Colorful keel billed toucan high in the jungle trees of Costa Rica

Costa Rica - Best Tours & Trips

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.

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Top Costa Rica Experiences and Attractions


Top Costa Rica Experiences

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Top Costa Rica Attractions

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Costa Rica Trip Reviews


535
Costa Rica Tour Reviews - Summary
98% Recommend

4.7 out of 5
Excellent 411 Great 102 Average 14 Disappointing 2 Terrible 6
Value
4.7 Guide
4.7 Activities
4.7 Lodging
4.7 Transportation
4.7 Meals
4.7

A

Recommends

Do thorough research before you decide October 2018

4.0

Costa Rica Coast to Coast

  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0
As a first time visitor, the holiday was a good introduction opportunity. But
I’d have to be careful who to recommend it.
Tortuguero NP. The most specutacular part of the holiday.


Our main leader was a superb leader. His warm caring personality really
helped the team get on. His expert knowledge of birds was also very
impressive.


This holiday felt like a geography trip, which is fine as long as you have a
realistic expectation. There was one walk which was so unpopular we thought
why we were doing this walk. Generally I am glad I could see things I
wouldn’t have if I’d chosen places myself.


In Hacienda hotel we had a broken shower in our room. Reported twice no
action was taken. Bad management. The sandwich lunch at the same hotel was
also terrible. Huge but bland. I don’t think anyone liked it. One thing I
realised is that Costa Rica is so expensive you can buy only so much for
£3500!


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Operator Exodus Travels

A

Recommends

Overall a very good walk and travel through Costa Rica's diverse countryside October 2018

4.0

Costa Rica Coast to Coast

  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0
The choice of places to visit on this trip was excellent and showed off the
variety of climatic conditions, scenery, flora & fauna, and people that Costa
Rica has to offer. The two knowledgeable guides informed us about Costa
Rica's past history and right up to modern conditions found here.
No one moment. Just walking and travelling through Costa Rica's diverse
countryside.


We had two guides, Katia & Carlos. Both of whom were excellent with their
people skills as well as there job as guides.


This trip consists of walking up to 10 miles in 30 deg.C heat. Make sure you
are fit enough to do this and you will enjoy the trip.
You can get hot sun then rain, so lots of sun screen and a lightweight
waterproof jacket.


Advice to Exodus - You use United Airlines. They are not a very good airline
for long haul flights. The transfer in Houston through US immigration &
security is tedious. On the return journey the flight out of San Jose was
delayed by 1 1/2 hrs, which only left 1/2 hr for me to rush through US
procedures. I just made the connecting flight but my luggage didn't, causing
me some worry at Heath Row. My luggage was eventually delivered to my home 3
days later.


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Operator Exodus Travels

A

Recommends

Amazing Adventure with Teens October 2018

5.0

Costa Rica Adventure Family Holiday

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
A wonderful couple of weeks focusing principally on the wildlife of Costa
Rica. We went at the start of the rainy season and were lucky with the
weather, but don't think you'll be suthbathing (much) as Exodus keep you
moving!
My thirteen year old son told me that the Pacific coast beach we visited was
the most beautiful place he'd ever seen.


Excellent, excellent, excellent.

Gio has an exceptionally calm, professional and efficient manner. He's also
incredibly knowledgeable and endlessly enthusiastic about his country. On top
of that, he understands the importance of group dynamics and ensured that we
formed a happy group.

I really don't think we could have asked for a more thoughtful, organised and
all-round nice guy to lead our holiday!


Two things -
1. If you're travelling in the rainy season, ignore the advice to travel
light as you cannot dry clothes (everything is constantly damp)
2. Ignore Exodus's terrible and costly advice to take dollars. You need
enough dollars to get you to a cash machine, then withdraw local Colones and
use them everywhere - otherwise you will be ripped off by terrible dollar
exchange rates offered in shops and restaurants.


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Operator Exodus Travels

A

Recommends

Wow, wow, wow!!! October 2018

5.0

Costa Rica Adventure Family Holiday

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
Costa Rica is a fabulous country and well worth the long flight. We went as
a family of 5, parents of nearly 50, my mum in her early 70s and 2 girls aged
10 and 12. We were looking for a change from the usual pool / beach holiday
and gosh, it was different!!!
The wildlife is nothing short of phenomenal. We saw spiders, snakes, macaws,
crocodiles, lizards, fantastic birds, frogs etc...... the list just goes on.
The plantlife was great - plants we have at home in pots in the house growing
tens of feet high in their natural habitat - it was quite something to see.
It was also very educational, not just seeing plants and animals in their
natural environment, but also other experiences such as the trips to the
chocolate / cacao plantation and the sloth sanctuary. And it was great fun,
especially the white water rafting and the zipwiring in Arenal.
It was however, quite exhausting. I must admit we were not quite prepared
for the pace, the early mornings and the long coach trips, but, in
retrospect, they were all for a reason and all worth it for the sights and
sounds and experiences in each location.
And of course, I must mention our guide Glenda and our driver Mauricio who
were quite simply, marvellous. Their professionalism, efficiency and
enthusiasm for their country made the holiday very special for us.
I think we all enjoyed the quiet boat trip in Tortuguero - how Glenda managed
to find a waterway all to ourselves given the amount of traffic on the main
river I will never know. But the chance to see turtles, crocodiles, various
birds including toucans and macaws, monkeys, lizards etc in their natural
habitat with the added highlight of the 2 dolphins was marvellous.
The white water rafting and zip wiring were such fun and we all enjoyed the
adrenalin rush!
And seeing something new almost at every turn was great. Traipsing back to
our room one afternoon we came across an armadillo, seeing a coati in the
grounds of the hotel, howler monkeys moving across in the trees above the
swimming pool... etc. I could go on.......


Nothing short of fabulous. Glenda was so knowledgeable and her telescope
managed to pick out things that we could not even see with the naked eye.
Mauricio was always there incase anyone wanted to finish a walk early and his
keen eye also spotted other treats hidden in the trees.

Glenda's enthusiasm for her country and her willingness to share this with us
was much appreciated. Our experience of Costa Rica would not have been half
as good without her...


It is hot and humid in August and clothes all get very damp. Anything that
gets wet, stays wet. So pack clothes in ziplock bags and keep them zipped
wherever possible. Dry-wicking clothes are perfect and do not bring anything
that cannot dry easily.
A ball or something for the kids to play with in the pools is a great idea.
And test your waterproofs before you travel. These need to be industrial
strength as when it rains I mean it really rains!! Stand in the shower for
15 minutes on full blast and check those seams!!!
If your kids are remotely travel sick - think about travel bands on their
wrists as the roads are windy and bumpy.
Connecting or family rooms are rare however if you have young kids the rooms
normally have 2 double beds so you could all sleep together although it might
be quite tight!
A zoom camera is a must and maybe, as we did, another soft bag to throw in
the washing and / or hiking boots when these are not being worn will keep the
suitcases relatively clean and organised.


Come with an open mind - this is not a five star country and yes it does rain
- loads!! However, the experiences are well worth the early morning starts
and the requirement to pack up and move on every 48 hours.
It is, admittedly, quite daunting. The concept of spending 2 weeks in close
proximity with 3 or 4 other families and hoping the kids get on and the
parents find common ground. However I feel we were incredibly fortunate on
our tour and met some lovely families. The kids had great fun together and
the parents did too! Looking at other reviews this seems to be a common
theme, so do not delay and book today, you will not regret it!!


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Operator Exodus Travels

A

Recommends

COSTA RICA FAMILY ADVENTURE October 2018

5.0

Costa Rica Adventure Family Holiday

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
This was a really memorable holiday. Costa Rica is an extraordinary country
with a plethora of fantastic birds, animals, and flowers to see - and the big
appeal of it when travelling with children is that on any expedition you
ALWAYS see something. Hotel gardens themselves are places where anything can
happen - I had one of the most exciting bird sightings (a trogon) in the
garden of our hotel in Dominical - where we also saw a boa constrictor in the
stream by the hotel. It really did feel like an adventure - the itinerary
packs so many experiences into a short space of time. It was great for our
11 year old daughter to have other children in the group to make friends with
- that made her braver and more tolerant of some of the long journeys and
physical challenges of so much torrential rain. What makes it all work is
the style of the tour - yes, there is a busy itinerary but our guide always
sought to offer choices of places to eat and things to do, so it felt quite
organic and we never felt over-managed or regimented. Her deep local
knowledge, and that of the driver made a huge difference. Costa Ricans are
friendly, efficient and proud of their country and that made this trip
special too.
My daughter and I loved the rafting trip at Sarapiqui - which was the
"floating safari" rather than the white water version as we felt too nervous
to do that. In fact, because of heavy rain the night before the water was
quite stirred up so it was actually quite thrilling. The guide on this raft
was wonderful - he made it really fun. She also loved the zip wiring at
Sarapiqui, and we all enjoyed the hot springs at La Fortuna - absolutely
magical in the twilight. But the stars of the show were all the animals we
saw - especially sloths and monkeys, and endless iguanas!


Katia was one in a million - so knowledgeable and such a brilliant
communicator. Long journeys were broken up with really good background on
where we were and what we were seeing, and she gave us really good
historical, cultural and social background too. - As a birdwatcher I really
appreciated her willingness to take us on 6am bird spotting strolls. I would
never have seen half so much if she hadn't shown me it - and her passion for
flora and fauna is infectious. I will never forget her detailed description
of the social organisation of the leaf cutter ant! She is a born leader -
always managing to make things feel organic and informal, while doing masses
of contingency planning behind the scenes. She also treated us all as
individuals and sought to offer options that would appeal to each of us. Her
local knowledge of restaurants was invaluable - she gave us choices and took
us to great places.


We went in the rainy season - and boy, did it rain. Not just an hour or two
a day, but torrentially for hours on end, especially on the Caribbean side
where it rains more or less all the year round. And when it isn't raining it
is more often than not very overcast. Once we got to the Pacific side the
weather was much better - sunshine for at least half of every day. So be
prepared for the weather - it can be demoralising. Others have mentioned the
difficulty in drying clothes out - our guide was ingenious and took us twice
to local laundrettes where a service wash was efficient and far cheaper than
in the hotels. Returned either same day or following morning. Hotels are
simple - but we liked the simplest one, at Cahuita, the best because you
could hear the ocean from the garden. We had a miserable time on the
optional turtle trip at Tortuguero locally run, not organised by Exodus. We
had to walk through rainforest to get to the beach and, because of heavy
rain, floodwater was nearly up to our knees - the pitch dark and the warnings
about going single file because of the risk of snakes resulted in our
daughter being absolutely terrified. We did see turtles but by this time she
was unable to enjoy and just wanted to feel safe again. It felt very
overcrowded and not really in the interests of the turtles. But the river
trips made going to Tortuguero worth it.

Do consider doing what we did: we booked a hotel on the Pacific coast and
stayed on for five more nights after the tour relaxing, swimming and whale
watching. Really worth it - after travelling all that way.


This is a really good way of seeing fantastic wildlife and visiting a
tropical country very different from our own, with children. The
organisation and the guide take all the stress out of this kind of travelling
leaving you all free to get the most out of the experience. The Caribbean
coast is wetter but it is really fascinating and shouldn't be missed - its
Afro-Caribbean heritage making it very different from the rest of the
country.


Read more

Operator Exodus Travels

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!

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 Activities:   

Nature Sightseeing, Wildlife Viewing, Birding & Wilderness walk 

Similar Destinations:                       

Ecuador, Belize

 

Related Trips & Tours


Top Costa Rica Travel Companies


Things to Know Before You Go


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.

374 trips from 86 tour companies with 535 reviews

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