Costa Rica - Best Tours & Trips 2019

314 Costa Rica tours from 104 tour companies. 506 reviews. 4.7/5 avg rating.
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.
All Costa Rica tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages.
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Travel Style Travel Style Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.

Itinerary Focus

Trip Type Trip Type Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

Price From*

$ 0 $ 8,232

Price Per Day

Trip Length

Countries

Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

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Rivers & Seas

Cities & Attractions

Activities

Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

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Discover Costa Rica

Exodus Travels
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
16 days
$ 209 / day
$ 3,349
From : $ 4,521
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Unrivalled wildlife viewing — Howler monkeys, caiman and sloths 
  • Visit the beaches and waterways of Tortuguero, an important nesting site for Green turtles
  • Verdant rainforest, lush mangroves, lava fields and serene cloud forests
  • Wonderful naturalist guides who will share their love of Costa Rica with you!
  • Relax on idyllic Pacific coast beaches 
  • Stay in comfortable eco-friendly lodges and hotels
Visits:
Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
View Trip

Costa Rica – The Sea Turtle Initiative

Discover Corps
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
8 days
$ 412 / day
$ 3,295
From : $ 4,448
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Volunteering with a sea turtle conservation organization
  • Getting up close and personal with howler monkeys, toucans and reptiles
  • Visiting a center that rescues and rehabilitates ocelots and pumas
  • Hiking through lush rainforest with a naturalist guide
  • Live steps from pristine Costa Rican beaches
  • Boating through unspoiled rainforest to view crocodiles and tropical birds
  • Flying through the treetops on a zip line adventure
  • Tubing down a jungle river surrounded by beautiful vegetation
Visits:
Caribbean, Costa Rica
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Best of Costa Rica

World Expeditions
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
8 days
$ 162 / day
$ 1,299
From : $ 1,819
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included. Full on
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping. Basic - 2 star
Highlights
  • Tortuguero Canals and turtles
  • Exotic Wildlife
  • Arenal Volcano
  • Monteverde cloud forest
  • San Jose
  • Leisure time
Visits:
Costa Rica
View Trip

Costa Rica Adventure Tour

Lost World Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
9 days
$ 239 / day
$ 2,150
From : $ 2,451
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays. Luxury - 5 star
Highlights
  • Visit the Arenal Hanging Bridges, a complex of suspended bridges and trails through a beautiful rain forest
  • Cherish the moments in river rafting
  • Explore Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Hike through the trails in the Arenal Volcano National Park
Visits:
Arenal Volcano, Manuel Antonio National Park, San José, Costa Rica
View Trip

Costa Rica

9 days
$ 211 / day
$ 1,899
From : $ 2,564
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Curated itinerary to give you access to exclusive experiences
  • Visit one of the most remote corners of Costa Rica
  • Enjoy whale watching on a catamaran
Visits:
Manuel Antonio National Park, San José, Costa Rica
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Costa Rica & Panama Quest

G Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
16 days
$ 107 / day
$ 1,719
From : $ 2,321
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Soak in the thermal hot springs of arenal volcano
  • Watch the sunset over the pacific
  • Learn about coffee production and support a local community
  • Stare out into the crystal-blue caribbean waters in bocas del toro
  • Take in the crisp air of the lush green highlands in boquete
  • Explore the panama canal
Visits:
Arenal Volcano, Boquete, Panama City, San José, Costa Rica, Panama
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Costa Rica: Raft, Surf & Kayak

Intrepid Travel
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
8 days
$ 207 / day
$ 1,560
From : $ 2,238
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • The Pacuare River has been rated as one of the ten top best rivers around the world; not only for its rapids, but also its pristine rainforest surrounds and waterfalls
  • Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is home to monkeys, reptiles, toucans and macaws, while its waters contain turtles, barracudas, sea urchins and more than 125 species of fish
  • Hop into kayaks and paddle through the waterways of Tortuguero National Park in search of monkeys, sloths, caiman, jaguars, lizards, bats and a gamut of birdlife
Visits:
Caribbean, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica
View Trip

Wild Costa Rica

7 days
$ 281 / day
$ 1,965
From : $ 2,653
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : N/A
  • N/A
  • Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Visits:
    Costa Rica
    View Trip

    Rainforest & Cloud Forest Package

    Project Expedition
    Premier
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    6 days
    $ 151 / day
    $ 905
    From : $ 1,267
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included. Full on
    Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
    Lodging Level : You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping. Basic - 2 star
    Highlights
    • Visit Arenal Volcano and enjoy some of the many activities in the area
    • Take a boat ride across Lake Arenal en route to Monteverde
    • Go on a El Trapiche Sugar Mill & Coffee Tour
    • Enjoy a guided nature hike through the cloud forest of Monteverde
    Visits:
    Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
    View Trip

    Costa Rica Quest

    G Adventures
    Premier
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    9 days
    $ 109 / day
    $ 875
    From : $ 1,322
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Soak in the thermal hot springs of arenal volcano
    • Search for the elusive quetzal bird in the cloud forest
    • Watch the sunset over the pacific
    • Learn about coffee production and support a local community
    Visits:
    Arenal Volcano, San José, Costa Rica
    View Trip

    Costa Rica Coast to Coast

    Exodus Travels
    Preferred
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    14 days
    $ 277 / day
    $ 3,879
    From : $ 5,237
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Travel from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast
    • Day walks to waterfalls through diverse scenery
    • National parks, forests and volcanoes
    • Comfortable eco-friendly lodges and hotels
    Visits:
    Guanacaste, Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
    View Trip

    Costa Rica Active Adventure

    G Adventures
    Premier
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    13 days
    $ 113 / day
    $ 1,470
    From : $ 1,984
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Paddle through world-class rapids on the pacuare river
    • Mountain bike in the shadow of arenal volcano
    • Chill out to the sounds of crashing caribbean waves
    • Stand up on a surfboard in puerto viejo
    Visits:
    Arenal Volcano, Caribbean, San José, Costa Rica
    View Trip

    The Panama Canal & Costa Rica - Eastbound 2019

    Tauck
    By Tauck
    Preferred
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    12 days
    $ 583 / day
    $ 6,990
    Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
    Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
    Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
    Highlights
    • Earth Journey featuring on-tour film vignettes custom-made for Tauck by BBC Earth natural history experts plus other select BBC Earth touches; full transit of the Panama Canal aboard one of Ponant's new Explorer Class yachts; a Tauck naturalist onboard for full journey; opportunity for cultural exchange with locals in Panama and along Costa Rica's Pacific coast; many opportunities for exploring the region's rich biodiversity; two nights hotel accommodations with guided sightseeing in San José and Panama City
    Visits:
    Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica, Panama
    View Trip

    Costa Rican Adventure

    0 days
    $ 899
    Travel Style : N/A
    Physical Level : N/A
  • N/A
  • Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Visits:
    Costa Rica
    View Trip

    Cycle Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama

    Exodus Travels
    Preferred
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    17 days
    $ 223 / day
    $ 3,799
    From : $ 5,129
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Cycle through three different countries in two weeks
    • Relax on Pacific beaches and the idyllic Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro
    • Discover the dramatic Ometepe Island, with its twin volcanic peaks
    • Ride along the Panama Canal, see the colossal Miraflores Locks in action
    • Look out for wildlife in Costa Rica’s multiple eco-systems
    Visits:
    Arenal Volcano, Caribbean, Granada, Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe, Panama City, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama
    View Trip
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    Top Costa Rica Experiences and Attractions

    Top Costa Rica Experiences

    Exploring miles of off-the-beaten-track beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts

    Glimpsing rare tropical birds and butterflies on a rainforest hike

    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 Monteverde Cloud Forest while in search of monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife.

    Reveling in the colors of wildflowers and trees on a nature hike: 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

    Relaxing in a secluded hot springs at Arenal Volcano National Park

    Partaking in Costa Rica's famous adventure activities: 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.

    view more

    Costa Rica Trip Reviews

    506 Costa Rica Tour Reviews - Summary 98% Recommend

    4.7 out of 5
    Excellent 395
    Great 90
    Average 14
    Disappointing 2
    Terrible 5
    Value
    4.7
    Guide
    4.7
    Activities
    4.7
    Lodging
    4.7
    Transportation
    4.7
    Meals
    4.7

    Tour Reviews Write a Review

    Tortuguero was amazing and worth

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    Tortuguero was amazing and worth the long trip to get there.. We enjoyed the atmosphere at Mawamba Lodge.. The trips by small boat into the national park allowed us to see three kinds of monkeys and lots of reptiles and birds in their natural habitat. Dennis was a knowledgeable guide. Si Como No at Manuel Antonio was a wonderful hotel with excellent rooms, staff and food

    Read more
    Operator Alexander + Roberts

    Guide couldn’t have been better

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    Tour well organised and gave opportunities to experience as much as possible within a limited time.

    Read more
    Operator On The Go Tours

    Fabulous countryside & well organised trip

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 3.0

    We had a great trip with 2by2 Holidays to Cost Rica and still enjoy looking at all the photos. It's such a beautiful country and the walks were exactly the right level of challenge for us. The guides were very knowledgeable and added a whole extra dimension of enjoyment for us. Everyone we met was so relaxed and friendly and the accommodation was pretty good. We especially enjoyed the hot springs at Arenal after a long day of exploring. You wouldn't go to Costa Rica for the food as its a bit bland but there was always a lot of it so we never went hungry! We are planning our next one trip with 2by2... possibly Peru. Highly recommend them as their service and knowledge is excellent.

    Read more
    Operator 2 by 2 Holidays

    Traveling to Costa Rica with TVP was unlike any travel experience I have had before

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    Traveling to Costa Rica with TVP was unlike any travel experience I have had before. Prior to the TVP trip in September, I had never been to Costa Rica or been part of a tour. I admittedly did not know what to expect giving up control of planning my trip, but could not have asked for a better experience. Every detail was expertly chosen, from the intimate welcome dinner giving the group time to meet one another, to the downtime built into volunteer days and ending with a relaxing day at the beach. Being part of this tour gave me the opportunity to see a side to Costa Rica I had no idea existed based on friends previous travel accounts. Participating in a beach clean up of an uninhabited beach and realizing how much trash washes up from ocean pollution was eye opening. Rescuing baby sea turtles the next day reinforced how important it is to keep our oceans and beaches clean. I cannot wait to be a part of future TVP trips!!

    Read more
    Operator The Vacation Project

    The Pura Vida trip was an outstanding family vacation

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    With teenage children, we wanted to do something that would satisfy all of us. There was enough fun activities to keep us active and enough down time for us to relax. We were pushed outside our comfort zone, but the outstanding staff was there to encourage us and cheer us on.

    Read more
    Operator MT Sobek (Mountain Travel Sobek)

    Very special

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    If you are seeking an opportunity to get to know the countries and communities you are visiting on a deeper level, definitely partake in Give a Day Global! The teams both at Give A Day Global and at FIMRC were exceptionally helpful and welcoming, leading to my very special volunteer experience in Costa Rica.

    Read more
    Operator Give A Day Global

    Costa Rica Tours and Travel Guide

    Costa Rica Attractions & Landmarks Guide

    costa rica video

    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 wildflowers, 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.

    Wildlife in Costa Rica

    Costa Rica is best known for birding (see below), but don’t overlook the country’s other wildlife.

    Rainforest walks will yield views – or certainly the chattering and howling sounds – of monkeys. Howler monkeys – which you’ll almost certainly hear before seeing – are at the top of the “wow” list. Spider and capuchin monkeys also swing through the rainforest canopy, and you may sight coatis – furry, ring-tailed, raccoon-like creatures.

    Sloths are slow moving but hard to spot while sleeping up in the trees, and they only come down to the ground once a week. The Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary on the Caribbean coast is a good place to try.

    If you take to Costa Rica’s rivers, you may spot crocodiles and caimans, along with plenty of waterfowl.  

    Birding in Costa Rica

    Costa Rica is renowned as one of the richest birding destinations on the planet.

    Spotting the rare and brilliantly colored resplendent quetzal is the top prize, but the many hundreds of species found in the forests and wetlands here include scarlet macaws, toucans, trogons, motmots, grey-necked wood rails, snowy-bellied hummingbirds, brown-billed scythebills, golden hooded tanagers, roseate spoonbills, kingfishers, jabiru storks,grebes and herons.

    Among the top birding spots are:

    1. The Cerro de la Muerte (your best chance for spotting a resplendent quetzal)

    2. La Selva Biological Station (300 species near Puerto Viejo)

    3. Monteverde Cloud Forest (another chance to spot a quetzal as well as hearing the “chimes” of bellbirds)

    4. Arenal National Park (more than 400 species, including umbrella birds and tiger herons)

    5. Tortuguero National Park (water birds and other species along the northern Caribbean coast)

    6. The Sarapiqui Eco Observatory (hundreds of species in the town of La Virgen)

    7. Wilson Botanical Gardens (hummingbirds and tanagers are among the many species attracted to the tropical plants and flowers here, near the town of Golfito)

    8. Carara Biological Reserve (along the Pacific Coast, this is the best place for spotting scarlet macaws)

    Even if you aren’t a dedicated birder, a walk in the rainforests will produce close-up sightings of iridescent butterflies and the sounds of bird calls so clear and harmonious that you’ll want to record them for your ringtones – or at least to play for relaxation when you return home.  

    Food in Costa Rica

    As in much of Latin America, Costa Rican cuisine relies heavily on rice and beans, but there’s much more to Tico food than that traditional combo. You’ll find Caribbean, Spanish, and other influences, as well as plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

    Many meals start with ceviche, raw diced fish (such as sea bass) marinated in lime juice with diced celery, onions, peppers, cilantro and other vegetables and herbs. 

    Some top foods to try in Costa Rica include:

    1. Casadothe most common everyday dish, supplements the rice and beans with grilled or sautéed steak, chicken, pork or fish, as well as a cabbage salad, fried plantains, and sautéed onions. You might even find French fries, an egg, or picadillos (chopped vegetables) on the same plate.

    2. Gallo pinto - the most typical breakfast plate, is similar in some ways to casado – rice and beans mixed together and served with chopped beef, eggs, salsa, and tortillas.  (Note: There’s also a Caribbean version of mixed rice and beans that incorporates red beans, coconut milk, and chilies). 

    3. Sopa de Mariscos - a popular seafood soup – often combining shrimp, mussels, clams or squid with fish and chopped vegetables – simmered in a tomato broth. (A Caribbean version substitutes coconut milk for the tomato broth.)

    4. Empanadas – fried dough stuffed with fillings such as cheese or potatoes -- are a popular snack.

    You can wash any of these down with the ever-present local coffee, beer, horchata (a sweet milk drink), fruit juices (refrescos or naturales), granizados (a version of shave ice), or coconut water.

    Eco Tours in Costa Rica

    Costa Rica helped pioneer the concept of Eco Tourism as we know it back in the 1980s.

    It started with a modest rainforest birding lodge near San Jose, and has developed over the past three decades into a key part of the country‘s tourist industry.

    With an enlightened government, sizable national parklands, and an unrivaled number of animal and plant species for its size, Costa Rica has proved ideal ground for promoting sustainable tourism.

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

    A genuine eco tour doesn’t just give a wink and a nod to nature and the environment, but takes all possible steps to ensure that its guests leave the wildlife and surroundings at least as well off as when they arrived.

    This means, of course, taking only photos and leaving only footprints, but also may mean giving back to the local communities in some fashion. For example, a good eco tour agency might donate a portion of proceeds from every tour to community schools, hospitals, or conservation projects.

    Eco tours often feature stays in eco lodges, which are used as bases for taking guided rainforest walks, nature hikes, and small boat trips along inland waterways. Meals are usually hearty and based on sustainable foods; recycled water is used for showering; and group camaraderie tends to be high even when it rains.

    The accommodations in Costa Rica’s eco lodges may range from rustic to luxurious, but the one thing they share is a deep commitment to sustaining the local environment.

    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.

    Travel to Costa Rica: Practicalities & Logistics

    Capital city‎: San José

    Dialing code‎: ‎+506

    Language‎: ‎Spanish

    Currency‎: CRC

    Before you Go

    Costa Rica is one of the world’s foremost destinations for adventure travel. Given this, extra safety precautions should be taken, and definitely make sure you’re healthy and alert before your trip.

    If you suffer from a fear of heights or vertigo and plan on participating in the many Costa Rica activities that take place high in the rainforest canopy, definitely consult a professional first.

    Visa

    For US Travelers, a visa is not required for travel to Costa Rica. Your passport must be valid at least one day after your travel in Costa Rica, and you must have a ticket for exiting the country, whether home or to another country.

    Travelers from the UK do not require a visa, but must stay in the country no longer than 90 days and be able to provide evidence of your departure date and country traveling to. This is the same for Australian and Canadian travelers.

    Safety

    Costa Rica is perhaps one of the more westernized Central American countries - a factor of it’s appeal to tourists and adventure travelers.

    When it comes to adventure travel, always be careful and follow instructions closely. Because Costa Rica is so popular for adventure activities, you don’t really need to worry about a lack of Westernized safety measures, but there is always risk involved.

    For traveling to Costa Rica, it’s important to add a few things to your travel insurance policy. Ensure that your travel insurance covers adventure sports as well as natural disasters. Costa Rica’s weather can be extreme and unpredictable!

    Top Costa Rica Travel Companies

    Things to Know Before You Go

    Tours to Costa Rica usually focus on a combination of eco travel, wildlife, and adventure. You will usually find a tour that weighs one or two of these themes above the other.

    If it’s your first visit to Costa Rica, try to find a tour that hits upon what Costa Rica is most known for. These includes Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest. Both attractions are extremely popular and are normally included on Costa Rica tour itineraries.

    Outdoors and Active Costa Rica Tours

    Most Costa Rica tours don’t have a heavy emphasis on cultural or historical sight seeing. Simply because the wildlife and outdoor tour activities are enough to occupy the days!

    Wildlife lovers will want for nothing in Costa Rica, and most itineraries do focus heavily on the diverse wildlife found in Costa Rica’s rainforests and cloud forests. Some may not include Tortuguero National Park - and if you don’t want to miss observing sea turtles nesting or hatching be sure to find a tour that includes this park!

    Some of the most famous animals you can see relatively easily in Costa Rica include the red-eyed tree frog, crocodiles, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, tapirs, basilisk lizards, coatimundis (the Costa Rican version of a raccoon!), and two kinds of sloth. A night safari might allow you to see some of the rarer or more elusive animals in the country, such as jaguars, kinkajous, tarantulas, and ocelots. Don't forget to look up - night is the best time to see snakes as they stalk for sleeping birds in the trees above. 

    If you decide to go snorkeling or scuba diving, you may run into bottlenose dolphins (or go see them on a dolphin swim!), green sea turtles and leatherbacks, sharks, and all kinds of tropical fish. Whale watching is  also a great way to see orcas and humpback, blue, beaked, and pilot whales. 

    If you are interested in going on a birdwatching trip, there are also tons of beautiful and exotic birds. There are green and scarlet macaws,  toucans, dozens of species of hummingbirds, and all kinds of birds of paradise -- including the rare national bird of Costa Rica, the Resplendent Quetzal. 

    Weather in Costa Rica

    It gets quite wet and humid in Costa Rica, and the country is prone to hurricane conditions. Tour activities may change depending on the time of year, but generally you can expect to be walking through the rainforest in every sense of the word.

    Most tours in Costa Rica will provide wet weather gear, though it is a good idea to pack light weight waterproof clothing for the majority of your tour. Long sleeves and pants can go a long way toward insect protection as well.

    Eco Lodge Accommodation on Costa Rica Tours

    Costa Rica has a long history as a leader in eco travel, and a majority of trips to Costa Rica have an eco, sustainable, and green travel theme. These will often feature a stay at an eco lodge, or even a treehouse! These can vary from luxury accommodations to comfortable-but-basic.

    Don’t expect terribly reliable internet and electricity - particularly in keeping with the eco lodge approach! These establishments are designed to be as eco conscious as possible, and your tour will reveal new ways you can help contribute and be a responsible traveler.

    All Costa Rica tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.7 for all Costa Rica trips.

    314 trips from 104 tour companies with 506 reviews

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