insulin and the shipping of supplies. I love this blog and I have learned a lot to help myself prepare. Do you have any insights on meds?
You’ll love living in Samara!
I think you might have a difficult time shipping things in. First off, it’s hard to know if things will actually come on a normal schedule. For example, we have had my family ship us things from the US and sometimes it takes two weeks, sometimes two months, sometimes it never comes at all. Plus, with medicine, even if you have a prescription, you never know if it will get stopped because sending medicine is technically not legal.
Your best bet is probably to find a pharmacy here that can supply you. Pharmacies here are great and carry most medicine you would have in the states. Often you dont even need a prescription.
If you rather get things from your home country because of insurance purposes, I’d say your best bet is to see if you can get an extended supply.
Sorry I can’t be more helpful on this topic. I dont know a lot about it, but I will say avoid trying to ship anything into Costa Rica. It’ll just be way too much of a headache.
Let me know if you have more questions as you plan your move!