The promise of pristine nature and secluded beaches protected by dense jungle terrain captures the attention of even seasoned travelers, and there is no greater place to blend rugged beauty and untamed nature than at Tortuguero, located on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. Small charter flights travel between Tortuguero and San Jose, but the majority of travelers must take a boat through the winding canals to reach the banks of Tortuguero Village. The Caribbean Sea laps against the bordering golden beach as palm trees offer an idyllic image of a hidden paradise while the rainforest grows wild against the western backdrop. The Afro-Caribbean culture permeates the tropical atmosphere with the music and flavors in the restaurants.
The location receiving the most rain is the Caribbean slopes of the Central Cordillera mountains, with an annual rainfall of over 5000 mm. Humidity is also higher on the Caribbean side than on the Pacific side. The mean annual temperature on the coastal lowlands is around 27°C, 20°C in the main populated areas of the Central Cordillera, and below 10°C on the summits of the highest mountains.
Magic Mountain Hotel and Spa is located on the northern end of Fortuna. All rooms have either a balcony or a terrace with a view of Arenal Volcano. Magic Mountain has a restaurant, sports bar, swimming pool with pool bar and two jacuzzis. The deluxe spa specializes in a variety of treatments including volcanic mud wraps, massages, facials, pedicures and manicures. Internet access is available in the Internet cafes for a fee in the nearby village of Fortuna.
The first waterfall we visited in Costa Rica was Catarata del Toro and I was shocked when they asked a whopping $14 admission fee to see it. I mean, I guess I sorta expected I would have to pay something, maybe $5 – but $14? Little did I know that this would not be a first-time occurrence. Throughout our time in Costa Rica we visited countless waterfalls. Always paying and always paying at least $12-$20 per person to visit. Don’t be shocked if you visit La Paz waterfalls and pay a $42 entrance fee! I do hope that all these fees are going back to conservation instead of into a government officials pocket.
The coasts of Costa Rica are known for strong currents and rip-tides in some areas but most of them are great to be with the family. Costa Rica has some of the best beaches in the world. The Atlantic coast is just five hours away from the Pacific one and both offer completely different views and landscapes. There are no signs indicating an unsafe beach due to riptides, so take precautions and listen to the locals on where it is safe to swim. The public beaches do not have life guards. A traveler should learn how to swim out of a rip tide and not swim alone. There are some active volcanoes in Costa Rica and they are dangerous, so follow the warning signs posted. The slopes of the Arenal volcano invite visitors to climb closer to the summit, but there have been fatalities in the past with unseen gas chambers. Also be wary of the climate of Costa Rica. It is very hot in the daytime, but in the morning and evening it becomes very cool, so you should bring a light weight jacket.
There are also a number of language schools that can be found throughout the Central Valley, particularly in Heredia and its surrounding cantons. These language schools typically offer only Spanish to foreign students from the United States and Europe but some, including the Instituto Norte Americano in Heredia, offer Spanish to foreign students, and English and Mandarin to local ones. Many of these language schools are also instrumental in helping the surrounding community, either through monetary donations or educational opportunities that otherwise may not have existed for the local Costa Rican population. Schools such as IAC (Instituto de Aprendizaje de Costa Rica) in Manuel Antonio, La Escuela Armonía in Guanacaste, as well as the Instituto Norte Americano in Heredia have frequently acted as educational hubs for their surrounding communities, giving free English classes to teachers of nearby schools and helping to raise money for worthy causes. Similarly in the Guanacaste region, Spanish schools such as Instituto Estelar Bilingüe in Liberia work closely with volunteer organizations and non-profits in the area in order to help the local people and give back to the community. Students are able to volunteer their time in a variety of ways while studying Spanish and travelling.
Although this nation encapsulates a mere 51,100 square kilometers, Costa Rica's biodiversity could fill an entire continent. Encompassing 12 distinct ecological zones, Ticos are well aware of their natural treasures: it is on its way to becoming the first carbon neutral nation by 2021. Costa Rica is home to 5 percent of the world's biodiversity, and locals are serious about protecting this magnificent environment.
“NO paper at all in toilets, NOTHING. Use the barrel provided alongside every toilet, yup, you got that right, that’s how it’s done here so do not clog the toilet. Excepting high end hotels in SOME places. The law requires public toilets in most all stores including grocery stores. Some roadside tourist spots want you to buy or pay maybe C1000 ($1.67) for the privilege.”—CaptBrad617
Costa Rica gave the world the zip-line canopy tour, which whisks you through the treetops courtesy of a cable, helmet, and a secure harness. They’re great fun and have become the country’s signature tourist activity. Gauge your willingness and ability carefully before you set out, however. Remember: there’s no turning back once you start. There are other, more sedate ways to see the rainforest canopy, anyway. A few aerial trams (you’re seated in a slow-moving gondola car) and hanging bridges (you walk) offer a better opportunity to take in the treetop nature spectacle than you get with the high-energy zip-line tours.
Visiting Costa Rica for the first time brings excitement and exhilaration for travelers eager to enjoy the adventurous activities, luxury accommodations, or thrilling interactions with the wildlife. Before arriving, it is important to have a passport valid for the entire length of your stay, along with at least one blank page to receive the customs stamp. At the time of writing, all visitors from the United States, Canada, and the majority of European countries receive a 90-day visa upon arrival. Those staying longer than the 90 days, whether for work, schooling purposes, or residential arrangements, must apply for a visa from their local consulate or embassy. Otherwise, a departure ticket must be purchased before entering Costa Rica, detailing your exit earlier than the expiration of the 90-day visa.
In November 2017, National Geographic magazine named Costa Rica as the happiest country in the world. The article included this summary: "Costa Ricans enjoy the pleasure of living daily life to the fullest in a place that mitigates stress and maximizes joy". It is not surprising then that one of the most recognizable phrases among "Ticos" is "Pura Vida", pure life in a literal translation. It reflects the inhabitant's philosophy of life, denoting a simple life, free of stress, a positive, relaxed feeling. The expression is used in various contexts in conversation. Often, people walking down the streets, or buying food at shops say hello by saying Pura Vida. It can be phrased as a question or as an acknowledgement of one's presence. A recommended response to "How are you?" would be "Pura Vida." In that usage, it might be translated as "awesome", indicating that all is very well. When used as a question, the connotation would be "everything is going well?" or "how are you?".
Finally, one of the top things to do in Costa Rica is seeing turtles – nesting and hatching. The best place to see them is Tortuguero National Park. Regardless of the place, make sure that watching the turtles has no impact on them. Things such as intense light and touching are extremely bad for these animals – if you opt for a guided tour to see turtles, make sure this is 100% responsible!
All you need to drive in Costa Rica is a valid North American driver’s license. The local road system is rudimentary, with one main highway on which traffic moves at about 65 miles per hour, a decent network of curvy paved roads on which traffic moves at an average of 20 to 40 miles per hour, and a ton of unpaved roads (some comically rutted) on which you’ll be lucky to average 15 or 20 miles per hour. Speed limits and other rules of the road are more suggestion than law. Watch for frequent slowdowns and backups caused by animals, workmen, and trucks struggling up steep grades.
Due to the condition of most roads outside San Jose, car insurance, even with a zero-deductible option, generally does not cover tires and rims. Car rental companies require a guaranty deposit from USD750 during the rental period and a credit card is necessary for this process. Using an insurance program provided by some types of gold or platinum credit cards is a good advantage, since these credit cards would cover small scratches, small dents as well as the entire rented vehicle in case of collision or theft.
Surfing is one of the most popular things to do in Costa Rica – this country gets some of the best waves in the world! My friends that regularly go surfing in Sardinia told me that nothing beats the waves of Pavones, Playa Tamarindo, Playa Negra and Playa Hermosa. Those who are keen to learn have plenty of choice for surf camps. Some people even go as far as booking surf holidays. Those who just want to have a try can sign up for a group or individual lesson.
Most Afro-Costa Ricans descend from Jamaican immigrants who worked in the construction of that railway and now make up about 3% of Costa Rica's population. U.S. convicts, Italians and Chinese immigrants also participated in the construction project. In exchange for completing the railroad, the Costa Rican government granted Keith large tracts of land and a lease on the train route, which he used to produce bananas and export them to the United States. As a result, bananas came to rival coffee as the principal Costa Rican export, while foreign-owned corporations (including the United Fruit Company later) began to hold a major role in the national economy and eventually became a symbol of the exploitative export economy. The major labor dispute between the peasants and the United Fruit Company (The Great Banana Strike) was a major event in the country's history and was an important step that would eventually lead to the formation of effective trade unions in Costa Rica, as the company was required to sign a collective agreement with its workers in 1938.