Ready, Set, Pack: A Costa Rica Vacation Planning Guide

By Trish Keatings

By some estimates, the average American works as many as 50 hours per week. In competitive industries like tech and finance, that number can be as high as 60 hours.

Putting in that kind of time at the office, it’s no wonder we all need a break. Which is likely why as many as four in ten American adults are planning to take a vacation in 2019.

If you’re among the many looking for a hot and sunny holiday, Costa Rica is a destination growing in popularity – and for good reason. But there’s a lot more to making a great trip happen than picking the perfect tour and booking a flight.

To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the opportunities that this small but beautiful country has to offer, you need the ultimate Costa Rica vacation planning guide. That means knowing how to pack, what to see, how much to budget, and how to do it all while travelling sustainably.

Before you pull the suitcase out of storage and start packing, read on for everything you need to know about planning a trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Vacation Planning Guide 101

A solid pair of flip flops is one thing that every vacationer can’t go wrong packing in their suitcase. But after that, where you’re traveling, what you’re planning to do, and the climate, is going to dictate what you take with you and what you leave behind.

The most popular time to visit Costa Rica is – unsurprisingly – during the dry season, which runs from December to April. That time of year brings high temperatures, hot, sunny weather, and very little rain to the Pacific coast and most of the Central Valley.

But if fewer crowds and better prices have you leaning toward a visit during the rainy season, which lasts from May to November, pack to stay dry. The same should be said for any trip to the Caribbean coast, Monteverde, or Arenal areas, which see unpredictable rainfall all year round.

While a Costa Rica vacation planning guide can give you a general idea of what to expect weather-wise, don’t forget to consider the particular activities that you plan to partake in. Sitting by the beach and sipping cerveza will require far different attire than hiking volcanoes and ziplining in the rainforest.

Resting Your Head

Costa Rica offers something for every type of traveller. Whether you’re looking for a comfortable eco-lodge, tent cabins with an ocean view, or a trip into rural Costa Rica to lodge with locals , you’ll find an abundance of accommodation options in this increasingly popular tourist destination.

If you’re under time constraints and your travel schedule isn’t flexible, it’s best to start looking at Costa Rica accommodations sooner than later. That’s especially true if you’re picky about where you rest your head and you’re traveling during high season.

Making the Most of Your Time

In a country lush with rainforest and all of its flora and fauna, the wildlife enthusiast will find unique birding opportunities as well as the chance to spot monkeys, sloths, and ocean critters large and small.

Of course, sea-dwelling animals must be sought along hundreds of miles of coastline and pristine beaches, where you might try your hand at surfing or take in the sunsets from the comfort of your hammock. Trekking, yoga, cultural tours, national parks, cityscapes, and volcanoes are all options here, too.

With what seems like no end to the experiences you can have in Costa Rica, give yourself plenty of time to fit it all in. As a general rule, two weeks is a good starting point for a first-time trip, giving you enough time to fit in 3 to 4 different spots at a relaxed pace.

Staying Safe

First-time travellers, solo travelers, families, and tourists of all kinds can rest assured that Costa Rica is a safe place to travel, where only normal travel precautions should be exercised. Violent crime is relatively uncommon, especially for tourists.

Petty theft is the number one cause for concern when it comes to your safety. Be sure to attend to your valuables and lock items like travel documentation and jewellery in lockers or safes.

In general, use common sense and a bit of discretion with valuable items and the chance of experiencing problems is very low. Thousands of people travel Costa Rica every year and, while it might be scary to travel to the unknown, the sights and sounds of the most ecologically diverse country in the world are well-worth facing that fear.

Thinking About Your Budget

You might have heard that traveling in Central America is generally inexpensive. Although that might be true of some Central American countries, Costa Rica isn’t one of them. Which is why an essential component of planning a trip to Costa Rica is knowing what to budget.

Costa Rica is considered the most expensive country in the region. The higher ticket price comes with lower crime rates, access to all the comforts of home, and a country that’s easier to navigate and move around.

After figuring out what you want to do and accounting for big ticket items like flights and tours, plan to have a cushion for unforeseen costs, itinerary changes, or the days your return from the mercado with arms full of textiles, coffee, and souvenirs.

Traveling Sustainably

Costa Rica is one of the most sustainable countries in the world. Approximately ¼ of its landmass is protected area, more than 99% of its energy comes from renewable sources, and the country has vowed to be the first carbon-neutral country in the world by 2021.

As a visitor, your social, environmental, and economic impact is an important item for consideration on any Costa Rica vacation planning guide. The first step in travelling sustainably is booking tours and lodging with responsible companies that support local communities and the environments in which they operate.

Beyond that, sustainable travel involves everything from minimizing the plastic waste you produce while abroad to where and how you purchase handicrafts. Learn more about sustainable travel before heading in to the mecca of re sponsible tourism.

Start Planning a Trip to Costa Rica Today

A trip to Costa Rica is a great way to use all those hard-earned vacation days. With this Costa Rica vacation planning guide, you’re well on your way to one of the most comfortable, effortless, well-planned vacations to date.

Now that you know what to pack, where to stay, and how to budget, it’s time to get a sense of what the country has to offer. Check out our Costa Rica custom trips to get started.

Trish Keatings

Trish is a freelance content and copywriter whose passions are travel and wellness. A full-time traveler herself, she finds inspiration on the road, among the people she meets and the cultures she immerses in. When she's not writing for others, she's working on her own stories, which she hopes to publish into a novel about the transformational experience of facing fears, pursuing dreams, and finding purpose.

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