Costa Rica

Planning A Trip to Costa Rica

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Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Carolyn

Planning a Trip to Costa Rica
Planning a Trip to Costa Rica

Costa Rica has so much to offer visitors that planning an itinerary can be daunting. The first step to planning a trip to Costa Rica is familiarizing yourself with the country’s features and various attractions. 

The second step to planning a trip to Costa Rica is to make a list of what you would like to do and then the third step is the tough one; putting the pieces of the puzzle together to come up with the perfect plan for your trip to Costa Rica!  The purpose of this post is to help you put that puzzle together!

Costa Rica Basics

Where is Costa Rica?

The first thing that some people are surprised to learn is that Costa Rica is not an island.

Costa Rica is a country located in Central America, north of Panama and south of Nicaragua,  the Caribbean Sea is its Eastern border and the Pacific Ocean lies to its West.

Central America Map -Costa Rica is Pinned
Costa Rica is not an island! It’s part of Central America

How Big is Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is about 19700 sq miles (or 51000 sq km). To put that into perspective it is about 2x the size of Maryland or about 20% bigger than the Netherlands.

You can drive the 200 miles (322km) from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast in about 4-5 hours or if you are ambitious you can hike the Camino de Costa Rica a 280km (175 mile) hike that takes hikers from the Caribbean Coast on the East side of Costa Rica to the Pacific Coast on the West Side.

Costa Rica Landscape

Costa Rica is everything but flat, even this Colorado girl was surprised to see how mountainous Costa Rica is! Laying close to the intersection of four tectonic plates,  Costa Rica has over 200 extinct and active volcanoes. The mineral-rich slopes of these volcanoes feed lush rainforests that are home to a huge diversity of flora and fauna. Torrential rains during the rainy season feed turbulent rivers that eventually wind their way to the seas.

With almost 1300 km of coastline along two oceans, there is a beach for everybody in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Climate

Costa Rica has a tropical climate and instead of four seasons, has just two: The dry season and the rainy season. 

Higher altitudes have a more temperate climate while the beaches have sultry humid weather.

The Costa Rica Regions

Any traveler planning a trip to Costa Rica should familiarize themselves with the different regions of Costa Rica and what they have to offer:

  • Guanacaste 
  • The Nicoya Peninsula
  • Central Pacific
  • North Central
  • The Central Valley
  • Caribbean
  • South Pacific

Let’s take an in-depth look at each region and what makes each region so that you can plan your perfect Costa Rica vacation.

Guanacaste

Situated in North Western Costa Rica and home to one of Costa Rica’s two international airports, Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, Guanacaste is best known for its abundance of exotic beaches and luxury resorts.

World Class Luxury Resorts

Just a 30-minute drive from the airport you’ll find the luxurious Papagayo Peninsula and its gated community of all-inclusive resorts such as Andaz, the Four Seasons Resort, Occidental, and Secrets Papagayo.

Aerial view of Four Seasons Resort Papagayo Costa Rica
Aerial view of Four Seasons Resort Papagayo Costa Rica

Within these resorts, you can kayak, snorkel, paddleboard, get a massage on the beach, visit a spa, jet ski, swim, and see monkeys ( both mantled howlers and the white-faced capuchins).

Beach Towns

Staying at a resort may not be your vibe, you might opt to visit one of the many beach towns such as Tamarindo, Coco Beach, or Flamingo Beach.

In these beachside towns, you can enjoy a surf lesson, go deep sea fishing, whale watching, or take a scuba diving tour to Bat Island where you can swim with Bull Sharks, large schools of Devil Rays, and if you are lucky Pacific Giant Mantas.

Dog enjoying a Tamarindo Beach Sunset
Dog enjoying a Tamarindo Beach Sunset (credit: Gary Westphalen)

Arribadas

Viewing a sea turtle “Arribada” in the Ostional Wildlife Refuge just a few km west of Nosara is certain to make memories.  Arribada means “arrival” in Spanish, and is the name given to the mass sea turtle nesting event where thousands of sea turtles return home to lay their eggs on the beach where they originally hatched.  These “Arribidas” occur most months of the year though the largest are from September-November.

Turtle Hatchling At the Start of His Perilous Journey
Turtle Hachling at the Start of his Perilous Journey

Parque Nacional Rincon de La Vieja

If you’re more of a landlubber, don’t fret; there are plenty of inland activities in Guanacaste. 

At Parque Nacional Rincon de La Vieja you can hike, camp, birdwatch, enjoy waterfalls, geysers, and mudpots as well as view an active volcano. Get your adrenalin rushing with a ziplining and hanging bridge experience and then a horseback ride through the park.

Guanacaste Climate

Guanacaste has the hottest and driest climate in Costa Rica. Temperatures in the dry season Jan-Apr usually hover in the 90’s and there is little to no rain. May-December the temperatures are more moderate with more rain.

The Nicoya Peninsula

The Nicoya Peninsula lies south of Guanacaste, separated from mainland Costa Rica by the Nicoya Bay and the Tempisque Estuary. It remains largely unspoiled by tourism due to its somewhat remote location and is known for its back-to-nature movement, yoga and surfing.

One of 5 Blue Zones in the World

The Nicoya Peninsula has been designated as one of the world’s blue zones: an area where there is a high concentration of centenarians. 

Why do people live longer in Nicoya? It’s believed that the Nicoyan’s active but stress-free lifestyle, whole food diet, and drinking Calcium-rich water contribute to the Nicoyan’s longevity.

Home to Costa Rica’s First National Park

The Nicoya Peninsula is where the conservation movement started in Costa Rica. Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve in the southernmost tip of the peninsula was the first national park in Costa Rica protecting 3393 acres of tropical dry forest and 4171 acres of marine land.

World Renowned Surfing

The little surf town of Santa Teresa has become a bustling tourist town due to its status as one of the best surfing destinations in the world. Surfers flock to the area for the warm water, consistent swells, and beautiful white sandy beaches. A thriving night scene has developed so surfers can amuse themselves day and night.

Bohemian Town of Montezuma

Montezuma is a quaint beach town consisting of just a couple of blocks. Here you can horseback ride on the beach, hike the Montezuma waterfall, enjoy a walk or miles along a jungle trail bordering the various beaches, and try your hand at yoga at one of the numerous yoga studios.

Horses Main Street Montezuma
Horses are a Common Sight in Montezuma

If you’re visiting from July through the end of the year, be sure to visit Refuge Romelio where you can observe Olive Ridley sea turtles hatching in their protected nesting areas and then see them start their lifelong journey as they scuttle off to the sea.

Watch Sea Turtles Hatch Refuge Romelio
Watch Sea Turtles Hatch Refuge Romelio-PUra Vida!

Tortuga Island

Tortuga Island is the beautiful tropical island of your dreams. To preserve its splendor, there are few amenities on the island.  Only accessible by boat, visitors to the island are often escorted by dolphins on their way to the island.  Activities at Tortuga include snorkeling, kayaking, relaxing on the beach, or hiking around the island to view the wildlife and flora. 


Tortuga Island
A day at Tortuga Island

The BioLuminescence of Paquera

A visit to the Nicoya Peninsula is only complete if you experience the bioluminescence of Nicoya Bay.  This is a truly magical experience best enjoyed in a kayak under the darkness of a new moon. As the water swirls around your paddle it will glow and then slowly fade, splash the water and watch it come alive with sparkling light. The light is generated by bioluminescent algae that use light to ward off predators and words cannot describe just how magical this experience is.

Nicoya Peninsula Climate

The Nicoya Peninsula is not quite as hot as Guanacaste but it is still a dry rainforest. Temperatures during the dry season range up to about 90 degrees but near the coast it is very humid so feels hotter.May-November is rainy season which makes the heat seem less but turns the local roads into quagmires of mud.

The Central Pacific

The Central Pacific is the most visited region in Costa Rica. It runs from the Virilla River south to the Rio Terraba and from the Pan American Highway that traverses the Talamanca Mountain Range is the Eastern Border of this region, with the Pacific Ocean being the Western border. Here the mountains touch the ocean.


The Central Pacific region of Costa Rica is popular amongst locals and tourists alike due to its proximity to the nation’s capital San José. 

Puntarenas

The city of Puntarenas is the gateway to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, and home to Caldera Port, Costa Rica’s most important Western port. This is a cruise ship port, not a tourist destination, where most travelers disembark and then set forth for other destinations. Puntarenas is also where the ferries to the Nicoya Peninsula set sail.

Crocodile Bridge

As you head down the Costanera Highway to your Central Pacific Destination you’ll come to a bridge in Tarcoles with many people walking across it. This is the famous Tarcoles Crocodile Bridge and it’s worth stopping to get some photos.

Crocodile Head
Stop at the Tarcoles River to See the Crocodiles

Jaco

Jaco is a popular destination since it’s one of the closest beach towns to San Jose. Jaco Beach is decent but can get pretty crowded. The town is known for its nightlife which is also known to be a little rough around the edges.


Most Visited National Park in Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio just 2 hours from San  José, is home to one of the smallest yet most visited national parks in Costa Rica “Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio”. If seeing sloths, monkies, and coatimundi is high on your agenda, then visiting this park is a must. The park is home to 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. A guide is recommended to make the most of your visit. The park also boasts some beautiful swimming beaches so if you visit be sure to pack your swimming gear.

Sloth in Manuel Antonio National Park
You Quite Likely Will See a Sloth in Manuel Antonio Park

Manuel Antonio

The town of Manuel Antonio can get quite busy with tourists but is worth a visit. It has accommodations to suit all and good dining options. The town is quite walkable but be forewarned the hill down to the beach is fairly steep.

Visitors can use Manuel Antonio as a base to explore more of the Central Pacific. Day excursions to activities like rafting, ziplining, hiking, ATV tours to waterfalls, and water activities like catamaran sailing, deep sea fishing, and whale watching can easily be arranged.

Dominical and Uvita

Just an hour South of Manuel Antonio lies the little beachside town of Dominical and about another 1/2 hour beyond that is Uvita.

Dominical is a tiny surf town featuring a few restaurants, stores, and accommodations. Beachside there is a pretty palm-lined beach promenade with vendors selling typical Costa Rican wares. Look up as you walk along the promenade, you may spot a Scarlet Macaw. The beaches of Dominical aren’t for swimmers, they are stony and the water is rough.

Dominical Promenade
Dominical Palm-Lined Promenade

Uvita is more of a town than Dominical but loses that quaint beachside feeling. Uvita is home to the famous Whales Tail, a natural land formation that looks like, you guessed it, a whale’s tail!

The whale’s tail is within Parque Nacional Marina Ballena and is stunning. The beach is sandy with a palm tree fringe lining its border and providing shade to beachgoers.  At low tide, you can walk out on the whale’s tail and observe sea creatures in the tidal pools. 

Sunset View of Whale's tail in Uvita
Sunset View of Whale’s tail in Uvita

From July-October humpback whales are frequently seen. They come here to the warm sheltered waters to calf.

Tinamaste and San Isidro

If you want to get up into the mountains for some cooler weather you might visit Tinamaste above Dominical 

In Tinamaste you are right at the cloud ceiling so it’s often cloudy but cooler than the beach towns.

Nayauca and Diamante are two famous waterfalls in the area.

San Isidro de General is a fairly large city located North of Tinamaste. Here they have a weekly farmers market like no other – it’s huge with a great offering of diverse produce and other food products. The market is held on Thursday and Fridays and is a must see!

San Isidro de El General Feria
Weekly Farmers Market in San Isidro

Central Pacific Climate

The Central Pacific area receives a lot of rain; coastal towns average about 143 inches but up higher the average is about 262 inches a year. High temperatures run from the mid 80’s to 90, while lows are usually in the 70’s.

North Central Region

This non-coastal region extends from the Nicaraguan border south to the populous Central Valley. It appeals mostly to adventure seekers and nature lovers as it doesn’t have beaches.

It does however have spectacular waterfalls, hot springs, volcanoes, and, a multitude of thrilling adventure activities.

Celeste Waterfall

The vibrant blue waters of  Celeste Waterfall situated in Parque Nacional Tenorio are truly a sight to behold, the waters really are as blue as you see in the photos. It’s a pleasant hike to the waterfall through the park and you can hike beyond the falls to the convergence of the two rivers, one brown, one blue.

The Blue Water of Celeste Waterfall
The Blue Water of Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park

Monteverde

Monteverde is best known for the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, a magical place where the clouds shroud the trees and below the trees thrive a huge biodiversity of flora and fauna.  Stepping into the cloud forest is like stepping into another world. 

Many tourists come here to see the birds with most hoping to catch a glimpse of the famed Resplendent Quetzal, a bird so whimsical that it seems like a fantasy creature.  Over 400 species of birds and 120 different species of mammals call the cloud forest home. Within the Cloud Forest live over 500 species of orchids, over 700 species of trees, and about 2000 other species of plants. The area has two other cloud forests just as spectacular as the more famous one, The Children’s Eternal Forest and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest.

Viewing Wildlife from Monteverde Cloud Forest Hanging Bridge
Viewing Wildlife from Monteverde Cloud Forest Hanging Bridge


Santa Elena is the town that abuts Monteverde.  There are numerous lodges for accommodation and just as many restaurants. Other area attractions include hanging bridges, the longest zipline in Costa Rica, bungee jumping, an orchid garden, and, coffee plantation tours.

La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano

Hot springs bring visitors to La Fortuna as well as the towering Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, and Lake Arenal.  The town itself is very touristy with restaurants, souvenir stores and,  hotels for every budget. 

Arenal Volcano is located within Parque Nacional de Volcan Arenal.  A great way to see the volcano is by horseback.  Keep your eyes out for wildlife, this is sloth country!

The Grandeur of Arenal Volcano
The Grandeur of Arenal Volcano



Lake Arenal is a windsurfing and kitesurfing mecca due to the tradewinds that blow through.
Adventurers will enjoy canyoning, white water rafting, hanging bridges, and,  ziplining all found within the area.

Sarapaqui

Sarapaqui is somewhat of a hidden gem. If you want to get away from the tourist area and experience wildlife, head here.  The area has lots of eco-lodges where birders can hike trails and check off some lifers.   You can float down the Sarapaqui River on a jungle safari float sighting crocodiles, monkeys, numerous birds, and, other wildlife along the way.

North Central Climate

The North Central climate is more moderate than the coastal regions, with daytime highs usually in the 80’s and lows dropping into the 70’s are high 60’s.  You’ll notice temperatures vary across this region due to the moist cloud forests, volcanoes, and varying elevations. some mountainous areas lows will often fall into the 50’s.

The Central Valley

The Central Valley of Costa Rica is the most populous of the country, with roughly 50% of the country’s population residing within its boundaries. There is good reason for the Central Valley’s popularity; it has a temperate climate (it ranks as one of the healthiest climates in the world), proximity to beaches, volcanoes, cultural activities, an international airport, as well as a beautiful rolling landscape.


The Central Valley as its name suggests, is located in the center of the country, some of the major cities of the Central Valley include San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago, and Heredia. There are also many small towns dotting its landscape including expat havens Atenas, Grecia, and La Garita.

Cultural Activities

If you enjoy cultural activities you’ll likely want to include some time in the Central Valley.  If theatrical activities are your cup of tea, visiting the National Theatre of Costa Rica in San Jose should be on your itinerary. 

There are museums for everyone in the Central Valley some of the more popular ones include the National Museum of Costa Rica, The Museum of Costa Rican Art, The Jade Museum, the Children’s Museum, and the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum.

Central Market

The Central Market is a bustling authentic Costa Rican Market. Just the building itself is amusing.  It’s hard not to get lost among the narrow aisles and stalls within its confines.  Here, you can find just about everything from fresh produce, meat, spices, kitchen wares, souvenirs, flowers, and even pets.  If you’re hungry, don’t fret; you can satisfy your cravings at one of the many sodas that operate within the market.

The Eclectic Central Market in San Jose
The Eclectic Central Market in San Jose

Espiritu Santo Coffee Tour

It’s no secret that Costa Rica produces some of the world’s best coffee, so as a coffee lover I’d be remiss not to include a coffee tour in my list of costa rica attractions. Espirtu Santa Coffee plantation is situated on 640 acres in Naranjo, about 40 minutes from Juan Santa Maria airport.  Here you will learn how coffee is grown, and roasted and will have the opportunity to savor some coffee grown and produced at the farm.

Lenkester Gardens

In Cartago, a city that lies approximately 35 minutes SE of San Jose, you’ll find this gem of a botanical garden. It boasts an orchid collection that is truly phenomenal as well as collections of ferns, bromeliads, palms, forest, cacti, and heleconia.  A morning or afternoon at the gardens will be time well spent!

Lenkester Fern Garden
Lenkester Fern Garden


Volcan Poas and Irazu/Piney forest

If visiting a volcano is on your list of activities for your Costa Rica vacation, you’ll find 4 in the Central Valley. The two most popular are Poas and Irazu.

Parque Nacional de Volcan Poas is just a 40-minute drive from the SJO International Airport. It boasts one of the largest craters in the world and is an active volcano. The park also features a couple of nice hiking trails and a volcanic lake

Poas Volcano Crater
Poas Volcano Crater

Parque Nacional Volcan Irazu is East of San Jose. Visitors can drive or take a bus to this park. eIrazu Volcano is an active volcano with 5 craters and is the highest volcano in Costa Rica. On a clear day, from its summit, one can see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Also part of the Parque Nacional Volcan but in a separate local are the piney forests of “Prussia”. Visitors to this sector located in Cartago are treated to a magical forest that relaxes your soul. The trails are a treat for hikers.

Central Valley Climate

As mentioned previously the Central Valley has an ideal climate with average nightly lows in the mid 60’s and average daily highs in the mid 70’s. It is not as wet nor humid as other areas of Costa Rica.

Caribbean

With its white sand beaches edged with swaying palms, clear turquoise waters, and laid-back 

Afro-Caribbean culture, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica offers visitors a true tropical vacation experience.

Bananas, Bananas and Bananas

Driving along Route 32 you can’t help but notice the “banana trains” moving bananas from the plantations to the packing houses.

Near Limon, you can take a banana plantation tour to learn about the history of banana production in the country and see how they are grown, harvested, and packaged.

Fact: Though Costa Rica produces 13% of the world’s bananas, bananas are not native to Costa Rica!

Cahuita

A small quaint beach town of just a couple blocks, Cahuita boasts a picturesque beach and a lovely National Park full of wildlife.  There is an 8km hiking trail that winds through rainforest and alongside white sandy beaches where you can swim to cool off.  The park is a birders paradise with over 560 species of birds inhabiting the region.

You can also go on a snorkeling tour from Cahuita, and, it has a handful of restaurants to sample some Caribbean cuisine.

View from Puerto Pirata Beach Restaurant
View from Puerto Pirata Beach Restaurant

Puerto Viejo

Reggae tunes float through the air as you arrive in Puerto Viejo, a seaside town with a definite laid-back “go slow” vibe.  Clusters of open-air restaurants flank the beachside, and you can watch pangas (small fishing boats) bobbing in the water.

There is plenty to do in Puerto Viejo including snorkeling, surfing, renting a bicycle and riding down the coastal road, visiting the Jaguar Rescue Center, taking a chocolate tour, and of course spending some time on the beach.

Manzanillo

Let than 10 miles South of Puerto Viejo literally at the end of the road. lies Manzanillo a tiny fishing village at the entrance to Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre.  This nature reserve is picture-perfect though travelers should be forewarned; that what is a gorgeous hike in the dry season can become a muddy mess in the rainy season.

The hike through the park takes one by pristine white sandy beaches with many snorkeling opportunities and some stunning views. As the trail winds back into the rainforest, one can spot Toucans flying between the towering trees as well as monkeys lazing in the branches peeking through the dense foliage at passersby below, and if one has sharp eyes you’re quite likely to spot a sloth.

Hiking Trail in Manzanillo National Park
Hiking Trail in Manzanillo National Park

Exiting the park one is drawn to the sands of Manzanillo Beach along whose shores rests the Yicel shipwreck, a cargo vessel that was ran aground in 2017.  Half buried in the sand, visitors can explore her innards and admire her broken shell which has now become popular as an artist’s canvas.

Ara Manzanillo is a parrot conservation center focused on preserving and rehabilitating the Green Macaw. They offer daily tours where you will be afforded the opportunity of viewing these majestic birds in their natural environment.

Kayaking up the river at close by Punta Uva is a leisurely way to enjoy part of the day and view wildlife from a different perspective.

Tortuguero



For an expedition like no other one needs to visit Tortuguero, a remote wilderness in the North East tip of Costa Rica. Don’t plan on driving to Tortuguero-access if by plane or boat only, and is part of the adventure of visiting this remote wildlife-infused area.  Once in Tortuguero you will get around by boat and by foot, there are no roads.


Many of the visitors to Tortuguero come to see the nesting turtles, but it’s also teeming with birds, crocodiles, monkeys, and other wildlife. 

Most likely you’ll stay at one of the area’s eco-lodges which are mostly rustic but clean.

Caribbean Climate

What’s fun about the Costa Rica Caribbean is that the climate is different from the rest of Costa Rica. Here the Fall months are the driest, but that doesn’t mean it won’t rain, it’s always humid and rains can be expected in any month. Average daily highs are mid-80s (but actual highs feel more like 90’s) and lows dip into the 70’s.

The Southern Zone

Known for its biodiversity the Southern Zone of Costa Rica is full of wild creatures, flora, and birds.  Panama is the Southern Zone’s southern neighbor, and the Pacific Ocean is its Western Border. One of the more popular areas in the Southern Zone is the Osa Peninsula.

Osa Peninsula 

The Osa Peninsula will appeal to travelers who like to get off of the beaten path and immerse themselves in nature. Here you find rustic eco-lodges instead of all-inclusive resorts,  dining out will most likely be at a local soda and there is a good chance you’ll be early to bed so that you can rise early to get out to see wildlife.

Caves at Playa Ventana
Caves at Playa Ventana

Drake Bay

Drake Bay is one of the access points to the world-famous Corcovado National Park.  It’s nestled at the top of the Osa Peninsula, North of Corcovado Park.

 Drake Bay is known as a place to disconnect and unwind from the hectic pace of life and get in touch with nature. Enjoy lazing in a hammock as the sounds of the Pacific waves lapping the palm fringed shores sooth you into slumbers. Sip a tropical drink from a local restaurant and watch the “green flash” as the sun sinks into the Pacific.

When visiting Drake Bay it’s best not to bring a car as the roads are best navigated by someone who knows them. There are multiple water crossings, washed-out roads, and mud. And you don’t need a car on Drake Bay. You can get here by bus and ferry, boat or plane.

Puerto Jiminez

A quaint fishing village located almost at the Southern most tip of the Osa Peninsula, on the Golfo Dulce, Puerto Jiminez is another gateway to Corcovado National Park.

Being off the beaten path Puerto Jiminez is not very touristy, you might find the only company you have on the sandy beach are hermit crabs and shorebirds.

While in Puerto Jiminez enjoy a Cocao Chocolate tour at the Osa Cacao Chocolate factory.  Learn how Cacao is grown and made into chocolate and taste fresh cacao beans and a chocolate fondue with organic farm-grown fruit.

Cacao Tour in Puerto Jimenez
Cacao Tour in Puerto Jimenez

Corcovado National Park

For true wilderness lovers who don’t mind mosquitoes or mud, THIS is the place to visit.  Corcovado boasts 2.5% of the WORLD’S biodiversity within its boundaries. You can only enter Corcovado National Park with an approved guide as this is a place that can be dangerous to those who are unaware of the dangers that can lurk in the dense foliage. 

Incredible animals that you can’t even dream of make this park home, creatures like the hawkmoth caterpillar that imitates a snake, a caterpillar that dances to music, jaguars that camouflage so well in the foliage, tapirs that look like a cross between an elephant and a hippo, and anteaters that lugging their offspring around on their backs. And birds, did I mention birds, over 370 species of birds call Corcovado National Park home.

Golfito

Golfito may not be the most touristy destination but if you like to shop or if you’re considering setting up residence in Costa Rica,  you’ll enjoy Golfito’s “duty-free” zone. Here you can purchase just about everything from liquor to appliances to gear without taxes.

Mystical Stone Spheres

Megalithic Sphere in Sierpe
Megalithic Sphere in Sierpe


Scattered around the Osa Peninsula you’ll numerous stone spheres. These spheres (the authentic ones) date back to 1500 BC and they are mysterious because scientists have been unable to determine their purpose. At Finca 6, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Palma Sur you can read what is speculated to be their purpose in the museum, view spheres in their original alignment, and enjoy the nature that surrounds the museum on some short nature trails.

Southern Zone Climate

Distances


Your Mapping App is Not Lying

We’ve now covered the 7 different regions of Costa Rica.  The next step in planning your trip to Costa Rica is knowing the driving distances between various points of interest.  Be aware that in Costa Rica you need to believe your mapping app when it says it’ll take 4 hours to navigate 150 km! Don’t ever expect to average more than 70km an hour, you may often average less than that. It’s also best to not drive for night driving.

How Far is To _______?

  • Guanacaste
  • Nicoya Peninsula
  • Central Pacific
  • North Central
  • The Central Valley
  • Caribbean
  • South Pacific

Use this chart to calculate driving distances between destinations of interest.

Diving Distances Between Destinations
Driving Distances Between Destinations

Planning Your Trip to Costa Rica

Decide Where You Want to Go and What You Want to Do

With the information presented in this post, you should have the information you need to start planning a trip to Costa Rica. We recommend choosing the places and activities that appeal to you most and then plotting a route on Google Maps or a similar app. If you’re going for a week or less you’ll more than likely want to visit 1 or at most 2 regions that are adjacent to each other, if you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica for more than a week you can add more regions as time permits.

On our first reconnaissance trip to Costa Rica, we visited 6 of the 7 Costa Rica regions in 17 days. This trip was mostly driving and very little time was spent doing tourist-type activities. We were on a mission to see the country.

Interactive Map With Points of Interest

The following map is interactive and the regions are color-coded in the same manner as in the distance chart. Points of interest mentioned in this post have also been plotted on this map. All of the places mentioned in this post are pinned to the map. Choose your favorites from the post, find them on the map, and note which regions have the most activities of interest to you.

An aerial view of a turquoise blue bay with a single yacht moored alongside an expansive sandy beach.
Pin this Post so that You Can Plan Your Perfect Costa Rica Vacation

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40 Comments

  • Carolyn

    Costa Rica just sound like such a wonderful destination. Your post didn’t disappoint. 🙂 you’ve highlighted such lovely places and so thorough. Thank you for this wonderful article. Def on my bucket list now. x oh, and I love your name! hahaha.

  • pedja

    With this information, you should have everything you need to plan your trip to Costa Rica. The post is very detailed with a lot of amazing photos. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Breana

    Thanks so much for sharing! My husband and I stayed in Dominical almost 10 years ago and we always talk about going back and exploring other areas!

    • Carolyn

      I hope you get a chance there are so many beautiful different areas of Costa Rica to visit. I doubt Dominical has changed much other than paving the main road.

  • Dina

    CR has been on my list for years! I can’t wait to go. I’m a nomad entrepreneur – based on your article, it seems like Manuel Antonio might be my best bet as far as Internet speed, community, and a mix of atractions and laid-back vibes are concerned? Would love to hear your recommendation. <3

    • Carolyn

      There are many places in Costa Rica that fit your needs. I enjoy Manuel Antonio but it does get busy, I’m not sure I’d call it laidback.

      A digital nomad visiting the country needs to know that during rainy season short power outages are frequent as are internet outages. Scheduled online meetings can be tough as one cannot control the weather.

  • Rosemary Palmer

    I’m not an outdoorsy person, but everyone says Costa Rica is a must visit. The scenery is beautiful.

    • Carolyn

      Costa Rica is beautiful but if you’re not an outdoorsy person I’d definitely stick with higher end resorts. I’ve dealt with milipede, ant invasions and scorpions in some of our accommodations along the way.

  • Anna

    I’ve never been to Costa Rica, but hope to visit it soon! I’ve discovered so many useful things from your post: it will be really handy for my future planning. Thanks for sharing!

  • Caroline

    So thorough! I’ve been to Panama but never Costa Rica. I only knew about the caribe beaches and rainforest in Monteverde – didn’t know anything about the other regions which is a shame because it’s quite a large country. So thank you for sharing the “lesser known” regions. Gonna save this for when I book some PTO and visit! I love your google map addition – you’re speaking to my soul (i love a good google map!).

    • Carolyn

      Caroline, I love website name! Costa Rica isn’t really large it’s just very diverse and packs a lot into a small space. If you liked Panama you should love Costa Rica.

  • Jolayne

    There is so much to see and do in Costa Rica. Pinning down just one are to visit can be challenge. You’ve broken down so much of the information.

    • Carolyn

      You are very right there is so much to do in Costa Rica, to do everything in a week is impossible. I hope this help with planning a perfect trip to Costa Rica!

  • Kristine

    This is such an extensive guide to Costa Rica. You won’t need to look any further with all the detailed information! I’m pinning it for when I plan my vacation there!

  • Jaishree

    Thanks for sharing this helpful guide! Planning a trip to Costa Rica has been on my bucket list for ages, and this article has some great tips to get started

  • Kevin Foodie

    I always want to visit Costa Rica. Happy you shared the different regions and about the climate. Saving this blog for future reference. Thank you for such an independent travel blog about CR

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