Are you planning to visit Costa Rica? Find out in this blog the best tips to put your trip together and get to know the best beaches before taking your flight
Are you planning to visit Costa Rica? Have you heard about the incredible beaches here? Well this is very true. You just have to choose the correct destination, do your research, and be aware of what awaits you when you visit our country.
The good news is that here you’ll find everything that you need to make your trip to Costa Rica as extraordinary as you dreamed it. GOPlaya started as a venture of two good childhood friends who toured the entire country to explore and show you the best information on more than 230 beaches.
Carlos and I (José Pablo), two locals, who grew up together, (we met in kindergarten and graduated form high school together) developed the most complete database to travel and discover the Costa Rican coasts.
First of all, we created the first and only beach search engine in Costa Rica that allows you to choose your favorite beach according to your taste and preferences; the high quality of the information and content allowed us to win the International Open Passport Award in the category: originality.
Then we realized that there was so much more to discover, so we launched the first platform that is specifically about travel eBooks, that you can use to plan your adventure, with 3 guides: Virgin Beaches (157 pages), Beach Towns (350 pages) and Tourist Safety (93 pages).
We are thrilled that reading this you are planning to visit Costa Rica. We want you to have a great time, we want you to explore those magical beaches, and discover those virgin destinations that still remain intact.
In addition to invite you to buy our eBooks, we suggest you to check the partnership that we have with Adobe Rent a Car. They offer an exclusive discount for our readers and also you get the Guanacaste eBook (it’s incredible!) with 190 pages of information.
It is time for us to help you plan your trip. We want to clarify all of your doubts and questions before visiting Costa Rica.
There’s a lot of inaccurate information out there, so we are going to attempt to be as transparent as possible with the information that you’ll read below:
Facts about Costa Rica
Costa Rica has an area of 51,100 square kilometers, so is basically smaller than Lake Michigan, a little bit bigger than Denmark and around 102,000 km2 smaller that Miami. Then why is such a small destination so famous? Well, because 6% of the world’s biodiversity is concentrated in our territory. There are more than 90,000 identified species and around 500 different beaches.
This natural richness makes us an exceptional destination to have a magical experience. You just have to be aware of planning your trip correctly and choosing the perfect places to visit. Remember that Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces: San José (the capital of the country), Alajuela (here is where the main international Airport is located), Cartago, Heredia, Puntarenas, Guanacaste and Limón. What you’re looking for is not on all of these places.
When you start putting together your itinerary, we suggest you to focus most of your time on visiting the three coastal provinces: Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limón. Here you’ll find most of the natural beauties and the must-see places, such as National Parks, where you can see the popular sloth, sea turtles and the intense green.
To visit these coastal provinces you can take as a point of reference the most popular beach towns in Costa Rica, where you will find a wide range of hotels, nearby beaches and services: we are talking about Tamarindo, El Coco, Las Catalinas, Nosara and Sámara in Guanacaste.
Santa Teresa and Montezuma in Nicoya Peninsula, which is part of Puntarenas.
Manuel Antonio and Jacó in Puntarenas; Uvita and Dominical in the South zone of Puntarenas, and Puerto Viejo in Limón which is the Costa Rican Caribbean side.
When you set up in one of these destinations you will be able to move around to explore the virgin beaches that surround the area.
We also recommend to look at La Fortuna in San Carlos, this area surrounds the Arenal Volcano and the hot springs.
The capital San José does not have the natural beauty of the coastal areas. So you shouldn´t consider it as an essential visit on your trip.
Spanish is the official language in Costa Rica, but in tourist areas most of the tour guides and tour companies, hotel staff and even locals speak English. If you have doubts about a destination, you can ask around, Costa Rican people are very friendly with tourists, and will do everything possible to help you on your trip. Likewise, do not be overconfident if someone offers you a service, because as in any other country in the world there are also people who take advantage of visitors. Always compare prices and alternatives.
Currency and prices
Colón is the currency. One dollar equals 579 colones approximately. In Costa Rica one dollar will only buy you a juice and a cracker in a supermarket. Actually Costa Rica is an expensive country, not going to lie. That’s why is necessary to compare prices in hotels and tours before making a purchase. You must plan your trip very well so you don’t end up overpaying for a destination that you can visit at a low cost.
For example most beaches can be accessed for free, because in Costa Rica all beaches are public. Many national parks offer accesible prices and are incredibly beautiful. Our eBooks of Beach Towns and Virgin Beaches will allow you to save a lot of money, since you’ll be able to reach many destinations and get to know very high quality low cost hotels.
Take into consideration that dollars are accepted in most tourist establishments. So you can pay with dollars, at hotels, tour companies and restaurants without a problem.
Credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are found throughout the country. Use ATMs located in public and well-lit places. Avoid accepting help from strangers. Withdraw, count, save your money before leaving the ATM booth and be alert of your surroundings. ATMs are out of service from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
Costa Rica is safe, although there is theft in several parts of the country, especially in tourist areas. It is advisable to be alert at all times. Do not leave your belongings unsupervised, avoid walking down the street late at night by yourself, and avoid entering places that seem unsafe.
As a general rule, do not bring expensive or high sentimental value items on your trip that you may be afraid to lose or get stolen. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (Costa Rican Tourism Institute) in conjunction with the police, have created a subdivision called tourist police with more than 250 officers, whose main purpose is to maintain order and security in tourist areas of the country. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach out to them.
Costa Rica’s healthcare is very good, both private and public services. In general, the health conditions in the country are very good, although cases of dengue, chikungunya and Zika have been reported.
It is advisable to get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, rabies and tetanus before your trip.
The Costa Rican Government requires vaccine against yellow fever if you are traveling from countries in Africa, and countries like Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil. This vaccine must be administered at least 10 days prior to the date of your trip.
Beginning July 30, 2007, Costa Rican authorities require that all travelers from the following countries get a yellow fever vaccination certificate: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and the Republic of Guyana.
Include in your luggage all required medicine if you have a specific medical condition. Some medication requires a certified prescription by a doctor. However, you can find drugstores in most destinations in the country that offer a wide variety of drugs. There are very few places where there are no pharmacies available.
In Costa Rica, it is mandatory to use your seatbelt even on low traffic roads. Be careful when placing your luggage in the vehicle and try to make it as unobtrusive as possible. If you are going to transport equipment such as surfboards, you must secure them so that they do not fall off while driving.
If you make a stop during your trip, such as a restaurant, shopping mall, supermarket, or lookout spots, always keep the vehicle doors closed and locked. Do not leave valuables such as computers, briefcases, cameras or credit cards in plain sight.
If and unknown person signals you that your vehicle has broken down or you got a flat tire, do not stop. Go to a gas station or nearest shopping center and call the company that leased your vehicle or 9-1-1 for help.
If someone crashes into the back of your vehicle or notice someone is following you for no apparent reason, do not stop. Call 9-1-1 for help or go to the nearest authority.
If you need to consult a map, do so in a public venue with enough lighting surrounding you. It is advisable to ask for help from a security officer. In Costa Rica, addresses are mostly known by landmarks and not by streets and avenues.
Even if you do not have a phone line in Costa Rica, with your mobile phone, you can call 9-1-1 for assistance.
What are road conditions like in Costa Rica?
It depends. If you visit some of the most popular beach destinations like Jacó, Manuel Antonio or El Coco in Guanacaste, you won’t have any problems. The roads are in good conditions, most of the time paved. However, one of the attractions in Costa Rica is to reach the most unspoiled and unique spots.
GOPlaya has a database of over 200 Costa Rican beaches. In each beach section, you can find the Google Maps address to direct you to the best spot. You will also be able to find out what the road conditions are during your trip. We suggest you rent a 4×4 so you can enjoy the most incredible places.
For example, if you search our website for a beach called “Calzón de Pobre”, you will see that we recommend you drive there with a 4×4 vehicle because the road is in poor condition. You can relax, we know Costa Rican beaches very well and want you to get to know them and live an authentic experience in our country.
Rent a car
Read the contract carefully so you know what is and isn’t covered by the car insurance.
Ask your rental car company associate if the vehicle you’re renting is appropriate for the destination you are going to. Depending on the road conditions, front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive may be required.
Also ask the associate if the vehicle is in optimal driving conditions and whether it includes the basic safety equipment. This equipment should be in good condition, and must include items such as: triangles, reflective vest, hydraulic jack, lug wrench and extinguisher.
Water is drinkable in most of the country. However, bottled water is recommended, especially in areas around the coast.
If you are going to move to areas far away from your hotel, you should take your passport with you and carry it in a safe place, preferably apart from your luggage.
If you are going to stay close to your hotel, it’s suggested to keep the documents in the safe box and carry a copy of your passport with your personal information and the entry visa to the country in case it’s required.
Dogs and cats entering Costa Rica must have a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, endorsed by a veterinarian service (VS). The examination for the certificate must be conducted within the two weeks prior to traveling to Costa Rica. The required vaccinations are: distemper, hepatitis, lestospirosis, parvovirus and rabies (for animals 4 months or older).
Beaches in Costa Rica
You might wonder: If Costa Rica is such a small country, how much difference there can be between one beach and another?
You’ll find an answer after browsing through our beach search engine, and also by reading our eBooks. But I can go ahead and tell you that in our country there are 13 beach towns and each one has it’s own vibe and personality; it’s uniqueness can be found in the amazing landscapes, hotels, restaurants and shops.
In these 13 places there’s a synergy between the coast and the community. The sea embraces each town. Towns that’ve grown over the years with the beach as it main engine for their development. Every place is different.
Explore each town in depth, but also, nearby beaches and the natural beauty that surrounds it. GOPlaya.cr wants to make your trip planning easier, so from the very beginning our beach search engine will allow you to find so many unique and beautiful beaches.
You can choose your favorite beach according to your taste and preferences. Currently the GOPlaya search engine offers the following filters: White sand, calm waves, whales and dolphins, snorkeling, surf, protected areas, viewpoints, turtles, nightlife and Eco Blue Flag.
So, by just selecting one of these alternatives, you will find information about the beaches that meet that characteristic.
In this video we show you how to use our beach search engine:
We know that to plan an amazing, unforgettable trip is not an easy task. That’s why we created the Beach Towns eBook, so you can explore every destination. Find the best qualified and low priced hotels, beaches and natural spectacles from every location, restaurants, travel tips, etc.
And if what you have in mind is to go to the most remote places in Costa Rica, we put together all of the virgin beaches in the country and created the Virgin Beaches eBook.
This a very exclusive eBook, that’d take you easily to every beach. Find all the information about the current state of the roads, maps, safety tips, and Google Maps addresses.