Updated on September 11, 2021
Before God created waterfalls, He knew He would need torrential amounts of rain, multiple rushing rivers and abrupt changes in elevation. So when He got around to making Costa Rica, He basically perfected the formula.
The best ones offer five attractions in one: 1) a stunning view, 2) a swimming hole, 3) cliff-jumping, 4) a great way to beat the heat, and 5) an exhilarating adventure just getting there.
So here are our picks for the five best waterfalls in Costa Rica. We dare you to visit them all!
Montezuma, near the southern tip of Nicoya Peninsula, is sort of like a Costa Rican town from another dimension. It’s a tiny but thriving village filled with hipsters, rastas, European trekkers and other chilled-out people. It’s sometimes called “Montefuma,” from the Spanish word for “smoke,” and we’re not talking tobacco.
Within walking distance of the downtown is what may be the greatest waterfall in Costa Rica. You can walk or drive to the parking lot, just south of town, and then you have to walk along the banks of the Río Montezuma to get to the falls. This involves scampering over boulders, wading across the river and even holding onto some ropes thoughtfully attached to a little cliff. We recommend humming the tune from “Mission Impossible” while negotiating the ropes.
Just when you think you must be on the wrong trail, an 80-foot waterfall suddenly comes into view, and it’s dazzling. There are actually three falls here, and if you like you can drive to the top and hike down a hill to the uppermost fall instead of walking up the river. You can even go ziplining above these falls.
But at the bottom, there’s a wonderfully cool pool where you can swim around, or muster the courage to jump off a pretty tall boulder into the water.
Speaking of cliff-jumping, have you heard of Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time? He and his supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen own a home not far away, and he once proved his immortal cred by taking the very scary 39-foot leap from the top of the middle fall, a feat you can watch on YouTube.
Located 2.5 miles off the highway between Dominical and San Isidro on the central Pacific coast, Nauyaca is possibly more spectacular than Montezuma, though harder to get to. The best option is to pony up for a horseback tour, though you can also hike to the falls in less than an hour.
This two-tiered catarata has an upper fall that’s 45 meters (148 feet) and a bottom fall that’s 25 meters (82 feet). The top fall is kind of a narrow shower emptying into a small pool – not recommended for either jumping or swimming. But the bottom fall is a real beauty, as it cascades over a broad cliff face into a delightfully swimmable pool.
Best of all, if you’ve paid for a guide, he will attach ropes to the cliff and lead you through the thundering bottom fall to a climbable cliff, where you can jump from as high as you dare.
La Fortuna Waterfall
Probably Costa Rica’s most famous waterfall, La Fortuna is a short drive from the town of the same name in the adventure capital known as Arenal. It’s visited by some 100,000 people a year, at least in normal years.
At 70 meters (230 feet), La Fortuna is quite a bit taller than Niagara Falls – and no, there’s no jumping. To get there, you have to walk down a hillside stairwell of nearly 500 steps. And if you think that’s hard, wait until you have to walk back up.
The pool at the bottom is a ridiculously fun adventure. Rather than a place to “swim,” it’s more like a place to wade into a giant, wet wind machine. Most people don’t have to be warned not to get too close to the bottom of the waterfall, because it’s almost impossible to approach the ferocious blast of the water. It’s like trying to walk into a hurricane.
Río Celeste Waterfall
Nothing tops this one for sheer beauty. Río Celeste is famous for the unique sky-blue color of the water, which is caused by suspended alumino-silicate particles. They say that after God was finished painting the sky, he washed his brushes in the Río Celeste.
This fall is located in Tenorio Volcano National Park, a remote and often overlooked gem north of Monteverde and Arenal. It makes a great day trip because its main attraction is an easy trail you can hike in two or three hours, with great views of the bright blue river.
Like La Fortuna, the fall is accessed by a long set of stairs carved into a hillside. At the bottom there are viewing platforms, but unfortunately there’s no swimming, and “Do Not Enter” signs are prominently posted on the railing. However, locals sometimes hike up the river to get there.
Llanos de Cortés Waterfall
This is another contender for most beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica, located a half-hour southeast of Liberia in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. If you’re staying near Playas del Coco or Flamingo, it’s the closest waterfall on this list, and it’s well worth a visit.
Llanos de Cortés (sometimes spelled “Cortez”) is about 20 meters (66 feet) tall and almost as wide. The water spills off a broad cliff face, similar to Nauyaca, making for a splendid view.
The pool at the bottom is swimmable and delightfully refreshing, and in most places you can walk on the sandy bottom comfortably in bare feet. But this is not a good place for cliff-jumping, as the pool is not very deep and the rocks are too brittle to climb.
What is the tallest waterfall in Costa Rica?
If you’re an incurable waterfall junkie, find your way to Diamante, a set of 10 falls on private property near Dominical, Uvita and the aforementioned Nauyaca. The largest of these waterfalls is estimated to be an astonishing 600 feet, though there’s no telling how they measured it. Some of the smaller falls have caves behind them complete with kitchens, sleeping platforms and bathrooms.
These falls are WAY off the beaten path and rarely visited, though you can book a tour with the property owners if you have the stamina for the hike.
What waterfalls can you swim at in Costa Rica?
As noted, all the falls on our list are swimmable except Río Celeste. We should also mention La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a very popular nature park and wildlife refuge near Poás Volcano National Park. It has five striking falls, but they are for viewing and not swimming.
Is it safe to swim in rivers in Costa Rica?
Swimming in the rivers of Costa Rica is generally safe, with certain caveats. Drowning is sadly common in Costa Rica, though drownings usually occur in the ocean. In one extremely unusual incident, four U.S. citizens and a Costa Rican guide drowned in the swollen Naranjo River in 2018 while whitewater rafting under unsafe weather conditions.
Crocodiles can be a threat in certain places, though crocodile attacks on humans are very rare. Bull sharks sometimes feed at the mouth of rivers that spill into the ocean, but shark attacks are almost unheard of. Costa Rica does not have piranhas or the dreaded Amazonian candiru that supposedly swims up your urethra if you urinate in the water. So feel free to pee freely!
The most common injury that swimmers in Costa Rica suffer is … wait for it … sunburn.
Posted on August 27, 2021
August 24, 2019
Okay, okay – “best season” is a relative term. The best season to visit Costa Rica is, obviously, whenever you can carve out the time. But, if you can swing it, then may we suggest a visit during the rainy season? Because, it’s truly a special time of year.
The rainy season, also known as the green season (or, to Costa Ricans, as “winter”), is generally pegged as the months of May through November. Well, unless you’re visiting Arenal/La Fortuna. Or the Caribbean. Because there, the seasons flip-flop. But, more on that in a moment.
Because, before we get into the minutiae of rainy season and all its many iterations, there’s something you should know: Green season is spectacularly beautiful. The scenery is lush, wildlife is happy, and flowers are in bloom. Not to mention, the coffee is just-picked, freshly dried, and ready to be roasted.
5 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica during Rainy Season
Green season is a perfect time to visit Costa Rica. Here’s why you should consider a trip during the off-season, aka the best-kept-secret season. You’re going to love it.
Reason #1: It’s Not That Rainy
Before we jump into the heart of why we love green season, you should know that rainy season isn’t all rain, all the time. We know – if you check the weather forecast for Anywhere, Costa Rica, almost any day between May and November, you’ll see full days, weeks and months of predicted rain.
The truth is, though, you’ll probably see only a couple hours of afternoon rain a day (if that), especially if you travel May-August or in November. (September and October are the rainiest months.) In any case, if you ask us, a quick afternoon storm is the perfect time to enjoy you private balcony, overlooking the view and sipping a cup of fresh Café Rosa Blanca.
Reason #2: It’s Spectacularly Beautiful
Ask anyone who lives in Costa Rica, and they’ll probably peg a “rainy” month as their favorite. Why? For a few simple reasons: In addition to cool breezes and that near-daily excuse for afternoon coffee (as if we needed a reason!), the green season brings, well, green.
After a long, dry summer, there’s nothing more beautiful than the flush of green, as it overtakes Costa Rica’s hills and valleys. Think of it as spring on steroids: Instead of the north’s gentle melt into new buds and timid blades of grass, Costa Rica’s green season roars into the picture, taking mere days to paint the country in every shade of emerald, olive, and jade. And then, for the rest of the season, all of Costa Rica is ablaze with a jewel box of flowery hues. It’s beautiful.
Reason #3: Prices Dip (and So Do the Crowds)
If you need a good, documentable reason to visit during the green season, then consider that prices are about 15% to 25% lower, from May through November. (Note: Certain sub-regions see a mid-season boost, usually around Costa Rica’s school vacation in July.)
Hot tip: Check out our own green season special: Stay 3 nights, Pay 2!
What’s more, the green season is considered Costa Rica’s off-season, which means you’ll usually combat fewer crowds: You’ll have certain beaches all to yourself. Your tours may feel more private than group. And, reservations are easier to come by. Costa Rica almost feels like a different place, when you’re here during rainy season.
Reason #4: It’s Sun Season in Certain Areas
We won’t dive into all the exceptions – despite its diminutive size, Costa Rica is a vast country of many microclimates – but there are some big exceptions to Costa Rica’s weather rules. Namely, Arenal and the Caribbean: If Arenal is on your list, know that its dry season runs May-October; meanwhile, the Caribbean coast sees the most sun in September and October.
Reason #5: Your Bucket List May Be Rainy Season-Only
If reasons #1-4 haven’t converted you to a green season traveler, then consider this: Certain must-see, must-do, must-visit items can only be appreciated during the rainy season.
Beyond our own front door, green season also brings a riot of wildlife: Costa Rica’s Pacific coast sees the year’s largest arribadas, or mass sea turtle nesting, during the months of September, October, and November. If dolphin- and whale-watching are on your must-see list, then this is also the best time: Though Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale season in the world, the true sweet spot is in August and September.
And then, there are the practical considerations, like fuller rivers: Want to spot a waterfall or tackle whitewater rafting? They’re better when the rivers are topped up with recent rains. Snorkeling the living reefs of the Caribbean are better, too, since less rain equates to better visibility.
All this to say, we’ve only just scratched the surface. In many ways, green season is an incredible season, if not the best season to visit Costa Rica. So, why not give us a visit? You may soon be the ones telling your friends, “rainy season is the best season to visit Costa Rica!”
Posted on August 27, 2021
This is one of the best if not the BEST short summary about the main volcanos of Costa Rica published on July 26, 2021 by Nick Dauk
Volcan Irazú seems inescapable when you’re peering at its peak from the San Jose province. I’d sailed beside smoky Mount Etna in Sicily and hung my feet over the edge of Telica in Nicaragua, but nothing quite prepared me for the majesty of Costa Rica’s volcanoes.
Though Irazú was far from the first volcano I’ve ever viewed with the naked eye, its imposing stance surrounded by a loyal cluster of clouds set it apart from what seemed like the feeble volcanoes I’d seen elsewhere in the world.
Irazú is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica, but is easily accessible by a paved road.
Costa Rica may be renowned for its heavenly rainforests and rich biodiversity, but those in the know are well aware that the country has hundreds of volcanic formations within its borders. Between 1 and 3 million years ago, the Central American isthmus arose from the ocean during a period of tectonic uplift that created a corridor of volcanoes in Costa Rica. Most volcanic structures in Costa Rica are considered dormant or extinct, though as of July 2021, five Costa Rican volcanoes are officially “active” — meaning they’ve had an eruption within the last 10,000 years.
When planning your trip to Costa Rica, try to include a visit to at least one volcano.
When planning your trip, a visit to one of Costa Rica’s volcanoes should be on your to-do list. Not only are these natural wonders stunning to see, they are also an important part of the ecological and cultural history of Costa Rica. Here are eight volcanoes to choose from while exploring this amazing country.
Rincón de la Vieja
If you’re searching for places to stay in Costa Rica, we suggest you book your vacation rental near Rincón de la Vieja.
A waterfall with a swimming hole at Rincón de la Vieja.
Located in the Guanacaste province within the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, it offers waterfalls, hiking, flora, fauna and geothermal activity throughout the area, as well as some of the nicest hot springs in Costa Rica. This volcano has been pretty vocal over the last few years. In fact, the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano has erupted over 1,400 times since 2019. Though it erupts frequently, rarely does it explode with significant force. Ash and gas typically spew from its cone.
One highlight of hiking through Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park is that it doesn’t need to be a stand-alone activity. If you want to maximize your time in Costa Rica, the surrounding area has plenty to see and do, including ziplining tours, whitewater rafting and wildlife tours. You can combine convenience and comfort when you book a day trip from one of Special Places vacation rentals. Our private villas, beachfront homes and luxury properties located throughout Flamingo, Potrero and Coco are perfect base camps for exploring Rincón de la Vieja.
The most popular volcano in county, Arenal is also one of the top tourist destinations in Costa Rica. In 2010, it ended an eruptive cycle that saw gas, ash and lava spew into the air, beginning with a major eruption in 1968.
The cone-shaped Arenal Volcano is the backdrop to what has become Costa Rica’s adventure tourism capital.
This 7,000-year-old volcano is considered a “young” volcano, and despite its 42-year period of eruptions, it hasn’t stopped visitors from enjoying Arenal Volcano National Park. Also nearby is the extinct Chato Volcano which cradles a spectacular lagoon. Small trails throughout will walk you past lava fields and secondary forests, but the biggest allure is found in the water. The hot springs near La Fortuna will pamper you with an unforgettable soak.
An immense volcanic aquifer under Arenal Volcano heats a variety of hot springs in the area.
If you’re hoping to enjoy a picture-perfect beach vacation in Costa Rica but still want to elevate your adventure with a visit to a volcano, we suggest booking an ocean-view room in Playa Flamingo. Approximately 200 km from the shoreline, Arenal Volcano National Park is accessible from Flamingo on a day trip.
If it’s not Arenal that tourists are flocking to, it’s Poás. This active volcano features one of the largest craters on the planet and has a vast network of hiking trails that provide ample time to stretch your legs after you’ve driven your car to the summit. Depending on the weather, a thick layer of clouds may cover the view of the main crater of the Poás Volcano.
Poás Volcano National Park, one of the country’s most visited parks, is an easy day trip from San José on paved roads.
No worries; trails like the Laguna Botos will present you with a beautiful green sulfuric lake in one of the volcano’s other two craters. A visitor center, museum and café add to the experience, giving visitors of all abilities an opportunity to relax under the shade and learn more about the geothermal and ecological elements of the Poás Volcano National Park. Poás was closed not long ago because of volcanic activity, so before you go, make sure it’s open.
If you’re spending time in San Jose, you won’t be able to ignore Irazú’s gaze. Irazú is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica and is mildly active. Its eruptions have been long documented, and although one explosion destroyed 300 homes in Taras de Cartago, most volcanic activity from Irazú comes in the form of fumaroles.
The aquamarine lake in the crater of Irazú dried up in recent years because of cracks in the crater bed.
Though this volcano seems unapproachable, you don’t need to be a veteran hiker to reach its stunning vistas. You can literally roll right to the top of its peak along a paved road, making it an easy and accessible day trip for anyone visiting Costa Rica’s capital city.
Is all this talk about active volcanoes making you sweat? Then Tenorio Volcano National Park is the perfect way to beat the volcanic heat. Located in Bijagua, Alajuela, only 90 minutes from Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, The Tenorio Volcano no confirmed historical eruptions. What it lacks in a smoldering cone, it makes up for in serene forests. This lush park has a single hiking trail that will dazzle you with natural wonder.
A spectacular blue-green lake can be found at the base of the Río Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park.
At El Teñidero, two rivers meet to form the spectacular, sky-blue Río Celeste. Follow the river and you’ll find volcanic gas bubbling up in Los Borbollones. The stunning Río Celeste Waterfall also makes this trail well worth the walk.
Although the Miravalles Volcano formed approximately 1 million years ago, the Miravalles Volcano National Park was recently established in 2019. Miravalles National Park is 15 km from Bagaces and hasn’t had a significant eruption since 1946. Relaxing mud baths and soothing swims in the hot springs await you in this often overlooked park.
Painting yourself in volcanic mud is said to be good for the skin, but it’s definitely good for a smile.
Unlike other volcanoes that stand alone, Orosí is part of a cluster of four Costa Rican volcanoes which includes Orosilito, Pedregal and Cacao. All are eroded and heavily vegetated, with no historical eruptions reported over the last 3,500 years. You can visit these four cones and a transitional cloud forest within the Guanacaste Conservation Area.
The remote and other-worldly Orosí Volcano is one of the least visited volcanoes in Costa Rica.
Though Arenal may be the most popular among tourists, San José’s residents will have one particular volcano on the tips of their tongues. The active Turrialba volcano has erupted several times over the last few years (including as recently June 2021), coating San José in ash and drawing the eyes of geologists who wonder if Turrialba is due for a larger, more destructive eruption.
A keel-billed toucan takes in the view at Turrialba Volcano National Park.
Home to the second tallest volcano in the country, Turrialba Volcano National Park is fantastic destination for wildlife viewing, particularly for birdwatchers. It was closed for many years and reopened in 2020, but it’s best to check its status before you go.
Are Costa Rica volcanoes safe to visit?
When you tell a friend or family member that you’re off to the Ring of Fire to get up-close-and-personal with an active volcano, they may think you’re crazy. It’s important to always be mindful of any natural phenomenon unique to your destination, including the potential for sudden volcanic activity. Yes, Costa Rica is home to active volcanoes that do occasionally erupt and the lava, smoke and gas they emit from these amazing formations can be dangerous.
Rafting the Tenorio River: If you’re concerned about whether visiting volcanoes is safe, try this!
However, it’s also important to acknowledge the risk of danger appropriately. Rough seas, earthquakes, torrential storms, mudslides and other natural events can also pose a risk of harm, injury or even death. Some volcanoes, such as Arenal, were heavily active for a long period of time and have since returned to a dormant state. Others, like Turrialba, were quite quiet before their recent eruptions.
Are you brave enough to cross this bridge through the mist? Enter the clouds and see what’s on the other side….
There’s no argument that volcanoes can be deadly and Costa Rica has unfortunately witnessed its share of tragedy. The Arenal Volcano erupted in 1968, claiming nearly 100 lives and destroying three villages. In fact, Arenal was thought to be extinct from 1500 until it erupted in the mid 1900s. Volcanoes in Costa Rica may erupt at any time, though most eruptions are likely to be small and have a small likelihood of causing harm to tourists or visitors.
The beauty and power of Costa Rica volcanoes
Trust me — it’s easy to fall into a trance when experiencing the magic and wonder of Costa Rica for the first time. Whether you’re exploring the lush forests of Monteverde or catching waves on the coast, you’ll fall into tico time almost instantly and savor the lifestyle during every moment of your visit.
Depending on the conditions at Arenal Volcano, you may feel like you’re at Mordor instead.
Because the drive and hike to some of the volcanoes of Costa Rica can take hours, it’s best to plan your volcano visit ahead of time. Schedule volcano tours that will conveniently take you to and from your vacation rental and the volcano of your choice. If you’re renting a car, schedule at least a half-day for your visit, being mindful of inclement weather or national park closures.
A hike to one of the country’s active, dormant or extinct volcanoes is not only a memorable experience you’ll treasure for a lifetime, but also one of the best budget-friendly activities in Costa Rica you can add to your itinerary.
Posted on August 19, 2021
Thank you to Special Places Costa Rica for this excellent article on whales and whale watching in Costa Rica.
Did you ever wonder what whale watching in Costa Rica looks like? Imagine this: You’re enjoying your Costa Rican vacation, exploring a coastline on a catamaran, when suddenly, in the distance you see something like a spray of water exploding from the ocean’s surface. You’re watching the water shoot towards the sky with your eyes wide open. Yeah, it’s a whale! And a big one too.
Costa Rican waters are home to a lot of species of marine mammals. However, the whales spend more time in these waters than anywhere else in the world. Hence, whale watching in Costa Rica tours are not so uncommon. So, climb aboard, and get ready for the whale watching adventure of a lifetime.
What is it about the whales?
What makes whales so unique? First of all, they are large. And when I say large, I mean gigantic. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Whales range in length from 2.6 meters up to 30 meters. Their weight also varies from more than 100 kilograms to almost 200 tons. The dwarf sperm whales are the smallest while the blue whale is the largest. It’s actually considered to be the largest creature that has ever lived.
Secondly, some whales can be pretty fast. Although it’s the biggest whale, the blue whale can swim as fast as 50 km/h when it’s fleeing from potential danger. However, this whale typically swims at a speed of 22 km/h. The sperm whale is much slower and swims at a speed of about 10 km/h.
Did you know that, according to the Evolution Theory, whales have evolved from mammals that used to live on the land? Scientists assume that’s the reason whales have to breathe air regularly, although they can stay underwater for quite some time. Some species can remain submerged for more than an hour, and others need to resurface after 10-20 minutes. They can dive to great depths and resurface with ease.
Species of whales you can see in Costa Rica
The humpback whale is the one you can often see in Costa Rican waters. Adult species are about 15 meters long and weigh around 30 tons. Humpback whales are known for breaching from the water and propelling themselves out. That makes them quite popular with whale watchers.
Humpback whales are also famous for extended songs and a variety of vocalizations they produce. Although both male and female vocalize, the former produce longer and more complex songs. No one really knows what the purpose of their songs is. However, scientists have noticed that all the whales in one area repeat the same sequence of notes.
Quite extraordinary, isn’t it?
Sei whales, bryde’s whales, blue whales, and pilot whales can also be seen in the waters of Costa Rica. On the other hand, orcas, also known as killer whales, are rarely seen.
What are whales doing in Costa Rican waters?
Now that you’ve read all those interesting facts about the whales, we can move on, and learn some more. For example, do you know what whales are doing in the waters of Costa Rica?
Most species of whales prefer living in colder waters of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. However, whales move to warmer waters to breed. Also, they stay in warmer waters until their offspring is strong enough to survive cold waters.
Some species are capable of traveling thousands of kilometers before reaching their breeding grounds. And when baby whales grow up, whales migrate back to the places they came from.
There is also a region called the Costa Rica Dome. It’s an offing site on the southern part of the Pacific coast of the country. It is one of the favorite breeding and feeding places of blue whales due to the highly nutritive waters. Beside the blue whale, there are many other marine animals.
Whale watching season in Costa Rica
There are actually two seasons for whale watching in Costa Rica. The first is from December to April, and the second is from July to November. These seasons are established upon the migration cycle of the humpback whale.
As we know by now, whales leave the waters they are living in when it becomes too cold, so that those living in the waters of the Northern Hemisphere arrive in the waters of Costa Rica in December and stay there until April.
The same goes for the whales living in the waters of the Southern Hemisphere, only they arrive in July and leave the Costa Rican waters in November.
However, you have a better chance of seeing humpback whales between August and October. Some whales from the Northern Hemisphere waters migrate to Hawaii, so it’s harder to see them during the December-April season.
Top spots for whale watching in Costa Rica
It is possible to see whales anywhere along the Pacific coast, as well as along the northern Caribbean coast. With that being said, whales do appear more often along the southern part of the Pacific coast. Uvita and Drake Bay are the best places for whale watching in Costa Rica. Also, in these places, you can go for a whale watching tour during both seasons.
Pretty convenient, huh?
Uvita is a town of the Costa Ballena, which translates to The Whale Coast. Besides the actual whales, you can also see the Whale’s Tail – a famous giant sandbar shaped like a tail of a whale.
The town of Uvita and the whale’s tail are a part of the Marino Ballena National Park. This marine national park preserves not just the land, but also the ocean with its coral reefs and whales breeding grounds.
If you want to increase your chances of seeing a whale there, you should visit Uvita in September. That is also the reason why the annual Whales Festival takes place in this town at the peak of the whale watching season.
Now, Drake Bay is a village on the Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula. This bay is a perfect place for a mother whale to raise their young.
Another excellent place for watching whales on the Osa Peninsula is the Golfo Dulce. It’s located on the east side of the Osa Peninsula. Because of its shallow protected waters, you can often see whales and dolphins.
What are other popular places for whale watching?
If you are visiting the northern areas of Costa Rica, like Guanacaste province, you might be able to see whales too. Whales have been spotted in Papagayo Bay, especially from July till October. However, it’s not clear whether whales are staying there or just passing through.
The Manuel Antonio National Park is another popular whale watching destination. The best time to see our big friends from this place is during July-November season.
When it comes to the east coast of Costa Rica, it’s good to know that whales also migrate to the northern Atlantic Ocean. In fact, there are more whales during the December-April season than most other places. However, they are spread over a vast area, and it’s harder to see them. Also, it’s more difficult to launch a boat through the rocky northern Caribbean coast.
What can you expect from a whale watching tour?
Humpback whales are the most popular ones for watching because they spend so much time above the water. They can pop above the surface to take a look around, or do some fin slapping or fluke flipping.
Although that happens occasionally, you’re more likely to witness another fantastic experience: a huge mother whale and its offspring playing around her.
Besides the whale watching tour, you’ll have the chance to see the whales if you go exploring a coastline on a catamaran, or during a dive and snorkeling tours. You’ll also have a chance to see some of our other exotic friends during these tours such as sea turtles, and dolphins too.
Tips for whale watching
- Take anti-nausea medicine, in case you get seasick. Take it even if you are not prone to it. It can be quite a rocky ride.
- It’s against the law to swim with whales and dolphins in Costa Rica. So if you are thinking about jumping off the boat, don’t.
- Make sure your camera or your phone are fully charged and can zoom in clearly.
- Have in mind that the rainy season in Costa Rica is from May to November.
- Even if you go whale-watching during the recommended seasons, you may not see them. Like other animals, whales are unpredictable.
Now, let’s go back to the beginning of this story and imagine you’re witnessing a humpback whale breaching out of the water, hanging in the air for a brief moment, and then diving back in. Your eyes are wide open, and you are mesmerized by the incredible creature of the open sea.
How’s that for an unforgettable experience?
Posted on August 17, 2021
- By Allan Garro – August 15, 2021
Many foreigners who decide to live in Costa Rica, or come to visit seasonally, find that it is necessary for them to acquire a vehicle to get around. In this way, the high costs of renting a vehicle are avoided, since it is not an occasional visit. However, some have encountered bad experiences when acquiring a vehicle that has been salvage, total lost, suffered odometer alterations, and the like. Therefore, care must be taken to avoid buying a “lemon” car.
The safest way is to buy a new car from an authorized dealer. That allows starting from scratch with care and maintenance. A new car can last for years in good working order. Most new car dealers offer a warranty that is typically three years or 100,000 kilometers, whichever comes first. However, some new vehicles sometimes have problems that are out of the ordinary. New car dealers provide the manufacturer’s warranty manual only and does not necessarily conform to local regulations.
The warranty on a new vehicle includes the free repair of any defect or problem that the vehicle may present, except for any damages or unauthorized modifications made by the buyer. However, such repairs are understood as occasional defects or problems, considering that the vehicle must meet a standard of performance and quality. When major components such as the engine or gearbox are damaged, requiring the vehicle to be left for weeks or months, said quality standard is not met.
Nor is the quality standard met when there are multiple small failures, which require applying the guarantee on five, six or more occasions. In this case, the law allows to request the delivery of another identical new vehicle, or the full refund of the price paid. One major problem is that the price of a new vehicle is too high, due to high import taxes. In Costa Rica, such taxes reach approximately 52%, to which must be added the profit of the distributor, registration costs and the so-called property tax, better known as “marchamo”.
Some recent regulations could help buying a new vehicle with lower costs. For example, law # 9518 named “Incentives and Promotion for Electric Transport” establishes a 100% exemption on sales taxes, selective consumption tax, and customs value tax, for electric vehicles whose CIF value does not exceed USD $ 30,000. There are also important exemptions for higher value electric vehicles, as long as the CIF price does not exceed US $60,000. Likewise, by decree 41426-H-MINAE-MOPT, 100% of the selective consumption tax is exonerated on used electric vehicles whose CIF value does not exceed US $30,000.
Another recent Bill approved at Congress in June 2021 creates a number if incentives to attract investors wanting to get residency status, which includes the possibility to import up to two motor vehicles (boats and planes also) for personal or family use, free of all import, tariff, sales and other taxes. Despite this, it must be considered that said Bill must still be published in the official newspaper and then regulated by different government institutions, which will take several months before becoming a reality.
The other option that exists is to buy a used car. In this case it is important to try to determine the origin, specifically if it was sold since new in Costa Rica, or if it has been imported as used. It has been a common practice to import used vehicles from the United States. In many cases, they are vehicles that have been sold at auction as salvage and later restored here, with adulterated odometer showing a lower mileage. And there are also imported vehicles that are in excellent condition.
Homework must be done before purchasing. If it is a vehicle imported from the USA, a simple tool is to look up the VIN number and put it in Google. Many times, with just that some important data and even pictures appear. Otherwise, there is the possibility to buy a report on popular sites like Carfax or Vincheck. If it was sold domestically trying to obtain maintenance records can help. In any case, it is recommended to bring a trusted mechanic to check it.
Some may consider bringing their own vehicle from the United States. It is important to consider several aspects. It is best to contact a Costa Rican Customs Agent. There will be a list of documents required. To name a few: a. Passport and driver license, b. Vehicle registration certificate, c. Title of ownership, d. Certified emissions test, e. Bill of landing, f. Commercial invoice. The approximate amounts on import taxes are: 52% for vehicles 3 years or newer, 64% vehicles 4-5 years old and 79% for vehicles older than 6 years.
Now let’s see what rights the law guarantees. The first thing to consider is that if the vehicle is purchased from an individual who is not dedicated to the sale of vehicles, the buyer has few or no options, since in that case it is the buyer’s obligation to verify the condition of the vehicle. But if the vehicle, whether new or used, is acquired from a car dealer, the Law of Effective Consumer Protection applies. There are two types of procedures, one in front of administrative authorities and the other in the courts.
The Comision Nacional del Consumidor or National Consumer Commission https://www.consumo.go.cr/comision_nacional_consumidor/ is the government’s entity that can handle complaints against car dealers. That authority can order that the full price paid be returned if the vehicle has defects that cannot be covered by the warranty, as well as impose fines on the seller. It does not have the power to order the payment of damages, fees or interest on the money paid.
In Court, the way is a process called “Consumer summary.” You need to hire a lawyer. In this process, the Judge can order the refund of the price paid, cover interest from the date of purchase, the reimbursement of fees and other expenses of the process. It is very important that, before establishing any claim, the buyer delivers a letter to the seller indicating the problems encountered. And that said letter be delivered with a copy of receipt, or failing that, that a Notary certifies the delivery and that the seller refused to sign the copy.
In the sale of used vehicles, it is important to know that the minimum warranty period is 30 business days, and not 1 month as most indicate. Some used car dealers provide a warranty document stating that it only covers the “engine and gearbox”, which is illegal as the warranty covers all parts of the vehicle for 30 business days. If the complaint letter is delivered in that period, the term to go to the Consumer Commission is 2 months and to go to court is much longer. In any case, both procedures take months and sometimes even years. The best idea is still to take precautions before purchasing
About the Author: Allan Garro was incorporated as a lawyer and public notary in 1996. He specializes in Litigation, Corporate, and Real Estate Law. He has also acted as an external legal consultant to Congress. He has been the author of more than 100 published English Language articles and can be reached at [email protected]
Updated on July 25, 2021
New Immigration law to contribute to the country’s economic recovery
On July 13, 2021, the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly voted on the second (final) debate the approval of the bill of law to allow foreigners who provide remunerated services remotely for a legal entity abroad (“Digital Nomads”) to stay in Costa Rica for a year, with the option to extend their stay for one additional year, by creating a new immigration category as remote employee or provider of remote services. The approved bill of law has been transferred to the Executive for the President to sign it as a new Law and will then be published in the Official Gazette.
After the Law has been published in the Official Gazette, the regulation to this Law should be published in, approximately, sixty days, which should include pending details of this new visa and the procedure to apply for it.
To be eligible for the Digital Nomad Visa, the foreign individual must comply with the following special requirements:
The following incentives have been approved by this law, for Digital Nomads:
Regarding fiscal residency, Digital Nomads will not be automatically considered fiscal residents, per specific local laws applicable to the subject matter.
The Digital Nomad awarded these benefits will enjoy them during the term of the visa.
To obtain legal advice on Costa Rican Employment and Labor, Human Resources, and Immigration Law, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Posted on July 21, 2021
July 21-21 Courtesy Cordero and Cordero Legal
The Costa Rican Congress passed a bill creating the Law for the Attraction of workers and remote providers of international services, with special incentives for one year with one year extension.
The new law will enter into effect upon publication in official newspaper, La Gaceta. It is important to indicate this law requires the drafting and approval of an administrative regulation by the Executive Branch to develop the content of the law.
The objective of this law is to promote the attraction of workers and service providers that are carried out remotely, to promote long-stay visitation in Costa Rica and increase the expenditure of resources of foreign origin in the country. Therefore, a new migratory category of non-resident, subcategory of “estancia”, Worker or Remote Service Provider.
The requirements will include:
a) Proof that the person receives a stable monthly remuneration, fixed income or an average monthly income, during the last year, for an amount equal to or greater than US$3000 or its equivalent. If the applicant chooses to request the benefits also for his family group, the amount of income to be demonstrated may be validly integrated by his own along with that of his spouse or any of the other members and must in that case reach the sum of US$4000 per month. In any case, it must be income that can continue to be received even if the person is not in their country of origin. The paid work or services must be allowed by the list to be provided by the Immigration Authority.
b) Obtain a medical services insurance that covers the applicant for the entire duration of their stay in the country. Likewise, all members of the family group must be covered if they choose to request their inclusion as beneficiaries.
c) Make a one-time payment for the granting of a non-resident visa, as a Worker or Remote Service Provider. The amount will be determined through regulations issued by the Directorate, based on objective parameters and service at cost.
d) Any other requirement that derives from the General Law on Immigration and Immigration Law No 8764.
The new migratory category will be granted for one year, extendable for a single period of one additional year. To authorize said extension, the beneficiary must have stayed in the country for a minimum of 180 days during the year originally granted.
Additional incentives are:
- The beneficiaries will have total exemption from the income tax, defined by law. In no case will the beneficiaries be considered as habitual residents of the country for tax purposes, nor will the income they receive from abroad be considered from a Costa Rican source. This benefit will not be applicable to the beneficiary’s family group.
- The beneficiaries will be exempt from paying all taxes on the importation of basic personal computer, computer, telecommunications, or similar equipment, necessary to fulfill their tasks or the provision of their services as long as they meet the criteria stablished by law.
- The driver’s license granted in the beneficiary’s country of origin and that is valid, will be valid for the purposes of driving in Costa Rica.
- The beneficiaries of this law may open savings accounts in the banks of the national banking system, complying with the provisions of Law 8204 and the entire legal framework in force relative to the fight against money laundering. The General Superintendency of Financial Institutions will issue the necessary regulations or guidelines.
Note: The purpose of the present publication is to provide general information on the updates for Immigration regulations in Costa Rica and it is not intended to be legal advice as such. In case more specific information is required regarding these topics, please Cordero & Cordero Abogados at [email protected] or visit our web page at www.corderoabogados.com
Posted on July 15, 2021
Thank you to Outlier Legal Services
Law 9996, which introduces changes and incentives for those applying for Pensionados, Rentistas, and Investors has now been signed by President Alvarado! Law 9996 and its subsequent ruling will determine how these Residency categories are
Law 9996, which introduces changes and incentives for those applying for Pensionados, Rentistas, and Investors has now been signed by President Alvarado! Law 9996 and its subsequent ruling will determine how these Residency categories are requested and the perks of securing them.
What does Law 9996 suggest?
The law is heavily focused on the exoneration of taxes for the people who wish to come to Costa Rica and apply for the Residency categories mentioned above. Some of the benefits include, as per the current version of the bill:
a) Exemption for the importation of household goods for the main applicant and their immediate family. What this bill means by immediate family is yet to be determined.
b) Exemption for the importation of up to 2 vehicles. This can be cars, boats, planes, for personal or family use. In case of loss of the vehicle due to theft, destruction by fire, flood, collision or accident occurred during the term of validity of the benefits granted, the person will be able to bring another vehicle free of the aforementioned taxes.
c) The amounts declared as income to become a creditor to the benefits of this law will be exempt from income tax. However, the rent obtained in Costa Rica because of the investments made will be subject to income tax.
d) Exoneration of 20% of the total transfer tax on those real estate transactions that are completed within the period of validity of the law provided that the beneficiary is the registered owner of the property. If the owner decides to transfer the property within the period of validity of this law, the taxes will apply.
e) Tax exemption for the importation of instruments and materials required for the professional or scientific exercise of Investor, Pensionado, or Rentista. This is particularly curious since, per law, Investors, Pensionados, and Rentistas cannot legally work. It remains to be seen if this will be dropped from the ruling.
Regarding Tax Residency
Foreign nationals who acquire residencies as Investors, Pensionados, or Rentistas will not be considered tax residents.
An important note should be made that in case the person decides to cancel their residence or if Immigration cancels their residence for any of the reasons stipulated in the Law, the person would be required to pay all the taxes that were originally exempted.
Regarding the Investors
There is a proposal on this new law to lower the minimum investment from $200,000 to $150,000 to be able to qualify for this category.
In addition, the law opens the possibility to people who invest in venture capital funds or projects of sustainable tourism infrastructure.
Regarding the Processing
Immigration will have a special window for the three categories involved in this new law which will simplify the process.
Falsification of documents
Anyone who alters or falsifies any kind of documents seeking the benefits of this law will be sanctioned with a fine equivalent to 10% of the exonerated taxes. Additionally, this person will have to proceed to pay the full amount of the taxes that were initially exonerated.
Validity of the Law
Those Investors, Pensionados, or Rentistas that opt to enjoy the benefits set upon on this law will have to do so within the first 5 years of validity of the law. The benefits will be granted for 10 years.
The law specifically says that the Government now has 2 months to draft and publish the ruling that will come to determine how this new law is applied. That ruling will certainly answer many of the questions we all have right now. For example, will the law be retroactive (we believe it will), will the basic requirements to apply for Residency change (we believe they won’t), will there be sanctions if Immigration does not comply with the suggested processing times, etc. We need to wait and see.
For now, we welcome this new law with excitement and anxiously wait for the ruling to be ready so that the law can be put into practice.
Updated on July 10, 2021
Alejandro ZúñigaJuly 9, 2021
Costa Rica will stop requiring a health insurance policy for minors and for adults who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the country announced Friday.
The measure takes effect starting August 1, 2021. As of that date, minors (under 18) and those who are fully vaccinated can enter Costa Rica as tourists without purchasing a travel health insurance policy.
In order to qualify, adults must:
- Have received an approved vaccine: Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson.
- The last dose of the schedule must have been administered at least 14 days before entering Costa Rica.
- Proof must be demonstrated with a document that includes the person’s full name, date of each dose, formula, and lot number.
- For U.S. visitors, the Covid-19 vaccination record card meets the requirement.
A Covid-19 vaccination record card. Photo via Temple Health.
Everyone entering Costa Rica will continue to be required to complete the Health Pass, an epidemiological form. This must be filled out during the 72 hours before arriving in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica will also continue mandating insurance for unvaccinated adults who seek to visit the country. The insurance must meet the following requirements, as detailed by the Tourism Board:
- Valid for the entire stay in Costa Rica (coverage dates).
- $50,000 USD for medical expenses, including those from COVID-19.
- $2,000 USD for lodging expenses in the event of COVID-19 quarantine.
Unvaccinated tourists can also opt for any of the following Costa Rican insurance companies, which sell products that are registered and authorized by the Office of the Superintendent General of Insurance of Costa Rica: INS, Sagicor and BlueCross BlueShield.
The minimum coverage for policies sold by Costa Rican insurance companies is $20,000.
Posted on July 5, 2021
A project that will lower the minimum required investment to obtain Costa Rica residency has been signed into law by President Carlos Alvarado.
Project 22.156 will reduce the minimum capital investment for Costa Rica residency from $200,000 to $150,000.
In addition, the law includes incentives such as the tax-free importation of vehicles for personal or family use and a one-time tax exemption for importing household goods.
People who qualify can import “up to two land, air or sea transportation vehicles, for personal or family use, free of all import, customs and value added taxes,” the text reads.
Money earned abroad (e.g. a U.S. pension) would not be taxed by Costa Rica.
“What this law achieves is to create the conditions so that these rentiers can come to the country, bring their investments and we can generate employment. It is one more step in the direction of recovery, which we all must continue to push in the country,” said President Alvarado.
Outlier Legal translated a draft of the bill to English. You can read that here; note that some details have changed since their publication. The final version of the bill (in Spanish) can be found here.
While the law will produce changes to the Costa Rica residency process, “we must also wait for the ruling that will come to dictate how the law is actually applied to be prepared and published,” Outlier notes.