A to Z: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Costa Rica
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A to Z: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Costa Rica

From the land of pura vida, good vibes, and gallo pinto, this A to Z list will give you some insight and fun facts on what to expect when you visit Costa Rica.

Army. Or rather, lack thereof. In 1948, Costa Rican president Jose Figueres abolished the national military. It is the only country in the western hemisphere with no army or military of any kind.

Bug Repellent. Don’t forget your bug spray! You will want to avoid getting bit by those pesky mosquitoes. Trust me, you would rather be protected than itchy.


Café. Costa Rica grows some of the world’s best coffee. If you are a coffee lover, you will fit right in with the ticos who enjoy their coffee in the morning and in the afternoon.

Dive. Scuba diving is definitely a must in Costa Rica. With the Catalina Islands, Tortuguero, or the Gulf of Papagayo, you are sure to see a plethora of tropical fish, manta rays, and maybe even a few sharks and dolphins.

Exit Visa. Costa Rica charges travelers $29 USD per person to exit the country. Make sure to keep this extra cost in mind when planning your travels!

Fútbol. The World Cup does not have to be going on for ticos to be excited about fútbol! If you have time be sure to watch a match at the national stadium in La Sabana. Vamos Ticos!

Gallo Pinto. Perhaps the most traditional dish of Costa Rica. It is a mix of rice, beans, and the delicious and omnipresent salsa lizano.

Happy People. Costa Rica ranks number one in the happy planet index. It is no wonder they have a life expectancy of 80 years!

Indigenous Groups. Approximately 63,976 indigenous people live in Costa Rica—1.7% of the total population. These indigenous groups include Boruca, Bribri, Maleku, Movere, Naso and Ngäbe.

Jungle. There is so much to learn about the Costa Rican jungles. You can enjoy diverse wildlife, fresh rivers, and waterfalls. While Costa Rica occupies .03 percent of the world’s surface, it is home to more than five percent of the world’s biodiversity.

Kilometers. Like most places around the world, Costa Rica uses kilometers. It may be hard to ask for directions because most ticos give directions by landmarks rather than street signs. Just ask el gringo pinto!

Literacy. Costa Rica’s literacy rate is 96.2%, making it the most literate country in Central America and one of the highest in world!

Mae. There is no way that you can have a full conversation with a tico without hearing the word “mae”. Mae can be used to mean “dude” between friends or simply a way to refer to a man or woman. This is just one of the dichos you will hear.

National Anthem. Every radio station plays the Costa Rican national anthem at 7:00am.  

Ocean. Costa Rica has 801 miles (1,289 kilometers) of coastline. You can enjoy beautiful beaches on the Pacific and Atlantic ocean.

Pura Vida. While it directly translates to mean “pure life,” pura vida symbolizes the simplicity of enjoying life and letting things go. This phrase can be used to say good bye, hello, thank you, and pretty much anything. Pura vida!  

Quetzal. The quetzal is a bird that is found in north central Costa Rica’s Monteverde. This endangered species prefers damp mountain forest, and is most active in the canopy edges.

Rain. While it tends to rain year-round, the rainiest months are September and October.


Surfing. The waves and water are perfect for first-time surfers or seasoned pros. Some of the best playas for surf or leisure in the world can be found here.

Tico. Tico or tica is the colloquial term used to refer to anyone who is a Costa Rican native.

Universidad de Costa Rica. The UCR is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious institution of higher learning in Costa Rica. It is the most important research university in the country and Central America. Approximately 39,000 students attend UCR throughout the year.

Volcanos. There are seven active volcanos and some experts say there are more than 120 volcanoes in Costa Rica. 

Water. The water here is safe to drink! There are a few exceptions in some more rural areas, but generally speaking there is no reason you shouldn’t stay hydrated!

Xenodochial. There is no doubt that wherever you travel in Costa Rica you will find folks that are friendly to strangers and always looking to help you and make sure you have a good time.

Yoga. For anyone that is interested in kicking back to relax there are A LOT of yoga camps in the country. Many of these sessions are done on the beach.

Zip-lining. Adrenaline seekers will delight to know zip-lining is one of the most popular activities in the country. 

About the Author

Rachel Levin

Brand Engagement Manager

Rachel joined Rustic in 2013 and led programs for three summers in Costa Rica, Peru, and Ghana. She’s also led programs in Fiji and Tanzania. A graduate of the University of Vermont with degrees in sociology and Spanish, Rachel focuses her love for travel, writing, and her unquenchable curiosity of our natural world as Rustic’s Brand Engagement Manager. Based in Tahoe, CA, Rachel is a talented ceramicist and lover of the outdoors.