Culture Trip's Feel-Good Places to Visit in 2021 – Costa Rica

Deep in the rainforest, La Fortuna waterfall is one of Costa Rica's many natural wonders
Deep in the rainforest, La Fortuna waterfall is one of Costa Rica's many natural wonders | © Etienne Delorieux / Unsplash
Photo of Cassam Looch
Social Editor15 December 2020

Regularly voted one of the happiest places on earth, Costa Rica has emerged as a foodie hub and surfer’s paradise in recent years. A number of sustainable projects have helped to develop the Central American country into a remarkable destination that you may well want explore for yourself in the coming few months.

More than 25 percent of the country is made up of protected national parks and reserves. In 2021, San Lucas Island joins the list as the 30th official park in Costa Rica, and that’s just one of many green initiatives being announced at the moment.

The Costa Rican Tourism Board has launched the Pura Vida Pledge to show visitors how to help local communities in the aftermath of the global pandemic via responsible tourism. Pura vida (pure life) is a mantra that’s helped Costa Ricans attain a sense of contentment in how they interact with nature; visitors are being asked to adopt the ethos, with the aim of creating a carbon-neutral Costa Rica by 2050.

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  • On your visit, head to the Nicoya Peninsula, where sweeping beaches lead to hidden coves. It’s one of only five blue zones around the world – geographical areas in which people statistically live longer than anywhere else. The wild landscape and the incredible people and culture contribute to a tangible feel-good factor that will put a smile on your face.

    More than 25 percent of the country is made up of protected national parks and reserves | © Peter Schickert / Alamy Stock Photo

    The cuisine, too, is something to enjoy. In the capital, San José, a new generation of Costa Rican chefs are revitalising the food scene to great effect. The likes of Pablo Bonilla, Randy Siles and José González have embraced the farm-to-table concept, and the trendy Barrio Escalante neighborhood is the place to be seen on a night out.

    San José is one of the safest, and cleanest, cities in Latin America, and these high standards are maintained throughout much of the country. Tourists often head to Tamarindo when they arrive, a coastal district best known for its incredible surfing spots and ecotourism attractions.

    Surf culture is huge in Costa Rica, and international enthusiasts are fond of grabbing their boards and heading to the region. Playa Hermosa, on the central Pacific coast, has recently been awarded the prestigious title of World Surfing Reserve thanks to its consistent wave quality, strong community support and clear conservation vision.

    Surf culture is huge in Costa Rica | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

    Feel-good places to stay in Costa Rica

    From luxury working farms to relaxing lodges, find your perfect place to stay and start your feel-good adventure in Costa Rica with these accommodation suggestions.

    Finca Rosa Blanca

    Boutique Hotel, Hotel
    4.8/5 (166 Reviews)
    Courtesy of Finca Rosa Blanca / Expedia
    If you’ve ever wanted to stay on a working coffee plantation with some seriously green credentials, we’ve found the perfect place. This coffee farm has luxury accommodation lodges, so you’ll certainly enjoy a comfortable stay here, while the lush rainforests and steaming volcanoes (all perfectly safe!) add a sense of drama. You’ll also know your morning brew will be as fresh as it gets.
    More info

    Monteverde Lodge and Gardens

    4.6/5 (284 Reviews)
    Courtesy of Monteverde Lodge and Gardens / Expedia

    We’ve repeatedly highlighted the outstanding efforts being made across Costa Rica to create a sustainable way of visiting the country. Some people might be wary that this means higher prices for accommodation, but Monteverde Lodge is a superb budget option in a highly sought-after location. Rooms open into the surrounding cloud forest, and you can even take a zipline over the leaf canopy.

    More info

    Luna Lodge

    4.9/5 (15 Reviews)
    Luna Lodge
    Courtesy of Luna Lodge / Expedia

    Another ecolodge, but this time one that’s right off the grid. Hundreds of rare bird species can be seen and heard from the cabins here, with cascading waterfalls also within sound distance of the property. One of the most romantic places to stay in Costa Rica, Luna Lodge is ideal for those looking to recharge and realign with nature after 2020.

    More info

    Occidental Tamarindo

    Resort, Luxury
    3.8/5 (748 Reviews)
    Occidental Tamarindo 2
    Courtesy of Occidental Tamarindo / Expedia

    We’ve gone for what looks like a more traditional resort for our final choice, but appearances can be deceptive. Yes, you can opt for the classic all-inclusive option here, but you’ll still be doing your bit for the environment. Not many properties combine the beach and jungle experience as seamlessly as this hotel in Tamarindo.

    More info


    The Culture Trip list features places with a feel-good factor that we can’t wait to visit in 2021 and beyond (once we can travel again). It celebrates travel that’s good and makes you feel good. The destinations are dedicated to sustainability; they offer something new and exciting, or an unforgettable moment that will make us fall in love all over again with the world we’ve missed in 2020.

    Culture Trip compiled the list based on insights and recommendations from its global community of travel experts and local insiders, combined with search data from millions of users from around the world to understand interest in those destinations.

    These recommendations were updated on December 15, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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