A couple of hikers posing for photo before the big hike in Corcovado National Park
A couple of hikers posing for photo before the big hike in Corcovado National Park

Nothing beats the freedom and excitement of exploring Costa Rica on a backpacking vacation. For adventurous travelers, hitting the open road with nothing more than the bare essentials is the ultimate way to see everything that Costa Rica has to offer. However, if you've never gone backpacking before, or are new to Central America, there are a few things you should think about before you set off on your adventures through this tropical paradise.

Plan ahead

Sure, it's tempting to throw your stuff into a bag and set off on the open road, but with a little forethought and planning, you could save yourself some real headaches later on. Before you embark on your Latin American adventure, be sure to plan your itinerary in detail. Let someone at home know where you should be and when, in case of emergencies. Check out the local bus schedule and find out how to get to the bus stations in San Jose, after all San Jose is the hub for all of Costa Rica. The buses in Costa Rica are run privately so there are many different companies and they all have different bus depot locations in San Jose where you will need to go to catch the bus to your destinations. While planning ahead is a good idea, leave a little room in your schedule for unexpected adventures - you're bound to discover all kinds of cool places you never expected to find!

Tired after bus ride to Santa Cruz
Tired after bus ride to Santa Cruz

Travel light

As the saying goes, "He who travels lightest, travels farthest." When it comes to packing your bags, it might be tempting to bring some unnecessary items "just in case." However, this can slow you down and make traveling more of a chore than it needs to be. Of course, there are some essentials you shouldn't leave without, such as sunscreen, insect repellent and a light rain jacket, after all Costa Rica is in the middle of the tropics. So before you pack the kitchen sink, ask yourself if you really need everything in your bag.

Travel smart

It pays to think ahead, an adage that applies to more than just what to bring or investing in travel insurance. Rather than carry a wad of cash in your wallet, consider using an ATM card. Sure, you'll need some cash for out-of-the-way restaurants and services that don't take credit cards. Most ATM cards will work with yours while in Costa Rica so you can get out local currency without the hassles of waiting in banks. There are ATM's all around the county not just in the densely populated areas such as the capital of San Jose. While in San Jose as in many large cities around the world don't get stuck in a bad neighborhood. The best way to know is to ask around about places to go and see and if you think you might be traveling through a bad neighborhood, like on the way to a bus depot, take a taxi.

Backpacking around Costa Rica can be an unforgettable experience. With some common sense and a little planning, you can make sure that your vacation is a safe and happy one. No matter where you visit, be sure to travel with a smile - it'll take you places you've never imagined!