The weather varies from region to region – while all the travel brochures show pictures of sunny, blue, cloudless beach skies the weather is not like this in the entire country. The beaches are very hot whereas the forested mountain areas can get a little chilly and do experience a lot of rain. Consequently, bring a rain jacket and a jumper as well as your factor 70 suncream. There are different climate zones throughout Costa Rica – so be prepared for this when traveling around. It is perfect to relax on the hot Pacific beaches then go to the mountains for a cool breeze before returning to some very warm beaches on the Caribbean coast.
You do not always have to get a tour guide – for lots of hikes and adventures you can just pay an entrance fee into a national park or pay to hire a kayak, bike or surf board and explore alone. This can be more peaceful than being rushed around by a guide in big groups. Trails at usually well marked and you are bound to see groups and others you can follow along the way. However, there are some activities that require booking through a tour agency. For example, zip lining, canyoning and tubing. These things are worth paying for, especially if you are only in Costa Rica once.
It is an expensive country – you need to give yourself a generous budget for Costa Rica. Money disappears on necessities and then of course you want to do activities too. Everything costs money – entering parks, taxes in and out of the country, museums. I have found a few free things (such as the national park in cahuita, a historical museum in allejelo and visiting some cathedrals). However, prepare for New York prices. Dorm room hostels on average cost between $12-$15 US dollars and they are very basic. Better cleaner accommodation will be US prices. Food costs $6 US dollars for a typical rice and beans dish (the are tasty at first). Then pizzas and other cuisines cost a lot more. Even supermarkets charge a lot for basic things such as water and fruit. I would say more expensive than London. It is worth it if you have the money, are not staying too long and enjoy lazing on stunning beaches or hiking beautiful forests.
Tap water is not always the best – there is a temptation to drink the tap water as it’s free. However, I have generally speaking been staying clear of it. Costa Rica still has underdeveloped, remote regions which do not have the best tap water. The more touristy areas tend to be okay. I would say if in doubt just buy a big bottle from the supermarket. Ask hostel staff what they would recommend too. Then if you do want to drink tap water, start by drinking a little bit and then if it’s okay drink some more before downing a load, which could play havoc with your stomach. Sometimes it’s not worth the risk.
Mosquitos – they are only a problem on the Caribbean coast. Here they are plentiful. I did use insect repellent but obviously not enough, as I was attacked by them. Just make sure to bring deet spray, use a mosquito net if you have and wear long sleeves to sleep in. There was no viruses telegraphed while I was there but it is always worth checking before you go.