GMT -6 hours
Untouched beaches, hidden coves and tropical forest
Costa Rica is a naturalist’s paradise with a spectacular range of plants and colourful birdlife, set between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Head to the sun-drenched northern Pacific coastline and witness beautiful untouched beaches, hidden coves, tropical forest and abundance of marine life including giant leatherback turtles. Choose to stay on the Caribbean coastline and you’ll experience a sense of exclusivity with a string of luxury hotels.
- It’s a bird-watcher’s paradise with over 800 native bird species to spot
- National parks, cloud forests and verdant jungles - where zip-lining through the trees is a must
- You have a choice of Pacific Ocean or Caribbean Sea resorts
- Costa Rica has five listed active volcanoes and over 200 volcanic formations – look out for Arenal occasionally glowing red in the evenings
- An amazing variety of wildlife such as caiman, snakes, monkeys, butterflies and adorable sloths.
Best time to visit
• In Central America the dry season is from December to April with a wetter season from May to November, peaking in September.
• During the wetter months mornings are generally bright and sunny, with rain in the afternoon and evening.
• Though only a short distance apart, Costa Rica’s Caribbean and Pacific coastlines experience different seasons.
As the capital city of Costa Rica and with an extended municipality that is home to almost half of the country’s population, San José is one of the most important cites in Central America as well as one of the safest. It is the natural gateway to the country so most visitors spend at least one night here.If you have time to explore then the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum is a good place to start. Further afield, travellers will find the Poás Volcano National Park (2-hours) – a spectacular and particularly geologically active place to visit.
Rich in tropical forest, beautiful beaches, hidden coves and wildlife and with a good range of accommodation in the resort town, it is little wonder that visitors are drawn to Manuel Antonio. As Costa Rica’s smallest national park, a lot is packed into its 1680 acres, with excellent activities from snorkelling and diving to zip lining and horse-riding tours. Spot a plethora of wildlife including the two-toed sloth, iguana and endangered squirrel monkey. Capture picture-perfect sunsets from the glorious white crescent beaches and enjoy magical views from the emerald hillsides.
Costa Rica’s untamed northern Pacific coast is home to Tamarindo, a mecca for surfers. Famous for the leatherback turtles that lay their eggs on Playa Grande, this popular beach resort boasts beautiful coastal scenery and vibrant nightlife. Just north is the Papagayo Peninsula, a sun-drenched natural paradise renowned for its incredible diversity of wildlife, untouched beaches and crystal clear waters.
Just north of Tamarindo is the Papagayo Peninsula, a sun-drenched natural paradise renowned for its incredible diversity of wildlife, untouched beaches and crystal clear waters. Lacking a resort centre like Tamarindo’s, Papagayo enjoys a more relaxed and exclusive feel, with large, isolated, resortstyle hotels scattered along the coastline acting as exclusive hideaways in which to while away the hours in paradisiacal bliss.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a stunning natural wonder. Take the skywalk through the forest canopy for spectacular views. The nearby settlement was founded in the mid-1900s by American Quakers, and today the charming resort boasts some wonderful attractions including a butterfly farm and birdwatching trails.
Tortuguero, which means ‘region of sea turtles’ in Spanish, is a beautiful village in northeast Costa Rica that boasts pastel-coloured houses and friendly locals. Often referred to as the ‘Venice of Costa Rica’ due to its labyrinthine network of rivers and canals, the neighbouring national park is only accessible by plane and boat. This hidden paradise hosts a diverse array of wildlife including toucans, monkeys and colourful frogs. Visit July-September to witness turtles laying eggs on the beach, an unforgettable natural spectacle.
Until it entered a resting phase in October 2010, Arenal Volcano was Costa Rica’s most active volcano and its almost perfect conical peak dominates the horizon. Arenal Volcano National Park encompasses almost 30,000 acres of lush cloud forest, tropical forest, barren lava fields and rivers as well as an abundance of wildlife. Follow the park’s series of hanging bridges for incredible forest views. La Fortuna, set beneath the volcano, is a quiet rural town with charming local culture and access to nearby cascading waterfalls and thermal baths.