Tips on Traveling in Costa Rica

Costa Rica - Between Two Oceans

Playa Hermosa, a busy beach near Playas Coco and across the bay from Papagayo Peninsula.  There are two large resorts on the north end of the beach, Condovac and Villas del Sol.
Playa Hermosa, a busy beach near Playas Coco and across the bay from Papagayo Peninsula. There are two large resorts on the north end of the beach, Condovac and Villas del Sol. | Source

Vacation Tips for Planning Your Trip

If you plan to visit Costa Rica, planning ahead pays off. There are many different interesting things to do and see, and tourist attractions are scattered all over the country. It is also important to know that there are a few possible distractions that can interrupt travel plans to make your trip less than perfect. So, it is in these contexts that I am going to give several valuable tips on traveling in Costa Rica. I offer advice on selecting hotels, beaches and several other areas of interest for tourists. I have also published another article on traveling in Costa Rica which complements this piece.

Look Up Online Reviews Before Booking

I have used TripAdvisor many times to find suitable and even out-of-the-way places for lodging in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I respect the honesty of individuals who have visited a place. So, I recommend that you do the same. Pay special attention to the end of each review where it says “Would I go back to the __________? If they say no, then take that as a word of caution.

But I would be amiss if I didn’t tell you to also watch for phony reviews. It is said that TripAdvisor and other travel forums are being packed with fake glowing reviews. These reviews are being written by people who are getting paid to create fake identities and positive feedback. Although TripAdvisor has a review process that weeds out the obvious fakes, I advise you to be wary of glittery reviews anyway.

I like to read the online reviews that are given a rating between 2 and 4. Here you can see critical viewpoints of a place. No place is perfect for all people, and everyone has different needs and wants. If enough people review a place, they surely you will find someone who addresses points of view that are similar to yours.


Travel Guides for Tourists

Costa Rica (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide)
Costa Rica (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide)

This is the new guide by Christopher Baker. Copies of his old guide can also be found on Amazon.

 

Read a Tourist Guide

Additional advice comes from Christopher Baker in his Costa Rica Handbook: "…..too many Costa Rican hoteliers are abusive to guests and fail to rectify faults with their hotels. …….. Failure to honor reservations is another common complaint. Discounts or refunds are rarely offered, regardless of circumstances. The problem spans all price levels, … and foreign-owned properties have a better record.” So, if you don't have a previous booking and are at the hotel, inspect the room first before you commit.

Finally, I recommend Frommer’s Guide for its reviews. It is always expensive to take a vacation and the small investment of a guidebook can pay off quickly.

Riu Guanacaste Hotel, one of to wings in the original building.  This 4-star hotel is also building another addition for more hotel rooms.  It costs about $70 per night, with food and drinks included.
Riu Guanacaste Hotel, one of to wings in the original building. This 4-star hotel is also building another addition for more hotel rooms. It costs about $70 per night, with food and drinks included. | Source

Check for Complaints Published Online

Before finishing booking, check for consumer fraud reports on the Costa Rica section of the web site Complaints Board before booking. There are some, albeit a few, that have been reported to overcharge on credit cards, particularly one place in Jaco Beach area and three different car rental agencies (all internationally known). Another report was for some poor fellows who lost a surf boards that weren’t tied down well on top of the shuttle bus - the company wouldn’t cover the loss. So check out shuttle services before you book.

Other complaints are also found on this site. A particularly distressing incident happened at the Riu Guanacaste Hotel, where $3000 of bridal gifts were reported stolen. And the staff never admitted culpability, even though one of the employees was seen taking the gift envelopes after the ceremony.

Beach volleyball at sunset on Playa Tamarindo.  People often play soccer on the beach as well.  Boats tow behind floats that hold about 8 people on many beaches as well.
Beach volleyball at sunset on Playa Tamarindo. People often play soccer on the beach as well. Boats tow behind floats that hold about 8 people on many beaches as well. | Source

Don't Go to Some Beaches Expecting a Relaxing Time

The popular beaches have plenty of peddlers who want to sell you Peruvian whistles, beads, pipas (coconut water), granizados (sno-cones with sweet milk powder), ceviche (lime-pickled fish), massages, pottery, beads or whatever. So, if you want a quiet beach time, go to a beach that doesn’t have easy car or foot access. Early mornings are usually quiet times on busy beaches though. Some of the resorts that I know of in Guanacaste have boats that will take you to these beaches so you can relax and not be bothered by vendors. If you can find a beach that is on the Internet and there are resorts there, expect to find someone there who will be offering something for sale. Just say, "No, gracias."

The mountains in the Cordillera Guanacaste are frequently cloud-covered, but the private reserve known as the Monteverde Cloud Forest is most commonly known.  Near the mountains you can often see diffuse rainbows like this one.
The mountains in the Cordillera Guanacaste are frequently cloud-covered, but the private reserve known as the Monteverde Cloud Forest is most commonly known. Near the mountains you can often see diffuse rainbows like this one. | Source
The small bull thorn tree is very common on beaches in the northwest Pacific side of the country.  There are other types of thorn-laden trees as well.
The small bull thorn tree is very common on beaches in the northwest Pacific side of the country. There are other types of thorn-laden trees as well. | Source

Several More Valuable Tips on Travelling in Costa Rica

  1. Rainy season advice. Bring a poncho with you if you are going during the rainy season or if you are going to do a rainforest tour. If you have an expensive camera, buy an expensive rain sleeve to protect it or take a camera that is water-proof.
  2. Check on prices or be hesitant with a vendor if you are buying something or want a specific service. Services provided outside of the hotels can be cheaper than those in the hotel, like massages on the beach. Be willing to walk away and talk again with them again later. Tourist prices are always higher than what the "Ticos" are charged.
  3. If you book at an all-inclusive resort, find one that suits your needs and vacation goals. Some resorts have many activities and they cater to different needs, from relaxation to partying (even parties for adults who have risque lifestyles). In family resorts, there are usually plenty entertainment activities. Find a resort that is small in a remote location if you want to relax.
  4. If you are frugal, bring your own cosmetics, shampoo, etc. because the prices on these things in stores is usually twice that paid in other countries, including Nicaragua and Panama.
  5. On certain beaches there are an abundant number of thorny trees which shed limbs and thorns regularly. So if you around these trees, these inch-long thorns can penetrate through the thin soles of your flip-flops. So, it is better to wear tennis shoes or thicker sole sandals if you are wandering off the beach on trails.
  6. If you are wandering on trails near estuaries or rivers, watch for crocodiles, snakes and ants. My strategy, as I like taking photos in out-of-the-way places like these, is to walk very slowly and inspect about a 5-10 foot area around where I place each step. This way, I see many things that others would miss and I avoid stepping in the wrong place.
  7. On some beaches the waves are very high and there is usually a strong riptide (like Cabuyal beach near Papagayo Peninsula). Don't wander to far out and get local advice regarding swimming safely on the beach. Many of the drownings that occur on the beaches involve tourists who have been drinking too much alcohol.
  8. See my other HubPage articles on Costa Rica, which includes information on festivals and food. My articles have many photos as well. I also have a blogspot site called GuanacasteCostaRica-MiTierra.


Lastly, if anyone has more tips to add to this list, I am always open to suggestions. Add your comments below.

Vacation Activity Preferences

What type of activity do you look forward to the most if you take a Costa Rica vacation?

  • Relaxing on the beach
  • Zip lining
  • Touring the cloud forest
  • Staying in an all-inclusive hotel
  • Snorkeling or scuba diving
  • Seeing and/our hiking around an active volcano
  • Relaxing at a hot springs resort
See results without voting

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Comments 10 comments

kelleyward 4 years ago

I've always wanted to travel to Costa Rica. Thanks for this useful information. I never thought of bringing a poncho but I'm sure it would be needed since it is in the rainforest. Voted up! Kelley


eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas

I love Costa Rica, used to go there to surf. I want to go back next year, if the economy holds out. Thanks for the memories.


TravelAbout profile image

TravelAbout 4 years ago from United States

I'm really interested in your travels. Your hub was very informative. We actually are trying to plan a trip to Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica. We are thinking we might wish to eventually live in one of these tropical paradises. Like you, I also referred readers to Frommers and TripAdvisor. If you don't mind a personal question, how long have you lived in Costa Rica?


Randy M. profile image

Randy M. 4 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica Author

TravelAbout: I would like to travel to Ecuador sometime as well in the future also. I have lived in Costa Rica for about 5 years now. I like the small town that I live in and wouldn't want to live in San Jose or any of its suburbs. A slower pace of life is okay with me.


TravelAbout profile image

TravelAbout 4 years ago from United States

I'm looking at Cucuenca and Vilacabama as possibilities to retire. If I have my geography right...Vilacabama is right next to Costa Rica. Unfortunately, Costa Rica has gone up in price too much. We like Panama, Boquete (mountains) but that is going up in price also. My heart leans more toward Ecuador. We are very boring people and just enjoy a simple life. Have you posted any pictures of Costa Rica on line? I hope we can make the trip in this coming year but who knows 'stuff happens'.

I'm just afraid that when we can go, prices will have gotten too high and we won't be able to afford there either. I also hear rumors that it will become more difficult to leave the US with some bill they are trying to pass. If you try to live outside the country you have to leave all your assets here. The only countries that ever had a law like that was communist Russia, Some part of Africa and Hitler's Germany. I don't know what is going on but I get a nervous gut feeling things might get a lot worse here. China and Russia have formally formed a pact and the US is out and they are getting rid of the petrodollar. Talk is the US is going to sink. I don't know it's always been a strong country and maybe it will get through all this unscathed; but I'm not convinced of that yet. You are lucky to be where you are now!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from United States

Randy, your advice and your pictures are awesome! Super hub. Voted up and ... well, awesome!


Randy M. profile image

Randy M. 4 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica Author

Cool, and thanks, Dirt Farmer, glad you stopped by!


Sushma Webber profile image

Sushma Webber 4 years ago from New Zealand

Very well laid out and informative article with great photos. Thanks for a glimpse of Costa Rica.


titi6601 profile image

titi6601 3 years ago

I want to visit Costa Rica. I have never gone, but everyone always has nice things to say about Costa Rica.


Randy M. profile image

Randy M. 3 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica Author

titi - It is a nice place to visit and there are so many different things one can do. I have ended up living here. Some days I am still a tourist and I don't think I will ever exhaust the possibilities.

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