Costa Rica Travel Guide

Nov 13, 2019 | 13 comments

When I think of all the places I have traveled, Costa Rica comes to mind as one of the most beautiful + incredible adventures I’ve experienced. I really believe this is one place that everyone should witness. And if you are getting married, a Costa Rica elopement or intimate wedding is definitely something you should consider! I often hear from couples that they love combining their wedding with their honeymoon and this would be a perfect spot to do that!

Traveling to Costa Rica

My husband and I honeymooned in Costa Rica and I have since been back because it’s hard to stay away. This land is one of lush, tropical beauty alive with more animals than I have seen any place. There is such an abundance of the brightest, most lovely birds flitting in the canopy that I felt like I could just photograph them for years and still see new ones each day. So many types of monkeys also played, napped, and preened in the trees above us as we explored. This guide will cover highlights to visit, things to see, places to eat, and where to stay when you visit Costa Rica along with ideas for elopement locations!

Costa Rica cloud forest

When to Visit Costa Rica

I’ve been to Costa Rica in June and in March. June is a bit rainy, but really beautiful because you get mist on the treetops. March was warmer and a bit drier since it’s just before the beginning of the rainy season which starts in April and is at its peak September through October. There are benefits to both times, so choosing when depends on your priorities and feelings about tropical rain. November to Mid-April is optimal weather, but it’s also more expensive and far more crowded during this time because of the drier season. Mid-April to August is much less crowded, when we visited in June the popular resorts we stayed in were nearly empty! There were rain showers nearly every day, especially in the afternoon, so you have to be willing to get rained on if you want to experience smaller crowds. September and October are the rainiest months with rainfall throughout almost each day of the month. You may want to aim for the Caribbean coastal region if you want to visit during these months. If you are planning a Costa Rica elopement or wedding, it’s good to consider the seasonal weather in choosing a date and location.

Where to Travel in Costa Rica

This is a tough one because there are way too many beautiful places to see here! I highly recommend planning a trip that will allow you to see at least two or three different spots, more if you can! I have been to Jaco, Manuel Antonio, La Fortuna, and the Los Angeles Cloud Forest. Each location has such a different feel and all are worth exploring. I’ll be covering those first followed up by places on my list to go visit one day!

Jaco

This is a cute little surf town that has a great vibe! There are spots to get yummy local food and even taco shops with swings lining the bar. It’s warmer here, but still very lush and beautiful. We saw wild Scarlet Macaws flying through the skies and enjoying fruit in the trees almost every day, which was a serious treat. We decided to stay at a larger resort – the Los Suenos Marriott Ocean – but it was worth it! All-inclusive’s can be really great as long as you remember to get out to explore the local area even though lounging by the pool can be pretty distracting. We had great food, awesome tropical drinks from the swim-up bar, easy paddle board rentals, and simple transportation. It’s plenty close to town as well, so you can hit up Tacobar in Jaco Beach for margs while you swing! I knew we’d for sure want to visit Carara National Park during our stay, so we booked this amazing tour with Vic-Tours. Victor guided us through the park where we found toucans and pretty paths winding through the forest. We also revisited Manuel Antonio since it’s not too far from Jaco. Just make sure to stop over on the bridge that crosses the Tarcoles River so you can see the most frightening sight — banks lined with huge crocodiles!

Where to Elope in Jaco

If you want to plan an elopement while in Jaco, I’d say that you can get off the beaten path by planning an adventure for sure. I have a few spots in mind and would be happy to help you plan and document your dream elopement, so just reach out! If you are leaning more toward an elegant elopement or an intimate wedding, Hotel Villa Caletas may be the way to go! There are stunning spots to get ready, beautiful bits of light and shadow to play in, and lovely rainforest views! (The end of the blog has a sunset photo from the restaurant there… to die for). Their Zephyr Palace is a world of its own, high atop the canopy with incredible beauty all around. If you want something really unique, opt for a short 40 minute drive to Playa Fantasia and say your vows on the sea with a sailboat elopement! Sealounge offers wedding sails and there are others like them!

 

La Fortuna

La Fortuna is an amazing place and probably my favorite that we visited! The highlight of this area is obviously the Arenal Volcano, but there are plenty of fun adventures to be had here. We had the best time relaxing at Hotel Nayara , an incredible resort nestled in the rainforest featuring romantic villas with outdoor showers. When we weren’t enjoying food, coffee, and cocktails at the resort we went out for some seriously fun tours. We rappelled down 200+ foot waterfalls, hiked muddy trails with views of wildlife, wandered through forests of suspension bridges, and hoped for a sneak peek of the Volcano (which never came out of the clouds for us — next time!). There are thermal springs where you can get a drink and soak in the warm waters, local eateries, shopping, and other activities to enjoy as well. If you want the best of both worlds, I can’t speak highly enough of La Fortuna. Plus, you’ll see all the Motmots in the trees with their orange heads and long tails!

Where to Elope in La Fortuna

The sky is the freaking limit here. You can dream up an adventurous elopement near Arenal or choose something intimate at a beautiful resort. You’ll have your pick of backdrops to set the scene with waterfalls, jungle, a volcano, or misty forests. I would love to help you find the perfect spot, so don’t hesitate to say hey!

Manuel Antonio

This is a popular spot in Costa Rica and for good reason. The national park here is a magical place to explore + hike, you can take fun kayaking trips through the mangroves, and there is no shortage of pretty beaches to relax on. There are also cute local markets with an abundance of delicious coffee shops, restaurants, and dessert spots! We really loved Cafe Milagro and I can still remember the walks we took around town where we found monkeys! They are also all over the national park trails as well and totally willing to steal your stuff if you don’t keep an eye on them 😉 It was so fun to hike and then cool off in the refreshing Costa Rican waters. El Avion was another of our favorite spots for food + drinks! You get serenaded by howler monkeys while you watch the sunset over the ocean! The old plane is pretty cool too. While here, we stayed at Arenas Del Mar which was perfect. They have beautiful grounds for weddings, just saying… There are also really cute boutique hotels and interesting casas to stay in here. If you want a day on the water, this is a great place for that as well. We took a boat tour where we saw the drop-dead gorgeous coastline and some cute dolphins. There are also places to snorkel!

Where to Elope in Manuel Antonio / Quepos

This area has such a variety of locations to choose from! You could opt for a low-key elopement or intimate wedding on Playa Tulemar. You can get married while cruising the beautiful coastline above. You could hike to the perfect spot on any number of the trails here which I’m happy to guide you on! There are a lot of intimate venues in the area as well so you could have your pick from El Avíon and like restaurants or one of the resorts. If you want easy, laidback, and beautiful GAIA may be a great option! This eco boutique hotel allows for small ceremonies and they are doing amazing things for the Scarlet Macaw (check out the program)!

Los Angeles Cloud Forest

I have never seen such a misty, hauntingly beautiful landscape as in the Los Angeles Cloud Forest. Adjacent to Monteverde, this is a land of lush tropical landscapes covered in clouds. It’s like being in a magical realm! The bonus is that less people visit here than Monteverde so you’re more likely to have a peaceful stay. We spent mornings enjoying coffee on a misty patio, afternoons exploring the rainforest, and evenings curled by the fire at Villa Blanca. It’s cooler up in the clouds, so the fireplace was welcome. We saw so many butterflies + birds around the property as well! It’s a little remote out here so we didn’t do as much touring, but this was our first stop on our honeymoon so the downtime was incredible for us! The restaurant at the villa was great and even featured home made ice cream from their cows (yes, you can go visit the cows — we did!).

Where to Elope in Los Angeles Cloud Forest / Monteverde

You can be sure that you’ll have mood for days with a cloud forest elopement. You can choose one of the hotels or opt to go exploring out in the forest for a beautiful ambiance. Any which way, you’ll be sure to have a peaceful day that can end in an amazing meal & time cuddling by the fire. Get started planning!

Now for the bucket list – Pacuare Lodge, Talamanca Mountains

Holy moly, this lodge looks incredible! It’s an eco friendly hideaway in the middle of a private reserve in the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica. You have an amazing mix of adventure and relaxation right at your fingertips and you really can’t beat that. Bonus? If you are eloping or getting married, it’s literally perfect for intimate days that start with fun jumping in the pool before getting ready. The grounds are gorgeous and they definitely have some awesome packages for couples looking to elope + honeymoon! There are also macrame hammocks to snuggle up in while enjoying the beauty of the forest that surrounds the lodge. Definitely worth checking out Pacuare Lodge (and definitely take me with you to photograph the story)!

Poás Volcano Area

This gem that has views that’ll rival Lake Louise. Yep, I said it 😉 The caldera has a lake that looks as though it melted from a glacier even if it’s smoking half the time. It’s aptly named Laguna Caliente. The catch is this is an active volcano, so it’s national park area is sometimes closed depending on activity levels. I hope to one day see it when it’s open! While the park itself isn’t really suitable for elopements, the surround areas are filled with pretty waterfalls, mountainous forests, and lovely views all worth considering!

La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge

I definitely have to make it here to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see everything you think of when you think Costa Rica. They’ve got waterfalls, flora, fauna, and so much to do! Plus, they offer intimate weddings + elopements that feature all of these things. Accommodations at the lodge look absolutely incredible!

Planning Your Costa Rica Elopement

If the idea of a Costa Rica elopement has your heart beating a little faster + your mind daydreaming about adventure, I’m so down to help you make this happen! It doesn’t have to be complicated. International travel often is daunting but this is a very approachable country. We fell in love with the kind culture, dramatic landscape, and quirky wildlife and I think you will too. Just reach out to me and we can get started on where would be best, when to do it, and all the other details. Scroll down just a bit for a contact form or click right here!

Ultimately though, the very best reason to visit Costa Rica? Sloths. Sloths & sunsets.

Are You Ready? Let’s Do This Thing!

1 + 11 =

13 Comments

  1. Kayla Dolce

    This makes me want to visit Costa Rica so badly! Those wildlife photos and the couple with the waterfall are just beautiful. Will definitely be referencing this guide in the future!

    Reply
    • Raini

      Oh wow! Gotta put this on my travel list now. Wonderful images.

      Reply
  2. josie Skinner

    Brb booking tickets to Costa Rica ASAP! Thanks for the handy information and the beautiful images of the wildlife there!

    Reply
  3. Hanna

    I studied abroad in Costa Rica and I’m glad you separated out the different locations, they definitely have a different vibe. I am so enthralled with all of the different animals you were able to photograph! This would be a great spot to elope.

    Reply
  4. Sara Holt

    Oh my goodness what I magical place I am dying to go to the sloth sanctuary there, haha. These are stunning shots. you’re so lucky to have gotten to shoot there.

    Reply
  5. sam

    Absolutely amazing! It makes me want to visit Costa Rica! Those crocs though..

    Reply
  6. Mollie Adams

    This is SO beautiful and the colors are AMAZING! You did such a great job documenting all the moments 🙂

    Reply
  7. Stephanie Betsill

    Well shoot, now I wanna visit Cosa Rica! Totally bookmarking this for when I plan a trip out there and need travel advice!

    Reply
  8. Monica

    AHH my goodness this article is so helpful and the photos are amazing Randi! Especially the ones of the couple in the water by the falls, those are my favorite!

    Reply
  9. Caroline Ellis

    I had no idea Costa Rica was so gorgeous!! Such beautiful work.

    Reply
  10. Heather Huie

    Wow! What an informative guide for Costa Rica travels

    Reply
  11. vurtil opmer

    superb post.Ne’er knew this, thankyou for letting me know.

    Reply

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Hey! I’m Randi!
an elopement photographer + intimate wedding photographer based in Hawaii. I document real love stories around the world that you can read about here! You’ll also find insightful planning guides along with other resources to help you visualize your best day ever. Happy reading! ♡