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Costa Rica

Few places boast the range of natural attractions available in Costa Rica and Costa Rica holidays guarantee you some extraordinary experiences; beach holidays in Costa Rica are centred on the Caribbean coast and the spectacular stretches of sand there whilst wildlife holidays here are popular ways of exploring the many national parks and eco-tourist destinations. [See Costa Rica itinerary ideas]

The capital San José is a great mix of traditional and Spanish architecture. Close to the city is the crater of Irazú; the surreal lunar landscape is one of Costa Rica's most stirring sights. Arenal is one of eight active volcanoes in the country; night-time eruptions are the most spectacular. The thermal springs and mud pools of Volcán Rincón de la Vieja are best explored on horseback or on foot. Trekkers should scale Cerro Chirripó, the country's highest summit.

People looking to spot wildlife should travel to Santa Rosa National Park, which has ten different habitats, or Tortuguero National Park to explore the lush rainforests, long beaches, swamps and lagoons teeming with wildlife, including nesting turtles. Parque Nacional Corcovado is considered one of the most biologically diverse places in the world, whilst Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio is perfect for primates including howler monkeys and capuchins.

Costa Rica's best beach is Playa Conchal, whilst the wildest surfing is at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Offshore, in the Pacific, lie San Lucas and Isla del Coco, two attractive islands with fine beaches and plenty of history.

WEXAS Travel brochure for Costa Rica

WEXAS Top 50 Worldwide Journeys

Our in depth guide packed with background information, sample itineraries designed by our experts and hand-picked suggestions for what to see and do, where to stay and when best to go.


When to go

Costa Rica has just two seasons, winter (wet) and summer (dry). These seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere with summer running from December to April, this is also known as the dry season and is the perfect time to visit the beautiful beaches of the Pacific coast.

In the wet season (May to November) most of the rain falls on the country's vast rainforests and the weather can disrupt transport routes to the southeast and the Osa peninsula. In most places the rainfall is intense but brief. Some activities are actually better in the rainy season (rebranded as the Green Season by Costa Ricans), for instance whitewater rafting and birdwatching, but others can be difficult if not impossible, so plan carefully if visiting during the rainy months.

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Essential Experiences

We’ve rounded up our list of recommended sites and things to do. Click on the map to enlarge it and see what we suggest or follow the links in the list to discover how to get the best out of your holiday.


Practical Information

Capital - San Jose

Size - 51,100 sq km

Language - Predominantly Spanish. The most commonly spoken version is Costa Rican Spanish, a form of Central American Spanish. Local indigenous languages are still spoken by a small percentage of the population and an English based Creole language called Mekatelyu is spoken to varying degrees in Limon province.

Population - 4 million

Religion - Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Costa Rica, although the constitution also provides for freedom of religion. 70.5% of the population are Roman Catholics, but 13.8% declare themselves Evangelical Protestants, while 11.3% report no religion at all and 4.3% declared that they follow another religion.

Currency - 1 Costa Rican colon = 100 céntimos

Time zone - GMT - 6 hours

Flight time from the UK - Direct flights from London to San José take approx. 11 hours.

Festivals

January - Dia de Santo Cristo de Esquipulas, popular religious festival celebrated with fiestas, dancing and ox cart parades.

February - Fiesta de los Diablitos, the festival of the little devils is an indigenous celebration centring on a re-enactment of a battle between the Spanish troops and the Boruca Indians (the diablitos).

February - Ash Wednesday

March - Dia de los Boyeros, oxcart driver's day, with parades of beautifully hand pained ox carts, traditional costumes and dancing in San Antonio de Escazu.

March - Dia di San Jose, a national holiday in San José, this is the feast day of the cities patron St Joseph.

June - St Peter and Paul's day

July- Fiesta de la Virgen del Mar, Puntarenas celebrates the virgin of the sea with a flotilla of fishing boats.

October - Columbus Day, a national holiday in Limon to commemorate the arrival of Columbus in the new world

December - Festival de la Luz, weeklong festival of lights in San José

December - Immaculate conception, popular religious celebration. 

Visas

Please note that entry requirements and visa regulations can change often and at short notice. We can provide general information about the passport and visa requirements for your trip and this information may be included after the itinerary section of your quotation. Your specific passport and visa requirements and other immigration requirements are your responsibility and you should confirm these with the relevant Embassies and/or Consulates. Neither we nor the principal(s) or supplier(s) accept any responsibility if you cannot travel because you have not complied with any passport, visa or immigration requirements. Please call your WEXAS specialist if you wish to discuss entry requirements.

Passport requirements

Passports must be valid one calendar day beyond your departure date from Costa Rica. Proof of a round trip ticket or onwards travel to another country must also be provided. If you are visiting another country or countries en route or after visiting Costa Rica, be sure to check any additional entry requirements.

Money

Costa Rican colones are issued in four denominations: â‚¡1000, â‚¡2000, â‚¡5000 and â‚¡10,000, and coins in â‚¡5, â‚¡10, â‚¡25, â‚¡50, â‚¡100 and â‚¡500. Note that older coins are large and silver while newer coins are small and gold. US dollars are widely accepted but you should not rely on them.

ATMs that accept visa and/or MasterCard are widely available at most banks and shopping malls as well as inside San José airport. Note some ATMs will only accept cards held by their own customers.

Most state run banks will change US dollars and some will also change euros, but it is impossible to change any other major currency. There is a small charge on credit card transactions, though it is advisable to carry cash as not everywhere will accept cards, especially outside of the main tourist establishments.

Regions [9]

Click on a place name below to find out more. Alternatively, to start planning where to go in Costa Rica, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0617.


Itinerary ideas [39]

The itinerary ideas listed below are designed to give you a flavour of the things to do in Costa Rica. We can adjust any element and tailor-make your trip though, to suit your individual needs and available time. To start planning your trip, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0617.

Costa Rica Adventure

Natural world Spa Wildlife

Discover active volcanoes, misty cloud forests and mysterious jungle, all on a memorable, eco-rich Costa Rica travel adventure with Tauck, leader in luxury …

Volcano Adventure – San José to Antigua

From the lush cloud forests of Costa Rica to the evocative cobblestoned streets of Antigua, get off the tourist track and discover the colour and spirit of …

Costa Rica Adventure

If you’re looking for a taste of Costa Rica’s world-class highlights but want to keep things spicy with a sampling of hidden treasures, this action-packed …

Basic Costa Rica

Stay flexible in Costa Rica on this unique 2-week adventure. You'll hit the volcanoes, a cloud forest and both of the incredible coasts. Chill out on white-sand …

Volunteer Costa Rica

From pristine cloud forests to the Pacific coast’s famous surf, experience some of the world's most incredible scenery and exotic wildlife—and make a …

Costa Rica Quest

Nature called you to Costa Rica—now here you are, suspended in the jungle canopy, locking eyes with a curious monkey. This action-packed tour of Costa …

Costa Rica Volcanoes & Surf

Mountain bike along Lake Arenal with breathtaking volcanic views and catch a wave on this action-packed 9-day tour of Costa Rica. Get your adrenaline pumping …

Guanacaste Beach Break

Ankles sore from too many bungee jumps and volcano treks? Maybe it’s time to stop and smell the frangipani. Costa Rica specializes in adventure, but this …

Natural Highlights of Costa Rica

When you think of stunning landscapes, unique wildlife and lush rainforests, Costa Rica should definitely spring to mind first. This compact, 9-Day experience …

Turtles and Tortuguero

Short on time but need more of Costa Rica? Tortuguero National Park, home to the Caribbean’s most important breeding ground for endangered green sea turtles, …

Costa Rica Explorer

Costa Rica has as many microclimates as it does opportunities for active adventures, and this 2-week journey will bring you the best of both. There's a visit to …

The Best of Costa Rica

Can't decide between the jungle, volcanoes or the beach? Do all three on this 10-day independent journey around all that makes Costa Rica world-renowned for its …

Turtles & Tortuguero

Spend three days at a comfortable lodge in and around Tortuguero National Park, home to the Caribbean’s most important breeding ground for endangered green …

Volcano, Hot Springs & Cloudforest

Head for the hills! Costa Rica's backbone of mountains and volcanoes hold some of its greatest treasures. The area around Arenal Volcano has adrenaline sports …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 1 Adventure Bus

Hit two of Costa Rica's signature spots: First, head for the outdoor adventure playground around Arenal Volcano and take advantage of everything from …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 1 Self Drive

Hit two of Costa Rica's signature spots: first, head for the outdoor adventure playground around active Arenal Volcano, and take advantage of everything from …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 2 Adventure Bus

See two sides of Costa Rica's incredible natural playground. Get your fill of outdoor adventure around Arenal Volcano with everything from world-class to …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 2 Self Drive

See two sides of Costa Rica's incredible natural playground: get your fill of outdoor adventure around active Arenal Volcano, famous for everything from …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 3 Adventure Bus

Drive from the clouds to the sand. Spend two days in the world-famous Monteverde Cloud Forest looking for the beautiful but elusive quetzal before heading south …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 3 Self Drive

Drive from the clouds to the sand! Spend two days in the world-famous Monteverde cloud forest looking for the beautiful but elusive quetzal, before driving your …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 5 Self Drive

Drive from coast to coast, from the Caribbean-flavoured beaches of Costa Rica's Atlantic to the Latin rhythms of Guanacaste, known for its miles of beaches, …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 6 Adventure Bus

Our most comprehensive Costa Rica Pass adventure! Start with the jungles and canals of Tortuguero, nesting ground for giant sea turtles. Next, try rafting or …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 6 Self Drive

Our most comprehensive Costa Rican driving adventure! Start with the mangroves, jungles and canals of Tortuguero, nesting ground for giant sea turtles. Next, …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 4 Adventure Bus

Check out three great western highlights—from volcanoes to cloud forests to beaches and monkeys. Start with the area near Arenal Volcano, known for rafting …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 4 Self Drive

Drive around three great western highlights: from volcanoes to cloud forests to beaches and monkeys. Start with the area near active Arenal Volcano, known for …

Costa Rica Pass - Route 5 Adventure Bus

Travel from coast to coast, from the Caribbean-flavoured beaches of Costa Rica's Atlantic coast to the Latin rhythms of Guanacaste, known for its miles of …

Costa Rica Kayaking Adventure

Glide straight into the core of the Costa Rican experience when you hit two of Costa Rica’s hot spots in a kayak. Beginners and more experienced kayakers are …

Backroads of Central America

Take the road less travelled through Central America with other travellers your own age—so you can be sure to get down with other adventurers that’ll keep …

Costa Rica on a Shoestring

Hit two of Costa Rica's famed features—volcanoes and beaches—on this exciting trip that isn't too hard on the wallet. Get the adrenaline pumping in La …

Panama Experience

From San José, hit the beach and mountain retreats on your way to the locks of the world-famous Panama Canal at the centre of the Americas. Visit gorgeous …

Best of Central America

From ancient ruins to active volcanoes, get off the beaten track and discover extraordinary Central America—on a shoestring. Make sure your passport has space …

Trek Hidden Costa Rica

Think you know Costa Rica? Trade in the same old settings for the real deal. Trek into the heart of the jungle to live with three families in a remote village. …

Costa Rica Active Adventure

Trekking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, ziplining… Costa Rica really is the "Adventure Capital of the Americas." Thrill-seekers will find more than …

Costa Rica Family Experience

Nothing brings learning to life like real-world experience. This week-long trip’s engaging lesson plan gives your kids an education in biology and ecology …

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