The Best Travel Tips for First-Time Visitors to Costa Rica (First Part)

A Comprehensive Guide to Navigating Local Customs, Financial Management, Safety Measures, and Transportation Options for First-Time Travelers Exploring the Natural and Cultural Riches of Costa Rica.


Costa Rica, a paradise nestled between two oceans, is a destination that captivates travelers with its lush rainforests, stunning beaches, and abundant wildlife. Known for its commitment to sustainability and biodiversity, this Central American gem offers an array of experiences for every kind of adventurer. But as with any international travel, a journey to Costa Rica requires a bit of preparation to ensure that your trip is as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Embarking on a journey to a new country is like diving into a novel full of exciting chapters. Each page unfolds with unique experiences, rich cultures, and unexpected twists. But imagine diving into that novel without knowing anything about the plot or the characters. You might miss out on subtle nuances or even find yourself unprepared for the storyline’s challenges. Similarly, traveling to a new country like Costa Rica without understanding its customs, currency, or safety tips could mean missing out on making the most of your journey.

In this post, we will share some essential tips for first-time visitors to Costa Rica. From understanding the local culture to handling money, from safety advice to transportation tips, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re planning to explore the bustling streets of San José, the dense forests of Manuel Antonio National Park, or the serene beaches along the Nicoya Peninsula, these tips will help you navigate your Costa Rican adventure with confidence and ease. So let’s get started and prepare for your epic adventure in the land of ‘Pura Vida’!”

Understanding Costa Rican Culture


Our Costa Rican culture is a vibrant tapestry woven with threads of Spanish, Indigenous, and Afro-Caribbean influences. Our peaceful history, robust democracy, and rich cultural heritage make our nation a warm and welcoming place for visitors.

At the heart of our culture is the phrase “Pura Vida”. Literally translated as “pure life”, Pura Vida is far more than just a saying—it’s our lifestyle. It’s an expression of optimism, a way of acknowledging that things are going well, and a mantra for living life at a relaxed pace. This encapsulates our mindset of enjoying life slowly and gratefully. Whether you’re interacting with us, exploring our natural wonders, or simply soaking in the atmosphere, you’ll see and feel the Pura Vida spirit everywhere.

We Costa Ricans, affectionately known as Ticos, are renowned for our friendliness and hospitality. We are generally very approachable, helpful, and enjoy interacting with tourists. We appreciate when visitors make an effort to learn about our culture and speak a bit of Spanish, even if it’s just a few phrases. We take pride in our beautiful country and are usually eager to share tips about the best local spots to visit or foods to try.

Understanding and respecting the local culture is an essential part of any travel experience. In Costa Rica, embracing the Pura Vida lifestyle will help you connect with us Ticos and truly appreciate the richness of our surroundings. So remember, when you step off the plane and onto Costa Rican soil, you’re not just entering a new country—you’re stepping into our Pura Vida way of life.

Currency and Handling Money


When it comes to money matters in Costa Rica, the local currency is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, it’s essential to note that U.S. dollars are widely accepted, especially in tourist areas. The conversion rate fluctuates, so it’s a good idea to check the current rate before your trip or upon arrival.

Mistakes to avoid when visiting Manuel Antonio

Exchanging money is relatively straightforward in Costa Rica. You can exchange your currency at the airport, but keep in mind the rates may not be the most favorable there. Many tourists find it more convenient to withdraw colones directly from ATMs, which are widely available in cities and larger towns across the country. These machines usually offer a more competitive exchange rate. Major credit cards are also widely accepted in most places, although it’s always wise to carry some cash for smaller establishments or remote areas where card facilities might not be available.

As for tipping, it’s customary but not mandatory in Costa Rica. Many restaurants automatically add a 10% service charge to the bill, so additional tipping is not necessary unless you feel the service was exceptional. For hotel staff, a tip of $1 to $2 per bag for bellboys and $2 per day for housekeeping is appreciated. On guided tours like ours at Epic Adventures Costa Rica, tipping is customary if you enjoyed the tour and felt the guide did a good job. A tip of around $5 to $10 per person is standard.

Understanding the local currency and tipping customs can help ensure smooth transactions during your visit to Costa Rica and contribute positively to our economy. Remember, every colón counts towards supporting local businesses and individuals in our community!

Safety Tips

Safety is paramount when traveling, and Costa Rica is no exception. While Costa Rica is generally considered safe for tourists, it’s always wise to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Avoid displaying valuable items openly, use hotel safes for your passport and valuables, and avoid isolated areas, especially at night. It’s also advisable to use licensed taxis or reputable ride-hailing services for transportation.

In terms of health-related safety, there are no mandatory vaccinations required for Costa Rica unless you’re coming from a country with a risk of Yellow Fever. However, it’s recommended to be up-to-date on routine vaccines such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and your yearly flu shot. Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines are also advised as you can get these diseases through contaminated food or water in Costa Rica.

Mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya are present in Costa Rica. To avoid mosquito bites, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, use insect repellent, and sleep in air-conditioned rooms or rooms with window and door screens.

As for water safety, tap water is generally safe to drink in most parts of Costa Rica, especially in urban areas and major tourist destinations. However, if you’re traveling to more remote areas or have a sensitive stomach, it might be best to stick to bottled water.

Remember, the key to staying safe is being aware and prepared. Following these safety tips will help ensure that your Costa Rican adventure is memorable for all the right reasons!

Transportation Tips


Navigating Costa Rica is an adventure in itself. From bustling city streets to winding mountain roads, the journey is always part of the experience. Public transportation is widely available and includes buses, taxis, and domestic flights. Buses are inexpensive and cover most of the country, making them a popular choice for both locals and tourists. Taxis are also readily available in urban areas and are a convenient option for shorter distances. For longer distances or more remote destinations, domestic flights can be a time-saving option, with several local airlines offering services to various parts of the country.

Our Epic Adventures Vehicles

Renting a car is another popular option for getting around Costa Rica. It offers the freedom to explore at your own pace and reach off-the-beaten-path destinations. To rent a car, you’ll need a valid driver’s license from your home country and a credit card. It’s worth noting that while Costa Rica’s main roads are generally in good condition, secondary roads, especially in rural areas, can be challenging, particularly in the rainy season. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended if you plan to venture off main routes.

Whether you’re driving yourself or using public transportation, navigation apps or a GPS can be invaluable for getting around. While Costa Rica’s larger cities and towns have clearly marked streets, in many places addresses are still given with reference to local landmarks, which can be confusing for visitors. Google Maps and Waze are widely used and can help you navigate both urban and rural areas.

Remember, the journey is as important as the destination. By understanding your transportation options and planning accordingly, you can ensure that getting around enhances your Costa Rican adventure rather than detracting from it. Happy traveling!


Costa Rica, an enchanting paradise nestled between two oceans, is a haven for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Its lush rainforests, abundant wildlife, and stunning beaches such as Espadilla and Biezans are just a glimpse. However, to fully immerse yourself in the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle and navigate this beautiful country with ease, thoughtful preparation is integral.

This guide serves as the first step in your journey, providing insights into local customs, financial tips, safety measures, and transportation know-how. As you gear up to explore the vibrant streets of San José, delve into the biodiversity of Manuel Antonio National Park, or unwind on the pristine beaches of Quepos and Manuel Antonio, these tips will serve as your compass.

After you’ve embarked on your Costa Rican adventure, we encourage you to share your experiences on TripAdvisor. Your reviews are invaluable to us at Epic Adventures Costa Rica, helping us continually refine our services. They also serve as a guiding light for fellow travelers planning their own Costa Rican escapade.

If you’re seeking expert advice or a bespoke itinerary for your travels in the Quepos and Manuel Antonio area, Epic Adventures Costa Rica is ready to assist. We’re committed to ensuring your journey is as seamless as it is memorable.

Stay tuned for our next article in this series where we’ll delve deeper into understanding Costa Rica’s weather, what to pack for your trip, the country’s gastronomy, and its commitment to sustainability. We look forward to being part of your unforgettable adventure in the heart of Costa Rica!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top