In the ultimate guide to Costa Rica we will give you tips and recommendations to make the most of your time.
If you like to hike to waterfalls and relax at the beach then this itinerary is for you. However, we recommend a minimum of four days in the rain forest and three at the beach to see it all.
Also, check out the enchanting Rio Perdido Resort if you have a 4-5 day vacation.
Fly in to Liberia in the Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known for its rain forests, beaches, coffee, and waterfalls. We chose to fly in to Liberia airport since we booked four nights at the Rio Celeste Hideaway to start our vacation. San Jose airport is usually a bit less expensive, but will take you an hour and a half longer to get to Rio Celeste.
The second part of our stay we stayed in the beach town of Tamarindo, and it takes over three hours longer to drive to San Jose airport.
Always use a separate search engine to find the least expensive flights. Google flights is our favorite.
Currency Exchange Tips
We did not change any of our money into colones, and did not regret it. We were able to use our American Express or Visa at all times. The credit card company will automatically convert everything for you.
However, if in advance you know that you will have to pay in colones for anything then it would not be a bad idea. Find a local ATM because they have less of a fee than at the airport.
Do not forget small bills if you want to tip anyone that serves you. Typically they have a 10 percent gratuity added in and it is not necessary, but well appreciated.
The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica: Transportation
We chose to have our hotel send a shuttle to pick us up from the airport. We arranged that ahead of time via email. Driving in Costa Rica is known to be dangerous so we decided it would be luxurious to have a driver.
Also, renting a car there does not seem to cost a lot, but the extra insurance that is recommended ended up being the same price as having a private driver.
Consider taking something if you tend to get car sick. Dramamine would have come in handy during the twists and turns of the roads. In total we had 6 hours in the car, and nobody likes feeling sick for that long on vacation.
Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel
In the Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica we highly recommend the Rio Celeste Hideaway hotel.
Upon arrival they gave us a delicious fresh squeezed juice and drove us to our private bungalow. The balcony faced the rain forest. We were greeted by a monkey later in our stay on it. Make sure you keep bananas handy at all times in case you get a visitor.
They had a private outdoor shower. The experience of showering in the jungle is epic and everyone should do it at some point in life.
Breakfast buffet was included daily. We ate so much every morning that we were not hungry until dinner time. That was also budget friendly because if you ate before 6 pm it was the lunch menu.
Rio Celeste Waterfall Hike
We chose to do the Rio Celeste waterfall hike the first full day we were there. It was a mile away and since we did not have a car we chose to hike there. However, they have a shuttle at the hotel for 20 dollars to bring you to entrance of the National park.
The best advice we got was to go to the end first where the two rivers come together. That way you save your energy for the stairs you will have to conquer to see the waterfall. It is 200 stairs down to the waterfall.
Unfortunately, you can’t swim in the water in the National Park, but that helps it stay bright blue. In total this hike took us about 3 hours round trip and the National Park charges twelve dollars per person.
Rio Celeste River
The river hike was steps away from our private bungalow. The trail is well kept, but the rain forest is always a bit wet so watch your step. You may see toucans if you keep your eyes peeled. Do not forget your swimming suit because you can also swim at this part of the river.
Arbol De La Paz
From the Hideaway Hotel we were curious what we would find if we continued on the road opposite of the way we arrived and the waterfall hike.
We set out and passed many authentic things including a farm full of people working, a school with kids playing in the yard, and even a truck that got in to an accident killing a cow. Hiking on the side of this road is windy and has a lot of hills. People drive fast, and do not get over as much as they can so take caution.
After 45 minutes we arrived at the tree. It is large and in charge and was one of the biggest trees we have ever seen. The way back was more up hill so save your energy for this part.
Best Beach Gear for the Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica
The second half of our trip we went to the beach town of Tamarindo. We chose to rent an airbnb because we wanted to eat at all the local restaurants. It is also a great way to save money because a lot of the hotels in the area are all-inclusive and are four times the price.
We got settled in, then we headed directly to the ocean for sunset since this is one of the things the town is known for. The colors of the sky light up and change when the sun goes down. There are many great patio spots to watch the sun descend and eat dinner. Many locals bring their own beverages to the beach.
Beach in Tamarindo
Surfing is another thing this town is well known for. The waves are great for beginners, but if you know what your doing already there are many shops to rent out boards. Remember not to leave anything valuable (cell phones especially) on the beach unless someone you trust keeps an eye on it.
The beach in the morning until early afternoon was low tide. There were sand dunes and one even had a massive tree that was laying on its side. It is a rocky walk out to this tree. Once you get there it is relaxing and worth the pictures that you get out of it. The tree is almost completely covered by water later on in the day and is fun to watch happen.
Tamarindo Farmers Market in the Ultimate guide to Costa Rica
Every Saturday morning the town has a market full of vendors. They have many things from crafts to music and everything in between.
Come hungry because there is plenty to eat and you will be supporting the local buisnesses. There is also a similar market on Thursday nights in a different location. It has more alcoholic beverages so come thirsty.
Native Wildlife in the Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica
We were in Costa Rica in February. That is known for when sloths have their babies. Our driver pulled over on our way to the Hideaway hotel and showed us a sloth and her baby. A different day while relaxing poolside one of the staff showed us another one up in the tree.
There were many more monkeys. While talking on our phone sitting on the balcony of the hideaway hotel a Capuchin white face monkey decided to hang out with us. He heard us taking, and wanted food. We were not prepared for this, and had nothing to give him. He was not pleased with us so he did not stay long.
Sitting at La Bodega in Tamarindo waiting for our food we spotted monkeys at a tree across the street. These were howler monkeys. They started crossing the street on the telephone line above the street to another tree. There were 8 of them close to us, some big and some small.
Toucans are loud and once you know the sound they make they are easy to spot. We saw them in the rain forest, and on the grounds of the hideaway hotel. They are larger than most other birds and their bills are often cool colors.
Iguanas are everywhere. Especially at the beach. If you are from the north they are exciting to see. If you live south you are probably one of the many people that think we are crazy as we take videos and pictures of them.