Costa Rica holiday highlights

Costa Rica is one of Central America’s most vibrant countries. From the Pacific to Caribbean Coast beaches, and the numerous national parks dotted around in between, you’ll find a stunning selection of exotic landscapes and natural playgrounds. We recommend spending at least one night in San José, Costa Rica’s capital and one of the safest cities on the continent – the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and National Museum are both excellent places to stop off and explore. Once you’re further afield from San José, you’ll really get to soak up Costa Rica’s scenic vibes; visit nearby Central Valley in the middle of the country for mountainous and volcanic scenery; head to the Central Highlands region for Monteverde, famous for its misty cloud forest and coffee plantations; and discover the vast Arenal Volcano National Park area, marked by meandering rivers, striking lava fields and cascading waterfalls.

Where is Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is one of the southernmost countries in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south east. The rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean, popular with surfers, are to the west, while the warmer and calmer Caribbean Sea lies to the east.

Costa Rica national parks
Over a quarter of Costa Rica’s land is protected and the country currently has 27 national parks, plenty of which are dotted along its Pacific Coast. Head out to explore them and you’ll find everything from tropical rainforest, wetlands and simmering volcanoes, to dense cloud forest, hidden lagoons and untamed beaches. National parks in Costa Rica are some of the most ecologically diverse and beautiful places on Earth, home to an incredible range of wildlife including jaguars, frogs, turtles and hummingbirds.

Costa Rica beaches
From breathtaking national parks to unspoilt powdery-sand beaches, Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is impressive to say the least. Many travellers make a beeline for Nicoya and Papagayo, a pair of peninsulas which have luxurious resort retreats and superb marine life, ranging from humpback whales to giant leatherback turtles. On the opposite side of the island, the Caribbean Coast is less developed but just as good for savouring that taste of tropical paradise – head to Limón province for warm waters and waves which gently lap the golden sands, as well as snorkelling and surfing.

Food & drink
Food in Costa Rica is mild but full of goodness and flavour. The country’s location means plenty of tropical fruit and fresh vegetables are used, as well as rice and black beans. Pork and beef are the most commonly eaten meats but chicken and fish are also popular, particularly on the Caribbean Coast.

One of Costa Rica’s favourite breakfast foods is gallo pinto, where rice and beans are mixed together with other ingredients such as onions, peppers and coriander. The mix of rice and beans creates a speckled effect, hence the dish’s name, which means ‘spotted rooster’. Other popular dishes include casado, a dish made up of many foods which would normally include rice, beans, salad, tortillas, fried plantains and meat or fish, as well as a glass of juice on the side. The coming together of various ingredients plays on the name’s meaning (‘married’), and the dish will vary depending on where you go in Costa Rica. Olla de carne (literally ‘meat stew’) is rich in flavor with ingredients such as plantains, corn, cassava and carrots; chifrijo is a perfect snack, a combination of chicharrones (fried pork rinds) and frijoles (beans) served with bread or tortilla chips; and flan is a popular dessert, a delicious egg custard made from milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla which is chilled before serving.

Costa Rica key facts

Time difference

GMT -6 hours

Capital

San José

Currency

Colon

Flying time to destination

11.5 hours

Language

Spanish and English

Passport & visas

No visa required for UK passport holders.