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First Timer’s Guide to Costa Rica Tours

  • Discover the delights of Costa Rica – one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Americas
  • From Caribbean beaches to lush tropical forests – where to go and what to see on Costa Rica tours
  • Plan your Costa Rica tour or holiday with our guide to the must-see attractions

Looking at Costa Rica holidays but not really sure where to start or what to do when you get there? Then why not think about an exciting and hassle-free adventure on an escorted tour? It’s a relaxed way to be guided around this fascinating country, which is a dream destination for nature lovers.

costa rica tours waterfall tropical rainforest Costa Rica

Rio Celeste Waterfall

Costa Rica holiday 2020: travelling advice

With direct flights of around 11 hours from the UK and no visa required, it’s easy to holiday in Costa Rica. What’s more, although the official language is Spanish, English is widely spoken – though learning a few Spanish phrases will help. As for health concerns, ask your GP about any necessary vaccinations, but the country is predominantly safe and medical care is of a high standard.

The national currency is the colon, which you’ll need a good supply of if you’re travelling around remoter areas where locals won’t have credit card facilities. US dollars are normally accepted, too. If dining out – and Costa Rican food is simple, chiefly rice with beans, meat or fish – the restaurant bill will include a 13% sales tax and 10% service charge. If you’ve had good service, an additional small tip will be appreciated.

As for the best time to travel, if visiting must-see sights in the north popular departure dates will be between December and April when the weather is at its driest and brightest. However, don’t be put off travelling at other times. Costa Rica is a year-round destination. September and October tend to be the wettest months, but Costa Rica is a tropical country – it rains even in the dry season and that’s what makes the countryside so lush.

costa rica tours White Faced Capuchin Monkeys Tortuguero National Park

White-faced Capuchin monkeys, Tortuguero National Park

Costa Rica tours: what to see

There are lots of things to see and do on a Costa Rica holiday but here are six of the best.

Visit the Arenal volcano

For 43 years Arenal was Costa Rica’s most active volcano – erupting on average 3 to 5 times a day up until 2010 when it entered an indeterminate resting phase. When it will choose to erupt again could be a matter of months or years, but regardless a trip to see the Arenal volcano is a must on Costa Rica tours.

Famous for its perfectly symmetrical cone shape, the Arenal volcano stands over 1,650 metres tall and dominates the green fertile landscape. Keep an eye on the crater’s mouth as you walk along an easy trail in the surrounding National Park – you never know what might happen. That said, red-eyed leaf frogs, raccoons, spider monkeys and hummingbirds could all be competing for your attention.

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Arenal Volcano

Watch wildlife at Caño Negro

Costa Rica’s wildlife is hard to rival and a trip to the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, close to the border with Nicaragua, is a much-anticipated highlight of Costa Rica tours. Although a little off the beaten track, it’s well worth any effort getting there as the area is a remarkable natural home for a number of the world’s rarest plants and animals. You’ll also see an abundance of birds, including the chestnut-bellied heron and Nicaraguan grackle.

The best guided tours of Costa Rica will include a boat trip along the Frio river, where you can quietly approach iguanas and caimans, while watching numerous monkey species frolicking about on the river banks.

Explore Palo Verde National Park

Costa Rica is one of the top 20 countries in the world in terms of species density and is home to nearly half a million different species. When looking at holidays to Costa Rica make sure your itinerary includes a guided tour of Palo Verde National Park. A truly impressive natural habitat, this tropical paradise has thick coastal forests, rivers and mangrove lagoons. It is the perfect place to spot a howler monkey or a white-nosed coati. Eagle-eyed visitors may even see a three-toed sloth, the world’s slowest mammal. Indeed, the sloth is so sedentary that algae is known to grow on its furry coat.

Avid birdwatchers should look out for roseate spoonbills, the anhinga and blue-winged teal. With over 184 species of birds in the park, it’s best to keep your binoculars handy.

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Three-toed sloth

Take a zip-line through the rainforest

Costa Rica tours keep on introducing life-enriching experiences for travellers, and at the stunning Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, there’s a unique way of seeing panoramic views of the jungle from above. If you’re feeling brave, sign up to what is considered the country’s best zip-line adventure. It’s not for the faint of heart, but you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime ride.

A more sedate way of discovering the extraordinary diverse ecosystem at the Monteverde Cloud Forest is via the reserve’s hanging bridges, a series of walkways that take you to the top of the rainforest canopy. Animals and birds abound here – it’s home to 120 species of reptiles and amphibians, 130 species of mammals and an astounding 400 species of birds. The forest is considered one of the best places in Costa Rica to see the aptly named resplendent quetzal, possibly the world’s most beautiful bird.

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Zipline through the Costa Rica rainforest

Learn about Tortuguero’s turtles

When researching Costa Rica for a first-time trip, check that your escorted tour takes you to Tortuguero. On the northern Caribbean coast, this small picturesque town has a fascinating conservation museum dedicated to studying the thousands of hawksbill and leatherback turtles that come to lay their eggs on the nearby protected beaches. Tortuguero beach is also the most important nesting site in the Western hemisphere for the endangered green turtle, which visit from July to October. Time your holiday right and you may witness the unforgettable sight of babies hatching and scuttling down to the sea.

Tortuguero National Park also provides an astounding habitat for tapirs, jaguars, three species of monkeys and green macaws.

Relax on a palm-fringed beach

When it comes to escorted tours, Costa Rica is an ideal destination to be guided around the must-see sights, with an insightful tour manager on hand. However, every holiday should include a day or two to truly unwind. Fortunately, the itinerary of some Costa Rica tours also incorporates some downtime at the coast where you can soak up the sunshine on exquisite beaches. The resort of Tamarindo, beside the Pacific Ocean, is sunny throughout most of the year.

The region of Guanacaste has vast stretches of pristine shorelines, as well as an exuberant tropical forest. Don’t be surprised if an iguana or white-faced monkey passes you on the sand.

costa rica tours beach Guanacaste Costa rica

Guanacaste beach, Costa Rica

Costa Rica tours – plan your adventure

Ready to start exploring Costa Rica? Our Costa Rica – From The Caribbean To The Pacific escorted tour is a great place to start, with 13 days discovering the best Costa Rica has to offer.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.