Costa Rica is a small country in terms of surface, but the territory offers a lot of diversity that is hard to compete with.
With volcanoes, rainforests, numerous beaches and wildlife, Costa Rica is a destination which can please everyone!
Costa Rica: the must-sees
Beaches and national parks in Costa Rica
This thin piece of land is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other.
So there is no lack of choice in terms of beaches. There are six distinct regions with water access and there is not one beach that is necessarily better than another.
Indeed, the choice should depend on your interests and activities, the month you travel to Costa Rica and your itinerary.
- The beaches of the northern region of Guanacaste
- The beaches of the southern region of Guanacaste
- The beaches of the Pacific Ocean
- The beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula
- The beaches of the Osa Peninsula
- The beaches of the Caribbean Sea
Likewise, depending on your itinerary, you can easily find a national park to admire the iconic fauna of Costa Rica or to do activities according to your preferences. Indeed, there are a great number of parks in Costa Rica.
San José, the capital of Costa Rica, is a city rich in culture and history. Despite all that this metropolis has to offer, it is often overlooked by travelers who rush to the beautiful beaches and tropical forests.
It’s understandable; we are often so attracted by the exoticism of Costa Rica that we do not linger too long in the big city!
However, a day or two is a good compromise to discover this Central American metropolis: the majority of San José’s attractions are centralized around Avenida Central. In this neighbourhood, it’s easy to walk through a variety of museums, restaurants, parks, markets, etc.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo will delight your taste buds with its Afro-Caribbean fusion cuisine. This small town on the waterfront is ideal for relaxation and water activities.
Indeed, it is a very beautiful place with magnificent reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The picturesque town of Puerto Viejo and its many beaches are surrounded by a tropical forest and the Manzanillo National Refuge. Thus, one can take small hikes in the jungle and see monkeys, sloths, etc.
From July to October in Costa Rica, thousands of gigantic turtles come lay eggs on the beaches of Tortuguero during the night.
It is an amazing natural phenomenon: you can see the turtles coming out of the water, then they go to their spot on the beach to dig their hole and finally, lay hundreds of eggs. When they have finished, the turtles bury their offspring to protect them from predators and return to the sea. The process takes about 2 hours.
July and August are the peak of the egg-laying season. So it is possible to see turtles laying eggs everywhere and observe the different stages without having to stay on the beach for a long time.
Then, 7 to 10 weeks later, the hatching of the sea turtles occurs. Since the egg-laying season lasts several months, it is possible to witness the laying of eggs and see the little turtles braving the beach to reach the ocean during the same trip to Costa Rica!
The town of La Fortuna is located at the foot of the Arenal volcano and is an excellent place to set base on an adventure trip to Costa Rica: rafting in the rapids, abseiling (canyoning), mountain biking on the volcano, kayaking or SUP on Lake Arenal, etc.
Afterwards, hot springs are available to end the day well!
The Monteverde Reserve is the most popular national park in Costa Rica. Also described as a cloud forest, the vibe of this place will be a bit more mysterious and the temperature will be cooler.
In the forest of Monteverde, there are several hiking trails and suspension bridges to meet animals and contemplate the sublime landscapes. This is perfect for a family activity.
Instead of walking through the dense vegetation, thrill seekers can fly over the beautiful forest on a four kilometer zip line!
Finally, another way to discover the Monteverde forest is to take a night tour when some animals come out to hunt.
Located in the northwest of Costa Rica, the Sarapiquí rainforest is well suited to a route that includes La Fortuna and Monteverde.
Sarapiquí is known for its ecological tourism, wildlife, ornithology and outdoor activities.
The views of the rainforest are magnificent; early risers can see the first rays of sunlight peeking through the fog and the green canopy.
Liberia is the gateway to the Guanacaste region. Air Canada and Air Transat serve this international airport from Montreal and Toronto.
So, if you don’t want to do a lot of driving and focus your trip in the north of Costa Rica, you should consider Liberia. Also, be on the lookout for airline tickets to Liberia compared to San Jose, they are sometimes cheaper!
Like San Jose, a day or two can be enough to get a feel for a big city before heading to the beach.
With beautiful waves, Playa Negra is a surfer’s paradise. The waves are very consistent and attract surfers from all over the world!
Besides surfing, Playa Negra is a charming place to rest. Indeed, it is a popular getaway for locals as well.
Like Playa Negra, Tamarindo is known for its beaches and waves. Being close to the Liberia airport, it is a very touristy place.
Tamarindo Beach is three kilometers long with a view of the rainforest in the background.
In addition, Mario Las Baulas National Park, another famous nesting site for sea turtles, is not too far from Tamarindo.
Manuel Antonio National Park
The city of Quepos is located on the west coast of Costa Rica and is a beautiful place to rest and enjoy the beautiful beaches.
The Manuel Antonio National Park is not too far from Quepos. In this park, there are beautiful beaches and crystal clear sea that are ideal for swimming, kayaking, surfing, etc.
Hiking trails are also available to meet toucans, monkeys and sloths.
Organize your trip to Costa Rica
When to visit?
The best time to discover Costa Rica is between December and April since it is the dry season.
However, the months of May, June and November are also a good time to visit the country when the tourist influx is lower. As for the temperature, these are months when the seasons are in transition: the green season.
The months of September and October should be avoided because of the rainy season. However, since Costa Rica is a tropical country, you should expect rain even if you are in the dry season.
How much time is required?
It is recommended to plan between 7 and 14 days for a vacation in Costa Rica; this will allow you to discover the great attractions of the country. Since the roads are not always very easy, getting from one area to another can be time consuming.
Thus, plan your trip to Costa Rica according to an area and do not spread yourself too thin. You can go back there since it is not too far from Canada. To tour the whole country, it would take at least 3 or 4 weeks!
Here are some suggested itineraries
- 7 days: San José, La Fortuna (volcano Areal), Manuel Antonio National Park
- 10 days: San José, La Fortuna (volcano Areal), Monteverde, Pacific Coast, Manuel Antonio National Park
- 14 days: San José, La Fortuna (volcano Areal), Tamarindo, Monteverde, Pacific Coast
- 1 month: complete tour of the country
How to get to Costa Rica ?
Where to start your trip to Costa Rica?
The country has two international airports:
- in Liberia: for a trip to the northwest and the Guanacaste region
- in San José: for vacations to the Pacific, center and Central Valley areas
Airline ticket prices to Costa Rica can vary greatly. Indeed, depending on the season, fares can be high, and using travel points is best.
Many credit card offer generous welcome bonuses to help offset the cost of airfare.
First, when researching airline ticket purchases, there are always several factors to consider when determining whether to use airline points or pay with cash.
Then, when you choose to pay in cash, there is always a way to use points to reduce the cost of the purchase.
For example, these flights found on the Expedia for TD website are notably cheaper than a similar ticket purchased with points from an airline program like Aeroplan, but these flights involve a stopover.
In addition, it is possible to use TD Rewards points to purchase this airline ticket; if you don’t have enough, it is possible to add money.
TD Rewards points are easily earned with the TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card. For a family trip, each adult could apply for the card to unlock a bunch of points for a trip to Costa Rica.
Air Canada provides direct service between Montreal and San José, Costa Rica.
You will need between 60,000 and 130,000 Aeroplan points to pay for round-trip airfare for a family of four. The dynamic pricing of tickets on Air Canada is heavily influenced by traffic.
Here is an example where the price was 85,000 Aeroplan points for a family leaving from Quebec City, for spring break when cash tickets can be extremely expensive.
Since the stopover is in Montreal, you can use these prices as a basis for planning your points accumulation strategy for your trip to Costa Rica, whether you leave from Montreal or Quebec City!
Since this flight is operated with Air Canada, you can benefit from a free checked bag for you and 8 people on the same reservation!
How to get around in Costa Rica?
For a trip at your own pace, you will have to rent a car.
Is it recommended to pay more for a 4×4? Between the different cities, you will not have any problem with a standard vehicle, but the roads are not always well maintained everywhere. In addition, many areas are only accessible by unpaved trails.
Although car rental costs can be very high in Costa Rica, this expense can be easily absorbed by credit card rewards points.
In this example, we are again using TD Rewards points to cover the cost of a car rental in Costa Rica.
If you use points to pay for your car rental in Costa Rica, it is suggested that you pay the difference, if any, with the credit card associated with the points.
Use your Card and/or TD Points to pay for the full cost of an eligible car rental, and get the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage at no additional cost for up to 48 consecutive days. Please note, some rental agencies may require you to buy the CDW coverage from them. It is important to contact the rental agency before reserving a car to verify their policies.
The local bus is still the most economical way to get from one place to another, especially if you want to visit well-served tourist spots. In fact, most of the bus routes are to and from the capital, San José.
However, if you rely on the bus system, you can waste a lot of time, as it may be necessary to constantly return to San Jose, the hub, to get to another part of Costa Rica.
This tool can be useful to find the routes served and the operating schedule.
Where to stay in Costa Rica?
For most itineraries in Costa Rica, it will be more economical to make independent hotel reservations and then apply points against the expense upon return from the trip.
There are a lot of accommodations with cooking facilities or including breakfast which is ideal for saving money on a trip to Costa Rica.
What is the best card to pay for our accommodation? During our trip to Costa Rica, we wanted to use points so we chose the credit card accordingly.
An ecolodge is an accommodation that seeks to minimize the negative impact on the environment.
Costa Rica is one of the best destinations in the world when it comes to its wide range of ecolodges.
Indeed, Costa Rica is so rich in rainforest and diversity that it is the perfect place to soak up the tranquility of nature from sunrise to sunset.
Marriott Bonvoy Hotels
In Costa Rica, there are several Marriott Bonvoy properties. However, they are mainly located in San José and on the west coast.
There are also hotels to maximize your annual free night certificate. With the elimination of fare categories, it will be possible to use a certificate costing 35,000 points (up to 50,000 with additional points) for overnight stays in high-end hotels in Costa Rica.