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Planning a Trip to Costa Rica

It’s time to begin planing your trip to Costa Rica! 

Are you overwhelmed? 

Have no fear! 

We will walk you through every step of the process. 

santa teresa airbnb
bocas del too

Step 1: Establish Your Budget for Costa Rica

We think the first step of planning a trip to Costa Rica (or any vacation for that matter) should always be to establish your budget. 

By having a clear idea of what you would like to spend you can better decide which things are worth splurging on and which things you would like to keep as affordable as possible.

In general, Costa Rica is not nearly as affordable as its Central America neighbors. Despite this, it is possible to visit on a budget if you compromise on certain amenities.

To help you with this, we suggest checking out our guide to money and budgeting for Costa Rica. 

irazu crater

Travel Tip

It is always good to know a little about what to expect in a country before visiting.

To give you a better idea of what to expect we created a list of 40 things you should know about Costa Rica before visiting.

This list includes important info such as where you can drink the water and the best way to get driving directions. 

Step 2: Decide Which Parts of Costa Rica You Should Visit

Costa Rica is a small country but it is home to several different micro climates.

We suggest starting off by checking out our guide to Costa Rica weather. This will give you an idea of which areas of the country are best to visit during the time you will be in the country for optimal weather.

After checking out our guide to weather, it is always fun to do our quiz to determine the best place to visit based on your needs.

And then, to top it off head on over to our Destination Guides. These detailed guides can tell you everything you need to know about every area of the country.Some popular places to visit are Manuel Antonio, La Fortuna (home of the Arenal Volcano), and Tamarindo.

Step 3: Plan Your Itinerary

The most difficult part of planning your trip (in our opinion) is figuring out the perfect itinerary. 

Luckily we have created a collection of FREE ready made itineraries for you. 

One week itinerary – Costa Rica is small, but it does take a long time to drive between locations. We suggest sticking to about two spots for a one week long trip.

Two weeks itinerary – For a two week trip we suggest picking two beach destination and no more than two jungle destinations. 

Three weeks itinerary – Having three weeks of travel time definitely gives you more flexibility. You can easily explore both the Caribbean and Pacific coast with this amount of time.

Grab a free copy of our Costa Rica guide

Step 4: Book Your Flight

We suggest waiting to book your flight until you have a better idea of which areas of the country you would like to visit because there are actually two international airports in Costa Rica.

Most people only know the San Jose airport, but Liberia airport (located on the Pacific coast near the Nicaragua border) is also a great option if you would like to explore that part of the country.

You can check out our guide to both Costa Rica airports for more info on picking the best one for you. 

Also, if you would like some tips on how to get the best flight deals you can check out our guide to that here. We frequently fly to and from Costa Rica and Europe and the US. We have gotten pretty good at finding the best deals possible. 

Step 5: Book Your Accommodations

It’s time to figure out where you will stay! We love Airbnb for Costa Rica, but also frequently book hotels on

You can get all the info on finding the perfect accommodation option in our Guide to Costa Rica hotels

Step 6: Book Your Transportation

There are several different transportation options in Costa Rica. Lets go through each one…

public bus

Public Bus – We suggest using public busses if you are going to one destination and don’t plan on doing much exploring once there. Most busses run through San Jose which means it can be a total pain to move from one destination to your next destination. 


Private Shuttle – Private shuttles are especially good if you are traveling with a group or family. They are nice for getting long distances and not having to worry about the driving yourself. 


Domestic Flight – There are a few domestic airlines in Costa Rica at the moment. Sometimes you can even get decent deals. However, you will still need to figure out transportation once in your destination. 

rental car

Rental Car – Our preferred method for getting around is to rent a car. Having a car will give you more flexibility and will allow you to explore off the beaten path things. 

You can save 10% plus get other great perks with our Costa Rica car rental discount

You can find out more about Costa Rica transportation with our compete transportation guide.

Travel Tip

There are some really good free apps out there that we love for planning Costa Rica travels. These apps will help you organize your day, calculate exchange rates, translate into Spanish, and more!

Get the full list of apps!

cell phone costa rica
volunteer in costa rica

Travel Tip

A good way to see Costa Rica is by volunteering. There are plenty of volunteer programs throughout the country. Several of these volunteer opportunities involve manual labor in return for free accommodations, but there are several volunteer opportunities that involve helping wildlife or helping people.

You can get more tips and find opportunities in our guide to volunteering

Step 7: Figure Out Which Activities You Want to Do

Choosing your dream activities in Costa Rica can be overwhelming because there is just so much to do! You can be hiking in a national park on one day and relaxing in a hot spring the next. 

We definitely suggest looking at our Destination Guides for the areas you are visiting. These will give you an idea of all our favorite activities in each area of the country.

We also suggest checking out our list of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica and our list of our favorite free things to do in Costa Rica

zip line
national park

Step 8: Figure Out What and Where You Want to Eat

Mmmm food! Does anyone plan their trip around restaurants, or is it just me? 

Anyway, there are tons of amazing restaurants in Costa Rica. We list our favorites in each of our destination guides.

Also, check out our guide to all the Costa Rican food you should try and our guide to grocery shopping in Costa Rica.. It’s always fun to try new things while traveling!


Step 9: Purchase Travel Insurance

It’s always a good idea to purchase travel insurance when planning a trip to Costa Rica (or to any foreign country for that matter). Travel insurance isn’t just great for injuries but it will also help you out if your flight gets cancelled, things get lost etc.

Our favorite travel insurance is World Nomads. They have helped me out on several occasions and I have nothing but great things to say about them.

Step 10: Pack for Your Trip

Do you hate packing? Us too! It is always difficult to figure out what is necessary and what you really don’t need. 

Here’s a tip, on the beaches in Costa Rica it tends to be super hot and sunny.

Check out the Costa Rica packing list for women and the packing list for men for all the tips and a free printable list. 

Step 11: Board Your Flight to Paradise

Yeay!!! You have officially planned your entire trip. 

Just to make you travel day a bit easier we suggest you read our guide to landing in Costa Rica. It explains the whole Customs process and what you can expect.

Also, 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!

Pura Vida!

You will also like…..

Things to Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Guide to Beaches

The Best Costa Rica Waterfalls

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