Ask any hotel manager, tour operator, or travel agent in Costa Rica what the #1 mistake is that tourists make, and the answer will always be “waiting too long to book their trip.”
With a limited number of hotels, condos, and homes for rent, the busiest seasons – especially December through April – are always at maximum capacity. To add more hotel patrons to the critical mass, a huge number of Costa Ricans (Ticos) escape from San José on weekends and especially during holidays like Christmas, New Years and Semana Santa (Easter). During these holiday periods, places like Jacó, Tamarindo, and many more are literally over capacity.
So, by waiting too long to book their hotel rooms and accommodations, as well as rental cars and activities, tourists really put their vacation in jeopardy. Imagine paying the for plane tickets but then not being able to find the hotel you want for your family – or any hotel at all!
It’s happened more than you can guess, and one month before Christmas and Semana Santa every property manager is getting 50+ emails and messages a day from people looking for a house or condo for their upcoming vacation when few – or none – are still available!
And around these peak seasons, the prices often skyrocket, sometimes even doubling for last-minute bookings compared to prices in the other times of the year.
I recommend that during the peak tourist season (December through April) and especially around the holidays, vacationers book 6-12 months ahead of time.
The larger your group, and if there are any special needs or requests, the further in advance you should book. As you can imagine, finding a family of five people three adjacent hotel rooms on the same floor is a lot harder than just booking a room for a couple.
The same goes for rental cars (which sell out quickly) and in-demand activities like deep-sea fishing, jungle treks, volcano and cloud forests tours. Of course, these are all flexible, so if you needed to move around the date or time of when you do these things, the operators and agencies will always work with you – as long as you plan ahead.
I would recommend looking for a rental property that suits your needs first, book those, and THEN book airfare – as there are always plenty of flights and seats available 6 months or more ahead of time.
And if you're an expat who is already living in Costa Rica, you have your own challenges around booking long-term apartments and rentals, since landlords may want to kick you out just over December and January to cash in on the peak tourism time.
By doing so, you’ll save a lot of money, avoid any last-minute headaches, and ensure that you and your family have the best possible vacation Costa Rica has to offer.
Need more help with advice, info, or booking a property? I'm happy to help!
-The official expat,
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