Why Your Next Trip Should Be to Costa Rica
Costa Rica, situated in the heart of the Central American isthmus, is smaller than West Virginia, with an area of about 20,000 square miles (51,800 square kilometers).However, this compact country still manages to be phenomenally diverse in its geography, wildlife, and attractions. Between its two coastlines, you can find awe-inspiring beaches, dense jungles, soaring mountains, and laid-back cities.
A trip here could involve adventures down white-water rivers or joining in with conservation efforts to help preserve the nation’s rich ecology. Equally, you could just spend your time surfing, sunbathing, and diving on whichever beach appeals to you. Either way, Costa Rica beckons to the intrepid traveler, promising an experience full of wonder and excitement.
Animal fanatics and environment enthusiasts take note: Costa Rica is a biodiverse marvel. The seas on either shore teem with multicolored marine life, while the interior hosts a vast rainforest, home to big cats, sloth, crocodiles, and exotic birds. Numerous wildlife tour operators can take you into this dense world, making an intimidating landscape accessible to the uninitiated and offering you the chance to spot some rare and beautiful creatures. One of the most exhilarating ways to do this is from the back of a raft; keep your eyes peeled for bright birds perched in the trees and sloths hanging lazily from their branches. Equally, you could visit a local wildlife rescue center to guarantee sightings of ocelots, pumas, and jaguars.
The stars of Costa Rica’s show are its sea turtles, which glide gracefully through the warm waters and use the beaches for hatching. Help out with the conservation projects that look to protect these magnificent creatures, taking part in beach patrols and night watches to preserve their nesting grounds. Few wildlife experiences can match the thrill of watching hatchlings flop their way into the ocean. Numerous tour operators now organize trips to Costa Rica with an ecological angle, so you can meet these gorgeous animals while helping to protect them for future generations.
Take your pick of coastlines to explore in Costa Rica. It’s a narrow country, so you can travel between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea in a day. The latter is more laid-back, the destination to choose if you want to see coral reefs, four different species of turtle (including the endangered green turtle), and restaurants serving up spicy Afro-Caribbean dishes. Chill out in towns such as Puerto Viejo de Talamanca or compact Cahuita for a beach break with nothing but sun, sand, and sea for your entire trip.
The Pacific Coast is wilder, showing why the peaceful name of the ocean has always been misleading. The waves here make it a dream destination for watersports enthusiasts, who flock to the coast for some of the best surf in Central America. There’s no shortage of wildlife or blissful beaches on this side. Manuel Antonio National Park offers rainforests, white sand, and coral reefs, while the Osa Peninsula is your best place for whale watching. Whichever ocean you visit, you’ll quickly discover why the land was named the “rich coast.”
Your trip to Costa Rica will probably take you into San José, the capital city in the heart of the country. Don’t rush out of the city to reach your mountain, coast, or forest destination, though, as the charming capital offers an array of attractions for visitors willing to explore its bustling center.
Begin your journey in the Plaza de la Cultura, in the city’s downtown district. It’s the ideal launching point for exploring the Pre-Colombian Gold Museum and the National Theater. Wander around Barrio Amónto enjoy colonial buildings and popular art galleries, or seek out some of the quieter corners of the city. Parque Morazán, Parque Nacional, and ParqueEspaña create peaceful green spaces and hide attractive architecture within their greenery. Best of all, San José is an increasingly trendy place to be as the night rolls in, with a burgeoning craft beer scene and an enticing collection of restaurants in the Barrio Escalante neighborhood.
San José isn’t Costa Rica’s only town worth exploring, either. None of the country’s urban areas feel too crowded – even the capital has a population under 350,000 – while many offer amenities and accommodation with quick access to the coasts or forests. Monteverde and Santa Elena are twin towns with numerous ecotourism options for delving into the rainforest, while Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is the place to go for that laid-back Caribbean vibe.