Planning a Trip to Costa Rica? Here's What You Need to Do First

01/05/2018 11:15 am ET

Yeay! You are planning a trip to Costa Rica! Get ready for some serious fun, adventure, relaxation, and whatever else you're interested in. Here is a complete checklist to help you in planning your trip to Costa Rica with tons of info plus a bonus printable checklist for FREE!

1. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Establish Your Budget

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Personally, I hate making a budget, which is pretty ironic considering I run a Costa Rica budget travel blog, but oh well! Either way, establishing a budget is necessary to do first so that you can better determine if a Costa Rica vacation is even possible for you.

Some things you need to consider are flight prices, accommodation costs, ground transportation costs, food and drink costs, entertainment costs, travel insurance, and those little expenses that sneak up on you such as tolls.

2. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica – Decide where you want to go

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I wish I could say it is easy to pick your perfect destination in Costa Rica, but it’s not. There are just so many freaking cool places here with totally different vibes. It’s awesome that there is something for everyone in Costa Rica, but it makes it really hard to narrow it down to just a few places to visit. I guess that means you’ll have to visit again :)

No, but seriously, check out the destination page on my blog and click on the various destinations to get a better idea of cool places to visit. I keep it real in my description of each place. I’ll be the first to say, I wouldn’t bother visiting Jaco and Manuel Antonio is a bit overrated.

It is best to pick your destinations first because it may impacts your flight decisions so, let’s move on to that point!

3. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Book your flight

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There are two international airports in Costa Rica. One is located in Liberia in the north-west corner of the country and the other is located just outside of San Jose (but everyone just calls it the San Jose Airport).

Most people tend to fly into San Jose because it is more centrally located and tends to be cheaper but definitely consider Liberia as well, especially if you plan on visiting the Guanacaste region of the country.

More airlines are starting to fly into Liberia. United, Delta, American, and Southwest (where are my Southwest fans at?!)  all fly there now. I met a girl recently that told me it ended up being a few hundred dollars cheaper for her to fly into Liberia from Toronto than it would have been to fly into San Jose.

If you want some more tips on booking your flight on a budget, I have a full post about how we fly on the cheap here.

4. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Book accommodations

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Anyone else love booking accommodations but labor over it like you are choosing a house to buy? That's me! We have a full post about booking accommodations here, but first, let me let you in on a little secret.

Most hotels here offer free cancellation up to a few days before your stay if you book through Booking. I like to book places early to ensure we have a place to stay, but I continue to check if something better or cheaper shows up. Just make sure you keep track of when you can cancel your hotel until.

5. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Figure out your transportation

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Transportation is one of the trickiest things to figure out. There are so many options! I have a complete post about transportation here, but I'll tell you I prefer to rent a car because I find it gives me the most flexibility in seeing cool sites and not having to depend on expensive day tours. Each of my destination guides includes a complete guide to transportation.

I also recently partnered with my favorite rental car company, Adobe, to bring you guys a 10% rental car discount! You can find more about that here! Actually, please read it before booking with any company so you don't get hit with unexpected charges.

6. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Check out fun activities you can do

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One of the many great things about Costa Rica is that there is literally something for everyone at every budget. If you like adventure, you're in luck. If you want to relax on the beach, we've got that as well.

I created a list of my favorite budget activities in Costa Rica here. It will definitely help you in the planning process. Also, each one of my destination guides includes my favorite activities.

7. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Research good local restaurants

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Anyone else a serious foodie? The first thing I research when traveling anywhere is where I can get fab food. I then read every menu and pick out exactly what I'm going to eat. Pathetic? Possibly....

Anyway, in each of our destination guides, we have some of our fave restaurant options if you need ideas.

8. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Purchase travel insurance

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I am pretty bad about purchasing travel insurance, but I strongly suggest you purchase some while planning a trip to Costa Rica. It's important to remember that Costa Rica is a foreign country which your body is not used to. I've had some weird things happen to me here (you can read about my swollen face drama here) and most of the things have been primarily because I am in an unfamiliar environment.

We like World Nomads for travel insurance because they cover a lot of adventure activities (which you'll probably be doing in Costa Rica) which other travel insurance companies usually do not cover.

9. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Finalize Your Budget

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Alright, now that you have basically everything else planned it is time to finalize your budget. This is the stage where you can write down your max to spend in each category of your trip. If you need a good app to keep track of how much you are spending while traveling, we like the free app called Trail Wallet.

You can check out my other favorite free Costa Rica apps here.

10. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Pack

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Yeay! It's time to pack! That means it's almost time for your trip! I have a complete packing list for women here and a complete packing list for men here. I also have a list of must-have gear for traveling in Costa Rica.

11. Planning A Trip to Costa Rica - Board Your Flight to Paradise!

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Yeay! It's time to board your flight to the paradise that is Costa Rica! Get ready to have so much fun!

For more information on budget travel in Costa Rica check out Costa Rica Vibes!

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