Visitors to the Republic of Costa Rica will find that despite its small size, the country has an incredible number of attractions and activities to offer. Five per cent of the world’s biodiversity can be found within Costa Rica’s borders and great efforts have been made to preserve this rich resource; protected national parks make up almost 25% of the land – more than any other country in the world. From fishing and surfing to white water rafting and exploring volcanic regions, Costa Rica is the perfect playground for nature lovers and adventures seekers alike.
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San Jose, affectionately known to its residents as 'Chepe', lies in the heart of Costa Rica and is home to almost two-thirds of the country’s population. With few buildings over 100 years old, the mountainous capital is relatively modern compared to its Latin American counterparts, but still has a significant amount of culture, art and history for visitors to discover. With a number of theatres full of Costa Rican culture, museums that include the largest collection of American jade in the world, and streets full of bright murals and painted buses, San Jose is an eclectic city waiting to be experienced.
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Within the Tortuguero National Park along Costa Rica’s beautiful Caribbean Coast, the village of Tortuguero is known for its ecotourism and extensive network of canals, and lies amidst tropical lowland rainforests, magnificent rivers, and pristine beaches. Take the unique opportunity to watch baby green turtles hatch along the shoreline, or discover the park, home to over 300 species of bird, a variety of flora, and diverse fauna. Other popular activities include hiking, sport fishing, canal tours, canopy tours, and kayaking. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit and explore the nearby Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge, the Cariari National Wetlands, and the turtle Museum at Sea Turtle Conservancy.
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Located just south of the bustling beach town of Puerto Viejo along the Southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, Punta Cocles is an exquisite Carribean beach paradise. Dubbed the capital of this coastal region, it features 3-kilometres of soft golden sand fringed by swaying palms and lapped by warm crystalline waters. Visitors come here to indulge in seaside relaxation and discover the natural glory of the rainforest. Enjoy a thrilling surf, explore the unspoilt underwater wonderland of colourful coral reefs inhabited by exotic marine life, take a stroll along the coastal trail, spot monkeys playing in the trees, and see a host of tropical birdlife as well as sloths, green iguanas and crabs. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the amazing Cahuita National Park, Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge and Talamanca Indian Reserve.
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Sandwiched between the towering Poas and Barva Volcanoes in Heredia Province, Costa Rica, the small village of Vara Blanca serves as a significant transport hub connecting the northern parts of the country. At only 32 km from San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport, the village lies close to many of Costa Rica's most popular attractions. Vara Blanca’s primary drawcard is undoubtedly La Paz Waterfall Gardens, with its exceptional hiking trails through virgin rainforest, ten animal exhibits, five waterfalls, and more than 100 animal species. Poas, one of the largest and most active volcanoes in the country, is another must-see. A short walk from the Poás Volcano National Park’s visitor centre will lead you to the crater, where you will find a spectacular blue-green lake and evidence of some minor volcanic activity. Barva Volcano is extinct, but there is still plenty of intriguing wildlife to see on its forested slopes.
Arenal Volcano National Park
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Located in central Costa Rica, the Arenal Volcano National Park lies within the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area and encompasses eight of the country’s 12 protected life zones. The park is home to the majority of Costa Rica’s 850 bird species, and an array of exotic creatures such as capuchin monkeys, parrot snakes, jaguars and deer, and its diverse landscapes include grasslands and volcanic badlands. Overlooking the park is the magnificent Arenal Volcano as well as the Chato Volcano, complete with a stunning lagoon. Experience this exciting region by hiking through lava fields and rainforests, spotting birds and animals, and taking a dip in the hot springs.
Carara National Park
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Located conveniently close to the city of San Jose, captivating Carara National Park boasts dense jungle and easy hiking trails and is considered to be one of Costa Rica’s best birding destinations. This protected area encompasses 4700 hectares and a number of distinct ecosystems, including marshlands, lagoons, and gallery forests. Lucky travellers will spot animals such two-toed Sloths, Agoutis, Armadillos, Pacas, Great Anteaters, Crocodiles, Kinkajous, Tayras, Margay cats, Collared Peccaries, White-tailed Deers, a variety of monkeys, and over 400 bird species. The park is also famous for containing one of the highest diversity of trees in the world, as well as a number of enthralling and fascinating pre-Columbian archaeological sites dating back as far as 2000 years, which can be visited along the beautiful trails.
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Situated in southern Costa Rica, the small village of Uvita, also known as Uvita de Osa, is a little remote gem on the coast. It isn’t as overdeveloped as the other beach towns and boasts an array of wonderful attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. Uvita serves as the gateway to the incredibly scenic Marino Ballena National Park, famous for its migrating pods of humpback whales. It features a unique peninsula, the Cola de Ballena, which translates as ’The Whale’s Tail’, which is indeed in the shape of a whale tail. Visitors can look forward to enjoying a refreshing dip in the Uvita Waterfall, as well as the enormous multi-tiered Nauyaca Waterfall and exploring the caves of Playa Las Ventanas Don’t miss the opportunity to catch a magnificent sunset over the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and spot colourful toucans flying around the jungle. Highlights include: the Annual Whale and Dolphin Festival, horse riding excursions, kayaking tours and excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities.
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Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Golfo Dulce in the southwestern region of the country. This virtually untouched corner of the world contains almost half of Costa Rica’s wildlife species, offering nature lovers the chance to see exotic animals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians in the enthralling rainforest of the Corcovado National Park. The surrounding turquoise waters invite visitors to surf, snorkel, and fish, while white sandy beaches are perfect for sunbathing. Two highly-acclaimed dive sites off Isla del Caño are inhabited with manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and more. Puerto Jimenez, the rustic but comfortable main town on the peninsula, provides for all shopping and eating out needs. History-lovers should make sure to visit the fascinating Sitio Arqueológico Finca 6, filled with pre-Colombian artifacts.
San Gerardo de Dota
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The small town of San Gerardo de Dota is strung along a quiet road in the Talamanca Mountains roughly three hours from the capital, San Jose. One of the main attractions here is Los Quetzales National Park, famous among the world’s bird watching fraternity as one of the best places to view the resplendent quetzal, with its vivid green and red plumage that has earned it a reputation as one of the world's most beautiful birds. For exercise and outdoor enthusiasts, hiking is a must-do activity in the region, with fantastic paths leading through the national park and across the Rio Savregre.