9 tips for traveling in Costa Rica

Inspired by images of costa rica's pristine-looking coastlines, rainforests filled with exotic creatures, and steaming volcanoes towering above the clouds? Us too.

If you're dreaming of a trip to this central american nation, here are nine tips to squeeze the most out of the country.

1. Plan for peak season

Since so many north americans fly south in the winter – not to mention locals traveling home – it's important to book in advance if you plan to travel during the christmas and new year's holidays.

Both rooms and buses can be sold out for weeks, but by being smart and making multiple transportation connections (like a private shuttle to a hub, paired with a public bus from there), it's still possible to make things work.

The week before easter is another pressure point, although the parades and processions that take place during this time are worth the extra effort.

Christian arballo / flickr

2. Consider an organized tour

Veteran independent travelers might sniff at the idea of a guided tour, especially in a country where hostels and hotels seem to be on every corner and english is so widely spoken.

But many activities have high demand, surprisingly high prices, and there are few regular public bus routes around the country. A group tour means you can pack a lot of experiences into a 10-day trip without worrying about availability or logistics.

For those who can't stand the thought of group travel but don't want to plan every detail in advance, renting a car is another viable alternative.

3. Be prepared to spend

Costa rica is among the most expensive countries in latin america – and it's not just expensive compared to its neighbors. For certain supermarket items, such as water bottles and sunscreen, the country can rival even the UK and the US.

To save a few bucks, eat plates of gallo pinto at the small family-owned lemonade store, pay for groceries and other small purchases with local currencies instead of dollars, and travel during the off-season (aka rainy season) for reduced room rates.

4. Choose between adventure gateways

Monteverde and la fortuna are two of the most popular backpacker destinations in northern costa rica and excellent starting points for outdoor activities. But getting in between can be a lengthy process and much of the adventure offering is similar.

If you don't have time for both, monteverde can come up trumps thanks to its drier climate and unconventional hillside charm.

5. Be aware of the caution when it comes to the weather

Even in the dry season (between december and april), visitors should be prepared for frequent rainfall in the central highlands and atlantic coastal plain.

No matter how clear the skies look at daybreak, be sure to keep waterproof clothing and valuables bags when traveling in the rainforest. And if the showers dampen your spirits, you can always head west to the sun-baked plains of the pacific slopes.

6. Learn the language

You won't have a hard time finding locals with a good command of english, but learning some spanish can not only give you recognition and a warm welcome, but also increase your bargaining power.

Those with a good chunk of time can go a step further and sign up for one of the many local language schools scattered throughout the country tico accent just put to the test.

7. Respect the country's sustainability credentials

Costa rica has set a goal of becoming the world's first carbon-neutral country by 2021. To support its green goals, choose ecologist and on-site operators who practice sustainable tourism whenever possible.

To distinguish the good, the bad and the ugly, the costa rica tourism institute has developed the CST (certificate of sustainable tourism). Businesses are ranked from level one to five based on their commitment to the cause.

8. Swap the pacific coast for the caribbean

A quick solution to escape the costa rican crowds is to move east instead of west. With liberia's international airport so close to the pacific coast, it is an easily accessible beach destination.

However, the sands of the caribbean coast are much harder to reach, which means the region is also much less developed.

9. Involve a neighbor

Though tightly packed in the waistline of the americas, each central american nation boasts its own character, attractions and heritage. Neighboring nicaragua and panama are the easiest and most obvious additions to a stay in costa rica.

Nicaragua is a more rugged destination best suited for intrepid, budget-conscious travelers, while panama offers a cosmopolitan capital and a variety of rural adventure activities.

Explore more of costa rica with . Compare flights,find tours, book hostels andhotels for your trip, and don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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