First of all, the whole country is visually stunning. The Pacific coast, Caribbean coast, mountains, volcanoes, rainforests, lakes, rivers and national parks. Not surprisingly, Costa Rica is not only a popular vacation spot for mainstream tourists but also serves the cruise industry and a growing population of retirees who find their pensions go a lot further there. The tourist infrastructure is well-established and credit cards are widely accepted.
You will need a Central America award on your airline of choice. If you are new here, please have a look at the programs I recommend you to join. San Jose (SJO) is very well served by Star Alliance (red dot) carriers but there are a few interesting options on One World (blue dot) and Sky Team (green dot). Most people would either be coming from or connecting in the USA but if you don’t want to travel via the USA you can connect in Madrid on Iberia or Toronto on Air Canada.
You can also fly to Liberia airport (LIR) on any of the 3 major alliances.
WHERE TO STAY
Most of the major hotel chains are represented here but I strongly advise you not to go overboard booking them. I have seen people book 7-10 days in San Jose when the Holiday Inn or Crowne Plaza goes on Pointbreaks but this is a false economy (unless you are on a business trip). Costa Rica has so much to offer and I hate to see people spending their whole trip in the city! One night before or after a flight is fine and there are several options which I will go over in the San Jose post. Eco-lodges can be ridiculously easy to book online (even getting miles via Pointshound) with secure credit card payments and instant confirmations.
As you can see, Costa Rica is truly blessed with national parks full of fascinating birds and amazing scenery! The red line and dots represent our itinerary which I chose to maximize Parrot sightings and also to see the gorgeous Respendent Quetzal. I was also reluctant to hire a car here so I had to choose places easy to get to on public transport or tourist shuttles.
1. Selva Verde, Sarapiqui
2. Laguna del Lagarto, Boca Tapada
6. Parque Nacional Los Quetzales
7. San Jose (pre-flight)