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Alajuela is the third largest city in Costa Rica, and located northeast of the capital San Jose. A main attraction to visit in Alajuela is La Paz Waterfall Gardens; this ecological attraction is trailed with five waterfalls and countless species of w...

Categories: Alajuela


Arenal, in Costa Rica, is the site of one of the most active volcanoes in the world. On almost a daily basis, red-hot rocks crash down its steep slopes and volcanic grumbles produce huge ash columns above the crater. In addition to the volcano, t...

Categories: Arenal

Arenal Dam Dock

Categories: Arenal Dam Dock

Arenal Hanging Bridges

Categories: Arenal Hanging Bridges

Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal volcano is the most spectacularly active in Costa Rica. Hotels in the region tout their views of the lava flows and red hot boulders ejected from the volcano glowing in the darkness. Although eruptions are the main attraction, you should be aw...

Categories: Arenal Volcano National Park


Visit a sugar cane mill in season, a coffee facility where Costa Rica's superior beans are prepared, and a processing plant for the flavorful macadamia nut. One of the principal attractions of the area is a thrilling ride in a river raft or a kayak. ...

Categories: Atirro

Bahia Culebra

Categories: Bahia Culebra

Bahia Drake

With the tallest primary rainforest on the planet, the national forest in Abahia Drake is home to many endangered animal and bird species as well as a huge number of indigenous wildlife and flora. From Drake Bay you can also visit the biological rese...

Categories: Bahia Drake

Bahia Huevos

Categories: Bahia Huevos

Bahia Paraiso

Bahia Paraiso is located on the far western edge of Osa Peninsula just bordering the Corcovado National Park to the south. Due to it's remoteness, it is only possible to get to the lodge by boat or helicopter charters. Getting to Bahia Paraiso is a w...

Categories: Bahia Paraiso

Bahia Potrero

Categories: Bahia Potrero

Bajos del Toro

Bajos del Toro sits in Costa Rica, is situated next to the Poas Volcano National Park, Juan Castro Blanco National Park, and the Bosque de Paz Rain/Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Outdoor activities are plentiful with rugged trail systems to ex...

Categories: Bajos del Toro

Barra Honda National Park

Barra Honda National Park, a small park 110 mi/175 km northwest of San Jose on the Nicoya Peninsula, protects the flora and fauna of the tropical dry forest and has an extensive network of caves. You can hire local guides to lead you through the cave...

Categories: Barra Honda National Park

Bosque De Paz

Bosque de Paz Reserve is a lush jungle paradise in the middle of Costa Rica, only 1 ½ hours from San Jose. Visitors to this private ecological reserve experience natural beauty, crystal waters and fresh air of the mountains while surrounded by...

Categories: Bosque De Paz

Braulio Carrillo National Park

A largely undeveloped park, Braulio Carrillo National Park lies in the mountains 40 mi/65 km east of San Jose on the way to Limon, and is sometimes referred to as "the lungs of San Jose." Some of its beautiful yet rugged mountain scenery and waterfal...

Categories: Braulio Carrillo National Park


Located on the Carribean coast of Costa Rica, Cahuita was founded by a turtle fisherman William Smith in 1828. The little village is laid-back and vibrant submerged in Creole culture and Afro-Caribbean heritage. Visitors can hike the jungle, snorkel ...

Categories: Cahuita

Caletas Beach

Caletas Beach in the south Western part of Nicoya Peninsula, in Costa Rica is home to many unspoiled beaches. Caletas Beach is a quiet secluded beach that offers a beautiful sandy shore, and peaceful relaxation. Caletas Beach also has some of th...

Categories: Caletas Beach

Cano Island

Not only do the waters surrounding Caño Island contain some of the most abundant and varied marine life in the world, but the island also possesses several pre-Colombian archeological artifacts. These artifacts can be explored on several hikes throug...

Categories: Cano Island

Cano Negro

A haven for birds and wildlife, Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge is located in north-central Costa Rica, 120 mi/195 km northwest of San Jose. The best way to see it is from the water—narrow boats leave from Los Chiles near the Nicaraguan border fo...

Categories: Cano Negro

Carara Biological Reserve

Carara Biological Reserve is a tropical dry forest and a nature enthusiasts dream. The reserve is a region of majestic mountain ranges, marshes, verdant forests, rivers and ravines, and archeological sites. The reserve houses a very diverse range of ...

Categories: Carara Biological Reserve

Carrillo Beach

Categories: Carrillo Beach


Cartago is Costa Rica’s first capital and its oldest capital until 1823. Cartago was founded by Juan Vasquez de Coronado in 1563. It’s an old community that sits at the Irazú Volcano. Cartago’s rich soil is ideal for agricult...

Categories: Cartago

Casa Orquideas

Casa de Orquideas also known as the real-life Garden of Eden, is a short 25 minute boat ride from Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica. Casa de Oruideas was founded 30 years ago by American expats Ron and Trudy McAllister. Self-taught botanists, the pair have ...

Categories: Casa Orquideas

Casa Saladero

Categories: Casa Saladero

Chirripo National Park

The main attraction in Chirripo National Park, on the northwest corner of La Amistad International Park (60 mi/100 km southeast of San Jose), is Mount Chirripo. At 12,600 ft/3,840 m, it is Costa Rica's highest peak. From Mount Chirripo's summit, you ...

Categories: Chirripo National Park

Cocos Island National Park

Cocos Island National Park might be thought of as the little Galapagos of Costa Rica. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the island is the northernmost and oldest of a chain of volcanoes, mostly submarine. Cocos Island is one of the world...

Categories: Cocos Island National Park

Costa Rica

Quick Facts Passport Info: To enter Costa Rica, U.S. nationals need to present a valid passport and a return ticket to exit the country within 90 days — no visa is required. Official currency: US dollars are accepted nearly eve...

Categories: Central America

Coter Lake

Costa Rica’s famous Coter Lake lies along Costa Rica’s beautiful Northern Pacific mountains, an exclusive location with breathtaking views of Arenal Volcano. Coter Lake is next to the Ecolodge’s primary forest private reserve. This is the perfect p...

Categories: Coter Lake

Diamante Verde

Diamante Verde (Green Diamond) has a set of ten amazing waterfalls, and is a trip for the adventurous. Hike up a lush mountain in Costa Rica’s southern zone while enjoying tropical fruits and panoramic views, to ultimately camp overnight in a h...

Categories: Diamante Verde

Drake Bay

Drake Bay, named after Sir Francis Drake, is an outdoor enthusiasts dream. Naturalist tours lead by professional entomologist are a fun and fascinating way to learn more about the bay. There are also diving adventures, and mountain biking expeditions...

Categories: Drake Bay


Surrounded by steep hills and tropical rain forest, the chamring town of Golfito has a sheltered position on the Golfo Dulce on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. From here you can explore the Corcovado National Park, the black sand beach at Zancudo, a...

Categories: Golfito

Golfo de Papagayo

Golfo de Papagayo is a recently expanded area of Costa Rica's rainforest, offering amazing untamed areas for visitors to explore. Papagayo has beautiful sandy beaches, shady pal trees, clear waters, and stunning views. Visitors looking to get away fr...

Categories: Golfo de Papagayo


Here you can drive to the very edge of a volcanic crater, hike through the heart of a mountain jungle and explore a cherished rainforest in the same day. The Guanacaste region is a beach lover's paradise with its unforgettable white sand beaches and ...

Categories: Guanacaste


Guanacaste, a province in northwestern Costa Rica, is a tropical paradise bursting with outdoor activities. It has more than 400 miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean, creating many opportunities for water sports like surfing, snorkeling, fishing o...

Categories: Central America > Costa Rica


Categories: Heredia


A quiet beach some ten years ago mostly frequented by Ticos and campers, Playa Herradura was an unknown paradise. A superb black sand beach with aqua green waters and a palm tree lined shoreline; Playa Herradura is today a tourist hotspot on the Nort...

Categories: Herradura

Irazu Volcano National Park

The Irazu Volcano poured smoke from 1963-65 and deposited ash and mud as far away as San Jose. Today, the volcano, located about 35 m/56 km east of San Jose, is surrounded by trees and wide plains where, if you're lucky, you will see foxes and other ...

Categories: Irazu Volcano National Park

Isla Coiba

Isla Coiba boasts 1,450 animal species. Among them whales, manta rays, parrots, and hump backed whales. Don’t miss the exotically feathered Guacamya Royal as she flits above the treetops looking for her prey. Isla Coiba’s volcanic soil makes for verd...

Categories: Isla Coiba

Isla del Cano

Isla del Caño is a small island in Costa Rica, and an established protected National Park. Visitors come here for the beautiful beaches, coral beds, and abundant marine life. These waters are home to manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, whales, ...

Categories: Isla del Cano

Isla Del Coco

Categories: Isla Del Coco

Isla Gamez

A picture-perfect location just south of Boca Brava, Isla Gamez is an uninhabited island in the Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park by the border of Costa Rica. This island contains colorful coral reefs, mangrove swamps, coconut palms, and glistening ...

Categories: Isla Gamez

Islas Murcielagos

Categories: Islas Murcielagos


Categories: Jaco

La Fortuna

La Fortuna is near Costa Rica's active volcano, Volcan Arenal. Driving into the park, plumes of smoke belching out of the volcano become ominiously closer. Arenal has been nearly contastantly active and attracts visitors from around the world. Experi...

Categories: La Fortuna

La Pavona

Categories: La Pavona

Liberia (C.R.)

Liberia is a rapidly becoming popular with travelers. It's a charming college town lined with magnolia's and mango  trees. Liberia has something for all travelers form its historic architecture to it's accommodations, fantastic servi...

Categories: Liberia (C.R.)


Puerto Límon, on a palm-fringed shore backed by mountains, is the country's most important port. It was built on the site of an ancient Indian village, Cariari, where Columbus landed on his fourth and last voyage. Though he felt this was potentially ...

Categories: Limon

Los Angeles Cloud Forest

Categories: Los Angeles Cloud Forest

Los Suenos

Renowned as one of Costa Rica's premier destination resorts, Los Suenos abounds with outstanding recreational facilities and offers a wide array of optional excursions. Spend the day as you wish, experiencing your choice of activities. Play a round o...

Categories: Los Suenos

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park was established in 1972 by Costa Rica to preserve the biodiversity of one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Its stunning beauty and diverse wildlife is unequaled. Walk through rainforests to expansive, sandy beach...

Categories: Manuel Antonio National Park


Marenco's lies at the edge of a breathtaking nature reserve in enchanting Costa Rica. The exotic coastal location provides a variety of opportunities for adventure, family recreation, nature study, and relaxation, in one of the world's most amazing w...

Categories: Marenco


The Monteverde rainforest area, which comprises ten towns with 8,000 people, is situated on the Continental Divide at an elevation of 5,600 feet. A walk through a Costa Rica Monteverde cloud forest reveals a lush green garden of mosses, ferns, flower...

Categories: Monteverde


Categories: Muelle

National Park Santa Rosa

The National Park is a lushes forested savannah featuring thousands of species of flora and fauna. Visitors to this beautiful park can expect to see howler and capuchin monkeys swinging from tree canopies, and the musical accompaniment of birds,...

Categories: National Park Santa Rosa

Nicoya Peninsula

Off of the mainland of Costa Rica is a sanctuary where guests can wake up to the calming waves peeling off the coastal shore, monkeys hollering for your day to start, and an unbelievable view to wake up to. Take a dip in Nicoya's saphhire waters ...

Categories: Nicoya Peninsula

Osa Peninsula

The pristine rainforests and the rugged natural beauty of the Osa Peninsula make this region among the most beautiful areas in Costa Rica. Declared ‘one of the most biologically intense places on earth’ by the National Geographic Magazine, the Osa Pe...

Categories: Osa Peninsula

Pacuare River

The Pacuare River is a designated 'Wild and Scenic' river; winding exotically through 25,000 acres of protected rain forest before falling into the Talamanca Mountain Range, ravines and rocks have made this river exquisite for white water rafting (...

Categories: Pacuare River

Palmar Sur

Categories: Palmar Sur

Palo Verde National Park

A major attraction of Palo Verde National Park, located 45 mi/72 km west of San Jose, is the seasonal swampland that provides temporary habitat for thousands of migratory waterbirds (November-February). The tropical dry forest that covers most of Pal...

Categories: Palo Verde National Park

Piedras Blancas National Park

Piedras Blancas National Park is a lush rainforest abounding with rare flora and fauna located in the Puntarenas Province near La Gamba. The park is considered one of the top bird watching locations in Costa Rica, and is an important gathering site t...

Categories: Piedras Blancas National Park

Playa Blanca (C.R.)

Categories: Playa Blanca (C.R.)

Playa del Coco

The waters near Playa del Coco hold all sorts of delightful surprises. Whether your pleasure is snorkel, scuba, or simply sailing, the natural wonders of Playas Huevo, Blanca, and Nacazcolo, and the Bat and Catalinas Islands, are sure to delight.

Categories: Playa del Coco

Playa Flamingo

Playa Flamingo lies on the pensinsula Nicoya, in the province of Guanacaste, in the northwest of Costa Rica. The whole region of Tamarindo has miles of white sand beaches. The town of Flamingo is rather small and quiet.

Categories: Playa Flamingo

Playa Hermosa

Categories: Playa Hermosa

Playa Nacascolo

Categories: Playa Nacascolo

Playa Panama

Categories: Playa Panama

Playa Quesera

Categories: Playa Quesera

Poas Volcano National Park

An easy trip 35 mi/55 km northwest of San Jose, Poas Volcano (8,800 ft/2,700 m high) has what is said to be the world's largest active crater. A short hike from the car park at the summit leads to the rim, where you can see the colorful lake that oft...

Categories: Poas Volcano National Park

Puerto Carrillo

Puerto Carillo is a small fishing port with a small collection of restaurants and some modest hotels. The waters of Puerto Carillo are made calm by the rocky outcropping protecting the bay, creating an idyllic locale in which to snorkel and swim. Car...

Categories: Puerto Carrillo

Puerto Jimenez

The sleepy town of Puerto Jimenez is a gateway to the Corcovado National Park. Located on the eastern coast of the Osa Peninsula, this town has relaxing beaches and diverse wildlife. Puerto Jimenez was once a gold mining and logging town. Today, it s...

Categories: Puerto Jimenez

Punta Islita

Categories: Punta Islita


The Central Pacific's largest city, Puntarenas sits on a long, narrow peninsula in the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica. For years, it was the country's principal port, and though Puntarenas handles big cruise ships, a large fishing fleet still anchors ...

Categories: Puntarenas


Microclimates characterize Costa Rica, but in a nation of verdant rain forest, the region around Quepos, on Coronado Bay is one of the richest and most bio-diverse places on earth. Its unspoiled natural beauty has secretly drawn visitors for decades...

Categories: Quepos

Rincon de la Viejo National Park

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park

Categories: Rincon de la Viejo National Park

Rio Chiquito Dock, Rio Chiquito

Categories: Rio Chiquito Dock Rio Chiquito

Rio Esquinas

Categories: Rio Esquinas

Rio Perdido

Rio Perdido is one of Costa Rica’s best kept secret. Located within the canyons in Bagaces, Costa Rica, this hidden river meets the Rio Blanco and the Rio Perdido hot springs. Rio Perdido is surrounded by dense forest making it almost impossibl...

Categories: Rio Perdido

Saladero Ecolodge

Categories: Saladero Ecolodge

San Isidro

Categories: San Isidro

San Jose

San Jose, Costa Rica is often used as a stepping stone to other cities in Costa Rica. But the capital city is actually a very worthwhile destination, not just one to pass through

Categories: Central America > Costa Rica

San Jose (C.R.)

The sophisticated capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, has been endowed with a vibrant street life as well as a refined cultural life. You'll see contemporary structures of glass and steel, as well as colonial, Victorian, and classical architecture, exot...

Categories: San Jose (C.R.)

San Josecito

Home to some of Costa Rica's most stunning scenery: crystalline waters, white sandy beaches, fiery Pacific sunsets. Nearby lies Corcovado, the crown jewel of Costa Rican sanctuaries.

Categories: San Josecito

San Ramon

Categories: San Ramon

Santa Cruz

Categories: Santa Cruz

Santa Elena Bay

Categories: Santa Elena Bay

Santa Teresa

Categories: Santa Teresa


Sarapiquí is a tiny community in Costa Rica in a valley surrounded by rainforests. It is accessed via waterways and tiny canals. The area is relatively unknown, and home to some of Costa Rica's most diverse and dense wildlife and vegetation. Be sur...

Categories: Sarapiqui


Located about 40 mi/65 km northwest of San Jose, Sarchi enjoys a lovely setting amid mountains and valleys planted with pineapple, sugarcane and coffee. The town is Costa Rica's center of crafts and fine furniture manufacturing, and the presence of n...

Categories: Sarchi

Savegre River

With the help of the Quetzal's Education and Research Center, the Savegre River is part of the conservation project that focuses on adventurous sustainable tourism. Nestled among the 842 acres of jungle, travelers can experience a rafting experie...

Categories: Savegre River

Sibu Chocolate, San Isidro

Categories: Sibu Chocolate San Isidro


Relax on grey-sand beaches in the shade of mangrove trees along the village of Tambor. Along the southeastern peninsula, south of Paquera, you'll find many opportunities to hike, swim and kayak, exploring the local towns and hillsides, and perhaps wi...

Categories: Tambor

Tapanti National Park

Located in a corner of the Orosi Valley 25 mi/40 km southeast of San Jose, Tapanti National Park is a quiet refuge that protects a luxuriant cloud forest, a spectacular waterfall and an emerald river perfect for swimming. The forests that drape the s...

Categories: Tapanti National Park


Categories: Tarcoles

Tenorio Volcano National Park

The Tenorio Volcano National Park is best known for the Rio Celeste whose river illuminates vibrant blue water. This national park has been protected since 1995 and is home to the active Tenorio Volcano. There are multiple life zones and ecosystems m...

Categories: Tenorio Volcano National Park

Tortuga Island (Curu)

Tortuga, a dream island and a little paradise in the Pacific Ocean, has something for everyone. More than just a beach, white sands and sun, Tortuga also offers luxuriant flora, fauna and adventure. Tortuga Island is a reflection today of more than t...

Categories: Tortuga Island (Curu)


The small village of Tortuguero (translated as "Region of Turtles") lies on the northeastern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, approximately 50 miles north of the principal Port of Limon. The village is comprised of a variety of cultures: Hispanic, Mis...

Categories: Tortuguero


What has brought the town of Turrialba international recognition is its proximity to the Ríos Reventazón and Pacuare, both packed with Class III-V rapids and some of the world's best river runs. Whitewater rafters and kayakers of all abilities splash...

Categories: Turrialba


Uvita is a beach lovers paradise. It is a tropical oasis on an unspoiled stretch of beach, just 11 miles south of Dominical. Enjoy snorkeling, diving, hiking, horse back riding, surfing, or just relaxing on the serene beach.

Categories: Uvita

Vara Blanca

Categories: Vara Blanca

Pack your bathing suit, hiking boots, camera, and binoculars. Lush tropical Costa Rica offers the best in Sun, Beaches, and Forests! Northern Costa Rica is everything from secluded spots of breathtaking natural scenery to a water sports-lovers paradise. Its wealth of activities and attractions is provided by a variety of territories that comprise active volcanoes, rich flora and fauna, and the Pacific Coast and beaches of Costa Rica's Golden Coast. A rich multicultural heritage endowed San Jose sophisticated capital city with a vibrant street life as well as a refined cultural life.
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Costa Rica

Costa Rica's diverse natural landscape, coupled with an abundance of outdoor activities and a focus on environmental sustainability and preservation, make it no surprise that the country has been rated as one of the happiest places on Earth.

Visitors can fly through the rain-forest canopy on a zipline, go white-water rafting, climb a volcano, relax on a white-sand beach, check out colorful marine life while snorkeling, or try to hook a big one on a deep-sea fishing excursion. That's why so many people choose to go there: In the past decade, the number of visitors has more than quintupled, and tourism has become the leading sector of the nation's economy.

Costa Rica is practically synonymous with ecotourism—travel that incorporates education about the environment and promotes preservation of natural resources. The country has a large number of national parks and nature preserves that boast a rich array of birds, mammals, reptiles and rain-forest plants. The variety of birds, in particular, is astounding: Some 850 species are packed into a relatively small area.

The country also excels in adventure sports, including surfing, mountain biking, river rafting, hiking and scuba diving. Those who prefer a less strenuous vacation can view several active volcanoes, take boat trips down jungle rivers and float through the treetops in a rain-forest aerial tram or speed through the forest canopy on any of several dozen thrilling zipline systems.


A small country—just 75 mi/120 km separates the Pacific Ocean from the Caribbean Sea at the narrowest spot—Costa Rica still has some of the most diverse scenery in the world. Its coasts have both sandy beaches and marshy swamps, and its interior is dotted with volcanoes and rugged mountain chains, dense rain forests and abundant, unusual flora.

Its geographic diversity and elevation, ranging from sea level to more than 13,000 ft/4,030 m atop Cerro Chirripo, have blessed the nation with 12 distinct life zones. The most secluded area in Costa Rica is the Oso Peninsula in the southern part of Puntarenas Province. It is true jungle rain forest, and it has one of the most diverse ecocultures in the world. It is difficult to traverse, and tourists often have to receive permission before they are flown in to visit the area.

Approximately 25% of the country's land has been set aside in protected areas, earning Costa Rica a reputation as an environmentally sensitive country and leader in ecological conservation. However, nonprotected areas have not fared so well: During the past few decades, Costa Rica has had one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. The country is now coming to terms with the large resorts being built to serve the growing numbers of travelers and a condominium construction boom that has been spawned in its wake.


Columbus first saw this portion of Central America in 1502 during his last trip to the New World. But Spanish settlement did not begin until the mid-1500s because early expeditions were beset by disease and resistance from the indigenous people. The Spanish did find some gold in the area—inspiring the name Costa Rica (Rich Coast)—but not the large reserves they sought.

Colonization proceeded slowly along the east coast until the Spanish finally moved to the cooler, fertile valleys and mesas of the interior, known as the Central Valley. The predominantly mountainous terrain kept the plantation system, with its attendant slavery, from developing in Costa Rica (an exception was the far northwest plains). Instead, the colonists gathered near the indigenous communities and built small-scale subsistence farms. Towns grew slowly and evolved intense rivalries for political dominance.

Such independence and self-reliance are thought to be the reasons democracy came more naturally to Costa Rica than to its neighbors when the country gained its independence in the early 1820s. Brief civil wars erupted among the major cities in which the more liberal forces of San Jose emerged victorious, moving the country toward fair, democratic elections in the late 1800s and establishing San Jose as the undisputed capital.

In the 1940s the country became politically polarized, and civil war broke out once again. After a brief struggle, socialist insurrectionist Jose Maria "Don Pepe" Figueres emerged as the country's leader. He continued to be a central figure in Costa Rican politics through the 1970s, overseeing reforms that helped keep the country peaceful and prosperous in a region known for its armed conflicts and wretched poverty.

Costa Rica abolished its military in 1948 and invested in education and public-health facilities, actions that helped prevent a flood of rural poor into the major cities. These measures have prompted many to view Costa Rica as a model Latin American country, although it has had its share of economic problems that accelerated in the 1980s and continue today. Costa Rica has cut back on its extensive social programs to deal with a large national deficit, massive internal debt and a massive influx of Nicaraguan refugees and unemployed. Costa Rica has, in illegal Nicaraguan neighbors who are seeking the "Costa Rican dream," a problem similar to that of the U.S. with illegal aliens seeking the American dream.

The tourism boom that began in the 1980s has brought rapid development to much of the country. Nonetheless, Costa Rica's democratic system has been challenged by corruption and cronyism—several past presidents have been indicted. In 2006, former President Oscar Arias (winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize) was re-elected president after successfully lobbying for a constitutional change permitting presidents to serve more than one term. In 2010, Costa Rica elected its first female president, Laura Chinchilla. Luis Guillermo Solis succeeded her in 2014, and in 2018 , 38-year-old Carlos Alvarado Quesada was elected as one of the youngest presidents in the country's history. In 2022, Rodrigo Chaves Robles was elected president.


The main attractions of Costa Rica are amazingly diverse natural beauty, wildlife, bird-watching, black- and white-sand beaches, deep-sea and river fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, casinos, surfing, white-water rafting, volcanoes, horseback riding, good restaurants, world-class resorts and spas, and its friendly, well-educated people (often known simply as Ticos).

Those who enjoy exotic plants and animals and those who participate in outdoor activities will get the most out of Costa Rica. To observe the country's varied forests, visitors need to be moderately fit and comfortable with the claustrophobic, often damp jungle environment, or with the hot, dry conditions of the forests in the province of Guanacaste to as far south as northern Nicoya Peninsula.


You're likely to notice that plastic-surgery and medical vacations are advertised heavily as a tourism option in Costa Rica. If people you know return from a trip to Costa Rica looking younger, healthier and particularly refreshed, it may be that they went under the knife.

Costa Rica has a rich mix of races and ethnicities. Two of the nation's heroes are NASA astronaut Franklin Chang, a Costa Rican of Chinese ancestry, and Olympic swimmer Claudia Poll, whose parents emigrated from Germany. Poll won the first gold medal in the country's history at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Ticos take a little bit of nature into their homes with pets (a lot of birds) and flowers and plants. Even the simplest home will have pots of flowers and plants in the yard.

In the 1850s, Costa Rica was invaded by an army led by American William Walker, who had earlier taken over Nicaragua and hoped to rule all of Central America. A hastily convened and poorly equipped Costa Rican army defeated Walker's forces, spoiling his plans of empire and leading to his eventual demise.

Hotel Capitan Suizo in Tamarindo has a program to rescue orphaned howler monkeys, nurse them back to health and protect them from predators in special open-topped cages at night. Two troupes of howlers visit the hotel regularly, and during those visits, the orphans play with the other babies from the troupe and then retire to their cages when the others leave. Once the orphans regain their strength, they should be adopted by one of the groups.

Costa Rica was the first country in Central America to grow coffee (in 1808) and bananas (in the 1870s). Coffee is often referred to in Costa Rica as grano de oro, or grain of gold.

The most mysterious relics of pre-Columbian culture are the perfectly round stone spheres—up to 6 ft/2 m in diameter—that are scattered throughout southern Costa Rica in the Diquis Delta archaeological zone. Archaeologists can explain almost nothing about them. The spheres are under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The seed from a guanacaste tree is unusually large, round and hard and has a glossy sheen. Costa Ricans believe that to give someone one of these seeds brings good luck to the recipient of the gift. The recipient in turn gives the seed to another person to bring good luck to that person.


Costa Rica has two cruise terminals. On the Caribbean side, ships dock at Puerto Limon. The Puerto Limon terminal has its own crafts market with more than 100 artists, phones, a pharmacy and salons offering manicures, pedicures and massages when a cruise ship is in port. Taxis are available both inside and outside the terminal gates. Only one block from the town's main square, the Limon port is well-located for exploring on foot. A selection of shops, restaurants and internet cafes is within a 10-minute walk of the port.

On the Pacific, ships dock at the cruise-ship pier in Puntarenas City. A tourist information center and an air-conditioned waiting room offering international call service, a bank and a snack shop are located directly in front of the dock. Cruise visitors are greeted by tour companies promoting trips to popular destinations and a wall of vendors selling arts and crafts along the boardwalk. The town is small enough to explore on foot. A walking map is available at the tourist information center. Outdoor restaurants and cafes are just steps from the dock, many of which line the boardwalk, known as the Paseo de los Turistas.

About one quarter of arriving ships dock at the container port of Puerto Caldera, 8 mi/13 km south of Puntarenas City. This dock is primarily used when a transfer is involved. Principally a container-ship terminal, Caldera has few facilities for cruise passengers. A tourist information center offering international phone service is open when a ship is in port. Taxis are available.

Shore Excursions

Cruise-ship passengers can choose from two dozen or so exciting shore excursions. On the Caribbean, the most popular offerings include nature excursions along the canals leading to Tortuguero National Park (cruise-ship time limitations prevent full tours of this very isolated national park); tours of the Costa Flores horticultural farm; a ride on the Rain Forest Aerial Tram; trips to the Caribbean surfer capital of Puerto Viejo or the heavily Caribbean-influenced Cahuita; a visit to the Veragua Rainforest Research and Adventure Park; and white-water rafting on the Reventazon River.

Passengers arriving at Puntarenas City or Puerto Caldera are typically offered day trips to San Jose, and to Poas Volcano and Sarchi (the center for crafts); a catamaran excursion to Isla Tortuga; a ride on the Pacific Aerial Tram; a trip to Jaco to enjoy its surfer culture; and a hike in Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve or Manuel Antonio National Park.

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