Your Complete Guide to Costa Rica!
Your guide to Costa Rica! Before you decide to read further, I’ll just mention that we visited Manuel Antonio, Monteverde and Arenal/La Fortuna. If things on the Pacific coast do not correlate to things on the Caribbean coast, I am sorry 🙂.
This guide to Costa Rica includes:
- Best time to visit
- Details on Car Rentals
Best time to visit
I am a BIG fan of off-season travel. I avoid crowds (or lines) at all costs. However, in Costa Rica, off-season is usually also rainy season.
- Dry Season (high season): Mid-November/December to April
- Wet Season (Off-season): May to Mid-November
So, to me, the best time to visit Costa Rica is right before or after high and dry season (October/beginning of November or end of April/beginning of May). We opted to travel in October which is technically rainy season (but I’ve heard can be nice on the Pacific side!).
Our rainy, off-season experience: recommend! There was only one location where we FELT the rainy season and that was Monteverde. Everywhere else, the weather was mild with only light showers here or there. Lines were minimal nearly everywhere we went as well!
Warm. Humid. Intermittent rain.
That pretty much sums it up! I mean, the majority of Costa Rica is either rainforest or on the coast. Don’t expect nice hair days. However, the rain is seasonal as it really is anywhere. Just because it’s “rainy season” doesn’t mean its going to rain ALL day or even every day. Weather is just an unpredictable variable in the travel formula that you have to be flexible with. Don’t let the rain ruin your parade!
Again, we traveled in what is considered rainy season, but actually had pretty great weather. It was sunny 75% of the time.
- The only real rain we came across was in the high altitudes of Monteverde. It legit was rainy season there. Rain would start around 11am-1pm and NOT stop until the next morning. We were still able to go go zip-lining. However, it was nearly pouring rain on us the WHOLE time😅.
- If you are wanting to travel during rainy season, I recommend just stopping in Monteverde to zip-line and move on. The rain DID keep us from being able to do a night tour in the Monteverde jungle. We felt like we wasted almost two whole afternoons due to the weather (it POURED in the afternoons in Monteverde).
The national currency of Costa Rica is the colón or colones. However, the USD was accepted nearly everywhere we went and most stores and restaurants took credit cards. Be sure to have some cash for tolls and smaller business. Use your credit card as much as possible. Reasoning: a credit card means you don’t have to carry as much cash on you AND YOU CAN GET TRAVEL MILES!
There’s no MUST-BOOK type of accommodation in Costa Rica. We were impartial when booking. We stayed in a few AirBNBs, a few cheap hotels, one luxury hotel. Accommodations were booked through booking.com and through Expedia, depending on the prices. For more information and tips on booking accommodations, click here!
I will say, accommodations aren’t as cheap as I was anticipating. So, it would benefit you to book them sooner rather than later to save money!!
Buses are available in Costa Rica. However, I believe the routes are few and far between.
Real talk: We met a solo traveller while zip-ling who had been utilizing buses thus far. However, he said that his options were becoming limited and he was having a hard time doing and seeing what he wanted. He said he would likely be renting a car soon!
So, I feel renting a car is the superior form of transportation. However, be aware:
- Minimal street lights. Driving in the dark wasn’t awful along the coast. However, in Monteverde it was raining and the roads were curvy and I can’t imagine driving in the dark on the way there
- Be prepared for toll booths- cash only. Colones or USD accepted. It was around $1 per toll.
- *We took $40 in cash for tolls, tips, etc*
- GET 4-WHEEL DRIVE. We requested it, but didn’t actually get it. We also got STUCK in our AirBnB driveway in Monteverde 🙃
Renting a Car in Costa RIca
A guide to Costa Rica isn’t complete without discussing the rental car situation. Renting a car is the best way to see Costa Rica. HOWEVER. I will warn you that renting a car in Costa Rica is like nothing we had ever experienced so far. When booking the car, the total was about $53 for the week online (Expedia maybe). Obviously we felt like something was up. But we didn’t know what it was until we went to go pick the car up.
Long story short, the “price of the car” was about $53 for the week but they tried to sock it to us and charge us $635 USD for the car insurance! I still don’t have a great grasp on the concept of insurance in Costa Rica. A few things of importance:
- There is a liability insurance (SLI) required by the government when renting a car
- The rental companies will push HARD for you to purchase their HIGHLY priced full-coverage insurance as well
- If you have a travel credit card, there is a good chance it covers your rental
- CHECK YOUR CREDIT CARD!
- (Some CC’s don’t cover cars in Latin America, so again, CHECK)
- The rental agency wanted us to purchase CDW (not required by law) which covers theft or damage to the car
- Then, they let us know that insurance wouldn’t cover bodily damage (if we ran over someone) so we would need additional coverage for that
Honestly, it was a LOT to take in and, like I said, I still don’t have a good grasp on the insurance even with research. Let me know if you can explain it in a better way!
- RECOMMENDATION (we found out too little too late): Book with Adobe Rental Company who seems to be transparent about their prices and have better customer service (not getting paid to say this!)
The fooood. Best plantains, hands down, were bought by our shuttle driver when stopped in traffic on our way from the airport to the rental office. They were AMAZING and I wish I had some right now.
My other favorite food came about by accident.
Story time: While coming back to our AirBNB in the pouring rain after zip-lining we got stuck in our muddy driveway (hence the recommendation of a 4WD!). Luckily our AirBNB host was an ANGEL. She came to the rescue with a 4-wheeler and SUV and pulled us out of the driveway. AND, since we were then stuck in our AirBNB for the night, she offered for her dad (who used to own a restaurant) to cook us dinner and bring it over. It was the BEST meal we had the entire trip. We had a traditional Costa Rican meal with rice, shrimp, salad and plantains. It was the sweetest gesture and best food. Pura Vida, Costa Rica!
Is it safe?
I mean, don’t be stupid and you’ll be good! We traveled in a group of 3 women with no problems at all. We rented a car, drove miles and miles, hiked, did many activities, walked around La Fortuna and never felt unsafe and had zero things stolen. Doesn’t mean it can’t/ won’t happen, but we give Costa Rica the CHECK for safety!
Your Complete Guide to Costa Rica Recap
Pura Vida! The end.
Just kidding 🙂 I LOVED Costa Rica. I loved the lush scenery, wildlife, the adventure, the hot springs soaking, the VOLCANO. Costa Rica has so much to offer. Enjoy your trip! Click here for a full guide to the Arenal/La Fortuna area! Or, search for Costa Rica in the search bar of the main page for all the articles covering Costa Rica!
Not sure what to pack for your trip? Click here for some help!