From cloud-topped rainforests on the ridges of volcanos to smiling locals and chili-infused foods, there are loads of reasons why you might want to make Costa Rica your next travel project…

1.   To wonder at Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano is unlike any other on earth. It rises from the misty jungles of central Costa Rica in a perfect cone shape. Around its steep slopes, wild forests cluster and echo with the calls of tropical birds. Waterfalls crash through the hills and the peak itself is pockmarked with craters that occasionally smoke with Sulphur. You're bound to be wowed.

2.   To chill on Arenal Lake

Situated just on the edge of soaring, smoke-topped Arenal Volcano, the largest lake in the country is also now one of its top outdoorsy recreation spots. Encircled by wild rainforests, where jaguars stalk the undergrowth, it's got cycling tracks, hiking, camping and – perhaps most famous of all – world-class windsurfing between November and March.

3.   To surf the waves of Tamarindo

With the brunt of the roaring Pacific Ocean rolling in all along the shores of Costa Rica's western side, Tamarindo stands out from the crowd. It's got the sculpted left-to-righters of Playa Grande. It's got the crashing tubes of Playa Negra. It's got the pounding, pulsing swells of Playa Marbella. All are world-class and ready for riding!

4.   For the markets of San José

Choose to linger in the buzzing capital of San José a little, to feel the buzzing pulse of the country. There's nowhere better to do that than in the historic indoor bazaar of Mercado Central, where stacks of jangling folk trinkets mix with vibrant piles of fresh veg, chatting locals sip coffees and food stalls sizzle their flatbreads.

Photo by Marissa Strniste / CCBY

5.   For the coffee

Just a short trip through the palm-peppered and verdant reaches of the Central Valley will reveal why Costa Rica is one of the world's leading coffee producers. Plantations clutch to the hillsides as far as the eye can see, and there are plenty of opportunities to taste a brew in the rustic Haciendas of the highlands.

6.   To see the resplendent quetzal

With its forest-green wings and blood-red chest feathers, plumes of vibrant yellow bursting from its head and brilliant white tail crests that shimmer and shine under the Costa Rican sun, there's arguably no bird worthier of spotting than the resplendent quetzal. Oh, and did we mention it's endemic to the misty cloud forests of Monteverde?

7.   For the shimmering blues of the Rio Celeste

Delve deep into the Tenorio Volcano National Park, where cloud forests hem in the hillsides and primeval woodland echoes with curious noises, and trek all the way to the shimmering waters of the Rio Celeste. Hailed for its turquoise colours and waterfalls that resemble something out of Eden, it's simply not to be missed!

8.   To spot jaguars

It's between the thickets and untrodden woods of the great Corcovado National Park, cascading down from the highlands to swathes of misty lowland forests, that you might just catch a glimpse of Central America's most elusive predator. Sightings are rare, but hey, there's also tapirs, margays and plenty of Costa Rican monkeys besides.

9.   To see the three-toed sloth

Putting us all to shame when it comes to laziness and procrastination, the three-toed sloth clambers through the cacao groves and rainforests of Costa Rica. It's one of the few places the curious animal can still be seen in the wild. And boy are they cute!

10.  For the other biodiversity

It goes from bug-eyed frogs with lime-green backs to snapping crocodiles in the rivers and hawkish king vultures that swoop overhead, not to mention the thousands of varieties of orchids and trees that burst from the fertile volcanic landscapes. Yep, it's hardly a surprise that Costa Rica has the highest level of biodiversity on Earth!

11.  So the happiness rubs off

If the Rat Race is getting you down, then perhaps a trip to Costa Rica is just what the doctor ordered. Yep, this relatively poor and remote Central American country has topped the Happy Planet Index countless times, and now leads the way by quite a margin. It's easy to see why: The locals are welcoming and chilled, perpetually smiling and always willing to help.

12.  For the vibes of Puerto Viejo

With its Reggae-inspired colour scheme and salt-washed shacks of driftwood, there's no denying the chilled, Carib vibes of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. It sits on the sunny eastern coast of Costa Rica, boasting surf swells and laid-back bars where mojitos flow until the early hours.

13.  For the forest trails of Monteverde

Chances are, if you're thinking about coming to Costa Rica, you've heard of Monteverde. With its ziplines and swinging rope bridges set high above the virgin rainforests right in the heart of the country, it's home to some of the most endangered cloud forest habitats on earth. Hit the trails here and prepare to be wowed!

14.  For the food

It's an obvious one, true, but the food here really is top draw. Just think: healthy black bean curds and rice for breakfast, chili-packed salsas and crispy corn flour chips, hearty tamale covered in fried plantain and bubbling beef broths with yucca and rice. Earthy and void of all additives, this is the cuisine of Costa Rica.

15.  For the hot springs

Because there are bubbling magma channels and smoke-belching volcanos all over Costa Rica, it should hardly come as a surprise that the country has oodles of hot springs too. Some of the best of these can be found in the countryside around Quesada in the north, while La Fortuna has its own array of broiling pools for bathing in too.

16.  To mingle with other backpackers

While it goes without saying that you'll have plenty of top-notch new mates just waiting to mingle, chat and sip cold ones between the jungles and the beaches on that LBW tour of Costa Rica, it's also true that the country is now one of the top backpacking destinations in Central America, meaning there's oodles of other folk to meet to boot.

17.  For wild Tortuguero

Now a national park, the vast protected reserves of Tortuguero crash down from the volcanic mountains into the pearly blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Within, they contain misty bayous and dense forests, where rare manatees meet crocs and eels, and tapirs mingle with turtles on the sands.

18.  Talking of turtles…

…Costa Rica is home to oodles of these cute and loveable shell-topped creatures. Between March and July on the Carib coast, the bulky leatherback turtle crawls over the sands. Later in the year it's the turn of the green turtle, while November sees Pacific ridley sea turtles on the western coast.

19.  For the whitewater rafting

Costa Rica has been touted as the world's single finest whitewater rafting destination for plenty of reasons. Check out the roaring class IV rapids of the Naranjo River, weaving through tight-knit canyons and gorges where the current shoots as if from a gun. Or, go for something calmer, along the Rio Balsa close to Arenal.

20.  It's cheap

Yep, even though it's now firmly established as one of the region's top backpacker destinations, Costa Rica remains enticingly cheap. Hostels can cost as little as 9 USD a night, while hearty meals in a local cantina will set you back just 3 USD. That should leave plenty of cash for the ziplining and trekking expeditions.


21.  Because your friends haven’t!

There's nothing like a trip to a wild and unknown corner of the world, where volcanos hulk on the horizon and white-sand beaches glimmer on the coasts, to stoke the jealousy of your friends back at home. Thankfully, Costa Rica's jewels are still being discovered and there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path places to explore here too.  

We know there are oodles more reasons why you would want to travel to Costa Rica. If you can think of any to add to the list, then we'd love to hear them in the comments below! Alternatively, if you think it's time you hit the wild country, be sure to check out LBW's trips.

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