Like most countries, a lot of people in Costa Rica will have their hand out waiting for the tip (la propina).
Costa Rica is a little bit easier as the number one tipping spots are restaurants, and generally (and there ARE exceptions), restaurants add ten percent (10%) to the bill before you get it. It is almost always right there below the food/drink and just above or below the Tax (impuesto). So what do you do? Nothing? Add a bit?
I am a North American, so 10% seems low. That is our culture. I was raised to give 15% at least and maybe 20% for excellent service. I often add a bit, especially if we have stayed a long time chatting after the meal. Here, they let you yack forever unlike the US where they sort of push you to get out.
Most Costa Ricans never add a penny (colón?) to the 10% tip. That is their culture and many Tico friends think I am nuts to add anything. Me? As I feel that 10% is a bit low, I evaluate the service and often add another 5% (easy to do... just take the 10% shown and add-back half). I seldom give 20% unless my party has run some waiter crazy with 54 trips back and forth OR if we took up a lot of "after-eating" time just talking and not ordering much more. I feel we used up this waiter's table not allowing him to get fresh customers. If the service was just so-so, I will not add anything. In any case, you will never get "the look" from a waiter who only receives the 10%. The majority of Ticos eat out and never leave anything extra, so it is simply not expected.
For anyone handling my luggage, I give $.50 per bag. I give more if the person had to climb stairs or walk a mile to get to our room.
The maids, (mucamas), don't make a great living, so when I check out, I always leave about a dollar per day of visit. Sometimes, if I am going to be there for several days, I may give her something on the first day. Amazing how the room seems to get better attention!
Those parking guys
Everywhere you go in San Jose and in many other areas, there are these guys who sort-of guide you into your parking space, supposedly watch your car while you are eating, shopping, whatever, and guide you out, (at times stopping the traffic for you). I have no idea if they would lay down their lives to protect my car if some baddie wanted to make off with it... I sort of doubt it... but regardless, I always give them 200-300 colones, about $.50 or a tad more. Like the hotel maids... they wont be retiring on their tips and their lives are hard.
After you leave customs, you exit the airport and have to turn in your cart. If I am traveling light, I just carry it myself. But if I have 3 or more bags, I get a skycap to assist me to take the stuff to my car or through to the arrivals area if I am being picked up. Same deal as the hotel handlers, $.50/$1.00 per bag.
US dollars are always welcome as tips... especially the $2.00 bills!!!