Costa Rica, a small country in Central America, is known for lush jungles and great beaches. When I visited as part of a spring break trip in college, we spent a week and a half exploring rainforests, volcanoes and beaches- the best of what Costa Rica has to offer.
Peruse Pinterest and you’ll see Costa Rica has something for everyone- waterfalls, surfing, zip lining, bird watching, museums, and delicious food, just to name a few things. I’d go back to the country in a heartbeat to check out some of the spots we didn’t have a chance to see.
5 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica
If you consider yourself a thrill-seeker, Costa Rica should be near the top of your travel list. There’s no shortage of adventure activities to choose from, including zip-lining, whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, bungee jumping, horseback riding, sky diving, surfing, ATV’ing through mountains- you may find the most challenging part of your visit will be choosing what to do.
When I traveled to Costa Rica, we zip-lined through the rainforest, sea kayaked to crystal clear waters to snorkel, hiked to a waterfall and rode ATV’s to the top of a mountain- pretty much an action packed trip.
On my next trip to Costa Rica, I’m definitely going to spend a few days in Monteverde. An area famous for its canopy tours, you can zip-line over the cloud forest with spectacular views. I’ve heard the most popular canopy tours are SkyTrek, Selvatura Park and Extremo.
Speaking of sea kayaking and snorkeling, Costa Rica has some of the best beaches in the world. With two coasts – the Pacific on the west and the Caribbean on the east – there are plenty of beautiful beaches, flanked by palm trees and rainforests. If you need a break in between adventures, it’s the perfect place to lounge in the sand and soak up some sunshine.
On our trip, we spent a few days in Jaco, a crescent-shaped strip of sandy beach set between two mountains. I enjoyed Jaco because there was a nice contrast in beaches- near our hotel, the beaches were brown sand with waves ideal for surfing. A short kayak journey away though, we had access to white beaches with the clear turquoise water, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Jaco also has a good nightlife scene for those who want to kick back with a drink and do some dancing after a day on the beach.
I’ve heard Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific side is also a beautiful beach, adjacent to the forest, which means you may spot birds, lizards and monkeys.
Rainforests & Volcanoes
About 25% of Costa Rica is made up of protected national parks and rainforests. Aside from canopy tours and zip-lining, some of the parks, like Manuel Antonio National, offer walking tours with guides who point out different animals and species.
Costa Rica also has four active volcanoes. The volcanoes and surrounding areas are ideal for hiking, camping and mountain biking.
Costa Rica’s most famous volcano is Arenal, which we visited on our trip. Once famous for its constant mini-eruptions, Arenal Volcano has been quiet for the past few years, only emitting smoke and gas. A trip to Arenal offers many adventure activities, and because of the volcano’s geothermal activity, there are also hot springs all over the area.
No visit to Arenal is complete without a trip to the hot springs. On our trip, we spent a day at a hot spring resort, swimming and soaking in pools of varying temperatures, while surrounded by lush greenery and drinking pina coladas from swim-up bars.
With eco-friendly hotels and lodges across the country, Costa Rica is a popular destination for eco-tourism. Great lengths are taken to ensure development and tourist activities don’t harm the environment.
Hotels are built to blend in naturally with their surroundings, and feature sustainable materials and products made by local craftsmen.
On our trip we spent a few nights at Selva Verde in the heart of Costa Rica’s Sarapiqui Canton. Selva’s eco-lodge is in a perfect setting, with bungalows in the middle of the rainforest on the banks of the Sarapiqui River.
The rooms are nice with beautiful balconies, hammocks and lush forest views. Selva’s main dining area is also a great spot for bird-watching- you may even see a howler monkey while you have breakfast.
Selva Verde works with conservation partners, including the Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Center, to promote conservation and environmental education throughout the local community.
One of the best elements of a trip to a foreign country is discovering new food. Like any country, Costa Rica has its local favorites you must try if you visit. Main staples tend to be rice and beans, also known as Gallo Pinto. A lot of the country’s main dishes use a sauce that you will quickly come to love called Lizano Salsa- it’s similar to a BBQ sauce, but also distinct in its own right. We put it over everything when we visited, it’s delicious.
Costa Rica is also a huge grower of coffee, bananas and chocolate. The country’s coffee beans rank as some of the best in the world.
And, it should go without saying there’s an abundance of tropical fruit everywhere you go. When we visited years ago, it was my first time trying fresh papaya and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Need another reason? Pura Vida!
When you visit Costa Rica, you can expect beaches, volcanoes, rain forests, and pretty great weather most of the time. “Pura vida” is a local saying there, meaning “life is good.”
While it literally translates to “pure life”, the more practical definition is don’t worry, it will be alright. Pura vida is a way of life in Costa Rica. Things run a bit slower and are far less stressful than in other countries.
Extra Know Before You Go Info
- Identification: Valid passport
- Language: Spanish – You’ll hear English in the touristy areas, but Spanish is the predominant language throughout the country. I’d recommend either traveling with someone who speaks the language, or learning a few key phrases before you go
- Currency: The Colon – Currently, the exchange rate fluctuates from 500 – 550 colones to $1 USD
- When to Visit: The dry season is from November – April. Although, be prepared for rain if you’re going to be trekking through the jungle- it rains on and off throughout the day in those regions