Most of the attractions that draw tourists to Costa Rica showcase the Central American nation's abundance of natural wonders, living and nonliving. Though it occupies merely 20,000 square miles of land, Costa Rica boasts one of the greatest varieties of plant and animal life on earth, the largest concentrations of which are found in the country's rain forests and waters.
We separated 11 reasons why Costa Rica should become your next travel destination:
Costa Rica has nearly 300 different beaches along its stunning Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, each with a distinct setting. Even on nearby beaches the sand can vary from white, black, or brown coloration. Some are fantastic for swimming and snorkeling and others are better for surfing.
2. The Wildlife
Up in the northern Caribbean sits Tortugero, one of the most remote villages in the entire country. It borders Tortugero National Park, where birds, reptiles, and amphibians seen nowhere else in the country thrive. Expeditions take visitors out on the canals or to the beach, where they watch baby turtles hatch and attempt to reach the sea. The Cahuita and Gandoca national parks in the southern Caribbean are also replete with wildlife, sloths included. Aside from sloths, Costa Rica is full of cheeky monkeys who might steal your food if you aren’t watching, and if it’s not the monkeys, it’s the raccoons – they run around in the daylight with a similar outlook on life to the honey badger of South Africa.
There are lizards, geckos and iguanas all over the place, and Costa Rica is also known as a great bird-watching country with over 812 recorded species found there.
If you are a thrill-seeker and someone that craves adventure, then Costa Rica is definitely the place for you. It’s home to the original canopy tour that lets you travel through the jungle like a monkey, and it’s known for its zip-lining tours, whitewater rafting on world class rapids, kayaking, scuba diving, cliff diving, sky diving and pretty much anything else extreme that you can come up with.
4. Delicious food
Like any country, Costa Rica has its own tastes, and its main staple tends to be rice and beans aka Gallo Pinto. A lot of its main dishes use a sauce that you will quickly come to love called Lizano Salsa. It’s kind of like a BBQ sauce, but kind of not. Hard to explain, for sure, but they put it on everything and people love it so much they even sell it at the airport.
About 25% of the country is made up of protected national parks and rainforests which hold 5% of the worlds biodiversity. Aside from taking canopy and zip-lining tours, there is also a tour that offers a aerial tram ride through the rainforest treetops guided by an expert naturalist. This is perfect for the less adventurous. Other parks, like Manuel Antonio National, offer walking tours with guides who point out different animals and species and help you find that elusive sloth.
One of the main tourist attractions, Costa Rica currently has five listed active volcanoes and 200+ volcanic formations. Because of them, the country has very rich and fertile soil which helps make it so lush and full of life. The volcanoes and surrounding areas are also popular areas for hiking, camping and mountain biking. The most famous is Arenal, which is over 5,500 feet tall. The country's tallest volcano is Irazu, which towers 11,259 feet above sea level and is very active. Poas Volcano National Park is Costa Rica's most visited national park.
With plans of being the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2012, Costa Rica is also a destination popular for its eco-tourism – some might even say they were the first to start it. With many eco-friendly hotels and lodges across the country and tour operators attempting to be as low-impact as possible, they are well on their way to full sustainaibility. You can feel good about visiting and not leaving a big footprint.
More than 850 avian species make bird-watching popular in Costa Rica, which accounts for nearly 5 percent of the world's biodiversity. Carara Biological Reserve boasts the country's largest population scarlet macaws. Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the country's most visited national parks, is home to approximately 100 types of mammals, including the rare spider monkey. For a chance to see nesting turtles, head to Tortugero National Park.
In Costa Rica, chocoholics can not only savor the "food of the gods" but also discover its history and ecology.
Before bananas took over, cacao farms used to drive the economy in the southern Caribbean. And lately, there’s been a renewed interest the area’s sweet, sweet chocolate business. Visitors can take chocolate tours through farms belonging to Caribeans or Chocoart, and learn how cacao pods are harvested, how the chocolate is made, and, of course, sampling along the way.
10. Amazing Accommodations
The Caribbean coast doesn’t have any mega-resorts or hotel chains. What it does have, however, is tons of character. Boutique hotels and B&Bs dot the coastline, with unique options like the funky abodes at Tree House Lodge, open air bungalows at Almonds and Corals, the stylish rooms at Le Chaméléon, and the relaxing beachfront accommodations at Banana Azul.
11. You can’t help falling in love with people
Costa Rica is known as the happiest country on Earth. It’s army-free, citizens have a life expectancy of 79.3, and they’re surrounded by a beautiful setting that’s sure to improve any mood. Expect beaches, volcanoes, rain forests, and pretty great weather most of the time. “Pura vida” is a local saying there, meaning “life is good.” Everywhere you go in Costa Rica you will be welcomed with a smile by the locals, and they will truly make you feel at home in their country.
"Ticos", as Costa Ricans are also known, are well-known for being hospitable people who like to keep up their reputation. They are respectful and hardworking and they like to greet others with a smile and a handshake.
People in Costa Rica will always try to make you feel like home, and that's why people do love visit Costa Rica!