Costa Rica

Costa Rica Travel Guide

Just south of Quepos on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica are a series of wide, white-sand beaches backed by dense, tropical forest, mangrove swamps, and lagoons that serve as the home for hundreds of species of animals such as sloths, iguanas, and rare squirrel monkeys.

Dozens of broken surfboards are screwed to the ceiling (proof of Dominical’s powerful waves), and surf-competition photos line the walls at this classic surfer bar. Most nights the action revolves around pool, foosball, and swapping surfing stories.

Earthwatch, a nonprofit organization that does ecologically oriented scientific field research around the globe, has maintained a strong presence in Costa Rica for more than a decade.

The Arenal volcano region in north central Costa Rica has always attracted pilgrims to the natural hydrotherapy provided by the hot springs and waterfalls.

The most dramatic zipline tour around, featuring 11 lines and the country’s tallest platform.

Wood sculptures by locally renowned artists are the specialty of this upscale gallery. The carved, stylized figures of Central American animals and rainforest flora have traditionally played an important role in the lives of Costa Ricans and local lore.

Behind the columned, Neoclassical facade of San José’s National Theater, the opulent pink marble lobby with statues of Beethoven and other iconic composers gives way to a main auditorium with grand oil paintings of 19th-century Costa Rican life.

The eco-minded outfitter organizes customized itineraries with volunteer activities—protecting green, hawksbill, and leatherback turtle nests with park rangers in Tortuguero National Park, or counting species like the endangered rainbow-hued scarlet macaw in Corcovado National Park.

Active travel (cycling; walking; sea kayaking; rock climbing) paired with unexpected cultural experiences (storytelling in Ireland; a game of boules in Provence; visiting mask makers in Bali).

An independent group of naturalists directed by biologist Mike Boston leads custom wilderness treks on the Osa Peninsula.

A buzzing hive of commercial activity, this covered market is as much of a full-immersion experience as a shopping destination.

The left point break at Pavones is the country’s most legendary wave—and a pilgrimage site for top surfers from all over the world.

While this Pacific stretch’s notorious breaks are mainly for experts, novices can learn to hang ten along the calmer shores of Manuel Antonio Beach.

Nearly 5,000 feet above sea level—and reached via a four-hour, precipitous, unpaved drive from San José—this 25,700-acre, amazingly biodiverse preserve is the most popular tourist attraction in Costa Rica.

Unbeatable access to experiences around the globe—learning firsthand about a family-run organic coffee plantation in the Galápagos; dining in a private home in Delhi—are woven into every walking-based excursion, from Ireland to Bhutan.