Whether you want to bask in the sun, surf the Pacific, hike a volcano, or zipline through a dense jungle – Costa Rica has something for everyone. Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America, lies the beautiful and welcoming country of Costa Rica.
On top of the wide array of adventure (and relaxing) activities available, this country could not be easier to travel to. If you’re American, then you’re in luck – I didn’t have to exchange a dime of my US currency!
In an attempt to escape international credit card fees, I wanted to put down a cash deposit at my hotel. I was shocked to find out that they were willing to accept my US dollar bills! The Liberia airport even accepted USD! Though the pricing was in Costa Rican colónes, they accepted USD at the register. Even though part of me looks forward to the excitement of using foreign currency (and keeping some for souvenirs), it really couldn’t have been easier to travel there as someone from the states.
Now I’m sure if you’re traveling around the entire country, going through small villages and to local restaurants, then you probably (definitely) need to exchange some cash. It is, after all, a different country. If you’re using a major tour operator or going straight to the hotel from the airport, chances are good that you won’t have to do an exchange.
The country is relatively safe and easy to get around by renting a car or using a tour company. I only had 3 nights in Costa Rica on this trip, so I relied on shuttle service for airport transfers. It’s important to know that during rainy season roads can be washed away, so if you’re unfamiliar with the terrain it might be a good idea to leave it to the pros.
Rainy season, referred to as “green season,” begins in May and ends in November in most parts of Costa Rica. From what I hear I was really lucky in the weather department. When I traveled there in May I only experienced rain on one day for only a few hours. The rest of my time there – pure sunshine!
Costa Rica is breathtakingly beautiful. In the photo below you can see how the jungle meets the sea right on the beach! I’ve never seen anything like that in the states and it’s what I first fell in love with about Costa Rica!
Next time I’m lucky enough to visit again I hope to learn to surf, go ziplining, ride a horse on the beach, do an ATV tour, hike to Rio Celeste and visit the thermal pools of Arenal Volcano. There’s so many awesome adventure activities! My trip in May was spent on the beach or by the pool to de-stress, so no matter what kind of vacation you’re looking for, Costa Rica has it!
When planning your Costa Rican adventure, make sure to remember that weather in here can change at the drop of a hat. As I mentioned in my post about traveler’s guilt, I didn’t do any exciting tours as I originally had planned, but I certainly was prepared to handle anything mother nature threw at me!
Preparing for the ever-changing weather is especially important if you decide to do jungle tours. The last thing you want is to be stuck trekking through 2 feet of mud in the rain without a raincoat and boots! Always ask your tour provider for a list of suggested items to bring along. Better safe than sorry!
Costa Rica is hot and humid – really hot and really humid. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is a recipe for mosquitoes, and lots of ’em! If you’re anything like me, the mosquitoes flock to you like fruit flies on a rotten banana. While I’m all for “natural” and organic bug repellent for a New York-amount of mosquitoes, I highly suggest getting a bug spray with a high percentage of deet, which is the active ingredient in most repellents, when traveling close to the equator.
I use a repellent called Repel 100 and it is fantastic! It’s 100% deet and stronger than anything I’ve ever found in a store. Most bug repellents found at your local drugstore top out around 30% deet. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not messing around with the Zika virus on the rise. In addition to repelling pesky bugs, this brand offers you a 1 oz bottle, which is perfect for getting through airport security.
I was 100% bite-free until the last night of my trip, which was completely my own failure (not the spray). After a lovely aromatic massage in an open-air treatment room, I started my 2 minute walk from the spa to my hotel room at dusk (aka “mosquito prime time). In my post-massage bliss, I forgot to reapply the bug spray. The sweet lavender scent was too much for the mosquitoes to resist and I ended up with about 30 bites in under 2 minutes. Learn from my mistake and never, ever, forget the bug repellent!
I’m sure some of you have questions about the Zika virus since it’s been all over the news here in America. I highly suggest doing some research on it before traveling so you are informed. Some authorities have said that women who live in high-Zika areas should put off getting pregnant due to the risk of severe birth defects for the time being. Because of the severity, I personally wouldn’t travel anywhere with a high Zika risk while pregnant, but I’m a worrier. Just make sure to do your research before you decide.
In addition to pesky mosquitoes, there are other critters you’ll need to watch out for including crocodiles. Being the over-researcher that I am, I did a fair about of research on crocodiles before my trip. Crocodiles can be found in most fresh water in Costa Rica, and even in some salt water areas!
While it’s very unlikely that you’ll get attacked by a crocodile, say, while swimming in a natural pool at the base of a waterfall (thousands of tourists do it all the time), it is possible. There have been crocodile sightings at beaches near estuaries – Manuel Antonio Beach for example. If you’re traveling with children make sure to research the most family friendly beaches in the area. The up side to all the crocodiles is that you can take some pretty cool river tours and see hundreds of them in their natural habitat!
I’m not really a fan of potentially dangerous critters (I’m not that crazy), however I do love animals! Costa Rica is well-known for their bird-watching, and it definitely has a lot of other animals as well. Some tours even focus on finding them during hikes or boat rides, and if you’re hiking on your own in one of the national parks you’re bound to see some. Keep your eyes open for snakes, frogs, sloths, jaguars and more!
I fell in love with the monkeys. They are so cute, and oh so sneaky. Some guests at my hotel left their room service trays in the open-air hallways only to find a pile of empty sugar-packets littered on the ground later in the day. Those adorable little guys just love sugar!
I don’t want to scare anyone from going to Costa Rica because it really is such an amazing country and you should 100% go, but I was shocked at how little information there was about the potential dangers. Any time you are going to a new area I think you should be aware of any possible risks so you can make informed decisions. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on this phenomenal country!
Side Note: If you’re ever on Papagayo Peninsula in Guanacaste, make sure to wake up in time for sunrise. They are absolutely gorgeous!