Costa Rica Travel Tips
If you’re thinking about a vacation in this beautiful Central American country, here are some Costa Rica travel tips to help you plan your family trip:
(Re)consider the Timing
Costa Rica has two seasons. In general, summer or verano is from November to April. It is considered “dry season” or high season for the tourist industry. The winter or invierno, lasts from May through October and is considered “rainy season” or low season for the tourist industry. Many visitors shy away from the “rainy season” because they don’t want to spend their hard earned vacation under umbrellas. After extensive research and our recent stay in Costa Rica during the month of August, I would advise you to perhaps reconsider.
First, despite its relatively small size, Costa Rica has quite diverse regions. The province of Guanacaste is considered one of the driest parts of the country. During the rainy season this means occasional afternoon rain showers on most days. (We had exactly two 30-45 minute showers during our 9-day vacation.) Beach areas in particular do not experience a lot of rain even in the rainy season.
Second, many resorts, rental cars, tour guides and other venues offer lower prices during this time period. You may also be able to score lower airfares than during peak, high season times.
Third, many “attractions” such as national parks or zip lining locations are a lot less crowded during Costa Rica’s winter. And, if you need another reason, Costa Ricas’s natural beauty might be at its best during this “green season,” making the country extra lush and the wildlife even more abundant.
Traveling around Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one destination where you will definitely want to venture out of your resort so that you can experience the many natural wonders this country has to offer. You can elect to go on tours with a tour company, hire a guide/driver or rent a car.
If you are considering the later, keep in mind that driving in Costa Rica can be quite an adventure. Roads are often unmarked or can have inaccurate signs; there is also not much lighting outside main towns at night. Many roads are unpaved and full of potholes, even the ones that might appear to be main roads (as we quickly realized on our trip to Playa Ostional). Also keep in mind that certain roads can quickly become impassible during the rainy season when rivers swell and flash flooding might occur. Driving, especially in the dark can be dangerous for these reasons, so consider your destination(s) carefully before deciding to rent a car.
Our family is quite adventurous and in most places we prefer to rent a car and explore following our own agenda. However, we decided to hire a driver (who also served as our tour guide) to get around in Costa Rica, especially because two of our trips were fairly far away and we were returning by night.
Safety of Water and Food
Some people are more nervous about this than others when traveling to a foreign country. We were assured that tap water is safe to drink almost everywhere in Costa Rica. During our trip, we drank tap water at all resort restaurants and had drinks with ice, and we brushed our teeth with tap water and never had any problems.
When we were on our excursions, we ate local meals outside of the resort on several occasions and again, had no issues. However, you can of course, stick to bottled water if this makes you more comfortable. Our resort provided ample bottles of water in our rooms every day.
I’m singling out this activity because many people immediately think of zip lining when you mention Costa Rica. Undeniably, the country boasts some of the best places in the world to enjoy this exhilarating adventure. Our family had an absolute blast and I highly recommend zip lining as one of the activities to sign up for if you vacation in Costa Rica (even if you are a bit apprehensive about it as, ahem… I was).
Before our trip, our family had never zip lined before and I was a bit concerned that our children, ages 10 and 7, who tend to be on the small side, would be too small. I quickly learned that zip lining is not just for older kids or teens. Based on our experience and the research I have done prior to our trip, here are a few things to keep in mind for families who want to go zip lining in Costa Rica with kids:
Minimum Age Requirements
The minimum age requirement varies for different zip lining companies. Make sure you do your research so you can plan accordingly, particularly if your children are under 10. You certainly want to avoid disappointment or complicated arrangements where you have to split the group with one having fun and the other watching the children until its their turn.
The majority of zip lining companies lists 8 years as the minimum age, however, several go as low as 6 and I even found one that listed “kids 1 and older are welcome.”
Children’s Comfort Level
Keep in mind that age is not everything though. Our 7 year-old daughter was super excited, while our 10 year-old son was the one that was more nervous as we planned our zip lining adventure. You know your child and his/her comfort zone best. Make sure that he/she is ready and excited to zip line or the whole family will have less than fun experience. Viewing pictures or perhaps a video together as you are planning your trip might not only increase the excitement, but also help minimize any fears your kids or you might have.
Even if your kids “qualify” age-wise, most zip line companies will have them strapped to a guide because they want to make sure there is enough weight to make it to the other side. This is a great thing! I was very happy our kids zipped with a guide vs. going on their own. Our guides at Sky Adventures’ Sky Trek tour were super friendly, great with kids and very focused on safety. They made sure we were reunited with our kids on each platform prior to taking off with them onto the next line. This resulted in relaxed kids that had a blast and a Mom who did the same!
All visitors departing Costa Rica are required to pay a $29 exit tax at the airport, which must be done separately and prior to check-in, so you should plan accordingly. There is a dedicated counter, which accepts cash (both dollars and local currency, colónes) and credit cards. Several hotels can handle processing departure tax for you as a great convenient option. They generally add a few dollars as a handling charge, but this might be a worthwhile investment, particularly if you are visiting during the busy high season when lines at the airport can be extra long.
We hope you find these Costa Rica travel tips helpful. If you have any other concerns or specific questions, please post in the comments below.
- Five Great Reasons to Take a Costa Rica Vacation.
- Read other articles about family vacations to Costa Rica.
- See all of our vacation photos from Costa Rica.
A native of Slovenia, Vera moved to the U.S. 20+ years ago after meeting her American husband. Together with their two children they live on the North…