Named “the rich coast” by Spanish conquistadors who first made landfall here in 1502, Costa Rica is one of the planet’s most naturally splendid and biologically diverse regions. The secret is out on the Central American country’s never-ending activities, gorgeous beaches, a plethora of wildlife, good food, and fun people. Costa Rica occupies a privileged spot in the heart of Central America. While its territory of 19,652 square miles touches both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the country is amazingly accessible. One can travel from coast to coast in just three hours by car or 45 minutes by plane. The Caribbean region of Costa Rica stands out for its variety of aquatic ecosystems and its beautiful white and black sand beaches, providing an ideal setting for activities such as sport fishing, snorkeling, and sun bathing.
There are a few things you should know before booking your trip to this beautiful country. It rains year round in Costa Rica, and visitors should be sure to bring a light rain jacket or poncho. December through April are generally considered the dry season, and the rainy, or green, season starts in May. The busiest travel times in Costa Rica are during Christmas and New Years, as well as the week leading up to Easter Sunday, which is known as Semana Santa. For these weeks, hotels are often fully booked well in advance. Costa Rica’s unit of currency is the colon, which is around 500 – 550 colones/$1 USD. U.S. dollars are widely accepted, provided the bill is not too large and in good condition. Hotels and tours also generally list their prices in dollars.
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero National Park is a must see while in Costa Rica. Discover its network of canals, lagoons, dense rainforests, and see the endangered green turtles hatch. The park stretches north along the Caribbean coast up to the village of Tortuguero, which has a small population of around 500, no cars, and is located on a relatively narrow spit of land between the beach and a canal. Visit at night to catch the turtles laying their eggs on the beach.
Visit a Volcano
The numerous volcanoes are among the country’s top tourist attractions. Since many are located in national parks you can combine a visit with kayaking, rafting or hiking. Arenal is famous for the lava coming down its side but as of 2010 that has stopped. Irazu is known for its astonishing green blue lake that sits in one of its craters. You will find a boiling acid lake within a crater of the Poas Volcano.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
When you think about Costa Rica, you probably imagine lush tropical rain forest, flowing white rivers, spectacular waterfalls, and exotic wildlife. At La Paz Waterfall Gardens, you are guaranteed to see all that and more. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is one of the most visited attrractions in Costa Rica featuring the best hiking near San José, the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, rescued wildlife preserve with over 100 species of animals. Waterfall Gardens is primarily a self-guided tour allowing our visitors to proceed directly to their areas of interest. However, there is a guided tour where you will receive the most information and impact from your visit.
Jaco was once a sleepy resort town whose main attraction was its excellent surfing, but as the closest beach to San Jose, Jaco is growing into bustling beach town known for its party-like atmosphere and laid-back attitude. Jaco is hugely popular because it is a one-stop-shop to experience everything Costa Rica has to offer. From nightlife to wildlife to activities, Jacos got it. There are plenty of opportunities for ATV tours, boat and kayaking, white-water rafting, safaris, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing and surfing in the area. Jaco has a big reputation for partying and nightlife, which attracts a very diverse group of people from all over the world.
Located on the Caribbean coast, this city is popular with young people and backpackers because of its great beaches, surf, and party atmosphere. The town is very lively, and you’ll find something going on every night. For those looking for a quieter place, there are many tranquil beach hotels around. It was one of my favorite towns in the country because its Rasta influence made it very different than the rest of Costa Rica.
Costa Rican coffee is famous all over the world. By taking one of the coffee plantation tours you can see every step of the refining process and get the chance to buy discounted coffee in the gift shops.
Playa Grande on the Nicoya Peninsula
The beach of Playa Grande is a miles-long crescent of fine, white sand backed by a coastal vegetation that has created a secluded gem for travelers. Vacationers here are mostly eco-tourists and surfers who wish to avoid the crowds to enjoy instead tranquility, nature attractions and one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. The beach is also one of the few nesting sites in the world for endangered leatherback sea turtles.
Learn to Surf
Whether in Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Santa Theresa, or Tamarindo, Costa Rica has a lot of waves and lots of places to learn to surf. In fact, most travelers come here to surf because the waves are world renowned. If you never learned but always wanted to try and Australia, Hawaii, or Bali seem too far, this is your best place to in the region to learn.
Explore Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge
With 800 acres of land, seven kilometers of walking trails, and three kilometers of fantastic beaches, this refuge is another prime example of Costa Rica’s natural beauty. The park is located on the southern pacific coast. Birdwatching, canopy tours, and ecological tours are the main attractions in the park.
Go sport fishing
Known for some of the best sport fishing in the world, Costa Rica is the perfect place for fishers to catch a new personal record. The waters are home to Marlin, Sailfish, Dorado, Snapper, Wahoo, and many other species. Consider doing either a one-day or multi-day fishing excursion.
Walk along Rainforest Caponies
The highest 10% of a rainforest is where most activity takes place. By going on a zip-line tour, you can have a hair-raising close view of these vast forests. There are dozens of companies offering tours throughout the country, though Monteverde is my favorite place to do it. The Rainmaker Aerial Walkway is located within the private Rainmaker rainforest. This was the first aerial walkway to be built in Central America, and it is still considered to be one of the top in the region. At the highest point on the walkway, you’ll find yourself at a staggering 20 stories above the ground. Tours start at 37,000 CRC, and include two light meals.
Learn some Spanish
Costa Rica is one of the most popular Latin countries for taking Spanish lessons. This is due to the country’s dialect, which is generally easy to understand, and the high education level. You can expect good quality classes and teachers. Programs vary in length and cost, but most offer the opportunity to do a home-stay with a Costa Rican family, which is highly recommended.
Costa Rica’s capital is located in the center of the country making it a great hub. Overall though, the city only requires a few days. It’s sort of gritty and there’s not a whole lot to do. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art & Design to check out the future of Costa Rican art or to the magnificent Teatro Nacional to take in its décor or to see the orchestra if your budget allows. The history museum located in the town center is the highlight of a visit here.