There is literally NOTHING not to love about Costa Rica. Beautiful beaches, awe-inspiring volcanoes, thrilling cloud forests, jungles full of monkeys and sloths, unbelievable food, and about the NICEST locals you ever did meet. But, let’s break it down…
Let’s be honest, when we are planning to travel with our kids to another country, or anywhere for that matter, our first question is… “Is it safe!?” The short answer is… YES. The longer answer- AB-SOOOOO-LUTE-LY! Here’s the thing, ANYWHERE you travel, you have to practice a higher level of vigilance. But, Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in Central America, and caters to international tourists. It’s even safe to DRIVE! YES! We LOVE to drive in Costa Rica! They have a well established infrastructure, and as long as you stay on major highways and roads, they are maintained throughout the year. There are some dirt roads in the mountains and forested areas that are not as maintained, especially in the rainy season. A bit of planning before you go should help you avoid any problem areas, but in general I think you’d be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to drive! Now, if you want more of an “off the grid” experience, Costa Rica definitely offers no shortage of opportunity in that department, as well. But more on that later…
2.) CULTURE/ LANGUAGE/ CURRENCY
You cannot ask for a more welcoming culture. The Ticans, as the locals are called, LOVE to share their beautiful country. Their native language is Spanish, but most areas speak English very well. (Although they love when you practice your Spanish with them!) My kids often tried to order in Spanish at restaurants, and the Ticans always celebrated their efforts, usually teaching them a few other phrases. Their currency is Colones, and we exchange enough to have on hand for tour guide tips, taxi and bus fares, and small market runs. But, most places take (and some prefer) US$. It’s best to communicate with your hosts wherever you are staying to find out what that specific area tends to prefer. Of course, we pay by CC as often as possible for the best exchange rate. Oh, and do your exchange at the airport near baggage claim. You’ll get the best exchange rate. Bottomline on the Culture…. I wish I could bottle those “Costa Rican Vibes” so I can get a taste any time I’d like! PURA VIDA!
3.). WET SEASON vs. DRY SEASON
When to visit!? The dry season in Costa Rica runs from December to April, and is the most popular time to visit. May and early June starts the wet season, and you can expect a daily even thunderstorm to blow through, and the occasional “all day rainy day”. End of June through November is the official wet season and you can expect more pop up rain storms, and/ or cloudy days. That all being said, there’s NO bad time to visit Costa Rica! The ocean never stops producing killer surf waves, the jungle animals never cease to amaze, and thrilling adventures will continue to be provided!
4.) WHERE TO VISIT/ STAY
This is hard to explain in just one section, seeing as though there are SO MANY amazing places to visit within Costa Rica… So I will recap here and provide links to another posts dedicated to my FAVE places to stay in each section, if applicable…
We have visited San Jose, Arenal, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Dominical and Puntarenas Providence. I would recommend them all, including Monteverde and Guanacste. I have not been to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, and believe it is a bit more primitive. Roads out to that coast are not as maintained, so drive with caution if going that way. Let me touch on the areas I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND:
SAN JOSE, Adventure Inn
If you are flying in to San Jose and arriving late, or leaving early the next day, this is a great option. It is close to the airport, in the safe area of Alajuela, and they will arrange airport transport, and provide free breakfast. They also have a nice pool and hot tub, and a well stocked bar. They have a restaurant with good food right on site (make reservations when you arrive!), and the front desk staff is accommodating and kind! It checks all the boxes for a quick one night stay. We go to Costa Rica for the jungles and the beaches, so we haven’t stayed to explore San Jose too much. But I definitely recommend this safe, affordable stay for the night you fly in or out of SJO.
MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK
This is the ONE STOP SHOP of Costa Rica! It has a lush, protected National Park where you are SURE to see all the greatest wild animals Costa Rica is known for! Monkeys, sloths, toucans, tree frogs, tree cutter ants… the list is ENDLESS. It also has gorgeous beaches, and no shortage of fun and adventurous activities! If you stay in Manuel Antonio, you are also sure to have the experience of waking up to Monkeys playing on your balcony, or a sloth snuggling her baby in a nearby tree. There are a quite few places I would highly recommend to stay and visit in this area, for a more extensive list, check out my post on all things Manuel Antonio:
Jaco is an hour north of Manuel Antonio, about an hour and a half from SJO airport. My husband and I stayed in Jaco for a night, but decided not to bring our kids here on the next trip. I would describe Jaco as a bit more “gritty”. It has a quirky vibe, and offers a lively nightlife scene. If GRITTY is your huckleberry (which it IS for my husband and I when we travel alone), then Jaco is your jam! The beaches offer great surfing, and the town is very laidback. We stayed in SELINA JACO, which is a popular hostel brand, and is a great place to co-mingle with a wide variety of visitors ranging from “staycaters” working remote, wellness-seekers, and one-night stay vacationers alike! We took an adventurous waterfall tour that I would highly recommend! For that information, as well as other Jaco Rec’s check out my post here:
SANTA TERESA/ MALPAIS/ MONTEZUMA
If are looking to base yourself in one location in Costa Rica for an extended stay to work remote, or are looking for a place to vacation to feel like you are completely OFF THE GRID, yet are still well connected (great Wi-Fi, unbelievable food, and a tight community are just some of what it has to offer!) – then THIS IS THE AREA FOR YOU! A week was not nearly long enough for us when we visited Santa Teresa. If you’d like to read my extensive review of the area, equipped with many recommendations, check out my post here:
This area offers bougie hot springs, jungle exploration, thrilling adventure activities, waterfall hikes, and more AMAZING FOOD! We stayed at the Tabacon Thermal resort, which was luxurious and amazing, took a terrifying zip line tour 600 feet above the canopy with an unobstructed view of the Arenal Volcano, and spent a day swimming in the frigid waters under the La Fortuna waterfall, and didn’t nearly come close to covering everything I would have loved to do here. Check out my link to my post about this area for more reviews and recommendations: