Since the late 1980s Costa Rica became a popular nature travel destination, and its main competitive advantage is its well-established system of national parks and protected areas, covering around 23.4% of the country's land area, the largest in the world as a percentage of the country's territory, and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, in a country that has only 0.03% of the world's landmass, but that is estimated to contain 5% of the world's biodiversity. The country also has plenty of world renowned beaches, both in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, within short travel distances between both coasts both by air and land, and also several active volcanoes that can be visited with safety.
election results: Carlos ALVARADO Quesada elected president in second round; percent of vote in first round - Fabricio ALVARADO Munoz (PRN) 25%; Carlos ALVARADO Quesada (PAC) 21.6%; Antonio ALVAREZ (PLN) 18.6%; Rodolfo PIZA (PUSC) 16%; Juan Diego CASTRO (PIN) 9.5%; Rodolfo HERNANDEZ (PRS) 4.9%, other 4.4%; percent of vote in second round - Carlos ALVARADO Quesada (PAC) 60.7%; Fabricio ALVARADO Munoz (PRN) 39.3%
Covering 26,000 acres of tropical rainforest, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is home to thousands of plants and hundreds of animal species. We’ll take you on a guided walk through the reserve so you can spot the myriad of creatures hiding in its lush vegetation. Then we’ll up the ante with the incredible Sky Walk, where you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the forest as you walk a chain of six suspension bridges in the treetops. We’ll also introduce you to our Local Specialist, a Quaker, who’ll share his stories and photos of life in Monteverde. And if the Sky Walk isn’t adventurous enough for you, you’ll enjoy an even more thrilling visit to Arenal National Park. After trekking through the old lava rocks on the quiet side of the Arenal volcano here, you’ll fly through the foliage on a zip wire.
Our favorite place to catch a show is the National Theater in San Jose. We saw Alice in Wonderland as a ballet there a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Ballet is not typically our thing, but the theater is beautiful and sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse to dress up fancy and go out. Just keep in mind that most shows are in Spanish, but honestly I didn’t feel like I really needed a good grasp on the Spanish language while watching Alice in Wonderland.
If you like culture, I recommend flying into San Jose. There are a handful of museums and cultural sites in the city that are really interesting and the city is really the only place in Costa Rica with that many excellent museums and historical/cultural sites. Then head down to the South Pacific towards Panama. The SOuth Pacific area: Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal are really beautiful and full of nature, here are some things to do in Uvita: Things to do in Uvita and Dominical and here is our San Jose guide: Things to do in San Jose
The Gulf de Papagayo is a well established dive location with three major diving options. Local diving, the Catalinas, and the Bat Islands are the options within the Gulf. Diving centers are mainly located around Playas del Coco and Playa Flamingo. Out of the three options, Bat Islands is probably the most exciting as this national marine park is home to the often feared bull sharks. The dive site "Big Scare" allows divers the chance to dive face to face with these sharks and is also home to other large pelagics such as manta rays and the occasional whale shark.
I have a bottle of 100% Deet and when I use it, it works like a charm. Granted it’s a lot of chemicals but it really does the job so if you plan to use that, then you should be pretty ok. If you’re really scared or paranoid about getting bit, make sure you’re always wearing long sleeves and pants as that gives the best protection. The mosquitoes in the Guanacaste area are bad, but dengue fever has gone down a lot in the past couple years and it’s quite rare (not impossible) for people to get it, you’d have to be really unlucky. But it seems you are taking the necessary precautions so just make sure always have a bottle handy.
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Activities – Entrance into most national parks is usually around 5,500 CRC (10 USD) with discounts available for students. Canopy tours and day trips are around 25,000 CRC (40 USD). A two tank dive can be between 30,000-53,325 CRC (55-90 USD). Surf lessons start around 11,000 CRC (20 USD) per hour. There are also lots of surf camps where you can spend the week learning how to surf (or honing your skills if you already know how to). Prices vary widely, though expect to pay at least 25,000 CRC (40 USD) for a week.
Or skip cash altogether. Every brick-and-mortar merchant we patronized, including hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Liberia, accepted major credit cards. Because they’re dollar-denominated at contemporaneous exchange rates, credit card transactions with foreign-transaction-fee-free cards are cheaper than cash transactions, which require withdrawals from ATMs charging 2% to 3% for the privilege. If you rent your own car and avoid the informal economy, you can get by without touching a paper note.
“And what a tour it is: Usually, travelers have to choose from among Costa Rica’s beaches, volcanoes and rain forests. This tour goes to all those places and includes every major sight, as well as three meals a day on all but two days, and excellent hotels and lodges. The cost is a remarkable $995 per person for everything other than airfare to the capital city of San Jose.
Southwest Airlines offers routes that fly into both San Jose (the capital, smack-dab in the middle of the country, close to popular tourist areas like Punta Arenas) and Liberia (a small town in the north that offers a quick means of getting to the beautiful Nicoya Peninsula). Both are non-stop flights, both take around three-and-a-half hours, and both cost around $350 round-trip. And once you're here, lodging can be found at every price point, from tidy hostels for $30 a night, boutique hotels for $90, or flat-out luxury resorts where you're treated like royalty for $200.
Envision describes itself as “a platform for different cultures to coexist in sustainable community, and inspire one another through art, spirituality, yoga, music, dance, performance, education, sustainability, and our fundamental connection with nature.” The festival features more than 60 musical performers, non-musical performance artists on display around the clock, world-class yogis, body healing workshops, static and dynamic art installations (art is truly everywhere you look), and much more. Dozens of composting toilets, zero landfill waste of any kind distributed, biodegradable disposables such as plates and utensils, and other sustainable initiatives set Envision apart from more wasteful events of its scale. Consider attending even if this type of environment is outside of your comfort zone; it can be a truly transformative experience that will stay with you forever.
The rub is insurance, the full cost of which often exceeds the cost of the rental itself. Rental companies operating in Costa Rica offer several different types of optional insurance and one type of mandatory insurance – a liability policy that’ll set you back $15 to $25 per day, depending on the vehicle and carrier. Costa Rica Guide has a good primer on the confusing insurance regime. Bottom line: You can’t avoid mandatory insurance coverage, and you’ll probably want a supplemental policy that covers body damage if you plan to drive on unpaved mountain roads.
The rivers and rains have shaped Costa Rica’s landscape over millennia and rush through canyons and down mountains until reaching the sea for amazing whitewater rafting. The unique contours of the canals, forests, and waterfalls bring ample opportunities to explore the scenery and wildlife on rafting tours. Whether in the mood for a thrilling whitewater ride or a relaxing trip in search for lizards, birds, and monkeys, your professional guides will ensure a safe and memorable expedition. Popular destinations for rafting around Costa Rica include the Pacuare River (Lower Section) with class III/IV rapids, the Reventazon River (El Carmen Section) with class II/III rapids, the Toro River with class III/IV rapids, the Sarapiqui River (San Miguel Section) with class III/IV rapids, and the Savegre River with class II/III rapids.
All these areas are home to an inexhaustible biodiversity, one of the most abundant that represents 5% of the planet. More than 900 species of birds including hummingbirds, red macaws and toucans coexist with 208 species of mammals such as sloths, monkeys or felines such as jaguars. Insects, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies are also spread throughout the territory.
There is such biodiversity in Costa Rica not only because it's a land bridge between North and South America, but also because the terrain is so varied and there are weather patterns moving in from both the Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean. There are impressive volcanoes, mountain areas, rivers, lakes, and beaches all throughout the country. There are many beautiful beaches - most of the popular ones are on the Pacific side but the Caribbean has many excellent beaches as well.
Costa Rican is not known for the best road conditions. This is attributable to the mountainous terrain and extreme climates. While primary roads are generally paved, many side roads are not or are in poor condition. Distances that may appear like a short drive when looking at a map, may take much longer to traverse than expected. In some cases, roads are seasonal depending on river levels.
The active traveler to Costa Rica will have no shortage of trails and hikes from which to choose. 30 percent of the land is protected as national parks, preserves, and wildlife refuges, and each speckled with well-marked trails that lead to pristine beaches, primary rainforest, or bubbling volcanic foothills. An abundance of flora, fauna, and avifauna rewards travelers eager to discover the footpaths winding along the forest floor or sweeping through the treetops. The suspension bridges offer another form of active exploration and decorate the canopies around the diverse biospheres.
This book gives a fascinating overview of how animals, plants, and people interact with one another in Costa Rica’s rainforests. It’s written by Jack Ewing, a naturalist and natural born storyteller. Here, he shares a treasure trove of observations and stories gathered for more than 30 years of living in the country. Chances are, you’re coming to Costa Rica to discover some of the country’s amazing ecosystems. This book will get you excited about it.
Our trip was wonderful. We enjoyed every moment. Our guide, Jose, was incredibly helpful, very knowledgeable and super funny. The best guide ever! While the trip was only 7 days, we felt like we've seen a lot, learned a lot and experienced amazing things. Really, every day offered unforgettable adventures, a boat ride where we saw howler monkeys, a hike in the rain forest to see a volcano nearby, a zip-lining adventure where you couldn't see the other end of the zip-line. We really had a great time. Thank you Gate 1! (also, if possible, please say thank you to Jose. He made our trip stress-free, filled with excitement, and fun. We really appreciate that!).
Costa Rica was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the 16th century. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences. The Atlantic coast, meanwhile, was populated with African workers during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Adventure tours aren’t your only options when visiting this amazing country! While a common perception of Costa Rica involves untouched jungles and deserted white-sand beaches, there are areas of the country that delight in providing a combination of romantic experiences, adventure tours, and 5-star hospitality. A visit to the Arenal Volcano, for example, might involve a stay at the splendid Tabacon Thermal Resort, where a series of natural hot springs and incomparable service are delightful after a day zip-lining above the forest canopy! Do you dream of a personal balcony Jacuzzi, champagne in hand, with stunning views of Pacific Ocean coastline? How about heading out to watch the sunset from a luxurious sailboat? Eat a romantic private dinner, prepared by a personal chef, just steps from the rainforest, or enjoy a couples’ massage in a casita on the beach – the possibilities are nearly endless! Our Costa Rica Travel Experts are dedicated to creating an itinerary that will leave you with a lifetime of memories. It’s all up to you!
It is worth noting the particular road naming system in San Jose. Avenues run east-west and streets run north-south. The numbering is less straightforward. Starting at Central Avenue going south are 2nd, 4th, 6th Avenue, etc. while going north are 1st, 3rd, 5th, etc. Streets use even numbers going west, and odd numbers going east. This means that if you are at 7th Avenue and 4th Street, and looking for 6th Avenue and 5th Street, you are on the wrong side of town.
The country has consistently performed favorably in the Human Development Index (HDI), placing 69th in the world as of 2015, among the highest of any Latin American nation. It has also been cited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region.