Planning A Trip to Costa Rica? Do This First

When you buy through our links, Costa Rica Vibes may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Read our Disclaimer Policy for more info. 

Costa Rica planning
about us

Hi! We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica.

Want the whole crazy story?

Are you thinking of planning a trip to Costa Rica? We absolutely love it here and are sure you will as well. Costa Rica is the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation with pristine beaches and lush jungles as your backdrop. It doesn’t get much better than that.

However, we understand it can be a bit overwhelming to plan a trip to a place you have never visited before. It is also a foreign country and the world is crazy at the moment which can make everything even more complicated.

We created this guide to walk you through the steps you should take from initial planning up until boarding your plane for paradise.

First thing is first….

Establish Your Budget for Costa Rica

airbnb la fortuna

The first step to planning your Costa Rica travel is to come up with a rough budget.

I’m not saying you need to come up with a strict budget, but we like to decide which things we are willing to splurge on and what we will be a bit more budget friendly about.

It really helps to sit down with your travel partners and discuss their expectations so you can be on the same page ahead of time.

Some things to think about are:

  • Accommodations (do you want to save money by staying in budget friendly places or are you planning to book more high end accommodations?)
  • Food (will you stay in a place where you can cook most of your food or do you plan to eat at restaurants every day)
  • Activities (would you like to do things like zip lining and rafting or will you keep it more budget friendly with visiting beaches and hiking
  • Transportation (do you have the budget to rent a car or mostly take public buses?).

I get more into all these details further on in this article, but to start, just discuss your general expectations.

Decide Where You Want to Go in Costa Rica


I wish I could say it is easy to pick your perfect destination in Costa Rica, but it’s not. There are just so many freaking cool places here with totally different vibes.

It’s awesome that there is something for everyone in Costa Rica, but it makes it really hard to narrow it down to just a few places to visit.

I guess that means you’ll have to visit again 🙂

No, but seriously, check out our Destination page and click on the various destinations to get a better idea of cool places to visit. We keep it real in our description of each place.

If you are visiting Costa Rica for a week we suggest sticking to visiting only two destinations. Although Costa Rica is a relatively small country it can take foreverrrr to get between destinations.

We want you to make the most of your time in Costa Rica and spending tons of time driving just isn’t going to be enjoyable.

We suggest picking one beach town destination and one jungle destination for a little variety.

The reason we think it is best to pick your destinations first is that it impacts your flight decisions so, let’s move on to that point!

Book Your Flight to Costa Rica

airplane juan santamaria

There are two international airports in Costa Rica.

One is located in Liberia in the north-west corner of the country and the other is located just outside of San Jose (but everyone just calls it the San Jose Airport).

Most people tend to fly into San Jose because it is more centrally located and tends to be cheaper but definitely consider Liberia as well, especially if you have travel plans to visit the Guanacaste region of the country.

There have been more and more airlines flying there in recent years and you can sometimes get great deals.

For flights, we almost always have the best luck finding great flight deals on the Skyscanner website.

Book Accommodations

last minute costa rica hotels

Anyone else love booking accommodations but labor over it like you are choosing a house to buy? That’s me!

We have a full post about booking accommodations which you should check out, but first, let me let you in on a little secret.

Most hotels here offer free cancellation up to a few days before your stay if you book through

I like to book places early to ensure we have a place to stay, but I continue to check if something better or cheaper shows up. Just make sure you keep track of when you can cancel your hotel until.

Figure Out Your Transportation

costa rica car

Transportation is one of the trickiest things to figure out. There are so many options!

We have a complete post about all your transportation options here, but I’ll tell you we prefer to rent a car because we find it gives us the most flexibility in seeing cool sites and not having to depend on expensive day tours.

Plus, with the current world situation you will probably prefer to have a car rental rather than take a shared shuttle.

Each of our destination guides includes a complete guide to transportation.

We have partnered with our fave rental car company Adobe to bring you guys a 10% rental car discount! You can find more about that here!


The Adobe Rent-A-Car discount includes…..

– A 10% DISCOUNT  





Find Fun Activities

beach fishing costa rica

One of the many great things about Costa Rica is that there is literally something for everyone at every budget. If you like adventure, you’re in luck. If you want to relax on the beach, we’ve got that as well.

As I mentioned above, we suggest one beach and one jungle destination for a week long vacation. If you do that, you can then pick both fun jungle and fun beach activities. The best of both worlds!

All our destination guides include activity suggestions for all budgets.

Recently we have been booking a lot of activities through Viator. The reason for this is that they typically have really good cancellation policies. This helps us still support local companies, but have the security of a large company like Viator.

Research Local Restaurants

food costa rica

Anyone else a serious foodie? The first thing I research when traveling anywhere is where I can get fab food. I then read every menu and pick out exactly what I’m going to eat.

Anyway, in each of our destination guides, we have some of our fave restaurant options if you need ideas. We even have these divided by price point to make things even more organized.

Figure out Current Entry Requirements

zip line Monteverde

With Coronavirus, entry requirements are constantly changing as far as needing a negative COVID-19 test before entry and travel insurance requirements.

To check out current requirements, refer to our frequently updated Coronavirus guide.

Finalize Your Costa Rica Budget

costa rica currency

Alright, now that you have basically everything else planned it is time to finalize your budget. This is the stage where you can write down your max to spend in each category of your trip.

If you need a good app to keep track of how much you are spending while traveling, we like the free app called Trail Wallet.

We have a complete guide to currency and costs to provide more guidance.

Pack for Costa Rica

packing list

Yeay! It’s time to pack! That means you are almost done planning your trip to Costa Rica! Check out our guide to Costa Rica packing and our Amazon packing lists for everything you need.

Keep in mind that what you need to pack for Costa Rica will vary based on what time of year you are traveling, which parts of the country you are visiting, and what time of trip you are planning.

Mountain destinations such as Monteverde can get rather cool while beach destinations are bound to be hot.

Packing for a trip of hiking will be very different that a trip to luxury hotels.

Board Your Flight to Paradise!

airplane costa rica

Yeay! It’s time to board your flight to the paradise that is Costa Rica! Get ready to have so much fun!

Also, because we like our readers we made this FREE downloadable packet for planning a trip to Costa Rica. This will help you plan out your itinerary, transportation, packing, and more! Enjoy!

If you have any comments or questions please leave them in the comment section below. We love to hear from you all!


Planning A Trip to Costa Rica? Do This First
Planning A Trip to Costa Rica? Do This First
Sarah McArthur

Sarah McArthur

Sarah McArthur is the co-founder and main writer of Costa Rica Vibes. She is originally from the United States. but has lived in sunny San Jose, Costa Rica since 2016. She has traveled all over the country as a Costa Rica travel expert and has helped thousand of people plan their perfect Costa Rica vacation.

Book Your Trip: Our Go-to Travel Companies

When you book through our trusted partners we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Win-win! 


The Adobe Rent-A-Car discount includes…..

– A 10% DISCOUNT  





Book a Flight

via Skyscanner

Rent a Car

via Adobe & save 10%

Book a Hotel


Private Shuttle

via Adobe Transfers

About Us

We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica. It was a spontaneous decision to move here, but it was the best decision!

Want the whole crazy story?

Follow Along

email opt in