Costa Rica: Top 17 Travel Tips For Digital Nomads
Get ready to explore Costa Rica as a digital nomad. Discover the hidden gems of Costa Rica with our expert travel tips and must-see destinations.
Costa Rica is a top destination among digital nomads with its pristine beaches, gorgeous landscapes, and unique culture. This tropical paradise offers a lot of conducive spots to work online while enjoying its breathtaking views of lush greenery.
But before you book a plane ticket to this beautiful country, it’s important to have a sense of what it’s like to travel there. In this post, I’ll share some useful Costa Rica travel tips to make your journey unforgettable.
Read on and uncover Costa Rica’s secret hideaways for remote work, thrilling outdoor escapades, must-try local cuisines, and more.
Top 17 Travel Tips for a Great Stay in Costa Rica
1. Plan Your Trip in Advance
Many believe that unplanned, spontaneous travels are the best as they bring out one's "adventurous" side. Don't be fooled, though. Those who rush to travel actually often end up with regrets rather than fond memories.
Imagine visiting a country you’ve never been to without plans, bookings, or itineraries. The stress that comes with it will surely affect your remote work productivity, leading to a disastrous trip that’s supposed to be relaxing.
So, it’s important to mindfully plan your trip to Costa Rica, especially if it's your first time visiting it. I highly advise you to start learning the basics: Costa Rica’s culture, language, transportation modes, currency, etiquette, and more.
Once you get an idea of what Costa Rica is, you may now dive into your trip's nitty-gritty. For instance, you must meticulously allot time for each destination you plan to visit to stay on schedule.
Some travelers think Costa Rica is a small country, so it should be quick to go around it. However, many of Costa Rica’s routes have only one lane, which usually leads to traffic and longer travel times than what your GPS may indicate.
Speaking of traveling, you must also consider how to go around the country. You can choose between renting a car, taking shared shuttles, or riding taxis. As a digital nomad, renting a car is the most convenient option because it provides the most freedom with your time. This allows you to maintain a productive work-life balance while on the go.
Of course, you may also take a domestic flight to reach your destinations. The only catch is that one way trips per person are expensive, usually costing around $50 to $300.
Even the smallest details of your trip must be considered, from the essential travel documents, available accommodations, and budget constraints to the clothes you’ll wear, the travel bag you’ll use, and the toiletries you’ll bring. I found creating a checklist of “trip essentials” helpful to ensure nothing is overlooked during my travels.
2. Consider the Cost of Traveling to Costa Rica
Costa Rica is not a cheap country. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive Central American countries. So, make sure to consider your potential travel expenses as you prepare your plan.
Some travelers said that a minimum of $50 per day is needed to enjoy a “backpacking” Costa Rica experience. But if you want to enjoy its sought-after outdoor activities (diving, surfing, zip lining, etc.), prepare to spend up to $250–$300 per day.
I don’t want you draining your wallet as you explore Costa Rica. So here are some budget-friendly Costa Rica travel tips for a digital nomad like you:
Accommodation: Hostels are the cheapest form of accommodation available. A bed in a hostel dorm starts at $11 to $15 per night (shared with 8 beds).
Meanwhile, private hostel rooms start at $35 per night. This is the ideal option to enjoy your stay as you work remotely.
There are also 1–2 star hotels available that you can avail of for around $50 to $70 per night.
Most hostel dorms and hotels have free Wi-Fi with decent connections to support your online work. They also serve free breakfast and provide complimentary toiletries for their guests. It’s advisable to book in advance, as hotel prices tend to rise, especially during peak season.
Outdoor Activities: Visiting natural parks is one of the cheapest activities in Costa Rica, with costs ranging from $6 to $12. Meanwhile, surfing is priced at around $20, and hiking typically costs around $60.
However, the most budget-friendly option is to visit its public beaches, which are absolutely free for anyone!
Food: Eating like a local Costa Rican is the cheapest way to fill your tummy. Cheap local restaurants called sodas serve casado or rice meals for around $6 to $7 only. Mid-range restaurants catering to tourists usually have dishes ranging from $13 to $15 per meal.
Transportation: As I mentioned earlier, car rentals are the most suitable mode of transportation for digital nomads. Fortunately, you can rent a car here for as little as $30 to $50 a day. Many suggest renting a 4 x 4 to easily navigate Costa Rica’s paved roads (which usually get muddy during rain).
But for the cheapest option, Costa Rican buses cost only $2 for short trips and $10 to $20 for long trips.
3. Choose the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
Once you’ve become more familiar with Costa Rica, it’s time to decide when to visit it.
Costa Rica’s dry season (usually January to April) is the best time to explore its gorgeous beaches and coastlines. This is also when the country’s tourism is at its peak, with people exploring its rainforests and beaches.
Meanwhile, around May to December is Costa Rica’s rainy season. This is the time when hotels and tourist spots’ fees are usually low. So, if you want to save a little, this is the ideal time to visit.
4. Explore the Must-Visit Destinations in Costa Rica
After hours of working with your laptop, you can unwind and create fond memories at these marvelous destinations:
Arenal Volcano National Park: You should never miss this destination with its relaxing hot springs and stunning view of the Arenal Volcano. You can also enjoy canyoning, caving, or hiking in the national park. There's also the nearby La Fortuna waterfall, where you can hike and swim.
Puerto Viejo: This gorgeous Caribbean coastline is an all-time favorite among travelers with its serene beaches, rocky cliffs, and dense jungles. You'll never run out of adventures to try here—surfing, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, partying, and more!
Jaco: Here’s another alluring Pacific coastline that is best for beach-lovers and sun-seekers. You'll love surfing, diving, or fishing on its pretty beaches, as well as its other outdoor adventures like ziplining, catamaran riding, and horseback riding. Expect an epic night out with lots of bars, clubs, and cafes around the town.
Tortuguero: Dubbed as the "land of turtles," this charming national park has an extensive network of canals and rivers situated between forests. Aside from hiking, swimming, or fishing in this area, you can also take a glimpse of its rich turtle population nestling around the coastline.
Cahuita: An hour north of Puerto Viejo, a small hamlet named Cahuita awaits you. It is a great place to relax with its wildlife-rich shore and exciting outdoor escapades like hiking, surfing, and swimming.
Manuel Antonio: Known as the smallest yet most famous national park in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio offers a perfect blend of pristine beaches and lush forests. Many travelers love its 1.3-mile hiking trails that will get you close to some of the country’s exotic wildlife.
Monteverde: If you’re looking for Costa Rica’s quetzal birds, you must visit its famous lush cloud forests in Monteverde. Many tourists are fascinated by the cloud cover and misty fog covering the canopy. These forests are home to over 420 species of orchids, ferns, and mosses,' as well as a wide range of bird species. It’s also a great spot to zipline and try some sky bridges.
The cloud forests’ are stunning in the daytime, but they have an enchanting allure once the sun sets. With the guidance of a naturalist, they can help you see nocturnal slot species as they rustle among trees.
Tamarindo: A bustling beach community in Guanacaste that is perfect for surfers, water sports fans, and party lovers. Its famous beaches, such as Playa Langosta and Playa Grande, are well-known spots to witness breathtaking sunsets, snorkel, zipline, sail catamaran, surf, and more.
5. Pack Appropriately for Costa Rica
When packing for travel, you don’t just toss your cutest outfits and items into your bag. It’s important to include these essentials to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable Costa Rica trip:
- Documents: Make sure to bring the original copies of your passport, visa, driver’s license, and travel insurance documents. It’s scarier than a nightmare once you miss one of these documents.
- Tickets and reservation receipts: You can bring them as a hard copy or a soft copy saved on your device.
- Insulated water bottle: This is a must-have, especially when it’s 90 F outside and you’re walking to your destination.
- Lightweight clothes: The daytime temperature on some Costa Rican beaches can reach as high as 95 F (35 C), so make sure to bring light clothes such as shorts, tank tops, or sleeveless garments.
- Shoes: Sneakers, hiking shoes, or running shoes are essential in case you’re doing outdoor activities. A pair of waterproof shoes is highly advised for intense hiking activities.
- Light jackets and sweaters: Since Costa Rica has different microclimates, expect that some of its locations are chillier than others, so bring warm sweaters, long pants, and jackets, especially if you plan to travel during the rainy season.
- Mosquito repellant: Mosquito-borne diseases are quite prevalent in Costa Rica (especially in coastal areas). Hence, a mosquito repellant is a must.
- Sunscreen: As a tropical country, you’ll surely suffer a sunburn once your skin is exposed as you swim or surf on Costa Rican beaches. An SPF-30 sunscreen is highly advised to include in your pack.
- Electronic devices: Are you really a digital nomad without these? Don’t forget to pack your laptop (inside its protective bag), smartphone, chargers, and power bank. It’s also useful to bring charging cables, portable Wi-Fi devices, and waterproof phone cases.
6. Stay Safe in Costa Rica
Is it safe to travel to Costa Rica? Generally, tourists are assured that there are no heinous crimes happening here on a daily basis, so it’s pretty safe.
But just like any other country, there are burglars and pickpockets preying on every opportunity. So always be cautious with your belongings, especially on public transportation, where thieves usually take advantage.
Since taxis are the common mode of transport here, ride only with the official ones (those that are red with province codes and door numbers). Never accept an offer from anyone to give you a ride.
Note that Costa Rica has a 911 hotline with an English-speaking line. Don’t hesitate to dial it during an emergency.
7. Learn the Visa Requirements for Costa Rica
In 2022, the Costa Rican government introduced a digital nomad visa program that extends the 90-day tourist visa to a full year (with an option to extend to another year). Here are the requirements to apply for one:
- Minimum monthly income of $3,000 ($4,000 if going with a family member). Original bank statements with a signed affidavit are required.
- Proof of health insurance.
- Minimum stay requirement of 180 days
- Total of $190 in application and registration fees.
- Application documents are translated into Spanish.
8. Consider All-Inclusive Vacation Packages
If you’re still clueless about how to plan your trip to Costa Rica, maybe one of the all-inclusive Costa Rica travel packages will suit you. With this, you don’t have to worry about accommodation, transportation, and destinations; just coordinate your travel dates and budget with an authorized travel agent, and they’ll set up your trip.
I recommend you refer to this complete list of travel agencies approved and authorized by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute to avail of an all-inclusive vacation package. Most of these agencies offer all-around tourism services such as airport transportation, eco-adventure trips, customized private tours, and more.
We find Greenway Nature Tours to be one of Costa Rica’s most affordable tour packages, which you can avail of for only $1,225 (an eight-day tour package). There’s also the nine-day tour package from Intrepid Travel that you can avail of for only $1,460.
9. Make the Most of Costa Rica Itinerary
Whether you’re going independently to Costa Rica or via a travel agency, you must create a well-rounded itinerary where you can unwind and experience the country’s unique culture, wildlife, and exciting outdoor adventures.
If you’re a nature lover, consider crafting an itinerary that explores the country's volcanoes, forests, rivers, and waterfalls.
For example, if you arrive at the Juan Santamaría International Airport, you can travel to the Sarapiquí River or the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, where you can enjoy boating, fishing, or birdwatching. Afterward, you can head to Tenorio Volcano National Park to explore its dense forest and savor its rich flora and fauna.
On the other hand, if you're more into adventurous activities, you can create an itinerary that revolves around national parks offering outdoor adventures. For instance, Arenal Volcano National Park, Fortuna River Waterfall, and Monteverde Cloud Forest let you enjoy hiking, swimming, ziplining, or horseback riding.
Check out these suggested itineraries in Costa Rica, tailored to suit your preferences, whether you're into adventure, cultural immersion, natural exploration, or relaxation.
10. Experience the Local Cuisine
You can't fully immerse yourself in the rich Costa Rican culture without savoring its local cuisine. It's also a great way to connect with the locals of the country and appreciate their unique traditions.
Costa Rican dishes (comida típica) are usually based on rice, beans, veggies, meat, corn, or fish. They’re mostly simple but savory, highlighting the indigenous and rural origins of these foods.
Here are some must-try popular Costa Rican dishes:
Gallo Pinto: This rice-bean mixture is a typical breakfast dish for Costa Ricans and is usually served with onions, garlic, fried eggs, and sour cream.
Chorreadas: A great corn pancake for breakfast or an afternoon snack. It is best paired with hot coffee.
Sopa Negra: A delicious black bean flavored with garlic, tomato, avocado, or cilantro.
Casado: Another traditional lunch or dinner meal. It’s a rice meal served with either chicken, fish, beans, or pork chops.
11. Engage in Sustainable Tourism Practices
With 26% of its land as natural parks and wildlife preservation areas, Costa Rica is a world leader in sustainable ecotourism. It has also committed to a net-zero carbon future since 2019 with its innovative green policies.
Hence, travelers like you have a duty to support Costa Rica’s environmental campaigns. Ensure you choose locally-owned businesses and ecolodges granted Costa Rica’s Certificate of Sustainable Tourism (CST), as they’re the ones that are committed to the country’s vision.
12. Stay Connected
As a digital nomad, it’s essential to have a reliable Internet connection for personal or work purposes. While free open Wi-Fi spaces can be found in some of Costa Rica’s hostels, cafes, or public spaces, it’s not always the case that you'll come across one, especially if you’re far from cities.
You can purchase a local SIM card to connect to a Costa Rican network and access the ‘net. Most supermarkets and computer stores sell SIM cards for around $3.50. I advise you to buy a Kolbi or Claro SIM, as they have the widest range among cities and tourist destinations. To purchase one, you need to present your passport and ID and fill out a form.
If you don’t want to experience the hassle of purchasing a SIM card, you can just bring a portable Wi-Fi router. But make sure that your device does not require a SIM card and works in Costa Rica.
13. Learn Basic Spanish
Many Costa Ricans can speak English. But most of the time, you’ll stumble upon locals who can’t speak English. So, it’s still essential to learn basic Spanish for a more convenient and enjoyable travel experience.
Here are some must-know Spanish phrases to learn before you visit Costa Rica:
- Buenos días (good morning)
- Buenas tardes (good afternoon),
- Buenas noches (good evening)
- Hola (hello)
- Gracias (thank you)
- Por favor = Please
- Mucho gusto (nice to meet you)
- Hable Ingles? (do you speak English?)
- ¿Dónde? = Where?
- ¿Aceptan dolares? (Do you accept dollars?)
- ¿Cuanto vale? (How much is it?)
- ¿Por qué? = Why?
14. Be Prepared for Outdoor Adventures
Costa Rica is not just about marvelous sights to behold; it’s also a great place to be adventurous with the splendid nature as your backdrop. Here are some must-do outdoor adventures you should not miss during your trip:
- Snorkeling/Scuba diving: It’s exhilarating to explore the depths of the Pacific and Caribbean seas. If you love scuba diving and snorkeling, you must visit Costa Rica’s diving sites, such as Las Catalina Islands and Caño Island. Most resorts provide a decent snorkel gear set and PADI-certified tank dives, but you may opt to bring your own (that fits your weight and height).
- Ziplining: Costa Rica’s best places to zipline are located in La Fortuna, Guanacaste, and Monteverde. There are ziplines suited for beginners, but there are also those that will shake your fear of heights.
- Surfing: Costa Rica is a well-known surfing site in Central America. Most playas (beaches) have good waves for surfing, such as Playa Hermosa, Playa Avellanas, Playa Cocles, and Playa Tamarindo. Remember to surf only in conditions that suit your level; waves are unpredictable, so you must take extra precautions.
- Hiking: Hiking is a great way to discover Costa Rica’s lush forests, exotic wildlife, and stunning landscapes. The most famous hiking trails here include Arenal Volcano Park, Los Angeles Cloud Forest, and La Fortuna Waterfall. For your safety, make sure to follow only the trail set by your hiking tour guide.
- Canyoning: There are a lot of beautiful waterfalls at the heart of Costa Rica, and canyoning at them is an adrenaline-inducing experience you should not miss.
Whatever outdoor adventure you’ll try, make sure to follow the guidelines and instructions given by the professionals at your destination. If you feel uncomfortable with the gear, talk this out to personnel so they can accommodate you.
It’s also important to respect the wildlife and biodiversity of the destinations you’ll visit. Sometimes, exploring on your own without the instructions of tour guides may cause irreversible damage to the environment due to the objects or substances you use or by disturbing the natural habitat of various fauna and flora species.
15. Capture the Moment
You can always relive your Costa Rica adventures by capturing its beauty with the lens of your camera. No need to be a professional photographer to capture the best moments; just use good equipment and wait for the perfect timing.
Some of the best cameras for taking wildlife photos include the Nikon Coolpix P1000 and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. But in general, a DSLR is sufficient to give you a high-quality still image. If you’re planning to swim, dive, or ride a boat, you may want a waterproof one, such as a GoPro. Make sure to study your camera ahead of your trip by taking shots with varying distances and lighting.
You can bring a lightweight tripod, but it’s optional, as are other accessories such as a lens cloth, polarizer, ring flash unit, and extra memory cards.
Taking photos during rainy days can be difficult, but it’s actually a great opportunity to get good shots of some birds. Meanwhile, slots, howler monkeys, and some insects are pretty easy to capture.
16. Protect Against the Sun
As we mentioned earlier, sunscreen is a must in Costa Rica with the intense sun rays,, especially at noon. Avoid exposing yourself to the sun from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., but if you have to walk during these times, you can wear a hat and bring your insulated water bottle to stay hydrated.
Speaking about staying hydrated, it’s actually safe to drink tap water in Central Valley cities like San Jose, Cartago, and Heredia.
17. Embrace the Pura Vida Lifestyle
Pura Vida, which translates to pure life, is a great reminder to live in the moment and stop dwelling on worries and stresses. Embracing this mindset will let you appreciate the simple joys of life and savor the enchanting beauty of nature.
As you explore Costa Rica’s splendid mountains, pristine beaches, and charming towns, set aside the hustle and chill. Let yourself indulge in an idyllic life far from a fast-paced, stressful lifestyle.
Make the Most of Costa Rica
That’s it! You’re now all set to explore the beautiful land of Costa Rica and embrace the pura vida lifestyle. I'm confident that my Costa Rica travel tips will allow you to enjoy its stunning sights and thrilling outdoor adventures, making you crave to come back for more!
For a blissful travel, check out Nomad Insurance and start your worry-free digital nomad adventures!
People Also Ask questions
What I wish I knew before traveling to Costa Rica?
Before traveling to Costa Rica, you must know its culture, language, currency, transportation modes, and must-visit destinations first to ensure a hassle-free exploration around the country.
As a digital nomad, it’s also crucial that you know how to get reliable internet access in the area through open Wi-Fi spaces or by availing of a local SIM card.
What do you need before traveling to Costa Rica?
Aside from Costa Rica travel requirements like a passport, you need to obtain a digital nomad visa to enjoy a minimum of 180-day stay in this country. Of course, you must prepare lightweight clothes, outdoor shoes, working equipment, and other essentials before traveling to Costa Rica.
What are some things tourists should be careful about in Costa Rica?
While Costa Rica is a safe country, tourists should be careful of thieves and pickpockets, especially when riding public transportation. For women, it’s generally safe to walk at night, but it’s still best to have someone you know accompany you, especially if you’ll be exploring clubs and bars.
Do I need malaria pills for Costa Rica?
While it’s not required to take malaria pills for Costa Rica, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention highly recommends that travelers take prescription medicine to prevent malaria. However, there’s only a slight risk of Malaria in some areas of the country, so you are unlikely to contract the disease when you travel here.