Gorgeous beaches, wild rainforests, friendly people, insane national parks, and animals you’ll want to steal away in your carryon…. Costa Rica is a diverse landscape of ecosystems bound together by gratitude for Mother Nature. With a robust investment in eco-tourism and adventure travel, Costa Rica is a great place to spend a few days experiencing the simple, beautiful life – just remember to bring a helmet.
Costa Rica is the poster-child for eco-tourism due to it’s extensive National Parks and commitment to conservation. Global tourism contributes about 8 trillion dollars annually to the global economy, but Costa Rica’s tourism board ensures that a portion of the pie goes back into local conservation efforts. Everywhere you travel, you’ll meet artisans and community-based collectives working to preserve land and culture.
9. Isla Chiquita
A secluded island harboring lovely beaches and serene views of the Pacific, Isla Chiquita is a commitment to the slow life. But this “slow life” gets the glamping treatment. Enjoy views of the Gulf of Nicoya from your “tent,” let the wildlife be your alarm clock, and step off your deck and into your snorkel gear. You don’t need much, just some sunscreen.
8. Fresh Ingredients
Roadside fruit vendors, fresh roasted coffee, handmade corn tortillas, ceviche, gallo pinto, patacones… all 10 reasons we love Costa Rica could have been food. With its bi-coastal catches and rain-fed bounty, there’s an abundance of flavor bursting from Costa Rica’s cucinas. Along the coasts, fresh grilled seafood is served up with coconut rice, while citrusy ceviche and Costa Rican quesadillas abound at hole in wall eateries (our favorites).
7. Guanacaste, aka CowboyCountry
Heaven is a place on Earth and the cowboys found it long ago. Weaving through the backroads of the remote San Bernardo Lowlands, keep an eye out for sabaneros riding horses roadside and keep an ear out for the epic Rio Perdido (an excellent excuse for white-water tubing). Sure the idyllic beauty of cowboy country is reason enough, but the Rio Perdido Hotel is the cherry on top. Dinner with a view and a private trail leading to thermal mineral springs? Sign us up.
6. Epic Stargazing
Once you get out of earshot of the capitol city of San Jose, Costa Rica is swallowed up in beautiful, bountiful darkness. Just you, the wild, and what looks like every star in the galaxy. Hit the lights, kick back in a hammock, and watch the Milky Way streak across the night sky.
5. Bi-Coastal Beaches
With coasts on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, every beach brings a little something different to the table. The Caribbean beaches are sleepy and easy, dotted with little towns (Puerto Viejo) and reggae bars. The Pacific beaches are more adventurous, with great surfing spots (Jaco Beach, Tamarindo Beach and Playa Hermosa) and a good chance at whale watching. Bonus? Over 99% of the coastal land is protected by maritime zones which prohibit construction within 200m of the high tide mark. This keeps the wildlife connected to the coasts and your long beach walks uninterrupted (unless, of course, it’s by a howler monkey).
4. Bajos Del Toros
Lost in the depths of a tropical cloud forest, Bajos del Toro is a taste of Costa Rica’s lush wildlife. Set up shop at one of the “treehouse lodges” and share the neighborhood with sloths, monkeys and quetzals. Peruse nearby volcanoes by horseback, or hike up to Cataratas del Toro, a sunning 300-foot waterfall. Bring some shoes with good grip – it’s slippery in them there rain forests!
They’re gangly, they’re smiley, and they’re surprisingly fast swimmers. Costa Rica is home to two of the six global sloth species: The Hoffman Two-Toed Sloth is nocturnal while the Brown-Throated Sloth (which has 3 toes) is slightly smaller and more active during the day. Sloths love the trees (so look up) and they are slow for a reason: they have reallllly slow metabolism. It takes them about 2 weeks to fully digest a meal, so in an effort to conserve energy they’ve evolved to do less rather than eat more. In Costa Rica, even the sloths are living the simple life.
2. “Pura Vida” Lifestyle
In Costa Rica, pura vida doesn’t stick with its literal definition. It’s not just “pure life,” but a good-natured way to say hello, see ya later, no worries, no stress. It means being thankful for what you have and not dwelling on the negative. What’s not to love about that?
The Pacific Ring of Fire is made up of more that 200 ancient volcanoes that date back to 65 million years ago. Costa Rica has 5 active volcanoes, and yes, they’re some of CR’s hottest attractions (we couldn’t help ourselves). Arenal Volcano has amazing hot springs and luscious trails at the base (you can’t hike to the top of Arenal), while Turrialba (and the surrounding valley) is great by horseback. For a challenge, hike to the top of Irazú for some insane views of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Poas is a bit harder to get to, but two crater lakes seems like a fair trade off.
1. Mother Nature’s Playground
Mother Nature may have pulled out all the stops with Costa Rica’s wild rain forests, killer surf breaks, towering volcanoes, careening rivers, and breathtaking waterfalls, but the locals perfected the art of adventure. You can zipline through the Guanacaste cloud forest, raft down the Arenal River, hike up the Bijagual Waterfall, horseback along the Caribbean coast, and learn to surf at Playa Samara. And to experience one of Mama Earth’s crowning achievements, explore Corcovado National Park. Located on the remote Osa Peninsula, National Geographic called it “the most biologically intense place on Earth.” It’s 164 miles of pristine diversity that flow from montane forest to cloud forest, prairie to mangrove swamp in perfect harmony. Costa Rica, you had us at “hola.”