Mother Nature was obviously feeling generous when it came to Costa Rica...
This tiny country is bestowed with impressive biodiversity and awesome landscapes. Nestled between Panama and Nicaragua on the narrow bridge of land connecting North and South America, Costa Rica is blessed with not one, but two beautiful coastlines - the wilder Pacific shoreline drawing both surfers and humpback whales alike and the Caribbean coast with gentle waters, golden beaches and nesting turtles. The country’s lush, tropical interior beckons wildlife enthusiasts and thrill-seekers alike, with birdwatching, white-water rafting and zip lining, whilst coffee aficionados can enjoy bean to cup brews with a view in the cooler climes of Costa Rica’s Central Highlands.
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Top things to do in Costa Rica
There are many wonderful experiences to be had in this little jewel of a country. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts, but in the meantime here are our top things to do in Costa Rica.
Walk amongst volcanoes...
Costa Rica’s verdant interior is studded with volcanoes, and while the majority lie dormant, a few can get a little feisty at times. The mighty Poás Volcano in the Central Valley is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world at over 2,700m. To the north, the imposing Arenal Volcano lords it over bucolic pastures and national parkland. Despite its current sleeping state, Arenal’s fiery heart is still close enough to the surface to create some of Costa Rica’s most blissful thermal hot springs - don’t miss a dip!
Wake up to Costa Rican coffee
If sipping a cup of freshly brewed Arabica is a daily ritual for you, then exploring the process from plant to cup is a fascinating experience. Amidst cloud forests and sleepy villages, you’ll find small-scale coffee ‘fincas’, many of them organic, offering insightful guided tours. These coffee farms often cultivate tropical fruits too, such as pineapple, passion fruit and papaya… that’s breakfast sorted.
Quetzals, macaws, toucans, heron, hawk and hummingbird – these are just a few of our feathered friends that you might encounter while birdwatching in Costa Rica. The country welcomes a staggering 10% of the entire world’s bird species to its forests and fields, so it’s fair to say this is a birder’s paradise. Add to that a cornucopia of other flora and fauna, from butterflies and tree frogs to bromeliads and sloth.
Take to the treetops
Seeing things from a different perspective is an illuminating experience, and all around the forests of Arenal, Monteverde and Guanacaste, networks of hanging bridges and treetop walkways allow you to do just that. With the forest canopy spread out before you, you’ll be able to get up close and personal with wildlife such as monkeys, sloth and a myriad of birdlife. For more of an adrenalin charge, you might choose the fast track and go ziplining too.
Lesser-known things to do in Costa Rica
While there are many well-known things to do in Costa Rica, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative Costa Rican adventure.
Luxury in the jungle
Costa Rica has some outstanding eco lodges to discover. With both impeccable service and pristine eco credentials, some of these lodges are so remote that they can only be reached by boat. Find your paradise deep in the Piedras Blancas National Park or around the wildly beautiful Osa Peninsula.
Sip on a craft beer
The craft beer movement is alive and sipping in San José, Costa Rica’s green and (relatively) serene capital city. Join the locals on a tour of the best urban bars and microbreweries, and enjoy craft brews infused with the tropical notes of cacao, mango and coconut.
Brush up on your bush craft
For a truly unique experience, head to the forests of the Southern Caribbean coast and meet the local indigenous tribes that have lived there for centuries. Learn about their lives, share a meal then bed down for the night, drifting off to the sleep with the sounds of the forest all around you.
When is the best time to go to Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is at its driest from December to April on its Pacific coast, and during September and October on the Caribbean side, and these are the most popular times of year to visit. However, don't rule out travel in the rainy or 'green' season- most days just see a prolonged shower in the afternoon, and there are far fewer visitors. If you're coming for Costa Rica’s wildlife - which most people are - you're advised to avoid the heavy rainfall of September and October, or stick to the Caribbean side where it is drier. Bear in mind too that being a tropical country, you could see rain at any time of year in Costa Rica, even in the dry season.
Interesting facts about Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a fascinating country. But did you know any of our top three facts about it?
- Costa Rica is home to a colourful cast of no fewer than 20% of the world’s butterfly species.
- Welcome to the world’s first carbon-neutral nation! Costa Rica is leading the way in terms of conservation and sustainable eco-tourism.
- This peace-loving nation abolished its army in 1949, joining just 22 other countries globally with no active military.
Insider trips from our trusted local experts
Being local, our experts have an extensive knowledge of the secrets to experiencing the 'real' Costa Rica. Here are a few of their top tips - ask them for other recommendations when you enquire to ensure you have the best experience on holiday.
Secret swimming spots
If you’re crossing coast to coast in the north of Costa Rica, stop for a cooling dip at the beautiful Llanos del Cortez Waterfall on route.
Delightful dining in San José
For a special welcome or farewell dinner in San José book a table at the Silvestre or Tin-Jo restaurants. Both serve contemporary, seasonal delights from splendid colonial mansions right in the heart of the capital.
The best coffee in town
Of course, there are coffee houses aplenty in San José; but for caffeine and cake at its very best head to Cafe Miel, Dulce Junio, Pandeli or Barrio Cafe.
What to read before you go to Costa Rica
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to Costa Rica, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'Costa Rica - A Traveller’s Literary Companion' by Barbara Ras
'Wild Costa Rica' by Adrian Hepworth
'Jurassic Park' by Michael Crichton
'Green Phoenix: Restoring the Tropical Forests of Guanacaste' by William Allen
'Monkeys Are Made Of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica' by Jack Ewing
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