Shrouded in mists and dressed in swaying palms, scented with coffee fields and fringed with tropical beaches to shame any Caribbean island, Costa Rica is hardly one to resist. But, just in case you needed any more reasons to pack the Hawaiian shirts and walking boots and make a beeline for this Central American gem, here’s a lowdown of some of its major pulls. Expect sultry rainforests, shimmering Pacific sands, three-toed sloths et al.
For the morning coffee
It was thanks to the uber-fertile soils of Costa Rica’s Central Valley that the highlands here were able to sustain huge fields of Arabica coffee beans when they were first planted by the European explorers back in the 1700s. Fast forward three centuries and coffee cultivation isn’t just surviving in CR – it’s booming! In fact, spots like Tarrazú, set high up on the volcanic ridges of the Talamanca Sierra, the provinces of Alajuela, and Puntarenas are now famed across the globe for their beans. That means one darn fine cup of joe in the morning travelers!
For the rainforest
Taking the meaning of ‘lush’ to whole new and dizzying heights, the rainforests of Costa Rica bloom in a billion shades of green right throughout the year. They range from the Caribbean beaches and sultry mangrove swamps of Tortuguero in the west (beware of the caimans!) to the primeval evergreens of the Piedras Blancas on the Pacific in the east. Oh, and then – of course – there are the cloud forests too, finding their zenith around the ecotourism hub of Monteverde (a favorite on our Rockin’ Rica itinerary) in a medley of colossal ficus trees and blooming orchids.
For the sloths!
The slow, lethargic bona fide couch potato of the jungle remains one of the most fascinating examples of wildlife in all of Costa Rica (and that’s saying something). Although endangered, the arboreal animal with a penchant for photobombing and piercing stares to shame any Hitchcock villain can be seen in a whole host of destinations across the country, from the tropical jungles of the Corcovado to the wilds around mighty Arenal Volcano to the waterways of the Caño Negro reserve!
For the surfing
It’s no coincidence that our legendary Coasting Costa itinerary spreads its time between two of the most famous surfing towns in all of Central America, nay, the world! Start off with fun-loving Tamarindo, complete with the brackish breaks of the Playa Grande delta, the longboard righters of El Estero and the speedy expert waves of Playa Negra. Then hit Santa Teresa’s sparkling Pacific beaches, armed with the rollers of Mal Pais and great beginner spots along Playa El Carmen. Post-surf cocktails and cerveza is on the menu at both!
For the volcanos
Costa Rica is peppered with more volcanos than you can shake a sleeping three-toed sloth at (don’t do that). Poás volcano and its national park bubble at the summit with boiling crater lakes, surrounded on all sides by uber-green could forest; active Turrialba volcano spews sulphur clouds more than 3,400 meters above sea level, and Irazú offers awesome glimpses into its sheer-cut caldera. The real piece de resistance is Arenal volcano though, a perfect cone of 1,600 meters that’s carved through by the La Fortuna falls and ringed by the cerulean-blue waters of the Rio Celeste (both on that Rockin’ Rica itinerary!).
For the adrenaline-pumping activities
The land of coffee and sloths isn’t all about coffee and sloths mind you! No siree: that backcountry of peaked volcanic cones and thick jungles really lends itself to adventure travel too. So, expect intrepid hiking trails trodden by jaguars, roaring whitewater rapids on the Rio Balsa, rafting into the canyons of the Pacuare River, quadding in bungee jumps amidst the cloud forests of Monteverde, and – of course – the ubiquitous ziplines and Tarzan swings through the capuchin-spotted canopies!
For the beaches
Boasting more than 200 kilometers of Caribbean coastline and more than 1,000 on the Pacific, not to mention a name that’s inspired by the shore (Costa Rica literally translates to ‘rich coast’), beaches are part and parcel to any trip here. And boy are they beautiful: washed over by the ocean rollers at stretches around Tamarindo and Jacó, empty and straight out of Robinson Crusoe at Guanacaste, chilled at Montezuma, and dotted with Carib salsa bars around Koki Beach and the western shore!
For the happiness
Beaming with smiles, always ready to chat and pulsing with all the passion of a Spaniard-meets-Carib-meets-Latin lover, the folk of Costa Rica are some of the most welcoming and warm on the planet. They are also the happiest; at least according to the Happy Planet Index, which places the Ticos of this small Central American nation right at the top of their list! Perhaps it’s the fresh mountain airs? Maybe it’s the indelible connection to nature? Maybe it’s the sun-kissed beaches and laid-back lifestyle? Maybe it’s the sloths?
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"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."
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