Cultural Dos and Don’ts for Tourists in Costa Rica

When you visit a new country, various things help to shape the memories you make there. Of course, there are the activities and experiences that you enjoy, like our own Jaco adventure activities and canyoning and waterfall experiences from Jaco.

Then there is the food, the accommodation you stay in, and your interactions with the local people! Here in Costa Rica, we are friendly, warm, and welcoming. But like anyone else, we appreciate it when visitors make the effort to respect our culture.

To ensure you avoid any social faux pas on your trip, we have written this go-to guide for navigating the cultural dos and don’ts in Costa Rica.

If you have any questions for us in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Impress the Locals by Learning Some Spanish

¡Hola, amigos! Did you know that Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica? While not mandatory, learning a few basic Spanish phrases will go a long way in fostering connections. Keep the following in mind as you travel in our country:

  • Hola – Hello
  • Gracias – Thank you
  • Por favor – Please
  • Buenos dias – Good morning
  • Buenas noches – Good night
  • Me llamo… – My name is…

These are just some of the magical words that will light up local faces and ease your interactions.

And for your peace of mind, English is widely spoken in the main tourist areas, so communication shouldn’t be an issue. You can rest assured that the Costa Rica Waterfall Tours team speaks fluent English!

Don’t Disrespect Costa Rica’s Nature

In Costa Rica, nature is revered and protected, so we expect everyone to treat our lush rainforests and wildlife with utmost respect. Keep your distance from animals, refrain from feeding them, and follow park rules—let’s leave footprints of admiration, not disruption.

Our country’s flora and fauna are impressive and intriguing, so you may be tempted to pluck a gorgeous flower, take a seashell, or even hug a sloth. But this can cause damage, distress, and even cause you harm.

For everyone’s benefit, explore with respect and common sense.

Respect the Environment in Costa Rica

In a similar spirit, embrace the eco-friendly attitude! Help preserve Costa Rica’s stunning landscapes for generations to come by being a responsible traveler. Use designated trails, never leave trash behind, and support initiatives that champion sustainability.

Even when you’re in your accommodation, you can continue to help preserve our environment with sustainable habits. Keep the use of electricity to a minimum, take shorter showers, and don’t let the faucet run when brushing your teeth.

Our country is one of the most beautiful and greenest places in the world, that’s why there are endless things for outdoor lovers to do in Costa Rica. By enjoying everything with an eye on preservation, we can keep it that way.

Don’t Be Afraid to Drink Tap Water

The topic of tap water in Costa Rica isn’t straightforward. In many parts of the country, it is 100% fine. Tourism is the number one industry in our country, so tourists are well cared for—and this includes making water safe to drink.

As an eco-tourism hotspot, we also strive to keep single-use plastics to an absolute minimum, so this is another reason to avoid plastic bottles.

However, if you have a sensitive stomach or have any doubts at all, you may want to play it safe and stick to bottled water. If you do take this route, remember to play your part and use the many recycling bins.

If you have a reusable water bottle, bring it with you, and don’t be shy about asking if the water is drinkable.

Local tip: When visiting restaurants in Costa Rica, you can ask for agua en botella (bottled water) or agua purificada (purified water).

waterfall in costa rica

Be Open and Friendly with Costa Ricans

Prepare those smiles, folks! Costa Ricans, or Ticos, are known for their warmth. Embrace conversations, share stories, and be open to the enriching encounters that come your way.

Family is a pillar of life here in Costa Rica, so you will almost certainly meet hospitable people on your travels. When you do, don’t be afraid to show your thanks!

Don’t Haggle — But Consider Asking for Cash Discounts

Haggling in Costa Rica is widely frowned upon and typically seen as disrespectful, so don’t attempt it if you’re looking for a better deal. However, asking for a cash discount or a discount for multiple purchases are both acceptable, so there’s nothing wrong with taking this approach.

If you decide to ask for a discount in these situations, always do so with respect and politeness.

Be Patient and Embrace “Tico Time”

Time tends to dance to its own rhythm here, and Tico time is the perfect example. Put simply, this term refers to the comfort Costa Ricans have with not being on time. For people from cultures where punctuality is important, this can cause some annoyance.

But patience is key. Schedules might be flexible, so relax, soak in the pura vida vibe, and adapt to the laid-back pace of life. You can even treat yourself to an invigorating massage!

Don’t worry about your booking with Costa Rica Waterfall Tours though! We’re excellent timekeepers!

Don’t Discuss Sensitive Topics with Costa Ricans

While Ticos are welcoming, it’s best to approach topics like politics and religion delicately or avoid them altogether. Engaging in deep discussions on these matters might not always be the best cocktail for conversation.

Just keep things light, personable, and cheerful! Who doesn’t like that?

gallo pinto

Try Local Costa Rican Delicacies

Prepare your taste buds for a fiesta! Central American cuisine is an absolute joy to explore, and here in Costa Rica, we take pride in our culinary culture. Your palate will thank you for all the experiences waiting for you here!

Just some of the Costa Rican cuisine we recommend includes:

  • Gallo pinto (rice and beans)
  • Casados (a full and flavorful meal)
  • Ceviche (a refreshing seafood dish)
  • Tamales (Steamed corn dough parcels)
  • Plantains (a beloved and versatile ingredient)
  • Many mouthwatering tropical fruits

Hungry for more? Check out our Guide to Typical Costa Rican Food.

Local tip: It’s impolite to leave food on your plate as it suggests you didn’t enjoy it. But given how good everything tastes, that shouldn’t be a problem!

Don’t Dress Inappropriately in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s climate is warm and inviting, but our country is generally conservative, so remember to dress modestly outside of beach and pool areas. Save those swimsuits for the water and opt for respectful attire when exploring towns and cities.

This is especially true if you head to a religious site. Avoid clothing that is revealing or anything with potentially offensive slogans.

Support Local Costa Rican Artisans

Take a piece of Costa Rica home with you! Visit local markets, buy handicrafts, and support the talented artisans who pour their heart into creating beautiful souvenirs. What’s more, purchasing gifts and goods in this way pumps money directly into the local economy.

Having something handmade by a local is a far more meaningful keepsake than something cheap and mass-produced.

Don’t Forget to Respect Personal Space

While friendly, Ticos appreciate personal space. Mind the balance between friendliness and invading someone’s bubble, especially in crowded areas. This advice can be especially useful if you’re visiting one of Costa Rica’s most famous landmarks.

A key point here is to not touch people without their permission. This includes actions like shaking hands and patting someone on the back.

Book Your Jaco Adventure Tours and Activities with Us!

Now that you know the cultural dos and don’ts for tourists in Costa Rica, it’s time to plan your visit! Browsing our canyoning and waterfall experiences from Jaco and Jaco adventure activities is the perfect way to start!

Our team is here to help, so if any questions come to mind, please feel free to contact us. We’re happy to provide all the answers you need.

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