Solo Travel in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a wonderful eco-destination to explore. Below is our guide for solo travel in Costa Rica including the best places to visit in Costa Rica, what to do in Costa Rica, how to travel around Costa Rica, and the best tours in Costa Rica.
Discover where to go in Costa Rica when you're travelling alone, how to get around, how to get from the airport, and ideas for a Costa Rica itinerary. 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.
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- Things To Do in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Tours
- Best Places To Stay in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Travel Insurance
- Costa Rica Airports
- Getting Around Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Itinerary
- Travel Guide For Costa Rica
- Packing List For Costa Rica
- Best Time To Go To Costa Rica
- Crossing the Nicaragua, Costa Rica Border
- How To Be a Conscious Traveller in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Map
- Related Posts
Solo Travel in Costa Rica
Is Costa Rica safe for solo travelers? 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 in Costa Rica 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.
In Costa Rica, solo travel may seem 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 de San Carlos is a safe area and people speak English so it is easy to arrange tours and accommodation here.
If you are backpacking Costa Rica alone, Santa Teresa attracts European travellers and you’ll meet lots of Americans in Playa Carmen to the south. 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. Costa Rica is a wonderful country to explore but you may feel more comfortable in a group tour.
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, there is a must see in Costa Rica 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.
The country has 28 National Parks and 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. Marino Ballena National Park on the Pacific Coast is a great place to spot a humpback whale. 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. It's a Costa Rica must do if you want to see a sloth.
If you enjoy spotting birds, the best place to visit in Costa Rica is Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve where 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. Frogs Heaven at Sarapiqui is one of the best places to go in Costa Rica to spot the red-eyed frogs and tiny poisonous dart amphibians.
Costa Rica Adventures
If you are looking for adventurous thins to do in Costa Rica, the country is a mecca for the adventurous solo. If you are active there are many Costa Rica excursions to choose from. You can go horseback 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 whitewater rafting, kayaking and surfing. Trek in Corcovado National Park, zip-line at the Sky Trek at Monteverde or just walk along hanging bridges. One of the top things to do in Costa Rica is fly through the air on a zip wire.
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 a must do in Costa Rica 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 if you want to try surfing, or experience white-water rafting along its river. The rapids range from Class I to Class VI with the Pacuare river and Sarapiqui river being amongst the best.
Another place to visit in Costa Rica for the surfing GatG is the Nicoya Peninsula which 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 one of the towns in Costa Rica with a hippy, funky 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, Costa Rica, 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 one of the good places to visit in Costa Rica to meet other solos.
San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica. There aren't that many things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica, or 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. You can pay a visit to the Jaguar Rescue Centre near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, to see the wild cats that have been rescued. Carara National Park is also near to San Jose (a 2 hour drive away), and is the area to see crocodiles, monkeys, sloths, ozelots and jaguars within its 5,000 hectares.
Costa Rica's Islands
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, or just relax at Drake Bay amongst its vegetation and calm waves.
Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the best beaches in Costa Rica and one of the most popular Costa Rica things to do. 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 La Fortuna, one of the main tourist attractions in Costa Rica as it's the best city to stay in Costa Rica to see the Arenal Volcano National Park where you can hike the extinct Chato Volcano and 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.
If you prefer a waterfall that's less of a tourist attraction, the Rio Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park is stunning. But the 4 mile trail to get these can get a bid muddy so pack those walking boots.
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 and one of the tourist attractions. Walk the hanging bridges spotting tropical birds along the 3km walkway. Take one of the hiking trails 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. One of the best things to do in Costa Rica at night is take a night tour 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
If you are wanting cultural things to do in Costa Rica, Indigenous tribes 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.
When you are visiting Costa Rica, it’s just as easy to combine this lush country with its neighbour too, and if you’re travelling to Nicaragua, Liberia is a good 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 rainforests, volcanos and plenty of natural Costa Rica attractions, it’s easy to see why it is the number one destination in Central America; the locals definitely know how to live life to the full. Solo female travel to Costa Rica and you'll experience the ‘pura vida.'
Costa Rica Tours
If you feel more comfortable in a group for your solo travel to Costa Rica, G Adventures is a responsible tour company offering trips to Costa Rica, which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 12 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any Costa Rica activities you want to do when you’re there.
Their tours in Costa Rica start from an 5 days Classic Tour to San Jose, Monteverde and La Fortuna, to a 14 day G Adventures Basic Costa Rica tour beginning and ending in San Jose, 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.
Their tours to Costa Rica including getting to know the country on a 15 day Classic Costa Rica tour, a 9 day Costa Rica Experience, and many more. Read our Intrepid Travel Reviews
Both of these companies have some of the best Costa Rica tours and with both tour companies you share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room
Get Your Guide helps you to find top-rated activities in Costa Rica and other worldwide destinations. Choose from a tour to Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall and the hot springs, a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park, or a canopy tour adventure. There are several excursions in Costa Rica to choose from including Costa Rica tours from San Jose and it’s really simple to use. Just check the reviews, price and availability for one before booking tours in Costa Rica, then click ‘checkout.'
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, hostels or Costa Rica hotels. 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 also Airbnb Costa Rica 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.
Costa Rica Travel Insurance
Costa Rica is a beautiful country to explore but travel insurance is always recommended for your Costa Rica trips 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
When you are travelling to Costa Rica, the country 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 José – Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) is only 30 minutes away from the city. A taxi will cost approximately $25 for the 15 minute journey one way 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.
Getting Around Costa Rica
Costa Rica may look quite small but the distances can be misleading making travelling in Costa Rica a bit challenging to plan. Below are ways on how to around in Costa Rica to help you plan your trip.
The country does have a good bus system and can be the best way to get around Costa Rica if you are travelling on a budget or backpacking Costa Rica, 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.
The best way to travel Costa Rica in comfort and an alternative transportation option to the public buses are shared shuttle services such as Interbus Costa Rica. They are more pricey than the local buses but you’ll get air conditioning and arrive at your destination in less time than if you took local transport.
Travelling Costa Rica by bus – If you are planning a road trip and driving in Costa Rica, the country’s road network is good enough to self-drive your way around but hiring a rental car can be expensive because you have to add insurance “mandatory by the government” even if your credit card already includes it. Check here for car rental Costa Rica
If you're not keen on the Costa Rica public transport, and prefer a private transfer you can also use Uber for your Costa Rica trip. It is a quick and easy way of getting around in Costa Rica. 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 allow enough time to explore Costa Rica properly especially if you want to see all the Costa Rica tourist attractions and are only here for a short time.
Whether you are planning to spend a week in Costa Rica or a fortnight, below are examples of a Costa Rica solo travel itinerary to help:
1 week itinerary Costa Rica – San Jose (2 nights), Monteverde (3 nights), Arenal (2 nights)
Costa Rica itinerary 10 days – San Jose (2 nights), Monteverde (3 nights), La Fortuna Costa Rica (2 nights), Montezuma (3 nights)
Costa Rica itinerary 14 days: 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).
Travel Guide For Costa Rica
If you need a guide book for your Costa Rica vacation we recommend Rough Guides. Covering where to go and when to go, things not to miss, itineraries, getting around, festivals and events, history, and maps, they are amongst the most comprehensive guides on the market. If you prefer Lonely Planet click here for all Costa Rica guide books.
If you are planning a solo trip to Costa Rica, the Rough Guide to Costa Rica covers topics such as: booking your trip, about Costa Rica and its culture, the best things to do in Costa Rica, where to stay in Costa Rica, getting there, how to get around Costa Rica, food and drink, Costa Rica itineraries and travel essentials. They also include low-key, tourist-free spots, hot springs, and enjoying some of Costa Rica’s best coffee. If you are unsure where to fo in Costa Rica, it is your travel Bible.
Packing List For Costa Rica
If you’re unsure what to pack for your solo adventures in Costa Rica, we’ve created a guide of our favourite solo travel products to help you decide what to pack. One of our must-have travel products when traveling to Costa Rica is a head torch.
If you are planning on taking a night safari and spotting the Costa Rican wildlife on your walking tour then a head torch is a must. Find out why we love this head torch and click on the link to discover all of our favourite travel products:
This LED headlamp has 5 settings including a high and low beam and a red light for not attracting flying insects. It’s also water and shock resistant and the bulb lasts for up to 100,000 hours. It allows you to be hands free so you can use your hands to take photos on your night safari. * Check prices and buy from Amazon
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. If you are wondering what to do in Costa Rica in July, visit between here to April for humpback whales at Uvita in the Pacific Ocean, or the Caribbean Sea from December to March.
For what to do in Costa Rica in February, visit the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge between February to April for a greater chance of seeing sloths and toucans. Costa Rica is a year-round destination so just choose the time of year depending on what you want to do there.
How To Be a Conscious Traveller in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the greenest countries on the planet making it easy to be a conscious traveller here. Take part in community-based tourism, such as visiting a cocoa farm or banana plantation during your stay to help preserve indigenous communities and local cultures. Find out more about community-based tourism here.
Purchase hand-crafted arts and weaving from markets in local communities to sustain their traditions. If you see them making it directly at a workshop you know it will go directly to the craftsman or woman.
Help protect the sea turtles by visiting a marine conservation project on the Talamanca coast, and stay in an eco lodge at the same time!
For getting around Costa Rica, Nature Air is a Costa Rican airline that offers internal flights in the country. Although they are still an airline, they are doing their best to reduce their carbon emissions. The airline has a NatureKids Foundation, and donates funds to forest conservation.
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. One of the unique things to do in Costa Rica is 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.
Volunteering in Costa Rica
If you are planning to volunteer in Costa Rica, Raleigh International offers volunteer placements such as environmental projects and improving access to conservation areas. Or join a community project to build and improve school facilities. Find out more about their projects here.
Or volunteer with turtles at the Sea Turtle Conservation Project through Globalteer. Help protect the nests of endangered sea turtles from poachers who sell their eggs. Join their beach patrols to search for turtle nests and help with the turtle releases too.
Frequently Asked Questions For Planning a Trip to Costa Rica
- Can I drink the water? Yes but not in the rural areas. Buy bottled water or take your own water filter with you.
- 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
Costa Rica Map
- Crossing The Nicaragua, Costa Rica Border
- Expert Interview – Costa Rica With Erin
- Transformation Travel in Costa Rica
- Teaching English in Costa Rica
- Blog Adventures in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Travel Scams
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