Over the 25 plus years that I have helped people traveling to Costa Rica, I am often asked variations of the same questions consistently. Therefore I have decided pick out answers to the most frequently asked questions about going on a vacation to Costa Rica for example, do I need a power converter? What currency do I use? Do I need a power Converter ? etc and put together a sample list of those questions in order for it to be a resource that people can use in order to plan their next trip to Costa Rica:
We are planning to visit the Osa Peninsula, specifically Lapa Rios in Mid-October this year. I was wondering what the weather would be like for hikes, snorkeling, and other explorations. I would expect it would be on the muddy side, but was trying to plan on what clothing to bring along.
You should be prepared for mud and the seasonal rains. Therefore you should pack lite quick drying clothes with enough changes so that if you went out in the morning and afternoon you could go a few days before rotating your laundry. The Osa is always good for wildlife and the rains can help mask your approach. You are sure to see plenty of birds in the early morning and evening. Make sure you get to Corcovado National Park.
Looking for a low-key inexpensive beach place — I like to swim and if possible snorkel. Pacific or Cahuita?
If you want a low key place I would go to Drake’s Bay, it is a little hard to get to but that is why its low key, try Corcovado Expeditions. On the Caribbean side the best snorkeling is in Cahuita but its not very low key. The best option is going just over the border to Panama to Bocas del Toro. Its cheap and has some of the best snorkeling anywhere.
Should a person be vaccinated for malaria or anything similar to that?
Forget the malaria concerns. You have a better chance of being eaten by a Polar Bear.
Should I exchange money before I get to Costa Rica?
NO! The exchange rate you get at the airport will be horrible and its not necessary! The best way is to use a ATM once you get to Costa Rica. US Dollars are widely accepted and once you get to your hotel just ask them where the closest ATM is. If you take a taxi from the airport the official airport Taxi’s will accept US dollars. Check out my money post for more detailed info.
When can I get the cheapest airfare next year to San Jose, Costa Rica and what is the price?
Unlike past years, there are no super cheap deals on the horizon so I would book in advance. To look for airfare to Costa Rica check out the rates online or go to BudgetAirfare.com which also allows you to try many dates whenever you want
We are interested in visiting Nicaragua sometime during our stay, but have not seen any day tours originating in Costa Rica. We will have a car, but I am not sure whether traveling to Nicaragua by car is a wise idea. Can you provide some guidance?
Nicaragua is a great side trip but your insurance on the car will not work and the car is not yours to take out of the country. Take a two night tour that includes Granada and you will not have to drive. Granada is a walking city that is a must see.
How important is it to rent a car ahead of time when going to a foreign country like Costa Rica over Christmas holidays? Or can I just show up and get a better deal?
Over Christmas a reservation for car rentals is absolutely needed since locals rent them as well to go to the beach for vacation. There are three companies that I would recommend looking at first, Europcar, Adobe or Mapache rent a car all of which( and others) you can find checking rates here . There is a lot of confusion on prices and many companies charge an airport fee, license fee, and insurance of up to additional $200 a week. Its a real struggle to make sure there are no surprise charges
What is the best time of day to see the Arenal volcano? Do you need to pay to see the springs thru the hotel Tabacon?
To see the volcano spewing lava at night is a real treat but its up to mother nature, otherwise the early morning is best before the top has a chance to gather clouds. You need to pay to go to Tabacon and there is a limit on the number of people. It tends to get very crowded.
We would like to take our children to Costa Rica for 10 – 14 days. They will be 7 and 10 at that time. We would like to see volcanoes, zipline through the rain forest, see some local culture and spend some time at the beach. Can you suggest some other activities and a possible itinerary that will be family friendly?
Would we be better off on a tour, based at a resort (and go on day trips) or a self-drive trip? Our kids are good travelers and are very curious. My husband and I both like adventurous travel (we backpacked through Turkey) and resort vacations. Also – When should we go? We are teachers and can only go at Christmas or July/Aug.
I will take the last part first. Please avoid Christmas and New years wherever possible. Its vacation time in Costa Rica too and the beaches are very crowded with tourists and locals. Restaurants take forever, rooms are going for a premium, and its just not what you came to Costa Rica for. The self drive is the way to go and can check my post here for some ideas.
Costa Rica is safe and friendly and you will discover “hidden gems” on your own. I prefer the southwest part of the country as the most authentic and untouched. Go to Drake’s Bay or the south side of the Osa Penninsula. Maybe the kids will want to learn to surf or go on a night tour of the jungle with miner lamps?
How difficult is it for a US citizen to get married in Costa Rica? What are the requirements, and where are some of the best spots for a wedding?
It’s a little tricky but very possible. The experts at the Peace Lodge do the best job. The have been written up on the Travel Channel and the place is perfect for a honeymoon. They handle everything including the legalize
What is the deal with tipping in Costa Rica? Is it like Europe?
Tipping is Costa Rica is not the norm but it is, of course, appreciated when it comes to services such as guides and tour leaders. In restaurants, they usually already include a 10% service fee so if you feel the service warrants it you can leave a little more but its not expected.
Weather-wise, when is the best time to visit Costa Rica? I’ve heard answers of all sorts. Is there a time of year when there is less rainfall?
The driest time in Costa Rica is January through March, although they only time I would say weather is a true factor is September and October
I will be in San Jose and would like some suggestions on half-day to full-day scenic trips to the interior of the country. Where are some good hiking spots and which volcanic park is the closest from the capital?
The volcanoes in the area of San Jose are Poas and Irazu. The Irazu is higher and is usually clearer, especially in the am. Chiripo is further away but better for hiking.
I am going to be taking my laptop, do I need to take an adapter with me?
Costa Rica works off the 110 volt system, same as the US or Canada so if you are coming from either of these countries then no, however if you are coming from Europe (or similar) you will need to bring an adapter.
My husband and I plan a trip to Costa Rica and we are also concerned about insect bites at that time of year. Can you address that problem and what works best in the way of repellent?
You should use repellent at dawn and dusk. Otherwise it is not really an issues. Nonetheless as my friend Mustache says, “its repellent and not antidote” so it only works if you put it on before you get bit.
I am planning a 1 week trip with my family soon, we are 4, I have 2 sons 9 and 7 years old. We plan to go surfing and visit waterfalls. I need the surf to be safe for them, what location is best Quepos/Dominical or NW Guanacaste/Tamarindo ?
The break at Playa Grande and Tamarindo is best for the kids but Dominical is better for waterfalls. Check out our FAQ Surf post if you would like more surfing information
How much time does it take to do Arenal/Monteverde? We’ve planned two days, one for the volcano and another for the Cloud Forest, but is it possible to do both in one day?
I am glad you asked this one. The answer is that for two days you should choose either Arenal OR Monteverde because the drive to Monteverde to Arenal takes a good part of a day and then you want to be there in the am to see the reserve. I know they look close on a map but its too much to try to do both.
My family (son 16 yrs., daughter 20 and my husband and I) are interested in spending several days in the Southern Nicoya Peninsula area in late May or early June, as part of a 10 day trip. That’s about the only time we can take this trip, but I’m concerned about it being the wet season. Is it likely to be too wet to enjoy the beach? Also, are any of the beaches in the Montezuma or Santa Teresa areas good for swimming – everything I read only talks about the surfing.
Do not worry about the Costa Rica Weather, in fact May and the first part of June is one of the best times. You may get some clouds and rain here and there but its nothing that will get in the way. Swimming is best away from the surfing beaches due to the rip currents but there a few places in Tambor area that are great for swimming.
Looking at Costa Rica for our honeymoon but, unsure what regions to visit. Looking to do active things (rafting, hiking, canopy tours, etc) for 4-5 days, then relax on the beach for another 4-5 days. We like to be off the beaten path a little bit. We have a disgust for big resorts and alot of tourists. After researching, we were thinking of Arenal area and Manuel Antonio. But, we met someone who told us Manuel is crowded, that we should try Nicoya Peninsula.
Bosque del Cabo is one of my favorites or try Lapa Rios. No crowds, lots of great things to do. Rafting is best out of San Jose and you will need the night before and after your rafting to stay in San Jose. Try Grano de Oro in the city or Peace Lodge.
Looking for an organization that will combine touring and Spanish immersion in Costa Rica.
Try Conversa in San Jose or Escuela de Amor in Manuel Antonio. The US Cultural Center has some great home stays with classes and they organize some activities.
What about Travel Insurance? Do you think its a worthwhile thing to get?
Yeah I would say to get some. The price for the insurance is not the expensive in relationship to what you would lose and with flight being always full and the strict cancellation policies hotels and tour companies are implementing, its a worthwhile investment. Just try use a place like TravelProtectInternational.com which searches all insurance providers and not just 1 particular company.
I don’t speak any Spanish, can I get by with just English?
Although it would be helpful (and appreciated) if you could know some basic Spanish before you go, its not a necessity as if you travel to the areas where tourists mostly go you should be just fine. However, if you are going off the beat and track than you would be better off knowing some Spanish