Packing for Costa Rica: The Essentials

If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably bought your tickets and are getting excited for your trip to Costa Rica! You likely have a good idea of where you’ll be visiting and the types of activities you’ll be doing. What you might not know, though, is that each of those places is going to have slightly different weather. Costa Rica may be a small country, but it has an astounding 12 life zones, each with its own microclimate. In this post, we provide an essential packing list that will make sure you’re perfectly packed and ready for anything. Whether you’re visiting the hot and steamy jungle of the Southern Pacific, the cool, misty cloud forest of the northern mountains, or the arid beaches of Guanacaste, this post will tell you everything you need to bring on your trip to Costa Rica.

 

Packing List for Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Packing List for Costa Rica Vacation

1.  Clothing

General Rule

Keep it casual. With the exception of the San Jose metro area, Costa Rica is an extremely casual country. Leave that office-wear behind and slip into your more comfortable tops, shorts, and sandals. If you plan to go out for some nice dinners, simple dresses are a good option for the ladies and dressy shorts and polo shirts for the men. For shoes, we’re in our flip-flops most of the time but also have some dressier sandals for going out to eat or somewhere nice.

Exceptions

Visiting San Jose? If you’re planning a museum day in downtown, pack some pants, a nicer top, and closed-toe shoes (think flats for women). Things are a bit more refined in la ciudad (the city) than at the beach and in rural mountain towns. You’ll probably also want a lightweight sweater/cardigan or jacket for the cooler mornings and evenings.

Visiting the Cloud Forests of Monteverde or San Gerardo de Dota? Bring some layers like pants, long sleeve shirts, and lightweight jackets. Temperatures are a lot cooler in these areas compared to the beach, especially at night. Even temps around 65˚F (18˚C) can feel cold because of the high humidity.

Visiting Drake Bay, Puerto Jimenez, or the Caribbean Coast? These areas are extremely hot and humid so bring lots of lightweight clothes. Anything that wicks away moisture and dries quickly is great.

2.  Raincoat or Light Waterproof Jacket

May through November is the rainy season in Costa Rica, though in many areas it can rain at any time of year. It’s a good idea to pack a lightweight raincoat or at least a poncho no matter where you’re going. And if you’re visiting Monteverde, San Gerardo de Dota, or anywhere on the Osa Peninsula (Drake Bay or Puerto Jimenez), it’s more of a necessity. We couldn’t believe it, but it rained on us on a recent visit to Drake Bay in February during the height of the dry season when rain is not expected at all.

If you’re looking for recommendations for a good raincoat, Jenn has this Columbia one. She loves it because it’s really breathable and even wore it in Boston before moving to Costa Rica. For the guys, Matt likes this one from Marmot because it’s super lightweight and packs up really small. He also likes that it has armpit zippers for extra ventilation while hiking—it gets steamy hiking in the tropics.

3.  Hiking Boots or Sturdy Sneakers

If you plan to go hiking or walking, you’ll definitely want some sturdy shoes. Closed toe hiking boots or sneakers are best because of ants and other biting insects, but a lot of people love heavier hiking sandals like Keens. If you’re visiting during the rainy season and plan to do some more rugged hiking, opt for hiking boots or old sneakers as trails can get muddy.

For boots, Jenn has had Merrell Moabs for several years now and recently upgraded to the newest model, the Moab 2. They are still great shoes, for both light hikes and more challenging terrain. They’re waterproof, yet breathable, lightweight, and sturdy. They perform fairly well in all conditions, including on slippery mud and loose gravel. Matt has Moab 2s now as well and has been happy with them. They are also waterproof, breathable, and very comfortable even for long hikes. He likes the Mids because of the ankle support but they also make a short, ankle option

4.  Sunscreen

Sunscreen is 3-4 times more expensive in Costa Rica so be sure to bring as much as you’ll need. We really like using Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch because it doesn’t sweat off that easily (good if you’re doing something active) and feels lightweight. Go with at least SPF 30 because the sun is very strong since Costa Rica is so close to the equator. 

5. Insect Protection – Repellent and Clothing

Mosquitoes are the worst in the rainy season but are bad in some areas year-round. The Central and Southern Pacific, Osa Peninsula, and Caribbean Coast (Tortuguero, Cahuita, and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca) are probably the most buggy overall. Unfortunately, there are some nasty mosquito-borne illnesses in Costa Rica like Dengue so you’ll want to be protected. Lightweight pants like the zip-away kind are recommended for hiking in the rainforest. You can also get pants that have been treated with permethrin, a built-in insect repellent. Read our post Mosquito-Repellent Clothing for Costa Rica for more information.

We recommend insect repellent for other times that mosquitoes may be lurking. Key times we always get bit are at dusk or shortly thereafter when going out to dinner. Many restaurants are open air, which is wonderful, but does expose your legs to the pesky bugs. Here are some good options for travel size sprays or wipes, which fit right in your carry-on. If you’re looking for more natural options, we’ve had good luck with our Repel Lemon-Eucalyptus spray and doTERRA Terrashield Repellent, which is a blend of essential oils. If you want to wait until you arrive, you can also readily find the aerosol-type sprays with DEET in Costa Rica. Just know that most contain only 15% DEET and run about $8-10 per can.

6.  Sunglasses and Sun Hat

If you’re planning on beaching it and are prone to burns, a sun hat is a great, chic option. Wide brim ones like these are the best. You can usually find them at souvenir shops in popular tourist destinations too if you want to wait to buy until you get here. Ball caps or visors are great for the guys, and sunglasses are also a necessity for obvious reasons.

7.  Water Shoes

If you have water shoes, bring them. They’re really nice to have if you plan on visiting any of Costa Rica’s amazing waterfalls where the rocks are often slippery. They also come in handy if you plan to go whitewater rafting or kayaking.

8. Rash Guard Shirt

Rash guards, those stretchy polyester shirts that surfers often wear, can come in really handy. They’re great for keeping you from getting a sunburn when you’re swimming, snorkeling, or even boogie boarding. Jenn has this inexpensive one and really likes it.  

9.  Beach Towels/Sarong

In a few places like Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo, you can rent chairs on the beach. But in most places, it’s just you and miles of open sand. Having a towel or sarong to lie on definitely makes a day at the beach a lot more comfortable.

10.  Spanish Phrasebook

English is widely spoken in major tourist destinations, but you’re sure to run into people who only speak Spanish. Bus drivers, shuttle van drivers, and cab drivers are generally Spanish only. If you don’t speak the native tongue, a pocket guide with commonly used phrases can be very helpful. We always used to travel with this compact one from Lonely Planet.

11.  Dry Bag

Dry bags are essential if you’re planning on water sports and also helpful for keeping the humidity off your valuable electronics. Dry bags are available in all sizes, from small wallet-sized pouches to hefty 20 liter bags. Here is a link to an assortment to give you some ideas. It’s also a good practice to keep the inside of your dry bag or camera case moisture free. Bring a few of those silica packets from an old shoe box or purchase some new ones to pop in and absorb any moisture that may accumulate.

12.  Portable Alarm Clock

For some reason, many hotels in Costa Rica don’t have alarm clocks and we’ve had hoteliers forget to give us a wake-up call more than once. Either bring along your cell phone and use that as an alarm or invest in an inexpensive portable alarm clock. We’ve been using this simple one, which costs around $15, and love it because it’s so small and uses a regular AAA battery.

13.  Money Belt

Costa Rica is generally a very safe country, but like anywhere else in the world, petty crime does occur. Money belts and passport holders are always good and are especially important if you’ll be traveling by public bus. Matt has been wearing this belt almost daily since we moved to Costa Rica. It’s great because it keeps his money hidden and safe. He also keeps a few extra 20 mil bills in there in case a place is cash only, which has come in really handy.

14.  Portable Medical Kit

We always carry a small medical kit in our day pack just in case. We’ve used it several times for minor injuries we’ve gotten while hiking like scrapes, cuts, or stings. There are many different kits to choose from. Here’s a link to one with a nice waterproof case. It has room for other things you may want to put in like a few Tylenol, tweezers, or nail clippers.

 

Special Considerations – Rainy Season

Diamante Waterfall | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
The river at Diamante Waterfall during the rainy season

 

If you’re visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season (generally May through November), you’ll also want to bring the following.

1.  Umbrella

It can rain a lot in the rainy season. You’ll probably want to double up on a raincoat and umbrella. 

2.  Shoes You Don’t Mind Getting Wet

It can be nice to have some casual waterproof shoes like Crocs in case it’s pouring rain and you need to walk outside. Sometimes rainwater on the road can be a few inches deep during a heavy downpour!

3.  Raincovers

If you’re backpacking, a raincover for your pack will be essential to keeping your clothes and other belongings nice and dry.

4.  Insect Repellent

We know it’s in the list above, but we can’t emphasize enough the importance of having bug spray for the rainy season. Costa Rica has some mosquito-borne illnesses that you don’t want to get. Here’s a link for some travel size options.

 

Special Considerations – Drake Bay or Tortuguero

Drake Bay, Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Cruise ship harboring at Drake Bay

 

If you’re visiting Drake Bay or Tortuguero, there are some additional things you’ll want to bring.

1.  Flashlight or Headlamp

In these remote destinations, you’ll definitely want a flashlight. Lighting is used much less in these places than what you’re probably used to. We like the versatility of headlamps and have been using Energizer models for several years.

2.  Waterproof Sandals

If you’re taking the boat shuttle from Sierpe to Drake Bay, you’ll need to be ready for a beach landing. Be sure to bring sandals or shoes you don’t mind getting wet for wading through the ankle-to-knee-deep water.

3.  Plenty of Cash

Drake Bay does not have an ATM or bank and Tortuguero only recently got one ATM so sure to stock up on cash before you arrive. These are very small villages. Many of the businesses are cash only so keep that in mind.

Special Considerations – Driving

1.  Map

If you’re renting a car, we always recommend getting a GPS or Wifi stick. But sometimes, with Costa Rica’s infamously poor signage and rough mountain roads, you still end up getting lost. It’s a good idea to have a map handy just in case. You can find maps in Costa Rica, but they’re usually less expensive online. This waterproof map is one of the most popular.

Have a question about what to pack? Ask it below.

Post Updated: May 16, 2018

Some of the links in this post are connected to affiliate programs we have joined. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

 

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260 Comments

  1. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Agreed! Keep it casual and keep the slicker handy. We visited for 2 months in 2013; plenty of sun, rain and humid conditions, so be chill and be prepared. Thanks guys!

    Tweeting from Bali.

    Ryan

      1. Hello i’m going to Costa Rica is June from the 4th to the 10th. I’m going ziplining, down the concrete water slid and exploring volcanoes. Is their anything else I need?

    1. We are still coming in October ….planning on flying in at san jose and staying in la fortuna.Also only planning on bringing a carry on bag;so what musts should be packed in that bag?

      1. Hi Shannon, If we recall correctly, you are coming in the rainy season so be sure to bring a rain jacket, long lightweight pants, an umbrella, and insect repellent. You’ll need most other things on this list but probably not beach towels or a sun hat if you are only going to La Fortuna.

  2. Hi, I was wondering about the weather in Santa Teresa this month… what to expect and how to prepare? 🙂 Thanx!!

    1. Hi Jenny,
      Santa Teresa is one of the drier areas of Costa Rica so the rainy season usually isn’t too bad, especially early on. In July, you can generally expect dry, sunny mornings and showers in the afternoon. Some days it will probably rain all day though (it is the rainforest, after all) so be sure to build in some flexibility in your itinerary when planning activities. For ways to prepare, don’t forget an umbrella, raincoat, shoes you don’t mind getting wet (and muddy- lots of dirt roads in ST), and maybe clothes that dry quickly if you plan on hiking. That’s pretty much it though. July might be a little rainy but it’s a great time to visit with fewer tourists and everything nice and green. Oh and if you’re driving, definitely get a 4×4. Enjoy!

  3. Thanks for the links to some of these essentials, ordering some as we speak! Will be in Jaco for a week in a couple of weeks!

  4. We are flying into San Jose in three weeks and are excited to trek our way maybe past Arenal volcano and over to the west coast to the surf towns. I had a question about phones. I really am weary about bringing my smart phone for pick pocketing reasons and don’t feel it is necessary since we will be backpacking and staying in hostels. I would rather get some sort of pre paid flip phone just for emergencies and to meet up with my brother at the airport. Suggestions on what to do/where to find a temporary prepaid phone to travel with?

    1. Hi Jennifer, the easiest thing to do might be to bring an inexpensive phone with you and when you arrive get a pre-paid (rechargable) chip at the airport. When we first moved here we brought a cheap unlocked GSM quad band phone (see some options here) and it worked great. What you will need to do is take the phone to the Kolbi desk near the baggage claim area. They will be able to sell you a chip with however many minutes you think you need ($5 or $10 should be plenty if you are just making occasional calls), then if you run low you can recharge it at most convenience stores in the country. This also works if you have an old iPhone that is unlocked… then you can use it for internet as well.

  5. Agree with all except the GPS comment at the end. We had a lot of trouble with our GPS here. Better to use Waze – a lot of Costa Ricans use it & because users can enter stuff on the fly it’s very up-to-date. I’d also recommend renting a 4WD because a lot of the roads here are not paved, are steep, and sometimes you have to drive through streams/rivers.

    1. Hi Loring, Good point on the Waze app. How well GPS works in Costa Rica really depends on if the maps are current, and the ones the rental car company gives you (at least the company that we work with) usually are. But the Waze app is a good resource too (especially for avoiding traffic around San Jose) and something that we recommend as long as you have an Internet connection. For anyone thinking of renting a car here, we have lots more info on our Rental Car Discount page and talk about the different areas where you need 4WD, etc.

    2. Just returned from a two week road trip through the western half of the country. the GPS I received from Budget Rent a Car was not worth the money. I had Google Maps on my Android and found it to be exceptional. We did not try Wayze which many of the expats whom we met swore by.
      The key here is being able to find a destination such as a hotel or inn (or my cousins’ farm) which may not come with traditional street addresses. But all were searchable in Google Maps.

  6. Hello, Matt & Jenn! Very interesting post. I am visiting Costa Rica during the spring, but I have no further information about our plans and activities. Therefor I was curious to see some packing ideas and recommendations! Best regards you too

  7. Hello!

    My boyfriend and I are preparing to spend two weeks in Costa Rica (leaving on Christmas Day)!

    I had a question about packing… in regards to shoes in particular.

    We will start our trip at Manuel Antonio and then we’ll visit Playa Samara and Playa Junquillal. We don’t really have hiking plans as of yet, although I’m sure we will hike at some point. So far, I’m planning to bring some flip flops for beach/casual walking and a pair of sneakers for any hiking/nature walks. Do you recommend or think its worth buying some hiking sandals like Chaco’s or Keen’s (the kind with the criss-crossy straps)?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thank you!

    1. Hi Natascha, Hiking sandals are good for if you’re planning to visit a waterfall or an area that gets muddy like Rio Celeste, or if you’re visiting during the rainy season. But for casual hiking during the dry season, sneakers are fine. We used to bring just sneakers when we traveled as tourists before we started doing more intense hikes and they worked great.

  8. We are going toward the end of April and are staying in the Arenal area. We plan to go to the La Fortuna waterfall, Arenal hanging bridges, Rio Celeste/Tenorio Volcano, and Arenal Volcano Hike. I have two pairs of Tevas, one sandal and one closed toe Mary Jane style. Are they sufficient? Also, will I need pants or long sleeves? Will it get cool there in the evenings? Is this one of the areas that has a mosquito problem? I had dengue fever when I lived in Brazil. It was horrible. I don’t want to go through that again. Thanks.

    1. Hi April, You will see lots of people on the trail with Teva-type sandals. We usually recommend something completely closed and more sturdy like sneakers or hiking boots because of biting insects but you can probably get away with what you have for the hikes you’ll be doing. For Rio Celeste, definitely wear your Tevas because the trail is often really muddy. You can expect warm temps, in the 80s during the day, high 70s at night, so you won’t need pants to stay warm, although lightweight pants are always a good idea for avoiding bug bites if you’re prone to them (like me). There are mosquitos in Arenal but they shouldn’t be too bad in April because that’s the dry season. Best to bring some repellent though just in case (see our recs above for what works best in Costa Rica). Dengue occurs throughout the country but isn’t too common, especially in the Arenal area so try not to worry.

    1. Hi Nicole, Esterillos will be hot and dry during your visit so be sure to pack some comfortable lightweight clothes. I love little sun dresses to wear on hot days. And since you’ll be at the beach, flip-flops or sandals you don’t mind getting wet and sandy are a must. One other thing we left off our list that is nice to have is a lightweight beach blanket. This microfiber one is good because it dries quickly.

  9. Love our site! My wife, 18yr old daughter and I are visiting CR in July. Days 2-3 on the Pacuare and staying in the lodge 1 night. 4 days at Tabacon in La Fortuna. 6 days in Manuel Antonio at Tulemar Bungalows and finally 4 days at Copa de Arbol in Drake Bay. Can’t wait! Question: should we add another night in Drake Bay and stay one less night in Manuel Antonio? What do you think? Thanks for a great site!

    1. Hi Rick, That sounds like a fabulous vacation. Adding another night in Drake Bay and staying one less in Manuel Antonio is a good idea. Manuel Antonio does have a lot of activities but 5 days is probably enough to see everything you want. Drake Bay takes a little while to get to and is awesome so it would be nice to have another night there. The only thing to think about is that Copa de Arbol, while an amazing hotel, is a little far out of town so you’ll be isolated. Of course this might be a good thing depending on the type of stay you’re looking for, and of course, you can organize tours through the hotel to get off the resort.

    1. Hi Shea, You won’t be able to make calls from your iPhone unless it’s unlocked (more info on this here), but you can use it for internet anywhere there’s wifi, which can be handy as most hotels and some restaurants have it. We would definitely recommend some kind of case like a LifeProof case to protect it from water if you’re planning on any water activities (visiting waterfalls, going on a tour by boat or taking a boat taxi, visiting the cloud forest, etc.).

        1. Our advice hasn’t changed, but it seems like cell phone companies in the US are making it much more affordable to have plans that work internationally, which avoids the problem of needing an unlocked phone. FYI- The iPhone 5 is quad band too (we have one).

  10. Hi! Very useful list, thank you! I leave soon for Costa Rica and I plan to do some hiking, but easy hiking (for a day max.). Usually, when I travel, I bring flip-flops, a pair of sporty flats and a pair of closed-toes sandals (open on the top and behind the heel). I already did hiking in the US and Europe with my sandals. I am wondering for weeks if I need to bring a pair of hiking boots (I travel with a carry-on only) or if my pair of Merrell sneakers will do the job (they are not waterproof). What to do you think? Thank you!

    1. Hi Julie, What you have should work fine. We usually recommend closed toe shoes for hiking so that you don’t get stung by ants and other bugs so your Merrell sneakers will be fine for that, and you can use your closed-toe sandals for easier hikes that don’t seem too buggy. Hiking boots are good for longer, tougher treks, but we used to just use our sneakers when we traveled as tourists for fairly rugged hikes and it was totally fine. They might just get a little wet/dirty.

  11. Hi! I’m heading to Puerto Viejo area in a few days! And recommendations for that area? Planning a lot of warm weather/rainproof clothing, but do you think I’ll need a warm jacket as well?

    1. Hi Keya, Puerto Viejo is very hot and humid and you will probably see some rain in April so you’re planning for the right conditions. Clothes that quick dry and wick away moisture are good and lightweight cotton too. Since PV is a beach destination, the same tips we gave to Nicole in the comment above apply too. You won’t need a warm jacket as temps will stay in the 80s but if you’re planning on spending time in San Jose at the beginning or end of your trip, you might want something warmer like a light sweater or jacket.

  12. These are great recommendations. The only thing I wish I could find on your list was any options for traveling with children. We are bringing our 2.5 year old son with us. We plan on doing hiking at Manual Antonio and the beach, as well as downtown San Jose, and staying in a remote location in Rincon. We will be there in May. I will get the bug sprays and sunblock, but do you have recommendations for weather-proofing a toddler, or his stroller, or his Ergo baby carrier (that would allow us to carry him on our backs)?

    1. Hi Leah, Funny that you say this. We recently had a baby and are going to start a family travel section on our site. We’ll have a packing list post for kids out soon. In the meantime, you might want to think about getting him a sun protection hat; swim shirt (long sleeves is best); water shoes in case there’s rocks in the ocean or you go somewhere slippery like a waterfall; sunglasses if he’ll keep them on; and swim diapers if he’s still in them. We just got Alva ones and really like them. The Ergo is a great idea too- we use ours all the time for hiking and the easiest way we’ve found to weather proof it is to just carry an umbrella. Covers you from the sun and if it rains too.

  13. OMG! I leave for costa rica in less than 2 weeks and will be staying at the Sheraton Ecaszu. It’s newer, not too far from airport, and being that it’s my first visit… felt it was the safest. I will be staying for a week with plans to visit the rain forest, volcano/hotsprings, beaches and definitely try my hand at white water rafting. We would like to schedule some day tours to make the most of our short time there. Any tour company recommendations? I plan to pack shorts, tops, and sundresses.. along with sandals, flip flops, water shoes and tennis shoes. I think I have everything covered. I’m just super excited!!!

    1. Hi Shaunta, Your packing list sounds good. For tour operators, it really depends on exactly where you’re going and what activities you’re doing. If you want more help planning your trip, we offer itinerary services and could give you specific recommendations for the best places to do the things you want to do and the best companies to use. Here’s a link with more information.

  14. Thanks for your lists – I checked out all your links. We are going to CR for our first time in early June with two teens, one which mosquitos tend to like a lot. We decided to stay in Tamarindo at Hotel Luamey the whole week and reducing the amount of time driving. We are not into the party scene so I hope we made the right choice! Any knowledge on what the mosquito situation is in that area in general? Thanks!

    1. Hi Susan, Tamarindo is a party town only if you want it to be so don’t worry. We were just in the Tamarindo area (late April) and were surprised to see mosquitoes since it’s so dry there right now. Definitely come prepared with plenty of repellent, long pants, etc. We have a whole post about preventing mosquito bites and specifically recommend repellents. Here’s the link: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/costa-rica-mosquitoes-prevent-zika-dengue/. We also just read a great article from NPR on which repellents work the best that might be helpful. Hope your family has a great trip!

  15. Omgeeee! The more I read, the more I panic? We leave for CR in 2wks – since reading this mornings posts, I have packed the following ….
    5 t-shirts
    2 long sleeves
    3 shorts
    2 quick dry cargo pants
    2 sun dresses
    1 jacket & 1 rain coat
    Cap, bandanas
    8 socks, undergarments
    Hiking, tennis, water,flip flops and dress sandals
    Medical kit, razor, toothbrush/toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, sunscreen, beach towel, swim suits, sunglasses, water bottle, flash light, drinking cup, binaculours, umbrella, money belt,

    Have I lost my mind? We’re going to Rincon de la Vieja, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Pali Verde National Park and Samara
    Do I have everything or do I need to pack more??

    BTW – great site, thanks!

    1. Hi Lulu, You haven’t lost it- your list looks great! For the places you’ll be visiting, the only other thing we could think of is mosquito repellent. We usually use Repel Lemon Eucalyptus but there are lots of kinds that work. Nice itinerary, by the way. You’re going to have an awesome time!

      1. Hi
        We are visiting CR this Thursday your recommendations are so helpful
        thank you a abit unsure of what we can buy in Uk for mosquito repellent
        the Deet is recommended so think this is all we will have. Only going for 10
        days we are visiting SJ and Panama it is a guided tour holiday.
        Any tips will be very appreciated as to what kind of clothing to pack.

        Jenny and Andrew

        1. Hi Jenny, Repellent with Picardin works well too and I believe it can be found in the U.K. We have been using this one from Sawyer and like it because it’s a lotion so provides good coverage but doesn’t feel like you have anything on.

          For clothing, it’s the rainy season so San Jose and Panama will be experiencing some rain. Temps will still be warm but it can feel cooler especially at night because of the moisture. Bring the usual clothes for a tropical climate but also a pair pants and something long sleeved. Also don’t forget a lightweight raincoat and an umbrella. Hope you enjoy your trip.

  16. Traveling to Costa Rica for the first time in June with our three boys (8, 11, and 13). We will be in the La Fortuna/Arenal area for 5 days followed by Manuel Antonio for 7. Do you have any tips and/or suggestions for families? We’re looking forward to surfing, zip lining, white water rafting, etc … I’ve left quite a bit of time on our itinerary for exploration. Thanks!

    1. Hi Tonya, There are tons of things to do with kids in La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio. We actually have a chapter in our itineraries book that focuses on family travel and we recommend those two destinations and give a lot of ideas. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon. Since writing the book, we’ve also learned of a cool waterpark near La Fortuna that you might want to check out called Kalambu. Hope that helps!

  17. Hi there! Thank you so much for all of the information and advice! What a help! We will be visiting Sarapiqui and Manuel Antonio and doing some light hiking/white water rafting, do you think chacos will be sufficient or should we bring sneakers as well?

    1. Hi Angelica, Lots of people hike in Costa Rica with sandals like Chacos, but we usually recommend something closed toe for protection against biting ants and other critters. Sneakers would be good for light hiking around Manuel Antonio and Sarapiqui and for anything more rigorous, hiking boots are best.

  18. Hi Jenn and Matt – Thanks for the useful info on this site.
    We are visiting CR for the first time in February 2017 starting in San Ramon, then on to Sarapiqui, Arenal, Manuel Antonio, and then finishing in the Osa Peninsular. We’ve got hiking boots/trainers, but we have read that light weight wellies/jungle boots are more practical for jungle hiking. What do you think?
    Many thanks
    Andrea

    1. Hi Andrea, We’ve seen people hiking in rubber boots, but personally, we prefer regular hiking boots because they’re more comfortable. Waterproof hiking boots are good for most places and should be fine for where you’re visiting (we just added some recommendations above for good waterproof boots if you need some- see #3). If any place is really bad from recent rain (unlikely in Feb. because it will be dry season), sandal-type hikers like Keens is what we would recommend. Hope that helps. Have an amazing trip!

  19. We are family of five (kids are 5,8 and 11) from Sweden. We are going to Costa Rica for 3 weeks , flying out tomorrow (!!).
    Your web site is phenomenal and I have found many useful tips! One thing I would like some advise on is driving companies. First we planned to rent a car but we have now opted to use drivers instead. Are there any companies you recommend? We are going to Arenal – Osa (Brasilito) – Manuel Antonio.
    I also wonder if there is anything that is hard to come by in CR. I’m usually pretty calm about packing, thinking anything forgotten can be bought, but is that also the case in CR?
    Many thanks in advance! /Jessica

    1. Hi Jessica, Glad that you found our website so helpful. Sorry we couldn’t answer your last minute question before you left for your trip. We try to get to them as fast as possible but it often takes us several days to respond to everyone. Hope your trip is going well and you are enjoying Costa Rica.

  20. I am going to Costa Rica with 3 of my friends from college. We plan on going from La Fortuna, to Monteverde, to Jaco (subject to change), then lastly Manuel Antonio. As for shoes what do you recommend? I personally was considering bringing an old pair of high-top sneakers and an old pair of vans in addition to flip flops. My idea was that as we traveled if my sneakers were to get destroyed I would just throw them out. Do you recommend this practice or is it worth it to get some sort of hiking shoe? We don’t necessarily plan on going on exhausting excursions but I would like to get out there.

    1. Hi Luca, It really depends what you plan on doing. If you want to hike around the volcano in La Fortuna or through the cloud forest in Monteverde, you will probably be more comfortable in hiking boots or at least sneakers with some support. Most of the trails have some steeper spots and there can be loose gravel and tree roots. Your plan is fine though if you don’t plan on much hiking. For Jaco and Manuel Antonio, you can get away with sandals and your sneakers since those areas are more about the beach. Tough question without knowing more about your plans but hopefully it gives you some idea.

  21. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    My husband has travelled to San Jose several times for business. His next trip is planned for the middle of October and I get to go with him! We’ll be in San Jose for 4 days and then we plan on staying 5 more days for some R&R and to celebrate our anniversary. We were hoping for some fun in the sun on less crowded sandy beaches. The folks who work for him in San Jose are split….some say go to the Caribbean side and others say the northwest Pacific side in Guanacaste would be best. What location or area would be best for some sunny beach time during that time of the year (the second and third week in October)? We’ve also been looking on Airbnb and VRBO at vacation rentals. It’s interesting the number of modestly priced places that describe not only the rental property, but their security ‘systems’ including bars on windows, private gates, safe-rooms, alarm systems, etc. Is there a crime problem in some of the coastal towns? Are there some that are more dangerous than others? We have travelled extensively in the US, Canada, Europe, Singapore and Malaysia but have only run into these types of ‘security’ comments when traveling in India. Just want to make sure we’re not missing something.

    1. Hi Betsy, Northern Guanacaste is the driest area of the country, but in mid-October, the Caribbean side is actually a little better. The Caribbean has different weather patterns from the Pacific Coast and usually has pretty nice weather in September and October. Check out our Weather post for more info. If you do the Caribbean, Puerto Viejo or Cahuita would be good choices for sunny beach time. On security, Costa Rica is a really safe place in general. It doesn’t have much violent crime; petty theft is more of a problem. Occasionally there are break ins at houses, but it is usually opportunistic (e.g. someone leaves a window open and something valuable in sight and someone comes in and grabs it). That’s why some of the vacation rentals get security systems, gates, etc. You will often see this in the beach towns of Guanacaste for the nicer houses. Security is especially a concern for vacation rentals because they are often left vacant when no one is renting them and more prone to problems. You can ask specifically about problems with theft at the property before you rent, but most places are pretty safe as long as you take the usual precautions and use the security measures that are provided. Bars on windows are really common throughout Central America and don’t really mean anything so don’t worry when you see that. Here’s a link to our Safety post for more tips and info. Hope you and your husband have a great trip!

  22. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Thanks for all the useful information – it’s awesome! We are heading to CR next February. We’ll be in Arenal for one week and Manuel Antonio for one week. I am trying to decide if I want to bring a pair of hiking pants because of the mosquitos (I get eaten alive and so does my 8 year old). Seeing as that it will be dry season in both areas, do you think I can get away with shorts/dresses or would it be wise of me to have the pants…just in case? Thanks is advance for helping me decide before I shop. 🙂

    1. Hi Vanessa, Since you’re prone to bites, we’d recommend bringing them. Even though it will be rainy season and there will be fewer mosquitoes, you’ll probably still find some if you do activities outdoors. Better to have them and not use them than end up somewhere and wish you brought them.

  23. Hi we will be traveling to guanacaste , Costa Rica next week. Kind of worried what to expect. What type of clothing to bring and what to go see when we get there. Can you please give us some suggestions

    1. Hi Valerie, Hope we’re not too late since your trip is coming up soon. It will be rainy season in Guanacaste so you can expect a mix of sun and rain. Follow our tips above for what to bring (raincoat, umbrella, etc.) And for clothing, temperatures will still be nice and warm but it will be more humid and wet so clothes that are lightweight and dry quickly are a good idea. As for activities, it depends on exactly where you’re going in Guanacaste. But you’ll be able to do almost all the same activities you can do during the dry season – you’ll just have to get your timing right and do them when it isn’t rainy. For that reason we always recommend being flexible with your plans this time of year and not booking everything ahead of time. Have a great trip!

  24. My sister and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica for three weeks. We thought we would head to Tortuguero by boat from San Jose for a few nights.
    Can we rent a car in Tortuguero? We thought if we could rent a car in Tortuguero we would then head to La Fortuna for a week and visit all the surrounding areas, such as Arenal National Park, Monteverde, Rio Celeste.
    We thought we would then drive to Mauuel Antonio for 7 nights. If we drive is there anyplace we should stop and see along the way? We have a couple of nights to stay somewhere along the way.
    When I checked on renting a car, it seems they give you a couple of options on insurance to buy. How much should it cost to rent a car for a week?

    Fun planning our trip, just need a little help.

    Diana and Cathy

    1. Hi Diana, A few of the rental car companies will let you rent a car from La Pavona (where the boat drops you off), including the company we work with, Adobe. They don’t have an office there so they charge a small fee to meet you and drop off the car. We do a discount through them though, which helps offset the cost. Here’s a link to our rental car page so you can get a sense of cost – pick Guapiles/PN Tortuguero for pick up location. We recommend a 4×4 for getting to Monteverde. Our rental car page has more info about insurance (see the FAQs). Basically there is a basic liability insurance you have to get and anything beyond that is optional. A lot of times your credit card will provide some coverage so check on that before buying anything more.

      For places to stop along the way, there are a lot of choices so it really depends on your interests and how much time you want to spend driving. You can use our map to see what’s around where you’re going. If you would like, we can also help you through our itinerary service. We can make a custom itinerary for you and your sister, or if you already have a good draft, we can critique it and give you suggestions for places to see. There’s more info here.

  25. Hi Jenn and Matt, your site is very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to compile all this wonderful information! I’ll be traveling to Costa Rica Oct. 21 – 29 for a retreat at SamaSati Resort & Rain Forest Sanctuary. We’ll have daily yoga sessions on-site, and spend some of our time in the forest, doing a bit of hiking (one day we’ll go to a waterfall) and possibly ziplining and other activities, but we’ll also go to Puerto Viejo for some beach days. I understand it’s not as rainy on the Caribbean coast. How much rain should we be prepared for, and also how prepared should I be for cooler weather (evenings and early mornings)? Also, would cross trainers be sufficient to wear for short hikes, or should I get a pair of Keen or Teva-type sandals due to dampness and puddles? And finally, I’ll have one free day at the end of my trip, which I was hoping to spend at the beach. Can you give any recommendations for a day trip, keeping in mind, I’ll have to be back at San Jose for a noon flight the next day? Thanks again!

    1. Hi Terry, Temps will be hot in the mid 80s most likely. It will feel a little cooler first thing in the morning and after dark, especially because of the humidity, but still be warm. Just bring some light layers like yoga pants and a long sleeved shirt but you might not need them at all. Rain is less on the Caribbean in October but starts to pick up towards the end of the month so you should be ready for it. Rain is less predictable on the Caribbean coast in general.

      Your cross trainers should be fine for casual hiking. For a beach to check out, you could head up to Cahuita, just north. It’s a chill little beach town with a different feel from Puerto Viejo and its beaches are beautiful and less busy. Hope you enjoy El Caribe!

  26. Hi! So glad I found this site.
    Looking to go hiking in January 2017 coast to coast. What sort of sleeping bag would you recommend?

    1. Hi Nick, We’ve never camped in Costa Rica so aren’t totally sure but assume you would want something really lightweight and breathable since it is so hot and humid. Some parts of the country are much cooler especially at night (places inland in the mountains) so you would need layers for sleeping. A lot of people use hammocks at the beach to be off the ground. Sorry we can’t be of more help. Hope you have a great trip. CR has some awesome hikes!

  27. Hi!
    We are two familys ( kids 13 -16 y.old) going this christmas holliday, 4weeks, to CR.
    This website has been a realy good help for us planning.

    Now we have some last questions about clothing after reeding your packing tips.
    We are going to do some hiking around Manuel Antonio, Monte Verde, Arenal, Tortuguero and around the caribean cost.
    Do you think we will need raintrousers or is it enough whith a rainjacket?
    About shoes (I see you guys have low ankled ones) We heard it is best whith high boots for protection against snakes, but is it realy that many snakes you come across? And isn´t it really to hot for that kind of boots? At the other side we dont want to expose our kids to any high risk dangers =/ (we haven´t been to this part of the world before, but traveled Africa, India, and east asia, whith low trainers and flipflops)

    1. Hi Lotta, December will be dry season on the Pacific slope so you shouldn’t see much rain and just the raincoats will be fine for the Caribbean side too. Rain trousers might be useful for really rugged hiking during rainy season, but overkill for December.

      I think most people who know Costa Rica would agree that it is unlikely that you’ll encounter a snake where you’re going. These are all well traveled places so stick to the trails and watch your step and you should be fine in regular low boots. We have been hiking regularly in Costa Rica for three years and have only seen snakes a few times, and it was always in places where no one else had been hiking or well off the trail (usually wrapped around a tree). So yes, though your best protection is high boots, in reality you won’t need them. Hope your family has a great trip!

  28. Hello. My husband and I are planning on visiting the arenal volcano and guancaste beaches during he week of oct 8-15 (yes, this weekend). Just wondering how rainy it is and if it’s worth coming during this super rainy season? I don’t want it to be a wash out. Please let me know as soon as you can.

    1. Hi Valeria, Most people don’t know this but the Arenal area actually has reverse weather during the rainy season. September and October are usually the best times to see the volcano. It does rain frequently there so you’ll get some but it shouldn’t be bad. Guanacaste will likely be rainier but you should still have a decent amount of dry weather. Usually it rains in downpours that don’t go on forever. Definitely don’t cancel your trip! I know it’s hard to believe, but rainy season is the most beautiful time of year to visit Guanacaste. A lot of people who go in the dry season complain that it’s too barren and desert-like because all the vegetation is brown and dead. Everything is nice and green this time of year and as long as you’re flexible with your plans, you should still be able to do most of the things you want to do. Hope that gives you some insight.

  29. Hey I am travelling to CR from Edinburgh next weekend for a two week tour with G Adventures. Your site is very helpful and appreciated so I just wanted to say thank you 😉

    1. Hi Madeleine, You can learn more about Costa Rica’s different beers in our article here. The most common are Imperial and Pilsen, but you can find a lot of craft beer in San Jose now. Stiefel Pub has a big selection and there are other places too.

  30. Hi, I am going to be in Costa Rica from November 9th on. I will be in La Fortuna, Monteverde and Malpais for a while before I head to Cuba. Should I bring more than sneakers (New Balance) to go on some light hikes and adventures? I’m a bit confused because I’ve read a lot that briniging GoreTex hiking shoes is not a good idea…

    1. Hi Anna, We have received a few questions about the best shoes for hiking recently. Scroll up and check out our responses to these comments: Angelica (May 9, 2016), Andrea (June 18), and Luca (July 18). If you still have a question after that, send it our way!

  31. Great information! Thank you! My wife, 8 year old daughter and 5 year old son and I will be there from Nov 16 through the 26th. Staying in Punta Uva, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side for 4 nights and then in Dominical, Puntarenas on the Pacific for 4 nights. Bugs tend to be attracted to my wife and she knows about the mosquitoes (how bad are they in November?) but is also worried about sand fleas, or whatever you call the mites/bugs that can be so annoying on the beach and cause lots of bites and itchiness. Are these bugs an annoyance on the beaches there as they can be in other countries? Between mosquitoes and sand fleas, I feel like we need to wear pants on the beach!
    We are also worried about crime and being an obvious target as tourists and even more so with a large SUV rental. Any updated tips around theft/crime lately? We know to not go out at night and not to take anything to the beach that you don’t want stolen, including shoes… This is the attitude after reading many blogs – too paranoid?
    Thanks very much for your advice/knowledge! Trying to relax about the trip and not worry the whole time…

    1. Hi Will, The bugs like me too so I understand. There will still be some mosquitoes around in late November. We haven’t had problems with sand fleas or mosquitoes at those beaches so you should be fine there. Make sure your wife wears a good repellent when she’s outside otherwise, and she should be in good shape. We have some recommendations above (including the comments) and in our Mosquitoes post.

      For safety, it’s good to be cautious but try not to worry too much. Lots of people, locals included, drive big SUVs. Just don’t leave anything in the car and you should be fine. We have more safety tips in this post, including some specific ones for if you’re staying in a vacation rental. And yes, not bringing much to the beach is a good idea if you plan on all being in the water at the same time. But for the record, we’ve never had our flip-flops stolen 🙂 Hope your family has a great trip.

  32. Hi Jenn,

    Thanks so much for the great post! I’m traveling to Costa Rica late May, and I’m curious if you can give me any more details on what to expect for the weather. I understand that it can be unpredictable in May, but when it does rain is it heavy/light? Is it typically morning/afternoon/night? What activities are still doable on rainy days?

    Thanks,

    Maggie

    1. Hi Maggie, May is a great time to visit. The rainy season is just starting then so usually it isn’t that bad. It depends on where exactly you’re visiting, but generally it is nice in the morning and rains for an hour or two in the afternoon or evening. Sometimes more and sometimes less. We have answered a lot of questions about what it’s like in the rainy season in this post – scroll down to the comments to see what people ask. If you haven’t booked anything yet, Guanacaste is the driest area of the country. Sometimes it doesn’t start raining there until after May- but this is both good and bad since everything is very dry and barren there until the first rains come.

      For activities, you should be able to do just about everything as long as you’re flexible with your plans (e.g., you might have to swap a hiking day with something indoors if it’s raining so don’t book everything in advance). If you want more help figuring out the best places to visit that time of year, we can help more through our itinerary service.

      1. Jenn and Matt …visiting CR this August and it’s rainy season and staying at Jaco..first timers and don’t know what to see around…pls advise and also renting car…what to expect and is driving in CR safe?

        1. Hi Edna, We’d be happy to send you some recommendations for what to do in Jaco by email if you’d like. Just send us a message at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com with some info on the types of things you’re interested in and we can send some specific tour ideas.

          For tips on driving, we have a whole post here about what to expect. And for renting a car, be sure to read our FAQs article about renting a car, which explains pitfalls to look out for regarding insurance.

  33. Hi Jenn and Matt.
    Having read your website and all the usefull tips and advices, we feel much more comfortable about visiting CR in Febr. 2017. We can’t thank you enough!!!
    One thing that we have been wondering about, are the risks of meeting poisonous animals, like snakes, spiders, etc. What are your experiences here and what to do to avoid them?
    Though we are great nature-lovers, coming from Scandinavia, we are not familiar with these kinds of animals and how to handle them. So your advices are much appreciated.
    Thanks in advance – and best regards – Steen & Jeanette

    1. Hi Steen and Jeanette, Glad our website has been helpful with your planning. We answered a similar question recently about the likelihood of encountering snakes in Costa Rica. Scroll up to our response to Lotta on October 6. The same answer applies to spiders, scorpions, etc. I’ll add that you should always shake out your shoes before putting them on just in case. You never know what might be hanging out in there! Hope you have a great trip.

  34. Always so amazed at how update this blog is and these postings…thank you for the wonderful tips. We are leaving for Costa Rica next week, (5 adults) for 10 days. I’ve been checking out the weather and it looks like rain every day. We are staying close to Tamarindo. In your last post, I believe you said this is the drier area? Better to book activities in the morning or afternoon? We are waiting to book anything until we get there. We are without a car, don’t mind taking local transportation anywhere…I am an avid hiker and would love to get in a good hike, can you suggest anywhere that we can do this using local transportation or hiring someone?

    1. Hi Lisa, As you have probably heard, we are bracing for a hurricane in Costa Rica right now. Current projections have it leaving the country by Monday next week but you should keep an eye on it. In general, though, you can’t rely on the long term forecast here so don’t worry what that says. We have a whole post about why that’s the case. I am not sure what the weather has been like in Guanacaste recently but this is a transition time from rainy to dry season. Usually it isn’t too rainy but we have been getting a lot on the S. Pacific coast. This is due to a low front though, which isn’t affecting the northern zone I don’t think. Waiting to book activities is a good idea and morning is generally better than afternoon.

      There isn’t a ton of hiking near Tamarindo (it is fairly flat there), but Diria National Park, Rincon de la Vieja, and Lomas Barbudal are within a 1.5 hr drive. Better to rent a car for the day or find a guide to take you than try public transport, which will take a lot longer. Let’s all hope this storm isn’t that bad and doesn’t affect your trip!

  35. Hi,
    I have been enjoying your awesome website info. My husband and I will be in Playa Chiquita for 2 months starting mid January. We will not be renting a car and were wondering about bicycle transportation….do you know anything about used bikes or long term reasonable price rentals.
    I have read there is no real rainy season for this area as it rains equally through the year but was wondering if rubber boots would be worth bringing? (if there is room) Also are sunscreen and mosquito spray readily available as a 2 month supply would not be practical!
    Thanks so much for any information you can provide.

    1. Hi Barb, That’s great that you’ll get to enjoy Playa Chiquita for two months! We don’t know much about arranging long-term bike rentals, unfortunately. When we lived there, we got around on foot or by car. I know there are plenty of places that rent them though so maybe you can work out a decent price by asking around. Another idea is to buy some in San Jose, where it will be cheaper, when you arrive and sell them after.

      Personally I wouldn’t worry about rubber boots because it’s so hot there. You will want to be in sandals. We usually wear our Crocs if it’s really muddy because you can just hose them off.

      Sunscreen and repellent are easy to find in grocery stores there but it is at least twice as expensive so bring a good supply with you. Hope you enjoy El Caribe, it’s a beautiful place!

  36. hi, we are going in February to San Jose, driving to Turrialba and doing the Rio Pascuare river rafting trip for a day. Staying near Cauhita. Planning on visiting Puerto Viejo and the national parks/beaches. Also Bocas del Toro hopefully!. And Tortuguero. I’m thinking it’ll be hot/humid so shorts/t-shirts/sandals should be good. And bug spray. Do you think this itinerary will be good for 2 kids 10 and 13 and us? And how about renting a car? Should be reserve it from the US or wait until we get to San Jose and rent one? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Robin, That sounds like a good itinerary. Just make sure you’re allocating enough time to each place as some of those areas take a while to get to (Tortuguero and the Bocas). One other thing is that the Pacuare is a challenging river, since you have younger kids. Some of the tour companies have a minimum age (we have seen 12 yo for February).

      Definitely book a car in advance as the rental companies in Costa Rica do not have as big of an inventory as the US and elsewhere and you’re traveling during high season when they could sell out. You could check out our rental car discount as you’re shopping around. Hope your family has a great trip!

  37. HI there. My husband and I are heading to Jaco beach in 2 weeks. We plan on renting a car and head to Tabacon hot springs for one night. Any suggestions…?? tips? Looking for any helpful advise. Thanks in advance. Robin & Trevor

    1. Hi Robin, Tabacon has a really nice facility, I think you will enjoy it. You may want to stay for more than one night, though, if you’re planning it as a day trip from Jaco because it is a fairly long drive. La Fortuna has a lot of things to do as well so it is worth spending a couple of nights. If you’re looking for ideas for activities or restaurants in Jaco, we have a lot of information in our destination guide, Jaco: Costa Rica’s Booming Beach Town. Hope you and your husband have a great trip!

  38. Hi Jenn and Matt! My friend and I will be traveling to CR in a week. We’ll be driving to La Fortuna, Monteverde, then Tamarindo. Do you have any recommendations for restaurants, bars, activities, or things to see? We’ve booked the thermal springs in La Fortuna, zip lining in Monteverde, and were thinking of doing a surf lesson in Tamarindo (company suggestion??) We’ll be in CR for 8 days total. Also, are there any basic Spanish words/phrases I should make sure to know? We’ll be renting a car (possibly through you guys!) with GPS.

    1. Hi Katrina, We have recommendations for restaurants and things to do/attractions for each of those places in our destination guides here: La Fortuna, Monteverde, Tamarindo. The Tamarindo article has a couple of good options for who to go through for a surf lesson. We also have an article on basic Spanish words and phrases that you can print out and bring for your trip. Thanks for considering renting through us and supporting our website. Hope you and your friend have a great time!

  39. Hello
    My wife and I are excited to visit Costa Rica soon.
    I read somewhere that American dollars are accepted, and I’m trying to figure out how much to bring. Is it possible to get American dollars from an ATM in Costa Rica. Is their own currency more accepted by restaurants, stores, etc.
    Thank you.
    Bill

    1. Hi Bill, Yes, US dollars are accepted everywhere and you can get them out of the ATM, but you have to be careful that you are getting a good exchange rate. It’s a good idea to have local colones too for that reason. For more information, read our Money post where we cover this topic at length.

  40. Hi!
    We will be visiting Cahuita and Tortuguero end of April. Is bringing a mosquito net, besides DEET, advisable?
    Regards, Vincent

    1. Hi Vincent, We recommend staying in accommodations with screens on the windows, or if there are no screens, with mosquito nets over the bed, so you shouldn’t need one. A lot of the places in Cahuita are open air, but they do have mosquito nets. Definitely check before booking anything, though.

  41. HI,
    I am going to be in costa rica for a week in late January, and will be going to san jose, arenal, and monteverde..i was thinking of packing shorts and polo shirts and a rain coat for most of the trip, and bringing 2 long pants. with a pair of sandals and merrell hiking shoes what do you think..
    thanks
    JIM

    1. Hi Jim, That sounds like a good list for where you will be going. The only thing we would suggest is some shirts that are lighter in weight than polo shirts if you plan to do anything active. It will be fairly hot in La Fortuna so clothes that are lightweight and wick away moisture are nice for hiking/walking.

    1. Hi Reid, We live quite far from Playas del Coco, but as far as we know, the weather has been hot and dry all through Guanacaste. It’s the dry season now when this area of the country sees little to no rain and temps are in the 80s and 90s. I don’t think the town has a problem with crime. It does have some bars that get lively at night, and you have to take the usual precautions in general, but I don’t think it’s worse than anywhere else in the country. You can read our safety tips here.

  42. Hi! Do you happen to have the same sort of tips for toddlers? We are going to Costa Rica in mid February to early March, and I thought I had things mostly figured out but now I’m not so sure. We haven’t decided where we are going (would like to explore as much as possible), but mosquitos (and Tika) are a concern for me, as well as any painful bites really. For example, with sandals, which would you go with for your child (closed toe, regular straps, flip flops, zero sandals at all). I’m not sure if all these warnings of getting bitten are being overly emphasized or if I need to be concerned. Lastly, are locals there generally concerned with Zika and having children / being pregnant?
    If you’ve already covered this somewhere and I’ve missed it, please let me know where to find it.
    Thank you for any and all input.

    1. Hi Nancy, We have a separate packing post for babies here. We wrote it when our son was younger but most of it applies to toddlers too (he is 13 months now). If you have any follow up questions after reading it, feel free to ask on that post.

      Insect bites are a concern for parents (us included), but as long as you take precautions, many bites are avoidable. I think we have a repellent that is kid safe in the baby packing post. Our son wears open toe sandals or baby Keens when he’s outside because it is so hot. Socks and shoes would be too much for the beach, but if you’re going to the mountains, that setup would work. Mosquitoes are much fewer in the dry season when you will be visiting, and the number of cases of Zika and Dengue have dropped dramatically. We have more info in our Costa Rica and Mosquitoes post, including a link at the end where you can find current data. Also, I should mention one thing that caught us off guard with our son recently: fire ants at the beach. These are tiny ants that are attracted to food. They aren’t harmful per se but when they bite it hurts/burns a lot. They are not super common but you might want to pick up something to carry around in case your son has an allergic reaction like ours did. Pharmacies are common in most towns but it’s nice to have something close by just in case.

      1. Thank you so much for your reply! We of course packed too much as it was her first international trip, but had an awesome time. The only time we really needed bug protection was in the cloud forest since it was the dry season. I went with the piccaridin lotion, which was barely noticeable when on. She lived in her sandals. Such a nice change from the snowsuits and layers here!
        Thanks again!

  43. Hi Guys!

    4 of us will be spending 10 days in the Samara/Puerto Carrillo area in a Villa we rented on Airbandb. We are flying into Liberia and renting a 4×4 SUV(I tried using your Adobe discount but could not find the form to fill out on your page?). We have tentative plans to hit all of the beaches in the area including Playa Carrillo and Playa Barringa(have you been to this one? Will there be issues driving to that beach in March?) but we also want to include some day trips to see parks/volcanoes/anything else awesome! Hoping you might have some suggestions as to what to see and do in that area or reasonably reachable in a day trip and if there is anything specific we should have on our packing list for that part of CR?

    Any advice would be welcome!!

    Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Scott, We cover Samara in detail and give ideas for day trips in our post Playa Samara: Guanacaste’s Most Overlooked Beach Town so start there. We give one good hike in the area in that post and there is also Diria National Park not too far way. Volcanoes are too far from Samara to do on a day trip, unfortunately. We have been to Playa Barrigona – it’s in the Samara post too, including directions. You will be fine with a 4×4. I can’t think of anything more to pack for Samara in March other than what we have here. And not sure why our rental car discount widget was not working. It takes a few moments to load so try it again and just let us know if you are still having a problem. Hope you have a great visit to Samara/Carrillo!

  44. Hey Guys!

    I’ll be leaving for a solo trip down to Costa Rica mid-March for 8 days. Flying into San Jose, then to Monteverde and finally on to Manuel Antonio National Park. I have a full day at Manuel Antonio with no plans, do you have any suggestions as to what I should do. I’m most interested in outdoor adventure activities and hiking. Also, any guidance you can give me about traveling alone would be very much appreciated! Your website has already been a ton of help. 🙂

    Cheers!
    Julie

    1. Hi Julie, You should look at our Things to Do Near Manuel Antonio post. I think you would enjoy hiking at Rainmaker Park. Costa Rica is a great place for solo female travel, and you will likely meet many other women doing the same thing when you’re here. We actually have been helping another woman with her solo travel plans and she just decided on Manuel Antonio for her time at the beach as well. It’s generally very safe here but you do have to watch out for petty theft especially. Be sure to read our Safety Tips post at some point before you leave.

  45. Hello! Thank you for your blog. I’m leaving for Costa Rica in a few days. What socks would you recommend for the women’s Merells? Thank you!

  46. Hi Jenn/Matt,

    My husband and I will be doing our first trip to CR in a couple of weeks – La Fortuna, with 1st & last night in San Jose.

    Would you also recommend travel locks for suite cases and backpacks, or is that overkill?

  47. My wife and I are headed to CR in 10 days. Our plans will take us to Manuel Antonio 3 days, Corcovado 3 days, and La Fortuna 4 days. I was wondering about hiking in tourist areas, to waterfalls, etc and snakes and if therec is a large concern or need for special protection. Also was hoping to do some deep sea fishing but prices seem extremely high for private charters. Are there shared charters available to split cost that you could recommend. Would love to try Marlin fishing. Also are any of these locations good for whale watching?

    1. Hi Ronald, We recently addressed the issue of encountering snakes – scroll up to our response to Lotta on October 5, 2016. I will add that snakes are more likely in Corcovado, but you will be there with a guide since one is required and it is very unlikely for there to be a snake right in the middle of the trail. Private charters are somewhat expensive in Costa Rica because fuel prices are very high. Shared charters are available through certain boats in Quepos/Manuel Antonio. They run around $400-600. If that is something that you would be interested in, let us know and we can get you the name of a boat captain we highly recommend. As for whale watching, it is available out of Uvita (45 min. south of Manuel Antonio), but it isn’t prime season now so probably isn’t worth the trip down there, unless you enjoy time out on boats. It is a beautiful ride with nice views of the mountains, and dolphins have been spotted lately. Here is a link to our whale watching post with more info.

  48. Hi,
    we are visiting Santa Teresa/Mal Pais in July and don’t know whether or not to land in San Jose or Liberia. There are 3 adults and 3 children. Which route to Santa teresa by car is the least painful 🙂
    Thanks,
    Erica.

  49. Hello Jenn and Matt! We are from the west coast of Canada. My husband and I and our three boys, 8-11-13 with my brother and his wife and three kids 5-10-13 will be spending 10 days just south of Dominical in March. We are so excited, I love traveling but this will be my kids first time out of the country. We have 1 night open yet to book, and we are trying to decide which Volcano we want to see, we also are trying to decide if we rent two cars or get a shuttle. Were are kinda between Uvita and Domincal, and want to do surfing, hiking, visiting the local animals and refugees and just relaxing. do you have a suggestion since we fly into San Jose, where we should go for our first night and if we should try navigating the roads ourselves? Love your site and think that it is awesome the adventure you guys are on! Bless you and your family! thanks for all the itinerary ideas!

    1. Hi Lisa, If you have only one night, Poas is your best option for a volcano because it’s not too far from San Jose. Arenal is about 2.5 hrs and farther from Dominical so you would want to spend at least a couple of nights. We have an article on Poas here.

      As for car vs. shuttle, it is much easier to get around the Dominical area with a car because restaurants, stores, and activities are more spread out. The route from SJO to Poas to Dominical is all well traveled and paved so the driving isn’t bad. If you do decide to rent a couple of cars, make sure to check out our discount. Or if you decide on a shuttle, we can help with a private one if you would like. Just reply to this thread and let us know. Hope your group has a wonderful trip!

  50. Thank you! We booked San Jose only because of the date that was offered for a direct flight there. We really wanted to check out Tamarindo and Nosara from Liberia but I guess that will have to wait until another trip 🙁 Do you have any tips on getting a shuttle or taxi all the way to Mal Pais from San Jose? We land at 12:30 so I’m hoping that we can get into ST the same day.

    1. Since you have a bigger group, it makes the most sense to get a private shuttle. We recommend arranging it in advance to get the best price. A taxi will be more expensive. We work with a local shuttle company that is very reliable and can get you in touch with them if you like. The cost is around $230 total, which includes the ferry tickets and 1 hr’s worth of stops along the way to eat, sightsee, etc. Let us know if you would like more information. And you should be able to get there same day as your flight no problem.

  51. Going on my first trip to Costa Rica. I will be staying in Puerto Viejo, is there anything that I need to know about the area? Do I need anything special on my trip there? I will be staying for one week in October.

    1. Hi Carrissa, We have a post on Puerto Viejo with more information about the town here. As for if you will need anything special, I can’t think of anything. October is drier on the Caribbean side so you shouldn’t need a lot of rain gear. It’s very casual there so don’t worry about bringing anything too dressy. Pack lots of stuff for hot, humid weather. If you plan to get around by bike (common in PV), make sure to bring some comfortable clothes for that.

  52. Thank you for all the great suggestions! We will be visiting in late May through early June, and our family group includes 5 adults and two kids (10 and 7). We had the whole trip planned through Costa Rica Expeditions, and we are seeing a lot of the country! We are spending 2 nights in San Jose (Poas Volcano, La Paz Waterfall Gardens), 3 nights in Tortuguero, 2 nights in Arenal, 2 nights in Monteverde, and 2 nights in Tamarindo. I think that’s a lot of different climates! Our activities are mostly light/safe hikes and visiting places like butterfly gardens and wildlife shelters. I figure we all need to pack lightweight long pants and long sleeve shirts, shorts and short sleeve shirts, light jackets/sweatshirts, rain gear, sandals, sneakers, hiking boots and hats. (And the basics like sunblock and insect repellent, of course!) Am I missing anything, temperature or weather wise? I’m nervous because we are really moving around a lot!

    1. Hi Leah, That is a fast paced itinerary and I think we would have done it a little differently if you were one of our itinerary clients. It’s doable, though, and you will get to see a lot of the country.

      Your list looks good. You won’t need too many warm clothes – only for Monteverde – so don’t bring much of that. You will see a little rain that time of year, so lightweight clothes that dry quickly are best. And don’t forget a flashlight. Hope you have a great visit!

  53. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    My family and I are heading to CR the last week of June. This will be our first trip there, we are all very excited. Just a couple of quick questions. First, we are staying at a resort in the Arenal region. What can we expect as far as rain? How about the bugs? What would be your suggestion as absolute essentials to be sure to pack? Thanks!

    1. Hi Colleen, La Fortuna has different weather patterns and typically isn’t as rainy in the traditional rainy season (May to Nov.) so late June is usually pretty nice. You should still bring some rain gear like a light coat and umbrella, though. There will be bugs since it’s the rainforest but your resort should have things under control for the most part 🙂 I can’t think of anything special to pack other than what we put in this list so you should be all set. Have a great trip!

    2. My husband and I will be at Arenal in the last week of June as well. Very happy to hear the weather is different than typical rainy season. Thanks for all of your work and wisdom on this blog!!

  54. My husband and i are planning on going to la fortuna in may 18-24, i am very nervous because is rainy season, what should we expect?

  55. Hi! Me and my mom will soon be visiting Costa Rica this July 29 through August 11. We’ll be in San Jose and Montenegrio and i was just wondering if you had any tips or advice for us as it will be our first time there. Also THANK YOU for writing that article as it was very helpful.

    1. Hi Alyssa, For packing tips, this post pretty much covers it. We talk about what clothes to bring in the first section and then you will want to read the rainy season part too. For more general travel information, look at the articles in our Practical Travel section, which cover things like exchanging money, tipping, driving, road conditions, weather, etc. We also have posts specifically on San Jose and Manuel Antonio if you need ideas for things to do or good places to eat. Hope you and your mom have a great trip!

  56. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    I am arriving in Liberia at 6am on a Sunday at the end of March and am wondering if private transport is the best way to get to Monteverde. I’d prefer a shared shuttle but don’t know if one would be available at that time and day.
    Also, it is recommended to bring warm clothes and rain gear for Monteverde but when I just checked the forecast it sounds like it will be very hot and not too rainy. Should we still wear long pants and bring rain gear at the end of March? Maybe it is cooler when hiking in the cloud forest??
    Finally, I am not sure if the typical eco lodge will have screened windows and wonder if I should get mosquito nets.
    Hope you can help answer these questions!

    1. Hi Margaret, We just researched shuttle options for someone from LIR to Monteverde. There is a shared shuttle with one of the bigger companies, but it doesn’t leave until 3 p.m. I don’t think you will find one that early unless you go private. We know of a good, reliable company that our clients have had good luck with if you would like a recommendation. Just let us know by responding to this and we can email you. The cost is around $185.

      The forecast is not reliable in Costa Rica and we have actually heard that Monteverde has been cool lately. We had a client there a few days ago and she had a couple of days of typical misty cloud forest weather so definitely bring pants and light layers and raingear. At night and early in the morning, it can feel especially cool.

      Most lodges do have screens, but not all, so I would ask them if you aren’t sure. A lot of times you can tell by the pictures online too. If they don’t have screens, they almost always have mosquito nets for the bed.

  57. I have about 8-9 hours to spend in San Jose before my flight takes off after a week in Montezuma. Any hidden gems or suggestions on place to check out in the San Jose area? I am open for anything!

  58. Your website has been so wonderful and helpful to us as we plan our first ever trip to Costa Rica. Thank you so much for all of your insight!

  59. Thank you for all your posts with great information. My wife and I will be traveling to Costa Rica from July 8th thru the 30th and this is are first trip. We are renting a home in Atenas and have rented a car to get around in. Any special ideas or suggestions for us. Your packing ideas will help alot.

  60. Hi Jenn and Matt, I just want to say thank you so so much for this blog. It has been perfect in helping my boyfriend and I plan for our Costa Rica trip in 2 days!! Extremely helpful and keep up the great work!!

  61. Hi! I really enjoy reading your blog! I’ll be backpacking through Costa Rica the entire month of June. We intend to travel the entire country. Yoga, hiking, waterfalls, cliff jumping, canyoning, hot springs, volcanoes, cloud forest, zip lining, and white water rafting are all the different things we want to do. I would also love to find a water villa (hopefully on the Nicoya Peninsula) so we can have the experience of sleeping on the water. Are there anything’s we’re missing that we should invest our time in. We LOVE a good adventure. We have the entire month.
    Also, I’m bringing a pair of Adidas running shoes, a pair of Teva flip flops, and a pair of low top converse. I figured the running shoes would be okay for yoga, walking around, and the waterfalls/hikes. Should I invest in some Chaco sandals (since they have a back strap) for the waterfalls? Would they be good enough for the hikes to the falls and through the rain forest? I assume the Teva’s is what I would wear when in town and going to eat. Maybe the converse aren’t necessary and the Chaco’s are?
    Any help is greatly appreciated!
    Hopefully one day I’ll be able to quit my teaching job and live in paradise too!
    Thanks!
    Millie

    1. Hi Millie, Sounds like you have a lot of great adventures planned. One thing you might want to add is the Diamanté Waterfall in the Southern Zone. It’s a beautiful hike through the rainforest but the best part is the cave you can sleep in, set right behind the waterfalls.

      We think you will get some use out of Chacos. They’re nice to have for waterfall hikes like you said, and you can use them for rafting and easy hikes too. You could probably leave the Converse if you’re bringing running shoes. Hope you have an amazing adventure!

  62. Hey!
    Very useful blog! Thanks for doing this 🙂
    Don’t know if you can help us not freak out, the weather in Pacific costal (Nosara to Tamarindo) says 100% rain and storms and 0% sunlight. Should we remain hopeful that there will be sun or the weather is usually accurate?

  63. Hi Jenn and Matt!
    Planning a trip for July and this site has been an awesome resource! I am visiting Monteverde and Manuel Antonio. I’m torn between hiking boots vs. closed-toe hiking sandals. Doing lots of hiking, hoping to hit some waterfalls and take a rafting trip but I’m concerned about bugs if I go with sandals. Would love to hear your suggestions!

    1. Hi Meg, For hiking, we always wear our boots so we would recommend that if you are planning a lot of treks. Hiking sandals are nice for waterfalls and rafting, but they don’t have the protection that heavier boots have. Like you said, there are a lot of bugs in the rainforest/cloud forest and many sting/bite. Better to be safe than sorry.

  64. Hi – Thank you so much for all the info!! Can you touch more on water shoes – looking for something that is good for hiking, waterfalls, white water rafting, etc. We will only be in Arenal for 4 days and lots of activities (headed to the beaches of Guanacaste for R&R after) so looking for something not super expensive but will do. Thanks!!

  65. Hey Jen/Matt! I will be going to Nosara for a yoga retreat 2nd week of July… whats the weather like then? Not looking forward to the mosquitos… have you been to the Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort?

  66. Thanks very much for your tips! It has been six years since I spent a semester living in Monteverde, and traveling around the country, and I’m a little surprised that a lot of other articles and blogs I read where people are very concerned about security. Do you think things have gotten a lot worse recently? Or is it just a matter of using common sense, not flashing your iPhone or a big wads of cash around, and staying smart? We are on a short trip this time, only visiting Samara & Monteverde. Of course using the word “only” is relative term when you’re talking about gorgeous places like Samara and Monetverde, verdad?! Thanks again!

    1. Hi Chris, We don’t think that you will feel much differently from when you were here last. Yes, taking the usual precautions like not flashing around money, leaving your passport at home, etc. is the best way to avoid most crimes. You can read our Safety Tips post for more info. We actually addressed a very similar question to yours the other day. See our reply to Stephan on June 17, 2017. Hope you have a great visit back to CR! Bet it will bring back a lot of fond memories for you.

  67. I love your great website! I am retiring in Liberia and I am in the middle of getting rid of stuff and putting together stuff I will need. I am selling my car here and hope to purchase one there. I will be on my own and like the security of having a car to get around. I will be arriving in Liberia around August 15th. Any advice is appreciated!

      1. Yes, I am in a dilemma, I checked out the price of cars and it will cost me roughly the same if I bring my car or try to purchase one there. You figure in driving a rental looking for a car. AHHHH. But if I pay off my current car and ship it, then I will not have money to ship any of my belongings! It seems like an either or position, but I know there has to be a way to do it. Problem #1 I know no one there. #2 I am bringing a lot of books – I will fill a 20 ft container and I am in the process of trying to halve that. #3 I am in the dark about what the fees will be on the stuff I am bringing. I have a nightmare that I ship everything and then run out of money to actually get it. The mover is going to charge me $500.00 per month, so I will need to find a place to live like – before I even get there! LOL AND yes – your checklist was great – I am surely purchasing a lot of mosquito repellent! I made a wishlist on Amazon.

  68. Hi Jenn and Matt! I am leaving the 4th of July for a week in Puntarenas Province, Quepos. We will be staying at hotel Costa Verde and my friends are getting married there on the 7th. I know we will be dressy for the rehearsal dinner, the day before, and for the wedding as well but I am unsure what to pack. Should I bring jeans and sweat shirts for night and short, tanks and bathing suits for day time? I have some Keens to wear if we decide to 4 wheel to the water falls. Any other suggestions?

    1. Hi Keely, You won’t need too many warm clothes for Quepos/Manuel Antonio. It does get a little cooler at night in the rainy season but it’s still in the 70s. Maybe bring some pajama pants for sleeping and a very light sweater in case you need it at dinner. You probably won’t need jeans but it wouldn’t hurt to bring them. This area is quite casual too, so shorts and T-shirts/tank tops are fine almost everywhere, and bring a few nicer outfits for going out at night, but nothing too fancy. Other than that, if you follow this guide, including the tips for rainy season, you should be fine. By the way, Costa Verde is an awesome resort- you will love it!

  69. Thanks for all the great information! Family is heading your way on Monday for two weeks and your blog has helped us plan and hopefully maximize our time in CR.

    Thank you,
    David

  70. Hi! Would you recommend just using American USD in Costa Rica, or would you recommend exchanging some money for colones? I am taking a group of high school students to Costa Rica next summer; this will be my first time taking a group to CR, however, I have taken many groups of students to Europe. Our usual request to save time and headaches, we tend to ask kids to exchange money in the U.S. before going to Europe. Is this true for CR or should students just take USD? Thanks in advance!

  71. Hi Guys! Thanks so much for creating an awesome resource for first-time travelers. We are coming over the last two weeks in November. I’m wondering if I should reschedule since we are coming during the rainy season. In your experience, does coming to Costa Rica at the end of the rain season mean our entire trip will be wet?

    1. Hi Shann, End of November is actually a good time to visit because usually it isn’t too rainy and it’s a lot less busy. We have a few posts with more info about what to expect – Best Times to Visit Costa Rica, Weather, and Why You Should Visit Costa Rica in the Rainy Season.

      That said, last year late November was really wet. This was because of a front brought on by a hurricane, though, and was very unusual (it was the country’s first ever hurricane). So if it were me, I wouldn’t change my plans at all. Hope you have a great trip!

  72. Hi! Appreciate all your helpful information! We will be in Costa Rica the middle – to end of July, (in the Arenal area for 4 days, and Quanacaste area for 5 days.) Haven’t quite planned our excursions, but probably will do the popular ones. 🙂
    Will we need many long pants/shirts? Any suggestions as to brand or where to get “lightweight” long pants that dry quick? We know it’s the rainy season, but it was the only time our family could go. We are looking forward to it!

    1. Hi Cindy, Temperatures will still be warm so you probably won’t need any long sleeve shirts but you could bring one just in case you get cool in Arenal at night. Lightweight pants are definitely nice to have, though, for outdoor activities because they keep the bugs off your legs. They’re also good in the rain to help keep you dry. You can find this type of pant at any outdoors store or on Amazon. Here’s a link to some on Amazon to give you an idea.

  73. I don’t know whether we were just lucky but having just returned from 3 weeks in the rainy season; there were no where near as many bugs as we feared & we therefore still have a bag full of unused sprays ( better that way I guess) and we avoided humidity. Neither did we notice much change between Monteverde / Fortuna temps and elsewhere- as a result we’d packed too many long sleeved stuff.

  74. We are visiting in ten days time. When doing activities like zip-lining, can you carry a rucksack, i.e. to hold cameras etc. Also how chilly can it get arenal, monteverde, tortugero. Is one fleece top enough?

    1. Hi Debbie, I think you may already be in Costa Rica, but for everyone else, for safety reasons, you are not able to carry a bag when you go zip lining. Some tour companies have Go Pros that you can rent for photos. Sometimes they have lockers where you can store your stuff, but it’s better not to bring valuables with you. One fleece top or light longsleeve and some pants is more than enough for visiting those destinations. Monteverde can get cool at night, but during the day it’s warm.

  75. Hi Jenn and Matt….awesome article! Wanted to know your thoughts on our itinerary for me and my wife. We arrive in San Jose on 9/2. Being picked up on 9/3 to Tortuguero for 3 nights. Picking up a rental car (through Adobe…thank you!!) in Guapiles on 9/6 and driving to Sarapiqui for 3 nights. Then heading to San Gerardo de Dota for 3 nights. Driving to San Jose for flight to Bocas Del Toro for 3 nights and then returning to San Jose for return to US. We won’t be doing any heavy hiking but will definitely want to go on some leisurely walks and tours as we are “birders”. Our stays will be at Reserves or Eco places. Does that mean more mosquito’s than normal since we’ll be in the reserves?

    1. Hi Tom, That itinerary sounds good (it allocates time well and isn’t too rushed). It is also especially well suited for birders. You may want to take a look at the Birding chapter of our book Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries, which covers birding in a couple of your destinations. It also covers things of interest in Bocas del Toro in the Costa Rica and Panama chapter.

      I wouldn’t expect more mosquitoes in reserves. A lot of people think that is the case, but we have found that pristine forest doesn’t necessarily have more mosquitoes than developed areas, maybe because nature is more in balance and the bats and things are doing the job. Hope you and your wife have a great trip and see some amazing birds!

  76. How much cash do you recommend bringing? I’m planning to exchange currency at my bank before going, but I’m undecided on how much US and how much COL to bring. I’m staying for about a week in Tamarindo.

    1. Hi Danielle, That’s really a personal decision, but we would recommend not carrying too much cash around. You can always get money out of the ATM when you get here if you need more (colones and US dollars are both dispensed). Read our Money Matters post for lots more information on this topic.

  77. Thanks for the great information–we are headed to Costa Rica in January. One thing I’d like to point out–encourage people to use sunscreens that won’t harm coastal reefs. There are chemicals in most common sunscreens that cause bleaching of coral reefs. The following is a list of the ingredients that have been shown to cause coral bleaching even at low levels–check to see if your sunscreen contains any of this:

    Oxybenzone
    Butylparaben
    Octinoxate
    4-Methylbenzylidine Camphor

    Sunscreens with zinc and titanium are safer for reefs.

  78. Hi!

    Thanks for this post! I’m heading to Costa Rica for the last two weeks of February 2018. I’ll be in Arenal/La Fortuna and Monteverde, and hiking is on the agenda. I have a pair of trail running shoes that I was planning to bring — do you think those will be OK or should I look into something sturdier?

    Thanks!

  79. Is it better to purchase bug repellent when we get there? Will the repellent in Costa Rica be more effective to the specific bugs that are there?

  80. Hi!
    I am going on a two-week community help/mission type trip with my school. We will be doing things like hiking, helping rehabilitate some of the forestation, as well as tagging sea turtles. We also will be traveling between smaller cities but will be in hotels and lodges. I was wondering if you have any tips or ideas on what I should bring? I’m 17, and fairly new to traveling so I am basically clueless haha.

    1. Hi MJ, The list in this post should cover you. One thing you may want to add- we know they prefer you wear dark colored clothing for sea turtle volunteering so maybe bring some of that too. Lightweight clothing that dries quickly is best in general because of the humidity. Sounds like a great trip, something you will always remember. Enjoy!

  81. My family is headed to Costa Rica for the Xmas holidays coming up. 3 nights in Manuel Antonio, 4 nights in La Fortuna (including New Year’s eve), and 3 nights in Playa Hermosa (west coast). I’m really struggling with whether or not to book tour excursions (i.e ziplining, guided nature hikes, etc) in advance or wait ’till we get there to determine our daily plans. If it wasn’t the busy holiday season, I would definitely wait. What do you think? Should I book in Manuel Antonio and La Fortuna/Arenal? Also, any recommendations for restaurant/music for New Year’s Eve in the La Fortuna area? Not a giant party, but a good meal with maybe some music or entertainment.

    1. Hi SC, We definitely recommend reserving any tours you know you want to do in advance. We have found from doing bookings for our clients that some tours are already starting to fill up for the week between Christmas and New Years.

      For dinner on New Years Eve, you could see if Don Rufino has anything going on. They usually do a fixed price menu on holidays and may have some entertainment.

  82. Hi, thank you for your excellent blog. We will be going to CR end february for 2 weeks staying 4 nights in the cloud forest which all tours are organised and then 10 nights on the beach. I have a few questions. Are waterproof trainers ok? Shall we pack long trousers and long sleeved tops for the cloud forest? Are mosquitoes worse at that time of the year? how hot will it be on the beach? Is it expensive to eat out?

    1. Hi Karen, Yes, waterproof cross-trainer-type sneakers are fine for most hikes. For the cloud forest, it is cooler at night and early in the morning so you should bring some lightweight long pants and long sleeve shirts for layering. Also bring a rain coat. Mosquitoes are the worst during rainy season (May-Nov.) so they shouldn’t be too bad. Temps at the beach vary depending on exactly where you’re going but generally are in the 80s and can feel warmer with humidity. For info on the cost to eat out, read our Cost of Travel post.

  83. Hi Jenn and Matt, we have booked a home rental for a multi-generational family vacation in Dec/Jan next year. I have read that we need to be aware of riptides at many of the beaches. We are staying in the San Isidro area, do you have any suggestions for family friendly beaches where the younger grandchildren could swim? Thank you!

    1. Hi Brenda, Most of the beaches closest to San Isidro have rip tides but there are some options. Playa Dominicalito is a calmer cover. It does have some rocks so if the kids have water shoes, bring those. It’s farther but Playa Biesanz in Manuel Antonio is a really good spot. The beaches in the national park there have calmer water as well. You could also visit some of the many awesome waterfalls near Dominical, like Pozo Azul, the Nauyaca, and the Uvita Waterfall.

  84. Hello. Thank you for the great website. I’m wondering about credit cards. Are they accepted in most areas? Which ones? We fly into San Jose and I believe will be more in the San Isidro, La Fortuna, Arenal, maybe Monteverde areas. I can’t foresee that we will be doing much shopping.

  85. We are going to Cost Rica in one month from today. We are staying at the Arenal Kioro Hotel. We are set to visit the sky tram, the Cano Negro Boat tour, Club Rio and Arenal Volcano Eco tour. We have never been there so the travel agent set this up for us, our daughter and grandson (9). Will these be good choices to get a feel for Costa Rica? We also spend a few days at The Westin Playa Conchal.
    Do you have any suggestions as to what we might need to take with us and what to expect weather wise?
    I am a retired life science Jr high teacher so really want to see some of the wildlife and various rainforest habitats.
    Thanks, sue

    1. Hi Sue, That’s a good mix of activities. The Cano Negro tour, in particular, is excellent for wildlife viewing. EcoCentro Danaus is one place you could add because it’s easier to see wildlife there than at the parks/reserves and good for kids because the trail isn’t too long.

      If you follow this list, you should be set in terms of what to bring. Mid-February is dry season. You may see some rain in La Fortuna so pack rain gear, but Playa Conchal should be hot and dry.

  86. Wow! Your blog is terrific and helping me get ready for our 9 day guided tour in Costa Rica. Thank you for the tips on the bug repellent (will be buying via Amazon through your link), and for the information on currency. I am going to bring my Pentax optio camera which is a tough camera and waterproof. It only cost about $300 and is very portable (fits in my pocket). I would like to bring my heavy duty DSLR Pentax with some zoom lens but I am afraid of the humidity and also that it may get lost or stolen while we are touring/hiking. I am anxious to see the wildlife and would love to capture some amazing photos but not at the expense of losing my ‘good’ camera. What do you suggest on cameras while on tour in Costa Rica? Right now, I am leaning towards just my Optio point and shoot camera. Thanks for your insights.

    1. Hi Cindy, We have traveled all around the country with our DSLR with no problems (knock on wood) so if you want to capture some great images, we would say to go for it. You don’t have to worry about humidity if you’re only going to be here for a short time. Just be sure to have a dry bag for it in case of rain and it’s good to have a plastic bag to wrap around it in case it’s misting and you still want to use it. When you get back to the hotel at night, wipe it down really good. As for not getting it stolen, just be careful about leaving it around (on the table at a restaurant, when traveling by bus, etc.). You can read more of our Safety tips here. You will see all kinds of people with DSLRs, though, so try not to worry too much.

  87. Hey guys, I’m lequinta and im 36i live in North Americaand me and my cousins take a trip every year out of the country, this year we chose Costa Rica, we are a fun group any suggestions on clubs we love to dance and any suggestions on great eatery my email is LeQuinta dangerfield@yahoo.com

  88. Going to Manuel Antonio from Feb 10-17 2018 – is a 4 wheel drive vehicle recommended to visit Los Campesinos? Rainmaker Conservation Park? Will spend 1 day in SanMose before leaving any recommendations on what to see there? Plan to stay near airport and take bus in for a day – really looking forward to the trip and thank you very much for your very helpful blog!

  89. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    We’re going tot CR with our kids, aged 13 & 9 (last week of april & first week of may). We’ll visit Tortuguero, La Fortuna, Rincon de la Vieja, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio. Since our kids need new hiking trousers (again 😉 ) I’ve been browsing the internet to find advice about what kind of trousers to buy: lightweight cotton, or a synthatic fabric? What would be your advice?
    (And thanks for your wonderfull website)

    1. Hi Lineke, Definitely a synthetic like nylon or rayon. These are lighter weight than cotton so better for the hot humid climate. It is also a lot harder for mosquitoes to bite through the tight weave of synthetic fabrics, and the bugs will be starting to get bad in early May. Here are the type that we like to use. We just bought some in this style for our son for rainy season (toddler size, but you get the idea…).

  90. I hike 14ers and rugged terrain in fivefingers (MINIMAL shoes), and I HATE hiking shoes or boots. Would it be okay to wear fivefingers on hikes? Do I need to make sure they don’t have holes to avoid parasites on the groundfloor of the forest? I’m sure I could put bug spray on my feet/shoes/ankles right?

    1. Hi Erin, You can probably get away with those for most hikes but will need to watch out for biting insects. Costa Rica has a lot of those so definitely make sure you don’t have any holes.

  91. Do you recommend packing mosquito netting for airbnbs and such? We’ll be traveling during late May-mid June with our two young boys (3, 6).

    1. Hi Dominica, A lot of Airbnbs will have screens on the windows. And if a place is open air and doesn’t have that, they usually provide the mosquito nets. You could always ask about the set up if you aren’t sure, but you shouldn’t have to pack them.

  92. I would just like to add few general comments.
    Most people who travel to CR start in San Jose which is relatively large city. If your forgot to bring something that you need, you can always buy them there. There are Walmarts and other stores similar dollar stores in every area. in fact, these days I just bring only my clothes in a carry-on, and spend 10-20 dollars when I arrive to buy small things that I will need (shampoos, shaving razors, nail clippers etc.)
    1)umbrellas – which is in my mind are must must have. No poncho or rain coat is going to do when the sky opens up. And all that runoff water from the roofs will soak you in no time if you, unless you wait it out.
    2) Toilet paper- Many public bathrooms don’t provide any. You have to bring your own toilet paper specially when on a road trip.
    3) SJ area can get little cold specially at the end of the rainy season. So bring a light jacket or sweater to wear late afternoon early evening.

  93. Hey guys,
    Just a quick note here on your sunscreen recommendation. The Neutragena Sheer Dry Touch sunscreen is TERRIBLE for the environment and the body. It contains Avobenzone 3%; Homosalate 10%; Octisalate 5%; Octocrylene 2.8%; Oxybenzone 6% — which are chemicals that harm oceans, reefs, marine animals, and the human endocrine system. Hawaii has just banned sunscreen that contains exactly those chemicals. I highly urge you to recommend a different sunscreen to your audience. Badger, Avasol, Raw Elements, Manda, Thin Sport are all brands that reef safe. Please consider changing your recommendation.

  94. Hi There! Will be traveling go Guanacaste in just 4 weeks! So excited to see CR! Any recommendations of at least 3 excursions to venture to & places that is a must see. I understand that it is rainy season in July but that will not stop our adventure 🙂

    Thank you for your time!

  95. Hello!

    I am traveling to Costa Rica end of August. We will be arriving in San Jose and driving to Cauhita right after. We plan to do some hiking as well as enjoy the many beaches available to us. How will the weather be around this time? Do you happen to know how safe it is to travel from San Jose to Cauhita? We will be leaving the airport at around 5:00 pm. Thank you!

    1. Hi Daisy, If you’re not getting in until 5 pm, we highly recommend staying overnight near San Jose and getting an early start to Cahuita the next morning. See our recs for airport hotels here. You don’t want to do that drive at night. Highway 32 is curvy and mountainous. This time of year, there can be landslides too. The government has been periodically closing a portion of 32 from 6 pm to 6 am as a preventative measure because it’s very likely to be raining then, which causes the landslides since the ground is already saturated. You can read more about the road conditions in this post.

  96. Hi, I am going on a volunteering trip for turtle conservation. Solo traveller meeting up with a group. Have been following your posts – so informative and helpful, thank you. I will be staying in shared hostel type accommodation. Just wondering if there might be bugs like spiders or beetles. Not at all keen on these!

    1. Hi Christine, There will probably be some bugs but not as many as you’re probably picturing. Try not to worry! It’s the jungle so there are bugs out there but as long as your hostel has screens, most won’t find their way in 🙂

  97. Great site. Can you tell me more about the West Coast, flying into DOQ Airport and staying north of Playa Hermosa for 5 days. Staying at Condovac La Costa. What to wear, weather, best activities, beaches, restaurants, shopping, activities, etc. Great reading and comments above. Many thanks!

    1. Hi Chris, We have a whole article on Playa Hermosa so you should definitely check that out. It covers just about all those things you’re asking about. As for packing, Northern Guanacaste is the hottest, driest region, but it’s cooler in the rainy season so it depends on when you’re coming. The tips in this post will apply, though. Have a great time!

  98. I am traveling solo to Tamarindo at the end of September. I’m planning on taking some tours/excursions, as well as being on public transportation quite a bit and was curious if you have a recommendation for carrying cash, credit cards, passport etc. securely for women. I saw your reference to the money belt, however I never wear belts, nor those RFID waist packs because they look really tacky, and to me they scream tourist. Thanks!

    1. Hi Sandy, If you don’t want to use any of those devices, you could get creative. When we took the bus, we used to put money in the soles of our shoes. Sounds funny but it works. Just make sure to keep all your cash and valuables on you close by- not in your bag that goes under the bus. And keep your small bag with valuables with you and not in the overhead compartment, or just keep a close eye on it. Then follow the usual precautions like avoid traveling between destinations at night, watch out for people looking to “help” you at bus stations, etc.

  99. Good day
    we are travelling to Costa Rica on Feb 2019
    we are staying a month so was wondering can we bring on peanut butter, oatmeal? just some everyday food items?

    1. Hi Wendy, As long as they are in your checked luggage, the foods should be fine. Technically, you’re not supposed to bring in food but we do it all the time when we come back from the US. Just mix it in with your other belongings so all the food isn’t in one place.

  100. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    I am planning to visit costa Rica in the last week of November. What weather should i expect in the capital city and in Arenal and Manuel Antonio?

    1. Hi Delilah, End of November is a transition time between rainy and dry season. This year has been drying out a little faster than normal so you will most likely see a good amount of sun and dry days with rain in the afternoon and at night. The weather in Arenal is slightly different but should be fairly nice.

  101. Hi Jenn and Matt! I’m planning to visit in October. Iam hearing that is rainy season. Is there anywhere specific where it does not rain too much ? looking for beautiful beaches, atv rides, ziplining and horseback riding. Any recommendations on which part to stay in?

    1. Hi Christian, We have the guidelines for car seats in Costa Rica in our Traveling with a Baby post. Not all 12 year olds are required to use boosters. If your child is 48.5-79 pounds/22-36 kg or up to 57 inches/145 cm, then a booster is required, but over that, one is not. If you do need one, definitely bring it or get it through the rental car company or shuttle company because there are big fines and sometimes the police do enforce.

  102. How do you all feel about the currency used by tourists? Will I save money by traveling with and using the Colón instead of trying to use USD?

  103. Hi Matt & Jenn,

    My wife, Son (age 12) & I are playing a trip to CR in Dec 19 over Xmas & New Year. We love walking, outdoor sporting activities, sunbathing, site seeing but can’t decide whether to book for 15 nights or 21 as we’re concerned that there might not be enough to see & do if we choose the longer option. Flights are circa £900 cheaper for the longer option, so would be great if you could provide some thoughts on this to help us decide before the flights go up in price!!?

    Many thanks,

    Russell

    1. Hi Russell, Definitely go for the longer visit – there is a ton to do in Costa Rica and it takes a while to get around due to mountainous terrain so it’s best to spend at least a few nights in every destination. Some places you could spend a week or more and still not get bored.

  104. Hello! How useful is a portable wifi hot spot? We will be driving from SJ to Arenal to Monteverde to Santa Theresa. We used a portable hot spot last year in Taiwan and it was so helpful ( to keep the kids busy on long rides) but wondering how “connected” Costa Rica is and if we’ll be able to use the hot spot? thanks!

    1. Hi Yoojin, We love the wifi hotspot option and always recommend it to our clients. Wifi connectability is pretty good here, though there may be a few dead zones in some of the more remote places you’ll be traveling to. Overall, though, it’s great for navigating and being able to surf the web on long car rides.

  105. Hello. Thanks so much for that all the info.
    My sister and I are driving around Costa Rica. We plan on visiting La Fortuna and Limon. Will these areas have ATMs or accept cc? I’m curious.

    Any advice would be magical.

    1. Hi Holly, La Fortuna has plenty of ATMs and most businesses take credit cards. In Limon, it depends on where you are visiting, but it’s more common for businesses there to be cash only. Major towns will have at least one ATM or bank…except for Tortuguero. It has an ATM but it sometimes runs out of money so bring cash if you’re going there.

  106. Hi! I’m visiting Costa Rica for the first time and will be spending the majority of my trip about an hour east of San Isidro El General, then another 10 days near Dominical – doing all kinds of adventury things! Any tips and recommendations for me?? THANK YOU!

  107. Great tips. I really appreciate the information. I’m visiting Costa Rica and I will arrive via the SJO airport. Which taxi companies do you recommend or what advice do you have in regards to taking taxis. I do not want to get rip-off. Thanks

    1. Hi Donna, You should arrange an official airport taxi. These are uniformly orange with a triangular symbol on the door and they will run the meter so you know you are being charged correctly. Right after you go through baggage claim and have your bags inspected, there will be people who can help you arrange one so just ask. The other option is to arrange a private shuttle in advance so that someone is waiting outside the airport doors for you. Prices for this are around $50 to hotels in the San Jose area. If you’d like help arranging this, please contact us through our Shuttle Booking page.

  108. Hi! My husband and I are visiting Costa Rica for the first time and will be spending the majority of our trip about at La Fortuna. We will go in mid-April and I just want to be sure of the weather (dry or rainy.) Also, are there any ATM’s or do businesses take credit cards? Is there a beautiful and relaxing beach nearby?

    1. Hi Jacqueline, La Fortuna has slightly different weather patterns from the rest of the country. It’s dry season but you should still come prepared for some rain, so bring a light raincoat or umbrella. There are a few ATMs and banks in town, but most businesses do take credit cards. Read our Money Matters post for more info about that. For beaches, the closest are in Northern Guanacaste (Tamarindo, Playa Flamingo, Playa Hermosa, etc.), about 3-4 hours away.

      1. This list helped me so much! Spot on… huge thanks. Travel mid to late July… hit pacific and Caribbean coasts with time in la fortuna . Can’t emphasize enough that you don’t need anything but casual/sports wear. I feel like an idiot for bringing heels and a dress. Also, regret not listening to the advice of bringing beach towels. Ended up buying one and not a lot of options and overpriced. The dry bag, flashlight and water shoes are essential . If you are going to use your water shoes for hiking as well, go Keen variety (you want closed toes). If you like beer and wine, bring a corkscrew/opener . I was worried about bringing Colones/cash but brought some with the plan of using a credit card as well. Next trip I would bring all cash … so much easier . Haven’t worried about getting mugged one bit (way more likely in the states ). But of course don’t carry it all in one place . If you don’t speak Spanish , download an app that translates . Also make sure you download Waze for driving . Talk to you carrier about your data plan before you go. Best country and trip ever! Enjoy!

  109. First and foremost, wanted to let you guys know that I love your blog and that it’s been very helpful and informative.

    I’m taking a trip to Costa Rica at the end of August to the beginning of September. From SJO we are renting a 4WD car and plan on driving to La Fortuna. We wanted to do La Fortuna Waterfall and also hike Rio Celeste. Do you think we need to buy hiking boots or will sneakers suffice? Also, from Rio Celeste we are driving to Mal Pais, stopping and staying one night in Tango Mar without taking the ferry. Are those specific roads terrible during that time? Will we be able to make it? We plan on taking the ferry back to SJO. Any tips would greatly be appreciated.

    1. Hi Elle, Sneakers will be fine for the walk down to La Fortuna Waterfall and Rio Celeste. Rio Celeste is a bit harder of a hike but sneakers would be ok. Just keep in mind that they are going to get dirty because the trail is often really muddy.

      For the drive to Mal Pais, you can take a look at our Road Conditions post. The roads on the S. Nicoya may be in rougher shape since it’s rainy season but you should be fine in a 4×4. Just make sure to do the drive during the day time. Here’s a link to our post on taking the ferry. Have a great trip!

  110. I’m going to volunteer for a month at a wildlife rescue/rehab near Puerto Viejo in September and am pondering my rain gear choices. Will my High Seas make-like-a-banana foul weather gear (jacket, bib overalls) be too heavy-duty to work in semi-comfortably?

    I will bring a very lightweight waterproof jacket and pair of rain pants for casual wear, but they are likely too light to be suitable for heavy physical labour during a torrential downpour.

  111. Hi there,
    We will be visiting Liberia area at the end of November to celebrate our anniversary and will be staying at Hollywood Resort . We would like to visit 2-3 national parks to see wildlife of Costa Rica. My husband is not very mobile or and only can walk for short time.

    Any advise or suggestion of what are best options for us.

    Also any tour company recommendations? Any tips would highly be appreciated.

    1. Hi Lena, That sounds great to have a big trip for your anniversary. We work with some excellent operators for tours to national parks in the Guanacaste area. We’ll send you some ideas by email soon.

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