Crazy tree formation on hiking trail at Poas Volcano National Park
Crazy tree formation on hiking trail at Poas Volcano National Park

I understand that itch to explore, that pull to hop over to new places and the excitement of seeing some of nature's most amazing landscapes. I've heard whispers among my animal friends that Central America backpackers always say Costa Rica as one of their favorite places. There are endless activities, beaches like paradise and lots of interesting wildlife. It's a place that many travelers happily revisit over and over.

I've met many backpackers in my own travels exploring the beauty of Costa Rica, and each new friend had their own travel tips to share with me. I've put those tips together with my own tips to develop a guide for new, and returning, Costa Rica backpackers!

When To Go

Costa Rica doesn't have a tough or most dangerous time of year, like hurricane season, so you really could visit any time of year! You should decide which type of experience you want to help you decide when to visit. If you are interested in meeting a lot of other backpackers and don't mind some crowds, you might want to go during the "high" season, which is December through April. If you are on a budget, and don't mind some rain, you might want to go during "green" season, which is May through November. I personally love both seasons for different reasons. For high season the beaches are phenomenal it is the time of the year to take in the sun and heat and relax on the beach or do any beach activities. For the green season hiking and seeing the cloud & rain forests is the best after all everything is green, oh and rafting is out of this world.

Surfing at Playita in Manuel Antonio
Surfing at Playita in Manuel Antonio

General Tips

Most of the general travel and backpacking tips that you have heard apply to a Costa Rica adventure as well. Here's a recap of a few that you should be sure to remember:

  • Before visiting Costa Rica, try to learn at least basic Spanish.
  • Pack light. Prepare everything you think you need, and then cut that in half. Then, cut it in half again.
  • Try to avoid displaying any valuables, like jewelry, electronics (including cameras) and brand name bags.
  • Get maps and travel books to help you along the way. We have a great selection of maps that you can choose from and then you can print any of them as PDF's!
  • If you're hiking in ultra-remote areas, consider hiring a guide.

What To Budget

Your budget will depend on what level of luxury you need, and how long you have to travel. A month long backpacking visit can be done for around $2,000 (US). While you can't sleep in the trees like me, you can rent tents from some hostels for pretty cheap and camp to save money on accommodations. If you keep your accommodation costs low, you'll have more money for attractions and tours.

Where To Go

The most important thing to remember is that you probably can't do it all in one trip. Even if you are here for a month, it will be hard to go everywhere. I've lived here for my whole life and I'm still finding new adventures to go on! You should split Costa Rica into regions, and decide which one has the most to offer for your trip. Here are a few places you should consider visiting:

San Jose:
San Jose is the capital city, and a very popular spot for backpackers to start their adventure because it serves as a convenient base for visitors that want to get to popular destinations, including rapids and two volcanoes: the Irazu and Poas. It's also a hub for travel terminals including the main airport (San Jose International Airport), for when you are ready to hop to your next destination. I recommend that you plan to stay in San Jose for a one to three days depending on your preferences.

Hiking trail at Monteverde Biological Reserve
Hiking trail at Monteverde Biological Reserve

Monteverde:
Many visitors stay in Santa Elena for less expensive accommodations, and head to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to explore. The high altitude in Monteverde results in the forest being covered in a steady stream of clouds, and moisture, which helps support a diverse eco-system. Head into town too for more wildlife!

The Osa Peninsula:
The Osa Peninsula has so much to offer. I love to visit the Corcovado National Park , then visit the beaches along the coast. There is so much to do, you'll want to plan to spend at least 5 days here!

Beautiful beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
Beautiful beach in Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio:
Most Costa Rica backpackers are excited to see near perfect beaches and amazing jungles, and Manuel Antonio won't disappoint! If you're on a budget, you can stay in the nearby Quepos - which also offers affordable nightlife. Travel between Quepos and Manuel Antonio is frequent and inexpensive. Make sure you visit Manuel Antonio National Park even though it is one of the smallest parks in the country it is one of the most beautiful with great hiking and several gorgeous beaches within the park!

Santa Teresa:
Many travelers that I pass have been to, or are headed to, Santa Teresa. It’s one of my favorite spots too, as it is close to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve where I can visit many of my seabird friends. Santa Teresa also offers tons of activities, bike and AV rentals, and authentic restaurant eating. You’ll have no problem keeping busy here for about five days.

Nosara:
When your travels have you a little weary, head to Nosara and just try not to relax. Stretch out your muscles with a yoga class, or take a surfing outing. After a day of taking in everything that Nosara has to offer with its three beaches, kick back and experience some of the most amazing sunsets you’ll ever see. Dedicate three or four days here before you jump to your next destination.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limon:
Any one that has taken on a backpacking trip is sure to be an adventure-seeker, and Puerto Viejo has a great opportunity in its awesome beaches: surfing in the Caribbean. This may not be the most remote location (visit once and you’ll know why!), but it is still much less hopping than the other destinations listed here, and still offers cheap accommodations for travelers. Plan to spend at least 5 days here…or maybe you’ll never want to leave!

There are many more places to visit and explore, and so much wildlife and culture to take in. Start your exploring by checking out more of my articles and signing up to receive my newsletter. Can't wait to see you in Costa Rica!.

Magica Blanca Waterfall near Poas Volcano
Magica Blanca Waterfall near Poas Volcano
The breathtaking beach at Corcovado National Park
The breathtaking beach at Corcovado National Park
Irazú Volcano Crater
Irazú Volcano Crater