All posts by costaricarios

Discover the Best of Costa Rica – Overview of Every Province

Costa Rica may be renowned as a compact country that’s easy to explore yet the diverse topography means that you will discover an immense diversity as you travel through the country. So, if there is something very specific you have in mind, it is a great idea to have an overview of what each province has to offer to experience the best of Costa Rica.

Here is your guide to Discover the Best Costa Rica – Province by Province.

Overview of Costa Rica Provinces

Each province in the country boasts a capital city bearing the same name. These towns don’t just make for brilliant base points from which to explore further but they also offer a glimpse of the country’s culture and history. Although ‘nature’ certainly takes center stage all over the country – with most visitors simply wishing to spend as much time as possible in one of the many revered national parks – spending a few days in the main towns, to meet locals, get a sense of the Pura Vida philosophy for which the country is beloved, visiting museums and enjoying the local cuisines are all very rewarding experiences.

San Jose – The Central Valley

The greater province of San Jose is arguably the most developed region of all, boasting highways and great tourist infrastructure. This central region also boasts the highest population density in the country although the moment you step away from the city’s outskirts you’ll mainly see villages and settlements and not large cities, as such. San Jose is very fertile and boasts many ranches and coffee plantations, amongst its luscious verdant hills. The province is actually quite extensive and covers just under five million hectares of stunning lowlands and steep volcanoes, stretching from the capital city, which is in the northern border, all the way south past Uvita. The highlights of San Jose Province are the Chirripo National Park (with Mt Chirripo offering excellent options for volcano and mountain climbing – read more about Chirripo permits before visiting) Los Quetzales National Park (comprising cloud forests set amidst the high peaks of the Talamanca Mountains – a protected home for the magnificent quetzal bird) and La Cangreja National Park, home to an impressive number of migratory birds and beloved by bird enthusiasts. All three major parks offer an array of hiking options. Due to the sheer variety of activities, ease of access and great infrastructure and accommodation options, the San Jose Province is perfect for honeymooners, families and active tourists alike. Most especially those who are limited on time.

Alajuela – The volcanic hub of the north

Best of Costa RicaNorth of San Jose Province, Alajuela reaches to the border with Nicaragua and boasts four of the country’s biggest highlights: the Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna Waterfall, La Paz Waterfalls Garden and the Poas Volcano National Park, the latter boasting one of the largest volcanic craters in the world. The region’s capital is the second-largest city in Costa Rica and is also renowned as an enticing cultural hub, yet it’s the natural highlights of the province which demand the most attention. Fantastic thermal springs and endless hiking options suit active and less-active travelers. Poas, in particular, boasts very easy walking trails which lead to breathtaking viewpoints, so if you want to soak up the views but not overdo it, this is a great park to visit.  Take note, parents! With the sheer abundance of waterfalls, thermal springs, hiking and mountain biking options, as well as canyoning, ziplining, kayaking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and more, Alajuela is perfect for an adventure vacation in Costa Rica.

Guanacaste – The northwestern Pacific coast

The beach hub of Tamarindo is the epicenter of Guanacaste’s seaside fun and attracts families and honeymooners as well as surfing buffs and snorkelers. Extensive stretches of idyllic white-sand beaches and warm waters teeming with underwater life are the calling cards of the northern half of Guanacaste, whilst the south boasts wonders like the Las Baulas Marine National Park and Rincon de la Vieja National Park, among quite a few others. The absolute must-visit province for beach lovers, Guanacaste offers endless coastal adventures mixed in with enough mountainous destinations, volcanoes and wildlife-brimming forests to make it an unparalleled all-rounder.  This region covers the northern half of the Nicoya Peninsula, revered for its untouched wilderness and lack of crowds. Brimming with wildlife reserves, postcard-perfect beaches and kaleidoscope of adventures in drop-dead-gorgeous forests, Guanacaste is ideal if you want a taste of all that Costa Rica has to offer.

Puntarenas – the central and southern Pacific coast

Puntarenas follows the western coastline of Costa Rica, starting from the Gulf of Papagayo in the north (and covering the southern half of the Nicoya Peninsula) and stretching all the way south to the border with Panama. Narrow yet extensive, Puntarenas is the most diverse in terms of accommodation choices, with a vast array of luxurious resorts on the northern coast of the mainland. Among the many attractions of this very extensive province are the Manuel Antonio National Park (the most visited in the whole country), the spellbinding Monteverde Cloud Forest and the Corcovado National Park in the Osa Peninsula, one of the remotest and least developed nature reserves of all. For water-based activities, you really can’t go past Puntarenas, with the region’s best beaches home to surfing camps and a host of beachside fun, like SUP, kayaking, snorkeling and diving. If you have more time and an adventurous spirit, don’t miss a chance to visit Corcovado, a treasure of nature that’s brimming with an impressive cache of wildlife. Head south during whale migration season and you can enjoy one of the most unforgettable Costa Rica experiences of all.

Cartago – The central valley and eastern volcanic hub

East of Puntarenas and bordering the San Jose Province, Cartago joins the latter in comprising the remainder of the Central Valley. A thrilling destination for active tourists, Cartago is home to Irazu and Turrialba volcanoes and shares an entry into Chirripo National Park. Irazu is one of the most active volcanoes in the country and a very popular destination, with plenty of hiking options available. The mountainous topography of Cartago lends itself well to adventure tours and it is right here that the mighty Pacuare River originates. The Pacuare is the base for our thrilling whitewater rafting and kayaking tours which we run from the Limon Province, just to the east.

Heredia – A small northern pocket of unexplored wilderness

An often-overlooked province due to its remoteness and lack of infrastructure, Heredia takes up the northern fringes of the country and is tucked right between the Alajuela and Limon provinces. Mostly wild and inaccessible, Heredia is home to the stunning Braulio Carrillo National Park, one of the least visited but most impressive parks in the entire country. The park boasts a brilliant eco-friendly cable-car which gets you into the rainforest with very little effort, and is home to the vertiginous Barva volcano, a stratovolcano complex which stands at a breathtaking 9500 feet. The hike up the volcano is challenging yet immensely rewarding and attracts active visitors looking for loads of adventure in the heart of a splendid and lesser-visited national park. Despite the remoteness of the province, the volcano is only a short drive north of San Jose so super easy to access, even if you’re short on time.

Limon – The unspoiled Caribbean coastal hub

Aside from a sensational array of adventures, Limon is also home to some of the country’s most magnificent parks, including Tortuguero National Park, one of the world’s most precious turtle nesting sites. Limon’s Caribbean beaches are unspoiled and less frequented and the province’s remoteness means both local and tourist numbers are contained, spawning a spectacular concentration of unique and rare wildlife species. Puerto Viejo and Tortuguero are the two most popular bases here and, despite the province’s lack of major tourist infrastructure, there are still plenty of fantastic options for families and honeymooners who wish to experience untouched wilderness yet still enjoy modern comforts. If you wish to get off the well-trodden path in Costa Rica and relish its incredible natural treasures, then you’ll find no better province to visit. Especially on a fully-organized and guided adventure tour.

Want to know more about Costa Rica’s magical provinces? Visit our Destinations Page for more details on the kind of adventures you can expect in every corner of the country and check out our adventure tours page for start dates and availability of our Week of Adventures, Week of River Kayaking, Honeymoons and Family and Custom Tours. We run the most respected and professional adventure tours in Costa Rica and take pride in showcasing the very best of Costa Rica.  For more details and come see for yourself how unforgettable this country really is!

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Guide to Volunteering in Costa Rica – For a Meaningful Travel Experience

Costa Rica volunteerCosta Rica is swiftly becoming the poster child for meaningful travel experiences, least of all for the sheer number of reputable, sustainable and responsible volunteering projects found all over the country. Many return visitors who have been and have fallen in love with Costa Rica are choosing to add a stint of volunteering to their yearly adventure vacation, giving back to a country that – increasing modernity notwithstanding – still struggles with poverty, wildlife protection and environmental conservation.

Volunteering projects offer placements which range in duration from days to weeks and even months at a time and, whilst some require a level of expertise in a given field, many simply require you to offer compassion and a willingness to help.

Finding the right project to dedicate your time and effort to will require a certain amount of research and insight on your part, so we thought we’d lend a helping hand by highlighting a few very important aspects of volunteering in Costa Rica.

Volunteering in Costa Rica – Why Keeping Your Expectations in Check is Essential

Choosing the right project for a rewarding volunteering stint in Costa Rica should take some time. Romantic ideals aside, you should ensure that your chosen project be transparent in what it aims to achieve and, more importantly, what it expects of you. By the same token, you ought to familiarize yourself with volunteering abroad if you’ve never undertaken such a project.

Many first-time volunteers are left disappointed when they realize that they are, more often than not, a ‘cog in the wheel’ of a long-term and complex project. Your day-to-day task may not be as glamorous as you imagine and, even if volunteering for a number of weeks, you may not see the results of your hard work during your tenure. This is the nature of the game, the actual essence of most volunteering projects. ALL the collective work of ALL the volunteers is pooled together to make a project a success, so if you expect instant gratification, you may be left disappointed. Moreover, responsible projects ought to place the emphasis very much on the receiver of help and not the giver and if you’re serious about being helpful you should appreciate this very much.

If it isn’t in the best interest of an animal to continuously be exposed to new people, for example, your work may well be ‘behind the scenes’. Wildlife volunteering projects still need people to prepare food and clean cages, collect data or help with construction. If the aim of a particular project is to reintroduced rehabilitated animals to the wild, you can pretty much guarantee you won’t get to cuddle it. If you’re ecstatic knowing that your personal help has contributed to the release of such an animal, then, by all means, go right ahead. If you’re hoping for a more hands-on experience, however, choose your project accordingly.

Keeping your expectations in check is crucial to ensuring your experience be fun, rewarding and satisfying. At the end of the day, volunteering projects are only successful if volunteers thoroughly enjoy their experiences.

Choosing the right volunteering project

Considering the criticism that many international volunteering organizations have faced over the years, much of which was utterly warranted, you should be ruthless in your research for the right project. For every well-planned organization, there are half a dozen poorly-designed ones that manage to harm the very cause they wish to assist. Offering your time and effort to the right project, therefore, isn’t just beneficial to you but also to the community and cause in question. Much like the kind of planning needed to organize any kind of trip abroad, volunteering also requires meticulous research. If you wouldn’t use the hypothetical yellow pages to choose a hotel abroad…don’t use it to choose your volunteering project.

Seek out a legitimate project that offers a safe placement for you; one that boasts excellent reviews by previous volunteers and, more importantly, one that clearly communicates its intentions and expectations with you. Their work should be prominent in Costa Rica’s media and their successes well documented. Seek out news articles, blogs and forums on every project you come across and it’ll be much easier for you to weed out the great from the sub-par.

Choosing the right volunteering project should also involve a little soul searching on your part. Determining the kind of work that you’re likely to enjoy may be deceptively difficult. Take projects involved with the education of impoverished children, as an example. You may well agree that this is of the utmost importance in any developing country, yet if you don’t really enjoy spending entire days surrounded by children, let alone weeks, it’s best to leave the volunteering spot to someone who will. Not only will you be better off doing something you actually enjoy but those all-too-important children will also have a much better time with a volunteer who enjoys their company. So be brutal in your assessment of your own desires and skills and choose to volunteer in a project whose work you know you will enjoy.

Taking some time out of your life to volunteer abroad is no small feat: choose wisely and it could well be one of the most meaningful and gratifying travel experiences you’ll ever have.

Paying to volunteer – why this oxymoron makes sense

Start researching the most popular and best volunteering projects in Costa Rica and you’ll soon discover that all-too-familiar oxymoron: volunteering costs money. Why on earth should a volunteer PAY to help? Well, for the very logical reason that projects must spend money to receive volunteers.  A lot of money, in fact. It costs money to house you and feed you for the duration of your stay, to recruit you in the first place, to assist you in settling in and in training you. It costs money to organize transport and to build all the facilities to make you safe and comfortable. If a project is responsible, it won’t just leave you to fend for yourself. It will look after you and for that…it needs funds. Considering all of its profits should, theoretically, be poured back into the project itself, it makes sense that you’ll need to effectively pay your way during your stay. Most organizations don’t receive government funding and rely on the donations to carry on their important work, combined with whatever funds are left over after your placement fee is spent (on you). Professional and responsible volunteering project should have no issue providing you with a clear breakdown of how your fee is spent so you can best ascertain if you’re willing to contribute to their project.

The most popular volunteering options in Costa Rica

Animal care, rehabilitation and conservation work plays a huge role in Costa Rica’s volunteering sphere, as does work in remote communities building much-needed infrastructure and helping at-risk communities. There are many projects, all over the country, which rely heavily on volunteers’ help, both local and imported. Before you go ahead and research the best projects in Costa Rica, have a read of National Geographic Guide to Voluntourism, which highlights a few key points you ought to also keep in mind whilst listing the most prominent international organizations around.

Volunteerism has been placed under the microscope over the last decade (for many valid reasons) and the great benefit of this is that it’s forced organizations to be much more transparent in what they do and how they do it. If, by the end of your research, you decide that you’d rather offer a donation rather than your time and effort to a particular cause, do know that your invaluable contribution will be much appreciated by whichever reputable organization you choose to help.

Here at Costa Rica Rios, we’ve been voted One of the Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth by the National Geographic and take our role as ambassadors very seriously. We not only commit to sustainable tourism in a country which desperately strives to uphold it but we contribute to our local communities, employing and training local guides and donating to our local orphanage and any business which needs a helping hand. We do this because we believe that through responsible tourism, everybody wins, Mother Nature included. All of our Adventure Tours in Costa Rica are planned with our mission and values in mind so if you’d like to come and discover all the amazing experiences this incredible country offers, contact us today.

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Top 10 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica in Rain Season

Costa Rica rain seasonWe’re huge proponents of visiting Costa Rica during Green Season, also known as rain season. Amidst the quite lusciousness of its national parks, the slower pace of travel and genial savings which can be found just about everywhere, adventures in Costa Rica during low-tourist season absolutely rock.

Here are just 10 more reasons to visit Costa Rica in Rain Season:

  1. Flights to Costa Rica are CRAZY cheap

Costa Rica is an inexpensive destination for North Americans yet never are the savings as enticing as during this upcoming green season, which starts in May. You can reach San Jose, the capital, for under 300 USD from numerous US cities, including New York, LA, Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, Washington, Miami and Chicago, and just over 400 USD from Boston, San Francisco and Houston, to name but a few. Reduced flights prices will continue for a few months, so check out Skyscanner or your favorite flight booking website and discover how affordable a quick getaway to Costa Rica can be.

  1. The savings don’t end there!

All of Costa Rica’s most coveted travel experiences, from accommodation in gorgeous eco-lodges to thrilling adventure tours, are also discounted during the low tourist season. Take advantage of the savings to partake in activities, or stay in lodges, that would normally be out of your budget range. Visiting Costa Rica in rain season is the #1 choice for budget travelers and anyone wanting to get the most out of their vacation spending spree. So whether you save a few hundred dollars, or simply indulge in more luxuries and experiences, traveling to Costa Rica between May and November is an incredibly rewarding thing to do.

  1. It actually won’t be all that wet, after all

This luscious and incredibly fertile country enjoys a very healthy rain rate at any time of year with only the first couple of months of the year being exceptionally dry. Yet rain is what keeps the country’s forests and its astonishing wildlife thriving, so you should actually expect some rain no matter when you travel.  However, and like many tropical destinations, Costa Rica receives most of its rain in the early afternoon (even during rain season) washing out travel plans for just a couple of hours. It is still unusual to see torrential downpours that last for an entire day (even during the rainiest month of September and October) which is why it’s wise to plan most of your outings for the hours prior to lunch time. Take advantage of the above-mentioned savings and stretch your vacation to include more days, so as to give you more time to do and see everything that’s on your list.

  1. You’ll have some of the most popular places all to yourself

There’s no denying that Costa Rica is an immensely popular travel destination and those who visit during high tourist season have to contend with substantial crowds in the most popular spots. Visiting Costa Rica during rain season, however, offers you the chance to share those super special spots with far fewer people. Aside from savings, avid low-season travelers quote ‘smaller crowds’ as the prime reason for visiting Costa Rica during rain season, especially as most of the country’s towns are quite small and can feel congested rather quickly. If it’s your first time visiting and you wish to see the most popular national parks – like Manuel Antonio and Arenal – visiting during the rain season is a brilliant idea indeed.

Dreaming of having one of Costa Rica’s most spectacular beaches all to yourself? Then book your trip for the next few months!

  1. It’s blissfully cooler & waterfalls and forests are resplendent

Ticos call the rain season their ‘winter’ and although this may seem a bit of a stretch to North Americans (who are used to winters being freezing and snowy) temps are certainly lower than at any time of year. For active travelers and anyone who finds tropical heat oppressive, the rain season months are ideal, with average temps falling below their yearly average (90F) making for excellent hiking in otherwise steamy forests. If that’s not enough, the country’s tropical forests are absolutely resplendent with abundant rains, so green and luscious! Waterfalls and rivers are bursting, also making for amazing water-based adventure vacations. If you normally avoid very hot destinations because your skin is sensitive to the strong sun, then this may just be the ideal season for you to visit Costa Rica.

Include a visit to one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica and come discover what all the dry-season travelers miss out on and check out the very best places to visit during Green Season.

  1. Different ecosystems mean there’s always a dry corner, somewhere in Costa Rica

Costa Rica may be a small and compact country yet its central mountain range – which essentially dissects the country in two – translates to different regions enjoying quite diverging climates. So when we talk about rain season, in fact, we’re mainly discussing only the western half of Costa Rica, the side of the country that sees the highest number of tourists. Head to the eastern half, however, and you’ll find a totally different climate.  Between May and November, the Caribbean coastline of Costa Rica is at its driest and although the climate there is much less predictable it is, generally speaking, always drier there than on the Pacific coast. Moreover, even the Pacific coast boasts its own variants, with the rains in the Guanacaste region typically not starting until the end of June, whilst the southern Osa Peninsula enjoying arguably the longest rain season of all. So don’t consider ‘rain season’ as one uniform travel time in Costa Rica. Is there somewhere specific you wish to travel to? Let us know what it is and we’ll advise you as to the best month to visit during the long Green Season.

  1. It’s perfect for those who prefer to be flexible

‘Flexible’ is the one thing you should be when visiting Costa Rica during the rainiest months and if you’re not a flexible traveler when you arrive you probably will be by the time you leave. Sure, some people prefer firm plans and structure…but not everybody does. If you’re the kind of adventurer who prefers to take things as they come, to change plans at the last minute and swap one activity for another at short notice, due to an unforeseen downpour, then this is definitely the time you should travel here!

Because isn’t normal life structured enough?

  1. Costa Rica is still pure perfection…even when it rains

We’ve had guests gush excitedly at having found the most popular national parks almost deserted during a trip in rain season and others who simply couldn’t believe just how stunning the country is when it receives a healthy amount of rain, both aspects which elude dry season visitors. Is a little rain really going to ruin your whole vacation in Costa Rica? Absolutely not! Costa Rica is paradise on earth, with an abundance of precious wilderness and wildlife that’ll just blow you away. It would take more than a downpour to dampen your incredible experience in this magnificent destination. Whilst there are still copious reasons for visiting both during dry and rainy months, rest assured that your vacation will be resplendent, no matter what time of year you visit.

  1. Rain season is also turtle nesting season!

We’re not the only ones who love Costa Rica when it rains. So do turtles! ­occur in the Nicoya Peninsula year-round yet happen with more frequency and boast mind-boggling turtle numbers in the wetter months between August and November. Reason enough to visit then? We think so!

Find out more about Costa Rica’s magical arribadas before planning your trip and we bet you’ll want to include a few days at Ostional Beach just to witness this truly remarkable spectacle of nature.

  1. Your packing list remains unchanged

Locals may call this season their winter but to be honest, from a visitor’s perspective, temps are so ideal that your dry season Costa Rica packing list can remain unchanged. Aside from the addition of mosquito repellent (which is a good idea at any time and imperative during rainy months), you’ll still just need one warm fleece if traveling at altitude and a rain jacket, something you’d be advised to pack anyhow. Visiting Costa Rica during rain season is no more troublesome, in this regard, which makes a quick last-minute getaway even more appealing.

At Costa Rica Rios, we also take advantage of low-season specials to tour the country and discover new corners we’ve yet to travel to, all the while still offering an exceptional week of adventure tours for those lucky few travelers who realize how gorgeous the country is during this time of year. So why not come have some fun with us? Visit our adventure tour page and click on each option to see tour dates and availability.

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Explore the Highlights of Costa Rica’s Magical Limon Province

Stretching the length of Costa Rica’s 125-mile long eastern Caribbean coast and covering over 3,500 square miles of spectacular wilderness, Limon is – without a doubt – the country’s most distinctive province. Home to just over a quarter of a million people, many of whom boast Afro-Caribbean roots, the Limon Province is revered for being home to some of the most outstanding and remote highlights in the entire country, including the Pacuare River (the best rafting river in the country), the Tortuguero National Park (an idyllic turtle watching destination) and the Cahuita National Park (a revered snorkeling destination). Lesser visited than its western counterpart, the Limon Province offers a host of very authentic Costa Rica travel experiences and is, contrary to popular belief, actually easy to reach from the capital, San Jose. Some of its most enticing corners may be harder to reach (a few only accessible by boat or plane!) yet the rewards, for those with a few more days up their sleeve, are immense. Pristine jungles and forests, as well as indigenous villages seemingly untouched by the passing of time, are just a few of Limon’s most alluring attractions.

For nature and wildlife lovers and for adrenaline-seeking adventurers, the Limon Province is not to be missed.

Here are just some of the exceptional experiences you can have in Limon:

Watch a turtle nesting spectacle in the Tortuguero National Park

Limon Province wildlifeOne of the world’s best turtle-watching destinations, the Tortuguero National Park is tucked in the north-eastern corner of the Limon Province and only accessible by boat or plane. A prime spot for Hawksbill, Giant Leatherback, Green and Loggerhead turtles, the beaches of Tortuguero can transform into a hive of absolute activity during nesting season, although the entire park hides a wealth of other unique creatures, including manatees, river otters, American crocodiles, caimans, sloths and several species of monkeys. The best way to explore the park is by boat or kayak and the best time of year to visit, for the greatest chances to watch turtles nesting, are the months between June and November. Read our Tortuguero guide for more detailed insights.

Learn to surf in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

The southern Caribbean coast is a world onto itself and the two main towns, Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, offer a very distinctive Costa Rica beach experience. Infrastructure here is not as developed as on the western coast so you’ll notice a most distinctive lack of luxury resorts and hotels lining the shores. Instead, you’ll be amazed to see luscious rain forests catapulting into the turquoise sea here, leaving enough glistening sandy shores for you to enjoy. For a sublime spot of R&R in a quieter and more culturally immersive region, you really can’t go past the beaches of the Limon Province. And if you’re up for a bit more action then head straight for Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, where a host of great surfing schools have set up shop.

Visit the Jaguar Rescue Centre Foundation near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Animal lovers looking for an exceptional wildlife experience ought to keep the Jaguar Rescue Centre Foundation firmly within their sights. This incredible animal sanctuary rescues orphaned, mistreated, injured and confiscated animals, with the aim to release them all into the wild once they’re back in prime condition. On a visit you can enjoy a tour of the refuge and gain a deeper understanding of the problems faced by some of the country’s most precious wildlife. You’ll get to meet baby monkeys and sloths (although direct contact is, obviously, kept to a minimum) and get to meet some of the full-time residents who call this place home. An ethical and immensely successful rehab center, the Jaguar Rescue Foundation is just a few miles south of Puerto Viejo and easy to visit from town.

Raft and kayak the Pacuare River

The crown jewel of the Limon province, the Pacuare is one of the world’s top-rated rafting rivers and attracts adventure seekers from all the world. Stretching for more than 70 miles across some of the most untouched landscapes in the country, the Pacuare offers 16 distinct rafting sections, spanning the gamma from Class II to Class V rapids. Suitable for beginners and advanced rafters alike, the Pacuare is the most sought-after adventure vacation destination in Costa Rica and one-week itineraries (like this one) offer an impressive number of activities. The river is flanked by primordial rain forests and features deep gorges, waterfalls and a mind-boggling array of unique wildlife. On a rafting and kayaking trip on the Pacuare River, you can enjoy a truly immersive Costa Rica experience, staying in eco-lodges tucked in the heart of unspoiled forests, visit indigenous villages and, of course, enjoy a bevy of active pursuits, including rafting, kayaking, zip lining, hiking, mountain biking and more.

Ready to get way off the beaten tourist path in Costa Ria and explore the magical Limon Province? Visit our adventure vacation page for fantastic travel inspiration and contact us for more detailed info on how to best add side-trips to your itinerary.

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10 Fascinating Facts About Costa Rica Rain Forests

Costa Rica rain forestsWhen people plan their Costa Rica Rios adventure vacation the first thing they envision is taking unforgettable walks through the country’s jungles. Havens of pristine wilderness and varied wildlife, rain forests are the world’s most complex and important ecosystem.

Collectively, they harbor a colossal chunk of the biodiversity the planet needs to thrive, or between 40 and 75% of all biotic species. When in Costa Rica, you’ll be undoubtedly be planning a visit to some of the country’s phenomenal rain forests, so let us help tickly your curiosity with these 10 fascinating facts..

  1. Rain forests are made up of two distinct ecosystems: tropical and temperate. Tropical rain forests are found between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. They are primarily characterized by how much rain they receive, which is about 66 inches a year, on average. Temperate rain forests are found on just about every corner of the globe, all the way up to (almost) both Polar Regions.
  1. Every tropical rain forest scan be divided into four layers: the forest floor, the understory (everything at eye-height), the canopy (what you see when you look up) and the emergent layer, which is everything that grows and lives above the canopy, usually obscured from view. Each layer is inhabited by quite distinct species of flora and fauna.
  1. The largest tropical rain forest in the world is the Amazon, which runs through nine South American countries. Over 50% of Costa Rica is made up of primary rain forest, which is the most carbon-dense and bio-diverse in existence.
  1. Rain forests are likened to the planet’s thermostat: they regulate the global climate and temperatures. About 28% of the oxygen produced on earth is from rain forests. This is what makes them so important, as well as highly susceptible to the detrimental effects of global warming. Aside this threat, rain forests are also subjected to catastrophic logging, mining, ranching and agricultural expansion, the world over. Deforestation has decimated about 40% of the rain forests which once existed on our planet. Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world which makes conservation a priority, and over 75% of the country’s rain forests are protected reserves.
  1. Our planet’s rain forests boast 70% of the plants currently used to treat cancer, and it’s believed many more are yet to be discovered as only 1% of the flora has ever been studied for their medicinal purposes. Each square mile of rain forest boasts, on average, 400 species of flowering plants and 200 different types of trees.
  1. There is still, to this day, much that we don’t know about these incredible ecosystems, and estimates of new and unidentified species of flora and fauna are believed to number in the millions.
  1. Every single day, the world loses the equivalent of 80,000 football-field-sized portions of rain forests.
  1. The world’s rain forests currently supply livelihood for over 1.2 billion people living in poverty.
  1. In tropical rain forests, the canopy is so dense that rainfall can take up to 10 minutes to reach the forest floor.
  1. Rain forests are the oldest ecosystem on earth

Discover Costa Rica’s Forests

All up, Costa Rica is home to six different kinds of rain forests, including tropical, tropical dry and the mesmerizing cloud forests. Over 100 different species of trees are found here, as well as an enticing array of wildlife, including sloths, a nearly endless array of monkey and thousands of bird species.

The most famous cloud forest in the country is undoubtedly Monteverde, a mystical place brimming with coffee plantations, rowdy monkeys, and endless hiking possibilities. Cloud forests are very special, almost magical, as they are shrouded in a mist that makes them feel quite ethereal. The wonderful thing about Costa Rica’s rain forests is that they are thriving centers for eco-friendly activities. zip lining, hiking, canopy tours, visiting butterfly farms and bird-watching: these are some of the ways you can experience the rain forests in this spectacular country.

In the northern Pacific coast, in the Guanacaste province, is where you’ll find tropical dry forests. These are not nearly as dense as cloud forests, so your chances of spotting wildlife are much higher. Kayaking and horseback riding are two of the best activities in which you can indulge here.

If planning a white water rafting tour in Costa Rica you’ll be exploring what are known as lowland rain forests. These occur up to 1,000m in altitude and boast the tallest trees of all, harboring a huge number of micro environments.

At Costa Rica Rios, we strive to showcase the inherent beauty of the country’s rain forests, as it is inherently human to only protect what one knows, and loves. We are committed to promoting eco-friendly tourism, where the only things you take are unforgettable memories, and the only things you leave behind are your footprints…and just a little piece of your heart. Contact us for more info.

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The Most Spectacular Beaches in Costa Rica

Costa Rica may be renowned for its infinite array of truly breathtaking beaches yet because we all know that not all beaches are created equal, we’ve compiled this guide to the best strips of sparkling shores that are best suited to surfing, sunbathing, snorkeling and honeymoon vacations. From blinding white sand to black volcanic rock, remote, accessible and all the in-between, the most spectacular beaches in Costa Rica offer something for everyone.

Want to find the Costa Rica beach with your name all over it?

Then off you go!

Manuel Antonio – Best for families, ease of access and great snorkeling

Beaches in Costa RicaThe calm and warm waters of Manuel Antonio and the sheer ease of access and concentration of amenities make the beaches here the most sought-after by families and first-time visitors.

It also helps that the stretch of sandy shore sis startlingly beautiful AND the fact that the coast is framed luscious rain forests brimming with fantastic wildlife. In fact, getting the kids to the beach may prove to be a challenge, once they start spotting the squirrel monkeys and sloths that call the national park home place home. With a great range of hiking trails taking in sections of beach and forest, Manuel Antonio is the undisputed king of the ‘all-rounder’ and a brilliant choice for hassle-free beach bumming.

Puerto Viejo – Best for honeymooners and anyone seeking privacy, romance and remoteness

The Caribbean beach hub of Puerto Viejo attracts avid surfers and the bohemian vibe of the quaint town certainly reflects that. Yet this gem way off the beaten path is actually ideal if you’d love to spend some days soaking up the rays on a quieter beach, with far fewer tourists for company. A fantastic active vacation destination, Puerto Viejo offers bucket loads of adventure for days when you want to get off your beach towel. From hiking to horseback riding, SCUBA and snorkeling, surfing, biking and more, this entire region is a phenomenal playground if you want to mix it up a bit. A short distance from town, moreover, is where you can discover remote coves and totally deserted beaches, all showcasing that signature turquoise sea that makes the Caribbean side of Costa Rica so incredibly idyllic. You can read more about Puerto Viejo, right here.

Tamarindo – Best for beginner surfers who enjoy a vibrant nightlife

Surf lessons by day and socializing by night. If this sounds like your ideal Costa Rica beach vacation then best you set your sight son Tamarindo. Decent waves make this beach not the best for swimming – or families – but the concentration of surfing schools is what attracts beginner surfers. The nearby Las Baulas National Park provides plenty of options for days off the sand, whilst the town’s thriving nightlife means you need not have early nights if you don’t want to. Small but thriving, Tamarindo is a great options for young couples and groups of friends looking to surf and socialize when in Costa Rica.

Samara – The hottest up and coming beach scene with picture-perfect sand

One of those ‘too beautiful to be real’ beaches, Samara is simply drop-dead gorgeous. Fine white blinding sand frame the protected cove, where the clam crystalline waters harbor an array of great marine life. Kayak, snorkel, swim and sunbathe on the beach, grab a bit to eat nearby and explore the uninhabited island in the heart of the bay that’s home to a heady concentration of exotic birds. Samara is, without a doubt, the latest ‘hot spot’ to fly right in the tourist radar so although you’ll still find it quieter than others further north, this idyllic beach in the Nicoya Peninsula still gets plenty of attention.

Jaco Beach – Best for watersports, vibrant town life and surfing

The big swells at Jaco tend to keep families away yet the town’s popularity offers enough dining, drinking and partying to attract everyone else. The beach is fantastic for surfing and all sorts of water sports and, being so close to San Jose, Jaco attracts visitors on short and sweet active vacations. International restaurants and even a couple of casinos cater for anyone of any age and the facilities in town and on the beach mean you’ll need for nada during your stay.

Nosara – Best for spotting marine life and getting off the main tourist trail

Beaches in Costa RicaNestled in a remote and lesser developed corner of the Nicoya Peninsula, Nosara features endless miles of sandy shores and tranquil coves home to a flurry of beautiful marine creatures. If you don’t mind foregoing luxuries and prefer a more organic beach vacation in Costa Rica, then this may just be your little corner of paradise. Snorkel, swim, sun-bake and take long walks on the beach in Nosara and you’ll also find a couple of surfing outfitters if you’re keen to learn.

Here at CostaRicaRios, we are firm believers that in order to have a truly unforgettable Costa Rica vacation one must taste a little of all the country has to offer. From whitewater rafting to hiking, biking, kayaking, surfing and beach-bumming, our active vacation itineraries are as diverse as this country’s incredible nature. Visit our adventure tours page and contact us to know more about how we combine all the highlights of Costa Rica in one, totally unparalleled adventure.

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Sweet Treats: Costa Rica’s Best Dessert Places You Must Try

Traveling to Costa Rica on an adventure vacation AND have a sweet tooth? Lucky you! The country’s passion for homemade, wholesome desserts is legendary and you’d be well advised to indulge during your time here at one of the country’s most revered sweet-eries. From fancy city restaurants to street stalls and holes in the wall, Costa Rica’s best dessert places you must try will satisfy your craving in every which way.

POPS Ice Creamerie, country wide chain

If there’s one thing that’s likely to make your eyes POP during your travels through Costa Rica, it would have to be the sight of one of this ice-cream parlor’s franchise banners. POPS makes ice cream the way ice cream was meant to be made, with natural ingredients and flavors and none of that powdery stuff that’s become so common back home nowadays. Whether on a cone or in a cup, or added to a delicious banana split or milkshake, POPS ice-creams are the bomb! Try the fresh coconut and mango ice cream after a sweaty day of hiking and you (and your taste buds) will be in 7th heaven.

Estukuru Chocolate Factory, La Fortuna

Costa Rica chocolate dessertEstukuru is the kind of place you need to visit, even if it meant walking there from San Jose. Yep…it’s so good it’s worth the 100-mile long trek! Luckily, this dreamy chocolate factory is nearby Arenal so a visit is super easy to fit into your itinerary.

Offering a great array of flavored home-made chocolates, along with cakes, crepes, drinks and a host of other delights all made using the powder of the gods, Estukuru is the kind of place that makes you rethink your notion that the best Costa Rica chocolate is all sent abroad. Take a fascinating tour of the factory and small plantation, enjoy the air-conditioned dining room and feast till your heart’s ready to burst. We do!

Chez Christophe, San Jose

If you could combine anything in the world and create perfection, it would have to be an authentic French bakery which uses only the freshest, locally-sourced Costa Rican ingredients. Voila, Chez Christophe, where you’ll discover how perfect French croissants can be when made with fresh Costa Rican butter. The amazing dessert fridge is enough to make you weak at the knees yet if you’re the kind of person whose eyes belie their stomach then you’ll be happy to know that Christophe sells a lot of ‘miniature’ desserts so you can try all sorts of different goodies before you burst. And then…you’ll probably want just one more macaroon for the road.

Creperie & Café Entre Nous, Heredia/San Jose/Alajuela

Crepe dessertThe French have well and truly taken over Costa Rica and, luckily for you, they’re opening all the best dessert bars. With its quirky décor and warm ambience, Entre Nous is one of the country’s most charming little secrets, one that seems to be appearing all over the central region.

Popular with young Ticos and increasingly more prominent, this artisanal creperie serves sweet and savory treats and tempts guests with an impossible-to-resist cake table that’ll tug at your heartstrings. Home-made and super fresh cakes, not to mention waffles, pancakes and more, Entre Nous is a one-=stop-heaven for lovers of wholesome and delicious food enjoyed in a welcoming locale.

Cafeoteca, San Jose

A new wave of totally hip and trendy joints have started to spring up all over the country and whilst some are a bit of a hit-and-miss, Cafeoteca really delivers on the goods. True coffee aficionados will love this place, as you can sample different local varieties, but as far as desserts are concerned that’s really where this place shines. Lovers of sweets as well as coffee, the guys at Cafeoteca take their desserts seriously and you’ll find a wide range of seductive treats such as the delectable passionfruit cheesecake and an array of perfect pastries to complement your top-notch cup of coffee. You’ll find this gem of a place in the beautiful Escalante neighbourhood of the capital and you can read more about its concept, right here.

La Princesa Café, Tamarindo

Should one really travel all the way to Costa Rica to savour Swedish chocolate-coconut balls? If that savouring is to be done at La Princesa then YES, by all means! Tamarindo’s most delicious sweet treats come out of Janet’s revered café and, we might add, healthy savory ones too. From home-made brownies to creamy cheesecakes topped with decadent berries, addictive cinnamon rolls and gluten-free macaroons, La Princesa convinces you, once and for all, that decadent desserts can be heaven for your body. Organic, home-made sweet treats and, hands down, one of Costa Rica’s best dessert places you must try.

Ready for an adventure vacation in Costa Rica? How else are you going to burn all those extra calories?! Come whitewater rafting, kayaking, zip lining, biking and horseriding with us for a week or two and your dessert indulgence can really be totally guilt free. Visit our Costa Rica Adventure Vacations page and do contact us for more info.

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Costa Rica’s Best (Secret) Hiking Trails

Costa Rica hiking trailsWith over 26 national parks and countless reserves spanning the width and breath of the country, Costa Rica’s many hiking trails showcase the immense diversity of the glorious landscape.

From endless stretches of coastal rain forests to high-altitude mountainous terrain, exploring the country on you own two feet is in-arguably the best way to really soak up the splendors. Encounter wildlife, swim under waterfalls and soak in thermal springs as you discover Costa Rica at your own pace.

Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking for a challenging adventure or simply an outdoor enthusiast craving some alone time in pristine nature, Costa Rica offers an impressive array of hiking trails, no matter where you go yet among the seemingly endless well-trodden trails, there are some that still fly way under the tourist radar.

Here are some of our favorite Costa Rica’s Best (Secret) Hiking Trails, perfect for all those who wish to explore the country off the beaten trail:

Braulio Carrillo National Park

Costa Rica hiking trailsIf you happen to be a Costa Rica enthusiast and you’ve never even heard of Braulio Carrillo, don’t despair: you’re not the only one. Hidden in plain view and with a highway that runs straight through the heart of it, this spectacular national park is only steps outside of San Jose and is, in fact, one of the largest reserves in the entire country yet is often overlooked by visitors who head straight to more famous spots like Manuel Antonio.

Well, dear off-the-beaten-trail hiker, that just spells great news for you. With great hiking trails guiding you through luscious primary and secondary rain and cloud forests, Carrillo covers over 44,000 hectares of unspoilt wilderness and boasts a truly impressive diversity of landscapes. From the top of Barva Volcano, some 9500 feet up in the clouds, you’ll soak up all-encompassing views of the Caribbean selva below and will be above all the rivers of the Central Valley which originate here. Home to more than 600 distinct species of wildlife (including jaguars, toucans and tapirs and monkeys) and more than 600 unique trees and plants, Carrillo is revered in Costa Rica for being a pivotal ecological natural haven.

Three ranger stations and a maze of hiking trails could keep you busy here for days on end, just remember to always pack a warm clothing layer as the climate, at high elevations, can be harsh. Including a hike in Braulio Carrillo is very easy when traveling east out of San Jose, into the Limon Province.

Rainmaker Conservation Park

To highlight the fact that some of Costa Rica’s best secret hideouts are literally nestled in plain views, you’ll find this exceptional (and quiet) park merely half an hour’s drive from Manuel Antonio, arguably the most visited park in the country. Ideal for those who are headed in this region but wish to spend a few hours hiking in a more secluded rain forest, Rainmaker offers a leisurely hiking trail through its pristine primary rain forest, which means the trees here have never been cut down.

You may not find as much large wildlife here as you may see in Manuel Antonio (not nearly as many monkeys, for example) but you will encounter swaths of colorful butterflies and poison dart frogs, birds and a flurry of interesting insects. Astonishingly, more than half of the flora and fauna in the whole country can be found here. On a hike through Rainmaker, you’ll cross hanging bridges suspended halfway up the thick rain forest canopy (acrophobia sufferers beware!) and pass several gorgeous waterfalls as you follow the winding path of a river. The main loop requires a moderate level of fitness but if you’re up for the challenge you can tackle the offshoots which head higher up the mountains.  The views from up the top are absolutely sensational and you’d actually be hard-pressed to find better, anywhere in Costa Rica.

Take a photo of the hiking map board near the entrance and design your route to suit your skill level and time constraints. A crisp cold beer from the Perro Vida Brewery right in the park makes for a perfect reward on a hot summer’s day. As usual when hiking in a rain forest, wear good hiking shoes, bring a rain jacket and do wear your swimming costume under your clothes, there are plenty of swimming spots in Rainmaker!

Santa Rosa National Park

A remote park set in Cost Rica’s northwest Guanacaste region, Santa Rosa is usually reserved for experienced hikers looking for an out-there challenge but there is one hiking trail that is accessible for everyone.

Whilst much hiking effort and skill is required to access the furthest reaches of Santa Rosa, many of which are over multiple days, there are a few shorter trails that still offer fantastic hiking experiences whilst meandering through the park. Revered for harbouring one of the last remaining dry tropical forests on our planet, Santa Rosa is home to an array of natural diversity. Its forest boasts different species of monkeys, coatimundis, jaguars and whitetail deer and its secluded beaches are favored nesting sites for Olive Ridley turtles.

There are also excellent SCUBA and snorkeling just a few miles out. Mangroves, evergreen and deciduous forests, marine habitats, savannahs and splendid beaches abound and on a hiking trail through Santa Rosa you can really soak it all in. Whilst some of the beaches are favourite local surfing spots, the sheer number of hiking trails and remoteness of the park means you’ll still see far fewer fellow visitors here.

Reserva Biologica La Marta

Hiking the trails of the La Marta Wildlife Refuge is one of the favorite on-land activities on offer in our whitewater rafting and kayaking tours on the Pacuare River. Both rafters and their non-paddling companions relish the chance to stretch their legs and explore the incredible UNESCO-listed rain forest brimming with sensational wildlife.

As a former mining land – now completely protected for preservation – La Marta offers a little of everything for the curious traveler: historical sites, an astonishing array of unique flora, countless exotic birds as well as pristine streams, a resplendent rain forest canopy and, after ascending to La Mina, the highest point, simply sensational views across the Talamanca Mountains. The 3-mile hike takes about three/four hours and can be completed by just about anyone with a moderate level of fitness and good hiking shoes (the trail can be muddy and slippery at times). Don’t forget the bug spray, wear a long-sleeve top and bring a rain-jacket no matter what time of year you visit. La Marta offers various hiking trails (over 10 miles in total) of varying difficulty, crossing rivers, waterfalls and hanging bridges, and offering great view points along the way.

A great full day excursion out of Turrialba, 2hrs east of San Jose. What we love most about hiking in La Marta is that it’s one of the least visited parks in central Costa Rica so, on some days, you’ll feel like you have this striking place all to yourself.

No matter how many times you’ve visited Costa Rica – or how many years you’ve lived here – there is always something, new, secret and enticing to discover. At CostaRicaRios we love doing just that! So visit our Costa Rica active vacation itinerary ideas to learn all about the active ways you can explore the hidden treasures of our beloved home and contact us for custom tours designed with your most fervent wishes in mind.

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Common Costa Rica Misconceptions Busted

From the funny to the utterly weird, the unique and the most common, you’ll be surprised to know that many first-time visitors to Costa Rica pack an abundant load of misconception along with their bathing suits and bug repellent when they visit. Whilst some are very valid (yes, you will encounter a lot of insects whilst traveling through this natural haven, even in 5* resorts) others are just downright off the mark and have the ability to turn people off visiting, which would be a colossal disservice both to the traveler and the destination.

To this end, we’ve collated the most common Costa Rica misconceptions we’ve heard over the years and busted them straight out of the warm, crystalline water.

Here are some of the most important:

Costa Rica is unsafe – MYTH!

Costa Rica is by far the safest country in Central America and one of the most idyllic for family adventure vacations. With a fervent love of children and strong family values, Ticos embrace children, all children, as if they were their own and this is one country where vacationing families finally feel like their children are valued and welcomed. Loads of fun activities, a wealth of fantastic wildlife and superb eco-lodges and resorts catering to families combine to make this a very safe and rewarding travel destination indeed.

You can save a ton of cash by staying in all-inclusive resorts – MYTH!

The best all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica are exceptionally good value when compared with similar places back home but that’s not to say that they are the best value here. The convenience of such resorts can’t be overstated, that’s for sure, but there are always restrictions as to how much you can eat, drink and do (most only offer inclusive non-motorized water sports, for example) so you will always have to spend extra to do, see, drink and eat more. And that little bit more will usually be offered at much higher rates than outside the resort door. Do your homework and research thoroughly when planning to stay in all-inclusive resorts: do it if they offer everything you need but don’t assume you will spend less. In most cases, you will spend more.

Costa Rica is ‘backwards’ – MYTH!

Many first-time visitors are shocked to see how modern and avant-garde Costa Rica really is, most especially in the largest cities. With wifi, electricity, malls, sealed highways, top-notch hotels, great restaurants, fab malls and everything else you’d see back home, Costa Rica is certainly not lacking in modernity. On the contrary, the country’s fervent passion to nurture its wilderness and wildlife is a true testament to how advanced it really is. With a literacy rate in the 90% bracket, world-class healthcare, affordable education and thriving tourism sector, Costa Rica is one of the most progressive countries you’ll ever visit.

Costa Rican food is too spicy – MYTH!

We guess it’s reasonable to assume that many think the local cuisine is similar to that of its neighboring countries. But, unlike many in the region – most especially Mexican – Costa Rican fare is much simpler and much, much milder. Locally-grown organic produce is available everywhere and food here is wholesome, delicious and enticing even to the fussiest child.

It doesn’t rain in dry season in Costa Rica – MYTH!

It may certainly rain a lot LESS in Costa Rica during the dry season but this luscious country with abundant rain forests didn’t get to be so verdant and fertile by suffering droughts for months on end, every year. Always pack a rain jacket and always expect a short but refreshing downpour, no matter where you go and no matter what time of year you visit.

All Costa Ricans look the same – MYTH!

Blonde, redheads, white skin or black: Ticos come in all shapes, sizes and skin colors due to the long-held immigration influx which has created an absolute melting pot of ethnicities, cultures and cuisines. It’s one of the main reasons why Costa Rica is such a fascinating and enticing country to visit.

You can’t flush toilet paper in Costa Rica – TRUE!

Ok, so here’s a myth we can’t (and would never want to) bust. The country’s plumbing was never built to accommodate for excessive amount of toilet paper and, since many systems are septic or composting, you’ll find ‘toilet paper bins’ in every toilet stall, all over the country. So…do the right thing…and pop it in the bin!

Costa Rica is only about beautiful beaches- MYTH!

The country’s beaches are worthy of all the accolades bestowed but if you think all there is to this superlative country are endless stretches of pristine shores then you will be immensely surprised. A maze of almost 30 national parks combines to protect one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity on earth, with active volcanoes, raging rivers, sparkling lakes and several types of tropical forests all harboring a mind-boggling array of unique and endemic wildlife. On an adventure vacation to Costa Rica you could certainly enjoy a few days at the beach but you can also zip line, whitewater raft, kayak, mountain bike, hike, soak in thermal springs and go wildlife spotting galore. There is just SO much to see and do here…and enjoying the stellar beaches is just one small (yet delightful) component of any visit.

In Costa Rica, it’s easy to rent a scooter and tour around independently – MYTH!

Possible? Sure! Easy? Not quite! Photos of Ticos getting around on their scooters have led many to believe that anyone can just visit and follow suit. But fact is, between the winding roads, long distances and sporadic traffic, getting around on a scooter – for foreigners – can be dangerous, most especially if you’re not an experienced motorbike rider. Costa Rica is certainly not the kind of country you come to learn that skill. Many roads in the country are narrow and steep and boast no shoulder protection at all so unless you’re a seasoned professional (ie. born here) best leave that option alone.

You can fly to Costa Rica with just your driver’s license as ID – MYTH!

It’s been many, many years since North Americans were able to get in and out of Costa Rica without a passport yet, somehow, this misconception still lingers. Those days are well and truly gone so, in order to avoid disappointment, renew your passport!

Costa Rica is an island – MYTH!

Given the above-mentioned misconception about our beaches it’s also understandable to know that many think of Costa Rica as just one colossally beautiful island. But alas…it is not! Connected by land to Nicaragua in the north and Panama in the south, Costa Rica is part of that isthmus neck that joins North and South America. Framed by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean on the east, the country does boast a mind-boggling stretch of coastline but it is, indeed, quite attached.

Fancy busting some common Costa Rica misconceptions for yourself? Why not come discover this perfect paradise we call home? Visit our CostaRicaRios Adventure Vacation page and see for yourself how fun, safe, rewarding and utterly unforgettable a trip to Costa Rica can be!

 

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10 Great Tips to Help You Make the Most of your Costa Rica Adventure Vacation

Here at Costa Rica Rios, specialists in adventure vacations in Costa Rica, we are frequently asked a number of questions about Costa Rica by our customers in advance of either booking their vacation, or prior to their arrival.

As a consequence, we decided that you might appreciate this short and handy downloadable eBook which provides some really useful facts about the country and some additional snippets of information to help you make the most of your trip once you are here.

Of course, we know that each of you may have your own personal questions you need answers to, and we’ll be glad to provide them, just send us a message and we’ll get straight back to you with the answers.

Languages Spoken in Costa Rica        

Costa Rica vacation foodThe official language of Costa Rica is Spanish, though it is a Costa Rican Spanish. English is spoken by approximately 10% of the population, and all Costa Rican guides who work alongside Costa Rica Rios are fully bilingual.

Along the Caribbean coastline a Creole-English language, Jamaican patois (also known as Mekatelyu), is spoken.

There are five indigenous languages spoken depending on what region you are in, including Maléku, Cabécar, Bribri, Guaymí, and Buglere.

To reassure you, with the importance of ecotourism to Costa Rica, English is spoken by the majority of those who work in the tourist industry, and a good number also speak German and French.

Currency and Money in Costa Rica

Costa Rica vacation currencyThe main currency of Costa Rica is the colón (pl. colónes) or CRC. As of February 2018, the exchange rate for the colón was approximately US$1.00 : CRC570.00, UK£1.00 : 810.00 and euro/€1.00 : 710.00. You can check the current conversion rate here.

U.S. dollars are readily accepted in most larger establishments and often in smaller ones. Canadian dollars, the U.K. pound and the Euro are not accepted as currency in Costa Rica. If paying in U.S. dollars, expect change to be in colónes.

To make life as easy as possible for everyone, it is best to have colónes handy to pay for taxis, drinks in bars or food from sodas, and of course tips. Most major credit cards are accepted in hotels, hire car companies, larger restaurants, etc. but check with the establishment first.

A friendly piece of advice – if you have forgotten to exchange some money before heading off to the airport, don’t panic and change a load of currency at the airport as you will get a terrible rate of exchange. Get enough colónes for a taxi at the other end, a drink and a few tips, but go to any bank in Costa Rica to exchange your money once you have arrived. You need to take your passport with you, but you will get a far better rate of exchange than at the airport.

The Cost of Regular Items in Costa Rica

The cost of living in Costa Rica is roughly 23% lower than in the USA and the U.K.

As this eBook is intended to provide quick answers to your questions, we found this brilliant website that provides a regularly updated list of 40 of the most common purchases made by vacationers in Costa Rica – Numbeo.com

The list ranges from the cost of a bottle of water or a bottle of beer, the price of a meal for two, to the average cost of taxi fares, car hire and the price of petrol. It will help you budget for ‘spends’ on your vacation…

The website also includes some additional information for those of you who are a little more curious, such as the cost of property rental (in case you decide you don’t want to go back home!), property purchase prices, the cost of clothing and the cost of utilities.

Time Zone

The time in Costa Rica is based on Central Standard Time, but it does not change for daylight saving, unlike the U.S. or U.K.

Excluding daylight saving, the time in Costa Rica is the same as the Central North American states.

Internationally, the time in Costa Rica is GMT-6.

The Climate and Seasons in Costa Rica

Owing to its proximity to the equator, there are no major distinctions between the seasons in Costa Rica, and the average daily temperature ranges between 70oF and 80oF. Consequently, there are only two seasons in Costa Rica, the ‘Green Season’, which is the rainy season running from May through to November, and the ‘High Season’, which runs from December through to April.

Though having average temperatures, the country also has numerous microclimates,having coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and also the Caribbean, while changes in elevation also affect the weather and temperature. For example, visit the highland town of Monteverde and you’ll be surrounded by a cool mist and fog at least part of the day for most of the year. Alternatively, the Pacific coast around Guanacaste is hot and dry, absolutely perfect conditions to enjoy many of the beaches in the area.

In the rainy season from May to November, the average rainfall in Costa Rica is roughly 100 inches, though in some areas in Costa Rica’s mountains annual rainfall can be as much as 25 feet!

The Caribbean coast has its own microclimate thanks to continual trade winds that keep the climate hot and humid, with rain (not continual!) throughout the year.

 

Emergency Telephone Numbers

Ambulance – 128

Fire – 118

Police – 911  If you need to contact the police for a non-emergency, dial 2222-1365 or 2221-5337

Medical Insurance, Medical Assistance and Vaccinations

If you are coming to Costa Rica on an adventure vacation, then check with your travel insurer. Many insurance companies are very good at having a list of exclusions in the contract small print which may exclude activities such as ziplining or whitewater rafting. Tell your insurer what you intend to do on vacation to ensure you have adequate insurance cover.

The standard of healthcare in Costa Rica is very good, to the point where medical tourism (predominantly cosmetic procedures) accounts for 15% of international visitors to the country.

If you are taken ill during your vacation and need to see a doctor, contact your local embassy to obtain a list of approved physicians. If you have booked your vacation through Costa Rica Rios, get in touch with us straight away and we can advise you on who to see locally.

In general, a local health clinic or EBAIS offers free treatment for minor vacation accidents, while a trip to a doctor with an appointment may cost somewhere around US$50.00 / £30.00 / €35.00

It is advisable to keep details of your travel insurance with you at all times.

As of 2014, no inoculations are necessary for North Americans to travel to Costa Rica. However, the CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccines for Costa Rica: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and influenza. We would suggest you discuss which vaccinations you should have with your physician or doctor and arrange to be vaccinated eight weeks before your vacation begins.

Dengue fever and chikungunya, two mosquito-borne diseases, are also present, though very rare in Costa Rica. Take proper precautions to avoid mosquitoes and mosquito bites by using insect repellents and netting.

If you are going on an activity vacation, it makes sense to put together a basic first aid kit for those inevitable bumps and scrapes – band-aids, pain relievers, tape, scissors, bug spray, sunscreen, and diarrhea medicine may come in handy.

Drinking the Local Water and Eating Local Food

In general terms, tap water in urban and well-populated places is safe. However, in more rural areas of Costa Rica caution is advised.

In ‘out of the way’ rural places, drink only bottled water or beverages from cans or bottles. Always ask for bottled water to remain unopened so you can check for yourself that the seal is intact. Local beer is safe to drink. Avoid asking for ice!

Food is generally safe to eat in Costa Rica, mainly because so much of the produce is local and fresh. Local sodas (small cafés/restaurants/snack bars) are great to eat at and food hygiene good. Best advice to follow is eat where other people are eating, that’s usually a good sign!

Car Hire in Costa Rica, Driving and Road Conditions

To hire a car in Costa Rica you will need your current driver’s license. Most car rental companies have a minimum age requirement of 25, but a few will accept drivers who are 21 and over.

A substantial deposit is usually required – use your credit card for this as then the payment will be ‘held’ but the transaction not completed. If you use a debit card, your account will be immediately debited, and you will have to wait a month for the deposit to be returned.

Many major credit cards offer free car hire insurance. However, check the small print or contact your card provider to ask about car hire in Costa Rica. Because many of the roads are only paved single track or gravel, insurance from your credit card company may be invalid.

Insurance is obligatory and there is only one insurance company in Costa Rica that covers car rental insurance, making collision coverage (CDW) and liability coverage mandatory in Costa Rica for all drivers.

Because of the generally poor condition of roads, your best bet is to hire a 4×4 vehicle, unless you only intend to do a little sightseeing during the High Season when it is dry. Distances may look short on a map, but when you are traveling at only between 30 and 45kph, everywhere takes a little longer to get to, especially on winding country roads.

Car hire may seem costlier than you might expect, but remember that because of the state of the roads in Costa Rica, vehicles have to be replaced more frequently.

The drink/driving limit in Costa Rica is 75mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. There are heavy penalties which include a big fine, invalidation of insurance and possibly jail time, so our advice is not to think that you’ll be okay as you are vacationers. Don’t drink and drive, take a tax instead so you can all really relax and enjoy yourselves.

Seat belts should be worn at all times, it is the law.

Make sure that you always have you driver’s license with you. Though not compulsory, it will put you in a better position if you are stopped by the police if you also have a copy of your passport with you, your car hire documentation and clear evidence that you are insured by the car hire company.

In more rural areas, if you are stopped by the police for an infringement, you may be asked to pay a cash fine to make the charge ‘go away’. This is normal for Costa Rica, so don’t make a fuss, just pay up and put it down to another memorable experience while you were on vacation!

Personal Safety in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country in Central America, so do not expect the same levels of police presence. Opportunistic theft is always going to be something you should guard against, and use plenty of common sense – you may be on vacation, but those of a less benevolent nature are not.

Crime is certainly not a problem in Costa Rica, so do not get the wrong idea!

The following is a list of standard precautions to take:

  • Never carry your valuables around with you, keep them locked in your resort or hotel safe
  • Only take as much cash as you need with you
  • Pack copies of your passport and any other important documentation, you can prepare before your trip
  • Advise your credit card company that your card will be used in Costa Rica
  • Lock anything of worth out of site in the trunk of your rental car when going out and about, especially to the beach
  • Keep smartphones and tablets out of sight when not in use – take your photos, but then tuck your phone safely away in a bag rather than carry it around in your hand

Tipping in Costa Rica

There is no expectation of tips in Costa Rica. While in many restaurants the taxes and tips are usually included in the price. If you see “taxes not included” or “impuestos no incluidos” then expect the bill to be higher than expected and to leave a tip.

Wages are not high in Costa Rica and many workers are dependent on tourism, so we tend to suggest that if you have received good service, a tip will always be welcome and appreciated, as opposed to expected.

We hope this information has been helpful to you, answered any of the most pressing questions you have about Costa Rica, and also answered a few that you hadn’t even thought of asking.

Of course, there may well be a number of other questions you may want answering before traveling for a Costa Rica vacation, hopefully to enjoy an action-packed adventure vacation with Costa Rica Rios. Just send us a message with your inquiry and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Jane and Fraser Tyrrell
Costa Rica Rios
Apartado 43-7150
Turrialba
Costa Rica

www.CostaRicaRios.com

US & Canada Freephone: 1-888-434-0776
International Tel:: ++1-920-434-7485
UK Freephone: 0800-612-8718
Costa Rica Office: 2556-8664

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