An insider’s guide to Costa Rica

There aren’t many places in this world where you can hike a volcano, paddle a river rapids, surf a breathtaking beach, trek through a rain forest and have a monkey steal your lunch—all in one day. Costa Rica, Alaska Airlines’ newest international destination, is a tropical paradise and mecca for eco-tourism, and now it’s just a nonstop flight away from Los Angeles.

Ready to book your trip? Flights will be available for purchase for the new Costa Rica routes soon, pending approval by Costa Rican civil aviation authorities.

Christian Ramirez, a former employee of Alaska’s sister carrier Horizon Air, who now lives in Costa Rica, shares a few must-do’s with adventure-seeking travelers:

Float into a jungle

At Tortuguero (the “small Amazon” of Costa Rica) paddle into the jungle to see a huge variety of flora and fauna.

Meet the natives

See leatherback turtles nesting (from October through May) at Las Baulas National Marine Park or get up close and personal with sloths, iguanas, turkey vultures, parakeets and monkeys at the bio-diverse Manuel Antonio National Park.

Get volcanic

Visit Volcan Poas and Irazu, two of the country’s many active volcanoes. See the famous, perfectly cone-shaped Volcan Arenal and enjoy the hot springs nearby.

Hoof it

Visit Rio Celeste at Tenorio Volcano National Park, hike around the amazing baby-blue river and visit stunning waterfalls. Or trek through Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula (named by National Geographic as the most “biologically intense” place on Earth.) Rincón de la Vieja National Park is another beautiful park set at the foothills of a volcano with activities such as hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Feel the rush

White-knuckle raft the deep gorges and class IV level rapids of the Pacuare River or go zip lining from tree to tree in the breathtaking Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Just kick back


Can’t miss the Guanacaste area for its miles of beaches for sunning, surfing and sport fishing.

Eat local

Head to Puerto Viejo for its colorful Afro-Caribbean culture, food and nightlife. Enjoy fresh seafood or try the local dish “casado,” (translation, “married man”) an overflowing plate piled with rice, black beans, fried plantains, fresh cilantro and onion and an optional entrée of chicken, beef, pork or fish. Yum!

Ramirez says the best time to visit is during the dry season (from December through April), but those who don’t mind a little rain in the afternoons can take advantage of special prices offered by resorts for the low season, also called the  “green season” because of its gorgeous foliage (from May through November).

Have you been to Costa Rica? What’s your best travel tip?

33 comments on "An insider’s guide to Costa Rica"

  1. Absolutely tremendous. We live in Costa Rica and have family that lives in Washington state. This eases our travel a great deal. Thanks for doing this.

  2. I am waiting to purchase for December departure from LAX to SJO. Do you know how much it would be round trip? one way?

  3. For those of us living in Anchorage, I don’t suppose there would be a connection which would not require an overnight in LAX when returning from Liberia? In any event, very excited to see you all flying to Costa Rica!! Please consider Belize or Jamaica next! The more tropical destination options we have, the better!!! Thank you!

    • Yes! We made sure that roundtrip connections were available from Anchorage and Seattle. Looks like there’s an 11:50 p.m. flight departing LAX for Anchorage after the Liberia flight comes in.

  4. Will a SEA-SJO route happen? It’s still within the 737-900ER’s range.

  5. Where can we best see Parrots and Monkeys ? Which city do we fly into?

  6. Will people from Portland be able to make it there all in one day? As of right now the earliest flight doesn’t get in on time. Thanks

  7. I went in to try and see what flight dates were available and SJO would not register on your system. I can only assume flight schedule dates will be announced once the Costa Rican civil aviation authorities have approved everything

  8. I hope they have an earlier flight from Seattle so it connects with the 8:40 flight. Right now you get into LAX at 8:30. Keeping my fingers crossed!

      • I’m glad the SEA connection was considered but wow, 5:10 am?? And coming home it also means a middle-of-the-night arrival. Oh well, Costa Rica has been on my list a long time and I really like being able to stay with Alaska.

  9. This is far out. I haven’t been back since i was a kid. Waaaay cool Alaska.

  10. There are some great snorkeling destinations. Ocotal beach. Monkeyhead rock and much more. The water is teaming with life and is frequently very clear. We have seen whale sharks, seahorses, most of the tropical fish you see in Hawaii and lots of turtles.

  11. Great news on Costa Rica flights! Arenal and Monteverde are incredible.

  12. Glad to hear the news of Alaska Airlines flights from LAX to Costa Rica. Been waiting since summer 2013 for 737-900 range to be exercised in such. Flights go on sale May 21, 2015 apparently. When will integrated schedules appear taking into account which terminals are being used at L.A.X. Specifically wondering how long of layover from SeaTac to LAX to Costa Rica and the reverse since you “might” have totally different terminals. Please advise as further definition. Presently as of May 4 it looks like early-morning from Seattle (SeaTac) cuts it to close to connect on same-day. Thank you.

  13. Would like to visit Central America as my only trip south of the border was when I was a Flight Attendant many years ago & we landed in Acapulco & Cancun but went back to the snowy north when the outbound flights departed.

  14. Flights departing from where? Will this be strictly a seasonal flight or will it be offered year round?

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