How to master solo travel in Costa Rica: the ultimate guide (2023)

Costa Rica solo travel: my experience traveling alone in Costa Rica, places to visit, how to move around the country, how to save money and how to stay safe.

Hey there traveler! If you're here reading this blog post, you must be wanting to plan a trip to the beautiful Central American destination of Costa Rica, but don't quite know where to start.

Don't worry, here we're going to go over major tips to stay safe while solo travel in Costa Rica:budgeting tips, accommodation/transportation, and how to plan an overall successful trip.

Ready? Lets get into the best information on how to have an awesome vacation in the tropical destination of Costa Rica all by yourself!

As a full time digital nomad, I've been traveling the world alone for the past 2 years. I've had so many people tell me I was crazy, that I needed to stop traveling and go to college, or even worse- that I didn't need to be traveling anywhere as a single woman and I needed to have a man with me.

Despite the negativity and fears other people projected onto me, I still followed my dreams and have unlocked so many amazing things for myself.

Since starting, I've gotten a chance to visit 7 amazing countries (and will continue to lengthen my list) and have learned so many things about myself and the world such as:

  • Gaining independence from other people's opinions.
  • Taking the time out to heal my inner child.
  • Finding creative ways to make money while traveling.

Out of all the seven countries I've traveled to, Costa Rica has to be at the top of my list for favorites.

It is a country that is so simplistically gorgeous. Not only does the country offer incredibly biodiverse wildlife, there are so many fun things to do for solo women! I met so many other women my age (around 21) that were also either alone or traveling with a friend.

In my opinion, Costa Rica is one of the more friendly countries towards women traveling alone. I commonly study the local people of everywhere I go and see how they treated foreigners, more specifically solo women.

I felt extremely welcomed by the Costa Rican locals and they commonly helped me whenever I needed a hand. The people truly live by their national motto of "Pura vida" or, in English, "pure life".

Decide when to go with the article about The best time to visit Costa Rica.

Solo travel in Costa Rica: fun things to do


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Costa Rica is the country of fun, there are so many things and activities to participate in so it's literally impossible to get bored!

From the crystal clear beaches and Jamaican influence of Limon, to the jungles of La Fortuna, Costa Rica is certainly one a gem of central America.

Visit the jungle of La Fortuna

La Fortuna is commonly one of the most popular spots tourists run to when they reach Costa Rica, and for good reasons. This jungle offers so much to see such as a wide variety of waterfalls, volcanoes, hikes, lakes, and hot springs.

There are so many things to do in this beautifully rich coast, that its impossible to grow bored. You can spend one day at the La Fortuna waterfall, grab your camera to check out some sloths, go ziplining across a tropical jungle, have fun adventure rafting, or enjoy a rejuvenating bath at one of the many hot springs.

Apart from the amazing scenery you'll come across, don't forget to try some of the delicious food such as bean empanadas or rice and beans.

(Video) 12 Essential COSTA RICA TRAVEL Tips | WATCH BEFORE YOU GO!!!

Want to spend some weeks in this beautiful place? Get free accommodation at this hostel in La Fortuna by housekeeping and working at the reception desk!

Relax in the Caribbean coast of Limón


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Located on the Caribbean coast of the country, Limón was probably my favorite experience out of my time of solo travel in Costa Rica.

I spent my time in the popular beach destination of Puerto Viejo, I felt so safe as a woman. There were plenty of other solo female travelers I met from all over the world, it was like my soul was being heard and recognized.

I highly recommend Puerto Viejo to all solo female travelers coming to Limon, especially first timers. This town will remind you a lot of Jamaica (if you've ever been) as many people immigrated from the Caribbean nation a few generations ago.

Limón, Puerto Viejo especially, has such a rich and blended Latin and Caribbean culture, it was something I had never before experienced. There are lots of young people that mingle and events going on every weekend.

Although you may be traveling to this area alone, you will not feel lonely because of all the fun and friendly people you'll meet.

When you go to this area, don't forget to try some delicious rice and peas and jerk sauce from one of the many Jamaicans that live in this town. I, as a vegan, so luckily came across a delicious mouthwatering all vegan Jamaican restaurant called Jammin. If you're ever in Puerto Viejo you have to check this place out. When you go, tell the owner Tiffany said hi! (:

Check out all the volunteeering opportunities in Puerto Viejo, such as being assistant in this beautiful eco-hostel.

Besides Puerto Viejo, there are so many great beaches in Costa Rica.

Off-the-beaten path in Osa Peninsula


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One of the lesser known spots for tourism, the Osa Peninsula does not receive as much attention as the other more popular cities in the country. Rest assured, it is a great destination to hit up if you appreciate more of a small town feel.

It's typically small towns like this where you can genuinely interact with local culture and get the feel of what it is like for a native of Costa Rica.

I met up with a friend in a little town called Puerto Jiménez, that you would literally walk across within 20 minutes, but it is a spot that has welcomed expatriates from all over the world and loves the occasional traveler.

In order to get to this destination, you have to leave from San José (it's about an 8 hour bus ride to Puerto Jiménez). Be sure to charge your devices and bring lots of snacks, as these busses are known to break down several times on one ride.

Located on the same peninsula, is a wonderful destination that goes by the name of Drake Bay. This is another safe spot for solo travel in Costa Rica that tourists love to explore when they've got some time on their hands.

You can either look for a hostel or an affordable Airbnb to stay at, or you can volunteer at this eco-farmor at one of these work-exchange programs in Drake Bay to have a fully immerged nature experience in the wild.

Visit the capital city of San José


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Last but not least, we have San José, the capital of the rich coast (english for Costa Rica). To be quite frank, there is not much to do in this city other than eat at some restaurants and do small shopping.

San José is commonly the airport most travelers will fly into from other countries and typically move out to other destinations the next day.

(Video) 12 Perfect Days In Costa Rica | Travel Guide & Itinerary

As a solo traveler, it's good to have your accommodation ready and booked when arriving to San José, as some places aren't the safest, especially at night.

Stray Cat Hostel is located only a 7 minute walk away from the San José bus station, a great location to stay at if you've got a bus ride early the next day. Another great hostel I stayed at the night I flew into the country was called Capital Hostel de Ciudad.

If you're on a budget and only have a few dollars to spend, or if you like the city so much that want to stay for a long time, you can easily do that by helping inthis hostel in San José in exchange for free accommodation.

Female solo travel in Costa Rica: safety concerns

The tips I would give for women to stay safe in Costa Rica would also apply to every other country a woman would visit by herself: have common sense when traveling anywhere alone.

I always be sure to stay safe when I go anywhere alone, even when I leave out my home town to go to another state in the USA. I like to see how men (and women) treat foreigners, more specifically women that are not from that country.

I felt very safe traveling by myself in Costa Rica but that doesn't mean you should let your guard down at all times, especially at night. Here are a few things that kept me feeling safe while traveling alone in Costa Rica:

  • Never walk alone at night (especially in certain areas in San José).
  • Try not to arrive at destinations at nighttime, but if you do, keep your host updated of your whereabouts.
  • Knowing simple Spanish phrases made me feel safe in case I needed help from a non-English speaking person and also kept me from getting scammed *cough cough taxi rides*.
  • Never look at your phone while you're walking, keep all eyes on your surroundings. (this applies to many countries).
  • Be sure to get a reputable accommodation in San José (preferably a hostel that has other solo travelers) as not all areas are the safest, especially at night.

The necessity of knowing basic Spanish for solo travel in Costa Rica


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As we already know, most countries in Central (and South) America have one thing in common:the Spanish language.

When I was in Mexico, a prior knowledge of the language and Spanish conversational skills were certainly needed. English is not commonly known, especially in smaller towns.

During my time spent in Costa Rica, I surprisingly did not use as much Spanish, which was a big difference from Mexico. Most of the people were able to conversate in English. The country is not too big and most towns are decorated with tourism and guides that typically speak English.

Although I did not have to speak Spanish as often as I did in Mexico, it is still important to know some basic words to help get around, especially if you're traveling by yourself. Here are some phrases that really helped me out while solo travel in Costa Rica:

How much is this?:¿Cuánto es?

Mask:Mascarilla

Where is...:¿Dónde está...?

I need to go to...:Necesito ir a...

Hundred:Centenar/Cien

Thousand:Mil

Pure Life:Pura vida

(Video) Complete Guide to Drake Bay Costa Rica

The currency of Costa Rica is the Colón. One USD is equivalent to about 631 colones. A way to not get ripped off when making purchases is to remember the conversion rate and learn numbers from one to nine hundred as well as one to nine thousand and higher. When you say prices in Spanish, you will save yourself lot of money...trust me I've had experience with it.

Beware of scams

One of the only downsides to traveling solo in Costa Rica is probably getting scammed. This is not specific to Costa Rica, it happens everywhere.

One of the main ways people usually get scammed is by taxi rides or vendors. When I landed in San José, it was super late at night (not to mention I was also by myself) and needed to get to my hostel asap before it got any darker. I tried my hardest to get an uber only to realize that ubers weren't allowed to come to the airport. I ended up spending $30 on a taxi to my hostel that only should have costed $15.

It's best to have an arranged transportation when you land, or at least aim at arriving earlier in the day so you'll have more time to look for more affordable transportation.

Keep reading: The best places to travel as a solo female.

Getting around while solo travel in Costa Rica


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Getting around Costa Rica is not too hard, the country is fairly small, sitting around the same size as the American state of West Virginia.

It's good to always let someone know where you're going, even if they're your family or friends back home. When I start moving around I always make sure to let someone know where I am at all times.

For example, when I boarded my shuttle from San José to Puerto Jiménez, I shared my location with my Airbnb host via WhatsApp, just in case anything went wrong.

When I was going from San José to Puerto Jiménez, the bus broke down several times (what a welcome into the country huh?). Instead of arriving at my location at 7 PM as planned, we reached around 1 AM, but I kept communicating with the friend I was meeting at the location and everything ended up fine.

Communication while moving is essential for solo female travelers. There are many different ways you can get around without breaking your budget; but if your budget is a bit larger, I have options for you as well:

Public Bus

Sitting at the obvious most affordable option is the public bus transportation system.

If you're a laid back person who doesn't care about how to get there, this is the option for you. The bus rides are not too bad and are very beautiful, as you drive across the countryside and see planes of palm trees dotted across the seaside.

The most popular bus station in the country is the MEPE (located 7 minutes walk away from the popular backpacker's hostel Stray Cat) and had many busses departing to popular locations each day. The best way to reserve a seat is to simply go to the station either the day before or a few hours before the bus you wish to ride on.

Private Shuttle

Purchasing a seat in a private shuttle is like a bus ride but smaller. There are only few seats in the shuttles and don't typically sell out, especially if you're leaving later in the evening. So, there are empty seats, air conditioning, arranged bathroom and food stops, and even Wi-Fi! But of course, all good things come at a price.

The price of a seat on a private shuttle can generally be about 3 times the price of a public bus ticket. For example, I rode on a private shuttle when going from San José to Puerto Viejo in Limón. It was about $60 compared to an affordable $10 MEPE ticket, but as said before, I got Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and was dropped off directly at my accommodation. The public bus drops everyoneoff in a central location.

(Video) Top Tips For Traveling In Costa Rica! | Planning your first visit

Renting a Car

Renting a car in Costa Rica can be slightly expensive OR it can be affordable, depending on who you rent from. There are various websites you can look at including: Expedia, Kayak, and Hertz.

Renting a car for a day can be as low as $20 USD, so be sure you're not paying too much, getting ripped off, or rent a car that has noticeable damage or other issues. It's best to not rent a car directly from the airport as they can get up to be about 15% higher than renting elsewhere.

Flight

Surprisingly, Costa Rica has quiet a few airports to chose from considering it being such a small country. Although there are many small domestic airports, there are only 2 international terminals which are located in Liberia and San José.

If your budget is bigger, you can certainly consider flying from city to city instead of taking a long bus ride to get across the country.

My bus ticket from San José to Puerto Jiménez was only $15 whereas a plane ticket would have costed around $100. Of course it is more expensive, but compare an 8 hour unconditioned bus ride to a 45 minute flight.

Finding safe accommodation/volunteering

There are many places I love to look to find a safe, and affordable place to stay located in a central spot. Hostelworld.com and Airbnb are my typical go to's, but another site to find a great deal also includes Booking.com.

If you plan on staying in Costa Rica long term (long term being more than two weeks) its best to consider doing a work-exchange for accommodation.

Not only will you save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars in accommodation, you'll also be able to easily meet other people and make friends with other solo travelers in Costa Rica.

Check out these awesome unique Worldpackers opportunities for volunteering in Costa Rica:

  • Build a website in the Costa Rican forest.
  • Teach your native language at this eco lodge in San Ramón.
  • Get spiritual at a healing sanctuary.

Ready to solo travel in Costa Rica?

I hope these tips help you gather that courage to book your one way plane ticket to Costa Rica!

From a solo woman to another, don't wait for other people to see the beauty of the world. Discover the greatness of this country, even if its by yourself, and you'll see just why they call it "the rich coast" (Costa Rica).

Keep planning your solo travel in Costa Rica and Central America with these articles:

(Video) Costa Rica Coffee History. An Ultimate Coffee Guide to COSTA RICA.

  • How to visit Costa Rica on a budget.
  • 11 best things to do in Costa Rica.
  • Best Central America countries to visit.

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