Sunny, stress-free Costa Rica is a prime solo travel destination – and is often ranked one of the world’s happiest countries thanks to its pura vida way of life. Instead of chasing pay rises and promotions, the chilled-out ticos of this cucumber-cool Central American country like to focus on connecting with nature and focusing on life’s daily joys. This footwear-optional attitude is especially prevalent on the Caribbean coast, where life unfolds at an altogether slower pace. But all around the country, you’ll find a seemingly low-key, tread lightly ethos that makes Costa Rica appealing to surfers, yogis and real-world escapees from far beyond its borders.
Wherever you choose to go, you can expect remarkable wildlife, from nesting turtles to the country’s signature sloths. Adventure is also a big part of Costa Rica’s desirable DNA. So, take your pick from white water rafting along rainforest-wrapped rivers, trekking around the cone-shaped Arenal Volcano and swinging through the treetops via a network of suspension bridges.
With so much choice, some people decide to join a group for solo travel in Costa Rica, giving space for independence while sharing experiences and taking the stress out of arranging your trip. Here, we lay out what you’ll need to know before a solo trip to Costa Rica, including where to go, what to pack and how to get around.
Costa Rica travel facts
Costa Rica has more than 500,000 species of wildlife, yet covers just 0.03% of the Earth’s surface, meaning it lays claim to the highest level of biodiversity on the planet. But beyond the wildlife, there are also 200 volcanoes to explore, notably at Arenal, Rincón de la Vieja and Poás.
On the northern Pacific coast, the wave-rolled Nicoya Peninsula is home to one of the original five Blue Zones (areas in the world where people typically live the longest, often reaching over 100 years old), which still attracts surfers, yogis and wellness-lovers today.
Naturally, this is one of the world’s most sustainable travel destinations, thanks to fierce protection of its parks, jungles and natural landscapes, including its offshore marine life and reefs. Indeed, three of its natural habitats are protected by Unesco: Area de Conservacion Guanacaste just north of Nicoya, La Amistad International Park and reserves on the far southern border with Panama, and Cocos Island National Park in the Pacific, 550 km southwest of the mainland.
Is Costa Rica good for solo travel?
Costa Rica is a great introduction for solo travel in Central and Latin America. There’s a great tourism infrastructure in place, plenty of adventurous activities and friendly locals who take treating travelers well to heart. The main hubs of Arenal and La Fortuna are solid bases for English speakers, where it’s easy to arrange tours and accommodation. If you don’t want to go it totally alone on your solo trip to Costa Rica, joining on a group adventure with Flash Pack and other solo travelers can take care of some of the logistics of booking with accommodation, transport and activities, amplifying and simplifying your experience.
Best places to visit in Costa Rica
With the Caribbean Sea on the east coast, the Pacific Ocean on the west, and a network of knitted rivers, jungles and volcanoes in between, there’s a whole range of places to visit with different activities and scenery to sample.
On the north Caribbean coast, remote Tortuguero National Park has incredible wildlife as a nesting ground for sea turtles. In the middle, Arenal is awesome for trekking alongside a giant smouldering stratovolcano. Over towards the Pacific, Guanacaste – and the Nicoya Peninsula especially – is a good spot for surfing.
Don’t miss the Pacuare River for white water rafting and the Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park for its otherworldly brilliant blue waters. With all that to take in, this is a country to experience – something that Flash Pack takes care of with its group solo trips to Costa Rica.
Where to stay as a solo traveler in Costa Rica
There’s a huge variety of places to stay in Costa Rica, from boutique beach hotels to eco-friendly jungle lodges that have sustainability at heart. Colourful Caribbean guesthouses and luxury resorts are also popular with solo travelers, and you’ll find plenty of surf lodges and yoga retreats around Nosara and Sámara, with Puerto Viejo de Talamanca acting as a hub for the country’s growing digital nomad scene, too. Traveling as part of a group solo trip to Costa Rica means you can choose to share a room (swerving the single supplement that often prices out solo travelers from the smartest hotels) or elect to have your own private space.
How to get to Costa Rica
Costa Rica borders the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, with cruises calling at ports on both the east and west coasts. But the best option is flying. Most international flights land at San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport in the Central Valley, though if you’re traveling from the US, Canada and UK, you can also land at Guanacaste Airport in the northern city of Liberia.
Due to some flight arrival times, you might choose to book the first night in San José to bed down before heading on to your next destination. There are buses and border crossings to get to Costa Rica from Panama in the south and Nicaragua in the north if you’re traveling overland as part of a long Central American adventure, but it’s always best to check the current status of border controls.
How to get around Costa Rica
You can fly internally in Costa Rica, if you’re tight on time. But all flights go via San José, so sometimes, given the airport waiting times, it’s actually quicker, more scenic and better for the environment to get around Costa Rica by bus.
Buses tend to be reliable, frequent, inexpensive and the most common mode of transport used by solo travelers in Costa Rica – often acting as great places to meet other people on the road. The shared shuttle service Interbus is a good option and can cut down on travel time to efficiently get from A to B; Ride CR is also another option.
Many people also hire a car. Though, it’s worth nothing that roads vary hugely in different regions, from newly paved main roads to river-fording, off-road adventures where you’ll need to know how to cross the water carefully without flooding your engine – especially around Guanacaste, Nicoya, Puerto Viejo and the far-flung Osa Peninsula (and especially during the May to November rainy season). It can be expensive though, so traveling as part of a group solo trip to Costa Rica can ease the expense, while also cutting out the need to navigate the country’s roads on your own.
Best time to visit Costa Rica
What’s the best month for solo travel to Costa Rica? Well, weather-wise, it operates on a two-season cycle: dry and rainy. The dry season runs from mid-November to April, while May to mid-November tends to be rainy (also known as the “green season”). That said, this can present a less-crowded time to take in Costa Rica and should not be overlooked. Depending on the region, rain might only bring a short, sharp shower in the afternoons, cooling off the heady midday heat effectively. September and October are usually the wettest. Traveling in November or April tends to be the best when the weather is toasty, sunshine lasts for 12 hours and it’s a little out of the peak season so it’s a bit quieter.
Costa Rica travel itineraries
You’ll find a lush ecosystem in Costa Rica that’s largely unspoilt. The best itineraries for solo travel in Costa Rica embrace nature and fully absorb the surroundings, while being mindful to travel consciously, respecting the land and its inhabitants. Flash Pack’s Untamed Costa Rica trip harnesses all of this, allowing solo travelers to immerse themselves in the jungle after river rafting to a rainforest lodge, see Arenal Volcano National Park from above on aerial adventures, and relax with downtime on the beach via a private catamaran off the Pacific coast.
What to pack for solo travel in Costa Rica
Consider the different environments while keeping your luggage light – Costa Rica is great for exploring, after all. Pack what you’d usually take for a beach trip (sunscreen, micro towel, swimwear), but don’t forget the more tropical, active side of the country. You’ll want some lightweight breathable hiking shoes and sweat-wicking trousers to keep legs protected from mosquitos, as well as taking repellent. A pack of playing cards can go a long way for making connections while traveling solo.
Solo travel advice for Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a beautiful philosophy and way of life centred around a joyful outlook and easygoing nature. So, roll with it. Learning a little Spanish might help you feel more comfortable and confident to get around and converse with locals. Traveling solo in Costa Rica doesn’t have to mean that you do everything alone. By joining a group solo trip, you can have all the perks of solo travel, while having the support system of other like-minded people to share experiences with.
Is it safe to travel solo in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a popular destination for tourism and thousands of visitors travel there every year with most trips being trouble-free. However, do check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK), the Department of State Travel Advisories (US) or your country’s local government guidelines for the latest advice before traveling. Once there, follow local advice and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Stick to the usual safety precautions you might take, like avoiding dimly lit areas and keeping valuables on you. For extra peace of mind, consider travelling with a group of other solo travelers.
Ready for your next adventure? Try group solo travel to Costa Rica with Flash Pack – designed exclusively for people in their 30s and 40s, seeking the independence of solo travel within the safety of a group.
A cool 98% of Flashpackers arrive solo to join our group adventures. So, you’ll be in good company – whether a first time solo traveler or a seasoned pro looking for like-minded new friends.
Images: Flash Pack