Hotel Punta Islita pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean
Hotel Punta Islita pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Visiting Costa Rica can be a life-changing trip and expose you to many wonders of nature that can’t be seen anywhere else.

Use these 9 steps to help you combat stress and keep it from ruining a perfectly good trip. It’s best to follow these steps in order to have the best experience with your planning and the final trip.

Map of Costa Rica
Map of Costa Rica

Step #1: Decide Which Regions You Want To Visit

You aren’t just “going to Costa Rica;” you are going to specific places in Costa Rica. Decide which destinations within Costa Rica have made your list.

Costa Rica destinations are divided into provinces. The northern region includes Alajuela, Guanacaste and Heredia. The central region includes San Jose and Cartago. Limon is part of the Caribbean coast region, and Puntarenas spans both the southern and central regions.

Costa Rica Beach & Volcano Tour 14 Days / 13 Nights
Costa Rica Beach & Volcano Tour 14 Days / 13 Nights

Step #2: Plan Your Itinerary

You don’t have to pick just one region to visit in Costa Rica. You can plan an itinerary that allows you to visit many regions (depending on the length of your trip).

You can set up you trip so that you can work your way up, down or through Costa Rica. San Jose is a great hub for you to travel through, as it houses one of the country main airports.

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Front of Avianca Airplane at San Jose International Airport in Costa Rica
Front of Avianca Airplane at San Jose International Airport in Costa Rica

Step #3: Arrange Your Travel

Once you have your itinerary planned, you can start researching available international and domestic flights.

There are two major airports in Costa Rica that you can fly in to: San Jose International Airport (SJO) and Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia (LIR).

You can reach most any destination in Costa Rica within six hours from the San Jose airport, as it is centrally located.

Liberia airport is in Guanacaste province, in the northern region. You can reach beaches in an hour from this airport, but will need to set aside more time for travel to other parts of the country.

Other options for travel include domestic flights, buses and car rentals. Domestic flights run out of both of the major airports as well as local airports. The country is well-connect and traveling by air within the country is the easiest and quickest way to get around from region to region.

If you are more interested in seeing everything along the way, you can rent a car for your travels. Some areas may have underdeveloped or impassable roads though, so be sure that you can travel by car to all your desired destinations.

If you don’t want to fly or drive, you can take a tourist bus to get almost anywhere in Costa Rica. The public buses even offer some direct routes. If you plan to use public transportation, travel lightly and book in advance.

Sunrise from Laps Rios Ecolodge Rooms on the Osa Peninsula
Sunrise from Laps Rios Ecolodge Rooms on the Osa Peninsula

Step #4: Book Your Accommodations

Once you know where you’ll be and when you’ll be there, you can book your accommodations.

When in Costa Rica, you have many options for accommodations. There are standard and luxury hotels and resorts, hostels, eco lodges and even available vacation rentals.

If you are looking for a place that will give you easy access to meals and other resources, you’ll want to consider staying at a hotel or resort.

Looking something with all your food, drinks & activities included, an all inclusive resort is just right for you.

If you are looking forward to experiencing all that nature has to offer, you can check into available eco lodges.

If you are looking for a place to lay your head for a few hours, a hostel is just right for the passer-by.

If you are planning an extended stay, there are also vacation rentals available that will offer you living space and a kitchen.

Guachipelin Adventure: Zipline, Horseback & River Tubing Combo
Guachipelin Adventure: Zipline, Horseback & River Tubing Combo

Step #5: Book Your Adventure Tours

The best way to experience Costa Rica is to participate in adventure tours during your stay.

The natural landscape of Costa Rica offers the opportunity for so many expeditions, including surfing, rafting, canopy tours, sport fishing and scuba diving.

There are also amazing volcanoes, rainforests, and national parks that you can visit.

Each region has its own special places: the Bat Jungle Museum in Monteverde, golfing at resorts, coffee plantations in Guanacaste.

You can choose to see the country on land or on water. There are plenty of great hiking trails, horse trails and ATV routes. You can also go out sailing or on a boat to get a panoramic view of whichever region you are in. Local wildlife watching is also an exciting part of visiting Costa Rica. Bird watching, whale watching, swimming with dolphins, diving with sharks and witnessing turtle nesting are all options to help take your trip to the next level.

If you are staying at a hotel, check with their concierge service to determine if they offer any tours, or if they partner with any tour operators. If you aren’t working with a hotel, simply research some adventure tours available in the area you’re traveling to.

USA Passport with Costa Rican coins
USA Passport with Costa Rican coins

Step #6: Secure Necessary Travel Documents

For international travel, you need to make sure that you have a valid passport that is good for at least 6 months past your departure date.

A passport can take up to 8 weeks to process and receive. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for yours or to check your current passport’s expiration date.

You can expedite your passport, but it costs extra. Save that money for your trip!

In order to get your passport, you’ll need a valid ID and proof of citizenship. Be sure to check your current ID also to make sure it isn’t going to expire before or during your trip. You need your ID to be valid through the extent of your trip, so that you don’t have trouble departing Costa Rica.

If your expiration date overlaps your trip, contact the appropriate agency as soon as possible to get it renewed.

Getting Immunizations at your doctor before an international trip
Getting Immunizations at your doctor before an international trip

Step #7: Visit Your Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor for several weeks before your scheduled travel.

Tell them that you plan to travel internationally and make sure you have all required shots and vaccines. Luckly Costa Rica does not require any special vaccines, however it is always a good idea to get your Hepatitis A & B shots.

Have yourself checked for any medical conditions and get clearance to participate in all the activities you have planned.

Also get any prescriptions filled enough to get you through your trip so you don’t run out of anything while you are in Costa Rica.

Researching your next vacation
Researching your next vacation

Step #8: Additional Planning

Consider any additional research or planning that you need to do.

Are your prescribed medicines allowed in your carry on, or do they need to be checked?

Does your airline charge extra for checked baggage, or do they have baggage weight limits?

What is the current exchange rate and how does it impact your budget?

Pack lightly you probably won't need much
Pack lightly you probably won't need much

Step #9: Packing

The time to pack for your trip is not the night before. Pack a few days ahead of time so that you have time to remove or add things after you have some time to think about it.

Try to pack as light as you can, and consider your planned activities.

If you are doing a lot of hiking, you want room for good hiking shoes and comfortable socks – and maybe won’t have room for any dress shoes.

Make a list of the essentials first, and pack those. If you have extra room after that you can pack the things that you want to bring, but aren’t necessary.