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Top Trip Memories

  • Exploring miles of off-the-beaten-track beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, and perhaps chancing upon nesting sea turtles.
  • Glimpsing rare tropical birds and butterflies on a tramp through the rainforests.
  • Viewing both coasts from atop 11,200-foot Irazu volcano while gazing into massive craters that look like they were scooped out for some gargantuan ice cream cone.
  • Cooling off in the mountainous cloud forests while in search of monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife.
  • Revelling in the colors of wildflowers and trees: orchids, bougainvillea, jacaranda, and flame and poro trees, which paint the landscape with purples, oranges and scarlets.
  • Coming upon a forest waterfall and taking a dip in the waters below; or relaxing in a secluded hot springs at Arenal Volcano National Park.
  • Riding a zipline high over a forest canopy, rappelling down a waterfall canyon, kayaking on a clear mountain lake -- or all three in one day.
  • Reeling in a big catch on a sport fishing cruise in a quest for tuna, wahoo and marlin.
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Tour Tips

  • Allow at least seven to ten days for a tour that will hit many of the highlights.
  • Costa Rica tour operators cater to a wide variety of travelers, including couples, singles, and families; whether you’re looking for hard or soft adventure, Stride can help you find the right tours.
  • If you have a special interest -- birding or fishing, for instance -- look for tours that emphasize those activities; you’ll be able to find them.
  • Don’t be put off by reports of civil strife elsewhere in Central America; Costa Rica has been safe and peaceful for decades.
  • The dry season runs from December to April or May in San Jose (the capital) and the Pacific Coast and from January to April along the Caribbean.
  • Some parts of the country can get rain year-round, and temperature is swayed more by altitude than season, so pack an umbrella and visit any time of year.
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Costa Rica Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.8 out of 5

100%

recommend

1,589 Reviews

  • Excellent 1,216
  • Great 348
  • Average 12
  • Disappointing 1
  • Terrible 3

Rating Details

  • Value
    4.8
  • Guide
    4.8
  • Activities
    4.8
  • Lodging
    4.8
  • Transportation
    4.8
  • Meals
    4.8

Tour Reviews

Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama

Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama (2017)

5.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
A whirlwind tour of 3 amazing countries. Nicaragua is still in its infancy as far as tourism goes. Lake Nicaragua, volcanoes, wild life are all mind blowing, particularly the visit to the Masaya crater (where visits are limited to 10 minutes owing to the effects of sulphur in the air). The scenery, landscape and rain forests of Costa Rica are not to be missed, especially walking around Arenal. The Caribbean coast of Panama is superb for dolphin watching and visiting indigenous villagers on their own island.
The wildlife and walking in the Costa Roca rainforest

Alex is, quite simply, the BEST tour guide we have had the pleasure of meeting. His knowledge of flaura, fauna, wild life, geology is unsurpassed. He always went the extra mile to ensure that our holiday remains one to last in our memories for the rest of our lives.

Many people mistakenly think malaria pills are required. We (as did the most of the party) used Deet50 spray and were absolutely fine.

Many of the hotels were on the edge of towns, requiring taxis to visit the town centre. It would be better to get some (if not all) hotels to be within walking distance of amenities.

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Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama

Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama (2017)

4.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
It was an amazing trip - I was attracted by the variety it offered and it didn't disappoint: wildlife/National Parks, colonial cities, Caribbean Islands, mountains and of course the Panama Canal. We got a great sense of Central America including its history which is fascinating. So many different boat rides too which were great.
It was the first time this trip had been run and they just need to sort a couple of the hotels out which they said they will do - the majority were lovely.
No one moment but 3 or 4 favourites: Granada, the slow boat trips early morning and evening in Tortuguero NP; the overnight stay in Cahuita/ Puerto Viejo (very lively coastal town, felt like being in Jamaica!); the day out on the boat from Bocas del Toro (take tour 2) - exceptionally good and very much worth the money; the Panama Canal.

Alex was absolutely excellent - the best Exodus guide I've had. He stayed with us throughout the trip and we had local guides also in Nicaragua (Elvis who was great fun and very knowledgeable and helpful) and Cesar and Philippe in Panama. Alex has this amazing telescope which allows you to take your own photos of the wild life through it - felt a bit like cheating but very good!

You go on 10 different boats over the 15 days - they were all amazing even if a couple were a bit "edgy"!
You definitely don't need anti- malarial tablets though you should take care to cover up/use insect repellent.
Although the trip is "Leisurely" be prepared for early starts (5.30 -7am) about 50% of the time.
It was hotter than the temperature chart indicated - mostly about mid 30s - though the mini-buses are all air-conditioned and almost all of the hotels were too. The internal flight to Panama City is great but watch your luggage weight. Nicaragua is quite cheap but Costa Rica is about as expensive as the UK.

About the food - a lot of rice and beans and rice and chicken as you would expect AND a lot of Italian Pizzas and Pasta almost everywhere which we did not expect!

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5.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Very busy and fascinating insight into three beautiful countries, led by excellent guides and accompanied by an enthusiastic group of fellow travellers.
The experience of visiting two new countries,Nicaragua and Panama and the knowledge and communication of our excellent guides,Elvis and Alex.

Alex stayed with us throughout the trip and worked tirelessly to ensure everything ran smoothly.Could not have asked for more, first class.
In Nicaragua Elvis was the main guide and his knowledge and passion were shared at every opportunity, his zest was infectious and for me he was an outstanding guide and personality, hope to meet both again!!!!!

It is a very full and busy itinerary but worth every moment-book now!
Currency wise all three countries seem to favour US dollars.

Having already visited Costa Rica previously for the wildlife, the culture and history of Nicaragua and Panama were mesmerising,a real surprise as I thought this wasn't for me-how wrong I was!!!

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Travellers not tourist .....

Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama (2017)

5.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Just back from a wonderful adventure travelling the length of Nicaragua , Costa Rica and Panama .
Rid yourselves of preconceptions about war torn Nicaragua , over populated Caribbean beaches and that Panama is only about hats and canals and you will have a great experience .Travel from Volcano to jungle and experience the wildlife, geography and culture of this little travelled path through Central America . Be prepared for early starts and busy days along with the excitement of some rustic boat rides into the interior and you will not be disappointed - ..
Looking into the lava lake at Massaya and ALL of our wildlife encounters - too many other wonderful experiences to select from ....

If the Gods are on your side then you will be accompanied by the best guide we have ever encountered - Alex- and for Nicaragua, superb local guide and side kick Elvis . Well done Exodus for engaging Alex - his encyclopaedic knowledge , sense of dedication and all round great attitude made this trip near perfect .

Reality check - this isn't a foody trip - The food wasn't bad and matched the trip note budgets but not the highlight of the trip . The good news is that the local beers were excellent and not too expensive - water was freely available as part of the tour and don't forget to take your water container .

Malaria tablets aren't required but bring your insect repellent , plenty of sun cream and a hat as the temps and the sun high
Dollars throughout were easier than credit card .
Swimming opportunities at many places - if you have two swimming costumes take them - humidity is high and they don't always dry overnight before you travel to your next venue
If you don't have a complex camera / lens for those distant shots , iPhones are excellent for quick pictures and take great pics through a spotters scope - our lovely guide Alex took time to help us get great pictures through his excellent lens and then we air dropped the pic to each of the group !

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Costa Rica Mixed Activity

Costa Rica Mixed Activity

5.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Excellent trip. Very busy itinerary with a variety of activities. Eduardo was a great leader and was very knowledgeable about the areas we visited and the country as a whole. His love of his country is very evident!
Loved challenging myself to some new activities: whitewater rafting, kayaking, zip lining!

Make sure you have a long sleeved shirt or rash guard! The sun is lovely but intense! :) Bring your sun cream!

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Top Tour Operators and Travel Companies


Classic Itineraries

Natural Costa Rica in 1 Week

Day 1-2, San Jose: Braulio Carrillo National Park, Atlantic Forest Zipline

Day 3-4, La Fortuna: Tour fruit plantations, bird watching, Arenal Volcano National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest, La Fortuna Waterfall

Day 5-6, Tortuguero National Park: observe incredible wildlife, in particular the Green Sea Turtles in their natural egg laying habitat.

See All Costa Rica in One Week Trips

Highlights of Costa Rica in 2 Weeks

Day 1-2, San Jose: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca village, zipline in Atlantic forest, Braulio Carrillo National Park

Day 3-5, La Fortuna: Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, whitewater rafting, Baldi Hot Springs, Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

Day 6-7, Monteverde Cloud Forest: stunning views of the Gulf of Nicoya, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve & National Park, catch a glimpse of a Quetzel, zip line through the canopy

Day 8-10, Tortuguero National Park: Sea Turtle Museum, observe the famous Green Sea Turtles who live here, wildlife walks

Day 11-13, Manuel Antonio: Pan-Am Coastal Highway, see multiple species of monkeys through the trees, horseback riding on the beach

See All Costa Rica in Two Weeks Trips 

Adventure Tour in Costa Rica

Day 1, San Jose: Braulio Carrillo National Park, Atlantic Forest Zipline, birdwatching cruise

Day 2-4, Pacuare River: whitewater rafting, wildlife viewing, hiking in Pacuare Nature Reserve among dense forest and to waterfalls. Zip line among the canopy

Day 5-6, Tortuguero National Park: Kayak through the many canals and lagoons in the park. Observe the famous Green Sea Turtles who live here, take a guided wildlife walk

Day 7-8, Manuel Antonio: Sky tram, hike to Cathedral Point for spectacular views of the ocean

See All Costa Rica Adventure Trips

Costa Rica Trips & Tour Advice

Few adventure travel destinations are as hot as Costa Rica, one of the most stable countries in Central America and home to mountains, cloud forests, beaches (on two coasts -- the Pacific and Caribbean), wildlife, and some great eco-lodges as well. While small, Costa Rica packs a punch for travelers, and is family friendly with plenty of “soft adventure” opportunities. 

Costa Rica is a leading contender for the title of eco-tourism capital of the Americas, and for good reason: not only does it have mountains, forests, rivers, coastlines, wildlife, and more, but it has adopted sustainable development as its ruling principle. Costa Rica is set to become the world’s first carbon neutral country, with virtually all of its energy derived from geothermal, hydroelectric, and wind power.

Costa Rica is a natural wonderland that in its own way is as unusual as the Galapagos or Madagascar. Though smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia, Costa Rica harbors enormous biological diversity. The country contains nearly four percent of all the species on the planet -- more than 500,000 different plants and animals -- well over 100 times what its land mass would normally be expected to hold.

Switzerland of Central America

A full quarter of Costa Rica’s land is devoted to national parks, and it’s long been known as the Switzerland of Central America because of its peaceful, democratic, politically neutral government (not to mention its often dramatic scenery). Compared to much of the Americas, it has a high literacy rate, a high standard of living, and a high life expectancy for its people (health care is free). The country doesn’t even have a military.

That doesn’t mean everything is Swiss-neat and efficient: the roads are often in disrepair and government and private corruption are periodic threats. Nor are things as neat or on-time here as they are in Switzerland; ticos and ticas (Costa Rican men and women) can be quite casual about tidiness and punctuality.

Friendly, Eco-Minded People

But the people are incredibly friendly, so much so that saying “no” to anything is considered the height of rudeness (though they have developed dozens of ways of couching their “no’s” in various shades of “si.”)

Meanwhile, the prevailing eco-mindedness of the government and people has resulted in significant reforestation projects on once depleted lands, and the benefits of a thriving eco-tourism business to the economy have largely trumped the old practices of illegal logging, burning, and poaching.

From Coast to Coast

Costa Rica features two separate coastlines -- the Caribbean and the Pacific -- that are just 185 miles away at its widest point, making it possible to swim on both coasts in the same day.The regional terrain and climate can differ dramatically, and throughout the country you’ll find a remarkable mix of lush jungle rainforests; cool, verdant cloud forests; volcanic mountains and deep valleys; wild rivers; and arid, flat desert-like sections as well. All have their own separate kind of beauty and appeal, making it a one-country atlas. A good tour guide can help you turn the pages efficiently.

Attractions include visiting coastal beaches, surfing, whitewater rafting, hiking through rain- and cloud forests, birding trips and other wildlife viewing, driving up volcanoes and coastal cliffs for memorable scenic views, gazing at wildlflowers, touring towns and cities (such as the capital, San Jose), and staying in eco-lodges or taking a break from all the action at posh resorts.

Things Not to Miss

Among must-see’s and do’s are the Monteverde cloud forests, situated in the central part of the country amidst a number of volcanoes; it’s said to contain nearly as many animal and plant species as the United States and Canada combined. Besides waterfalls, panoramic views of both coasts and little mountain towns, you’ll have the opportunity (albeit chancy) of spotting the elusive red-and-green resplendent Quetzal, which tops many a birder’s life list.

The Arenal volcano is the dramatic centerpiece of a national park where you can go hiking or kayaking on a lake, visit hot springs and waterfalls, or go ziplining over the forest canopy (keeping in mind that the volcano is active). Whitewater rafting on one of several rivers is another priority for adventurous travelers -- try the class III-IV Pacuare River in the central part of the country.

All these and much more are best seen on guided tours, so let Stride be your guide through the maze of activities in the Switzerland of Central America.

Related Guides

Continent:

Central America & the Caribbean

Local Attraction:

Arenal Volcano, Manuel Antonio National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Rincon de la Vieja, Santa Teresa and Many More

Top Acitivities:   

Nature Sightseeing, Wildlife Viewing, Birding & Wilderness walk 

Similar Destinations:                       

Ecuador, Belize

 

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