Would it be too extreme to say that Costa Rica is the perfect destination for everyone?
Call me biased (I did live in the Central American gem for a few blissful months), but I think not.
Whether you’re a new or veteran traveler, aiming to get active or looking to relax, this country has what you’re looking for. This Central American country is one of my favorite destinations for a reason: the best of Costa Rica will blow your mind.
There are cool critters everywhere
With over 25% of the country being protected land and over 5% of the world’s biodiversity, Costa Rica is a wildlife-lover’s paradise. Spot sloths, monkeys and birds in Manuel Antonio National Park, see sea turtles hatching in Tortuguero, and watch out for the quetzal (the bird that’s hard to pronounce and harder to spot) in Monteverde’s cloud forest. (Tip: visit all these wildlife hot spots on this 15-day trip.)
Whether you take a safari float, go on a night tour or simply take a good old-fashioned hike through the forest, you’ll surely spot animals wherever you go.
You’ll be surrounded by natural beauty
That much biodiversity doesn’t come without a ton of varied land and climate. Which means lots of microclimates and environments to experience. The landscape seamlessly transitions from forest (both cloud and rain) to jungle to beach to mountains and everything in between. As your trip progresses, your pictures will look like you visited way more than just one country!
The weather is fantastic
The weather in Costa Rica can change dramatically based on elevation and season, but in general, since the country is only about 10 degrees north of the equator, the country is fairly warm year-round. There are two seasons: the dry season (which runs from December to April) and the rainy season (which runs from May to November). I was there in the rainy season and found the rain didn’t ever dampen (ha) my plans.
They are all about green living
Costa Rica is one of the greenest countries in the world. It has become a model for ecotourism and environmentally friendly practices in general. It’s predominantly powered by renewable resources and plans to be the first country to become completely carbon neutral and ban all single-use plastics by 2021. And you can do your part while you’re there – you can choose sustainable, carbon-neutral companies while you’re there (like Intrepid Travel) and you can use a refillable water bottles (tap water is safe for consumption in Costa Rica).
The food is fresh and tasty
Like most of Central America, rice and beans are staples here, and Costa Ricans sure know how to make them tasty. Their variation on the dish is called gallo pinto and is made of rice, beans, peppers, onions and spices. You’ll find the most common thing on the menu at a soda (traditional restaurant) is a casado. The word means “married” in Spanish, but in Costa Rica it also means a plate of gallo pinto, choice of protein, fried plantains, a salad and a drink (usually delicious, fresh fruit juice).
Speaking of fresh fruit, the produce you’ll find in Costa Rica is unbeatable. Farmers’ markets and local produce stands always have the best deals on avocados, mangos, passionfruit and more. Plus, this country has the perfect elevation for growing coffee and the perfect climate for growing chocolate, so be sure to sample some freshly-made brews and bars.
Life’s a beach
Have you seen this country? It’s basically all coastline. It may not be large, but it’s fairly skinny, which gives it ample amounts of coast and therefore many, many beaches. With over 800 miles (1200 km) of coastline between the two coasts, both the Pacific and the Caribbean side of Costa Rica have incredible beaches to offer. And there’s endless ways to enjoy them – take a boat ride, go snorkeling, participate in a beachside yoga class, try your hand at surfing or simply relax on the golden sand.
If you’re from North America, Costa Rica is basically a hop, skip and a jump away from any major airport. My flight from Toronto to San Jose only took about five hours. If you’re not in North America, it may be a bit more of a trek, but one great thing about Central America is that there are so many countries in a relatively small area, that while you’re here, you can string them together and hit up a few.
It’s the best active destination
I will say that Costa Rica is without a doubt the best place for an active holiday. There are mountains to hike, rivers to raft down, waves to surf and so much more. You can go trekking, biking, zip-lining, kayaking, canyoneering and stand-up paddle boarding all over this country. And since Costa Rica is a pioneer in ecotourism, you can be pretty sure that whatever activity you’re doing, it will be eco-friendly.
It’s one of the happiest places on the planet
When you go on vacation, you want to be happy – that’s just a given. So why not surround yourself with the happiest people in the world. Costa Ricans are consistently ranked among the happiest people on Earth. And it makes total sense why! Costa Rica has a literacy rate of 97% and an extremely high life expectancy; they are the oldest and most stable democracy in Central America; they have no standing army (it was abolished in 1949 with all funds reallocated to create an “army” of teachers instead); and they are generally one of the most progressive and prosperous nations in Central America.
The people are the best
Ok, I know it’s a huge cliché to talk about the “friendly locals”, but Costa Ricans or Ticos and Ticas, are a delightful bunch! From the boy who showed my friend and me to our hotel when we got off at the (super) wrong bus stop, to my co-worker who showed me around San Jose and gave me tips on where to travel in Costa Rica, to the woman at the local coffee shop who was patient with my awful Spanish, I always felt welcomed.
So, no, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to call Costa Rica the perfect destination. It really does have it all.
Want to experience the best that Costa Rica has to offer? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group adventures there.
(All images courtesy of Intrepid Travel.)