Costa Rica is a feast for the senses with unforgettable sights, sounds, flavors and aromas. Straddling the Central American isthmus, the country's biodiversity is considered one of the richest on the planet. In addition to cultural attractions in metropolitan areas, such as the National Theatre in the capital city, San Jose, visitors can experience a wide range of activities in the backcountry. Visit the nation's Caribbean or Pacific Ocean beaches and journey into the unspoiled rainforest and slopes of Arenal to view the native flora and fauna.
Costa Rica's tropical beaches, lush vegetation and rich cultural heritage contain something nearly any person on earth can enjoy.
Costa Rica has marvelous beaches on both coasts. The white sandy shores on the Caribbean side are excellent for relaxing, swimming and boating, as well as parasailing and jet skiing. The Caribbean's most famous beach, Tortuguero, is an ideal spot for sighting manatees. The black-sand beaches and waves on the Pacific side are a haven for anglers, surfers and divers looking to explore undersea reefs and caves that create a habitat for schools of tropical fish. Playa Grande is the largest nesting spot for Leatherback sea turtles along the Pacific coastline.
The country's national parks and marine reserves are a tropical paradise brimming with exotic plants and animals. Activities include hiking nature trails, rafting raging rivers and zip-lining across the jungle canopy, as well as viewing the crater of an active volcano from the rim. In addition to spotting colorful birds, butterflies and orchids on land, guests of Costa Rican hotels can journey offshore to watch whales, dolphins and sea turtles.
The nation's cultural diversity will be evident as you explore the streets of San Jose, viewing historic buildings and other vestiges of Spanish colonial rule. Museum exhibits document the contributions of Costa Rica's ethnicities, such as African, Spanish and the native Bribri and Teribe people, and they also feature pre-Columbian and contemporary art. A coffee plantation tour reveals the important connection between the bean and the nation's history. Spend time in smaller towns and villages like Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, a seaside community that frequently bounces to the beat of reggae music.
Guests of Costa Rica's hotels can enjoy fireworks, music and dancing at Independence Day and Fiesta Palmares celebrations, as well as at the many celebrations honoring the country's patron saints. A highlight of these gatherings is the flavorful and aromatic local cuisine. Meals generally feature fresh ingredients like red peppers, bananas, sweet corn and seafood. Standout dishes include ceviche, which is seafood cured in lime juice, and arroz con pollo, a chicken entree with rice.
The mid-December to April dry season is the best time to visit Costa Rica. The mild weather boasts plenty of sunshine for exploring the rainforests and relaxing on the beach. This is the most popular time for visitors, so plan accordingly when making travel and hotel reservations. The May to November rainy season is the least crowded, but it offers the best deals. Although the average temperature range is between the mid-70s and high-80s, the climate in Costa Rica can vary by region and proximity to the coast as well as elevation above sea level.
Costa Rica is served by three airports. The main aviation gateway is Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO), which is situated approximately 15 miles northwest of the capital. Daniel Oduber Quiros Airport (LIR), located in the northwest province of Guanacaste, is close to major resort cities. Primarily a domestic hub, Tobias Bolanos Airport (SYQ) is also located near the capital. Public buses and rental cars, which provide easier access to secluded beaches and other remote areas, are the main modes of travel within the country. Other options include renting a motorcycle or flying on one of the two domestic airlines.