Guide to Costa Rica: Travel, History, Culture and Things to See and Do


Rio Celeste Falls in Costa Rica
Rio Celeste Falls in Costa Rica

Costa Rica could be the perfect country. It is an insanely beautiful place and an ecological wonderland with more biodiversity than nearly all countries on Earth (the exception perhaps being Brazil). It has some of the best beaches in the world along the perimeter of two great oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific. The weather is almost always nice and the people are some of the most friendly, laid back and hospitable that you’ll ever meet. Though located in Central America, an area of the world generally plagued by poverty and violence, Costa Rica scores quite high on the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI). It is a peaceful and non-combative nation that doesn’t even have a standing army. Everybody should experience Costa Rica at least once in their lifetime.

What follows is intended to be as much of a taste of all things Costa Rican as possible, at least for a web site.

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Top Things to See and Do in Costa Rica

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Volcán Arenal National Park

Volcán Arenal
Volcán Arenal

Remember all of those old movies that took place in prehistoric times when dinosaurs ruled the earth? That’s kind of what Volcán Arenal National Park will remind you of. A tropical paradise with a smoking volcano at the center makes this place a must visit for those who want to experience the wild with an edge. There are many trails around the park, although several have or are periodically closed due to the volcano’s activity and the dangers that it may pose. However if one goes to the Arenal Observatory on the south side of the volcano, they can get great view of the of Volcán Arenal and also Lake Arenal in front of it. The observatory is also a good base for exploring some of the jungle trails that can be found in the area.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Suspension bridge among the clouds in Monteverde Cloud Forest National Park
Suspension bridge among the clouds in Monteverde Cloud Forest National Park

Totaling over 100 square kilometers, the Monteverde Cloud Forest is a place that seems to resemble the mythical Garden of Eden. The wildlife located in this place is unlike almost any other in the world. It has been reported that this park alone contains over 200 different species of animals (about 100 of them being mammals and the rest consisting of reptiles and amphibians), at least 400 known species of birds, approximately 2,500 different species of plants and countless various of insects make the park their home. If you can’t make it to the Amazon Rainforest, Monteverde is probably your next best option, at least in the western hemisphere.

Braulio Carrillo National Park

Tree frog
Tree frog

Located just outside of the Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose, Braulio Carrillo National Park is a great place to go if you don’t have the time or energy to venture into more remote areas of the country to appreciate its rainforests and wildlife. Braulio Carrillo has plenty of animals including monkeys, pumas, jaguars, tapirs, sloths and many exotic birds including toucans, humming birds, eagles and the Quetzal, Costa Rica’s national bird. Other park attractions include the many trails that head through the park’s mountains, beautiful tropical waterfalls and a few dormant volcanoes. It’s a great place to spend the day before heading back to San Jose for the city’s festive nightlife.

Tortuguero National Park

Baby Sea Turtle
Baby Sea Turtle

Due to its accessibility only by boat or plane, Tortuguero National Park is a place that most visitors to Costa Rica tend to skip. That’s great news if you’re someone who likes to avoid large crowds while still getting a little bit of adventure. This place is a contender for possibly being one of the best places to see thousands of green and leatherback sea turtles coming out of the ocean to lay their eggs. The interior areas of the park also contain plenty of wildlife including monkeys, sloths, several species of front and all types of reptiles including rare lizards.

Tamarindo

Town of Tamirindo
Town of Tamirindo

The town of Tamarindo on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is one of the premier surf spots in the country and also in Central America. What used to be a quiet fishing village has now become a tourist haven where people from all over the world come not only to enjoy the relatively pristine beach, but also for exploring the surrounding region on foot or horseback via the many nearby trails. Probably the coolest thing to do here is turtle watching, especially in the winter months. It is during this time that leatherback sea turtles come to the nearby beach of Playa Grande to lay their eggs during the cool nights.

Parque Nacional Corcovado

Parque Nacional Corcovado
Parque Nacional Corcovado – photo courtesy of Rough Guides

This place is a naturalist’s and nature lover’s heaven on Earth. Filled with well-known and endangered species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants, the park is one of the last large patches of untouched tropical rainforest along the Pacific coast of Central America. It is no wonder that National Geographic called Costa Rica’s Parque Nacional Corcovado the “most biologically intense place on earth.” 1 The only place that might rival the park would be South America’s Amazon Rain forest, and only because of the latter’s sheer size.


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