“The most beautiful island in the world,” as Jacques Cousteau once called it, is an uninhabited island that offers some of the best scuba diving on the planet.
Costa Rica, located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, has long been considered one of Latin America’s most beautiful countries. After all, what’s not to love? Costa Rica’s vast array of geographical and climactic regions make it one of the most varied and breathtaking destinations in all of Central America and the Caribbean. From rainforests to volcanoes to pristine beaches to marshy lowlands, Costa Rica provides ample adventures for visitors to enjoy.
Currency: Costa Rican colon (CRC)
Government: Democratic Republic
DID YOU KNOW?
- An eco-tourist’s paradise, Costa Rica is ranked fifth in the world, and first among the Americas, in terms of the 2012 Environmental Performance Index. With more than 25% of its land protected by the government, it sets the standard for the rest of the world in trying to create sustainability between modern living and the environment.
- Costa Rica doesn’t have an army. Following a rebellion led by Jose Figueres Ferrer in the 1940s, which saw 2,000 die in the Costa Rican Civil War, the rebels formed a democratic government, turned over control and abolished the military.
- Costa Rica is one of the world’s best, but lesser known, surfing destinations. The action is intense with fantastic breaks on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, but it is the Pacific that offers the most consistently great surfing, due to tropical storms. Surfing areas such as Santa Theresa, Malpais, Nosara, Dominical/Uvita and Playa Negra have great waves nearly any time of year, with warm water and exotic jungle backdrops.
The climate in Costa Rica is tropical year-round. However, the country has many microclimates that vary with the elevation, topography and geography of each particular region.
The year can be split into two periods: the dry season, known to residents as summer, and the rainy season, known locally as winter. The dry season goes from December to April; the rainy season goes from May to November, which almost coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season. During this time, it rains night and day, non-stop.
Christopher Columbus set foot in Costa Rica on September 18, 1502, and was greeted by the local Carib Natives. He loved it so much, he named it Costa Rica, or “the rich coast.” Colonization was slow; it took nearly 60 years for Spanish settlers to make a strong hold on the country. The indigenous population did not have the sufficient numbers to resist the Spanish, and their populations dwindled quickly because of their susceptibility to European diseases. Costa Rica joined other Central American provinces in 1821 in a joint declaration of independence from Spain. An era of peaceful democracy in Costa Rica began in 1899, with elections that are considered to be the first truly free and honest ones in the country’s history. In 1948, Jose Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising in the wake of a disputed presidential election; the 44-day civil war resulting from this uprising was the bloodiest event in 20th-century Costa Rican history, but the victorious junta drafted a constitution guaranteeing free elections with universal suffrage and the abolition of the military. Figueres became a national hero, winning the first election under the new constitution in 1953. Since then, Costa Rica has held 14 presidential elections.
CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK
It’s one of the few places on earth where you still have a (small) chance of seeing a jaguar on the beach and a breeding pair of harpy eagles. This is not luxury living, this is Costa Rica and the world at its wildest. In Corcovado, no frills equals big thrills: full immersion into one of the most vibrantly beautiful and bio-diverse places on the planet.
Not everyone is cut out for life in the jungle, or maybe you just want a little luxury after you have braved the wilds. Boca Sombrero is the perfect place to do just that. This amazing mix of luxury and cool is both a yoga and surf retreat. Wake up to all levels of yoga practice, then hit the waves for hours of surfing. When it’s all done, world-class spa services will get you ready for a repeat the next day.
LAS FIESTAS DE ZAPOTE
Costa Rica’s primary festivals take place at Zapote, a district of San Jose. Thousands attend each day from Christmas to New Year’s to enjoy the wild fairground rides, attend bull fights and watch the almost constant parades of horses and riders showing off their skills. Street stalls, music and colourful costumes complete the carnival atmosphere. Large amounts of money are raised each year to support the following year’s festival and to help local charities, so it’s also a good cause.
WHITE WATER RAFTING—PACUARE LODGE
If you want to go white water rafting in the most remote, beautiful and wild place on the planet, then Pacuare Lodge is for you. Just to get to Pacuare, you have to raft down some of the best waters in the world. It’s a truly unforgettable trip into one of the most beautiful places on earth, where holding on for dear life is rewarded with a stay at one of the most luxurious and exotic places you may ever see—and that just also happens to have a great wine list!
Near Bagaces, toward the north of Costa Rica in the province of Guanacaste, the majestic volcano Miravalles stands at over 6,000 feet. Yes, it’s an active volcano, but it also presents activity of secondary type: thermal water, mineral pools, sulfur vents, pans and fumeroles. Las Hornillas is a family-run affair that includes guided tours of the fumaroles and pans, and a walk inside an active crater. You can also bathe in therapeutic volcanic clay, which possesses therapeutic properties that will leave your skin baby-soft.
A tour company in El Salvador is putting its tourism dollars back into the environment, with programs dedicated to protecting the country’s rainforests, coffee farms, sea turtles and more.
Forget lazing by the pool all day. A trip to Costa Rica is all about adrenaline and excitement. Here are three activities to keep you moving.
The legend of the “Treasure of Lima” is sending a team of researchers looking for buried gold on Cocos Island.
During a diving trip to Costa Rica, Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl upped the adrenaline and dropped 100 metres below the surface of the ocean in a clear, plastic submersible.
Is voluntourism for you? Jennifer Krissilas discovered her perfect style of volunteering, and was transformed from trail hiker to trail blazer in Costa Rica.
Responsible travel options abound around the world! Learn about wildlife parks and sanctuaries that allow travellers to volunteer and work closely with animals — including elephants, cheetahs, monkeys and jaguars.
In Part 3 of our series on the natural world of Costa Rica, Jennifer Krissilas faces her fears of slimy underwater creatures… and lives to tell a really big fish tale.
Take a journey into Costa Rica’s rainforest and meet the many creatures who call the jungle home: monkeys, anteaters and … a smiling crocodile.
What do you do when you want to cross a crocodile-infested river to get to the perfect beach in Costa Rica? You wait.
An adventurous trip to a remote area of Costa Rica gave Mariellen Ward the opportunity for total immersion into the natural world of exotic animals, tropical birds, mist-shrouded rainforests, a roaring ocean — and the feeling of being part of it all.