Hemmed in between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans near the narrowest point of the Central American isthmus, is the tiny republic of Costa Rica. This democratic and prosperous nation is also one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, an ecological treasure-trove whose wide range of habitats – ranging from rainforests and beaches to volcanoes and mangrove swamps – support a fascinating variety of wildlife, much of it now protected by an enlightened national conservation system widely regarded as a model of its kind. It is no wonder why roughly two million people travel to Costa Rica annually.
Places to visit in Costa Rica
Costa Rica, one of the world’s greenest countries, is somewhat lacking in city life. San Jose, the country’s capital is only around 100 years old, so the metropolitan vibes you find in most capitals are almost non-existent here. As with all cities, however, San Jose is the hub for all things cultural such as museums, art galleries and theatres. The nightlife is particularly good in San Jose, with many spring-breakers choosing it as one of their top destinations from the US.
It is Costa Rica’s outstanding natural beauty that has made it one of the world’s prime eco-tourism destinations, with visitors flocking here to hike trails through ancient rainforest, climb active volcanoes, or explore the Americas’ last vestiges of high-altitude cloud forest, home to the jaguar, tapir and resplendent quetzal.
Green jungles, sandy coasts and stunning National Parks
Costa Rica, being one of the most bio-diverse landscapes on the planet, takes its respect for nature seriously. A large proportion of the country is deemed as protected national parks, perfect for those who love immersing themselves in nature. Refugio Nacional Gandoca near Manzanillo is a spectacular park made up of a gorgeous mixture of dense-rainforest and beautiful sandy coasts.
Costa Rica is not just known for its diverse rainforests and beaches, but also it’s 60 volcanoes, six of which are still active. Arenal Volcano is located in the north, it’s surrounding fertile soils making way for plantations that produce some of the best coffees in the world.
Best time to travel to Costa Rica
You would be forgiven for thinking that Costa Rica has humid warm temperatures all year round due to its close proximity to the equator, however, due to the vastly different altitudes and the local micro-climates, judging the best time to go can be quite complex. But have no worries, as we have you covered with our Costa Rican weather guide that does the hard work for you.
Itinerary for when you travel to Costa Rica
If you are looking for a holiday with a pleasant mixture of fun-packed activities and chilled beach time, then Costa Rica is the place for you. Hikes, beaches, culture, and wildlife await you!
Days 1 – 2: San Jose
San Jose is a perfect starting point as the Juan Santamaria International Airport is close by. Begin by exploring the cities many charms, Central Avenue comes to life at 4 -5 pm when the locals finish work and take to the streets to eat, drink and sell their handmade goods. Take a walk and mingle into local life and culture. The Central Market is another good spot to see authentic life in San Jose, browse the food stalls, try traditional foods and enjoy the atmosphere.
Once you’ve experienced local life, fuel up on some culture by visiting the National Museum, an important building in Costa Rican history, as this is where President Jose Figueres Ferrer abolished the army in 1948 – the country was so peaceful there was no need for a military, and this still stands today.
Days 2 -4: Corcovado National Park and Osa Peninsula
Make your way to Corcovado National Park and check out the Osa Peninsula in the south-west of the country. The park is only accessible by boat or foot and has restrictions on how many visitors can enter, making it quite the adventure. Many of the eco-lodges offer packages that provide you with a knowledgable guide and includes meals. Hikes here are phenomenal, with many wildlife sightings and even night-hikes to catch a sighting of the nocturnal species.
Days 4 – 7: Manzanillo
Manzanillo beach is next on the checklist. This sleepy beach town consists of tropical rainforests, white soft sands and turquoise waters. The coral reefs are quite impressive here so snorkelling and diving are recommended along with exploring the waters by kayaking. If all else fails, relaxing on the beach whilst sipping cervezas is a great way to enjoy the scenic views.
Days 7 – 10: Nicoya Peninsula and Montezuma
For your remaining days in Costa Rica, head to the Nicoya Peninsula to hike through the rainforest on hiking trails that lead you to secluded serene beaches. Not far from Nicoya is Montezuma, where the canopies reach a whopping 10 metres high – perfect for zip lining through the jungle.
Culture in Costa Rica
Culture in Costa Rica is made up of a vibrant and colourful blend of indigenous heritage, Spanish influence and contributions from Jamaican immigrants. The country is laid-back and peaceful as a result – something you will notice when you travel to Costa Rica is how genuinely happy and friendly the people are.
Food and drink in Costa Rica
As with many Central American countries, rice and beans seem to be the main ingredient in Costa Rican cuisine. The most popular dish is Gallo Pinto, typically served at breakfast and made up of rice, black beans, scrambled egg, fried plantain and sour cream. Tamales are another classic, consisting of filled dough that is steamed in either a corn husk or banana leaf. The fillings can be anything from cheese and meats to fruits making it a go-to that suits every meal.
Drink-wise, refrescos are popular for their refreshing relief during the heat – a typical fruit smoothie made with either milk or water. Guaro is a sugar cane liquor that is best accompanied in cocktails and the national cerveza is Imperial.