Costa Rica Travel Guide
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. Though largely undeveloped until the mid-20th century (due to its lack of traditional “riches”—gold, silver, spices), the country is today drawing new generations of explorers with more lasting treasures: smoldering volcanoes, misty cloud forests, rare wildlife and bird species, and a surfeit of beaches that are the gateway to world-class surfing, diving, and sport fishing.
Dramatic volcanoes, misty cloud forest, and deep river valleys make Costa Rica an ideal destination for the adventure minded. But you needn't be too hard-core to travel here.
Costa Rica's family-friendly culture is coupled with great year-round weather. To create the itinerary that suits you best in this popular eco-tourism destination, turn to this Costa Rica travel guide.
Things Not to Miss in Costa Rica
Costa Rica travel offers excellent value and ecological diversity.
• Explore San Jose
• Arenal National Park (view the Arenal Volcano)
• Hiking through Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
• Zip-lining in Selvatura Park
• Manuel Antonio National Park
• Tortuguero National Park
• Surfing from your base at an eco-lodge
When to Visit Costa Rica
The Continental Divide runs through Costa Rica. The northernmost regions are flat and arid, while the south is covered by jungle. The Caribbean coast receives rain year round.
• The best time to visit is in December and January when the landscape is green but there's little rain
• To visit Costa Rica during high/dry season, go between late November to late April
• Tropical/rainy season (or "green" season) runs from May through mid-November
Playa Grande on the Nicoya Peninsula—one of the few nesting sites in the world for endangered leatherback sea turtles.
Remote, beautiful Drake Bay (Bahía Drake), where crystalline waters border primary rainforest (and several exclusive eco-lodge properties).
Diving among dolphins, hammerheads, and giant rays, or exploring some 200 stunning waterfalls, many that drop right into the sea, at Isla del Coco, the inspiration for Jurassic Park’s Isla Nublar.
Caribbean Costa Rica
The least visited region of the country, owing to its relative isolation ( and mosquitoes), whihc has great opportunities for whitewater rafting and sea turtle spotting.
The population centre of Costa Rica. The capital and main airport is located here.
Perhaps one of the most visited regions of the country. There are many beaches, tourist accommodations, and national park.
The "dry region" of Costa Rica, with few rains any time of year, fabulous beaches and surfing, and some large volcanic and dry forest parks in the North by the Nicaraguan border.
Plains of the North
A sparsely populated, but beautiful and mountainous region, most famous for its active volcano, Arenal, and the surrounding hot springs and volcanic lakes.
South Pacific Costa Rica
One of the most bio-diverse environments on the planet, full of exotic endemic flora and fauna, and some of the planet´s most beautiful and remote tropical beaches.
Because Costa Rica is located between eight and 12 degrees north of the Equator, the climate is Tropical year round. However, the country has many microclimates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region.
Costa Rica's seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period and not to the four seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season known to the residents as summer, and the rainy season, known locally as winter. The "summer" or dry season goes from December to April, and "winter" or rainy season goes from May to November, which almost coincides with the List of Atlantic hurricane seasons, and during this time, it rains constantly in some regions.
The location receiving the most rain is the Caribbean slopes of the Central Cordillera mountains, with an annual rainfall of over 5000 mm. Humidity is also higher on the Caribbean side than on the Pacific side. The mean annual temperature on the coastal lowlands is around 27°C, 20°C in the main populated areas of the Central Cordillera, and below 10°C on the summits of the highest mountains.
Best Trips for Every Traveler
Though smaller than the state of WestVirginia,Costa Ricais a world unto itself. The country never measures longer or wider than 200 miles, so you can travel from cool mountains to tropical beach in just hours. With its geographic and ecological diversity, Costa Rica offers the ideal trip for every type of traveler, whether you’re seeking seaside relaxation or the adventure of a lifetime.
Best Eco Trip
Tortuguero, a small village on the northern Caribbean coast, is a haven for some of Costa Rica’s most iconic wildlife. The pastel-painted town sits within TortugueroNationalPark, a protected area of rainforest and beach joined by lagoons and lush canals. The region is renowned for its tranquil boat tours, which explore the waterways and riverbanks flush with tiger herons, white-facedmonkeys, basilisk lizards, anhinga, caimans and other fauna.
The area is most famous for its nesting sea turtles – leatherback, Olive Ridley, hawksbill, and green sea turtles – that come ashore its beaches to lay eggs. Nesting is most prevalent from July 1 to October 31, when you can join an evening tour with trained guides versed in turtle ecology. The tour fees go directly into turtle research and local conservationefforts.
Best Tropical Beach Vacation
Manuel Antonio stretches out before your eyes like a Technicolor postcard: the sparkling Pacific laps at soft white sand, the foreground flanked by emerald rainforest. Playa Espadilla, the long, pristine shore in front of the village, is a great beach forbeginnerand intermediate surfers, while sun lovers can laze the day away, enjoying the gentle breezes and shady patches along the shore. Just over a two-hour drive from theinternationalairport, the town is conveniently located for a quick getaway.
Well-developed as a tourist destination, Manuel Antonio offers a wealth of options and amenities. If you choose to punctuate beach lounging with a bit of activity, Manuel Antonio is sure to please. Set out on a snorkeling or sunset cruise; hike through Manuel Antonio National Park, where you’re guaranteed to encounter white-faced monkeys; or take an eco-tour through the Damas Island estuary. Lodging ranges from budget to supremely luxurious, and the town’s main street is lined with restaurants of every international persuasion.
Best Destination with Kids
Child-friendly exhibits and outdoor activities are the name of the game in Monteverde – a cloud forest wonderland full of fun and fascinating experiences. Our top pick is the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, where day and night hikes engage young minds while educating on the importance of conservation.
If your children are animal lovers, you can’t miss a visit to the frog pond and bat jungle. Home to 30 amphibian species, the frog pond boasts knowledgeable guides who can tailor tours to young interests. Before the day is through, your kids will know which frogs bypass the tadpole stage and hatch from eggs, what species can leap 50 feet in just one hop, and the type of frog that is completely transparent. Next, head to the bat jungle where children can try on a set of huge bat ears, choose what kind of bat they’d most like to be, and observe these amazing flyingmammalsin their native habitat.
Known as the adventure capital of Costa Rica, Arenal is the undisputed champion when it comes to extreme tours. Situated at the base of Arenal Volcano, the town of La Fortuna is an excellent headquarters for the area’s adventures, which include rappelling down tropical waterfalls, 45 mph zip-lines over treetops, and exploring five million-year old caves.
As an introduction to Arenal’s exhilarating activities, gear up for the area’s fastest canopy tour and soar from one platform to the next on eight zip-line cables, the highest of which towers 660 feet above ground. After that heart-pounding warm up, you’re ready to graduate to the big leagues of waterfall rappelling. A quick hike into a rainforest canyon leads you to a series of small falls, where you practice for the big daddy – a 200-foot rappel down slick rock face, as a roaring cascade pounds in your ears. Wrap up your trip at the VenadoCaverns, an ancient cave system home to bats, stingless scorpions and artistically formed stalactites and stalagmites.
If you’ve ever yearned to escape from it all, the Osa Peninsula is your destination of choice. Situated on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, the Osa is a true wilderness frontier. Home to Corcovado National Park – named by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on Earth” – dramatic encounters with rare and elusive animals like tapirs, squirrel monkeys and evenpumaare commonplace.
Traveling to the Osa Peninsula is half the fun, and the region’s major towns – Drake Bay and Puerto Jimenez – are accessed via boat, rugged road or small plane. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be treated to a world of staggeringly beautiful beaches hemmed in by verdant rainforest. Immerse yourself in the beauty around you: take a dolphin and whale watching tour; hike the park in search of tapirs; or snorkel off Cano Island, where you’ll mingle with moray eels, white tip reef sharks and schools of multihued fish. Wholly surrounded by nature, you’ll soon forget the hustle and bustle of life back home.