Costa Rica is an extraordinary country. It's famous for its dazzling natural beauty, incredible wildlife, and strong commitment to ecological preservation. Costa Rica is also a friendly and welcoming country for nature-loving tourists and backpacking adventurers.
What better way to get close to nature than camping?
There are many camping options in Costa Rica, from camping off-grid on secluded beaches to more high-profile, luxurious campgrounds. Whatever your camping style, there's a pitch for you in this unique country.
In this post, I'll look at what you need to know before your camping trip to Costa Rica, including the best time of the year to visit, what gear to take, and some safety tips to remember. I'll also show you four of my favorite camping spots in this breathtaking country.
Learn more from the rest of our Costa Rica series…
- Navigate Costa Rican airports like a local
- Find the best areas to stay
- Stay at a Costa Rica hostels that won’t disappoint
- Don’t miss out on these local spots—the best places to go in Costa Rica
- Add these exciting things to do to your trip plan
- Make time for a few guided tours during your adventure
- Spend the night out enjoying Costa Rica’s nightlife
- Want to simplify your planning? Follow this 5-day itinerary or 7-day trip plan
- Get our tips on budget travel in Costa Rica
- Discover the best advice for backpackers going to Costa Rica
- Find more helpful information if you’re a solo traveler
- Dive into our snorkeling guide—essential tips and advice before you go
When Is the Best Time to Go Camping in Costa Rica?
There are a few factors to think about before taking a camping trip to Costa Rica. One of the most important is the time of year you plan on visiting.
Costa Rica has two seasons—the dry season and wet seasons.
The dry season runs from December to April. It's the most popular time for most travelers to visit. The sun shines on most days and you're pretty much guaranteed not to get rained on.
One problem with visiting Costa Rica in the dry season is that the campgrounds are often crowded, and it can be challenging to find a spot.
The rainy season runs from April to December and is a much less popular time of year to travel to Costa Rica. That means it's much easier to find camping spots, and the places you visit will also be much quieter.
The downside? You're going to get rained on a whole lot.
Although the wet season is a much quieter time to camp, the glorious weather makes camping in the dry season a much better choice.
Just remember to reserve a spot at your campsite early on!
Where Should You Camp in Costa Rica?
A fun part about camping in Costa Rica is the variety of campsites to choose from. No matter what you're looking for, you'll find a camping spot that's right for you.
Costa Rica offers some of the most stunning natural beauties in the world. Wherever you decide to pitch up, you're bound to see some incredible sights.
Since the Costa Rican landscape is quite varied, it's a great idea to stay in a few different areas. That way, you'll experience more of what the country has to offer. Base your choices on your budget, the sights you want to see, and the surroundings you enjoy camping in the most.
There are many unique places to camp in Costa Rica, and there's no way I can list them all. Here's a list of four of my favorites to get you started.
4. Prusia Park
Price per night: $0.74-$1.84 p/p
Opening times: 8 am-3 pm
Prusia Park is located inside Irazú Volcano National Park. Campers can freely pitch up in the forests and surrounding areas.
As a nature lover and avid hiker, I recommend camping here for the incredible hiking trails stretching around the park.
Another slightly bizarre reason to visit is to see the bewitched tree.
The Bewitched Tree got its name after visitors and locals began to hang objects and hand-made figures from the tree, eventually covering it in these strange items.
Although the objects have now been removed, and people no longer hang items from the branches, this quirky tree with its distinctive profile will always be remembered for this reason.
If you'd like to camp in a classic Costa Rican Forest, Prusia Park is the way to go!
3. Camping Maria Near Cahuita National Park
Price per night: $9.22 p/p
Opening times: 8 am-7 pm
Camping Maria is the perfect choice if you plan to visit Cahuita National Park as the campsite is just a 20-minute walk from the main entrance.
Inside the national park, you'll find a stunning combination of white sand beaches and forests, making it more diverse than Prusia Park.
After you've finished exploring Cahuita and taking in all its natural wonders, you can return to your spot at Camping Maria.
Camping Maria faces the ocean, where you'll find a beautiful beach right next door, making the spot perfect for winding down and relaxing. The campground has excellent facilities that are particularly useful for families, including a kitchen, restrooms, showers, and parking.
Note: no pets are allowed at this campground.
2. Los Malinches Campground at Junquillal Beach
Price per night: $5 per night p/p
Opening times: 8 am-7 pm
Regarding beach-style camping in Costa Rica, the Los Malinches campground is up there as one of the best.
This campground is north of Junquillal beach, meaning you're gifted with an ocean view as soon as you wake up!
Los Malinches is known for being a peaceful and quiet spot, making it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of regular life. You're pretty much guaranteed to have this area of the beach to yourself—apart from your camping neighbors of course!
The campground also has restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities and is pet friendly.
1. Lago Don Manuel
Price per night: $9.22 per night
Opening times: 8:30 am-4:30 pm (closed on Tuesday and Wednesday)
It's no secret that Lago Don Manuel is one of the most well-known campgrounds in Costa Rica, and that's because it's one of the best in the country.
Not only does this spot have thousands of positive reviews online, but it's located right next to a serene and expansive Lagoon that provides excellent views. Rest at this well-equipped campsite or experience the hiking trails surrounding it.
Beyond all else, the facilities at Lago Don Manuel make it a marvelously accommodating place. Besides the basic stuff like restrooms and showers, you can also expect free parking, wifi, grills, and picnic tables.
The campground is also pet friendly and the perfect choice for families or large groups.
What Camping Gear Should You Pack for Your Trip?
Once you know where you're going next, you can plan what to bring. Gear can make or break a camping trip, so don't be tempted to skip this part! Here's a bare-bones list of essentials:
Whether you're visiting in the dry or wet seasons, camping in Costa Rica can get surprisingly chilly and damp. Make sure to bring:
- Waterproof jacket
- Sturdy hiking boots
- Several pairs of hiking socks
- Lightweight, quick-dry tops
- Tank tops and shorts for the daytime
- Thermal underwear
Costa Rica is a tropical country, and the sun and bug situation can be intense. Don't forget:
- Insect Repellent
- Personal Care
- Sun protection
- First aid kit
- Personal hygiene products
- Essential medication
Safety Tips for Your Camping Trip in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a safe and welcoming country. Still, as always, it's essential to keep your safety in mind, particularly if you're traveling alone. Here are a few crucial safety tips to remember when camping in Costa Rica:
- Hire an official local guide if camping in the wilderness.
- Beware of scammers offering to carry your bags or help you in other ways.
- Don't bring expensive valuables such as jewelry.
- Don't leave items unattended.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Use plenty of sunscreen and bug spray.
Use Pilot on Your Costa Rica Camping Trip!
Planning a camping trip is fun, but it can be a little stressful. Why not use a trip planner like Pilot to make it a breeze?