Though small in size compared to some of its Central American neighbours, Costa Rica has an astonishing amount to offer. Rich in its habitats of highland rainforest, river valley and seashore, the country is home to thousands of animal and plant species, with beautiful inland and coastal vistas everywhere you turn. Add to the mix an intriguing fusion of Caribbean and Latino flavours and overwhelmingly friendly people and it begins to seem like the land that has it all. Here’s what not to miss when visiting Costa Rica.
Costa Rica’s star attraction is its diverse countryside and with over twenty protected areas, there’s plenty of it to see; from the sloths of the coastal Manuel Antonio National Park to the central Turrialba region where the rushing waters provide a magnet for white-water rafters. It’s this treasure trove of natural wonders that has already inspired so many to seek out cheap holidays to Costa Rica in 2013.
For those who haven’t experienced a cloud forest before, Monteverde Biological Reserve in the north-west is unmissable. Spend a day or two walking the mud tracks through the moisture-rich trees of the highlands, or try a night hike to meet some of the colourful nocturnal inhabitants.
Elsewhere, the nation’s five active volcanoes steal the limelight, with the most iconic, Arenal, providing spectacular fireworks displays in the Northern Lowlands region. The great smoking peak provides a backdrop to numerous activities in the surrounding park: from horseback riding through the hills to rappelling down gigantic waterfalls.
Considering the miles of Atlantic and Pacific coastline bordering the country on both sides, Costa Rica boasts more than its fair share of world-class beaches. The Peninsula de Nicoya is famous for its sugar-white sands, with Santa Teresa a popular surfing Mecca. More unusual beaches lie on the ash-grey coasts of Guanacaste on the Pacific Coast and the black volcanic sand of Playa Zancudo in the south.
Costa Rica’s urban attractions also deserve a mention, with towns like Puerto Limon and Puerto Viejo embracing their Caribbean roots with flavoursome cuisine and a chilled-out nightlife. Those travelling through the wild central valleys may wish to stop at Sarchi, for some handicraft shopping amongst its charming, small-town streets.
It’s in these outlying settlements where the less-obvious delights of the country become clear, whether it’s by-passing coffee and banana plantations, exploring vibrant local markets or just finding a perfect, deserted beach. It’s no wonder this peaceful nation has become such a favourite holiday destination over the years and with its endless natural bounty and idyllic vibe, Costa Rica continues to enthrall all who come here.