The small country of Costa Rica is one of the most ecologically diverse places on Earth. A nature-lover’s paradise, Costa Rica’s landscapes range from smouldering volcanoes, cloud forests and coffee plantations to pristine rainforests and beautiful beaches on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
National parks and reserves protect more than a quarter of this small country’s territory and its incredible biodiversity, including thousands of plant varieties, numerous kinds of colourful butterflies and more than 800 bird species. The country’s relatively small size allows for easy explorations by road or using one of the domestic airlines that link the capital, San José, in the highlands to the often remote coastal areas.
An abundance of unspoilt beaches backed by tropical jungle enables a combination of various activities with relaxation.
Explore Costa Rica
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Capital San Jose (Costa Rica)
Flying time from London 15 hours
Official language(s) Spanish
Time difference -6 GMT
Visa requirements Not required for UK passport holders
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Costa Rica’s various habitats are home to more than 850 bird species, many of which are endemic, and offer rewarding birdwatching experiences. Besides the numerous cloud forest reserves and the pristine rainforests of the Osa peninsula, other important areas include the Frio river and the wetlands of Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge with an impressive number of migratory birds, including Nicaraguan grackles. Waterfowl also abound in the fresh and saltwater lagoons of the Palo Verde wetlands, particularly from January to March. The lowland forests around La Selva Biological Station and Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí contain more than 400 bird species.
Travel to isolated Tortuguero
Tortuguero National Park is located on the remote northern Caribbean coast and is accessible only by boat or plane. Travel through banana plantations and take a boat through the network of waterways that penetrate the dense tropical forests, linking rivers and lagoons. Spot monkeys, sloths, caimans and toucans. Green turtles lay their eggs on the beaches here between July and September, while leatherbacks can be seen from March to June. The untamed coast further south has pristine beaches and an easy-going ambiance.
See nesting turtles
Costa Rica is home to six species of turtles including leatherbacks, the largest sea turtles. During the nesting season, watch adults laying eggs and baby turtles making their way to the sea. There are sites both on the Caribbean side (Tortuguero) and the Pacific coast (Tamarindo & Ostional) offering good possibilities of a sighting.
Discover islands and beaches
The Nicoya peninsula stretches down along the northern Pacific coastline offering some of Costa Rica’s finest beaches. In the beach town of Tamarindo, relax on the sandy beaches, explore the mangroves by boat or take an excursion to see nesting leatherback turtles. Meanwhile, palm-fringed Caño island (near the Osa Peninsula) is home to beautiful sandy beaches and excellent snorkelling opportunities.
See the active Arenal volcano
See the top shrouded with clouds of ash and fumes during the day, watch the lava glow at night or soak in one of the numerous hot springs in the area.
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