Costa Rica Travel Guide
While Costa Rica’s lack of an organized civilization in its past make historical attractions a bit of a rarity here, this nation more than makes up for it with a massive amount of natural attractions that are renowned the world over for their high quality.
Volcanoes, beaches, wildlife reserves and coral reefs are just a few of the amazing natural wonders that await you on arrival in one of the world’s most biodiverse nations.
Currency: Costa Rican Colones
Languages: Spanish, Creole
What To Do
One of the first natural attractions that you should visit when in Costa Rica is the Arenal Volcano. Famous for its near-perfect conical shape, this mountain is one of Costa Rica’s youngest volcanoes, with scientists putting its age at only 7,000 years old.
Through it sprang to life in the mid-twentieth century, it has been dormant since 2010, which means that safety probably won’t be that big of a consideration during your visit, though things could change on a dime in the future.
Beneath the surface, the heat of the magma does heat many hot springs in the area however, making this activity and others like windsurfing on its nearby lakes a very popular way to spend one’s leisure time in this area.
Costa Rica is famous for its many beaches, both on the Pacific coast and on the Caribbean side. However, due to the volcanic nature of the rocks in this country, black sand beaches are predominant here, though they are often much more attractive in person than they appear in photographs.
If you do crave white sand beaches on your holiday though, making a journey to Manuel Antonio National Park will give you what you are desiring during your trip to Costa Rica. While it is famous first and foremost for the many white sand beaches located within its boundaries, another thing that Manuel Antonio National Park is known for its high density of species of plants and animals.
Over 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds can be found within the boundaries of the park, making it a great place for wildlife spotters to see some of Costa Rica’s many diverse life forms.
Over on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, Tortuguero National Park draw visitors that are looking for a specific type of animal: sea turtles, specifically. Located within one hour boat ride from the city of Puerto Limon, this incredibly wet and humid rainforest and coastal ecosystem is jam-packed with life in addition to the sea turtles that everybody comes to witness.
Be sure to bring plenty of layers though, as you will need rain gear for the frequent showers that come almost every day off the Caribbean Sea, and the high level of humidity will necessitate loose clothing that breathes easily.
Meanwhile, in the middle of Costa Rica, the mountains that form the roof of this nation are home to the highlands that create the climate necessary for its world famous cloud forests. This place is known as Monteverde, and it is here that Costa Rica’s most famous mammal, the Sloth, lives in peace, but there are many other creatures that can be found in this cool and damp place as well.
Once here, there are plenty of activities to occupy yourself with, from ziplines, to trails that take you through lush forest that are constantly bathed in moisture, to horseback riding and mountain biking trails.
Love diving, and want to explore the crown jewel of Costa Rican marine reserves? If so, then a trip to Cocos Island should be a priority for you and your traveling companions. Located well away from the southern coast of Costa Rica (about 550 kilometres), a live-aboard expedition here will be no small feat, but once you finally arrived off the coast of this isolated island, the time spent getting here will be well worth the expense.
The biggest highlights in the waters around Cocos Island include hammerhead sharks, which are widely thought to form the largest schools of this species in this special corner of the world. While you can not stay overnight on the island, park rangers will often let visitors ashore during the day; try to arrange a visit, as Jacques Cousteau had called this island one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen in his life.
What To Eat
One of the most popular dishes in all of Costa Rica is Gallo Pinto, and while this is essentially rice and beans, the Costa Rican style of this dish is especially interesting due to its blend of spices.
Cooked with onions and sweet peppers, this dish is a source of pride for the nation, and while Nicaragua claims it as their own as well, the rivalry between the two nations is a friendly one.
While Gallo Pinto is the popular breakfast dish in Costa Rica, one of the more popular dishes for lunch is none other than the Casado. Literally translating from Spanish as “married”, the name refers to the fact that wives would put together a meal for their husbands that consisted of rice and beans with a type of meat and a salad.
Often, it also comes with sweet plantains, and there are many different types of this dish, so if you want to try a Casado, be sure to sample all the different types at a neighborhood soda, which are traditional Costa Rican diners.
When the time comes for dinner in Costa Rica, be sure to warm up your insides with a hearty bowl of Olla de Carne. A stew that takes beef and cooks it together with vegetables such as yuca, taro, carrot and green banana, it is a flavorful meal that you simply must enjoy before leaving Costa Rica for home, or your next destination.