How should you start choosing destinations when there are so many possibilities? We hope to get you started. Read which five things are important when making the best itinerary through Costa Rica.
Available in Dutch: Hoe maak je de beste route door Costa Rica?
1. Time of the year
The time of year can mean a lot for the destinations you want to visit. Roughly speaking, the year can be divided into two seasons: a dry season and a rainy season. But due to different geographical influences there are different microclimates, which means that the weather and climate is different everywhere. For most of Costa Rica, the dry season is from December to April and the rainy season from May to November.
You can visit Costa Rica all year round. Of course, the dry season is a good time to go, but many people think so, therefore it is busier. A destination like Manuel Antonio is then really crowded. Christmas and Easter are two peak times of the year. In the driest province of Guanacaste temperatures can be high in the months of March and April. In the months of May and June there are fewer tourists, but it gets really quiet only in the months of October and November.
Are you going to Costa Rica in September or October? The most chance of dry weather is on the Caribbean coast. They also call these months ‘the secret summer’. The rest of the year it rains relatively much on this side of the country. In the months of October and November there can be a lot of rain on the Pacific coast. This often leads to problems, especially in Guanacaste. During the months of September, October and November you have the most chance to see turtles in Costa Rica.
2. A rental car or public transport
How do you travel through Costa Rica: do you opt for a rental car or do you opt for public transport? Public transport is cheap, but sometimes takes a lot of time because there are not always fast connections available. To cover long distances you will often have to travel via San Jose. Check in advance how the routes are to estimate how feasible your route through Costa Rica is, do this for example with the site of Rome2Rio, Central Coasting or use the Facebookgroup Costa Rica by bus.
A rental car gives you all the freedom you need to travel to certain corners of the country. Although Costa Rica is not a big country, you should not underestimate the travel. Distances are not always easy to cover and sometimes the drive is an adventure in itself. Use the navigation app from Waze, this is the most reliable in Costa Rica. For a two week vacation I would recommend a rental car.
Read more about driving in Costa Rica.
Or maybe you would consider renting a car with rooftop tent? Read about our tips for camping in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is not a cheap country. There are many imported products available. In addition, the price level is higher compared to neighboring countries due to the tax levied by the government. If you travel on a budget, pay attention to which products you choose in the stores. Where it is touristy, the prices are increased.
Depending on your budget you will opt for public transport or a rental car. Now it’s a bit of a contradiction that you can travel off the beaten track with a rental car and choose cheaper destinations and activities. It’s also easier to go to a soda where you can eat cheaper. Tourist destinations are the more expensive ones. What do you choose? A rental car, public transport or maybe you’d like to consider a car with a rooftop tent if you like camping.
For some activities the costs can be quite high. The park Corcovado is highly recommended, but because you have to visit this park with a guide, this is not a budget activity. Certainly not if you want to go into the park for more than one day.
Do you really just want to travel cheap, then Costa Rica may not be the destination for you. You can’t compare it with traveling in Asia for example.
4. How much time do you have?
A small country with so many different destinations. I understand that you want to see as much as possible. Costa Rica is a country where you will get a lot of impressions. My advice would be to stay at a destination for at least two or three nights. Three weeks is a great time to get to know Costa Rica.
If you have two weeks, don’t try to reach every corner. For example, focus either on the Pacific coast, or the Caribbean coast with destinations in the central part of the country. For example, if you want to drive from Drake Bay to the Caribbean coast, the quickest route is by car and bus via San Jose. Personally, I don’t think it is advisable to do this in one day.
5. Don’t forget about the pura vida
Please don’t forget to enjoy the pura vida that makes Costa Rica so beautiful. Meet the locals. Do not go from destination to destination to tick off as much as possible. Travel off the beaten track, ask recommendations from the Tico’s, eat at the local sodas and take your time. The best part is of course if you speak a word of Spanish, but at least the Tico’s will be happy if you try. Or see to what extent you can talk to someone in English, in the tourist areas this will often succeed. In any case, it is because of the Tico’s that I feel at home in Costa Rica. Try not to over plan your route through Costa Rica.
Eliseo and Anouk are the owners of Calathea Lodge. Read more about the lodge. Anouk also founded ‘Bestemming Pura Vida‘, the Dutch travelblog about Costa Rica. Some of the blogs are translated and published on this website.