Costa Rica is heaven on earth for nature lovers with its rich array of striking plants, tropical wildlife, unspoiled beaches and mountainous rain forests. If you're into ecotourism, you can hike into the cloud forests, watch sea turtles nest and explore 20 natural parks and eight biological reserves. You can raft, snorkel, surf, scuba dive and fish on the many rivers and ocean. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your visit to this beautiful country.
Before You Go--Your Health
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website (cdc.gov) has specific recommendations for health preparations. If you'll be traveling and staying in rural parts of Costa Rica, the CDC has more stringent precautions. Get some vaccinations depending on your overall health and the advice of your doctor; do this 4 to 6 weeks before you leave. Take all your prescription medicines and medicine for diarrhea. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses and insect repellent with a 30 to 50 percent DEET concentration. Follow the CDC's other recommendations to ensure your health.
Most people fly into the San Jose International Airport. However, in the rainy season between May and November--a popular time to visit in spite of the rain--it's often hard to get a connection on the same day to travel to another part of Costa Rica. Fodor's Travel Guide recommends trying Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose or the Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica.
Take a bus if you're traveling between Costa Rica and Nicaragua or Panama. Tica Bus has daily service. Some runs have breakfast, videos, air conditioning and toilets.
Renting a Car
If you only have a few days and will stay in one area, you don't need to rent a car. However, renting a car is helpful if you'll be visiting different areas or are planning a trip to the more remote areas, such as the Northern Plains, the Caribbean coast or Guanacaste. Rent an SUV because many roads are not in good condition. San Jose has the most car rental companies, including American chains such as Alamo, Hertz and Avis.
Changing Money in Costa Rica
According to Paul Glassman, a best-selling author of travel guides for Central America, "Avoid relying exclusively on travelers checks," and "Unfortunately, changing your foreign currency to colones (Costa Rica's currency) at a bank could turn out to be your most unpleasant experience in Costa Rica." Glassman recommends that you change your money at the airport or your hotel and use credit cards as much as possible.
Crime in Costa Rica
Crime in Costa Rica is common, according to the U.S. Department of State's travel information. Thieves seek cash, credit cards, passports, personal electronic devices and jewelry. It's safer to stay at a hotel in a suburb than in downtown San Jose. Exercise caution by keeping your purse close to you and your money in different locations on your body; walk with a group if you can. Leave your original passport in your hotel's safe and carry a copy with you when walking.