Solo Travel in Costa Rica
Types of Girl about the Globe – Eco GatG, Adventurous GatG, Nature GatG, Beach GatG, Surfing GatG, Wildlife GatG
Solo Travel in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a beautiful country but you do have to be careful here. Crime has been increasing due to the current economic situation so avoid walking anywhere at night and in certain areas such as: Punteranas, Liberia and San Jose especially by the bus stations.
As the sun goes down you are more prone to thieves. Locals even advise not to walk around after the sun has set in the capital. There is prostitution in Playa Jaco so be careful walking around here by yourself and avoid any beaches alone at night.
Beware of travel scams too. At San Jose bus station be wary of anyone who tells you that the bus has just left and that you need to hurry and get into a car which is waiting with a driver to take you to the bus. Don’t get into any cars.
You may find Costa Rica a little intimidating at first but if you can speak a little Spanish it will make you feel more comfortable as you can converse with the locals. La Fortuna is a safe area and people speak English so it is easy to arrange tours and accommodation here. Santa Teresa attracts European travellers and you’ll meet lots of Americans in Playa Carmen to the south. These destinations are ideal if you need some company. During the day make sure you visit a soda (small traditional restaurant) to try typical cuisine with the locals.
There are Spanish schools in Costa Rica where you can take an immersion course and learn about the culture as you improve your Spanish. Schools can be found in Manuel Antonio, Jaco Beach, San Jose and all around the country.
Below is our guide to how to travel solo in Costa Rica as well as lots of practical information such as where to stay, which tour company to use and how to get around. Find out how to get from the airports and what to do in each place. All companies included have been recommended by solo female travellers and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Just choose the relevant section or read the full article.
Things To Do in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has the ‘happiest planet index’ and is the greenest country in the world. Costa Rica is a year-round destination. It’s tropical climate, rainforests, mountains and palm-fringed beaches attract expats who relocate here both before and after retiring.
Whether you prefer volcanos, surfing, beaches or lush coffee plantations, Costa Rica has something for every kind of solo.
Costa Rica Wildlife
The country is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity and with tropical rainforests, coral reefs and 185 miles of Caribbean sea coastline, it’s easy to see why it’s the most popular country in Central America. It even has its own Venice with the jungle canals of Tortuguero and river valleys. Home to turtle nesting sites, three-toed sloths and the national bird: Quetzal, Costa Rica has some of the best wildlife in the neo-tropics.
For wildlife solos it is an amazing country to visit with endemic birds and animals and migrations of whales and turtles passing through. You’ll find sloths, four different species of monkey, pumas and jaguars within its jungle landscape. Keep your eyes peeled for the yellow beak of the toucan flying past too. The Sloth Sanctuary near Cahuita rescues sloths and they also offer a rainforest canoe trip during your visit.
In Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve there are 450 different birds, half of the 900 bird species in the country. Humming Birds are prevalent here too and look out for the queztals, whose colourful feathers were once admired by the Mayans.
Costa Rica is also home to colourful tree frogs. Head to Frogs Heaven at Sarapiqui to spot the red-eyed frogs and tiny poisonous dart amphibians.
Costa Rica Adventures
Costa Rica is a mecca for the adventurous solo. You can go horse riding, trekking or even zip-lining amongst its rainforests. If you prefer the water, there are plenty of water sports to get your blood pumping such as white-water rafting, kayaking and surfing.
Trek in Corcovado National Park, zip-line at the Sky Trek at Monteverde or just walk along hanging bridges. The Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure in the Talamanca Mountains offers even more zip-lining as well as a canopy gondola ride through the jungle.
The Pacific Coast is great for scuba divers with the chance to get close to bull sharks. Go wreck diving at the Tortuga Islands, or snorkel or kayak at the bays of the Papagayo Peninsula.
There are surf schools at Tamarindo and Santa Teresa if you want to try surfing, or experience white-water rafting along its numerous rivers. The rapids range from Class I to Class VI with the Pacuare river and Sarapiqui river being amongst the best.
The Nicoya Peninsula has even more surf and beach action and is easily reachable from the port town of Puntarenas. From Punteranas you can reach Montezuma. Montezuma is a funky little town with a hippy vibe and ideal for those looking to chill by the beach. Take the ferry to Paquera then a public bus for 90 minutes to get there.
Take a day trip to Isla Tortuga to snorkel around rainbow rock and spot turtles and reef sharks in the waters. If you’re in Montezuma on a Saturday make sure that you visit the colourful market.
Further along the coast is Santa Teresa, with supermarkets like delis and a superb beach with equally magnificent sunsets. This is where they hold bull riding festivals and it’s a good place to meet other solos.
San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica. There isn’t that much to see in the capital except 19th century architecture so you may want to use the city as a base to visit a coffee plantation in Centra Valley. Nearby is Poas Volcano National Park where you can gaze into a steaming crater and photograph a lagoon.
if you need to rest your weary head and buy some souvenirs to take home with you, then check out the Mercado Calle Nacional de Artesania y Pintura market for almost anything Costa Rican.
Plaza de la Cultura is the nicest area in the city. The National Theatre and Museum are worth a visit too.
Just outside of San Jose is La Paz Waterfall Gardens where you can spot pumas, jaguars and toucans amongst the five waterfalls cascade.
Although the islands are not as known as some of its Central American neighbours, Coco is the most popular and also the furthest. Tortuga island or Turtle Island is easily reachable for a day trip or watch dolphins and whales off the Isla del Cano.
Head west to the ecoregions of Braulio Carrillo National Park for cloud forest and waterfalls. There’s an aerial tram that takes you on an 80 minute tour where you spot a sloth in its natural habitat. If you’re lucky you may even see a jaguar.
Costa Rica Beaches
Costa Rica has two coastlines: the Pacific and the Caribbean. Papagayo Beach is a white-sand beach which is popular with families, and the Nicoya Peninsula is beautiful but it does attract honeymooners. Jaco Beach is popular with sunbathers and is a good place to learn how to surf. You’ll discover coves and beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula. Legend even has it that pirates buried gold on Cocos Island off the Pacific coast.
Tamarindo is also a surfing spot. Head here for their Saturday market where you can by figs in wine, and vegan produce as well as funky bikinis and jewellery hand-made by the local women.
If you like reggae and calypso music then head to the Caribbean Coast for its laid back vibe, rainforests and palm-fringed beaches. Go surfing at Puerto Viejo, or visit Manzanillo – a tropical fishing village with turquoise water. Take a boat trip here and spot whales and dolphins or join a chartered fishing trip to catch some barracuda.
Cruise ships dock at Limon so don’t expect to be the only one here during the cruising season. Take a day trip to Limon to visit Cahuita National Park. If you want to escape the crowds, Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge offers wetlands and lagoons where you can spot crocodiles and bull sharks.
The west coast is rich in marine life with idyllic beaches. The Osa Peninsula offers some of the best wildlife viewing without the crowds.
Corcovado National Park is one of the tourism hotspots but it can be a bit remote. Its wilderness is home armadillos and more than 100 different mammalian species. You can kayak, rent bikes and go on a tour with a fisherman too.
Manuel Antonio National Park is the most visited. There’s a reason its stunning beaches make it the most popular in the country. You can see bats at Piedras Blancas National Park, or look for humpback whales at Uvita Beach.
Head north of the country for the Arenal volcano. This area of Costa Rica is for the adventurous backpacker. Those who want to fling themselves along one of the world’s longest zip lines, abseil (or rappel) down waterfalls and rock faces or windsurf on Lake Arenal.
Base yourself in the small city of La Fortuna to take a trip to Arenal Volcano National Park where you can hike the extinct Chato Volcano to see Arenal Volcano from the top. It is a bit of a trek so be prepared for some serious hiking. You can also take rainforest hikes and go horse riding near here too. Don’t forget to check out the La Fortuna waterfall where you can hike to the base.
The canopy bridges are for those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the floor and admire the rainforest crossing high bridges as you go. If it’s some relaxation that you’re after, this region has several hot springs varying from budget options to the most luxury spa resorts.
Cano Negro also in the north is ideal for birdwatchers who can take boat and kayak tours along its mineral-rich rivers.
Head to Monteverde to experience Costa Rica’s biodiversity and the famous cloud forests. The town was originally founded by Quakers and the hostels here fit in with the scenery. This is the place for those looking for a cooler area of the hot country. Monteverde is a lush paradise of cloud forest and the Biological Reserve is one of the most biodiverse areas in Costa Rica. Walk the hanging bridges spotting tropical birds along the 3km walkway. Hike through the cloud forest passing waterfalls, giant plants and streams as you go.
The reserve provides volunteering opportunities and a way of getting involved in the country’s conservation projects. The night tours offer you the opportunity to see native nocturnal animals such as sloths and snakes. Walking through a forest reserve at night gives an added element to animal spotting. Selvatura Park is more than 850 acres and you can spot hummingbirds and butterflies within its grounds.
Costa Rica Tribes
Indigenous tribes also live in Costa Rica and some welcome travellers. You can sit around a fire with the Bribri tribe in the Talamanca Mountains and gain insights into their traditions, or listen to the shaman from the Cabecar community as he tells you about their culture. In the south of the country are remains of pre-Colombian settlements. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Diquis Delta has mysterious stone spheres and is worth a visit.
Tortuguero village combines its indigenous roots with tourism infrastructure. The best way to see its waterways are on a canoe or kayak so you explore this natural area at your own pace. Find out how chocolate is produced on a multi-day cacao tour or just squeeze it into a half-day tasing day instead.
It’s just as easy to combine this lush country with its neighbour too, and if you’re travelling to Nicaragua, Liberia is a great little stopover. You can do day trips from here or just choose to spend the night before taking a local bus to the border in the morning. Local buses to Nicaragua are cheap and easy.
With lakes, volcanos and lush rainforests, it’s easy to see why it is the number one destination in Central America. Life in Costa Rica is known as “pura vida” and the locals definitely know how to live life to the full.
Best Places To Stay in Costa Rica
There is accommodation in Costa Rica for all types of solos. Whether you prefer luxury resorts, eco jungle lodges, boutique b&bs, international hotels, or hostels.
Stay in an upmarket resort at the Golfo Dulce, a jungle eco resort on the Caribbean coast or luxury hotel beneath the Talamanca Mountains.
There is Airbnb in the country which connects you to staying with locals whether you choose to just book a room or a whole apartment. Save $20 off your first stay with this Airbnb link.
Homestay is an alternative to Airbnb. They offer stays in accommodation such as a stay in a modern chalet near a volcano or with a local family near a beach. You can video call your host family before you go to find the perfect host. Check homestays and prices here
All of the accommodation below have been recommended by solo female travellers from our Girls about the Globe community and come with a Solo Female Friendly endorsement.
Costa Rica Tours
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your trip or the whole duration, G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
Adventures start from an 5 days Classic Tour to San Jose, Monteverde and La Fortuna, to a 28 day Volcano Adventure including Panama, Guatemala, and Honduras. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people using their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear more costly than G Adventures. Get to know the country on a 15 day Classic Costa Rica tour, a 9 day Costa Rica Experience, and many more.
With both tour companies you share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room
Costa Rica Travel Insurance
Costa Rica s a beautiful to explore but travel insurance is always recommended to cover you for any travel delays, medical assistance and activities.
I recommend True Traveller for UK and European residents, and World Nomads for U.S. and worldwide citizens. Both companies allow you to buy insurance when you are already on the road, and offer different plans depending on your needs including additional adventure cover.
Costa Rica Airports
Costa Rica has two international airports: Juan Santamaria International Airport near San Jose, and Liberia International Airport in the north. Costa Rica is well connected with direct flights to North America, Europe, and London.
From San Jose – Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) is only 30 minutes away from the city. A taxi will cost approximately $25 for the 15 minute journey or you can take one of the bus operators: TUASA or Station Wagon which cost approx $2 and leave every 15 minutes.
From Liberia – From Liberia International Airport (LIR) a taxi will cost $20 for the 15 minute journey or there are private shuttles which you can pre-book here
Getting Around Costa Rica
Costa Rica may look quite small but the distances can be misleading. The country does have a good bus system, but you may find yourself having to travel back to San Jose between destinations. Buses from San Jose can take you all over the country, but some of the roads may not be as good as you’re used to.
For example the bus from San Jose to Fortuna takes 4.5 hours, and Fortuna to Monteverde takes 7 hours. Don’t expect there to be air conditioning on the buses or for them to stop for toilet breaks. You can’t buy bus tickets online and only from the stations.
Private shuttle services also run in the country, and although they are more pricey than the local buses, you’ll get air conditioning and arrive at your destination in less time than if you took local transport.
The country’s road network is good enough to self-drive your way around but renting a car can be expensive because you have to add insurance “mandatory by the government” even if your credit card already includes it.
They also have Uber as well as taxis. For Uber by a prepaid SIM card as you’ll need a number for them to contact you. Sit in the front seat of your Uber ride.
Water taxis operate from Playa Jaco to Santa Teresa. Ferries from Puntarenas to Paquera take 1.5 hours. Buy your ferry ticket beforehand if you can.
Costa Rica Itinerary
Because it can take longer than expected to travel around Costa Rica you do need to plan the trip if you are only here for a short time. Below are some suggested itineraries from one to 2 weeks.
One week itinerary – San Jose (2 nights), Monteverde (3 nights), Arenal (2 nights)
Ten Days itinerary – San Jose (2 nights), Monteverde (3 nights), La Fortuna (2 nights), Montezuma (3 nights)
Two week itinerary: San Jose (2 nights), Manuel Antonio (3 nights), Monteverde (2 nights), La Fortuna (2 nights) Tortugero National Park (2 nights), Cahuita National Park (2 nights)
Two week itinerary: San Jose (2 nights), Montezuma (3 nights), La Fortuna (3 nights), Monteverde (3 nights), Isla Tortuga (2 nights), Liberia (1 night).
Best Time To Go To Costa Rica
Costa Rica has several micro-climates. Having cloud forests and highlands means that you can experience different weather as you travel around the country.
The dry season is from mid December to April and it’s the most popular time to travel but it is also the most expensive.
If you are going to Costa Rica for the wildlife, you can watch sea turtles lay their eggs at Santa Rosa National Park, or see them in Tortuguero National Park between July to October.
Visit between July to April for humpback whales at Uvita in the Pacific Ocean, or the Caribbean Sea from December to March.
If you visit the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge between February to April you have more chance of seeing sloths and toucans.
It is a year-round destination so just choose the time of year depending on what you want to do there.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I drink the water? Yes but not in the rural areas
- Is tipping expected? 10% is expected
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed price but you can try and barter at the markets
- Any ATMs? There are ATMS in the main tourist destinations
- Which side of the road do they drive? The right-hand side
- Good for vegetarians? Yes
- Any seven wonders of the world? No
Wellness in Costa Rica
Wellness in Costa Rica doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You don’t even need to go to a spa to pamper yourself as nature provides it for free. Take a mud bath near Rincon de la Vieja National Park before relaxing in a hot spring.
Costa Rica is the perfect destination for transformational travel. Toby Israel offers yoga, nature and writing retreats to reconnect with yourself and come away rested, rejuvenated and transformed. Upcoming retreats include “Yoga and The Art of Listening” in Finca La Flor, and “Find Your Flow Balance Your World” – a yoga and nature retreat in Samara.