Costa Rica is a stunning Central American vacation destination. While it’s a small country -- geographically speaking -- it packs a serious punch when it comes to the breadth of experiences it offers visitors. Whether you love outdoor adventures or lazing by the beach, Costa Rica’s got you covered. Here are 10 top reasons you should consider adding Costa Rica to your vacation to-do list!
Where do we start? Costa Rica truly has the best of everything when it comes to landscapes and scenery. It’s all here: incredible ocean views, verdant rain, and cloud-forests, with several active volcanoes added in for good measure! On our 3-hour airport to resort drive, we were mesmerized by the flora, fauna, and even the small, picturesque villages scattered along the way. During your visit, keep your eyes wide open and your brain fully engaged. You’ll be seeing diverse terrain and magnificent marvels that will create life-long lasting memories.
Consider this: Costa Rica makes up only .03 percent of the Earth’s surface but contains 6 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. This stunning statistic is on full display everywhere you look in this incredible country. All sorts of animals -- from loud monkeys to colorful macaws, huge spiders and snakes, colorful schools of fish, and even sea turtles -- make their home here. Plant species, including those used for medicinal purposes, are also bountiful. The best way to see Costa Rica’s nature up close and personal is in one of its many national parks. Manuel Antonio, Corcovado, and Rincon de la Vieja Volcano are several of the most stunning. If you go, we highly recommend a guided tour. You’ll know what to be on the lookout for, and get the most out of your visit!
Like much of Central America, Costa Rica has two main seasons -- the dry “summer” which runs January through April, and the wet “winter” May through December. While rain is more prevalent during the wet or green season, storms tend to blow through quickly. All year round, average temperatures stay in the comfortable mid-to-upper 70s, but it’s important to remember there can be a wide temperature range between the country’s regions. Indeed, the higher altitudes, including the Arenal Volcano area, will clearly be a bit chillier than the beaches. Our advice: Pack layers, including a rain jacket, and be ready to go with the flow!
Costa Rica is blessed with gorgeous beaches on both its coastal sides -- Atlantic and Pacific. From the white sugar-sand stretches near Manuel Antonio and Guanacaste to the volcano black beaches along the Nicoya Peninsula, there are many incredible spots to spend the day strolling, snorkeling, or simply sunning with a good book. If you choose to include a beach day during your Costa Rica break -- and we recommend you do -- be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and protective gear, including a floppy hat and perhaps even a rash guard. Costa Rica is quite close to the equator, so you’ll want to be prepared for the sun’s extremely direct and powerful rays. Also, keep in mind, most of the beaches here do not have lifeguards on duty. Keep this in mind should you choose to swim, and above all, don’t do it alone.
Costa Rica teems with opportunities for outdoor adventure, with something for everyone no matter your athletic ability. To start with, there are a whole host of water sports. Most resorts can set you up with everything you need to enjoy the water -- be it snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, or even surfing!
Be sure to pack your boots: With its incredible, varied terrain, Costa Rica has many breathtaking hiking spots. The trek through Manuel Antonio keeps you on an easy path through the rainforest, and a good guide can help you see wildlife you might not have even noticed! And while you can’t hike to its summit, the numerous easy trails around Arenal Volcano National Park will take you to the main lookout, where you can view lava fields from past eruptions, along with the local flora and fauna that have returned to the volcano site.
If high-flying is more your style, consider a zip-lining adventure over the rainforest canopy or cloud forest. Dozens of outfits offer any number of options; your resort can make recommendations and even help you secure reservations.
From a whole host of tropical fruits you’ve likely never heard of (let alone seen!) to fresh-from-the-sea catches turned into ceviche, the food in Costa Rica is tasty and the perfect fuel for your adventure. The country’s national dish, gallo pinto, is a delicious rice and bean mixture sometimes served with a scrambled or fried egg on top. Plantains and avocados thrive here and are routinely used in side dishes. Wash everything down with a refresco -- a fresh fruit drink, and make sure to save room for dessert: Arroz con Leche is a rich but light rice pudding made with lemon zest and cinnamon.
There’s no doubt about it, for an unforgettable bean to cup coffee experience, Costa Rica is one of the globe’s top spots. The rich, volcanic soil, combined with high altitude, adds up to the perfect environment for growing top quality coffee beans. It’s light, bright, and delicious, and we enjoyed it every morning. Many growers offer tours of their farms, and for the coffee-curious, this can be a great way to spend part of a day. One of the country’s best-known roasters and exporters is Cafe Britt, which offers daily tours at its farm just north of the capital city San Jose. Here, you’ll learn all about the process during which coffee is created, and sample some of the end product. And don’t forget: Costa Rican coffee beans make the perfect take-home gift!
Quick Transport Time
Although it seems a lifetime away from the States, Costa Rica is actually closer than you might think. With non-stop flights from most major U.S. cities, it’s a relative breeze to reach. Only 4 hours from Atlanta, 5 from New York, 3 from Miami, and 6 from Los Angeles, you can leave in the morning and be on the beach by mid-afternoon. We were surprised at just how accessible the country is and the ease of travel and flight options. What’s more, the fares were quite affordable!
We love the perks that come along with luxe lodging, and Costa Rica has plenty of attractive options, no matter where in the country you stay. Of course, there are gorgeous resorts right on the ocean, many with adjacent golf courses, marinas, and spas. Many also offer free watersports, incredible poolside service, and other on-site activities. But if you want to split your time between the rainforest, volcanoes, and beach, smaller and incredible eco-lodges can also offer you fantastic accommodations while you’re adventuring. Many of these are nestled near national parks or wildlife preserves -- allowing you to get really up close and personal to resident monkeys, sloths, birds, and other animals -- without skimping on amenities. Bottom line: There are many lovely, high-end places to stay in Costa Rica, no matter your activity level or vacation plans.
Pura Vida Vibe
Last but certainly not least, there is the incredible general vibe of Costa Rica. Everyone here is just so... happy. Costa Ricans -- known as Ticos -- share a love and zest for life that’s so palpable there’s a name for it: Pura Vida. This term, meaning pure life in Spanish, truly sums up Costa Rica’s culture. No matter where you go in this incredible country, you’re bound to encounter the locals who love where they live and want to share that joy with you. This sweet, laid-back way of life, felt no matter where in the country you travel or stay, is what keeps people coming back to Costa Rica over and over again. We can’t wait to return!
There are far too many things to see and do packed into this tiny gem of a country to knock them all out in a single trip. Focus on what you really want to accomplish in Costa Rica -- whether it’s seeing the wildlife, conquering Arenal, ziplining the rainforest canopy, or simply relaxing on the beach -- and plan your trip here accordingly. Cramming too much in might squash the fun of this magical place, which is the last thing you’ll want to do. Remember: You can always return -- and you should! Here are my top tips for how to plan the perfect Costa Rica vacation!