For me, backpacking is the way to enjoy the rainforests of Costa Rica; You are at once immersed in the glory, the primal elements, the land and yes, the people.
Costa Rica certainly has its share of 5 star resorts, and if that’s your fancy, that perfectly fine, but in this article we’ll use the airlines only to get to our jumping off places, then we’ll pound the trails and soak up the atmosphere in one of the last vast rain forests on the planet.
From the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, there isn’t an inch of Costa Rica that doesn’t reveal a new and fascinating sight. It makes no difference whether you’re zip-lining through the tall trees. Or riding an aerial tram that nearly touches the rare orchids and bromeliads, you are at one with the toucan’s fantastically colored macaw and the earth around you.
I don’t know you, but we share a passion, the search for adventure, the yearning to be free and explore, to satisfy the call of the wild and it is these emotions that call out to the world, “Come and visit me in Costa Rica.”
No matter your interest, you can find it here in Costa Rica, pristine beaches, a myriad assortment of wildlife, breathtaking vistas and always a feeling there is more to see over the next horizon. As I’ve journeyed and backpacked the country, I’ve kept a journal of places to visit, thing to do and perhaps most importantly, the best way to travel. These aren’t all my tips; many are from new friends I’ve met along the way. Hopefully, they will be an aid to your Costa Rican vacation.
When To Go and What To See
Whether you come in the fall, winter, spring or summer, there are always new things to see, places to discover and people to meet. There is no, one time, to plan your visit, come when you’re ready, who knows, you may stay a lifetime.
While the weather is always accommodating, at least to a degree, you may want to plan your visit based on what you hope to experience. If you desire to meet like-minded people, come in December thru April, the high season and the crowds prove it so. On a budget? Then consider coming during the green time, May thru November. The choice is yours, and each holds their pleasures, the high season is when the beaches are the perfect places to play, the wet season will have you gazing across mist-filled valleys and feeling you’ve stepped thru time.
A Few General Backpacking Tips
- Learn basic Spanish or travel with someone who does.
- Pack only the bare essentials. Once packed, cut that in half.
- Keep valuables hidden, and yes, that includes cameras, jewelry, and phones.
- Read and study the maps and guidebooks before you come.
- Hiring a guide, particularly in the remote areas, could save your life.
Budgeting will depend on you, do you want great accommodations or are you willing to stay at hostels and camp out? If you come for around a month, many have told me they budgeted approximately USD 2,000 and they got along fine.
NOTE: The less money you spend on accommodations’, the more you’ll have for spur of the moment side trips.
Costa Rica is Big Where Should You Go?
Like a kid visiting Disney World, you’re going to want to see everything, but you can’t. Probably not on one trip, even if it’s a month-long journey. Plan to come again and each time you visit, you’ll see a different section. That said, the perfect jumping off spot is San Jose.
San Jose The Jump Point
San Jose is the capital and with that infamous title comes a host of amenities. You can find hotels, outfitters, guides, nightlife and more. This is the hub from which you can journey out to the rivers, volcanoes and a host of destinations. The time you spend here is up to you, but it will be time well spent, meeting the locals, sampling the food, deciding on destinations, etc.
A lot of those taking backpacking tours of Costa Rica is on a budget, and that’s fine. We’ve written this with you in mind and many stay in Santa Elena based on the low costs and easy access to the trails and views of Monteverde Cloud Forrest. It’s here you’ll see those mythical clouds filled views fo the rain forest, caused by the high altitude and moisture laden air.
The Osa Peninsula
If you had the time for one place, then The Osa Peninsula should be at, or near the top of your list. There is a fantastic amount of activities to do and places to visit. Among my favorites is the Corcovado National Park, which rivals any rain forest in the world, including those in the Amazon and also Malaysia. The diversity of species and plants is much too diverse to list here, it must be experienced.
When you tire of the national park, which is a difficult goal, there are the nearby beaches where you can let your thoughts drift out to sea and imagine yourself sitting here millions of years ago, truly, not much would be different.
As you hike through the jungles of Costa Rica, you are genuinely touching the spirit of the planet. When you lay or camp on the sandy beaches, it wouldn’t be surprising to find people who lived here thousands of years in the past. Primal, pristine, it is a place that enriches the soul and stirs the imagination. Manuel Antonio is the smallest park in the area, but the trails, views and pure beauty of the surrounding are enchanting.
If your funds are low, there is no need to worry; you can stay at the Quepos, a district in Puntarenas Province. There you’ll find affordable lodging, places to visit, an enriching nightlife and cheap transportation between there and Manuel Antonio.
I’m not a purist, I love the outdoors, I treasure Costa Rica, but I’m also a people person, which is why I always visit Santa Teresa whenever I’m close. It is a city full of history, yet, to a degree, it has resisted becoming too modern. The nightlife is robust, the people warm and friendly and the activities vast and varied. The fact it is near the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, home to flocks of seabirds, adds to why the city calls me. This is an opportunity to take off the backpack and just soak up the culture. You can easily spend several days here, never repeating, unless desired, the same activity.
The beautiful thing about Costa Rica is the fantastic diversity of things to see, it makes choosing difficult, and why I mentioned earlier, you’ll want to come again and again to honestly see the country. Nosara is a place of contemplation, the pace is slow, the beaches warm and relaxing and the sunset painted with crimsons and pastels that tug your emotions and have you contemplating the eternal.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limon
A destination you must see to appreciate. It’s not one of the more remote, but it is one of the best. Surfing, sand, beaches, nightlife, delicious food, assorted activities and still, affordable lodging. You can easily spend a week here, or maybe you’ll want to move here and call it home. The people will welcome you no matter what.
Costa Rica quite simply is paradise on earth. Visiting here once or a hundred times should be high, very high on your bucket list.