They say size matters, whilst in some cases it might, visit Costa Rica and you’ll see why it definitely doesn’t.
Although Costa Rica is one of the world’s smaller countries, it certainly packs a big punch in terms of the fascinating things it has to offer. It’s actually pretty hard to describe just how amazing Costa Rica is with words only, there’s active volcanoes, dense jungles, incredible wildlife and deserted beaches, so it’s fair to say you won’t struggle to find adventure here. One of the most naturally diverse places on earth, so much so, National Geographic actually once described it as “the most biologically intense place on earth.”
The Costa Rican people have a saying that’s used across the country which is – “Pura Vida” this literally translates to “Pure Life,” and it would be really difficult to find a phrase that’s more fitting to describe what you’ll find in this wonderful place.
Hola! My name’s Roberto and I’m the local ambassador in Costa Rica for Not In The Guidebooks. I was born and raised in Costa Rica, and having lived here my whole life I can tell you that a visit here is much much more than just a lounging about, trying to avoid dodgy tan lines, beach holiday (although our beaches are pretty special), it’s an adventure through one of the most fascinating, naturally diverse places in the world.
Although we are a small country, our size certainly doesn’t reflect the scale of the fascinating amount of things to see and do here. One of the things I love most about Costa Rica is that wherever you go, there’s always something to explore, whether it be a secret hiking trail, a stunning view of the mountain, or watching a wild monkey swing about the trees.
Here’s my top Costa Rican highlights…
Corcovado National Park
One of the largest tropical rainforests in Central America. It’s probably got to be one of the best places to see and explore Costa Rican wildlife. The best part about it? It’s virtually untouched, meaning almost everything there is completely natural. You can expect to see all four species of Costa Rica’s wild monkeys, as well as sloths, endangered birds, macaws and Toucans, sea turtles and if you’re really lucky big cats like a puma or Jaguar (they’re mostly nocturnal though).
This is a marine biological reserve, another absolute haven for nature. Because the water is so clear, you get the chance to see some of the most fascinating marine wildlife in the world. And even jump in and swim alongside it, if you like. From sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays, manta rays, moray eels, puffer fish, you name it. There’s even the chance to see whale sharks and the majestic humpback whales.
A Crater Volcano
In Costa Rica we have a great number of volcanoes – 6 are actually still active (although none have erupted for a while) and there’s another 61 dormant or extinct ones. So a visit to one of these impressive crater’s is definitely a must. They do require a hike to get there, but whether you’re an experienced hiker or not at all, there’s that many, you’ll find something to suit any level of adventure or exercise. And whichever you choose, the hikes up there are truly spectacular. One of my favourites, I’d recommend would probably be Poas Volcano, in San José.
When is the best time to go?
To be honest, there’s no bad time to visit Costa Rica, it does remain warm throughout the year. But being a tropical country, we do have dry and rainy seasons.
For the Central Valley and the Pacific Coastline, the main dry season and the time most popular with visitors is mid December – April. The dry season starts a little earlier for the Caribbean Coastline and to the North of Costa Rica in September-October and this remains dry through Dec-April.
During the dry season, it’s much easier to get around and there’s plenty of sunshine, perfect for exploring the wildlife when tropical species like monkeys and sloths are joined by migrant birds from the north, humpback whales in the warm waters, and sea turtles nesting on shore.
The best off-peak time to come to Costa Rica is June-July. Be prepared for some rain, (but no where near as much as May-June) there’s definitely fewer visitors and lower prices in the local areas. It’s also a great time for some adventure sports e.g. rafting or water rapelling.
Embrace and come with a desire to learn the culture – Costa Rica will probably be like no other place you’ve been before, the majority of locals are very friendly and very happy a lot of the time, so some people are taken a back by this. So don’t be shocked it’s just how it is!
Learn some basic Spanish – although a lot of Costa Ricans speak English, there’s some that don’t, so try and learn a few words before you get here. It’ll help you out a lot and the locals do appreciate you speaking in their native tongue.
Get out of your resort – sounds obvious, but make sure you explore this wonderful country! It’s one of the most naturally diverse countries in the world, so whilst you might enjoy lounging about on a sun lounger, you should make sure you explore as much as possible.
The public transport is cheap, but it’s not always reliable or the fastest. I’d recommend the shuttle buses services we have here. They’re much comfier and much more reliable.
Bring some ear plugs – if you’re staying near or in the jungle, whilst it is amazing, it can get noisy at night sometimes. So bring some earplugs, just in case.