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Updated on December 22, 2019
by Herb DeMars
From Travel and Leisure Magazine November 2019
From the rainforests to the beaches, these are the top reasons you need to visit Costa Rica.Whether you’re looking for adventure, family-friendly activities, good food, or luxurious hotels, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Costa Rica.
The beautiful country, filled with rainforests, beaches, river valleys, and biodiverse wildlife as well as restaurants, bars, and luxe hotels, has always been a great place to take a vacation, but it has gained popularity as an amazing destination in the last few years.
It’s no wonder, considering that there’s literally something for everyone when you plan a getaway there. Costa Rica is known for its incredible national parks, where tourists can enjoy some thrilling activities like river rafting, canyoning, cave tubing, and zip lining. It’s also one of the best places for animal lovers to discover some interesting wildlife like macaws, sea turtles, and adorable sloths.
But it also has a hip, glamorous side. The capital of San José is quickly becoming a hotspot for foodies and people who love to shop, especially since young chefs have been opening new restaurants and bars there. The city is also making a name for itself in the craft brewing industry.
And if you’re just looking to relax, there’s no better place to go than a pristine beach resort or a five-star spa near one of the country’s many hot springs. You can work on your tan, get a massage, go swimming and surfing, or relax in a geothermal pool, all within one vacation.
The best time to visit is generally between December and April, though the Caribbean side of the country is particularly beautiful in October. Many airlines are beginning to offer non-stop routes to the country, but it has always been a quick hop, skip, and a jump from the United States.
If you still need a little convincing as to why this Central American nation will make a life-changing vacation, take a look at these amazing reasons to visit Costa Rica.
1. National Parks
According to Culture Trip, Costa Rica is home to 27 national parks and five percent of the world’s biodiversity. But it’s not all just jungles. It’s also cloud forests, swamps, coral reefs, dry forests, and rainforests. One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is to take a hike on one of these protected lands, especially Tenorio Volcano National Park, where you can see the stunning Rio Celeste waterfall.
There are currently six active and over 60 dormant or extinct volcanoes in this relatively small, Central American country. Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s most popular attractions, especially for people want to hike its rugged terrain or take a dip in the soothing geothermal hot springs. There are lots of spas and resorts in the area that take advantage of the natural hot waters.
3. Biodiverse Wildlife
According to CostaRica.org, over 30 percent of the country is dedicated to national parks, which means there are lots of places for animal populations to thrive. And pretty much anywhere you go, there’s some wildlife to discover. There are over 500,000 species of animals, including scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, colorful butterflies, humpback whales, iguanas, sea turtles, and sloths to meet while you’re there.
4. Hummingbird Capital of the World
And speaking of wildlife, Costa Rica is arguably the hummingbird capital of the world. The country is already a wonderful place for bird watchers, but it’s particularly great if you’re looking to catch a glimpse of one of the 50 different species of hummingbirds that live there, according to CostaRica.org. Some of the types of birds you could encounter include the violet sabrewing, the coppery-headed emerald, and the magenta-throated woodstar.
If you’re looking for lots of thrilling outdoor activities, look no further. No matter what kind of adventure you’re into, you can probably find it in Costa Rica. There are dozens of tour companies that specialize in river rafting, fishing, ATV driving, scuba diving, tubing, horseback riding, and even zip lining through the rainforest. There are also plenty of places to go hiking, surfing, and swimming.
Costa Rica is one of those forgotten foodie destinations that people often overlook. Some of the most popular dishes include pejibayes (peach palm fruits), vuelve a la vida (similar to ceviche), and arreglados (a type of sandwich). San José has been gaining popularity as a hip city for young chefs and craft brewers as well.
It’s been established that Costa Rica cares about its environment and makes big efforts to protect its national parklands. Same goes for the beaches, too. Because of this, the country has more than 800 miles of pristine, beautiful shoreline on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country. Tamarindo, one of Guanacaste Province’s most popular beaches, is especially good for surfing and spotting sea turtles.
8. World-Class Resorts
With such lovely beaches, rainforests, and hot springs at their finger tips, Costa Rica isn’t just a rugged vacation for adventure seekers. It’s also the perfect place for a relaxing spa getaway. The area around Arenal Volcano is especially popular for its luxury resorts and spas that offer comfortable dips in the natural hot springs. Beach resorts are also growing in popularity in the area, with easy beach access and five-star accommodations for people who aren’t interested in “roughing it”.
Some of the best coffee in the world comes from Costa Rica, so it’s a java lovers paradise. By some estimates, Costa Ricans drink about six cups of coffee per day, and it’s one of the main drivers for the country’s economy. Needless to say, you can probably find a good cup of joe or bag of coffee beans while you’re here.
10. Cacique Guaro
When you’re not drinking coffee, you should opt for Costa Rica’s other drink of choice: cacique guaro. The clear, sweet liqueur is made from sugar cane juice and has a very high alcohol content. It’s not recommended to drink it in shots unless you’ve had it before. However, many people drink it chilled with sugar and lime, or in a cocktail.
It’s easier than ever to get to Costa Rica from the United States. According to CostaRica.org, it’s only a two-and-a-half hour flight from Miami, a six-hour flight from Los Angeles, and a five-hour flight from New York City. Plus, many airlines offer cheap flight deals to the country, so planning a budget-friendly vacation is very simple. No matter what time of year you go, there’s always something to do.
One of the best-known Costa Rican mottos is “pura vida,” which means “pure life.” And Costa Ricans really take this to heart. The cultures and the people are quite diverse, but many like to live by this simple sensibility to live life to the fullest, and this is probably why the country is considered the happiest, according to the Happy Planet Index. The phrase is also used as a greeting or as an answer when someone asks, “How are you?