To say that Costa Rica is a unique country is an understatement. It is one of the few countries that don’t have their own army for over 60 years. Also, around 25% of Costa Rican territory is considered a protected area, making it one of the most eco-conscious countries on Earth. The tourism industry is well developed and travelling around the country is easy. For example, you can use American dollar for most tourism-related transactions, such as paying for your hotel, tours or airport transfers. So it’s actually possible that you visit the country and don’t even use the local currency.
In just a few hours, you can cross the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. The country has beautiful beaches, rainforests, a rich wildlife and even volcanoes. You may choose to stay at any beachfront homes in Costa Rica or in a cool lodge up in the forest – the options are vast. So, let’s explore this tiny country, while I show you four cool places to visit in Costa Rica.
The Caribbean Coast
Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is quite different from the rest of the country, especially for its people. Back in the 19th Century, Jamaican workers came to build the Costa Rica’s railway network. Today, the vibe here is very chilled, as if a piece of Jamaica were on Costa Rican soil.
The southern province of Limón is a good example of that, with many quiet beaches including Punta Uva and Punta Manzanillo, or Playa Negra with its dark volcanic sand. Millennials prefer to stay around Cocles Beach, where it the sea is good enough to surf. It’s an area with a dense vegetation, animals and you can even hear the monkeys while walking to the beach. In smaller coastal towns around the area, it’s very common to have reggae parties that would really make you feel like you’re in Montego Bay, rather than Central America.
Enjoy Mountain Life with a Twist
Up in the mountains, the town of Monte Verde is surrounded by tropical forests (the name means green mount) and offers Pacific Ocean views. It get’s a bit windy up here and, sometimes, you can hear the wind whistles during the night.
This is one of the country’s best ecotourism and adventure areas, offering the opportunity to try all kinds of mountain sports. Costa Rica is a zip line paradise, and around Monte Verde you can go in a thrilling 120-metre long zip line. It’s also a great place to go trekking and cross some hanging bridges a la Indiana Jones.
Another great place to enjoy adventure sports is the nearby town of Santa Elena, where agencies will sell you all sorts of adventure packages. But despite being a charming place, it lacks more authentic local experiences.
Explore La Fortuna and Its Surrounding Area
Situated in the north of the country, La Fortuna is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the whole of Costa Rica. It is right at the foot of Arenal, an active volcano that erupted in 1968 and destroyed a lot of the surrounding area. Luckily, La Fortuna stayed almost intact, hence its name: the good fortune. So if you’re a hiker or enjoy climbing volcanos, this is the perfect place for you. Climbing Arenal Volcano is not an easy task, nor a cheap one, since there are a whole lot of fees you need to pay to local farmers to cross their land, in addition to official entry fee. Having said that, most travellers are happy to just enjoy the view of the Arenal Volcano from La Fortuna.
Another place to visit around La Fortuna is the main waterfall. It around 3 miles from the town itself, so if you don’t want to walk all that distance in the usually very hot weather, the best option is renting a bike. Enjoy the fantastic views of the Arenal Volcano during the journey, stopping here and there to have a closer look and photograph the rich flora. To get into the park, there’s a hefty entry fee of 15 dollars, but the 75-metre giant is worth the fee.
Around La Fortuna, there are a lot of hot springs, something very common around volcanoes and areas with volcanic activity. There are several places to choose from, depending on your personal taste and the size of your wallet. Yes, this is not that moment you wanted to be in the middle of nowhere, closer to nature in an idyllic hot spring with no human being in sight. Don’t get me wrong, these hot springs are really great, but they are well developed to receive tourists in hotels and spas.
On the other side of Arenal Volcano, is the Arenal Lake, where you can go stand-up paddleboarding, go on boat rides or simply take some spectacular pictures with Arenal Volcano.
Visit The Capital San José
San José, the capital and largest city in Costa Rica is not very different from most capital cities of formal Spanish colonies. As some people like to point out, there is the cathedral, a square, the government palace and the theatre. Alright, there is some truth in that, but the city goes beyond these landmarks and has an interesting vibe.
If we think that most tourists don’t spend much time around here, that alone is already a good reason to go and discover what the city is all about. Add to that the fact it is located in a valley, between two volcanoes, with fertile land with coffee farms, and you have an excuse to spend a good couple of days in the city.
What about you, have you been to Costa Rica? What’s your favourite place in the country?