Costa Rica wildlife vacations advice


Walking shoes or trainers?

Natasha Preston, from our supplier Exodus, shares her Costa Rica wildlife vacations advice: “I was impressed at how well the national parks were all geared up with very good trails. I did take my walking boots, but I didn’t have to wear them all the time. Sturdy footwear is a good idea for ankle support as some parts are uneven and there are tree roots, but I was surprised how good the paths and trails were, I was expecting it to be a lot more off-road, and the trekking would be a lot more difficult, but none of the walks were too challenging. But walking trainers or shoes are a good idea.”


Natasha Preston, from our supplier Exodus, shares her tips on watching wildlife in Costa Rica: "Wildlife fans and bird lovers should take a decent camera and plenty of memory cards. Keen photographers are going to want to take a telephoto lens, especially if they’re looking to get any bird photographs. It’s not like an African safari where you are ten metres away from a herd of elephants; things can be a bit more distant in the forest."

Family travel advice

Tenille Moore, from our supplier Geodyssey, recommends Costa Rica for a family wildlife vacation: “It’s a really, really popular family destination. There are excellent guides, the place is very accommodating for kids. And the kinds of interaction they can have with the wildlife – it’s up close and personal. It’s not like the Galapagos, but a lot of lodges will have butterfly gardens, for example. Or maybe some kind of veg patch, so things that kids can get involved in. There’s also lots of fun activities – so for older kids there’s ziplining, boat tours, watching turtles nest. Also you don’t really need any vaccinations. You have to be up to date with the typical ones, but there’s no Yellow Fever, and you are unlikely to need anti malarials.”

Packing tips

Natasha Preston, from our supplier Exodus: “Even though the rainforest is hot with tropical temperatures, it’s a good idea to take waterproofs as it can rain at any time in short, sharp showers – there’s the rainy season and the rainier season! In the cloud forest it’s a good idea to take a waterproof jacket too, but I also used my fleece a couple of nights after about 8pm. It’s not cold, but especially when it’s been so hot during the day, you notice the drop in temperature. So it is cooler, but you have a relief from the mosquitoes and not needing to be covered in repellent; it’s a bit more comfortable and you can sleep.”




Visit your GP 6-8 weeks before departure to ensure you are up to date with any necessary vaccinations.

Comprehensive travel insurance, including emergency repatriation, is imperative, especially if you’re thinking of undertaking optional adventure activities.

Aside from being extremely annoying, mosquitoes can carry malaria. Regions in Costa Rica where malaria has occurred are restricted to mainly the south Caribbean coast in the Limón province and it’s not something to be worried about. Malaria preventative medicines shouldn’t be needed but check with your GP first. But do take long sleeves and trousers as well as insect repellent, and try not to scratch bites so as to avoid infection.

Dengue fever is another mosquito carried disease and there is currently no vaccination to prevent the risk of infection. Best advice is to avoid wearing bright coloured clothing, cover up with long sleeves and long trousers, make sure your accommodation has been ‘mozzie-proofed’ and apply suntan lotion about half an hour before using insect repellent.

It is safe to drink the tap water in many areas of Costa Rica although always check with your tour leader or accommodation first, especially in more remote areas. Top tip: boil tap water for a minute if you’re worried about getting infected through tap water.

If you need any medical treatment, Costa Rica has a first-class health service although as a non-national you will face charges if you’re visiting a hospital for non-emergency treatment.

Check out the NaTHNaC website for more advice and health info for travelers.


As with traveling the world over, avoid leaving luggage alone or expensive items on display, even though Costa Rica is considered to be one of Latin America’s safest destinations.

If you do experience any trouble: 911 is the emergency number for police, fire and ambulance services.

When heading to either coastline, please make sure you do so safely. Riptides are a major concern on Costa Rica’s beaches and there are rarely lifeguards if you get into difficulties. Avoid areas where rivers enter the sea and try to find out more about well-known rips before you go for a swim or snorkel. If you do get caught in a riptide then stay calm and try to float or swim with the current, keeping yourself as parallel to the shore as possible. Important note: most riptide fatalities occur because swimmers go against the current and become exhausted and no longer able to stay above the surface. Never try and swim against the rip.

If you’re visiting any areas where volcanoes are active, including the currently dormant Arenal and Poas volcanoes, make sure you keep up to date with local news and internet coverage to ensure you’re not walking into a potential eruption.

Again, local knowledge is key when it comes to avoiding hurricanes in Costa Rica and although the country won’t get hit by the worst of the Central American weather, rain can get pretty heavy, particularly on the south Caribbean coast, so keep an ear out for floods and landslide updates if you’ve got plans to travel in between May and November.

The Costa Rica section on the FCO website is a good first port of call for more information on safety and entry requirements.



At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Costa Rica wildlife vacations travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
“Add in time to relax at each destination as well as booking all the tours... we had at least 3 days in each main location with 2 days of activities and one to enjoy the hotel and surroundings.. and this worked really well, you could settle into the place and it meant a vacation with a fab mix of adventure and relaxation. Most people we met only had 2 nights and it seemed a bit rushed.” – Adele Burrow

“It is much easier to see wildlife in the rainforests when you are with a local guide. Make sure you do at least one forest night walk - it's a different world at night. Take a good pair of binoculars for everyone in the party. As one guide said ‘we promised you wildlife, we didn't promise it would be very close!’” – Simon Andrewes

“Bring thin cotton shirts or tops that dry fast because you will sweat bucketloads, wherever you are; a telescopic umbrella is much more effective for keeping tropical downpours off than rain jackets, and doubles as a sunshade when needed; Vegetarians will have no trouble finding lots of excellent food.” – Kate Macdonald

"Costa Rica is a small country, but has a tremendous amount to offer. It would be impossible to experience it all in one trip. You need to decide exactly what you want to get out of the vacation and then be ruthless about the itinerary... 3 centers in a fortnight was great for us; more would have been a rush." – David Oakley

“I was very impressed on how clean Costa Rica was, everything gets recycled! It was great to see all the work being done in the national parks and conservation areas in respect to sustainability. EcoTourism is the major employer in Cost Rica and the people are so happy to greet you, help you and give you a perspective on their country. We felt completely safe in their hands as the level of safety in respect to all the activities we did was extremely high. They are concerned to make sure that no one gets hurt and that you end up leaving Costa Rica with perfect memories.” – Charles Czajkowski
Photo credits: [Walking shoes or trainers?: Christian Haugen] [Family travel advice: Roy Luck] [Review 1 - Lynne Clayton: Coral Blanche Hummer] [Review 2 - Hilary Mackintosh: Wagner T.Cassimiro "Aranha"]
Written by Chris Owen
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