Preparing for your trip
|Costa Rica: Volcanoes, Rainforests & Beaches, 2024
Print this page and refer to it as you prepare for your trip!
Printed Feb 24, 2024. Please visit http://static.friendlyplanet.com/before-you-go/?tourId=1872 for the latest updates.
|Ensure you have a current passport valid for at least six months after your return date.
|Passport Pages. Ensure you have enough empty pages in your passport as per the entry requirements at your destination
|Complete your registration. You'll receive a link to the registration form after you complete your booking.
|Within 5 days of booking
|Make your final payment, if any balance is due.
|See your invoice
|Request any additions or changes you may still want to make to your trip.
|by final payment due date
|Obtain any necessary travel visas and review any requirements for entry.
|Print your itinerary and other final documents, which we will send you via email by 14 days prior to travel.
|Prior to travel
|Print your policy documents, if you purchased travel insurance, and carry them with you.
|Prior to travel
|Enroll in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), if you're a U.S. citizen or national, so the State Dept. can locate and assist you in case of an emergency.
|Prior to travel
In addition, if you booked flights with your package:
|Book connecting flights to your departure city, if necessary. (Please confirm your international flight schedule first!)
|After receiving your e‑tickets
|Make advance seat reservations for your international flight, if you have a preference.
|After receiving your e‑tickets
|Confirm your flight times and any special meal requests with the airline, and print and carry a copy of your e-ticket.
|72 hours prior to travel
|Check in for your flights online and download/print your boarding passes (if available).
|24 hours prior to travel
|Arrive at the airport, ready for the trip of a lifetime!
|3½ hours prior to departure
Documents & Entry Requirements
Entry requirements are provided for your convenience. However, unless otherwise stated, it is your responsibility to determine the requirements that apply to you and your trip and to comply with them, including obtaining any necessary visas or other travel documents by the required deadlines and carrying them with you. Especially with COVID-19, requirements are subject to change, so check back for the latest before you depart.
Costa Rica Entry Requirements
Advice from our partner Sherpa
General Requirements & Guidelines
- In general, you must have a passport to travel abroad, which should be valid for at least six months after your return date. Passports expiring before then should be renewed as soon as possible. Passports contain at least 2 blank pages for each country visited. If your passport does not have this many pages, obtain a new passport as soon as possible.
- if your passport and visa are not in order, airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding, countries may deny entry, and your trip may be disrupted. Travel insurance may not cover such losses.
- Any changes in names or passport information should be reported to us immediately. Airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding if the name on your passport does not match your tickets.
- Minors (age 17 or younger) departing and/or returning to the U.S. without parents or with only one parent may be required by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to present a notarized parental consent letter and/or unabridged birth certificate (more information). Many other countries have similar entry requirements, especially for minors traveling with a parent/guardian with a different surname; check with the consulates of all countries you'll be visiting to learn more.
Your final travel documents will be sent to you via email by 14 days prior to departure. These will include your daily itinerary, hotel and emergency contact information, and other relevant information. Please print your documents and take them with you. If you're departing in less than a week and haven't received your documents, let us know immediately!
Travel Insurance Documents
If you purchased travel insurance, please print and carry your policy documents, including contact information for emergency travel assistance and instructions on how to make a claim. If you purchased the travel protection plan we offer, we recommend you print the full policy.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
We encourage all U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free service allows you to receive important updates about safety and security issues in your destination, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy, as well as family & friends, to contact you in case of an emergency. To enroll or get more information, please visit the STEP website or any U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Flights, Transfers & Arrival
Questions about your flights before you depart? Read the information below first. If you still have questions, contact our air specialists at
Tour Only Option
If you purchased this package without flights, you are responsible for booking your own flights in to San Jose and out of Liberia. The touring program will begin at the hotel in San José on Day 1 of the listed itinerary, and end at the hotel in Liberia on Day 7. If taking the optional Tortuguero Pre-Tour Extension, the touring program beings at the hotel in San José on Day 1 (two days prior to the main tour start date) and ends at your hotel in Liberia on Day 9. Generally, hotel check-in time is 3pm and check-out time is 11am.
Find out what to do in case of arrival complications.
Flights & Tickets
If you selected flights with your package, we generally book your flights and issue tickets after your final payment due date.
If you requested flights from another city, our air specialists will research the best options and send you a tentative flight schedule and quote for your approval within 5 business days of your booking (or approximately 330 days prior to travel, if you booked further out than that).
Once we have issued your tickets, we'll send you an "e-ticket receipt" which contains all of your flight information, including times, carriers, an airline booking reference number, and an e-ticket number. If you have not received this, or have questions about the flights we booked for you, please contact our air department. You will not receive paper tickets. We recommend you print and carry a copy of your flight details, including the airline booking reference number and e-ticket number, as some airports require this to enter the terminal. You do not need to reconfirm your flights with the airline prior to your departure, as we will handle this for you.
That depends on the airline. You can usually request a window or aisle seat, and sometimes specific seat numbers (but not exit row and bulkhead seats) ahead of time. Many airlines now charge a fee for this, and such fees are not included in your package price. If you have a seat preference, let us know when you book, in the special requests section, or email us at [email protected] after you book. Then:
If your airline does not charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll happily pass along your seat request to the airline and confirm they received it (though we cannot guarantee it will be honored).
If your airline does charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll let you know. You'll need to contact the airline directly to request your seats after we have issued your flight tickets, and fees are payable directly to the airline.
If you do not request specific seats: The airline typically assigns them within 24 hours of departure. If you do not like your assigned seats, you may be able to change them, subject to availability, when you check in online or at the counter. Learn more about Advance Seat Reservations.
You can enter special meal requests when you book with an agent or complete your online registration, shortly after booking. We will relay your requests to the airlines and our representatives abroad, but we cannot guarantee they will be honored. Please double check meal requests with your airline 72 hours before departure, and with our representatives upon arrival.
You may be able to earn frequent flyer points for your flights. Contact the airline directly once you receive your tickets to enter your frequent flyer number in your flight record, or enter it when you check in. As you travel, check your tickets or ask the check-in or gate agent prior to boarding each flight to ensure the number has been entered properly. And just to be safe, keep your boarding passes and passenger receipt as proof that you have actually flown the miles you want credited to your account.
Cabin upgrades may be available on your flights. Ask us about price and availability when you book online, in the special requests section, or contact our air department after you book. Please note that our special contracted airfare rates generally do not permit upgrading with frequent flyer points, and that upgrade requests may incur change fees if tickets have already been issued.
If you selected flights with your package, you may review the sample flight schedule(s) below. This information is for general planning puposes. You will receive your actual flight schedule by email once we issue your tickets.
If you requested flights from another city, our air specialists will research the best options and send you a tentative flight schedule for your approval, and a confirmed schedule once we issue your tickets.
Airlines may change schedules at any time, even after flights have been confirmed, and we are not responsible for such changes. Please check for updates to your flight schedule prior to booking any connecting flights and again 72 hours prior to departure.
American Airlines' toll-free number is 1-800-433-7300.
If you need to fly from (and/or return to) a different U.S. or Canadian city, we suggest you request those flights from us. If feasible, we will try to book all your flights together with a single carrier or a partner network on a single ticket. This ensures that your luggage will be transferred between flights for you, and more importantly, that if there are any schedule changes, flight cancellations, or delays that affect your trip, the airline(s) will adjust your flights to ensure you have sufficient time to make your connections and/or make alternate arrangements to get you to your destination. Besides offering the most peace of mind, this often yields lower fares than purchasing separate connecting flights.
If you plan to purchase connecting flights to your departure city, we strongly suggest waiting until after your final payment due date and after you receive the e-tickets for your international flights, to reduce the chances that that your departure might be cancelled or rescheduled or that your international flight times might change. Before purchasing connecting flights, verify the times for your international flights. Leave at least 3½ hours connecting time between flights, and if you're traveling within a few weeks of Daylight Savings Time changes (in March and November, when flight schedules may change even more dramatically), allow 5–5½ hours between flights. Nobody likes waiting around the airport, but missing your flight is far worse!
Scheduled airport transfers at the destination are included with this package. When you exit customs, please look for our representative holding a Friendly Planet sign, who will cheerfully escort you to your transfer vehicle and assist with your luggage.
If you purchased the tour without flights and you submitted your flight itinerary no later than 30 days before your departure date, airport transfers will be provided. If you did not submit your flight itinerary or you are not arriving/departing from the same airport as the rest of the group, you will need to arrange your own ground transportation to the package start and end points. Note that there is no discount for any unused included transfers. Please send us your independent flight itinerary no later than 30 days prior to your departure date from the U.S. so that we can arrange your arrival and departure transfers accordingly.
We make every effort to ensure our tours run smoothly and trouble-free. We don't expect any problems, and nor should you. But when things don't go as planned, here's what to do:
- You miss your flights, or your flights are cancelled: Please call us immediately. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox, with a phone number at which to reach you, and we'll get right back to you.
- Your flights are delayed and you're worried about missing your included transfers: Please contact us to let us know about the delay, and we will notify our partners in destination. If you are arriving on one of our group flights, or booked your own flights and supplied us with the details, our partners will be tracking your arrival and will plan accordingly.
- Your package includes transfers, but you can't find our representative at your destination: Don't panic—they may have been unexpectedly delayed. Wait up to 30 minutes. Then contact our local partners in destination, listed on the emergency contact page of your final documents. If you can't reach them, call us. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox. If all else fails, make your own way to the starting hotel (or cruise port), and we'll refund you the cost of your transfer.
Packing & Luggage
Baggage allowance: Each passenger may bring one piece of checked-in luggage and one carry-on piece. Your carry-on luggage should fit under your seat or in the overhead compartment. Most airlines do not consider roll-aboard as hand luggage. While the airline may permit two checked-in bags per person, we strongly suggest to bring only one checked-in luggage with a maximum weight of 26 lbs. (12 kg) and a weight of around 9 lbs. (4 kg) for hand baggage per person 44 lbs. due to the roundtrip boat transfers to and from Tortuguero. If your airline does not include a checked bag, you will be notified by our air team during the issuance of your ticket. We are unable to pre-collect the baggage fees as these must be paid directly to the airline. If you are booked on an airline that charges for checked luggage, we recommend that you prepay for the checked bag if possible. Please review your carrier’s baggage policy or contact the airline directly to verify their specific policy. Please Note: The transfers to and from Tortuguero are by minivan and boat. The maximum allowable weight on the boat for the luggage is 26 pounds (12KG) and around 9 pounds (4KG) for the hand baggage per person. You may store excess luggage at the hotel in San Jose.
Learn more about Baggage Allowances on your international flights. Note that our baggage allowances may be less than those for your international flights. If you exceed the baggage limits, you may be subject to excess baggage charges levied by the airlines and/or by Friendly Planet.
Regardless of the limits—we recommend a smaller size and weight for both your checked and carry-on bags. It's so much easier and faster for you to get around when you have fewer, lighter bags! For your carry-on, consider a soft-sided bag such as a duffel rather than a hard clamshell-type case, which may not fit as easily into overhead compartments or under your seat, especially on buses. For your protection, we suggest your checked luggage have a TSA-approved lock.
Luggage tags: For your safety, we are no longer mailing Friendly Planet luggage tags to you. We encourage you to use your own. Fill in the luggage tags with your name and contact information and attach to each bag, including carry-ons and camera cases, so that your luggage can be identified should it get misplaced during your trip.
What to pack: Check out our list of top 10 must-haves for international travel, as well as what not to pack. Pack smart: put your travel documents, medications, one change of clothing, and other essentials in your carry-on, in case your checked baggage is misplaced. And pack light, for your own comfort and convenience. For clothing, we suggest packing a variety of separates with climate and comfort in mind.
What not to pack: U.S. law forbids you to carry hazardous materials aboard aircraft in your checked or carry-on baggage or on your person, including explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids & solids, loaded firearms, poisons, corrosives and radioactive materials. Common examples include paints, lighter fluid, fireworks, mace/tear gas and oxygen bottles. Restricted materials may vary by airline and destination. Some items, in quantities of no more than 70 ounces total, may be carried within baggage, including medicinal or toilet articles such as hairspray, perfume and certain medicines that are necessary during your journey. Please check with the airline and/or visit the FAA website prior to travel if you have any questions.
While on Tour
What to Expect
This leisurely-paced, independent tour requires minimal walking and is suitable for most levels of physical fitness. The Hanging Bridges Tour in Arenal is approximately 1.9 miles in length and requires a higher level of physical fitness to fully enjoy the tour. This tour also includes long scenic drives between destinations that can be windy and bumpy at times. Transfers will be on a shared shuttle and may have limited rest stops. This tour does not include a tour guide or escort.
Customs & Culture: Costa Rica is noted more for its natural beauty, with long stretches of deserted beaches, dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife, and lush green valleys, than it is for its culture. However, they have evolved their use of “Pura Vida” into a national symbol. “Pura Vida” is not only the motto of Costa Rica, but it is also a label for the Costa Rican culture and way of life. They are known for being remarkably friendly and welcoming towards foreigners and are acutely worried of embarrassing themselves or of appearing rude. To act so, from their perspective is to be mal educado (badly educated). Costa Ricans are also courteous in an almost bygone manner, showering guest with formal greetings and compliments.
Please Note: Bring a pair of hiking or closed-toe, rubber-sole shoes to wear for the Arenal hanging bridge tour.
Visiting the Cloud Forests of Monteverde: Bring some layers like pants, long sleeve shirts, and lightweight rain jackets. Temperatures are a lot cooler in these areas compared to the beach, especially at night.
Remember that you're a guest in someone else's homeland, and that you're traveling to experience their country and culture. Be sensitive to local customs and manners, as many things may be done differently than what you're used to. And while we have made every effort to secure modern and comfortable accommodations and transportation, please note that the standards in other countries may be different from those you are accustomed to at home. Overall, you will find a polite, positive, patient, and open-minded approach generally yields the best travel experience!
In San José, the Crowne Plaza San José Corobicí is the ideal place to enjoy your visit as it is located just 5 minutes away from the financial district. Traveling around Costa Rica will bring you views of the Gulf of Nicoya, and the Arenal Volcano, while surrounded by lush tropical gardens and beautiful hot springs. Bask and enjoy the beautiful beach at Playa Hermosa, as your hotel is located no more than a 5-minute walk to the shoreline. There are many beaches or playas located within this area, and you can easily explore the wonderful and relaxing beaches during your days at leisure. The hotels take pride in promoting sustainable and responsible practices that ensure a minimal impact on the natural environment.
Eating & Drinking
The meals included with your package are listed in the itinerary.
Eating, like traveling, is a way to relate with the world and with new cultures. Much of traditional Costa Rican food reflects the Pura Vida (pure life) attitude prevalent in their country, balancing fresh produce, no-frills flavors, hearty staples, and sweet treats. Be prepared to enjoy three of their most famous dishes, which are Casado, Gallo Pinto and Arroz con Pollo.
Non-included meals: Average cost for lunch (not including drinks) in local eateries will be about $7 - $12 per person per meal, while the average dinner cost is about $35 - $55 per person per meal, excluding drinks. Meals at hotels and other fine restaurants cost much more.
Please see above for special meal requests.
You will be traveling in the company of professionals who are very committed to making your tour the dream vacation you are counting on. These people feel great pride in being given a chance to show foreign visitors their country. If your guide, driver and others with whom you are traveling are doing a good job, please take our suggestions for tipping seriously. Naturally, tipping is personal and completely voluntary, and if you have not received good service, your tip should reflect this fact.
The recommended amounts are as follows:
- Local guide: $6-7 per person per day
- Driver: $3-4 per person per day
- Housekeeping: $1 per person per day
- Restaurant staff: $1 per person per meal
To enhance and make your visit to Costa Rica more complete and memorable, your local guide will offer optional excursions and cultural/dining evening activities. Payments for these tours should be made directly to your guide. Payments may be made by cash in US dollars or local currency, or by major credit card.
You will have free time to explore Costa Rica on your own. Start by cruising the remote rainforests of Tortuguero before heading to volcano country. Stay at the foot of Arenal Volcano and explore the rivers, trails, and hot springs of the area before, taking a walk around the clouds enveloped forests in Monteverde.
If you decide to skip included group activities and explore on your own, please inform your guide in advance. There is NO refund for unused group arrangements. Be sure to take the name of the hotel and phone number, written in the local language and in English, so that you can communicate with taxi drivers. The hotel staff will be glad to assist you with these translations.
Special Needs & Requests
Please see above for special meal requests and seat requests. If you have any other special requests, including wheelchair or electric cart assistance, please mention your request when you book with an agent, or in the special requests section when you book online. We will do our best to accommodate them!
Costa Rica Fast Facts
Capital: San José
|Health Precautions & Vaccinations
Malaria is present in Costa Rica. Take precautions against getting mosquito bites. Speak with your doctor about taking a prescription medicine (before, during, and after your trip) to prevent malaria.
Costa Rica is a year-round destination. Temperatures in San Jose and the Central Highlands are mild and springlike. The mountains can be cool at night. Coastal areas tend to be hot and steamy, but hot and dry in the Pacific northwest.
December through May is Costa Rica's relatively dry period. June through October tends to be wetter, but as a result the vegetation looks even more verdant during this time.
Most restaurants include the 13% restaurant tax and the 10% service charge. Check the bottom of the menu or ask your server if the charge is included. Add a small tip on top of the 10% service charge if you feel the service was excellent.
|Money & Credit Cards
U.S. credit/debit cards are widely accepted throughout Costa Rica and typically offer the best exchange rate.
Always notify your bank prior to departure to avoid any problems using your credit or debit card abroad.
Shop for pottery, traditional miniature painted oxcarts, jewelry made of semiprecious stones, hand-painted feathers, wood carvings, leather goods, and other high quality handicrafts. Tasty local treats such as coffee, rum, coffee liqueur, macadamia nuts and hearts of palm, also make great souvenirs.
|Electricity & Power Adapters
Voltage: 110-120 volts. Plugs A & B. You will probably need a voltage converter and plug adapter in order to use U.S. appliances. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit.
Learn more about electrical standards around the world.
|Cell Phones & Internet
Terms & Conditions: Please review our terms & conditions for this package.
Cancellations: If something comes up and you need to cancel your trip, please let us know as soon as possible. All cancellations must be made in writing. Cancellation fees vary by package; please see the cancellation fees for this package.