Before you leave for the Airport!
- Check the airline’s Web-site for changes in the flight’s departure time or call and talk to an agent about any potential flight delays.
- Make sure someone other than you has a copy of your flight and hotel information.
- Make sure you have spare prescriptions for your regular medications and carry all medications with you in case your checked bag gets lost.
- Carry on any jewelry or anything of value.
- Airlines allow you to pre-print your boarding pass 24 hours before your flight. It’s the fastest way to check-in. If you’re not checking luggage this will allow you to go directly to the gate.
- Know what you can and can’t pack in your carry-on and checked luggage. Check your countries rules and regulations on line or via phone.
- For International trips to Costa Rica, it is best to get to the airport at least 2 – 3 hours before flight time.
- Contact your cell phone carrier to see if your mobile device will work in Costa Rica. If not you can purchase calling cards or cell phones in the country.
- Scan your main passport page, visa and any paper tickets and e-mail them to yourself and a family member or friend. Also leave photocopies of these documents with them for extra security.
- It’s always nice to buy Guidebooks or review web-sites like Frommers, Fodors or the Lonely Planet to determine what you’d like to do on your trip to Costa Rica and the Costa Ballena.
- High season in Costa Rica in general is December through April in most of the country where temperatures range between 70°F and 85°F. During this time you can expect sunshine and great sunsets! The primary rainy season in Costa Rica is May through November throughout most of the country. Packing will depend on the region of Costa Rica you are visiting.
- Caribbean coast is composed of two key areas. The northeast coastline is remote and is a vast flat plain with rivers and covered with rainforest. Accessible only by boat or small plane, you need to be ready for rain and be surrounded by nature. South Caribbean coast has many untouched beaches. So pack light and enjoy your book and stroll on the beach
- Central Valley (includes San Jose the capitol city) is defined by rolling green mountains that rise to heights between 900 and 1,200m (2,952-3,936 ft.) above sea level. The climate here is mild year-round. Hiking gear is your best bet to see any of the four volcanic peaks; Poás, Irazú, Barva and Turrialba
- Guanacaste is in the northwestern corner of the country. It is considered Costa Rica’s sunniest and most popular beaches. There are many towns and resorts along this long string of coastline. Again, pack light!
- The Nicoya Peninsula is just south of Guanacaste is more inaccessible, and much less developed and crowded. The peninsula juts out to form the Golfo de Nicoya (Nicoya Gulf), a large, protected body of water. The area is more humid than Guanacaste even though it has a similar geography and ecosystems. There are lush forests in addition to beaches. Depending on your travel plans hiking and beach attire are appropriate.
- The Northern Zone is one of the few regions of Costa Rica that does not have any beaches but don’t let that dissuade you from visiting. The region includes hot springs, rainforests, cloud forests, wind surfing Lake Arenal and Costa Rica’s two most active volcanoes; Arenal and Rincón de la Vieja. Hiking, swing bridges, careening down waterfalls, zip lining and active sports define the area. So pack appropriately with outdoor clothing, backpacks and boots.
- Costa Ballena is our favorite area; the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It usually stays drier through July with an afternoon shower here and there. The warmest time on the Costa Ballena is January –March. If you are spending your time with us on the south Pacific coast; the Costa Ballena, pack for a variety of fun activities. Besides the eight diverse beaches, you can horseback ride, take a zip-line tour, kayak, bird watch, white water rafting, hike and surf.
- If you’re traveling with a friend, split your toiletries and clothes into two groups, then combine one another’s stuff in two pieces of checked luggage. This way, if either bag is lost, you’ll have at least half your stuff at your destination.
- To prevent leaks in checked luggage, pack liquid and gel products in re-sealable freezer bags (carry-on toiletries must be packed in a re-sealable plastic bag so they can be easily examined at security checkpoints). Use leak-proof bottles for shampoo and lotion (leave room at the top of bottles for expansion).
At the airport
- If you want to avoid any hassles, avoid checking your bags. This lets you go straight to the security line clutching your pre-printed boarding pass, with no stop — and wait — to check luggage. Just be sure to check the airline rules on the size/weight of carry-on luggage; they can be stricter on European airlines.
- You may need to check your bag on longer trips, but carry medications and valuable with you. It’s also nice to take an extra set of clothes if your checked bag gets lost
- Make sure your shoes slip easily on and off to avoid creating a slow down when going through security.
- If you are taking your computer, take it out of the bag in advance of going through security.
- If a flight is delayed or canceled — or the airport lines are so long you will miss your flight — immediately call the airline from your cell phone for alternative options.
- Be observant and do not leave your belongings at any time.
In the air
- We know you probably know it by heart but please listen to the security briefing from your flight attendant.
- Drink lots of water or other nonalcoholic beverages to combat dehydration from the dry airplane air.
While you’re here
Eating – Costa Rican cuisine is simple, not too spicy and tasty. A few dishes you should try;
- Gallo pinto - mixture of rice and beans with a little cilantro or onion. Served virtually all meals
- Casado - the typical lunch in Costa Rica, containing rice and beans with meat, chicken or fish, always served with salad and fried plantain
- Plato del dia - ’Plate of the Day’ and is often a Casado, but has the meat or fish selection of the day includes a natural juice. This is usually your best value
- Fruit – like Bananas (one of Cost Rica’s biggest export), Mangos is everywhere and very inexpensive
- Salsa Lizano - mild vegetable sauce that has a hint of curry and is slightly sweet; Costa Rican ketchup
- Water - it’s okay to drink the water in Costa Rica in urban areas. In more rural areas, bottled water may be the way to go
Tipping - all restaurants add a 10% service fee to the bill automatically. If you have exceptional service an extra dollar or two is nice since in most cases the restaurants simply pay a pittance of a salary to the waiters/waitresses. You should consider giving a small tip to your guides or tour bus drivers.
Currency – The colon is the currency of Costa Rica (pronounced cologne). Best is to bring credit or debit cards. There are many ATM’s and you will get the exact exchange rate at the time of usage. Do not exchange money at the San Jose airport. The exchange rate there is not the official rate and you will get a lot fewer colones to the dollar
Driving - Drive defensively and you should be fine. The roads in many areas of Costa Rica have been improved dramatically. In remote areas of the country a 4×4 is needed. When renting a car, tell the rental agent where you plan to go so they can help you navigate with the proper transportation
Taxis - ALWAYS use the red taxis with the distinctive yellow triangle on the door – these are officially licensed Costa Rica taxis, which means their cars must pass inspection and they must carry insurance.
Airport Taxis - at the airport you will see specialized “orange” taxis with their distinctive white wing logo on the door. You purchase the fare from a little booth located in the area just after you clear customs. It’s less than $20 to get to San Jose. If for any reason you don’t find the booth to purchase the taxi fare you will notice the taxis on your left as you exit the airport.
Buses - Buses are everywhere and they are cheap. Fares to various cities around Costa Rica are very reasonably priced.
Medical Tourism – Need some Dental work, a face lift or a few nips and tucks here and there? Costa Rica ranks high in quality care at affordable prices versus the same procedures in the U.S. In fact, medical tourism is one of Costa Rica’s fastest growing industries. Hospital De Osa is a brand new, state of the art facility on the Ballena Coast
Buying Coffee - It is difficult to buy a bad brand of coffee in Costa Rica! You can buy it in most tourist shops but they will be more expensive than if you go to the grocery store.
- Pedestrians in general do not have the right of way. Roads in rural areas may also tend to have many potholes. Driving at night is not recommended
- Do not leave valuables in plain view in a car or leave your wallet on the beach when going into the water. Close the car windows and lock the car or other things that you might not do in your own country
- Like any other tourist destination, watch out for pickpockets
- Make use of hostel or hotel lock boxes if they are really
- The international calling code/country code for Costa Rica is 506
The primary means of outside contact are through email and public pay telephones
- Internet cafes are fairly easy to find in tourist areas, with prices all over the place. Some of these offer long distance calls over the internet
- Public phones are accessed with calling cards (tarjetas telefonicas) which can be purchased almost everywhere
- In the past, the Southern Zone or the Whale Coast, as the locals like to call it, has been difficult to reach. Now, with improved roads, a new hospital and airport and a growing number of private shuttle services, it is much more accessible. However, it has kept the prices lower.
- President Oscar Arias Sanchez recently pushed the completion of the Costanera highway. Today, only one bridge still remains unfinished, decreasing the travel time between Quepos and Dominical from 2 hours to about 30 minutes. This project has been in the works for 37 years and is finally a dream come true.
- In 2013, the new International Airport located between the towns of Palmar Sur and Sierpe is due to be completed with allocated government funds. While only small flights will be admitted at first, eventually the plan is to have a runway to accommodate much larger aircrafts. This project is being constructed in a rice field, using the maximum, treeless flat area as an environmentally conservative approach. Studies on the impact on birds, animals and the surrounding mangrove and jungle are extensive, in an effort to make a minimal environmental impact.
- International law requires a hospital to accommodate this type of airport. The hospital in Cuidad Cortez was not sufficient. So, a new 85,000 sq. ft. facility was built on the Costanera Highway. When it opened in April of 2008, the treatment facilities included a state of the art ER, a pediatrics wind, neurology center and an obstetrics and gynecology center. Plastic surgery and joint replacement clinics will start springing up all over soon.
- We’ll look forward to seeing you when you get to the Costa Ballena, Costa Rica! Connect with US