Costa Rica has it all: nowhere else can you gaze upon an active volcano while soaking in a hot spring one day, hike deep into a rain forest the next, and end your trip learning to surf at a luxurious seaside resort. Miles of pristine beaches on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, fabulous national parks with plentiful opportunities for wildlife viewing, and world-renowned eco-lodges have made this one of the hottest destinations around. The welcoming people of Costa Rica, and their mellow pura vida lifestyle, add warmth to every visit.
Since the late 1980s Costa Rica became a popular nature travel destination, and its main competitive advantage is its well-established system of national parks and protected areas, covering around 23.4% of the country’s land area, the largest in the world as a percentage of the country’s territory, and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, in a country that has only 0.03% of the world’s landmass, but that is estimated to contain 5% of the world’s biodiversity. The country also has plenty of beaches, both in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, within short travel distances, and also several volcanoes that can be visited with safety. By the early 1990s, Costa Rica became known as the poster child of ecotourism, with tourist arrivals reaching an average annual growth rate of 14% between 1986 and 1994.
According to the Costa Rican Tourism Board, 47% of international tourists visiting the country in 2009 engaged in activities related to ecotourism, which includes trekking, flora, fauna, and bird watching, and visits to rural communities. However, most visitors look for adventure activities. Costa Rica was included by Ethical Traveler magazine in the 2011 and the 2012 list of The Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations.
Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American region, with 2.3 million foreign visitors in 2012, capturing a market share of 26.4% of all visitors to the region. In 2012 Panama ranked second in the region with 1.6 million, followed by Guatemala with 1.3 million visitors.
Good to Know
U.S. citizens must travel with a valid passport that is valid for at least six months after the entry date to Costa Rica and a ticket for return or onward travel.
Spanish and English
Costa Rican colón
Most of the main attractions are nature related, a combination of ecotourism with leisure and adventure activities: sun, sea and sand; flora and wildlife watching; visiting volcanoes ; trekking; bird watching; canopy tours; bungee jumping; surfing; snorkeling; and rafting. Cultural activities include visiting museums, art galleries and theaters. The major points of interest are San Jose, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Puntareas, Arenal, Monteverde, Guanacaste, Tortugero, Limon , and Tamarindo.
Seven Costa Rican resorts were included in the 2012 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, ranking among the top 15 resorts in Central and South America. The resorts are Xandari Resort and Spa, Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, Hotel Punta Islita, El Silencio Lodge and Spa, Los Sueños Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort, Arenas del Mar and the Westin Playa Conchal, Resort and Spa at Playa Conchal.