Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a paradise for nature lovers, and its size belies the amazing variety of ecosystems found within its borders. There are tropical beaches, humid rainforests, fiery volcanic peaks, steaming hot springs and mossy cloud forests which are home to a staggering array of flora and fauna. Adventurous travellers also love the range of activities on offer, with rafting, trekking, canopy tours, horseback riding and mountain biking available countrywide from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean.

What’s on offer in Costa Rica?

Arenal Volcano National Park - Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano National Park

Located in central Costa Rica, the Arenal Volcano National Park lies within the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area and encompasses eight of the country’s 12 protected life zones. The park is home to the majority of Costa Rica’s 850 bird species, and an array of exotic creatures such as capuchin monkeys, parrot snakes, jaguars and deer, and its diverse landscapes include grasslands and volcanic badlands. Overlooking the park is Arenal Volcano – Costa Rica’s most active volcano, as well as the inactive Chato volcano, complete with a stunning lagoon. Experience this exciting region by hiking through lava fields and rainforests, spotting birds and animals, and taking a dip in the hot springs.

Nicoya Peninsula - Costa Rica

Nicoya Peninsula

The Nicoya Peninsula is one of Costa Rica’s ‘off-the beaten-track’ destinations, separated from the country’s mainland by the the Gulf of Nicoya and the Tempisque estuary. Visitors who venture here will find it well worth the effort – Nicoya’s idyllic sand beaches, aquamarine bays, charming local hamlets and excellent eco-tourism opportunities combine to make it an unforgettable travel experience. Popular pursuits here include sport-fishing, fishing, snorkelling, diving, surfing, or simply soaking up the sun on the peninsula’s array of magnificent beaches, as well as bird-watching and wildlife viewing in its various nature reserves.

Tamarindo - Costa Rica

Tamarindo

The horse shoe bay of Tamarindo, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, offers three and a half kilometres of white sand and azure waters. Five-star resorts are strung along the beachfront with charming restaurants, bars and shops clustered further back from the beach, under the lush vegetation that blankets this laid back town. Surfing, diving, estuary trips, fishing and a weekly farmers market are just some of the activities on offer in Tamarindo. For a rare opportunity to witness turtles nesting, travel to National Park Las Baulas just outside town.

Puntarenas - Costa Rica

Puntarenas

Costa Rica’s gateway to the Pacific coast, Puntarenas is a quintessential port town – a little tattered around the edges, but full of character. For most travellers, a stop here is a means to an end – a jumping-off point for excursions to more remote beach resorts peppering the central Pacific coast – but Puntarenas’ relaxed atmosphere and down-to-earth charm endear it to many who find themselves passing through. Key attractions in the city include the central plaza, the old cathedral, and the Parque Marino del Pacífico, where a series of saltwater aquariums highlight Costa Rica’s rich marine life. While you’re there, it’s worth visiting the Macaw Sanctuary El Manantial, 30 minutes out of town, where you can view these resplendent and endangered jungle birds up close; and the attractive nearby beaches of Playa Doña Aña and Playa Tivives.

Costa Rica

San Jose

San Jose, affectionately known to its residents as “Chepe”, lies in the heart of Costa Rica and is home to almost two thirds of the country’s population. With few buildings over 100 years old, the mountainous capital is relatively modern compared to its Latin American counterparts, but still has a great amount of culture, art and history for visitors to discover. With a number of theatres full of Costa Rican culture, museums that include the largest collection of American jade in the world, and streets full of bright murals and painted buses, San Jose is an eclectic city waiting to be experienced.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

Although it is the country’s smallest national park, Manuel Antonio National Park is the second most frequented park in Costa Rica and one of Central America’s top destinations. Embarking on one of the park’s trails, visitors encounter iguanas, sloths monkeys and many other creatures that make up the 109 mammal and 184 bird species found in the small area. Where the park meets the Pacific Ocean, tourists can take in views of white-sandy beaches, which, along with lagoons, mangroves, rainforests and exquisite coral reefs, have earned Manuel Antonio a place amongst the world’s most bio-diverse parks.

Chirripo National Park - Costa Rica

Chirripo National Park

If hiking is your thing, don’t miss a visit to mountainous Chirripo National Park – one of Costa Rica’s wilder destinations, with vast areas only reachable by foot. This limited access has largely protected the reserve from development, and trekkers who explore these virgin slopes and valleys will be rewarded with spectacular vistas, pristine vegetation and rich wildlife. Fitness fanatics will relish the challenge of scaling Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest peak and one of the park’s key attractions, while nature lovers will be awed by the extraordinary biodiversity of its mountain forests.

Osa Peninsula - Costa Rica

Osa Peninsula

Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Golfo Dulce in the southwestern region of the country. This virtually untouched corner of the world contains almost half of Costa Rica’s wildlife species, offering nature lovers the chance to see exotic animals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in the rainforest of the Corcovado National Park. The surrounding waters invite visitors to surf, snorkel, fish, or simply relax on the white sandy beaches before retreating to the rustic Puerto Jimenez, the largest settlement in the area, for a good night’s rest.

Tortuguero National Park - Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park

The Tortugeuero National Park lies on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, in the Limon province. Nicknamed “the mini-amazon”, the national park hosts a bounty of endangered flora and fauna, including over 400 species of trees, 125 different mammals and more than 375 types of birds. Visitors can go on guided breathtaking tours through the eleven habitats that make up the park – it’s extraordinary landscapes include lagoons, swamps, rainforests and beaches where 40 000 sea turtles lay their eggs each year.

Corcovado National Park - Costa Rica

Corcovado National Park

One of Costa Rica’s most important ecological areas, Corcovado National Park was once described by National Geographic as ‘the most biologically intense place on earth’. Its myriad exotic creatures include jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, red macaws, quetzals and red-eyed tree frogs – not to mention the dolphins and humpback whales that breed in the coastal waters. Nature and adventure lovers will be in the element here, with a host of outdoor activities on offer, including wildlife viewing, fishing, surfing, and jungle treks.

Fast Facts

BEST TIME TO VISIT: At just a few degrees north of the equator, there’s little seasonality in temperatures so any differences are due to specific locations and altitude. San Jose in the highlands is chilly at night; the Pacific & Caribbean Coasts are hot at 28°C peaking at the end of the dry season during Mar-Apr The wet (or ‘green’) season runs from May-Nov, but with Costa Rica’s blanket of rainforest, pretty much the whole country can be wet at any time of year.

TIME DIFFERENCE: GMT -6 hours.

VISAS: British Passport holders do not require a visa for stays up to three months.

LANGUAGE: The official language is Spanish. English is widely spoken in tourist resorts.

CURRENCY: The Costa Rica Colon.

FLIGHT INFORMATION: American Airlines fly via Miami, United via New York / Newark, Iberia, Lufthansa and KLM via their respective European hubs.

FLYING TIME FROM UK: Approx. 14 hours to San José.

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