2024 Costa Rica Travel Guide

Costa Rica boasts pristine beaches, lush mountains, cool cloud forests, active volcanoes, world-class coffee plantations, & stunning wildlife. There’s no shortage of things to see and do.

But planning a trip to Costa Rica can be overwhelming.

Costa Rica: The Complete Guide puts the best of Costa Rica at your fingertips, helping you maximize your time for the perfect trip.

Discover the Best of
Costa Rica

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The #1 Costa Rica guidebook.

Costa Rica Travel Tips

Best Times to Visit Costa Rica

Best Times to Visit

Discover the best times to visit Costa Rica. Avoid the rainy season, escape the crowds, discover paradise.

What to pack for Costa Rica

What to Pack

Whether you’re visiting the beaches, the rainforests, or the mountains, don’t leave home without these essential items.

Costa Rica's Best National Parks

Best National Parks

Costa Rica’s stunning national parks protect stunning beaches, dramatic mountains, lush rainforests, and cool cloud forests.

Costa Rica's Best Beaches

Best Beaches

From Caribbean beaches with fabulous sunrises to Pacific beaches with terrific sunsets, Costa Rica is famous for sun, surf, and sand.

Costa Rica's Best Waterfalls

Best Waterfalls

Costa Rica’s lush mountains are filled with waterfalls. Visit any of these tropical oases and you might never want to go back home.

Costa Rica's Best Volcanoes

Best Volcanoes

Find out why Costa Rica is called the “Land of Volcanoes.” Drive to the rim of an active volcano and peer inside the crater!

Costa Rica Hotels

Best Hotels

From luxurious ecolodges to beachside B&Bs, discover the best hotels and lodging in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Weather Guide

Weather & Seasons

Costa Rica’s weather patterns are essential for travel planning. Don’t get caught in the rain!

Costa Rica food

Costa Rican Food

Discover authentic local specialties — from Afro-Caribbean dishes to indigenous cuisine.

Costa Rica Culture

Costa Rican Culture

Understanding the basics of Costa Rican culture will help you avoid embarrassing mistakes!

Introduction to Costa Rica

Adapted from Costa Rica: The Complete Guide

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.


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. 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.

Costa Rican People

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.

Costa Ricans also take environmentalism seriously. They have set aside over 25% of Costa Rica 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.

Costa Rica Travel

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 Costa Rica, which is what makes it one of the world’s most popular eco-destinations.

Costa Rica: The Complete Guide

Discover the best of
Costa Rica

The #1 Costa Rica guidebook.