Costa Rica Travel Tips

This summer I had the opportunity to go to Costa Rica for vacation (no students!). It was a lot of fun, and I’d thought I’d share some of the things I learned while I was there that would be helpful to know if you are planning on going, either alone or with students!


We went in early July for a week, and flew into San José, then traveled to La Fortuna, Monteverde, Quepos, and then back to San José! Before we crossed the mountains there was a lot of rain, and it was quite a bit cooler. On the Pacific side, it was a lot warmer and sunnier – we didn’t even take the sunscreen out until the last city of the trip!

Things to Know

  • Everyone says “Pura Vida” all the time. It’s not an exaggeration. I thought people were kidding before we got there, but nope. It’s a greeting. It’s a farewell. It’s scattered throughout dialogue. It really is said a lot!
  • “Mae” is the other word I heard a ton! It’s slang, and they used it like “dude”.
  • Tipping in restaurants is different than in the United States. Restaurants add a 10% gratuity to your bill. You can tip more if you want, but it’s not expected.
  • Most of the people we met offered “¿Español o inglés?” before greeting us. If you’re not confident in your Spanish that could be a really nice “safety net” to practice! I witnessed several students trying their best and negotiating meaning at a coffee shop, then later looking totally indignant when a couple walked in and ordered in English! I wanted to cheer them on for sticking it out and figuring out how to order what they wanted, even though they could have given up.

Things to Bring

  • We went in July which is part of the rainier season. A rain jacket is totally necessary – it poured at least once a day.
  • Before we went we exchanged money. People on the internet said many places would accept USD, but I wasn’t too sure. We had no issues with whichever money we wanted to spend (surprise) people were just happy we were there and supporting their business.
  • Layers! Some days it was surprisingly chilly, other days it was hot!
  • The “obvious”- sunscreen, bug spray, tennis shoes, swimsuit, and clothes that dry quickly (see things to bring point 1..RAIN).

Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica? Whether you are taking a family trip or a trip with students, here are some tips for things to bring and some things you just need to know before you go! Safe travels!

Unpacking.. (ha. Get it?!)

I would totally love to go back! This trip was just for fun, but I think students would really enjoy a trip there and get a lot of great practice! Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What were your favorite parts?

2 thoughts on “Costa Rica Travel Tips

  1. ¡Pura Vida! I went to CR this summer as well. We spent the week in San Jose and worked at a kindergarten painting and teaching a VBS style curriculum through our church. I loved it! Loved working with kindergartners at the school, the teachers were amazing and still keeping up via social media! We did have a free day in each end of the trip. We spent Sunday at a fruit / vegetable market, toured some sights in San Jose, went to church and shopped at a typical souvenir style market. The last day we ziplined and spent the afternoon near Jaco Beach! Thanks to EF I have a teacher rewards trip to CR in February ! I can’t wait to go back!

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