The Insider Guide to Costa Rica

Costa Rica, conjuring images of misty rainforests, picture-perfect beaches, sleepy volcanoes and wildlife aplenty, is a tropical haven for nature-lovers, adventure seekers and ecowarriors alike – but there’s more to this Central American nation than meets the eye.

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The Main Attractions

One of those places people spend their whole lives dreaming about, Costa Rica is a tropical paradise. While the natural beauty, historic towns, wildlife and adventure-filled activities are the main attractions here, it’ll be the warm and friendly people and their love for their country that will leave the biggest impression. In fact, it’s this love of the country that makes the natural beauty here so pristine – protecting and caring for the environment is almost a national pastime. And, with Costa Rica frequently topping the world rankings for environmentally friendly policies and happiness levels, one has to wonder if the two are connected – pura vida, indeed. Sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica may be small, but it sure is mighty. Split down the middle by two mountain ranges and bordering the Caribbean and the Pacific oceans, the landscape here will take your breath away (quite literally sometimes), especially when it comes to hiking and traversing some of the winding mountainous roads, which aren’t the best. Still, it’s a small price to pay to visit attractions such as the Cloud Forests of Monteverde, the sea turtles in Tortuguero National Park or the gorgeous beaches of Manuel Antonio, the most famous Costa Rican national park. Other not-to-be-missed spots include La Fortuna, the outdoor adventure capital of Costa Rica, where you can swim in the La Fortuna Waterfall, go white water rafting through the rainforest, explore the Venado Caves or trek through the lava fields of Volcán Arenal. For beautiful beaches, Tamarindo on the Pacific coast is a popular getaway, as is Montezuma, home of the towering Montezuma Falls. Or, for a more remote nature experience, head south to Corcovado National Park via Wilson Botanical Garden in Las Cruces Reserve. While many skip San Jose, the Costa Rican capital, it’s a cool place to visit. With the focus on ecotourism and sustainability reaching the restaurants, cafes and hotels of the city, you’ll find the rainforested roots of the country are never too far away, even in the cosmopolitan heart. There’s also a growing nightlife scene and a mosaic of cultural influences to soak up, from the indigenous heritage of Costa Rica and the Spanish architecture – visible in crumbling ruins and beautiful buildings such as the late 19th-century Teatro Nacional – to modern street art. Plus, it’s one of the best places to try the most famous Costa Rican export: coffee. Ready to make those daydreams come true? Read on to find out more.

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Neighborhoods in Costa Rica