A guide to Costa Rica


| June 9, 2020

A guide to Costa Rica

For such a small country, there are plenty of things to do in Costa Rica. This travel guide to the country picks out some of the best.

San José & the Central Valley

The capital of San José is located in the wide, fertile Central Valley surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. It combines modern with traditional Spanish architecture and offers some interesting museums, art galleries, restaurants and shops. The surrounding volcanic Central Valley is a verdant agricultural region with small towns and national parks.

Explore coffee plantations, the rainforest of the Braulio Carrillo National Park and the orchids and other flora at the Lankaster Gardens. The Poas volcano, just outside the city, has a spectacular turquoise crater lake and many bird species in its dwarf cloud forest. La Paz Waterfall Gardens, on the slopes of the volcano, offer a number of trails as well as a hummingbird garden and a huge butterfly garden.

Monteverde & Cloud Forests

The mist-shrouded Monteverde cloud forest and the adjacent, but smaller, Santa Elena Reserve are home to a profusion of plant life and many species of butterflies, insects and birds, including resplendent quetzals. Reached along unpaved roads, hike here along trails surrounded by hanging vines or flowering orchids, or stroll through the treetops on canopy walkways, suspended bridges that bring you closer to the flora and fauna.

Arenal & the North

The impressive cone-shaped Arenal volcano, until recently one of the regions’ most active, is surrounded by beautiful scenery. Attractions nearby include hot springs, canopy walkways in the treetops, boat trips on Lake Arenal, as well as along the Rio Frio and the Caño Negro wetlands for superb birding. Further north-west and off the beaten track is the Tenorio Volcano National Park, where hikes in the rainforest lead to a beautiful waterfall and the turquoise Rio Celeste. Herds of cattle still roam the grasslands of the Guanacaste province, and here the less explored Rincon de la Vieja National Park is home to another active volcano, tropical dry forest, varied wildlife, more geothermal springs and boiling mud pools.

Corcovado & the Osa Peninsula

The Osa peninsula is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Golfo Dulce in the remote south-west corner of Costa Rica. Home to the Corcovado National Park and covered in dense primary rainforest, this magnificent and remote peninsula offers excellent hiking trails and an incredible concentration of flora, such as 70-metre high ceiba trees, and fauna, including howler and spider monkeys, sloths, ocelots, anteaters, scarlet macaws and more than 350 other bird species.

Manuel Antonio & the Central Pacific

The central Pacific coastline is perfect for combining exploration and relaxation. The small and superb Manuel Antonio National Park features lush rainforest fringed by beautiful beaches and rocky headlands. Its wildlife includes white-faced capuchins, howler and squirrel monkeys, toucans, sloths and agoutis. The Carara National Park to the north is home to crocodiles, monkeys and scarlet macaws. Further south the less-visited coastline gets wilder. The Ballena National Marine Park protects coral and rocky reefs and is great for spotting turtles, dolphins and whales, which migrate here to mate between December and April.

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