Costa Rica has it all: pristine beaches, bold mountains, cool cloud forests, active volcanoes, world-class coffee plantations, stunning wildlife. Although it covers less than 0.03% of earth’s surface, Costa Rica contains 5% of earth’s total biodiversity. No other country of comparable size contains so much tropical beauty.
I’ve spent years exploring this incredible country, and I love showing visitors the best that Costa Rica has to offer. This guide will help you plan an unforgettable vacation filled with amazing memories. Use the information below for initial trip planning. For an insider guide filled with expert tips, check out my book Costa Rica: The Complete Guide.
Costa Rica Vacation Guide
Discover the best times to visit Costa Rica. Avoid the rainy season, escape the crowds, and find your personal slice of paradise.
Whether you’re visiting the beaches, the rainforests or the mountains, don’t leave home without these travel essentials.
There are 26 national parks in Costa Rica. Discover the very best, including national parks with stunning beaches, mountains, rainforest, cloud forest and more.
From Caribbean beaches with fabulous sunrises to Pacific beaches with terrific sunsets, Costa Rica is famous for sun, surf and sand.
Costa Rica’s lush mountains are filled with waterfalls. Visit any of these tropical beauties and you’ll never want to go back home.
From luxurious ecolodges to beachside B&Bs, discover the best hotels and places to stay in Costa Rica.
Understanding Costa Rica’s annual weather patterns will help you plan the perfect trip. Don’t get caught in the rain!
One of the tallest peaks in Central America, 12,533-foot Chirripó offers the best hiking in Costa Rica. You can even spend the night near the summit.
Beautiful Costa Rica photos – from the islands to the highlands.
What’s more incredible than Costa Rica animal photos? Costa Rica baby animal photos!
Understand the basics of Costa Rican culture and you really will discover the best of Costa Rica. Knowing a few simple things can really set your trip apart.
Costa Rica Overview
Costa Rica is a tiny country with big attributes: the most peaceful country in Central America, the most democratic country in Latin America and one of the most biodiverse places on earth.
The country’s name, “Rich Coast,” was given by early Spanish explorers who assumed Costa Rica was filled with gold. In reality there was little gold to be found, but the country is home to something even more precious: stunning natural beauty.
Located just north of Panama and just south of Nicaragua, Costa Rica occupies one of nature’s most incredible pieces of real estate. Like the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is sandwiched between two continents and two oceans, attracting an amazing diversity of plants and animals from each ecosystem.
But even within Central America, Costa Rica’s biodiversity is impressive. Its Pacific Coast is the transition zone between the tropical dry forests of the north and the tropical rainforests of the south. Meanwhile a string of mountains runs through the center of the country, sheltering cool cloud forests and freezing páramos.
This varied geography supports an astonishing range of flora and fauna. All told, Costa Rica is home to roughly 5% of the world’s biodiversity, including nearly 8% of the world’s bird species, 10% of the world’s butterfly species, 10% of the world’s bat species and 20% of the world’s hummingbird species.
Even more impressive, all this natural wonder is packed into a country just 300 km (186 miles) long by 120 km (75 miles) wide, about half the size of Ohio. No other area of comparable size in the Western Hemisphere contains so much biodiversity.
The people of Costa Rica, who call themselves “Ticos,” are the proud stewards of this natural heritage. In contrast to the rest of Central America, which suffered a series of ruthless dictators and bloody civil wars throughout the 20th century, Costa Rica is a stable democracy that abolished its army in 1949 and invested in its people. Today its citizens are among the most educated and prosperous in Latin America.
They are also among the most environmentally conscious. Ticos have set aside over 25% of their country as national parks or preserves, and ecotourism is a major part of the economy. As such, Costa Rica has become a powerful role model for other developing countries, demonstrating that environmentalism and economic growth can go hand in hand.
Not surprisingly, Costa Rica’s unique combination of peace, stability, natural beauty and environmentalism lures travelers from around the world. Costa Rica vacationers are treated to gorgeous beaches, lush rainforests, active volcanoes and world-class wildlife. And because foreigners have been visiting for decades, Costa Rica is incredibly user-friendly. English is widely spoken, hotels and restaurants are up to international standards and getting around is easy.
You don’t have to be Tarzan to enjoy a Costa Rica vacation, which is what makes it one of the world’s most popular eco-destinations.
Plan the perfect Costa Rica vacation for less than the cost of lunch!
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"The best guide to Costa Rica I have ever seen, and I have seen several and visit the country every year." —Peter (Amazon customer)View on Amazon