Offical languages: Spanish and number of indigenous languages are also spoken, while English is reasonably widely used.
Currency: The currency used in Costa Rica is the Colón. The US Dollar is also used in certain parts of the country, on an unofficial basis.
There are few travel destinations that stand out as being as unique and fascinating as Costa Rica. For a start, it is one of most biodiverse and environmentally aware countries in the world. This might not sound particularly exciting but if you want an epic, life-changing experience then try going to see thousands of new born turtles making their way to the sea or check out the pristine rainforest here on a thrilling zipline ride over the treetops. The rise of eco-tourism in the country means that finding out about the Earth’s treasures doesn’t get any more exciting than it does right here. The fact that it is a compact but highly varied country means that you can cram in a huge amount of different activities on even a short trip. There are cool surfer hang outs, big cities, remote villages, mountains, lakes and a lot more to be checked out in Costa Rica. For a country of its size the amount of things to do and see is staggering.
Costa Rica is a small country in Central America that has a population of a little over 4 and a half million and a size of 51,100 km2. It has become wildly popular in recent years with both ex-pats looking for a fantastic place to live in and with younger travellers keen to experience the country. This comes down to a number of factors, such as the fact that it is regarded as the safest and most politically stable country in the region. Famous for its biodiversity and laidback way of life, this is a Central American destination not to be missed.
Must see places in Costa Rica
Alajuela is a small town which serves very well as a base from which to explore the natural marvels of Costa Rica. In the town itself the Central Cathedral is probably the top attraction but things heat up when you get out and about. This is the best place from which to make a trip out to the brilliant Poas Volcano National Park. Here, you can visit an active volcano and get up close to the crater. There is also a macaw rescue centre run by US expats near Alajuela.
This place has really struck a chord with travellers in recent years. It is a small city in the South of the country. Most people who come here are drawn to the fantastic beach and the surfing possibilities out on the water. However, if you think that’s all there is to do here then you are in for a very welcome surprise. The natural wonders of this area include waterfalls, lots of wildlife and spectacular jungle scenery. Ziplines, horseback trips and whale watching are among the activities worth giving a try.
Cartago is a historic city that was the first Costa Rican capital. These days it is a very pleasant spot with some interesting sights. The central market and the ruins of Santiago Apostle Church are among the highlights here. Cartago is also well situated for trips out to see the nearby volcanoes and the lush tropical rainforests. During July / August a huge number of Costa Ricans walk to Cartago to celebrate the festival of the Black Virgin.
Bajo Alcyone, Cocos Island, Costa Rica
If you love diving, you must visit Bajo Alcyone in Cocos Island. Liveaboard boat is the only way to access this remote but outstanding site, located 550 km off the country’s mainland. Hundreds of scalloped hammerhead sharks regularly put in an appearance, as divers brave the depths to reach the site’s submerged mountain and local manta cleaning stations. Bonus shark species here include silky, guitar, tiger, and silvertips.
The capital of Costa Rica is wonderfully situated on a plateau in the country’s Central Valley and surrounded by picturesque green mountains. Half of the inhabitants of the country live here and it is a major cultural centre and travel hub. There is an amazing variety of things to do in the city, from going round the museums to sampling food in the markets and watching the city’s street life. It is also a fine base from which to arrange tours out to the jungle and other parts of Costa Rica.
Chirripo National Park
Playas del Coco
The small but charming beach town called Playas del Coco sits snugly on the North Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. There are a number of enticing beaches around here, such as Playa Hermosa and Playa Panama. There’s isn’t that much to do here other than hit the beach but that’s more than enough for most of the visitors who spend time at Playas del Coco. Things can get lively here after dark and if you feel like striking out further afield the stunning Rincon de la Vieja volcano isn’t too far away and the jungle is also within travelling distance.
If you plan to get off the beaten track in Costa Rica then a trip to Tortuguero could be just what you need. This is a remote settlement that takes a bit of effort to reach but that is well worth it. You can only get here by boat or by plane. The main attraction here is Tortuguero National Park, where you can see turtle laying or hatching if you come at the right time of year. There are two different laying seasons here; from July to October and from April to May.
Cahuita National Park
A trip to the rainforest is a must for any tourist visiting Costa Rica. In that respect, going to the Cahuita National Park can be a great decision to make. This park is located on the south Caribbean coast of the country and includes beaches and marine areas where it is possible to scuba dive or look for nesting turtles. There is abundant wildlife here and the relatively small size of the park makes it easy to get around. You can even stay in a cabin in the park if you want to spend more than a few hours here.
Ciudad Quesada is sometimes called San Carlos. It is an important dairy production centre and commercial centre. If you want to see a Costa Rican city that hasn’t been greatly affected by tourism then this is a good choice. There are no conventional tourist attractions in the city but it is still a fascinating spot. Outside Ciudad Quesada there are some popular hot springs which are popular with Costa Rican families. You can also visit a Wildlife Rescue Centre and might be tempted to pick up some of the area’s famous leather goods.
A sunny and relaxed spot, Tamarindo is among the most popular places in Costa Rica. It is located on the Pacific coast and is one of the best developed beach towns in the country. It is small enough to be walkable and varied enough to offer the likes of surfing, snorkelling, windsurfing and golf. It is also near the rainforest, opening up a world of alternative tourist activities.
Things to do in Costa Rica
See the Rainforest
The rainforest in Costa Rica is a truly spectacular setting. In the midst of the lush vegetation lurks an astonishing variety of different types of wildlife. Some of the best rainforest areas here are very accessible from the cities, while others involve a fair degree of adventurous travelling just to get there. Ziplining is popular in many of the best jungle parks and guided tours or well marked trails are common.
Hit the Beach
Whether you want to go surfing or just relax and soak up some sun, Costa Rica has a beach that it perfect for you. The warm weather is a bonus of course, but it is the fabulous setting and the warm waters that entice most travellers to the beach here. Some of the best beaches offer a lot more than just sand and sea, with nearby rainforest parks or the chance to explore quaint towns also on the agenda.
Try the Coffee
Some of the best coffee in the world is produced in Costa Rica. It is also cheap to buy, meaning that you will probably be tempted to take some home as well as drinking it here. Going on a coffee tour will allow you to see how it is grown and how it is made into the finished product you drink at home.
Look for Turtles
For many people the main reason for going to Costa Rica is to see the famous turtle laying or hatching seasons. The seasons vary from one part of the country to another and from one type of turtle to another. What this means is that there are opportunities to spot turtles throughout the year and all over the country. A good number of different locations across the country offer turtle spotting opportunities.
If you like the idea of an active trip then Costa Rica has a lot to offer. The beauty of this country can be explored on unforgettable hiking trips. The national parks offer some of the best ways of doing this but your hiking opportunities aren’t just limited to these places.
Best time to visit Costa Rica
Tourists visit Costa Rica between December and April
The dry season falls from December to April and is seen by many as being the perfect time to visit Costa Rica. The high season for tourism here is usually round about the Christmas and New Year holidays. The week before Easter is known as Semana Santa and sees another peak in the tourism figures. The rainy season here isn’t as difficult to travel in as it is in some other countries in the region. Additionally, the fact that the place is greener and lusher means that this so-called Green Season is also an excellent time to visit.
The fantastic reputation of Costa Rica for consistently great weather is well known. The variety of the landscape here means that there are a number of different climatic zones, although the country as a whole can be classed as having warm weather almost for the full year. There is no season here that can really be classed as winter and most days see 12 hours of sunshine.