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Costa Rica DIY TRAVEL GUIDE

The magic words… “Welcome to Costa Rica”, one of the most beautiful countries in the world! 

Pura Vida! Pure Life!

The World Economic Forum found that Costa Rica has the most attractive resources (i.e. parks, beaches, mountains, wildlife, etc.) in the world. Therefore it comes as no surprise that more than 25% of its land is protected.

With that said, let’s get you there and give you all the tips, tricks, and tools to plan your trip to Costa Rica.

Flights to Costa Rica

Allow around 45 minutes from touching the ground to leaving the airport building to clear customs and collect your luggage. There are three major airports to pick from.

  • Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in the Guanacaste Province.
  • Juan Santa María International Airport (SJO),  San Jose in the Alajuela Province.
  • Limón International Airport (LIO) in the Limón Province.

How many days in Costa Rica is enough?

A minimum stay of 10 to 14 days will cover the highlights of this scenic country. The country is relatively small in size, ranking somewhere between Denmark and West Virginia, namely 51,100 sq. km (19,700 sq. miles). But, don’t get fooled by its size. Costa Rica dazzles with rolling mountains, lush river valleys, and open plains. And it is thanks to these natural resources that the construction of superhighways is limited. Awesome, is it not?

Whether you plan to join tours, short excursions, or explore on your own, we’ll give you all the tips throughout the article to experience the best holiday ever. All the links we provide are with DIY travel planning in mind. Therefore, you book direct and get instant booking confirmation. 

Plan your trip around the public holidays in Costa Rica
  • 1 Jan New Year’s Day
  • 29 Mar Public Sector Holiday
  • 30 Mar Public Sector Holiday
  • 31 Mar Public Sector Holiday
  • 1 Apr Good Thursday
  • 2 Apr Good Friday
  • 11 Apr Juan Santamaria Day
  • 3 May Labor Day / May Day
  • 25 Jul Guanacaste Day (Observance) 
  • 26 Jul Guanacaste Day 
  • 2 Aug Virgin of Los Ángeles Day (non-paid legal holiday)
  • 15 Aug Mother’s Day
  • 13 Sep Independence Day
  • 29 Nov Day of Abolition of the Army (non-paid legal holiday)
  • 25 Dec Christmas Day
Volcanoes in Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica
Costa Rica wildlife
Three toed sloth in Costa Rica

Weather

No matter where you find yourself in this beautiful country of exquisite landscapes it is best to have a raincoat or a light waterproof jacket handy. The rainy season is usually from May to November.

Best things to do in Costa Rica

Before we get to “What you should know before you go to Costa Rica”, let’s first share some of the best attractions and excursions that will have you grab your camera around every corner. 

Costa Rica festivities

Guanacaste Day Costa Rica public holiday
Guanacaste Day (public holiday) celebrations, July 25

If you’re anywhere in Costa Rica on July 25, don’t expect all the public services and shops to be open. The day is celebrated as a major public holiday, namely Guanacaste Day in remembrance of Tamarindo becoming part of Costa Rica.

Costa Ricans are not only proud of their heritage but also proudly Costa Rican. The phrase “de la patria por nuestra voluntad” – “Costa Rican by choice.” will no doubt pop up from time to time. Especially on July 25, when Guanacaste Day is usually celebrated with traditional folk dancing, music, fireworks, and parades. 

travel and home beautiful places in costa rica

The Alajuela Province

Costa Rica’s Alajuela Province is known for its stretched-out farms and coffee plantations. The Alajuela Province is also a principal trade center for cattle, coffee, and sugar. Other than being famous for two incredible National Parks (a bit more later on…), it is also home to unique natural phenomena, namely the Rio Celeste, a milky blue river and waterfall which lies near the Tenorio Volcano National Park.

Kick-start your holiday with an unforgettable gourmet experience. 

Highly recommended is a dinner with Oscar and Rachel. They are a short drive away from San José’s airport hotel, thus very conveniently located. Expect a taste of Costa Rica’s cuisine with natural traditional ingredients, accompanied by great company. And may I add, they are extremely knowledgeable about local life and Costa Rica’s culture. 

We give you the link below to choose between two traditional dinners. Once booked, all you need to do is arrive, sit back, and enjoy!

Eatwith Gourmet Experience Costa Rica Oscar travelandhome

And for those of you reading this article, but unable to travel to Costa Rica I have some good news! You can participate in an online gourmet experience. Not just cuisine from Costa Rica, but cuisine from everywhere in the world.

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The Monteverde Cloud Forest is the "jewel in the crown of Cloud Forest Reserves."

Visit Monteverde Cloud Forest in Limón

Costa Rica weekend getaway

Monteverde, also known as Monte Verde, is one of the country’s major ecotourism destinations featuring Costa Rica’s most famous cloud forest, established in 1973. It lies in Limón, also known as Puerto Limón.

Although Limón International Airport (LIO) is the primary airport serving the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, it mainly serves domestic flights. The nearest major city to Limón is San Jose (about 125 km away, via Autopista José María Castro Madriz), with a fully functional international airport, namely Juan Santa María International Airport (SJO).

Cloud Forests in Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest

We also give you two of the highlights, of which one undoubtedly is the Monteverde Zip Line – an adventurer’s dream activity. With the longest zipline in Costa Rica – 1590 meters  (5220 feet, i.e. almost 1 mile) – you will not go home disappointed.

Secondly, hikers can enjoy Monteverde’s highest trails at an elevation of 1,250 m. (The mountain’s altitude is 1,800 m.)

travel and home travel to puerto limon costa rica
Puerto Limón
Best beaches in Costa Rica
Tamarido Beach

Two of the most active Costa Rican volcanoes are in the Alajuela Province: the Poás, 2,708 m (8,885 ft) high, and the Arenal, 1,630 m (5,350 ft) high.

Go to Poás Volcano National Park

Hikers can look forward to exploring the three craters in the park, of which two are inactive. Namely, the Von Frantzuis and the Botos craters. The main crater, namely Poas, is quite active from time to time with small geyser and lava eruptions. Its size is 290 m (950 ft), much smaller than the Botos crater at 370 m (1,200 ft).

The park is well-maintained with clear signage to point out the hiking trails. 

Bird-lovers can expect to see a variety of the Poas magnola bird species, including the black guan,  clay-colored robin, and resplendent quetzal. There’s also a variety of flycatchers, hummingbirds, tanagers, and toucans.

travel and home volcano craters in Costa Rica Poas Volcano Alajuela Province
Puerto Limón
travel and home brown back toucan costa rica
travel and home brown back toucan costa rica

Best hotel stay in Monte Verde

Monteverde has more than 170 different holiday accommodation choices. From Bed and Breakfasts (B&B) to hotels. 

Tucked away in the mountaintop of Monteverde is Travel and Home’s choice hotel stay, the renowned Hotel Belmar with amazing views. The food is super delicious (farm to table), and the staff is very friendly and extremely helpful to make your stay as interesting as possible. They have an on-site brewery just down the hill from the main lodge, which makes for a nice pitstop in the late afternoon. Doing nothing but reminiscing over the day’s adventures over a nice glass of wine before dinner felt real good!

By the way, both men and women from the Alajuela Province are known as Alajuelenses!

Go to La Fortuna, San José

At the base of the dormant Chato volcano, you’ll find La Fortuna Waterfall with a drop of 70 to 75 meters. 

The dormant volcano is about 5.5 km outside the small town of La Fortuna,  known as the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park.

Arenal volcano is still active, laced with lava flows, and finished off with hot springs at its feet resting on the thermal Tabacón River.

La Fortuna travel itineraries
La Fortuna Waterfall Costa Rica travel and home Catarata Rio Fortuna visit Costa Rica travel Costa Rica
Catarata Río Fortuna (Spanish), known as the la Fortuna Waterfall

San José flights

What you should know before you go to Costa Rica

DIY travel planning should not be difficult. “Travel and Home” wants you to enjoy planning your holiday, knowing you’ve covered all you need to know. With that in mind, the following links should assist you in doing just that!

Visa requirements to Costa Rica

Not all countries need visas to visit Costa Rica. To find out whether you need a visa to travel to Costa Rica, visit the Costa Rica embassy website. It’s as easy as clicking on your country of nationality and you have the information you need in terms of visa requirements for Costa Rica.

Health safety in Costa Rica

Get updated health information about your trip to Costa Rica from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website.

Travel expenses in Costa Rica

For day-to-day expenses, it’s a good idea to have between $50 and $1,000 with you in cash.