Travel Guide: Backpacking in Costa Rica

Whenever I traveled in the past, I went with my suitcase. But not this time. Instead, I decided to get a backpack and tour the beautiful country of Costa Rica for 19 days, during which I visited six different places – each being special in its own way. Are you also planning to go backpacking in Costa Rica and need helpful tips and resources for your trip? Here’s what you need to know!

Best and cheapest travel time

While Costa Rica is said to be the Switzerland of Latin America and thus quite expensive, it’s still possible to go there on a tight budget. Of course, the best way to save money is to travel during the off-season (e.g., May, June, September, October, and November) when prices for flights and accommodation are at their lowest, and the country is less crowded by tourists. However, tour operators and transportation services tend not to lower their prices during the off-season. 

Weather in Costa Rica

Although Costa Rica gets lots of precipitation during the so-called “green season” from May to June and November, it’s still worth going. Because you can see the seasons changing and national parks are quieter at this time of the year as well. Also, it doesn’t necessarily rain all day long. When I visited end of November, there were maybe four days when it was raining, but that also depends on where you are in the country. 

Plan and book ahead

Before starting my trip, I always try to create an approximate plan of what I want to do and where I want to go. Because booking ahead often gets you the best deals and makes your trip less stressful. Talking about prices: it’s also worth comparing offers of different providers and platforms before booking tours, transportation, or accommodation. Also, many accommodations offer free cancellation until a few days before, so you can still enjoy some flexibility while saving some money. 

Helpful resources: Hostelworld – hostels in Costa RicaSINAC – tickets for national parks

Traveling on public buses 

The most common way of getting around Costa Rica is by bus. Although some said buses are unreliable, I didn’t experience that. On the contrary, public buses run relatively frequently, are cheap, and are comfortable on longer trips. Only downside: it’s not possible to buy tickets online in advance, but only at the bus station. Thus, you have to be there in time to secure your seat. And San Jose has several bus stations, all served by different operators, making it a little tricky to figure out where you’ll need to go. 

Helpful resources: Monton CR – real-time bus tracking appMEPE – service between San Jose and Puerto ViejoTracopa – service between Manuel Antonio and San JoseTransportes Mal Pais S.A – service between Santa Teresa and Cobano

Other ways of getting around

If you want to opt for the quicker yet pricier way, there are several privately run shuttle services (e.g., Ride CR or Interbus) and taxis for longer and shorter trips. The most flexible way of getting around is, however, definitely by renting a car. Yet, streets are not the best all over the country, and you must watch out for holes and bumps along the way. In San Jose, Uber is also convenient for getting from A to B. Additionally, the two airlines – Sansa and Costa Rica Green Airways – serve several smaller airports across the country and are a quick and comfortable way to travel by plane from San Jose. And, of course, there’s also the Naviera Tambor ferry running between Puntarenas and Paquera, which is the quickest way to get to places in Guanacaste (e.g., Nosara, Samara, Tamarindo) and Puntarenas (e.g., Montezuma, Santa Teresa).

Helpful resources: Rome2Rio – travel planning tool

Want to find out where I went during my backpacking trip to Costa Rica? Check out the map below or read my other blogposts about the country of pura vida here.

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