Last Updated: Feb 29, 2012
Today’s senior travelers are healthy and active – the ideal combination for enjoying Costa Rica’s unique blend of the great outdoors and adventure activities. If you’re interested in traveling with others your age, look into seniors-only tour companies, like Exploritas (formerly ElderHostel). Billed as learning adventures, these tours focus on topics like digital photography explorations and natural history. The company even offers trips perfect for sharing the Costa Rican experience with your grandchildren.
Volunteer vacations are another excellent option for active seniors. Unlike a typical holiday where interactions with locals are limited to hotels and tours, volunteer vacations allow you to experience regional customs, language and cuisine while giving back to the community. Volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica include working with rural communities, wildlife protection programs, women’s cooperatives, orphanages, elementary schools and medicinal plant projects among others.
Cruise holidays are another popular choice among savvy senior travelers. Choose from a traditional or themed cruise that caters to seniors and enjoy the multitude of shore excursions on offer. Costa Rica’s two ports of call – Puntarenas and Limon – provide excellent bases to explore local attractions, including canopy tours, botanical gardens and lush rainforests.
Tips for Senior Travel in Costa Rica:
- In Costa Rica, citizens 65 and older are referred to as “ciudadanos de oro,” or golden citizens. Seniors are treated with respect and deference, so don’t be surprised if you’re offered a seat on a full bus or allowed to cut in front of a long line. Senior citizen discounts are available at some locations, so always ask your tour operators for available discounts and double check at any destination you visit independently – if they don’t speak English, just ask “Ustedes ofrecen un descuento para ciudadanos de oro?”
- If you’re retired or have flexible travel dates, aim to visit Costa Rica during May or November, which fall between the green season and dry season. You’ll likely have sunny skies and benefit from low season rates, which are often 10-40% less than high season prices.
- When evaluating luggage options, opt for a rolling suitcase. Pack as light as possible – in most tourist destinations, laundry service costs about $10 per load. If you need to take more than one bag, choose a small second bag that can attach to your rolling suitcase.
- Pack a full supply of your medications. Though pharmacies with English-speaking staff are prevalent throughout Costa Rica, they may not have your brand or dosage available. However, be sure to take your prescriptions just in case, and always make note of generic names.
- If you’re not on an organized tour, consider how you’ll travel around the country. The maximum car rental age in Costa Rica is usually 70 or 75, so be sure to mention this before making a reservation. Transportation alternatives include hiring a private driver, taking the public bus, or using private shuttles between destinations and taxis for short jaunts around town.
If you’ve opted for independent travel, here are a few recommended activities and destinations that offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences:
Bird & Wildlife Watching
Nature tours are an excellent way to explore the country’s diversity; your guides are experts in species identification and can point out even the most well camouflaged animal. While bird and wildlife watching are outstanding year-round, certain seasons are better for spotting specific species. Head to Monteverde between March and July for resplendent quetzal mating season; visit Ballena National Marine Park from August-October or December-April for whale watching, and travel to Tortuguero between March and October to witness sea turtle nesting season.
Your own two feet will lead you some of Costa Rica’s natural treasures, from picturesque mountain paramo to white-sand beach bordered by dense rainforest. We highly recommend hiring a trained naturalist guide: they offer a wealth of information and can take you to some incredible “hidden” locales. Some of our favorite hikes are through the wildlife-laden trails of Manuel Antonio National Park and Arenal’s lakeside hanging bridges.
Visits to the country’s five active volcanoes are popular, but the sights are anything but common: Poas Volcano is the country’s most visited, home to a puffing fumaroles and a blue crater lagoon; fiery Arenal Volcano sends lava rocks flying almost daily; Irazu Volcano boasts views of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea; and the more docile Rincon de la Vieja Volcano is surrounded by bubbling mud pots and healing hot springs.
Wonders on Water
Tranquil boat tours are an incredible way to see gorgeous waterfowl, monkeys and reptiles along Tortuguero National Park's web of canals. In Arenal, sit back and enjoy a safari float along a placid river, where wildlife sightings happen every minute. Or get your adrenaline pumping on a Pacuare whitewater rafting tour, where you’ll bask in one of the world’s most picturesque river gorges.