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We travel alone to reconnect with our surroundings, to expand our comfort zones, to find ourselves — but most likely because we’re just short on friends. Whatever the impetus, solo travel can be an extremely rewarding experience. In a kind of weird paradox, we often end up being more social, establishing more meaningful relationships than we would have otherwise. For reasons ranging from convenience to safety, natural beauty, solid tourist infrastructure and welcoming accommodations, Costa Rica should be right around the top of your bucket list. If you’re considering Costa Rica, we repeat: there is absolutely no shame in going solo. Here’s a brief rundown on why.
1. It’s a Traveler’s Haven
Costa Rica is the most visited country in Central America, and because of this, it boasts some pretty impressive infrastructure in the tourism industry. Private transportation is widely available (although it’s fairly expensive), so it’s extremely easy to get yourself to any corner of the country. Airlines like Nature Air and Sansa operate flights throughout the country to smaller airports, and there’s a massive network of public bus routes (run by companies like Gray Line and Interbus) that run throughout the country.
It’s no secret that Costa Rica is regarded as one of the happiest and safest countries in the world. And this isn’t just word-of-mouth reporting on the pura vida lifestyle — countless scientific studies show the happiness and safety indexes of Costa Rica to be some of the highest in the world. Also, most people speak English here, so most you will most likely be able to communicate with locals if you’re lost or confused. It’s safe to say that Ticos — the colloquial term for Costa Ricans — make for some of the best hosts in Latin America.
2. The Nature is Incredible
One of the best parts about traveling solo is the opportunity to better appreciate your surroundings. No conversations, no worrying about the needs of others. Costa Rica hosts tons of jaw-dropping ecosystems and over 5% of the world’s biodiversity, so it’s the perfect place to take a quiet stroll in the woods. The wildlife on display includes everything from howler monkeys to jaguars, colorful tree frogs, quetzal birds and over 300,000 species of insects.
3. Tours, Excursions, and Retreats
There are enough group tours and excursions in Costa Rica to keep any solo traveler busy for a lifetime. Bird watching tours, volunteering tours, eco-adventures to remote cloud forests, and tours of volcanoes and hanging bridges. Some highlights of the country include the Arenal Volcano, the La Fortuna Waterfall, zipline tours, coffee tours and even fruit tours.
If there’s one thing that Costa Rica tourism has perfected, it’s the retreat. Spending a few days, (or a week, or more) in one particular place to relax or learn a particular skill is always a great option. You can spend a week doing yoga, surfing, meditating, paddle boarding, detoxing, working on a garden, or learning how to operate a self-sustaining eco-lodge. These retreats usually take care of everything from housing to food, and you’ll be surrounded by other like-minded individuals. Just because you arrive in Costa Rica as a solo traveler doesn’t mean to need to stick to yourself.
4. A Thriving Hostel Culture
The image you’ve conjured up of the grimy traveler’s hostel with limited amenities and unkept bedding is a thing of the past. Now, with all the competition coming from tons of ambitious entrepreneurs, the hostel scene has been revolutionized. Costa Rica has some of the best hostels in Latin America and offers excellent opportunities to meet new people. In the San Juan area, we recommend checking out Hostel Pangea, Hostel Bekuo, and Hostel Casa del Parque.
5. Learn Spanish
Undoubtedly one of the best things to do while solo traveling in Costa Rica is to take Spanish classes. If no one was willing to make the journey with you to Central America, capitalize on your time by taking classes at a language institute or with a private tutor.
6. Visit the Best Cities and Towns
Arenal is a town and region just about 60 miles northwest of San Jose and frequently regarded as one of the best places for solo travel in Costa Rica. For the adventurous type, activities include white water rafting, waterfall rappelling and horseback riding. Otherwise, we recommend walking through the canopies, soaking in the hot springs or fishing in the quaint lagunas.
Jaco is a booming beach town that has recently built a name for itself as a hotspot for partying and socializing. If your solo adventure in Costa Rica has felt a little too solo, venture over to Jaco to mingle with other locals and expats.
Meanwhile, Monteverde is nestled a bit higher up in the country’s cloud forests. Here you’ll find cool and wet ecosystems, funky eco-lodges, jaw-dropping vistas and in general just a quiet break from the rest of the country.