Traveling in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country located in Central America. It is bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast. The Pacific Ocean forms its western border, and the Caribbean Sea forms its border to the east.
The name Costa Rica is a Spanish word meaning "rich coast". It was applied either by Christopher Columbus when he sailed to the eastern shore during his final voyage in 1502 or by the conquistador Gil González Dávila in 1522. Either way, the early Spanish explorers noted abundant gold among the native population and this prompted their moniker for the place.
Costa Rica is one of the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America, and it's a great place to travel to. Although Costa Rica is a small country, it is often thought of as a place to escape and partake in nature´s bounty and paradise. This is due to its geography which allows for plenty of sunshine and regular rainfall. It is really no wonder once you see it first-hand. It boasts the greatest biodiversity on the planet. This is why you have plenty of choices before you when trying to plan out your trip to this place.
Costa Rica has a humid climate which serves its immense wildlife and hungry ecosystems. As a matter of fact it features a number of landscapes that range from noisy and humid rain forests, to volcanoes that serve as idyllic photo opportunities. People not accustomed to Caribbean atmospheres are also sure to relish the pristine stretches of beach line and the mangrove swamps which also serve as peaceful places to explore intimately. Attractions such as these make Costa Rica prime touring country, especially for city dwellers looking to reconnect with nature. Some people find that its pleasurable and sunny weather to be half the reason for traveling such a distance from wherever they may be from.
51,100 km2 / 19,653 sq mi
4,586,353 (2011 census)
Costa Rican Colon (see current exchange rate)
- San Jose (capital; approx. pop. 288,054)
- Puerto Limon (approx. pop. 65,600)
- Heredia (approx. pop. 123,616)
- Alajuela (approx. pop. 42,975)
- Puntarena (approx. pop. 34,085)
Some great photos of Costa Rica.
Culture enthusiasts should make the capital San Jose their destination as it is a treasure trove of food, arts and culture in general. It is a great place to just sit down and drink coffee in a beloved cafe. It also is a great place to explore on foot as you can reach a fun university district, artistic locales and the lush and colorful parks, with ease.
Parque Nacional While in San Jose, you can´t go wrong heading out to Parque Nacional where you can really get a feel for what makes this country unique. It is marked at its center by the national monument that pays tribute to Central American nations driving out negative American interests. But this is just the start, there are numerous key figures that are commemorated in such a way throughout the park.
Catedral Metropolitana Just a short walk from the Parque Central you can admire the thematic Rennasaince themes that the gorgeous cathedral displays. You can examine yourself the Neo-classical style as you walk through distinct Spanish tiles and make your way to the impressive 17th-century wooden sculpture of Christ.
Calle La Amargura A very hip place to go to is Calle La Amargura where you can find any number of college students on any given day just partying at bars or on the street.
Teatro Nacional The Teatro Nacional is housed in a building very worthy of a picture thanks to Costa Rica´s coffee industry. It was built with precious materials including Italian marble, French glass and the the finest world. Expect to listen to a great concert for very little money.
La Selva Biological Reserve La Selva Biological Reserve is the place for wildlife enthusiasts to really relish. It is no wonder that it is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve as it is home to an impressive diversity of birds and monkeys. Candy loving kids are sure to have a fun and delicious time while touring around Tirimbina Rainforest Center.
Hotel Presidente Hotel Presidente is centrally nestled in the heart of the city and serves as an idyllic starting point for first time visitors to San Jose as it quite near popular attractions such as the National Theater, the Plaza de las Culturas and the Jade Museum. Guests will love the health club and they can always try their luck at the casino on site.
Gran Hotel Costa Rica Gran Hotel Costa Rica invites visitors one and all, be it a business man looking for a comfortable and functional stay, or a family group looking to make the most out of their vacation. Strategically located near Simon Bolivar Zoo and the Mercado Central, this hotel features a coffee shop where the family can gather at the end of the day if they don´t want to relax in the comfort of their rooms watching premium cable channel.
Auténtico Hotel Auténtico Hotel makes a great option for travelers who are very interested in taking in the biological splendor as it is located minutes from the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden. Business guests will be happy to know that the hotel has a nice and ample conference center and a bar. Everybody can enjoy a great time at the outdoor pool.
Tryp San Jose Sabana If you plan on being out and about, Tryp San Jose Sabana isn´t a bad place to lodge at all. Since it is conveniently located in the center of the city, you can partake in a number of local attractions with ease, especially the Museum of Costa Rican Art.
Bakea Bakea is not your run of the mill restaurant as it actually serves up unique dishes that combine French cuisine with that of Central American by utilizing plenty of fresh American ingredients.
El Chicote You certainly can´t go wrong eating at this place if you´re a meat lover. This is because this famous steakhouse has 40 years of experience. As you make your way through the restaurants you´ll quickly sense the love that locals have for this place. As a matter of fact, numerous business people use it as a place to mix business with pleasure. It´s just a wonderfully refined environment where you can also enjoy a succulent slab of meat.
Restaurant Whapin Couples who are looking to wind down after a long day are sure to find this place welcoming, and not just because it looks quaint and vibrant, but because it has a great selection of Caribbean style dishes. Classic fresh Central American ingredients are used such as
Park Cafe You can´t do much better if yo´re looking for a unique and quaint place to have a delicious cup of coffee. But this place is so much more than a coffee shop. For one, it is also an antique shop where you can browse through some old Costa Rican pieces. The piece of resistance, however, is the French cuisine that will make your mouth water. It´s a quality choice that comes complete with a carefully constructed wine list.
Restaurante Grano de Oro Those in search of the perfect romantic destination certainly won´t be disappointed with this flowery restaurant. It is considered one of the top dining establishments in the city and it´s all Costa Rican cuisine. You are sure to enjoy a meal unlike any you´ve had before, such as pork loin that´s been roasted in coffee.
Toursbylocals Toursbylocals is a great option if you´d like to have a personalized touring and learning experience. One of the best aspects of hiring a private guide is the simple fact that you´re in control of your trip and you get to decide hat you´d like to check out.
Caravan Some people like to have everything taken care of for them while they´re on vacation. This is why all inclusive packages are so attractive for vacationers seeking profound satisfaction. Caravan Tours offers this with its tours that include San José, Poás Volcano, the Butterfly Garden, Río Frío, Leatherback Turtle Park, Guanacaste, Pacific Coast Beaches and Manuel Antonio Park. If you´d like to spend plenty of time out and about you certainly can do this with ease along side naturalist guides.
Paradise Tours If you´d like to cover plenty of ground, and water, you may find the intensive scheduling and touring opportunities of Paradise tours to be right down your alley. When hiring these tours, you´l be able to visit Poas volcano, coffee plantations, rainforest national parks among many other attractions for a fair price.
Useful information about visiting Puerto Limon
Veragua Rainforest Animal lovers simply can´t be disappointed when paying a visit to the wildlife bounty that is Veragua Rainforest. It´s a truly wondrous place where you can meet up close and personal with all kinds of animals. As a matter of fact, with this tour you also visit a reptile vivarium, a frog and butterfly exhibits as well as enjoy rides on the aerial tram.
Canals of Tortuguero Not all excursion possibilities in Costa Rica are based on hiking tours. A great way to experience the nature of Costa Rica if you´re tired or simply feeling leisurely is to book a canal tour that will take you fairly deep into the rainforest starting from a small port. Make sure to take your camera as you can capture primates, lizards, birds aplenty and even crocodiles. And the tour doesn´t have to end after the 1 and a half hour boat ride as there is a restaurant where you can enjoy a typical meal while listening to a live calypso band.
Sloth Sanctuary One thing that very true about Costa Rica, is that it is a very biologically concerned country that has a reputation for trying to preserve the wildlife that it boasts. A great way to understand this is by visiting a place like the sloth sanctuary. A tour through here is bound to be quite eye opening and educational. You can learn about the complexities that humans encounter when they care for animals. Its a great opportunity to learn about how behaviour, ecosystems and biology play into the preservation of a species.
Cahuita National Park When people think of a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of busy life, they probably are thinking of a place like Cahuita. Here, you can partake in al kinds of activities, from hiking and picnicking in gorgeous open space to having a nice dip in embracingly warm waters. If its a particularly hot day you may find that snorkeling to explore the coral reef to be just the ticket.
Isla Uvita It is a safe bet that the Caribbean is a great spot for wave loving surfers, and Isla Uvita serves countless tourists with just that. It´s 20 minutes boat ride from is a small price to pay for the possibility of 3 meter waves.
Tree House Lodge Beautifully nestled in the Ganoca Manzanillo Refuge, the Tree House Lodge is a fine place to hang your hat. In large part, because it is actually adjoining the ocean and has a reputation for having some of the most beautiful beach property in all Costa Rica.
Hotel Le Cameleon Just because Hotel Le Cameleon is found in the small town of Puerto Viejo, this doesn´t mean that it has little to offer. As a matter of fact this hotel serves as a great retreat after walking around and absorbing the unmistakable Afro-Caribbean culture and having a splendid time at picturesque white sand beachline.
Coco Loco Lodge Traveling couples like to have intimate times free from the busy streets of big cities like San Jose, and Coco Loco Lodge is where a hotel in a small town can really become attractive. There´s a great sense of peace in a place like Puerto Viejo, and with its wonderful views of coast and tropical landscapes.
Agapi Apartments Even while on vacation, finding a tranquil place to kick back isn´t necessarily easy. That´s why a number of people flock to places like Puerto Viejo, which looks humble, but really offers a lot. From its beaches that look just like postcards and abundant exotic nature to a unique mix of Afro-Caribbean culture, it´s a lovely place just waiting to be experienced.
Hotel Playa Westfalia The theme at Hotel Playa Westfalia is very clear, the exotic. This isn´t your run of the mile hotel, it really tries to make your trip a memorable one. Touring the hotel is a treat on its own as you make your way through spacious garden areas, solariums and an invigorating outdoor swimming pool. It´s the kind of place you look forward to retiring in after a long day of excursions and exploring under the Costa Rican sun.
El Faro If you like to dine at a place with a view, you can´t do much better than El Faro. It´s perched on a hill that overlooks Limon with grace. It certainly isn´t ordinary and serves as a great way to mark a nice vacation with friends and family thanks to a lively atmosphere and scrumptious fare.
Red Snapper Restaurant Red Snapper Restaurant is a fairly expensive restaurant, but you do get what you pay for, including a lovely view. There´s also an extensive menu that offers everything from sweet tropical drinks to succulent and fresh sea food dishes that will leave you savoring.
Araza It´s a great place to take the family or a group of friends to enjoy a delicious meal. Araza has that special flare for serving as a festive environment to enjoy with good company. Here you can order all kinds of quality sushi as well as an enticing variety of side dishes to share with love ones.
A commercial center north of San Jose
Poas Volcano National Park This is what Costa Rica is all about, abundant nature mixed with awe-inspiring landscapes. Tourists will appreciate how well developed this park is for foreign explorers. You can even learn with ease about the geomorphic processes that have shaped the park and admire the Poas Volcano breathtaking views.
Braulio Carrillo National Park You can drive right through the heart of Braulio Carrillo National Park thanks to easily accessible highways that have enabled countless visitors to explore it with enthusiasm. There´s plenty to see as it covers five different life zones to compare and contrast and includes Barva Volcano and and amazing biodiversity.
Irazu Volcano National Park Irazu Volcano National Park is a prime opportunity to see a volcano, or two, up close. As a matter of fact, there are several viewing stations to take advantage of. also, it is home to a wide array of animals from armadillos and coyotes to woodpeckers and volcano hummingbirds.
La Condesa At La Condesa finding a room with a view is no problem. There are several that beholds wonderful sights of the Central Valley.
Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn serves as a great jumping point to explore a relaxing city that still has plenty of charm that´s just asking to be found. This is why many tourists appreciate this hotel above the Great Valley, as a place to retreat to after making the most of the natural wonder abound.
Hotel Chalet Tirol This picturesque Hotel Chalet Tirol is set up against the hillsides of the popular city of Heredia. If you have a soft spot for landscaping you are sure to find the evergreen and pine trees charming, as well as the gardens and mountain views that will leave you longing for adventure. The hotel is also home fro healing center that includes yoga, a spa and a medical clinic.
Añoranzas Restaurant For authentic Costa Rican cuisine, Añoranzas Restaurant is the place. It even features a museum dedicated to the country´s heritage. You can also enjoy the freshest ingredients, right down to the tender and flavorful meat dishes.
Delicias Caribeñas de Miami Restaurant Although Delicias Caribeñas de Miami Restaurant is a relatively newer restaurant, it´s all about home style cooking. In fact, the Caribbean dishes are directed by a husband and wife team.
Gran Porto Café Restaurant If you enjoy your coffee and plan on visiting Heredia for a little while, you simply must swing by this cafe which is unique largely because of its New England architecture. But it´s more than just a coffee shop. You are strongly encouraged to check out the menu which includes a variety of soups and appetizers that include jumbo shrimp cocktails.
A suburb of San Jose
La Paz Waterfall Garden and Butterfly Observatory Little kids won´t soon forget a trip to the country´s biggest butterfly garden. here, all the family will be amazed at the more than twenty species flying and the beautiful orchid exhibit and the waterfalls that serve as an spectacular background to these marvels of nature.
Poas Volcano National Park If you head out to Paos, you can say ever after that you´ve been to an active volcano. You can admire the arising steam and green pools that bubble which attest to the livelihood of this volcano.
Doka Estate An avid coffee drinker shouldn´t miss out on an opportunity to find out exactly how a coffee they drank is made. At Doka Estate you can follow the beans as they make their journey from the plants to the roasting room.
Pura Vida Hotel Sometimes hotels can feel rather impersonal which is why a place like this make all the difference. The credit belongs to the excellent owners who make sure that everything is carefully prepared and up to standards. The theme appears to be relaxation, so guests are given plenty of accommodations and space in the form of small houses and apartments.
Hotel Cortez Azul Although upon first glance Hotel Cortez Azul may seem like a simple hotel, a walk through its grounds begins to differ as you come across the numerous works of art created by the owner, Eduardo Rodriguez.
Poas Volcano Lodge If you hope to take in the full Poas volcano experience, the hotel can really make it special for you.One great reason being that it offers wonderful views throughout its property including a lookout point which offers ample photographing opportunities of the surrounding pastures. Immersing yourself beauty of the surrounding cloud forest land is as easy as hiking through one of the trails.
A seaside town with a busy commercial center.
The Monteverde Reserve One of the biggest attractions to Puntarenas is the Monteverde Reserve. Biodiversity is really the name of the game here as you an catch a glimpse of everything from monkeys to the more than 400 species of birds.
Carara National Park Carara National Park serves as an intense opportunity to get close to some of the most dinosaur like animals in the planet such as crocodiles. However, there is also something for the birdwatchers as well including such recognizable species as the toucan, the parrot and the heron.
Barba Roja Restaurant and Sushi Bar The restaurant isn´t your typical Caribbean fare but that is why it is so iconic and beloved. You can count on great dining as the cuisine has been appreciated for decades and holding wonderful views doesn´t hurt either. Also if you bring a large group, everybody will find a dish to enjoy.
Claro Que Si Restaurant Sometimes if you want a place that just makes you as comfortable as you were at home, Claro Que Si Restaurant offers you this and fine dining. You can partake an scenic view with fellow travelers.
El Sapo Dorado Restaurant Eating healthy it is not easy while being on vacation. and El Sapo Dorado restaurant makes it a delightful experience with a varied menu that include vegan dishes made from organic vegetables and fruits.
If you hope to encounter fellow mammals, you are sure to meet some while visiting Corcovado National Park. There is a reason why numerous biologists go there as all the monkey species you can find in Costa Rica live here.
This place is popular because of the turtle species that give birth here every year. Visitors come across some unique specimens such as the loggerhead and the leatherback turtles.
Arenal Volcano National Park is the main reason to check numerous hot springs that serve as a replenishing metaphor for the resplendent bountiful beauty that nature displays at the volcano and its surrounding area.
Making your way to Tamarindo is not a problem as the beaches are within easy access from urbanized areas. Due to its tranquil atmosphere and beautiful beaches, when you think of a peaceful vacation, you may very well think of a place like this. It is great for traveling parties of al sorts.
Santa Teresa is a serious surfers paradise not only is its secluded but offers some of the best surfing spots in the entire country.
Young travelers looking for other young travelers should stop by the laid-back atmosphere and setting that Montezuma provides.
A part of the charm of Puerto Viejo derives from the culture that comes from the native people who lives in this part of Costa Rica. This is the kind of place where you can get a real in depth feel for what this typical paradise is about. You can check out Cahuita National Park as well.
Rincon de la Vieja is a great place to start traversing Costa Rica natural beauty with speed. You can hop on top of a horse and go for a ride, put your mountain biking tests for the tests and swim in the waterfalls. Also, this is the most active area volcano wise. Here, you can get a picture for Costa Rica ranching at its most proficient. A horse back ride will reveal fields where cattle graze.
Costa Rica Travel Links
Here are some links that we've found useful in planning our travels in Costa Rica.