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Costa Rica Natural Paradise FAQ


What is included in the tour price?

Virtually everything! Hotels, all meals, all of the activities described in the itinerary pages, airport transfers, gratuities to hotel porters, restaurant staff and local guides. Caravan's professional Tour Directors conduct every land tour from start to finish. They are fluent in English, experienced and fun, ensuring a worry free vacation.

What is not included in the tour price?

Prices do not include air travel, country entry or departure fees, airport porters, visas, phone calls, valet, laundry, all items of a personal nature, extra food and beverages not on the regular menu, and tips to the Caravan Tour Director and Driver. General fees and taxes are additional and listed separately beneath each tour's price.

Can your tours be enjoyed by all age groups?

Usually, you find a mix of different age adult travelers on a Caravan Tour. Most tours will be joined by adults of all ages. Children age five (5) and over are welcome. Children usually join tours offered during the school vacation months of June, July and August, and also during spring and winter school breaks.

How long will each day be?

A well paced and unhurried itinerary is our goal, after all, you are on vacation! Touring days begin and end at reasonable hours and include frequent stops. While the occasional early morning departure is necessary, we do our best to ensure a leisurely vacation and you will arrive at your hotels between 4:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. each day.

How large will my group be?

Group sizes will vary depending on the reserved rooms at the hotels and lodges and the capacity of the boats and motorcoaches used. Usually, group sizes range from 30 to 44 passengers.

Are meals included?

All meals are included on your Costa Rica tour. Included meals for each tour are listed at the end of each day. Meals are shown by B (breakfast), L (lunch) and D (dinner). Full, buffet, or deluxe continental breakfasts are included everywhere. Bottled water is provided free on the motorcoach and purified water is provided at the meals. Alcoholic beverages are not included unless specified.

In what time zone is Costa Rica?

Costa Rica observes Central Standard Time all year round. Because Costa Rica does not observe Daylight Savings Time, in the winter it shares the same time as cities in the Central Time Zone such as Chicago, Houston and Winnipeg. In the summer, Costa Rica time is one hour earlier than Central Time Zone areas which observe Daylight Savings Time.

What vaccinations are required to enter Costa Rica?

No vaccinations are required to enter Costa Rica. Caravan does not have any doctors on staff and cannot give medical advice, so please consult your doctor as soon as possible before deciding whether or not to receive a vaccination. Caravan staff take the 500 mg. Vitamin B-1 pill, and bring Avon Expedition repellent. Caravan staff also avoid eating bananas, because this smell attracts mosquitoes.

What electricity voltage is used in Costa Rica?

Electricity is 110 volts, the same as the United States.

Which Costa Rica provinces do we visit on the tour?

We visit five of the seven provinces in Costa Rica on the tour: San Jose province, Alajuela province, Heredia province, Guanacaste province and Puntarenas province.

Is the water safe to drink?

Yes, the tap water is drinkable in most, but not all, of the country. Most people consider the hotel tap water safe for brushing your teeth and drinking beverages with ice cubes. For larger quantities of water, and in rural areas, bottled water is recommended instead of tap water. Caravan provides free bottled water on the motorcoach and bottled water is available at all your hotels.

What is the food like?

Meals are a healthy combination of Costa Rican and American style food. Fish, steak, chicken, vegetables and fruits are very popular in Costa Rica. Food is generally not spicy. Vegetarian meals are available if requested, but other specialty meal requests cannot be provided.

What language is spoken in Costa Rica?

Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. English is taught as a second language in Costa Rican schools. Your Caravan Tour Director, local guides and most hotel receptionists are bi-lingual, speaking both English and Spanish.

Do you have any advice on purchasing real estate or timeshares?

We strongly caution against purchasing real estate or timeshares during your vacation with us. Instead, we suggest you use the experience for the purposes of orientation and information gathering. If you are interested in such a purchase, we suggest you return for at least one more visit and seek the guidance of a lawyer.

What is the highest elevation on the Costa Rica tour?

Poas Volcano at 8800 feet on the second day of your tour is the highest elevation. San Jose is at 4,000 feet elevation. The town of Fortuna, by Arenal Volcano, is at 200 feet elevation. Quepos, Manuel Antonio and Guanacaste are at sea level.

Are children allowed on tour?

Yes, children age 5 and over are welcome on tour when accompanied by an adult. Usually, children travel during the school vacation months of June, July and August, and also during spring and winter school breaks.

Do I need an international driver's license to drive in Costa Rica?

No. You can drive with your normal driver's license in Costa Rica for 3 months after your entry into Costa Rica. There is no such thing as an international driver's license, although there is an international driving permit which you can buy for $10 at an American Automobile Association office. These permits are valid for one year after date of issue, and are valid only when accompanied by a valid driver's license. It is not necessary to buy an international driving permit for a visit of under 3 months to Costa Rica.

Can I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Yes, you can rent a car from car rental agencies in San Jose or Fortuna.

The roads in Costa Rica are very difficult to maneuver if you don't know exactly where you are going. There are no signs on many of the roads, and you have no idea where to turn. Also, the roads are very narrow, and the car accident fatality rate is the worst in the entire world. The accident rate is especially high in the San Jose area.

You cannot safely leave your suitcases, or anything at all, unattended inside your locked car trunk, not even for one minute. In at least two recent occasions, Costa Rica police have discovered a ring of car thieves who open locked car trunks, and the thieves possessed keys to all makes and models of rental cars.

If you decide to drive, please be forewarned that the car rental companies in Costa Rica have different rules than the U.S. First, you must purchase mandatory liability insurance for at least $15 a day, which is not included in most car rental price quotes. Second, you will be charged for any scratch or dent to your car, even if the scratch is caused by normal road conditions. Third, you will be charged for any mechanical problem with the car, such as a problem with your engine or clutch, that arises during your car rental. Fourth, the car rental agency optional "comprehensive" insurance does not cover the first $2,500 of losses if the car is totaled or stolen.

Luggage and Packing

What kind of clothing should I pack?

This is a casual tour, and it is not necessary to wear a suit or dress at anytime during the tour. Although there is no formal dress code for dinner at any of the hotels on tour, the dining rooms at the hotels in San Jose and the JW Marriott are a bit upscale and smart casual wear is recommended for dinner.

When packing for this tour, Caravan recommends clothing for hot & humid weather for most days. However, because of the elevation in San Jose and the Poas Volcano, the climate at these locations is a bit cooler and drier. A sweater or light jacket for the air conditioned motorcoach is recommended. Short bursts of rain are common even during the dry season, so always pack a light weight rain poncho. And of course, remember your swimsuit.

Caravan recommends footwear with tread that will not slip on wet surfaces. Walking shoes or sneakers are acceptable (hiking boots are not necessary). Open toed shoes, flip flops or dressy sandals may not be suitable for some activities.

Quick dry clothing (especially a pair of convertible pants that zip at the knee to convert into shorts) is recommended. Retailers such as REI (, Columbia ( or Travelsmith ( all carry an extensive line of quick dry, easily packable clothing and other handy travel items.

What else should I pack in my suitcase?

Flashlight, binoculars, camera, extra camera battery, extra film, sunscreen, insect repellent, photocopy of your passport's photo and information page, photocopies of your credit cards, photocopies of necessary prescriptions for eyeglasses or medicines (carry photocopies separately from your passport, credit cards and prescriptions).

What size suitcase can I bring on the tour?

Main suitcase: You can bring a medium size suitcase up to 27" maximum in length, due to limited storage space in the motorcoach. There is not enough storage space in the luggage compartment of the motorcoach for larger suitcases.

What size suitcase can I bring on the airplane?

Each individual airline also has their own rules regarding luggage size. Most airlines limit suitcases to 60 linear inches (width plus depth plus length) and 50 pounds weight, depending on the airline. Check with your airline before traveling. Most airlines also allow a carry-on suitcase with a maximum length of 20 inches, and maximum 45 linear inches (width plus depth plus length) with a maximum weight of 40 pounds. However, certain foreign airlines, such as TACA, will only allow a maximum weight of 20 pounds for carry-ons.

Should I pack my medical supplies in my main suitcase?

Your medical supplies should always be carried in a carry-on that you have with you at all times. Please do not check your medical supplies in your suitcase with the airlines. However, remember that carry-on rules have changes in the United States! No liquids, gels, aerosols, or creams are allowed unless they are packed in containers of 3 ounces maximum and placed in one, quart-size, see through plastic zip-lock bag. This applies to all shampoos, deodorants, perfumes, oils, toothpaste,hair gel, shaving cream, mascara, and makeup creme. There are exceptions for medical prescriptions, nasal sprays, and cough syrups. Medical prescriptions must also be packed separately in a see throgh plastic zip-lock bag, but are not subject to the one quart limitation, so please check for the latest carry-on rules at the goverment website Any large elecrical items (such as c-pap machines) must be taken out of the carry-on and placed in a tray to be scanned separately.


What is the exchange rate for Costa Rican currency?

The exchange rate, as of January 5, 2015, is approximately 540 Costa Rican Colones to $1 U.S.

Where is a good place to exchange money?

As you exit the airport, you will notice a currency exchange office. The exchange rate offered at this office is not a good exchange rate, so only use this for small amounts of cash. As of January 5, 2015, the Costa Rica currency exchange rate is 540 Costa Rica colones to U.S. $1 dollar. You can exchange money at banks in Fortuna or San Jose, or at your San Jose hotel. The airport currency exchange booths usually do not offer good exchange rates, and street vendors sometimes have counterfeit bills. Your hotel cashier in San Jose offers a safe alternative to street vendors and a much bettter exchange rate than the airport booth.

Where do you find ATM machines?

You can find ATM machines in the towns of Fortuna, and at your San Jose hotel. The Costa Rica ATM machines usually accept VISA cards, but do not always accept MasterCards. Please bring sufficient cash (in small denominations of $1, $5, $10 and $20) with you to cover your personal expenses.

Do most Costa Rican stores accept U.S. dollars and credit cards?

Yes, U.S. dollars and credit card are accepted in most Costa Rica stores. However, it is advisable to exchange a small amount of dollars ($30 per person) into Costa Rican colones to spend locally. It is very difficult to exchange bills of $50 or more, so we recommend only brand-new $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills. Costa Rican stores and banks only accept U.S. bills in brand-new condition. Banks will not accept new U.S. bills that have even small rips, words, or any kind of marking on the bill; or old bills. Euros, Canadian dollars, and currency from other countries are generally not accepted in Costa Rica, and the banks give poor exchange rates for all currencies other than U.S. dollars

Are travelers checks accepted?

Travelers checks have become increasingly uncommon and are often difficult, if not impossible, to change. Large banks in San Jose may be willing to change your travelers checks for local currency, but stores or vendors will not accept them as a form of payment.

Are customs duties charged in Costa Rica for my personal items?


Are customs duties charged in the U.S. for items I purchase in Costa Rica?

When returning to the U.S., U.S. customs allows each person an exemption of customs taxes on up to $800.00 U.S. worth of Costa Rican goods that are in your possession and personally accompany you. Items to be sent later are not included in your $800 duty-free exemption. If two family members are traveling together, they may combine their customs exemption. For instance, a married couple will have a total $1,600.00 customs exemption. A flat duty rate of 3% is applied to the first $1,000 of goods per person beyond the $800 per person exemption. The duty-free exemption applies ONLY IF you have not used any exemption allowance whatsoever in the past 30 days. For instance, if you have made another international trip within the past 30 days, and used even a small exemption of $10, you would not get the $800 exemption. For this reason, sometimes it is best not to use the exemption if (1) the value of your goods is very low, and (2) you are planning to use the exemption on another trip within 30 days. Duty on items you mail home to yourself is waived if the value is $200 or less.

Airport Information

What happens at Costa Rica immigration

After exiting your plane, you will first arrive at the immigration desk, and present your passport and a Costa Rica immigration form. (This form is provided to you by your airplane. On the form, you will write your name, passport number, nationality, occupation, and the motive for your visit - tourism or business.) After you are approved in the immigration computer, you take the escalator or elevator downstairs to the baggage claim area.

What about San Jose Costa Rica baggage claim?

Next, you arrive at the baggage claim area, and you will find free luggage carts and clean restrooms. You can pick up a free map here at the Tourist Information booth

What happens at Costa Rica customs?

Next, after you pick up your suitcase at baggage claim, you must stop at the customs table and put your suitcase on a conveyor belt through the scanning machine. This takes about ten seconds. Then the customs agent will signal you to exit the customs area.

Where is the Caravan greeter at the airport?

When you exit the customs area, you will see the Caravan airport greeter waiting for you with a large Caravan sign. Your greeter will escort you to your private airport shuttle bus. Your shuttle bus ride to your hotel takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

Does the Caravan greeter meet domestic flights in San Jose?

The airport greeter is stationed at the San Jose international airport terminal only, and can only meet flights at the San Jose international airport terminal. He cannot meet local flights at domestic terminals or at charter hangers. He can only meet international flights on regularly scheduled airlines. If you are taking a local domestic flight with Sansa airlines, or are arriving by private charter plane to a private hanger, please walk approximately one block to the international terminal arrivals area (ground level) to take your airport shuttle. If you are taking a local domestic flight with NatureAir aircraft into Pavas domestic airport, the Pavas airport is very close to your hotel, so it would be quicker for you to take a taxi directly to your hotel.

How do we transfer if we arrive a day early?

If you arrive a day early, there will not be an airport greeter, so in that case please pay for your taxi at the taxi booth inside the airport, just before the exit. This taxi booth sells taxi fares at a fixed rate for the official airport taxis. The official airport taxis are usually in better condition than the other taxis outside the airport, which are known as piratas, or "pirate taxis." The official taxi rate is currently $15 for 1 or 2 passengers, or $18 for up to 5 passengers traveling from the international airport to San Jose hotels. Caravan does not reimburse taxi fares for passengers arriving or departing on different days.

Tell me about the Costa Rica airport exit tax

This is payable when you depart Costa Rica by air but can be paid for in advance. As you exit the airport, you also notice a booth that sells an exit tax form. This form is required for travelers flying out of Costa Rica on an international flight. The cost is $29 for most foreign visitors, and $42 for Costa Ricans. However, you do not need to buy this exit tax form if you will be departing from Costa Rica in a bus or car. If you plan to fly out of Costa Rica, it is a good idea to buy this exit tax form now, before you exit the airport. It will spare you from waiting in an extra line to buy it when you fly out of the country.

Are airport porter tips included in my Caravan tour price

If an airport porter assists you with your suitcases, please tip the airport porter $2 per person or more in the United States, and $1 per person or more in Costa Rica, depending on the amount of your luggage.

Does Caravan arrange airline transportation?

No. Airfare is not included or sold by Caravan Tours. The following is a list of airlines that service this tour: American, Delta, Iberia, JetBlue, Lacsa, Martinair, Southwest, Taca, United, and USAir. Reserve your flight to San Jose, Costa Rica (airport code SJO), and not San Jose, California (airport code SJC). Try to schedule flights with as few connections as possible. If you have connecting flights, please allow enough time between flights so you can comfortably reach your connecting gates.


What type of motorcoach will we travel in?

You will travel in a modern, air conditioned Mercedes motorcoach with a restroom in the rear. The motorcoach has a seating capacity for 48 passengers, and Caravan groups have a limit of 44 passengers.

Does the motorcoach have a restroom?

Yes. A restroom is located in the rear of the motorcoach for emergency use. Frequent rest stops are made as well.

How long do we travel in the motorcoach?

The amount of travel time varies each day. The motorcoach makes frequent rest and photo stops.

Passport and Visa

Do I need a passport to visit Costa Rica?

Yes. Costa Rica requires U.S. citizens to possess a passport which is valid for 6 months after the date of entry into Costa Rica. Please check the expiration date of your passport. If your need to renew your passport or apply for a new one, you can pick up a passport application at your local U.S. Post Office. Passport applications can take up to 6 weeks to process unless you pay extra for the faster expedited service. If you need additional information about applying for a passport, please call the U.S. Passport Office at 1-877-487-2778. Non U.S. citizens should check Costa Rica passport requirements for their country.

Do I need to carry my passport with me at all times in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica requires foreigners to carry their passports on their person at all times in Costa Rica, but this requirement is waived for U.S. and Canadian citizens, who are permitted to simply carry a photocopy of their passport photo and information page, plus a copy of the Costa Rica entry stamp page in their passport. Please make two photocopies of your passport photo and information page, and two copies of your passport page which has the Costa Rica entry stamp: one copy for you and one copy for your tour director. Please carry these required photocopies with you, and you may leave your original passport in a safe place.

Do I need a visa to visit Costa Rica?

U.S. citizens do not need a visa. Non U.S. citizens should check Costa Rica visa requirements for their country, and also check reentry requirements for the U.S. (if returning to the U.S.).


What are the volcanic hot springs like?

The volcanic hot springs has 9 thermal pools. Each pool has a different temperature and is located in a beautiful setting next to the volcano with many tropical plants and flowers. The top 4 pools have spectacular views of Arenal Volcano. The hot springs have been recently remodeled, and now have more exotic foliage, more pools, and a spa with massage services and volcanic mud facials.

The hot springs are located ten minutes driving distance from your resort. The admission charge is included in your Caravan tour.

How much time do we have at Manuel Antonio National Park Beach?

You will have approximately two and 1/2 hours to visit Manuel Antonio Beach. There are 3 crescent shaped beaches along a path within the park, and you will have a chance to walk to all 3 beaches if you wish.

How long are the rainforest aerial tram ride?

The aerial trams last 90 minutes and are approximately 2 kilometers long. The cost for the aerial tram are included in your Caravan tour.

How long are the boat rides?

All of the boat rides last from 1 to 2 hours. The boat rides will make photo stops, but do not make any stops where you get on and off the boat.

What are the boats like?

The pontoon boat used in Cano Negro is privately chartered by Caravan and allows ample room for moving around for the many photo opportunities. All boats used by Caravan have life preservers for each passenger. The cost for the boat trips is included in your Caravan tour.

What activities can I enjoy in Costa Rica if I arrive a day early or stay a day longer?

Some clients participate in rafting tours or zip-line canopy tours. Caravan feels that these activities sometimes can be risky and dangerous. Others sign up for tours of Lankaster Gardens to see flowers, or horseback riding trips. There are travel desks at the hotels and numerous travel agents in San Jose, Fortuna who can arrange activities for you if you wish.

Can I Do Zip-Lining in Costa Rica?

Yes, there is zip-lining available. Caravan does not endorse it as there have been injuries and fatalities, even though rare. However, the travel desk at your hotel or a local Costa Rica travel agent can arrange it. Please bear in mind that travel medical insurance (such as Caravan's Travel Protection Plan) often does not cover any injuries sustained in these kinds of activities and the zip-line companies will ask you to sign a waiver accepting responsibility.

Is there golf in Costa Rica?

Yes. In San Jose, several golf courses are available by taxi from your hotel. In Guanacaste, the Hacienda Pinila Golf Course is available by hotel shuttle from the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort.

Hotel Rooms

What kind of bedding is available in the hotels?

In San Jose and Guanacaste, most rooms have 2 queen beds. In Fortuna (by Arenal Volcano) and Manuel Antonio, most rooms have 2 double beds.

Are refrigerators available for private use at the Costa Rica hotels?

Yes. There are refrigerators in the rooms at your San Jose hotel. At other hotels, you can request to place personal items in the hotel kitchen refrigerator, if necessary for medical reasons.

Do the hotels offer laundry services?

Yes. All of the hotels offer laundry services for a fee. If you prefer to do your own laundry, there are self-service laundromats in Fortuna.

Do the hotels offer internet service?

Internet service is available for a fee at your hotels.

Where can I go fishing in Costa Rica?

You can charter a deep sea fishing boat while you are staying on the Pacific Ocean. Quepos, has world class deep sea fishing. Chartered deep sea fishing boats are available for prices from $500 to $1,000 or more a day. If you decide to go fishing, please wear your life jackets at all times.

FAQ for all Tours

How long has Caravan been in business?

Caravan has been offering fully escorted tours worldwide under the same family ownership and management since 1952. Caravan understands and truly cares about your great expectations.

Do I have to participate in all of the activities?

No. You may choose to skip an activity and relax at your hotel or do some independent exploring instead. If you do not wish to participate in an activity, simply advise your Tour Director. In most cases, we cannot make refunds for missed activities.

How far in advance do I need to book my tour?

Many tours sell out each year. The farther in advance that you book, the more likely it is that your preferred tour will be open. Late bookings are welcome if the space is still available.

Does information on the web site differ from the brochures? is constantly updated and is likely to have more complete and current information about new tours, hotel descriptions, weather, transfers, packing and other useful information. While we strive for perfection, errors are inevitable, both in print and on this web site. If you have any questions or wish to confirm any information, please contact us.

U.S. Center for Disease Control

You may check the U.S. Center for Disease Control website at for the latest travel advisories and disease information on your travel destination. Caravan does not have any medical doctors on staff and cannot provide medical advice.

Do you have family trips?

Families are always welcome on any of our tours, but we do not have any programs specifically for or limited to families. Families can make specific requests for connecting, adjacent, triple or quad rooms, when available. Children five years and older are welcome.

What forms of payment do you accept?

Caravan accepts payment (in U.S. funds only) via MasterCard, Visa, or by check.

Do you have a travel protection plan?

Yes. Caravan's optional $99 travel protection plan provides a full refund of your tour price, less a deductible of $100 per person if you cancel for any reason prior to departure of the tour. The travel protection plan also includes air, baggage, and medical insurance. The cost is $99. Find out more

Can I use my cell phone on tour?

Out of courtesy to your fellow tour members, please restrict the use of cellphones to emergency use only when you are on the motorcoach. Please also remember to turn off ringers; cellphone conversations and ringers are intrusive and can spoil other passengers' enjoyment of the tour. Please contact your service provider for information regarding cell phone reception areas, calling costs and surcharges.