We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

Cleveland, Ohio
Level Contributor
106 posts
103 reviews
Save Topic
Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

I am having some difficulty pulling the trigger on making my Costa Rica trip official by purchasing my airline tickets. Travel websites and most of the posts on here make CR seem absolutely amazing, but the more research I do the more weary I get of going to CR. Some websites and travel blogs have stated Costa Rica is incredibly expensive and travelers would be better off going to neighboring countries in Central America to get the same beauty and experience for a more reasonable cost. Is there any truth to this? I am also concerned about renting a car---am hearing that the roads are pretty bad to drive on (not well maintained, pot holes, etc) and also that police often target tourists in rental cars and corruption runs wild (i.e. give me all the money in your wallet and I won't arrest you for speeding---story on a blog, obviously I cannot verify its accuracy!). While I TOTALLY understand that going to any country is not going to be "perfect", I am trying to cover all my bases while planning an ideal trip.

Costa Rica looks absolutely gorgeous and I imagine it is spectacular, but I am starting to lean towards visiting other Central American countries. Any thoughts from people who have actually been there or from locals? Who knows how many of these blog writers have factual information. :)

JENSEN BEACH
Level Contributor
10,648 posts
51 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

If you read through the forum posts and most telling, trip reports You can make your own informed decision. I have been to Honduras,Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica in Central America to date. Going back for 4th trip to CR next month. If I read every post I could on visiting Cleveland I'm sure there would be some to deter me....still feel safer in Costa Rica. Exercise common sense, don't buy/do drugs, don't be out late at night in unfamiliar surroundings. Avoid deserted places and don't flash jewelry or cash....etc.....If driving concerns you use private driver, shared shuttle or clean modern public bus routes. Not sure why you would be leaning towards visiting other CAmerican Countries. They may be cheaper...if that is a priority. Can't imagine they would be safer overall nor be as easy to navigate.

Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
Level Contributor
8,861 posts
24 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

Yes Costa Rica is as amazing as it looks. It is also more expensive than other Central American countries with the possible exception of Panama. For a 1st trip to Central America it is a great place to visit since it has extensive rainforests and wildlife as well as beautiful beaches and the best tourist infrastructure of any of the Central American nations IMO.

If you are concerned about bad roads in Costa Rica you will be appalled at road conditions in other Central American countries where dirt roads are the norm in many areas. If you're worried about corruption and police bribery, agaIn Costa Rica is a better choice than other Central American countries IMO. Yes Costa Rica has been discovered and costs are higher because the tourist infrastructure is much better developed and the country maintains an extensive national park system which protects wildlife. If you want to experience Central America on a shoestring budget you can find great beauty in Nicaragua, El Salvador or Guatemala at lower price, but at the cost of convenience, services and/or personal safety.

Edited: 25 November 2013, 18:09
Dominical, Costa...
Level Contributor
185 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

Every destination has it's good and bad and Costa Rica is no different but I must say the good most people have experienced outweighs the bad. If you are looking to visit a country with diversity in landscape and the natural habitat that is available to explore plus a country noted for having happy residents (which rubs off on visitors) then buy your airline ticket to check the country out for yourself because you can research every place you want to go and find a reason (valid or not) to avoid "your" experience. I read some of the news from this past weekend from Cleveland when I saw it looks like that is where you may be from and I would suggest you might consider staying as long as you can in Costa RIca.

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
Level Contributor
5,269 posts
131 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

It's that amazing if you go to the right places.

In terms of expense, there's a tradeoff--yes it's more expensive than say Honduras, but the tourist infrastructure is also going to be better, there will be more tour/lodging/dining options, etc. It's a lot easier to experience the rainforest there, at a reasonable price, than it is to experience it in other countries simply because the roads and lodges to provide that access exist.

It's probably the most user-friendly place in Central America to visit.

San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
46,026 posts
32 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

Roads are not bad at all...even better than many roads in America and Canada today...corrupt police...as corrupt as USA...renting a car can be hard some times...mostly if you deal with mom and pop rent a cars mostly own and run by a expat from a bar table...with fleets of 4 cars...pay more and avoid headaches...

Of course Nicaragua can be cheaper...but as far as I know...most people like to go there just for a few nights...even that we have poverty in Nicaragua is all over...Panama then we are talking nice people ...great country...a lot to see...

roadadvisor

Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
Level Contributor
14,032 posts
61 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

Lets put it this way ... travelled the world for last 20 years, with a target to visit as many countries as possible ... to return if a country is interesting ... but never more then two visits. Well, it was my third one last June, not the last one, and I have even become a DE for Costa Rica! Quite an achievement for such a small country. Just come and check it for yourself.

Minneapolis...
Level Contributor
478 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

We were stopped twice by police in Costa Rica last year to welcome us to their country. One time they even gave us a souvenir poster. We cracked up, as we had been nervous about being stopped. I think they would prefer not to upset the tourists who bring in a lot of money.

We went to Nicaragua for a week last year too and although it is a little cheaper, it is not as much cheaper as you would think. It is also a neat place with friendly people, but as stated above some things are less accessible. Less English spoken too, which was ok for us because we had the kids in Spanish school there (Spanish school was among the things that were noticeably cheaper). The tourism industry is just getting going there so while they have amazing natural areas too, you have to be a bit more willing to rough it to see them.

Dominical, Costa...
Level Contributor
185 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

Two days ago we had guests walk the beach to one of the small grocery stores in Dominical to get a few provisions and they accidentally left a bag with two six packs of beer behind on the counter. About 15 minutes later, a young man on a bicycle found them in another part of town and gave them their bag with the beer. I am sure this will be one of the stories they will be spreading when they share their memories of Costa RIca and the people they have met. They are spending a month here in CR in different areas and said that so far this has been their favorite Central American country (plus Mexico) they have visited.

Cleveland, Ohio
Level Contributor
106 posts
103 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

Thank you for all your responses! Personal safety is definitely not something I was concerned about, and I am glad that reading all the posts have not changed that. I appreciate all the info and it all makes sense---while it may be a bit more expensive in CR the upside is that there is more lodging options, activities, etc. Our travel budget is not as large as I wished it would be, and we generally go on vacation once per year (last was last April in Huatulco, Mexico). I really just wanted to make sure we were getting the most "bang for our buck." :)

In terms of the roads, everyone has made good points. And as the snow starts to fall here in Cleveland, I am sure I will be navigating potholes much larger than the ones I may encounter in CR. I think my mind is made up and I will be buying my plane tickets tonight! (Although now I am wondering if I should wait to see if there are any Black Friday airline deals---haha!)

Also, Cleveland isn't a bad spot---no more so than any other major city in the U.S. I am sure if you good the crime blotter you will read some not so pleasant stories, but like anywhere else, if you are aware of your surrounding and don't venture into any questionable areas, you will be fine! Come visit! :)

Grecia, Costa Rica
Destination Expert
for Province of Alajuela
Level Contributor
7,819 posts
43 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks???

My answer is short and sweet... I came here on vacation 20 or so years ago, within 5 years of that trip I had moved down here and I have never looked back... Is Costa Rica as amazing as it looks? In a word = YES!

I have traveled to every Central American country and I chose to live here. You'll dig it.

Cheers