Tropical Costa Rica sits perfectly between North and South America, a perfect place for eco-tourism. Hot springs are tucked away in lush rainforests, handing bribes over misty cloud forests, palm-tree-studded white-sand beaches, dramatic seaside cliffs, and the arid rolling hills of Guanacaste; there’s no end to the experiences. Visit Arenal Volcano and wonder at a massive volcano and surrounding verdant rainforest.

Visa Requirements

Citizens of the United States and most European nations don’t need a visa to visit Costa Rica unless the length of their stay exceeds 90 days. Visitors must pay a Costa Rican departure tax of $29 when leaving the country.

Transportation in Costa Rica

The main ways to get around Costa Rica are by public bus, rental car, taxis, shuttle minivan, or small planes. Public buses are the cheapest option, but they aren’t always convenient. While the buses aren’t luxurious, the ride is definitely doable. You can expect to pay around $3 to go from one town to the next or to up to $20 to travel across the entire country. Shuttle buses cost about $40 – $80 per person from one town to another.

Rent-a-Car is a good option if you are traveling in a group and have few days to spend. Driving in Costa Rica is not so crazy, and very hard to get lost if you got a GPS. Sometimes in the Monteverde area, you may lose the signal, but there are not so many roads that may confuse you as long as you don’t jump off the mountains. Also, renting a car is affordable.

If you’re short on time and willing to spend some extra money, you may want to travel using small domestic planes from local airlines Sansa and Nature Air. You can get a flight starting around $30 by booking in advance.

Things To Do In Costa Rica

Costa Rica has attractions, national parks, and small towns that are not so touristy but full of wilderness activities and offer travelers great escape and won’t break the bank either.

Visit Poas Volcano National Park

Poas Volcano National Park is one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica. This is the first place I visited in Costa Rica, only 31 miles (50 km) from San Jose. At the altitude of 8900 feet (2712 meters) above sea level, the temperature (between 45º F – 70º F) is perfect for a smooth hike up to the smoking craters and lake.

If you are in San Jose, you should not miss the opportunity to see one of the biggest geyser craters in the world, and most of the time, you get to see a full view as it’s up in the cloud forest. Since the route is very scenic, we had to make frequent stops for pictures. As a result, it took us roughly an hour and a half to get there. The entrance fee was US$ 10.00 for foreigners. For more details, see my blog on Poas Volcano.

Volcano Poas
Volcano Poas

Rio Sarapiqui

Originating from Botos Lake and other clear mountain streams, the Sarapiqui River runs from the Central Mountain Range just north of San Jose to the San Marcos River, along the shared border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

On our way back from Poas Volcano, we took a cruise in the Sarapiqui River, which travels through a tropical wet forest. We had plenty of opportunities to view wildlife on the calm stretches between the rapids. We saw several species of monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, river turtles, iguanas, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and much more. If you are interested in white water rafting, this river is well-known for it as well.

Volcano Poás
On our way to Volcano Poas – beautiful view of central valley

Visit Monteverde – A Forest in the Cloud

Monteverde (Green Mountain) is one of Costa Rica’s top ecotourism destinations. Where trees are covered in layers of thick moss, and plants grow on top of one another due to a constant haze of clouds and filtered sun. This unique habitat, called the cloud forest, is home to an abundance of birds and other wildlife. This was my second trip to Monteverde.

Monteverde, Costa Rica
Monteverde, Costa Rica

Getting to Monteverde requires planning, unlike when I drove up there with a rental Toyota Corolla during my first trip. Places with no cell phone service and GPS signals were lost a couple of times. Luckily we did not get stuck anywhere during the trip. But during my second trip, I did not make the same mistake.

An excellent place for hiking through the cloud forest, the most popular one has guided night tours if you want to see wildlife that might not be seen during the day. Zip lining and hanging bridges are well known and another way to enjoy the cloud forest.

If you plan a trip to Costa Rica, this gorgeous park should be at the top of your list.

Arenal Volcano (La Fortuna)

Costa Rica is home to many active volcanoes, with Arenal being the most visited and famous one. A perfect cone-shaped peak Volcano Arenal towers over the nearby town of La Fortuna. It’s about 1600 meters high, and 140 meters wide can be seen from miles away. If you are visiting La Fortuna then Volcano hiking is a must, but unfortunately, you can’t see lava oozing out of the volcano anymore.

Costa Rica
Costa Rica Road Trip

Beach Town Jaco in Puntarenas

The closest beach to San Jose is in Puntarenas should not miss Playa Jaco, Hermosa, or even Herradura. Jaco is a lively town with good restaurants and nightlife. It is notable for having too many activities, such as safaris, horse riding, surfing, fishing and many more. It’s easy to get there from San Jose.

Playa Jaco
Playa Jaco, Puntarenas – Costa Rica

If you like surfing, the most recommended beach is Playa Hermosa. Playa Jaco is a clean and quiet beach, but unlike the typical Caribbean beach, sometimes the sea is rough and too difficult to swim. One of the most visited day trips you can’t miss is Manuel Antonio National Park, which is not far from Jaco. The park combines beautiful beaches with lush, dense jungles, exotic animal and bird species, and exquisite coral reefs.

Turubari Eco Park and Rainforest

Turu Ba Ri is an Eco-adventure oriented theme park not far from Jaco, Puntarenas. It offers premium quality one-day adventure rainforests tours such as the famous Costa Rica canopy tour, the rainforest aerial tram tour, the tropical park tour, the horseback ride tour, the sensational cable tour, and much more.

Rio Grande de Tarcoles
Rio Grande de Tarcoles by Ruru Bari Park

The natural surrounding of the Turu Ba Ri Tropical Park is ideal for visitors looking to learn more about Costa Rica’s natural history, discover our ancestor’s lifestyle, have an adventure experience, or simply enjoy the beautiful landscape. It has a total extension of 650 acres of beautiful scenery, surrounded on the northeast by the Rio Grande de Tarcoles, to the southwest by the Turrubares hillsides and the Carara National Park, and the west by the Nicoya Gulf, which you can see from the highest elevation areas.

Playa Tamarindo

Lively Tamarindo is a hyped-up surfing and water sports beach with wild nightlife. Most visitors come here to surf and learn Spanish. The beach is gorgeous and shouldn’t disappoint you.

National Park, Costa Rica
Walkway inside the National Park

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado is for adventure lovers, where you can hike through the jungle searching for unique Costa Rican wildlife like tapirs, toucans, and pumas. The largest of Costa Rica’s parks covers one-third of the Osa Peninsula. While you can’t hike the park alone anymore, hiring a local guide to show you the way is possible.

Lake Arenal
A view of Lake Arenal

Tortuguero National Park

Have you ever dreamed of sea turtles? Tortuguero National Park is the place to go because endangered green turtles are breeding on the beach here. Tortuguero is also home to many birds, crocodiles, monkeys, sloths, and manatees, so if you’re a fan of the jungle, you’ll love it! Boat or kayak tours through the jungle will cost you between $40 – $60.

Iguana in Costa Rican National Park

San Jose – Capital of Costa Rica

Suppose you are arriving at Juan Santamaria (SJO), the largest international airport in Costa Rica. In that case, you can get to San Jose by hopping on a bus, taxiing, or hiring a shuttle service. City Center is located about 30 minutes from the airport. If your hotel is in the city center, then exploring San Jose downtown on foot is easy as the heart of downtown is relatively compact, and some areas are for pedestrians only. In addition, the museums, architecture, and culture of Costa Rica are within walking distance.

San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose, Costa Rica

Where to stay in San Jose, Costa Rica

Hotel Presidente San Jose

Hotel Presidente San Jose City Center is located in the heart of San José and 328 feet from Costa Rica’s National Theater and Plaza de la Cultura. It offers complimentary daily breakfast and free WiFi access. The property features uniquely designed interiors. Las Americas Restaurant is open for breakfast, while the Azotea Calle 7 Restaurant is open for dinners. There are computer terminals for guests in the lobby, currency exchange services, and luggage storage. The National Museum and Gold Museum are within a 5-minute walk of the hotel. Many busses stop nearby, and San José Airport is less than 0.6 mi away.

Hotel Boutique Alta Las Palomas

Hotel Alta las Palomas offers an outdoor pool in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. Free Wi-Fi access is available, and the property has a restaurant on site. The on-site restaurant is open from 06:30 to 22:00 hours. The AM PM Supermarket is just 0.6 mi away. At Alta Hotel, you will find that the friendly staff can help the guests with information about interesting sightseeing in the area or arrange a tour. The property also has laundry services available. Tobías Bolaños International Airport can be reached in a 20-minute drive, while Poas Volcano National Park is 27 mi away.

My Opinion and Last Word

Have you been to San Jose, Costa Rica? Any cool tips to share?

I loved being in San Jose, Costa Rica, and want to go back again. I hope my story has motivated you to visit Costa Rica.

Please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you to improve my knowledge. 

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Hasan Mahmud

Traveler, Blogger, and Travel Photographer!

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