Cuisine in Costa Rica is easy to digest and is not spicy. Local dishes are mainly based on rice and beans. The typical breakfast is called “Gallo Pinto” (“spotted rooster”), a tasty mix of white rice, black beans and spices, served with fried or scrambled eggs. Lunch and dinner for Costa Ricans consists of rice, beans, fried plantains, vegetables, salad and either fish, chicken or meat, and is known as a “casado.” Costa Ricans also frequently eat seafood. Costa Rica is a paradise of fruits, which are consumed fresh, or in smoothies made with milk, or juices made with water. In almost all restaurants, you can find good quality imported wine and local and imported beers.
The water is safe to drink in most parts of the country; however, we recommend drinking bottled water, especially in areas close to the coasts.
Lunch at a small, local restaurant (in Costa Rica called a “soda”) costs from 5 to 6 Euros. At a larger restaurant, you will pay about 5 to 12 Euros; and in a hotel, from 12 Euros and up. Fruit juices, bottled water and beer can be purchased in supermarkets and stores for about 1.50 Euros.
The Costa Rican Colon is the official currency of the country and can be exchanged at banks for USD, and vice versa. Exchanging Euros is only possible in a few bank branches; for this reason, it is important to bring USD in cash when you travel to Costa Rica. In ATMs networked with Cirrus and Master, you can get cash with the Eurocard; these are especially found in San Jose and the larger cities. The exchange rate for Colones at the airport is less favourable than in banks. Regarding tips, there is no need to tip in restaurants, because the bills automatically include a 10% service charge, plus sales tax of 13%. It is advisable to leave a tip of about 0.50 Euros to hotel bellmen and the cleaning staff and between 1 and 5 Euros per day per person to tour guides.
Electricity & Internet
The electrical voltage is 110V throughout the country. A North American system plug adaptor is required. Costa Rica has extensive Internet coverage except in very remote areas. Almost all hotels offer internet service, either through a central computer or a wireless connection. In most cities, there are Internet Cafes.
Costa Rica’s extensive road network allows you to discover every corner of the country on your own in a rented vehicle. The main roads and highways are mostly in good condition, but secondary roads are often gravel and not in the best state. It is recommended to rent a 4×4 vehicle to move comfortably throughout the entire nation any time of year. Although road signage is continually improving, most rental car companies offer a GPS for hire, which greatly helps with orientation and directions. Along with a rented vehicle, you can enjoy an “Open Voucher” program. Costs are reduced and the program is flexible to suit your tastes. Many rental car companies apply compensation programs for CO2 emissions produced by their operations. Customers who wish to contribute to environmental protection can take this criterion into account when selecting a vehicle rental company.
In San Jose, you can find libraries and museums renowned throughout Central America. The National Theatre is a local treasure, built by the coffee barons in 1897 as part of their vision to provide the city a suitable place for presentations by famous national and international artists. San Jose features an extensive network of galleries and theatres that ensure a constant offering of culture. Artisans all over the country produce beautiful art out of clay, fabric and fibres, wood, and other materials. Additionally, you can find traditional music and folkloric dance with colourful costumes, music of the marimba, and infectious rhythms.
The city of San José (the country’s capital) has a lot of traffic and congestion, however, we recommend visiting these sites: the National Theatre, the Cultural Plaza, the museums of the Central Bank, the National Museum, and the Jade Museum.
Best Time to Visit Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a destination to which you can travel virtually year-round since it has several climatic micro-zones. The mountain ranges spanning the country from the northwest to the southeast form a barrier that divides the country into two larger climatic zones, the Pacific and the Caribbean. The amazing thing is that the climate is nearly the complete opposite from one zone to the other. The country differentiates between a dry season and a rainy season, also known as green season. It is not often, however, that rains fall for several days consecutively, except between May and November.
August to November is the best period of the birding migration to visit Costa Rica with birdwatching purposes.
What is advisable to pack?
We recommend travelling with two pieces of luggage – a main suitcase and a sports bag for short trips of one or more days. On some excursions, or for boat transfers and domestic flights, there are luggage limitations of 12 kg per person. Your main suitcase can be stored safely in your hotel in San Jose at no additional cost. It is common on a trip to Costa Rica to use various means of transportation, such as boats, buses or airplanes. To facilitate passenger mobility, it is helpful to carry luggage of a reasonable size and weight. In addition to personal items, it is recommended to pack:
- Sturdy shoes or good sports shoes
- A jacket or a warm pullover to visit the volcanoes and higher elevation areas
- Long pants and a light pullover or long-sleeved shirt for hikes in the forest
- Light summer clothing
- Hat or cap
- Pair of sandals that are good for walking and beach
- A raincoat or rain poncho
- Flashlight or torch
- Anti-mosquito repellent
- Sun block or sun cream