Named “the rich coast” by Spanish conquistadors who first made landfall here in 1502, Costa Rica is one of the planet’s most naturally splendid and biologically diverse regions. Though largely undeveloped until the mid-20th century (due to its lack of traditional “riches”—gold, silver, spices), the country is today drawing new generations of explorers with more lasting treasures: smoldering volcanoes, misty cloud forests, rare wildlife and bird species, and a surfeit of beaches that are the gateway to world-class surfing, diving, and sportfishing.
Dramatic volcanoes, misty cloud forest, and deep river valleys make Costa Rica an ideal destination for the adventure minded. But you needn't be too hard-core to travel here—Costa Rica's family-friendly culture is coupled with great year-round weather. To create the itinerary that suits you best in this popular eco-tourism destination, turn to this Costa Rica travel guide.
Things Not to Miss in Costa Rica
Costa Rica travel offers excellent value and ecological diversity. The best way to get around is by small plane, while renting a car is a close second.
Explore San Jose
Arenal National Park (view the Arenal Volcano)
Hiking through Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
Zip-lining in Selvatura Park
Manuel Antonio National Park
Tortuguero National Park
Surfing from your base at an eco-lodge
When to Visit Costa Rica
The Continental Divide runs through Costa Rica. The northernmost regions are flat and arid, while the south is covered by jungle. The Caribbean coast receives rain year round.
The best time to visit is in December and January when the landscape is green but there's little rain
To visit Costa Rica during high/dry season, go between late November to late April
Tropical/rainy season (or "green" season) runs from May through mid-November
- Playa Grande on the Nicoya Peninsula—one of the few nesting sites in the world for endangered leatherback sea turtles.
- Remote, beautiful Drake Bay (Bahía Drake), where crystalline waters border primary rainforest (and several exclusive eco-lodge properties).
- Diving among dolphins, hammerheads, and giant rays, or exploring some 200 stunning waterfalls, many that drop right into the sea, at Isla del Coco, the inspiration for Jurassic Park’s Isla Nublar.