Costa Rica Travel Guide
Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica, a country so laid-back and stress-free they have their own phrase for the lifestyle here: pura vida (pronounced poo-dah vee-dah.) It translates to “the pure life” or “the simple life,” and it’s so much more than just a catchy mantra—it’s the country’s cultural identity.
Pura vida means waking up every day on the right side of the bed, cherishing the who and what in your life, and leaving your worries of yesterday at the doorstep of today. As soon as you touch down in Costa Rica, you’ll feel pura vida everywhere. It’s in the hustle and bustle of a San José market, the joy of young ticos playing a mejenga (the term for a pick-up soccer game), the kindness of a fourth-generation soda owner (in Costa Rica, soda is the term for a family-owned café), and in the enthusiasm of a zipline instructor telling you to “go for it!” moments before you’re soaring through the clouds and over treetops.
Pura vida is an always optimistic outlook fueled by delicious Mesoamerican-inspired cuisine, the freshest coffee, the occasional guaro sour cocktail, and an abundance of natural beauty unmatched anywhere else in the world. Costa Rica is scenic AF. Rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes, beaches, coral reefs—this is a #nofilter paradise if you’ve ever seen one. All those epic landscapes and dramatic terrains are playgrounds for adventurous, thrill-seeking travelers. And as the adrenaline wears off, you’ll soon find yourself reaching maximum levels of relaxation—be it basking in a natural hot spring after a long hike, doing yoga on the beach as distant surfers shred the waves, or enjoying an organic, farm-to-table meal that enriches the body and mind. Costa Rica is a remedy for whatever ails you—an elixir made from passion fruit, mangoes, guava, papayas, and then topped off with the unadulterated warmth of its people.
In Costa Rica, the average temperature year-round hovers between 70-80° F. It’s the perfect setting for a lazy day at the beach or a trek up a mountain—the choice is yours. With a tropical and sub-tropical climate, you won’t find your classic four seasons here. Instead, Costa Rica has a dry season (December to April) and a rainy season (May to November). But this unique climate and variety of ecosystems contributes to a profound scale of plant and animal life, to the tune of 4% of the world’s total biodiversity—that’s half a million different species. (Yeah, we paid attention in biology class.) The incredible wildlife and vibrant flora can turn even the most novice Instagram feed into National Geographic, as you snap photos of monkeys, sloths, toucans, ocelots, sea turtles, and more against a lusciously green forest backdrop or the colorful orchids the country is known for.
Mother Earth has hashtag blessed Costa Rica with plenty, so it’s only fitting that the country goes to great lengths to protect its most vital asset. Costa Rica has become the posterchild for ecotourism, with 29 national parks, 19 wildlife refuges, and eight biological reserves. Visitors enjoy remarkable landscapes and habitats in their most natural form. Costa Rica is dedicated to going carbon-neutral soon, investing heavily in reforestation efforts. When you visit Costa Rica, you see firsthand the stunning results of this preservation. But beyond the land, sustainability is practiced through the country’s organic agriculture, unique cuisine, arts, crafts, and ultimately through the spirit of the local communities. With every hand-made souvenir you buy, every meal you eat from a mom-and-pop restaurant, and every conversation you have with a local—you’re helping assist with Costa Rica’s cultural sustainability. You’ll no doubt leave this magical place with a better understanding of your own environmental and cultural footprint.
For a small country, Costa Rica packs a big punch.
Leave your comfort zone behind and explore nature like never before.
Swim in the river flowing into La Fortuna Waterfall
Destress, unwind, and find your inner pura vida.
Relax on the tranquil beaches of Puntarenas
Experience firsthand the history of Costa Rica and the passion of its people.
Browse the food, souvenir & craft stalls at San José’s Central Market
Flights. Accommodations. Activities. And a rockstar Tour Director that knows a hidden beach with the perfect Instagram backdrop.
This is group travel with EF Ultimate Break. Expertly crafted itineraries, everything included. We keep your stress levels low and holy-s#!t-that-was-awesome levels high.
Capital: San José
Staple Meal: Gallo Pinto
Cool Down With: Imperial Lager
Cool Off At: La Fortuna Waterfall
Can’t Miss: Manuel Antonio National Park
Can’t Un-hear: Howler monkeys
Pura Vida: Pure life or simple life
Tico/Tica: Local Costa Ricans
¡Qué chiva!: Awesome!
Guaro: A sweet, sugar-cane liquor
Soda: An authentic, local café
Chunche: Anything you don’t know the word for
Eat like a local
Bonus points if you eat with a local.
National dish of Costa Rica: rice-and-bean breakfast combo eaten with scrambled or fried eggs.
Travel to Costa Rica safely with EF Ultimate Break
Costa Rica Adventure
10 days. 4 cities
Nature’s calling. You up? Experience the greatest hits of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast on this 10-day adrenaline bender, jam-packed with jungle hiking, whitewater rafting, ziplining through rainforests, splashing around in waterfalls—and soaking up that pura vida culture along the way.
We know a spot or two
Costa Rica doesn't have a bad side. But come with us and explore the coolest spots of its Pacific Coast—all on one epic group adventure fully planned for you.
Watch out, the ground is lava! Kidding. But this area, synonymous with its dormant volcano, is a playground for outdoor recreation.
Two words: Cloud rainforest. Five more words: Ziplining through a cloud forest. Need we say more?
Pristine beaches. Coastal shops. And something called the churchill: an ice cream, snow cone, fruit, milk, and syrup concoction that sounds... intriguing.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Costa Rica’s crown jewel. Small in size, mighty in just about everything else. Rainforests hikes, majestic beaches, and tons of wildlife.
Crack open a coconut and crank up the calypso music in Costa Rica’s vibrant capital city.
Seeing a sloth > being a sloth
Costa Rica is about that (wild)life. Howler, squirrel, spider, and white-faced monkeys. Sloths, anteaters, capuchins, and iguanas. Toucans, parrots, and parakeets. And that’s just on land.
- Bring cash—especially small bills!
- Pack the bug spray. Hot temps and humid air are a recipe for insects—but don’t let them harsh your vacation vibe.
- Speaking of climate: bring a raincoat and good hiking shoes.
- Use sunscreen. You are not stronger than the Latin American sun.
- If you’re prone to motion sickness, come prepared. Roads can be winding.
- Bring lightweight clothing that’s easy to layer—temps can change quickly at different elevations.
- Get some binoculars. You’ll see incredible wildlife and flora.
- Bring water shoes to protect your feet as you wade into waterfalls and the Pacific Ocean.
Costa Rica inspo
For the ’gram
Costa Rica. More like Posta Rica with all the great photos you’ll have for social media.
Our travelers love visiting Costa Rica, and they aren’t afraid to tell us.
“This was my first time out of the country and it was the best tour to do. The people, culture, and activities in Costa Rica were incredible. I would 100% recommend this trip to anyone looking for an adventure.”
Nicole – EF Ultimate Break traveler
“One of the best trips I’ve been thus far. It was an adventure every single day; the zip lining, beautiful beaches, and the delicious food! Unforgettable experience!”
Monique – EF Ultimate Break traveler
“Not sure if it was the amazing group I was with, all the new things we got to experience together, the contagious positivity of our tour guide, the nature exposure, or the overall beauty of Costa Rica that made this trip so amazing, but it was phenomenal. When they tell you these people will end up your best friends, they’re not lying.”
Kristin – EF Ultimate Break traveler
“Traveling solo? No worries, most of us are! Everyone in our group got along so well. We made memories together and all feel like family now and continue to stay in touch. I have traveled internationally with other groups and cannot rate my experience with EF Ultimate Break high enough!”
Jena – EF Ultimate Break traveler
“I cannot recommend this trip enough. It is fun and exhausting in the best way. Be prepared to walk, hike and swim. The guide was one of the kindest and most passionate people I have had the pleasure of meeting. I learned so much and will definitely be leaving a small part of myself in Costa Rica.”
Heaven (actual reviewer’s name, we swear) – EF Ultimate Break traveler
Our kick-a** Tour Directors
We ❤️ these ticos—and you will too.
“I was born in Puntarenas by the Pacific coast. I have a genuine passion for nature and working with people, so I always knew I wanted to share my beautiful country with travelers from different cultures and parts of the world.”
“I have lived all my life in Costa Rica. I love cats, ice cream, and the warm weather in my country. One of my favorite places is La Fortuna, as the majesty of the Arenal volcano surprises me every day! The joy I feel when I show something unique to my groups makes my job amazing and is part of why I belong to the EF Ultimate Break team.”
“Hola! I was born and raised in the land of Pura Vida, where smiles pop-up in everyone you talk to! I’m a huge foodie, love a cold beer with friends, and enjoying every moment of life! The passion for sharing my country with others is why I love being a Tour Director for EF Ultimate Break.”
“I’m a proud Tica, born and raised in Costa Rica. More than a tour, I want to deliver the best travel experience and show people what Pura Vida really means.”
Still undecided? We’ll help you find the perfect trip.
Our expert Trip Consultants are waiting to hear from you. Seriously. They freakin’ love helping travelers figure out their dream trips.