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Overview

Costa Rica, which means ‘Rich Coast’ in English, is a rainforest-covered country in Central America, home to around 5 million people. The country is known for its flourishing ecotourism industry and has ranked number one on more than one occasion for its incredible sustainability efforts. Almost a quarter of the landscape is covered in protected jungle, teeming with exotic fauna and flora. Costa Rica is a place of dreamy beaches, fiery volcanoes, lush cloud forests and great lakes. With an impressive 28 national parks, this small country should be at the top of the list for all nature-lovers.

Listed numerous times as one of the most beautiful national parks in the world, Manuel Antonio National Park is a must-see when visiting Costa Rica. This tiny park is made up of shimmering beaches, mangrove swamps, verdant forest, majestic mountains and colourful coral reefs. Wildlife in the park includes the howler monkey, white-faced monkey, sloth, paca, anteater, and occasionally ocelots. Reptile species include iguanas, crocodiles and boa constrictors while bird species include toucans, aracaris, parrots, parakeets and hummingbirds. Various exciting activities are available in the park, including snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming and hiking.

Arenal Volcano National Park is home to the most active volcano in the country; Volcano Arenal. Due to recent volcanic activity, the area around the crater is bare and scorched, however, further down the mountain, the rich nutrients from eruptions have allowed vegetation and wildlife to flourish, creating a colourful mosaic of fauna and flora. Arenal National Park is a bird watcher’s paradise with a staggering 850 bird species to be spotted including the country’s most elusive and beautiful bird, the endangered resplendent quetzal. Other wildlife in the park includes white-faced capuchin monkeys, jaguar, deer and coati, as well as snakes such as the fer-de-lance and parrot snake. In this park, activities such as hiking to enjoy the breathtaking surroundings are a must.

One of Costa Rica’s most popular parks, Tortuguero National Park’s remote location has helped to successfully protect its fauna and flora for decades. The area was once an archipelago until sediments from the interior mountains filled in the spaces and formed a network of marshy islands. This incredibly diverse park contains eleven unique habitats for visitors to explore. Mangrove forests, swamps, rainforests, lagoons and beaches are just some of the beautiful areas to be discovered. ‘Tortuguero’ means ‘land of turtles’ in English, as the park is famous for its wide variety of turtle life, which lay their eggs on the beaches. Other fauna in the park include monkeys, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, sloths and manatees. Over 300 species of birds can be spotted in Tortuguero including parrots, parakeets, kingfishers, toucans and spoonbills. A kayaking trip or guided walk or hike are all great ways to explore this spectacular park.

Travel Seasons

  • Dec-Apr – High Season. It’s the dry season but there is still some rain. Domestic tourists head to the beach towns, accommodation should be booked well ahead.
  • May-Jul, Nov – Shoulder Season. More rain, roads become muddy and rivers rise, harder to get to adventurous areas. Less tourists although European and North American students are on holiday so there can still be crowds.
  • Aug-Oct – Low Season. Highest rainfall, rural roads impassable, although best surfing conditions as storms bring swells in the Pacific. Accommodation prices are lower, some places are closed.

General Information

  • Capital city – San José
  • Currency – Costa Rican colón
  • Languages – Spanish
  • Size – 51,100 km2 (19,700 sq mi)
  • Population – 4.9 million (2018)

Travel Insurance

  • Travel insurance is essential for all international travel. Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism has recently confirmed that from 01/05/18 it is mandatory for all foreigners visiting Ecuador to have health insurance Click below to find out more:

Travel Health

  • The CDC recommends the following vaccinations for Costa Rica: hepatitis A and typhoid. Check with your doctor which other vaccinations you might need and make sure your routine vaccinations are all up-to-date.
  • Malaria is present in some parts of Costa Rica- get medical advice on which prophylaxis to take.
  • There is no risk of yellow fever, but a yellow fever certificate is required by those arriving from some countries, details here >>
  • It is best to stick to bottled water.

Pros

  • One of the world’s most biodiverse countries
  • Rich variety of flora and fauna
  • Wide range of outdoor adventures
  • Pioneer of ecotourism
  • One of the most stable countries in Central America

Cons

  • During the wet season access to more remote areas can be difficult while accommodation may be closed

Arriving in Costa Rica

  • Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría in San José is the main entry point for international visitors, connected to the city by buses and taxis.

Getting Around

  • Domestic flights between San José and popular destinations are  inexpensive and a quick way of getting around. However, delays are common with schedule changes and inclement weather so allow time if you’re connecting with an international flight.
  • There’s an extensive bus service across the country, although the service can be slow and infrequent.
  • Shuttle buses, private or shared, offer a door-to-door service between popular destinations, a good way to schedule your transport.
  • Access more remote destinations with car rental, which can be rented in most towns. A 4WD is a required in some areas. Don’t drive at night.

Visas

  • Evidence of return or onward travel (e.g. flight ticket) is required on arrival.
  • British nationals do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. You may stay as a visitor for up to 90 days under a tourist visa waiver, although the exact period is at the discretion of the immigration officer on arrival.
  • Other nationalities should check visa requirements.
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