Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
Costa Rica

Costa Rica Travel Tips: Attractions, When to Go, Weather

Costa Rica sloth
Sloths and other rainforest creatures attract ecotourists and photographers. Credit: Pixabay public domain

A Costa Rica vacation often involves going to the Caribbean coast or the Pacific coast as part of a cruise.

More adventurous people who love ecotourism may go to the country’s hotels and end up exploring the lush interior.

Either way, the most important tip to keep in mind is the weather. Costa Rica is a wet country on both coasts.

The country does have beaches, but the frequent rain and clouds don’t encourage visitors to spend much time getting a suntan or swimming in the ocean.

The heavy rains produce this Central American country’s famous rainforests and land excursions. For example, a great way to see Costa Rica is by ziplining, which is hanging via a harness and wire 100 feet in the air above a rainforest.

On our own ziplining excursion on the Caribbean coast, we saw plenty of monkeys, exotic birds and other creatures, although we didn’t see any of the well-known but shy jaguars.

No matter. Zipping from one tree to another is a thrilling way to remember one of the great eco-tourism destinations of the western Caribbean.

Quick Travel Tips

  • Parks and reserves dominate attractions.
  • Sea turtles are popular at Tortuguero National Park.
  • Rain is often heavy all year on the Caribbean coast.
  • Puntarenas has a distinct dry season.

Costa Rica Attractions

Puerto Viejo Beach
Puerto Viejo Beach; ©Costa Rica Tourism Board

The country has devoted 27 percent of the total land area to 20 natural parks and eight biological reserves. They create boundless attractions such as hiking, rafting, ziplining and rainforest tours.

Whitewater rafting is available on the Pacuare, Reventazon, Corobici, Sarapiqui, Naranjo or Savegre rivers. Rafting difficulty classes range from the easy level II to the challenging level V.

The country also is known for its sea turtles at Tortuguero National Park in the Caribbean.

Ziplining allows visitors to see the rain forest by aerial tram or by gliding individually on a harness over wires from tree to tree.

A common shore excursion out of the Limon port on the Caribbean coast is a “highlights” tour whereby visitors can see Cahuita National Park, Tortuguero Canal and other attractions. These tours have prices ranging from $75 to $100 or more.

Tourism / When to Go

Costa Rica ranks 10th in total tourism with an estimated 1.5 million cruise and overnight visitors annually.

The growth rate is one of the highest in the Caribbean because of the country’s strong reputation for ecotourism.

It is a popular destination for western Caribbean cruises that visit Limon. Pacific cruises visit Puntarenas. Ecotourists often visit the capital at San José, which gives them access to the sprawling Braulio Carrillo National Park.

U.S. and Canadian stopover visits require passports and valid return tickets.

Costa Rica Weather

Limon Costa Rica monthly weather
Limon Costa Rica monthly weather. © 2023 Scott S. Bateman

The average temperature and rainfall both vary greatly depending on the location, with more rain and cooler temperatures in the mountains.

The Limon cruise port on the Caribbean coast has heavy rains throughout the year, according to the Costa Rica National Meteorological Institute. Total rainfall ranges from a low point of about six inches in September to a high point of nearly 18 inches in December.

Average high temperatures stay consistently in the mid 80s Fahrenheit or about 30 Celsius.

Unlike Limon, the Pacific cruise port at Puntarenas has a distinct dry season from December through April that makes it a popular destination in winters. Average rainfall is less than one inch per month during that time.

Puntarenas temperatures are warmer than Limon. The average highs range between 89 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 and 34 Celsius, according to the Costa Rica National Meteorological Institute. 

Costa Rica

Currency / Tipping

The Costa Rican currency is the Colon. U.S. currency and major credit cards are widely accepted.

A 10 percent service charge often is added to hotel and restaurant bills. The sales tax is 13 percent. The departure tax for stopover visitors is $26.

Culture / Geography

Spanish is the official language with English somewhat widely spoken.

For the sake of eco-tourists and excursions, the number of people who know English declines rapidly toward the center of the country.

The economy relies heavily on agriculture with tourism a rising force. The number of visitors has grown 100 percent in 10 years.

The terrain is coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes.

Sources / More information

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
September 25, 2023

Limón Costa Rica Cruise Port

Cahuita National Park
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Costa Rica Travel Tips: Attractions, When to Go, Weather