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Your guide to Costa Rica
Welcome to Costa Rica
One of the world’s most biodiverse countries, Costa Rica punches above its weight with its ecological treasure trove of national parks and wildlife refuges. This small Central American country is a dream destination for nature lovers, beach fans, and adventure seekers. Rainforests, mangroves, waterfalls, volcanoes, and tropical beaches abound, humming with wildlife. The country is also setting trends in sustainability, surf chic, and farm-to-table dining.
In Costa Rica’s Central Valley, dotted with moonscape volcanic craters, Quetzales National Park is home to the eponymous red-and-green bird. The forests, lakes, and rivers of the Northern Plains provide sanctuary for water birds, reptiles, and mammals, while the Sarapiquí area shelters the endangered great green macaw. On the country’s western coast, Monteverde is the archetypal cloud forest, dotted with zip lines and hiking trails. Central Pacific beaches sparkle with turquoise waters, and the South Pacific region is frequented by whales and dolphins. To the east, on the less-developed Caribbean coast, the Old Port of Talamanca is a colourful beach town worth exploring.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Costa Rica
The climate in Costa Rica is tropical all year round, with the summer (dry season) from December to April, and the winter (rainy season) from May to November, but expect frequent downpours, even in the dry season. Landscapes are greenest in winter, when sunny mornings can segue into tropical afternoon showers. December to March is the busiest time, with school holidays running mid-December to mid-February.
February is the start of the nesting season for the quetzales in the cloud forests, and Semana Santa (Holy Week) is celebrated over the Easter weekend with elaborate religious processions. Rafting rivers peak in July and August, and September and October are the best times to visit the Caribbean coast. Some Pacific Coast restaurants close in late September and October, when the rain is at its heaviest. November, April, and May are perhaps the best months, when the rains aren’t at their height, the land is green, and there are fewer visitors.
Top things to do in Costa Rica
Consider eschewing the oft-visited Arenal Volcano for the much older Poás Volcano in the Alajuela district. One of five active volcanoes in Costa Rica, Poás has one inert crater and one that’s highly volatile. A green, rain-fed sulfuric lake bubbles ominously down below, while eruptions can reach heights of 250 metres. A wheelchair-accessible visitor centre and small museum guide you through the action.
Corcovado National Park
One of the crown jewels in Costa Rica’s network of protected parks is this beautiful, remote spot on the wild Osa Peninsula. Major ecosystems range from lowland rainforest to mangrove swamp, and the golden coconut palm-lined beaches are deserted. Many endangered plant and animal species lurk here, including jaguars, scarlet macaws, harpy eagles, and red-backed squirrel monkeys. Don’t forget your boots — there are lots of snakes.
A small, sleepy fishing village turned boho surf mecca on the western edge of the Nicoya Peninsula, this Pacific beach town is blessed with consistent offshore winds. For non-surfers, there’s fishing, scuba diving, kite surfing, and a healthy dollop of yoga and innovative dining. Forest trails, waterfalls, and wildlife are on the doorstep, too.