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Everything Vancouver travellers need to know to plan a trip to Costa Rica

Home to sloths, several species of monkeys, and hundreds of brightly-coloured birds, Costa Rica is a magical destination.
Find out everything you need to know about travel from Vancouver to Costa Rica, including how to get the cheapest flights out of YVR Airport.

Animal lovers, thrill-seekers, beach bums, and anyone looking to take a walk on the wild side will find countless options in magical Costa Rica. 

Tourists will find jaw-dropping, sparkling white-sand beaches located just steps away from lush rainforests, which are home to sloths, several species of monkeys, and hundreds of brightly-coloured birds.

The country ranked 38th on the 2022 Global Peace Index, making it the top Latin American in terms of safety. In contrast, Mexico — the second-most-visited travel destination for Canadians outside of the United States — ranked 137th. 

Here is everything you need to know to book a trip from Vancouver to Costa Rica. 

What airlines fly to Costa Rica?

Costa Rica has two main airports: Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (also known as Liberia International Airport) (LIR) and Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO). There are no direct flights to either airport from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) but there are numerous options that only include one stopover.

While there are options with stopovers that don't exceed an hour, these options are risky. Stopovers under two or even three hours may result in a missed connection, particularly at large airports such as Los Angeles International (LAX) and George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) in Houston.

Airlines that fly to or partially to Costa Rica via one of their airline partners include:

  • Air Canada
  • Air Transat
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Avianca Airlines 
  • Delta
  • JetBlue
  • United Airlines
  • WestJet
  • Copa
  • Aeromexico

When should I book my ticket to Costa Rica?

Tickets to Costa Rica are relatively affordable year-round. It isn't uncommon to purchase a last-minute ticket for a flight out of Vancouver at a steal, but you can also count on a variety of options for tickets booked several months in advance, too. 

Ticket prices only start to climb when booked too far in advance. For example, booking a ticket in December for a flight in June will slap an extra $200 on the price.

There are affordable options to both airports from YVR but ticket prices are slightly lower for flights to LIR. While they may involve a couple of stops, it isn't uncommon to snag deals starting at just under $500, although the layovers may feel somewhat painful. That said, alternative options for only $100 to $200 that offer shorter journeys. 

Ticket prices for flights from Vancouver and connecting to SJO start at around $60 more than ones to LIR.

When is the best time of year to visit Costa Rica?

The best time of year to visit Costa Rica is between December and April, but it does not have a "hurricane season" thanks to its location. Many travellers also like to visit the tropical oasis during the country's rainy or green season from May to June or in November when it is typically less crowded. 

Is it safe to visit Costa Rica?

The Government of Canada advises tourists to exercise a high degree of caution in Costa Rica due to crime. 

Petty crime, such as purse snatching, occurs frequently. Tourists are considered wealthy and are often targeted. Passport theft is also common and increases during the peak tourist seasons, from November to May and from July to August.

While you’re in Costa Rica:

  • ensure that your belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • carry your passport, including the Costa Rican entry stamp received at the immigration entry point
  • avoid showing signs of affluence or wearing expensive jewellery
  • avoid carrying large sums of cash or unnecessary valuables
  • avoid isolated or deserted areas
  • avoid walking alone at night
  • be aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded and tourist areas
  • be extra cautious when withdrawing cash from ATMs

Violent crime against tourists is less common but does occur. Find out more information about places that you may want to avoid. This page also has information about adventure tourism and what you will want to keep in mind if you plan to enjoy extreme sports or activities. 

Do I need a visa to visit Costa Rica?

Canadians can travel to Costa Rica as tourists for up to a maximum of 180 days visa-free. But all the following entry requirements must be met:

1) a valid passport (which must have a validity of at least 1 day left);

2) proof of economic solvency of at least US$100 per month of legal permanence in the country;

3) a ticket to exit Costa Rica within the maximum authorized period of 180 days and;

4) not having an impediment to entry into the country.

You must obtain a permit to access national parks. Visit the Costa Rica Tourist Board to obtain this.

What activities can you enjoy in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is considered a paradise for people who enjoy extreme sports and activities including surfing, zip-lining, white-water rafting, mountain biking, scuba diving, bungee jumping, canopy touring, horseback riding, and more. There are also plenty of relaxing hikes and tours to take that don't involve jaw-dropping heights and speeds. 

But there are numerous risks associated with these adrenaline-fuelled pastimes. 

The Canadian government warns that adventure sports can be dangerous if you aren't prepared or the area is unsafe. Trails are rarely marked, and weather conditions can change rapidly, even in summer. Safety features on small boats used in river and lake excursions are not always reliable.

Animals such as jaguars, pumas, wild pigs, and poisonous snakes are common in densely wooded areas.

If you intend to practice adventure tourism:

  • never do so alone, and don’t part with your expedition companions
  • obtain detailed information on your activity and on the environment in which you will be before setting out
  • buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
  • ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
  • avoid venturing off marked trails
  • don’t camp or sleep overnight on beaches
  • ensure that you’re adequately equipped and bring sufficient water
  • stay informed of weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
  • know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
  • inform a family member or friend of your itinerary
  • refrain from using facilities or equipment if you have doubts about their safety

How much money will I spend on accommodation?

Depending on what kind of experience you hope to enjoy in Costa Rica, you may prefer to book an all-inclusive resort option instead of booking your accommodation on its own. 

Prices for accommodation start with ultra-budget options, such as $34 for a "glamping" option located in central La Virgen, which puts campers close to the Braulio Carrillo National Park and Poas Volcano National Park.

On the other end of the spectrum, an exclusive villa for groups called Villa Punto de Vista is located in the Puntarenas Province on a breathtaking shore "where the jungle meets the sea." It costs thousands of dollars per diem but offers a gourmet experience in a secluded retreat.

Photo via Google

Find more information about exciting destinations in B.C. and across the globe, as well as travel deals and tips, by signing up for V.I.A.'s weekly travel newsletter The Wanderer. Since travel deals can sell out, find out the day they are posted by signing up for our daily Travel Deals newsletter.

Send story tips, questions, or destinations you'd like to see featured by email to elana@vancouverisawesome.