If you are fortunate enough to land in San Jose Costa Rica during daylight hours you will see a large Central Valley surrounded by sleepy volcanoes, like silent watchmen waiting to awaken at the slightest provocation. We call this "landing in a postcard". It whets the appetite for the Costa Rica vacation to come.
Costa Rica is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places on earth to vacation in. Glide through a rainforest canopy in a floating gondola, go horseback riding on the beach, soak yourself in waters heated by an active volcano, hike through clouds in a mountaintop cloud forest, see the turquoise blue water-filled crater of a sleepy (but active) volcano, see pairs of Scarlet Macaws flying over crocodile infested rivers, watch rare sea turtles struggle to lay their eggs in protected places. All this and more await you in one of the world's last safe havens for wildlife.
American, Continental, Delta, United, US Air, Frontier and Spirit Air all have direct flights to Costa Rica from major cities in the US to both San Jose airport and Liberia airport. Regional Airlines such as TACA also operate flights to/from various US cities such as New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles and Miami. You can begin your Costa Rica vacation from any one of these cities or by a connecting flight.
Air Canada has three lights per week direct to San Jose from Toronto. There are also several charter companies offering packages to Costa Rica.
Major airlines operating the most direct flights to Costa Rica from Europe include Iberia and Condor. Apparently KLM will also be offering flights to Panama from Amsterdam only a short 45 minute flight away from Costa Rica. Many more options open up via connections in the US, particularly Miami, Atlanta, New York or Dallas - major cities with direct flights to Costa Rica.
If you've never been to Costa Rica - it would be easy to assume the short distances between destinations would make it possible to get from one place to another quickly. Rough or curvy roads make this very unlikely. Be assured - you don't want to visit Tortuguero National Park one day and then drive to Corcovado National Park the next. These places are on opposite sides of the country and it would take more than 12 hours driving on some fairly treacherous roads to get from point A to point B. Let us help you build a travel strategy based on attraction groupings or your personal interests. For example: If you plan to visit Arenal Volcano - it might be a good idea to stop at Sarchi Village, home to many artisans, and maybe Poas Volcano on the way. An alternate route will take you through Zarcero, Costa Rica's dairy capital where you can sample home made cheeses and delicious sour cream (Natilla in Spanish). No matter what you do, be sure to stop off at one of the many beautiful Costa Rica hotels in the Arenal/La Fortuna region, many of which have natural hot springs right on the property.
Unfortunately crime has been on the increase, but exercise good common sense and your chances of having a problem in Costa Rica are minimal. Compared to many US and European destinations, Costa Rica is still a haven of peace and tranquility. Be sure to review our Costa Rica Safety Tips information page before your arrival.
If you are in good condition and have a lot of energy, riding around on the buses can be a great way to get around. Wages have gone up substantially over the past 10 years and a lot more people are buying cars, but buses and taxis are still the transportation of choice for most Ticos. For example: bus fare from our offices in Heredia to San Jose would be less than US$1 and take about 30-45 minutes. The same trip by taxi would run about $10 by taxi and take only about 15-25 minutes depending on traffic. Check out our Costa Rica bus schedule page for information on arrival and departure times to various destinations.
You can spot an official Costa Rica taxi by it's red color and a yellow triangle on the door. There are many "Pirata’s" or pirate taxis floating around the streets. The fact they don't have a permit to operate keeps their costs lower and in most cases they charge lower fares. We recommend you stay away from pirate taxis. If they are not willing to spend the money to get a permit it's likely because either their car won't pass the standards (have fun stopping) or they may have some other stain on their record (say several accidents?) that might prohibit them from obtaining the necessary permissions.
In our humble opinion, the best Costa Rica vacation includes a sense of adventure. Renting a car and driving around is certainly an adventure. Expect to get lost - there are few street signs and almost no street addresses. This author arrived in Costa Rica in the early 1990’s. I was looking for some place in San Jose and a local told me it was a few hundred meters west of the "Coca Cola". Like an idiot I assumed he must mean the gigantic Coca Cola sign I had seen near the National Theater and I set off on my quest, only to find he was referring to an area of town where there used to be a huge Coca Cola bottling plant decades ago. I've had many interesting journeys based on these types of directions since. Costa Rica is so beautiful no matter where you drive there will be something great to see. Rent a car in Costa Rica and get lost - you'll be glad you did.
Be aware - almost all car rental agencies will reserve a $1,000 deductable on your credit card just in case you damage the car. They don't always tell you this as they take your card information and on more than one occasion a tourist with a low card limit ran out of credit in the middle of their vacation. We have a listing of Costa Rica car rental agencies for your convenience.
If your plans are to visit popular beaches and the main tourist attractions in the Central Valley area (where roads are pretty good quality), any compact car will do the job for you. If you intend to drive to Monteverde Cloud Forest or through Tilaran to Arenal from Cañas, we recommend you rent a 4x4. Keep your Costa Rica ravel fun by being prepared in advanced ;)
If you insist on sunshine every day, plan your Costa Rica vacation for after December 15 through the holiday season and before April 15. This time of year is known as the dry season. If you are willing to put up with a bit of rain (usually in the afternoons), visit between April 15 and December 15 - aka the green season. There will be less tourists during the green season and you'll get better prices from some hotels and tour operators. Keep in mind the holiday seasons. The entire country closes for about a week during Christmas and Easter, and the beaches are packed with locals and tourists. We have prepared more information about Costa Rica weather, safety, what to bring and visa requirements for your convenience.
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Thanks for visiting our web site and have a great Costa Rica Vacation!