8 tips for traveling alone in Costa Rica

To the uninitiated, the thought of traveling alone can feel both exciting and intimidating. However, if you’re planning a solo trip to Costa Rica, you might have additional concerns about safety and language barriers. I understand where you’re coming from—Costa Rica was one of the first places I tested the waters of solo travel. 

Let me start with the end—I’m so glad that I choose to solo travel in Costa Rica. I met wonderful locals, made friends with other travelers, and basked in the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. Nevertheless, there were some things I wish I had known before I embarked on my trip, so I’ll share them here to help you fast track your way to becoming an experienced solo traveler. 

1. Ignore the naysayers 

Taking a solo trip around Costa Rica often starts before you arrive in the land of pura vida. Your family, friends, and even strangers might offer their “helpful” two cents about why you shouldn’t travel alone. As a solo female traveler, I’ve experienced how this is especially the case for women compared to my solo traveling male friends.

Like any country, Costa Rica has its bad apples. While there’s some truth to the saying “there’s safety in numbers,” that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel alone. On the contrary, whether you’re wandering around by yourself or hanging out with other solo travelers, you should use common sense when it comes to safety, like avoiding dark streets and not flashing around expensive electronics.

2. Choose activities that have group tours

The advantages of solo travel outweigh the downsides, but that doesn’t make those downsides any less deflating when they happen. From my experience, higher prices for single travelers are the most problematic aspect. For this reason, if you want to take tours, I recommend choosing popular activities and destinations where there’s a greater chance of joining a group tour.

Some of the best solo travel destinations for joining these tours include La Fortuna, Tamarindo, and Nosara. You could even join a group tour in Jaco and then take a bus and ferry from Jaco to Montezuma, where you can get a little R&R in a quieter beach atmosphere.

3. Immerse yourself in local culture

One of the biggest benefits of solo travel in Costa Rica is that you can take the time you would normally spend chatting with a travel partner and use it to talk with locals. If you don’t speak Spanish, no worries—Google Translate offers a free app where you talk into your phone, and it translates what you say.

©ChrisGoldNY/Flickr

Taking Spanish is another wonderful way to integrate into the culture as a solo traveler and make friends. You’ll encounter Spanish classes in just about any place where foreigners congregate, even the beachside yoga town of Nosara. Alternatively, you can hop on a bus from Nosara to San Jose and take a university class—just make sure to apply for a student visa first.

4. Mingle with other travelers

Solo travel to Costa Rica doesn’t have to be isolating. On the contrary, meeting other travelers often makes the experience more enriching. You might even connect so deeply with certain people that you decide to continue traveling with them on your “solo” trip.

Hostels are an excellent place to meet travelers, and they’re plentiful in Costa Rica. You can find them when traveling from Santa Teresa to Jaco and just about any other destination you can think of. If the thought of sleeping in a 10+ bed dorm makes you balk, most hostels offer private rooms; many even come with ensuite bathrooms.  

5. Don’t take taxis off the street

Let’s come back to safety for a minute because you might not think twice about hailing a cab off the street in your home city. However, whether traveling alone in Costa Rica or with a group, it’s unfortunately too common for criminals to pose as legitimate taxi drivers.

©Diego Gómez/Flickr

Be leary of any taxi driver who offers you a fare below the standard price. They may even try to entice you with cheap rates to long-distance destinations such as La Fortuna to Monteverde. The safest way to hail a cab in Costa Rica is by calling a local taxi company or using a ridesharing app.

6. Pack what you can carry

I’ve been taking solo trips for more than a decade and still struggle with packing lightly, so this is a tip for myself as much as it is for you. As a solo traveler, you can’t rely on an extra set of hands to relieve you of your luggage when you get tired.

Because sidewalks in Costa Rica aren’t always well maintained, and especially if you plan on taking buses, it often makes life easier to travel with a backpack than a rolling suitcase.

7. Take public transportation to save money

One of my best solo travel tips in terms of sticking with your budget is to take buses. As the country’s capital, San Jose offers public buses to just about any destination you can think of. Below are some popular tourist routes to give you an idea of what to expect in terms of departures and travel times.

RouteTravel time
San Jose to Jaco1.5 hours
San Jose to Monteverde2.5 hours
San Jose to La Fortuna3 hours
San Jose to Manuel Antonio3 hours
San Jose to Santa Teresa4.5 hours
San Jose to Montezuma4.5 hours
San Jose to Tamarindo5 hours
San Jose to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca5 hours

That said, you can also book a flight or private transfer to many destinations within Costa Rica. Alternatively, you can take a slightly more expensive but comfier group minivan transfer. 

8. Have fun!

Make sure to soak up every moment of your solo trip around Costa Rica. Travel snags happen to solo and group travelers alike, so it’s a positive attitude that makes the difference.

Last but not least, don’t be surprised if your experience inspires you to plan other solo trips around Latin America!

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