Costa Rica Vacations
In Costa Rica, it’s perfectly natural to keep your head in a cloud forest one day and your feet planted firmly on warm, sandy beaches the next.
This rugged Central American country, situated between Panama to the south and Nicaragua to the north, offers vacationers a perfect blend of culture and natural wonders. From the pounding surf of the Pacific to the west, to the lush mangroves and tropical lowlands of the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica offers a natural wonderland ripe for exploration.
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Meet the spectacular creatures of the rainforest, such as the white-headed capuchin monkey, three-toed sloth, American crocodile and iridescent toucan and quetzal birds.
The capital city, San José, offers a cosmopolitan mecca of museums, galleries and restaurants.
Turn your eyes to the sky and (see?) the country’s impressive volcanoes. The fragrance of wild orchids, diverse wildlife, friendly people and tropical rainforests provides the perfect atmosphere for a splendid Costa Rican vacation.
What To Do
Soak in the natural hot springs of the Arenal Volcano in northern Costa Rica. Kayak or fish in Arenal Lake. Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall in the nearby farming town of La Fortuna.
Explore the biodiverse Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, where elfin trees look up to towering rainforests and the scent of wild orchids fill the air. Feel like one of Costa Rica’s native birds or wild monkeys as you zipline through these immense jungles.
Take a 4WD to the surfing paradise of Playa Negra along the Pacific Ocean. Explore tide pools interlaced with pristine beaches.
Visit Corcovado National Park on the untamed Osa Peninsula, with its rugged jungle and secluded beaches. Warm body and soul in Punta Islita’s golden sands and discover its colorful arts community on the spectacular Nicoya Peninsula.
What To See
View dozens of exotic species, including wild monkeys, jaguars and toucans and remnants of former lava flows at breathtaking Arenal Volcano National Park in the north.
Take a sunset cruise on Lake Arenal. Explore some of Costa Rica’s 300 or so stunning white, brown or black sand beaches, such as secluded, palm-lined Playa Carrillo south of Sámara, or miles-long Playa Avellanas, surrounded by protected mangrove forests. There’s more than 750 miles of shoreline in Costa Rica, so just pick a spot and go. For a more in depth trip, try one of our Costa Rica Escorted Tours.
Shop along the main boulevard in Costa Rica’s capital city, San José, where you’ll encounter El Mercado Central and la Casona as well as the Teatro National and the Plaza de la Democracia. The City Mall in Alajuela is currently the largest mall in Central America.
There are all sorts of bars and nightclubs in the capital city of San José. Visit El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte in San Pedro for lively Latin American music.
For some variety, check out the lovely beach towns of Playas del Coco, Tamarindo and Puerto Viejo, renowned for their festive atmosphere.
Before heading out for a night on the town, explore Puerto Viejo’s wilder side at the nearby Jaguar Rescue Center and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge along the Caribbean Sea.
Costa Rica with Kids
The stunning natural wonders of Costa Rica provide a perfect backdrop for a delightful family vacation in paradise.
Visit Las Baulos National Park (Parque Marino las Baulas) in Playa Grande along the Pacific Coast where, from January through April, you and your kids can watch endangered leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the beach.
Peer into the steamy turquoise crater of the Poás volcano in Poás Volcano National Park. You may even catch a glimpse of lava flowing from the cone in the evening. Ride an aerial tram for a toucan’s-eye view of the lush Monteverde Cloud Forest treetops.
Off the Beaten Path
Most of Costa Rica feels somewhat off the beaten path. Visit some of the breathtaking 27 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones, 15 wetland areas/mangroves, 11 forest reserves and 8 biological reserves of this ecotourism capital of the world, Costa Rica.
Food and Drink
Breakfast in Costa Rica often begins with a comforting mix of rice and black beans, eggs, plantains and meat, known as gallo pinto.
Lunch includes such traditional dishes as casado with white rice and beans, plantains, salad and chicken, fish, pork or beef and picadillo, a flavorful mélange of ground beef and dried Spanish chorizo basted in a fragrant sofrito (sauce) of onions, garlic and tomatoes, seasoned with red-wine vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg and ground cloves. Fried plantains, known as patacones, are commonly served as a snack, while sweet flan or rich arroz con leche created with rice, milk, sugar, lemon and cinnamon are frequently served for dessert.
When to Go
Mid-December through April is considered the dry season in Costa Rica. It is also the most popular time to visit. January is a great month to visit, after the rains have ended but while the rainforests are still lush, and the beaches are warm and sunny.
Since the country is spread across two different coasts and seas, there are varying climates and even a mini dry season along the southern Caribbean from September through mid-November. Throughout the year, temperatures generally remain in the balmy mid-70s F through the mid-80s F.