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Costa Rica Travel Guide

While Costa Rica (“Rich Coast”) takes up a mere .03% of the world’s surface area (think the size of West Virginia, only smaller), this tropical wonderland boasts over 5% of the entire world’s biodiversity.

Though a relatively small country, Costa Rica is made up of 10 different regions

The Interior Regions, north to south:

Northern Lowlands, Central Highlands, Central Valley, South Central

The Coastal Regions, clockwise from the Northwest:

Northern Caribbean, Southern Caribbean, South Pacific, Central Pacific, Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste


  • The country currency is the colón (plural, colones)
  • The exchange rate is approximately ?500-550 to $1 USD. Loosely translating the difference: Double the amount in colones, and then move the decimal point 3 places to the left. Example:  1,000 = $2.00; 10,000 = $20,  20,000 = $40, etc.
  • The best exchange rates can be found by going to  banks or ATMs. However, limits for daily cash withdrawals vary between banks (e.g., some impose a daily limit of $200 while others allow up to $1,300). Let your bank know you’re traveling.
  • Credit cards are widely accepted in the tourist areas’ hotels and restaurants. US dollars are also accepted, and will most commonly give you change in colones.
  • In Costa Rica’s rural and remote areas, be prepared to pay solely with colones. It’s a good idea to always have a few thousand colones on hand.

Dress Light

Bring comfortable, breathable, fast-drying clothing. If you are traveling to areas that are not beach towns, consider bringing a few long sleeve shorts and pants in case of colder weather. Long-sleeve shirts and pants will also protect your skin from the strong Costa Rica sun and mosquitoes.

To see many of Costa Rica’s natural wonders, be prepared to get down and dirty. Or, at the very least, wet and muddy.

Consider the following packing list as a tour guide of sorts, put together by our team who have been operating in Costa Rica for over 20 years:

  • Quick-drying synthetic-fiber socks and shirts for adventure activities like canyoning and rafting.
  • Waterproof sport sandals/shoes
  • Flip-flops
  • Hiking boots or shoes that can get muddy and wet
  • Swimsuit
  • Lightweight pants
  • For women: lightweight sundresses
  • Waterproof lightweight jacket, windbreaker or poncho
  • Sweater for air conditioned areas or colder climates
  • Additional layers for cool nights, mountain trips
  • Backpack for short hikes
  • Natural insect repellent
  • Sunscreen (waterproof/sweatproof) with a minimum of SPF 30
  • Hat (the sun is strong this close to the equator)
  • Bandanas (for drying your hands, protecting your neck from the sun, etc.)
  • Waterproof Camera (or camera with a waterproof case or dry bag)
  • Waterproof bag for cellphone
  • GoPro Camera
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo - Pure Trek Costa Rica


  • Some restaurant and bar bills include an automatic 10% tip and 13% sales tax.
  • The charges can be combined on the bill as I.V.I. (“Impuesto de Ventas Incluido”). Or, the bill may read as 10% tip (“Imp. Servicio”) and 13% sales tax (“Imp. Ventas”). In any event, count on being charged an additional 23% over the cost of the meal. If the service is exceptional, feel free to leave an extra tip.


  • San Juan Santamaría, San Jose (SJO)
  • Daniel Oduber Quirós International aka Liberia International Airport (LIR)


  • Private Transport
  • Domestic Air Flights
  • Private Air Charters
  • Private Helicopters
  • Shared Shuttles (in limited areas)
  • Car Rental (maximum rental age is 21 years; major credit card required; safety deposit held between $900 – $2,000, depending


Costa Rica uses 110 V, reflecting the same voltage as the U.S. and Canada.
?Note: Visitors from other countries will need adapters.

Taxi Drivers:

  • Tips aren’t necessary, but fine to add on some colones if it’s warranted. Expect to pay for taxi rides in colones. Most taxis do not accept credit or debit cards.

Hotel Porters/Housekeepers:

  • Porters: $1 per bag.
  • Housekeeping: $2- $5 per day.

Tour Guides: 

  • As this service requires expertise and knowledge, 15% is standard.