How To Plan A Trip To Costa Rica For Free Step By Step
Last updated on January 13th, 2022 at 04:17 pm EST
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Get the Costa Rica info you need by browsing our article's TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Need to plan a trip to Costa Rica? We can help!
- Step #1: Get to know Costa Rica
- Step #2: Determine your vacation window
- Step #3: Research Costa Rica destinations
- Step #4: Choose cities, towns, and beaches to visit based on your tour and activity preferences
- Step #5: Research and choose your desired accommodations
- Step #6: Research and choose your desired in-country transportation services
- Step #7: Secure reservations for your desired tours and activities
- Step #8: Consider these travel extras
Need to plan a trip to Costa Rica? We can help!
A few nights ago, I caught the tail end of the Academy Award-winning movie The Help and I let the words of the main character, Aibileen, sink in: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” I also bawled like a baby at the end of the movie when (spoiler alert!) little Mae bangs on the windowpane for her beloved Aibileen’s return. I wondered if fictitious little Mae would remember the inspiring words of wisdom she was told, and if so, whether the words would shape her life for the better. Then I questioned whether all forms of help that support and uplift others possess a similar kind of power.
I started thinking about the help we provide travelers who set out to plan a trip to Costa Rica. Ricky and I like to think that our style in helping others build their dream Costa Rica vacation is similar to the confidence-building strategy that Aibileen employed toward her precious Mae. You is kind. You is smart. You is important. That you are, you can, you will attitude resonates well with us, and if there’s one message above all others that we aim to deliver to travelers, it’s this message of empowerment and encouragement: You can plan your own trip to Costa Rica. You don’t need to buy a vacation package to experience Costa Rica, and you don’t need to rely on a travel agent to get what you want. No matter the destinations you want to visit, the time of year you’re able to travel, or the amount of money in your bank acount, if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of traveler, you can plan your own trip to Costa Rica.
With a little help anything is possible, so allow us to be the Aibileen to your Mae. Let us shower you with support so you can cleanse yourself with confidence. Let us hold your hand and lead you far enough until you’ve listened to us, leaned on us, and learned from us as much as you need before giving Costa Rica vacation planning a go on your own. Start by browsing through our article below. It will show you how to plan a trip to Costa Rica for free on your own in 8 simple steps.
Step #1: Get to know Costa Rica
Put your mind at ease early by familiarizing yourself with the country and learning some of the basics of Costa Rica travel.
Start with the following blog posts:
- Is Costa Rica Safe? Yes, If You Do This.
- When To Go To Costa Rica According To Cost, Weather, Wildlife, And More!
- How Much It Costs To Go To Costa Rica: Costs Of Activities, Hotels, Food, Transportation Services, And More!
- What You Need To Know About The 13% VAT Tax In Costa Rica
- Comparing Costa Rica’s San Jose (SJO) And Liberia (LIR) Airports
The experience you’ll have in Costa Rica will be decided in part by the month during which you plan to visit. Get to know Costa Rica month by month:
- Costa Rica in January
- Costa Rica in February
- Costa Rica in March
- Costa Rica in April
- Costa Rica in May
- Costa Rica in June
- Costa Rica in July
- Costa Rica in August
- Costa Rica in September
- Costa Rica in October
- Costa Rica in November
- Costa Rica in December
The above articles provide introductory information about Costa Rica, including safety tips to put your mind at ease with respect to travel in the country, suggestions regarding the best times of year to travel, and helpful airport information to keep in mind as you research flights.
Proceed to “HOW TO PLAN A TRIP TO COSTA RICA STEP #2” when you have read the above texts.
Step #2: Determine your vacation window
Figure out how much time you want (or are able) to travel to Costa Rica for.
If your vacation time is determined by work, school, or other demands, you may not have much say in this step of the Costa Rica trip-planning process. However, if you’re able to be flexible with your Costa Rica vacation planning, use all or some of our free Costa Rica itinerary guides to figure out how many days and nights you should spend in the country. Our detailed itinerary guides also cover how the process of planning a trip to Costa Rica differs according to the amount of time you have to spend here.
- Costa Rica Itinerary: 5 Days In Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Itinerary: 8 Days In Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Itinerary: 10 Days In Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Itinerary: 12 Days In Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Itinerary: 15 Days In Costa Rica
Proceed to “HOW TO PLAN A TRIP TO COSTA RICA STEP #3” when you have determined how many days and nights you will travel to Costa Rica for.
Step #3: Research Costa Rica destinations
Explore our Costa Rica Travel Blog to familiarize yourself with Costa Rica’s most popular destinations and not-to-miss hot spots.
You may find our related blog posts helpful:
- Where To Go In Costa Rica: 70+ Costa Rica Destinations (In Photos)
- 66 Costa Rica Beaches (In Photos) And Where To Find Them
- Must-Know Info About La Fortuna Costa Rica From Longtime Residents
- Must-Know Info About Monteverde Costa Rica From Seasoned Visitors
- Must-Know Info About Manuel Antonio Costa Rica From Frequent Visitors
- Must-Know Info About Puerto Viejo And The Southern Caribbean
- How To Decide Between La Fortuna / Arenal Or Monteverde (Or Why You Should Visit Both)
- How To Make A Day Trip To Monteverde From La Fortuna (Arenal) Or Vice Versa
- Costa Rica Destinations: Common Name And Location Misunderstandings
- If your flights to and from Costa Rica aren’t yet set, allow your destination interests to influence your airport/flight plans. This can help minimize in-country travel time. For example, if you are interested in visiting a Central Pacific beach, consider flying into and out of the San Jose airport (SJO). If you’re interested in visiting a Northern Pacific beach, consider flying into and out of the Liberia airport (LIR).
Proceed to “HOW TO PLAN A TRIP TO COSTA RICA STEP #4” when you have determined which airport you would like to fly into and out of, as well as which Costa Rica destinations you would like to visit. Note that only a rough idea of destinations is needed during this step; a list of exact cities, towns, and beaches isn’t needed just yet.
Step #4: Choose cities, towns, and beaches to visit based on your tour and activity preferences
Use our recommended “bottom-up approach to trip planning” to narrow down the destinations (i.e., the Costa Rica cities, towns, and beaches) you would like to visit and determine how much time you should spend at each.
Read our related blog post Planning A Vacation To Costa Rica? READ THIS FIRST!, which provides an explanation of our “bottom-up approach to trip planning”, followed by our blog posts How To Save Money On Costa Rica Tours and Costa Rica Tour Transportation: How To Use Tours To Travel Between Destinations. These three blog posts will help you understand in sequence:
- Why tours and activities should be selected first and how they influence most other trip decisions.
- How a lot of money can be saved by making your tour and activity reservations the right way.
- How precious vacation time can be maximized and travel time can be minimized as a result of smart tour and activity planning.
Once you’re convinced that tours and activities are the holy grail of Costa Rica trip planning, read our blog posts 30 Popular Things To Do In Costa Rica and Costa Rica Off The Beaten Path: Where To Go And What To Do, then browse through our online Costa Rica Tour Discounts database. Doing so will:
- Give you an understanding of the types of tours and activities that are available in Costa Rica and which in particular interest you.
- Help you determine which cities, towns, and beaches would be the best for you to visit according to the tours and activities that interest you the most.
- Help you determine how many days and nights you should spend at each destination according to the number of tours and activities you wish to experience.
The easiest way to find discounts for the tours and activities you’re interested in experiencing is to browse our discount database according to one of the following three categories:
- Search all discounts for Costa Rica tours by activity type
- Search all discounts for Costa Rica tours by location
- Search all discounts for Costa Rica tours by tour operator name
You can also browse our discount database according to traveler type, which is a great way for families to learn where extra discounts are available to students and children:
- Search all adult discounts for Costa Rica tours
- Search all student discounts for Costa Rica tours
- Search all child discounts for Costa Rica tours
- Search Costa Rica tours that allow young children to participate for free
You can also narrow your search within our discount database to display discounts for Costa Rica tours that a) are education-based, b) are family-friendly, c) are good for wildlife-viewing, d) encourage personal pampering, e) are super for senior travelers, or f) are time-efficient tours that squeeze multiple experiences into a short amount of time. Alternatively, you can search our tour discounts by activity adrenaline level (“mild” vs. “extreme”), difficulty level (across “low”, “mild”, “moderate”, and “high” levels), or tour guide requirement (“guided tours” vs. “unguided tours”). If you’re unsure whether you would like to participate in guided tours and activities throughout your trip, you may find our related blog post helpful: Guided Tours In Costa Rica: Are They Necessary, Valuable, And/Or Worthwhile?
If you would rather read about our specific experiences participating in many of Costa Rica’s best tours and activities, you can do so by exploring our activity-related blog posts below:
- Best Ziplines In Costa Rica: Comparing 6 In Arenal And Monteverde
- Sky Adventures Monteverde: Ziplining, Hanging Bridges, And Tram Rides In The Cloud Forest
- Sky Adventures Arenal: Ziplining, Hanging Bridges, And Tram Rides In The Rainforest
- Selvatura Monteverde: Ziplining, Hanging Bridges, Butterfly/Hummingbird Gardens, And A Reptile/Amphibian Exhibit In The Cloud Forest
- Costa Rica Ziplining: An Exhilarating And Cultural Tour In La Fortuna (Arenal)
- Ziplining And Canopy Tours In Costa Rica: The Difference Between The Two
- Best Hanging Bridges In Costa Rica: Comparing 4 in Arenal and Monteverde
- A Step-By-Step Guide To The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
- Best Hot Springs In Arenal: We Compare All 12 La Fortuna Hot Springs
- Tabacon Hot Springs Review
- Springs Resort Hot Springs Review
- EcoTermales Hot Springs Review
- Baldi Hot Springs Review
- Los Lagos Hot Springs Review
- Paradise Hot Springs Review
- Springs Resort Part #1: The Club Rio Outdoor Center
- Springs Resort Part #2: The Springs Resort Hot Springs
- The Pacuare River Rafting Tour
- Best Rafting In Costa Rica: Comparing 13 River Tours
- Is Costa Rica’s Tortuguero Worth Visiting?
- Costa Rica Canyoning Tour: Adrenaline And Assurance Found At The Lost Canyon
- How To Reserve The Poas Volcano National Park (Screenshots)
- Monteverde Don Juan Coffee, Chocolate, And Sugar Cane Tour: A Trifecta Of Costa Rican Tradition, Temptation, And Trade
- Manuel Antonio Sailing Tour With Snorkeling And Dolphin Watching
- Manuel Antonio National Park: Sloths, Snakes, Sunshine, And So Much More
- Manuel Antonio Mangrove Tour Costa Rica
- Visiting The All-New La Fortuna Waterfall And Orchid Garden
- Silencio Trail La Fortuna Arenal Volcano Hike
- Arenal Volcano National Park Arenal Volcano Hike
- What To Do And See In San Jose, Costa Rica
- Best Volcano To Visit In Costa Rica: Arenal, Irazu, Poas, Rincon De La Vieja, Or Turrialba?
- A Proposal to Remember: Costa Rica’s Cerro Chato Hike
Proceed to “HOW TO PLAN A TRIP TO COSTA RICA STEP #5” when you have determined:
- Which tours and activities interest you the most.
- Which destinations (i.e., which cities, towns, and beaches) would be best the best for you to visit according to the cities, towns, and beach areas where your preferred tours and activities are run. 3
- The ideal number of days and nights you should spend at each destination in order to have enough time to see and do what you wish to experience in each area.
Before proceeding to the next step you should also have an idea of the order in which you would like to visit each destination (i.e., destination X first, destination Y second, and so on).
Step #5: Research and choose your desired accommodations
Select and reserve your ideal accommodations in accordance with the number of days and nights you plan to spend at each destination according to the outcome of STEP #4.
Before you reserve your preferred Costa Rica accommodations, familiarize yourself with our related blog posts:
- 7 Types Of High-End Accommodations For Luxe-Loving Travelers
- All-Inclusive Resorts And Non-All-Inclusive Resorts In Costa Rica
- La Fortuna Hotel Guide: Where We Stay Around Arenal
- Monteverde Hotel Guide: Where We Stay Around Monteverde
- SJO Airport Hotel Guide: Where To Stay In Alajuela
- Costa Rica Tour Transportation: Hotel Pick-Ups And Drop-Offs
- Choosing A Costa Rica Hotel: Are You A Knowledgeable Traveler Or An Informed One?
- Costa Rica Hotel Tip: Can You Name Your Arenal Or Monteverde Hotel?
- Reserving Costa Rica Trip Items In Advance: How Much Time Is Needed?
In addition, don’t miss our property-specific Costa Rica Accommodation Recommendations and Reviews.
Don’t miss our free discount codes for Costa Rica hotels which can help you save roughly 15-25% off the cost of Costa Rica hotel rooms
Proceed to “HOW TO PLAN A TRIP TO COSTA RICA STEP #6” when you have determined which Costa Rica accommodations you wish to stay at (according to the ideal number of days and nights you should spend at each destination, depending on what you wish to experience in each area).
Step #6: Research and choose your desired in-country transportation services
Select and reserve your ideal transportation arrangements.
Imagine each Costa Rica destination that you plan to visit as a dot on a map. Now is the time to connect them. If you don’t know how you would prefer to travel around Costa Rica, you may find our related blog posts helpful:
- Costa Rica Transportation: 12 Ways To Get Around Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Tour Transportation: How To Use Tours To Travel Between Destinations
- Driving In Costa Rica: The Distance And Duration Of Popular Routes
- Costa Rica Highway Conditions By Route
- Driving To La Fortuna/Arenal: Photos, Road Conditions, Routes, Drive Times, And More!
- Best Ways To Travel From La Fortuna To Monteverde (Or Vice Versa)
- Renting A Car In Costa Rica: Should You Do It?
- How Not To Fall For Costa Rica Car Rental Scams
- Costa Rica Car Rental Insurance Information
- This Is The Costa Rica Car Rental Agency We Rent Cars Through
- Reserving Costa Rica Trip Items In Advance: How Much Time Is Needed?
Don’t miss our free discount codes for Costa Rica transportation services which can help you save 20% off the cost of shuttle services and roughly 25-50% off the cost of car rentals
Proceed to “HOW TO PLAN A TRIP TO COSTA RICA STEP #7” when you have determined which Costa Rica transportation services you will rely on to get between destinations throughout your trip.
Step #7: Secure reservations for your desired tours and activities
Reserve the Costa Rica day tours and activities (that you discovered you have an interest in during STEP #4) through Pura Vida! eh? Inc., home to hundreds of discounts for Costa Rica day tours.
In preparation of making your Costa Rica day tour and activity reservations, you may find our related blog posts helpful:
- How To Save Money On Costa Rica Tours
- Costa Rica Day Tours: Should You Book Ahead Of Time Or Wait?
- Paying For Your Costa Rica Trip: What Is Normal, Common, And To Be Expected?
When you are confident and ready to make your tour/activity reservations, do so through Pura Vida! eh? Inc.. As per its unique operation, no money or credit card information ever passes through the company in order to maintain travelers’ privacy!
Proceed to “HOW TO PLAN A TRIP TO COSTA RICA STEP #8” when you have secured your Costa Rica day tours and activities through Pura Vida! eh? Inc. and other chosen trip items through other providers. You’re almost done! 🙂
Step #8: Consider these travel extras
Now that your Costa Rica trip has been planned, reserved, and confirmed, prepare yourself for other facets of the travel experience.
You may find our related blog posts helpful:
- What To Pack For Costa Rica (And What Not To Pack)
- Flying To Costa Rica: What To Know About International Flights To Costa Rica, Departure Tax, Airlines, Check-In, Baggage, And More!
- Internet, Technology, And Device-Friendly Tips For Travel In Costa Rica
- Spending In Costa Rica: What To Know About USD, Colones, Credit Cards, And More
- Costa Rican Colones To American Dollars: Exchanging Money In Costa Rica
- What To Know About Tipping In Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Food Guide: 30 Things To Eat In Costa Rica And When To Eat Them
- Costa Rica Drink Guide: 20 Things To Drink In Costa Rica (Alcoholic & Non-Alcoholic)
- Vegan And Vegetarian Food In Costa Rica: Everything You Need To Know
- Gluten-Free Food In Costa Rica: Everything You Need To Know
- Travel Brain: How To Maintain A Level Head Throughout Your Costa Rica Trip
- Costa Rica Souvenirs: Buying Tips And Photo Galleries
- Sustainable Tourism In Costa Rica: 15 Ways To Travel Responsibly
Whew, you made it!
Yes, the process of planning a trip to Costa Rica is time consuming. Yes, it takes focus and determination. But that’s what Costa Rica travel is all about. Costa Rica isn’t your average all-inclusive vacation destination that asks little of you. It requires thought, work, patience, and detailed planning. Then it delivers rewards greater than your wildest dreams. You’ll get so much more out of your Costa Rica trip than gift shop souvenirs and a tan. Congratulations for not selling yourself and your vacation short. You is kind. You is smart. You is important. And, you’re about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: What steps have you found useful as you plan a trip to Costa Rica?