Costa Rica Travel FAQ

Costa Rica Travel FAQ

What to expect when traveling to Costa Rica with Rustic Pathways.

Your most frequently asked questions regarding traveling with Rustic Pathways in Costa Rica, food, accommodations, and more answered by Wainer, Costa Rica Country Manager.

Where does the country name come from?

Costa Rica means rich coast. It was baptized by Christopher Columbus when he first set foot on this land and was surprised by the abundance of natural resources and gold from our native aboriginal people.

What languages are spoken in the country?

Spanish is our official language but English is taught as a second language.

What are people in Costa Rica like? How do people see themselves?

People are happy, humble, smiley and chill.

Respectful, we are not super loud, we are welcoming and friendly.

Why should I travel to Costa Rica?

Too many reasons. When I travel, one of the first things that I fall in love with is the people. Costa Rican people are warm and welcoming, they have a great heart and a big smile.

Additionally, the country is well known for their efforts to protect the environment; about 5% of the biodiversity of the whole world resides in Costa Rica; wildlife and natural resources are abundant including active volcanoes and stunning beaches.

Finally, the country offers tons of fun adventure activities such as:

  • surfing
  • white water rafting
  • zip-lining, hot springs
  • rappelling
  • etc.

What are the most amazing travel experiences in Costa Rica?

Coast to coast! You are able to experience the beautiful Caribbean side of Costa Rica and it’s pristine beaches; make a stop at the exuberant Arenal Volcano on the way to the Pacific Coast and ran into all types of wildlife including sloths, monkeys, butterflies, hummingbirds, manatees, sea turtles and more.

What are one or two off-the-beaten-path experiences that travelers might not know to look for?

Corcovado National park in the south of Costa Rica where 5% of the biodiversity of the world lives; and a combination of Arenal Volcano in Fortuna with the Nicoya Peninsula beaches.

What is the food like?

Costa Rican cuisine is based on rice and beans, tropical fruits and vegetables. Our typical breakfast is called Gallo Pinto and is made of mixed rice and beans, spices. Salsa Lizano which is a traditional sauce that we use to cook.

A typical meal for lunch or dinner is called Casado and consists of white rice, beans, salad, vegetables and a type of meat (chicken, fish, steak, etc). It comes with sweet plantain and natural juice.

What is the weather like?

June-August is the middle of our rainy season. Typically, the day is sunny and shiny during the morning with showers that last 15 to 45 minutes.

Our rainy season runs from May to November and our dry season goes from November to May approximately; however our weather is very unpredictable.

What is money like in Costa Rica?

The local currency is called colones but US dollars are accepted in most places. Costa Rica is a tourist destination, so we are used to tourists and take dollars everywhere.

How much money should I bring?

Depending on the time that you are planning to stay. Debit and credit cards are taken everywhere; thus I wouldn’t bring too much cash. $100-$200 should be enough.

Is it safe to travel in Costa Rica?

Just as any country in the world, there is crime and risks associated with traveling. However, Costa Rica is a safe country to travel, politically stable and used to travelers.

What are one or two of the most popular activities or pastimes in Costa Rica?

Dancing and outdoor activities. Visiting family members and friends. Typically families use their weekends to visit our local beaches and natural outdoor locations.

What is one favorite memory of a Rustic Pathways program experience?

Seeing our students get out of their comfort zones and try new things.

What advice do you have for first-time visitors to Costa Rica?

Come with an open mind and ready to try new adventures and experiences.

What are some tips for cultural etiquette?

Normally Costa Rican people are warm and welcoming and would greet you with a kiss on the cheek and a hug; however after COVID-19 these traditions have been affected and now we are forced to keep some distance. The new normal will probably just use some type of hand waving or something safe.

What are the main points of interest and landmarks?

La Fortuna where the Arenal Volcano lives, the Caribbean side, Cahuita National Park and Puerto Viejo, Nicoya Peninsula where we can find several wildlife refuges and sea turtles during nesting season, and the North and South Pacific where we can go surfing and partake of many other activities.

What are the major holidays in Costa Rica?

Independence day is September 15, during August 2nd the country celebrates a traditional Catholic holiday, La Virgen de los Ángeles, who was declared the Patron of Costa Rica and protector of the Americas. People from all over the country make a pilgrimage to Cartago where the Virgen stays to pay respect, ask for favors and/or ask thank her for favors.

What kind of music is widely popular?

We listen to all types of music and this is going to depend on who you ask. However, most people are familiar with tropical/popular music such as Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia, Reggaeton, etc.

Depending on the place that you go out you will hear everything from popular/tropical music to pop, hiphop, reggae, etc.

What documents are needed to enter Costa Rica?

Most countries only need their passport and proof of returning flight/ticket.

How do people dress in the country?

Most people dress modest and comfortably, especially in the countryside. At the beach, people use regular swimming suits but in villages and towns it is more normal to see people wearing more modest clothing – not super short shorts/skirts, etc.

What are bathrooms like in Costa Rica?

We have American style toilets and showers everywhere.

Can I drink the water?

Yes, unless said otherwise.

Do I need a vaccine?

No, but recommend checking with your doctor.

What are the accommodations like?

Comfortable and clean. We typically stay in small locally owned hotels and cabins style. Students share rooms 2-6 students per room, same gender and everyone’s got their bed.

Are there bugs?

Yes, it is advised you bring bug spray.

What time of service project can I expect?

Small construction projects include mixing cement, moving rocks and sand from one place to another, painting, building classrooms, houses, farming and reforestation projects, beautification projects in partnership with schools and local community members.

For village/homestays, where do students and teachers sleep?

2 students per household, same gender. Teachers can either live with a local family or stay with the Program Leaders.

For village/homestays, are the families we stay with background checked?

Yes. Rustic Pathways’ homestay partners are evaluated using a thorough vetting process to ensure student accommodations meet our rigorous health, safety, and security standards.

Will there be mosquito nets available? How do you manage mosquitos?

In some locations but we can make them available if needed. Students are advised and reminded to apply bug spray.

Can you accommodate dietary restrictions?


Will we have any free time? What are good free-time activities?

Yes, during free time, we do cultural activities, adventure activities, walks/hikes to waterfalls or natural/outdoor sides, team building games or just hangout with friends.

How do you all get around?

Private vans.

Can you manage large groups? How does that work for sustainable service?

Yes. We have many communities that we have been working with for years; thus we just need to make the appropriate accommodations so that the impact is the most positive for all the parties involved.

Wainer Ocampo

Costa Rica Country Manager

Since he joined Rustic Pathways in 2008, Wainer’s patience and constant smile have won him a special place in the hearts of our students. A Costa Rica native, Wainer has also spent time in the U.S., where he completed a cultural exchange at Hiram College in Ohio. Always the first person on the dance floor, he can often be found teaching salsa to our students. the Costa Rica team.

 See Wainer’s Profile Page