Twice water, twice land. Costa Rica borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. Pacific Ocean is to the east and the Caribbean is to the west. Among the Latin American states, Costa Rica is the most advanced state. What makes Costa Rica so interesting is, above all, the natural beauty.
It is worth visiting the beautiful capital of San José. The beaches on the Caribbean coast are always worth a visit. So if you are a beach and nature fan, then Costa Rica is the right destination for you.
Although Gringolandia attracts most people, there is so much more to discover. Here I would like to give you some ideas for a few other destinations in this country. All these places are the pure opposite of the Nicoya Peninsula. They attract much fewer tourists and contact with the locals is easy. You get one to one insight into the life of the people, join them and get to know a completely different side of the Ticos.
Highlights and the most beautiful Costa Rica backpacking routes
You have the choice between Pacific and Caribbean. But it will be a pain because both coasts are beautiful. On the Caribbean coast, you can find the most beautiful beaches. Unlike the famous Caribbean islands, the beaches in Costa Rica are natural. And that is their special charm. If surfing is your thing, you can find the best conditions on the Caribbean coast. You should have a little practice because the flow can be tricky.
Even if Costa Rica is not a mecca for divers, there are some very good spots on the Caribbean side. Deep sea fishing is much more interesting on the Pacific coast. Because you can go out with a fishing boat and catch fish like the Blue Marlin. In the picturesque bay of Nicoya and also in the Golfo Dulce you will find fish-warmers. With a bit of luck, you can also experience dolphins and huge whale sharks in the wild.
Golfo Dulce is also a good address when it comes to kayaking along the coast. The water is crystal clear, very quiet and the landscape is beautiful. Swimming in the sea works on both shores. Because the water is always warm and it is fun to drift in the waves.
San José and the rainforest
The capital city of San José is in the center of Costa Rica and offers a nice mix of the old and new. The National Theater is old, but beautiful. It exist since 1897, when Costa Rica earned a great deal of money from the coffee trade. In the evening, the city center becomes the party destination. You can eat in one of the many small restaurants or sit in the cafe and watch the night owls.
A few kilometers outside of San José in the region of Monteverde is the Cloud Forest Reserve. It is a reserve with a fantastic flora and fauna. There are 350 bird species as well as 500 different butterflies. The skywalk in the rainforest leads through six fluctuating slopes. it go upto a height of 40 m in the tree tops of the cloud forest. This is an unforgettable experience. Even a visit to the Serpentario is not for the faint hearted. You can experience the snakes of Costa Rica.
Turrialba spits fire and ashes
Do you know the central highland? That is wonderful. Turrialba is a small town that lies at the foot of two volcanoes, the Irazu and the Turrialba. The climate here is somewhat cooler than on the coasts. The town is small and manageable. The city is pretty, with colored buildings. It has the most friendly inhabitants that I have met in Costa Rica.
Besides the volcano tours, Turrialba is popular for rafting trips on the Rio Pacuare. This river is one of the five best river rafting spots in the world. Turrialba attracts active travelers and sports fans. How about a hike, a visit to a coffee farm or a waterfall? There is everything in Turrialba.
Did you know that the airport in Costa Rica is not located in the capital San José, but in Alajuela? Alajuela is not far from San José. While San José does not offer something nice, Alajuela is pretty. All those flying to or from Costa Rica land in Alajuela. It has a small town life. The city is perfect to go shopping. There are many supermarkets, shopping malls and also a big and cheap market.
The place from a tourist point of view offers too little to stay longer. I spent a week there to feel completely comfortable. Here I stayed in a Bed & Breakfast hotel. I spent my time in Alajuela in this Bijou. Besides the lovely Colombian owners and breakfast, it is very family oriented. After a short time, I talked to everyone about the world and felt completely at home.
If you want to stay short and cheap and do not expect a big standard, the homestays are the best. By the way, like almost everywhere in Costa Rica, you can also visit a volcano from Alajuela. Here it is the Poás, which is still very active. The whole country has over 100 volcanoes, some of which are still very active!
Puerto Jimenez is on the Peninsula de Osa and is a paradise. Do you love nature, peace, and beaches for you all alone? Then you are right here. Puerto Jimenez is a small town with a few thousand inhabitants. There is everything for the tourist's heart.
From Puerto Jimenez, you can visit Corcovado National Park. There are 13 different ecosystems. The Corcovado National Park is a protected area of superlatives. It is one of the few places in the world where you can observe flora and fauna and Quetzal and the parrots. There are 140 mammal species, 400 bird species and more than 100 species of amphibians. There are reptiles and over 6000 species of insects.
The beaches around Puerto Jimenez are almost deserted. You can talk about happiness when you meet someone other than iguanas, monkeys or birds. Rent a bike and explore the beaches on this way.
To reach Pavones you need nerves, endurance, and a robust body. Because the journey is long, and you will sit on a bus, which will shake you. Pavones is a village community that lives only from surfing. It is small, cozy and familiar. There are a few gravel roads and, well, actually there is nothing else. Ah, a football field and a church and the community center.
I have no idea how I landed in Pavones a few years ago. But I will never forget this place. Here there is one of the longest left-handed breaks in the world and the place is popular with surfers. The environment is pure nature. This is what you do in Pavones. If you're not surfing, you can walk along the beach or crawl through the woods. Enjoy the view or wonder about the many animals that you have not known about.
The cabins here are not quite cheap. Even more beautiful are the deluxe cabins. Of course, there are still countless other beautiful places in this country. But these are my personal recommendations for a different trip to the country of Pura Vida.
Costa Rica Visa & Passport requirements
Regulations on visas and entry into Costa Rica is on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.
Costa Rica Transport
Bus tours in Costa Rica are the best, safest and most cheap way to see the country. Since many locals use the bus, you can get into a conversation so that on longer journeys, there is no boredom. A good idea is also to rent a cross-country car, even if it is not so cheap. To rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old and have a passport with a credit card.
Flying is the most expensive way to get to know Costa Rica and so for backpackers it is not recommended.
Costa Rica Hotels
In the last few years Costa Rica prices have gone upwards, but do not worry, there are the cheap hotels too. A great alternative to hotels and guesthouses are homestays. Here you can either rent a room or even a whole accommodation. Good food is cheap, but it is worth spending a little more because the Costa Rican cuisine is delicious.
Costa Rica Travel Tips
ATMs are everywhere.
You will find almost everywhere free Wi-Fi for your smartphone or laptop. If you want to call home, I recommend you a local SIM card with a data packet.
In Costa Rica, the Spanish language is popular. English is also spoken and understood in the tourist areas.
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
Costa Rica is 10 degrees from the equator and is temperatures are hot there. Also, the humidity is high. If you like it a bit cooler, then the months of December to April are the best time because then the air is dry. Between May and October, it is the rainy season and humidity increases.
How safe is travel to costa rica
Costa Rica is a safe destination. You should keep your luggage and valuables in mind, especially in busy places. A good tip is always to ask your on-site hotel manager of how the situation is on site.