Costa Rica Camping Itinerary

Why camp in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a small Central American country of the ideal size for a road trip. In a few hours you can find yourself by car in the dense tropical forests of Monteverde, through the dry meadows around Santa Teresa, parked on white sandy beaches near Uvita, or on refreshing highlands where cows graze the land. The country has the highest concentration of biodiversity on the planet, with countless animals to spot. Camping in Costa Rica gives you the freedom to spend time or camp in places that most tourists never see.

Rent a 4×4 car

You can camp in Costa Rica by renting a car and bringing a tent with you. However, what is even better is the feeling of having your whole “house” with you. Nomad America rents 4×4 vehicles with a tent on the roof and camping equipment to have transport, accommodation and a kitchen all in one. You could even save money by traveling this way instead of following a 2-week itinerary in Costa Rica.

Pros and cons of camping in Costa Rica

Camping has its drawbacks, but fortunately, there are many more advantages to this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Here is our experience:

Pro

  • Be close to nature: fall asleep under the starry sky, go swimming in the morning on the beach and see wild animals at every moment of the day.
  • Unique experiences with local connections.
  • For example, we remember Kiko, who collected coconuts from the top of the palm tree for us every morning.
  • Go and stay wherever you want in Costa Rica!
  • Have transport, accommodation, cooking and, in some matters, even a shower with you inside your 4×4 vehicle.

Disadvantage

  • The sounds of nature can make it more difficult to sleep.
  • Expect the animals, the pouring rain or the sound of the waves to wake you up a few times during the night (although wearing good earplugs will help).
  • Always have to wear a mosquito repellent.

Communication problems due to language problems. Although you can get by without knowing Spanish, it is useful to learn a little basic Spanish because most people do not speak English outside the tourist areas. Google Translate and its offline function will be your best friend!

You will always have a cold shower, but you will quickly get used to it.

Where can I camp in Costa Rica?

Camping in Costa Rica is very popular because of the options to camp anywhere or spend the night at one of the many campsites available throughout the country. Hannah and I mixed wild camping with campsites throughout the road trip, either for personal hygiene reasons or to have a stable Wi-Fi connection.

Camping in Costa Rica

You will find campsites all over Costa Rica, especially closer to national parks and beaches. You can find these campsites using the iOverlander app, Google Maps and this Nomad America campsites map. The iOverlander app has reviews by camping users, as well as filters that you can apply to find wild campsites and campsites. In addition to this, it will show the facilities available on site.

Most campsites have a kitchen, (cold) showers and toilets and cost about 5000 Colones (±8 USD) per night. Getting WiFi is a bit more complicated, but connecting with a SIM card works in most places. We recommend that you get a Movistar SIM card because it has a better connection than Claro (in 2022). There has been a huge growth in the number of campsites available, and the infrastructure is good but should not be compared to popular camping countries like France.

Is camping in Costa Rica safe?

You may be wondering: “Is Costa Rica even safe for camping?’. Yes, Costa Rica is generally considered a very safe travel destination. However, this does not mean that you should leave all your doors open and your things in sight. As in most parts of the world, there is always a person who could take the opportunity to fly. However, if you apply the basic rules and follow your instincts, you will have the time of your life!

Camping in campsites will probably increase your safety compared to wild camping, but from our experience and the stories of other travelers we have met, both options are safe.

But what about peril animals?

You will meet many animals in Costa Rica. Fortunately, most of them are not peril. Every time you enter and exit your tent or cabin, check the surroundings and avoid entering overgrown grass and bushes.

Is wild camping allowed in Costa Rica?

Yes, it is allowed to camp in the wild in Costa Rica. However, be aware that most police officers will not allow you to camp directly on the sand but just behind it. Most of the time you will have tree shadows, which is better anyway. Camping on the beach is prohibited by law, but we think this is for two crucial reasons. The first: security. The waters at high tide will cover most of the beaches, which makes it extremely peril to camp. The second reason: wildlife. The weight of your truck will crush everything that lives under the sand like sea turtles, as in Tortuguero.

Things to know when camping in Costa Rica

Camping in Costa Rica in a 4×4 is one of the best adventures in Central America. There are things you need to know before making your camping experience much easier.

Camping and camping facilities

Remember that you will not have a toilet in wild camping. All campsites have cold showers, which can be a challenge, especially in the highlands, where it is cooler outside.

Recharging your equipment can also only be done at campsites or restaurants. Your 4×4 can include a charging device so that you can charge items throughout the day. Take a power bank, so that you always have extra power available.

Recharging your equipment can also only be done at campsites or restaurants. Your 4×4 can include a charging device so that you can charge items throughout the day. Take a power bank, so that you always have extra power available.

Payment

All payments are made in Colones (CRC) and accepted in cash or by credit card. Convert your local currency to Colones with a Wise card to avoid unnecessary exchange fees. You can use this card to withdraw Colones at the ATM in Costa Rica or pay by card at just about any store. Some restaurants charge in USD by default, but this will significantly affect the total bill if you ask them to charge you in Colones. Get a Wise card here; it’s free!

Driving in Costa Rica

Drive between the clouds in the highlands and spend the night on a beach; that’s the freedom of driving in Costa Rica! Good roads and good infrastructure make driving in this country easier. Most of the routes to the main destinations are well paved and you don’t need a 4×4 to get there. However, when camping in Costa Rica, a 4×4 car is required to get to the unique camping sites that are mostly only accessible by rocky roads.

Some main roads require a small toll payment (cash only). The maximum speed is about 60-80 km / h due to the many animals that can cross the roads.

Use the Waze navigation app to get from point A to point B, as it offers better route options than Google Maps. Use Google Maps for offline maps: download the map of Costa Rica in your application, so that you always have navigation.

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