Travel to Costa Rica

Travel to Costa Rica

Home to some of the most extensively protected tropical ecosystems in the world as well as outstanding beaches, Costa Rica is a paradise on Earth!

Costa Rica offers the very best of Central America. Using cities such as San Jose or Puerto Limon as your base camps, you can explore tropical forests and savannas of almost unbelievable biological richness. The country sweeps from beaches and mangrove forests along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to amazing mountains, including the country’s loftiest: Cerro Chirripo, a 12,533-foot volcano offering views of both oceans from the top. Costa Rica’s parks and preserves protect pristine ecological communities featuring remarkable wildlife such as howler monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, and macaws. Among the most precious protected spaces is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a mist-shrouded highland jungle packed with biodiversity. When you aren’t spotting monkeys and parrots in the rainforest, relax on some of the world’s greatest and most luxurious beaches, listening to the sea breeze in the palm fronds!

Unlike many other Central American countries, Costa Ricans are primarily of Spanish descent, rather than a mix of Spanish and Indian heritage. Costa Rican culture has not only been influenced by the Spanish, but also by Caribbean cultures through worker immigration to the country in the 19th century.

Soccer is the most popular sport in the country. Costa Ricans love to dance and night life in the larger cities involves visiting the local dance clubs.

Costa Rica doesn't have a national drink, but visitors enjoy refrescos, fruit shakes made with water or milk mixed with local fruit. The shakes are intensely flavorful due to the freshness of the tropical fruit available everywhere. Visitors to the coasts should also try the pipa vendors who sell young coconuts with a straw inserted to sip the refreshing juice. Costa Rica is of course known for its coffee, but much of the best coffee is exported, so fans of Costa Rican brew may be surprised by the difference in quality. Rather than consuming the coffee, a visit to a coffee plantation makes for an interesting excursion.

Costa Rican food is more savory than spicy. Rice and beans are the foundation of local Costa Rican dishes, or comida tipica. A typical breakfast food is Gallo Pinto, fried rice and black beans, sometimes accompanied with eggs. At lunch the foundation of rice and beans is served with additional ingredients such as tomato and cabbage salad, fried plantains and a meat dish. Salsa Lizano is a local condiment locals use to add additional flavor to their rice and beans.

Due to the popularity of the country with tourists from many countries, U.S. fast food chains and fine dining restaurants serving international cuisine can readily be found in the major cities and beach resorts. When you have finished your meal, don't forget to ask for the check as waiters will not bring the check unless it has been requested.

Costa Rica means 'Rich Coast.' Slightly smaller than West Virginia - Costa Rica has a relatively long coastline with the Pacific Ocean on the west coast and the Caribbean Sea on the east. The narrowness of the country means visitors can journey to both coasts comparing the beaches of the Caribbean side to the Pacific. The country is bordered by Nicaragua in the north and Panama in the south.

The terrain consists of coastal plains, rugged mountains and some of the most enviable beaches as well as several major active and inactive volcanoes. For those seeking a different experience - Costa Rica is considered one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world. It has 8 Nature Reserves and more than 20 National Parks which are designated as protective areas. No visit to Costa Rica would be complete without including a visit to see these unique ecosystems of marine, wildlife and vegetation. Guided tours can include cloud forests, tropical forests, forest canopy life, waterfalls and blue lagoons, volcanic craters, wildlife species of aquatic birds, mammals and reptiles. Most visitors wouldn't feel a trip was complete without a visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Arenal volcano.

San Jose, the capital city located on a plateau in the Central Valley, has a wealth of cultural activities for the traveler - including concerts, plays, museums, theater, shopping, discos, festivals and international and local cuisine.

Most visited cities: San Jose, Cahuita, Quepos, Tamarindo, Heredia

In contrast to other Central American countries in the Pre-Columbian era, Costa Rica did not have the large organized communities or monumental stone architecture found to the north. The region was a collection of cultures and tribes. After the Spanish conquest, the country evolved differently than the other countries the Spanish conquered. It lacked the gold and large indigenous labor force that created the colonial feudal systems to the north. Instead the country developed as an agrarian society with the colonists working the land themselves creating a culture of self-reliance.

The country has a very stable economic and political history as the country permanently abolished its army in 1949. Money that formerly went to support the military was instead poured into education with Costa Rica having one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Rare among Central American countries, Costa Rica has been a long standing democracy and stands out for its respect for human rights. Comparatively prosperous, the country is sometimes referred to as the 'Switzerland of Central America.'

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