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Costa Rica Tourism: Best of Costa Rica

About Costa Rica
Costa Rica is where to go when you want to disconnect and go all in on nature—and with its sun-drenched beaches and lush rainforests, it’s pretty easy to do it. Yes, it’s known for its laid-back pura vida lifestyle, but adventure’s everywhere, too: Hike through lava fields at Arenal Volcano National Park, raft down the Rio Celeste in Guanacaste, soar above the jungle in Monteverde—home to the longest zipline in Latin America. Or, head to the Osa Peninsula, where you can kayak through mangroves, spot some wildlife, and get a taste of local Tico culture—literally—with a trip to a cacao farm to see how chocolate is made. When you’re ready to slow things down, make your way to the Nicoya Peninsula and start each morning with yoga, then go surfing or kick back on a secluded beach. Whatever you’re into, you can find it, and we’ve got more recs, below.

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Essential Costa Rica

The best things to do in Central America

See our Travelers' Choice Best of the Best winners.
Let’s go

My under-the-Radar family adventures on the Nicoya Peninsula

The farther south you venture from Tamarindo on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, the wilder the adventure feels. But in this generally safe country, there’s a choose-your-own-adventure nature to the exploring. We opted for backroads—some of which involved driving our rented SUV across shallow rivers (Google Maps made me do it!)—over a month-long exploration of this compact but ecologically diverse wonderland.
Stratton Lawrence, Charleston, SC
  • Pizza Tree
    Over a week-long stay in nearby Playa San Miguel, we made two trips to this wonderfully unique, Italian-owned pizzeria with three levels of dining areas, including a treetop perch. It’s a magical place at sunset. Pizza from the wood-fired oven may be the best in the country, but don’t sleep on the pasta carbonara and the grilled ribs.
  • Cabo Blanco Butterfly Farm
    Our kids were mesmerized by the hundreds of butterflies in the two greenhouses at this legitimate farm, where native tropical butterfly pupae are raised and shipped to exhibits worldwide. Our kids witnessed each stage of metamorphosis while we captured incredible images of adult butterflies dancing around them. During summer, call to schedule a private tour.
  • Macaw Recovery Network
    The scarlet and great green macaws at this non-profit institute are free to roam the jungle, but they return here in the evening and fill the trees with smile-inducing noise and color. Staff ornithologists breed and rehabilitate macaws here, and the site is part of a network supporting the wild population across the country.
  • Guacamaya Lodge
    We met up with another family for a long weekend at this comfortable hotel at Playa Junquillal. The living here was easy, shifting between the beach (where sea turtle hatchling releases are common during winter at sunset) and the inviting pool. Even if you don’t stay the night, the thatched-roof restaurant is an excellent lunch or dinner stop.
  • Totobe Resort
    When you reach the end of the road at Playa San Miguel’s southern terminus, you’ve found this tiny “resort.” It’s not especially fancy (don’t expect A/C), but getting away from it all with a pool and grassy lawn directly on the beach—plus oceanfront porches to while away evenings—feels special. We extended our stay to a week because our kids loved it here so much.
  • Jungle Butterfly Farm
    A second butterfly farm? Yes, kind of. But the promise of butterflies is really a front for entomologist Mike Malliet’s incredible walking tours through the dry tropical forest. We saw our fill of butterflies, but the highlight came when Malliet cracked open a termite nest, popped a few of the wriggling creatures in his mouth, and then offered one to our son, who eagerly obliged before asking for another.
  • Punta Islita, Autograph Collection
    Punta Islita, just south of Samara, is both a resort and a tidy little town where much of the local population works at the property. We enjoyed the best of both worlds here, taking in the small cultural center and attending a local dance on Friday night while spending our days at the hotel’s beachfront pool.
  • Gusto Beach
    There’s no shortage of beachfront dining on the Nicoya Peninsula, and the bare-feet-in-the-sand, cocktail-in-hand concept reaches perfection in Samara, where the wide beach means kids can run free while mom and dad truly relax. Gusto Beach was our favorite for relaxed meals and sunset palomas, with plenty of kids’ options (even a grilled fish and potato puree for babies).

Explore Costa Rica by interest

Get your adrenaline pumping

Action-packed activities that push the limits

If you're feeling fancy-ish

Luxury experiences that are totally worth it

Costa Rica on a dime

Eats and adventures that won’t break the bank

Next-level happy hours

Cold drinks. Sunset views. Life is good.

See nature do its thing

Natural wonders with serious wow-factor

A beach day for the books

Sandy shores, blue waters, and views for days

The sound of Costa Rica

Experiences where music’s the main attraction

Bring those binoculars

Spot some critters in their natural habitat

Ride the waves

Go surfing at all the best beaches

Take a hike

Epic trails that are worth the trek
Costa Rica Travel Guide

Travelers' pro tips for experiencing Costa Rica

A 10% service charge is included or added to every restaurant bill. Tipping is not a part of Costa Rican culture but some Ticos in the service industry who cater to North American tourists have come to expect it.
Costa Rica is a beautiful and generally very safe country to visit, but petty theft is a problem, so don’t ever leave valuables in your car or on the beach while you go in swimming.
raquel_z 🙊🙉🙈🐒
The sun sets in Costa Rica by 6 p.m. all year round, and it is really not advisable to drive after dark — especially if it is your first visit.

In the words of those who've been there before ...

lindsay f
I have realized that this is a huge part of the real Costa Rica experience....the people. They are so friendly, helpful, kind, humble, and absolutely genuine. Another reason why I want to keep coming back over and over again.
Lee H
I just love Costa Rica!
Manuel Antonio Beach is truly one of the top beaches in the world. Don’t miss it when you come to Costa Rica.
Al B
Costa Rica deserves to be proud!

What is the best way to get there?


Costa Rica is served by two international airports: San Jose International Airport (Juan Santamaria) and Liberia International Airport.

Do I need a visa?

Most visitors from the US, Europe, and Australia will not need a visa to travel to Costa Rica; but do consult the Costa Rican embassy for details.

When is the best time to visit?

Costa Rica has two distinct seasons. The wet season (May to November) sees daily showers up and down the country, with the heaviest rains occurring in September and October. The dry season is the most popular time to travel, with daytime temperatures in the late 70°Fs (mid 20°Cs) — ideal for hitting the beach or hiking through the cloud forests. This is also festival season, with major events including the Fiestas Palmares (January), Semana Santa (Easter), and the Festival de la Luz (Festival of Lights, December).


Domestic airline Sansa has regular flights between all of Costa Rica’s main cities. Other airlines that fly domestically are Skyway, Aerobell, and Green Airways.


The cheapest way to travel around Costa Rica is by bus, and there is a wide network of long-distance buses that will take you wherever you want to go. Find route information and fares.


For shorter trips and local transport, taxis are widely available.


Uber is available in San Jose and some other Costa Rican cities on your smartphone.

On the ground
What is the timezone?
Central Standard Time
What are the voltage/plug types?
The standard voltage in Costa Rica is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. The plug has two flat parallel pins.
What is the currency?
Costa Rican colón. US dollars are widely accepted, especially in cities and tourist areas.
Are ATMs readily accessible?
Yes, in all large towns and cities.
Are credit cards widely accepted?
Yes, but it’s worth carrying some cash, especially outside of major cities and tourist areas.
How much do I tip?
Tipping is not obligatory in Costa Rica, although tipping for exceptional service is always appreciated.

Are there local customs I should know?

The federal legal age for buying and drinking alcohol is 18 years old.
Try to speak the language
English is widely spoken in establishments frequented by travelers, but learning a few Spanish phrases will be appreciated. If you plan on venturing further afield, a basic knowledge of Spanish will go a long way.
Expect relaxed time-keeping
Locals tend to be laid-back about timekeeping, so don’t get too worried if your taxi or tour guide shows up 15 minutes late.
Tap water is drinkable in Costa Rica, except in remote rural areas, so pack a refillable water bottle.
Keep your clothes on!
Topless sunbathing is not acceptable in Costa Rica, and while you may find it’s tolerated at some private resorts, it’s best to do as the locals do and keep covered.