Introducing Costa Rica
Costa Rica is sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Central America because of its comfortable lifestyle, peaceful democracy and overwhelming natural beauty. The country’s Disneylike cast of creatures – ranging from howler monkeys to toucans – are populous and relatively easy to spot. The waves are prime, the beauty is staggering and the sluggish pace seductive. A peaceful oasis in a tumultuous region, this tiny nation draws 1.5 million visitors every year.
To put things in perspective, consider the fact that prior to 1950, half of the country struggled with grinding poverty, and living beyond the age of 50 was an achievement in itself. Today, less than one in five Ticos (Costa Ricans) lives below the poverty line, and life expectancy is on a par with the USA. Given the rise in quality of life throughout the country, Ticos are generally self-content and passive about politics. But underneath the easygoing veneer is discernible pride and support for their unarmed democracy.
What’s on tap? The question is what isn’t? Active travellers can surf, hike, snorkel and spot wildlife for starters. The incredibly varied topography means you can cruise the cloud forest one day, visit an active volcano the next, and finish relaxing on a hot sandy beach. Adrenaline junkies have a myriad ways to make mothers worry – among them zipping through canopy lines hundreds of meters long and riding the rough surf of the Pacific. Choice and variety name the game.
Of course, the frenzy to snatch up a piece of Shangri-la has its consequences. Since the boom, tourism is more chic and less cheap. Classic destinations are now crowded destinations and local culture is often lost or cast aside. Lucky for Costa Rica that its do-gooder fans, ranging from ecologists to proud Ticos (Costa Ricans), are vocal and vigilant. Nature here (like everywhere) suffers its blows, but at least it is taken seriously.
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Best places to stay in Costa Rica
Most action-packed jungles
Make like Tarzan and take on one of these truly original rainforest adventures. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Battlefield crossing, Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea Hiker on the Kokoda Track. Image by Andrew Peacock / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images.
Costa Rica's best surf breaks
Costa Rica's best eco-lodges
Costa Rica destination guides
Northwestern Costa Rica
Awash in hot springs and waterfalls – with an unrivaled collection of national parks and wilderness areas, cloud forests of quetzals, and endless savannah exploding into raucous color come rainfall – there is no end to this region’s gifts.
These adventures will keep kids and grown-ups smiling while exploring the world. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Step into a fairy tale in Prague, Czech Republic Prague Castle. Image by Fandrade / Flickr / Getty Images.
Costa Rica's best bird and wildlife watching spots
Costa Rica Adventure
If you’re looking for a taste of Costa Rica’s world-class highlights but want to keep things spicy with a sampling of hidden treasures, this action-packed adventure tops the menu. In spite of its small size, Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world—explore its volcanoes, wildlife, rainforests and beaches.
Costa Rica Quest
Nature called you to Costa Rica—now here you are, suspended in the jungle canopy, locking eyes with a curious monkey. This action-packed tour of Costa Rica’s highlights is perfect for the adventurer with limited time who wants to explore the region’s diversity.
Best treks with killer views
Trekking may be hard work but it’s all worth it to encounter exceptional landscapes, extraordinary mountain peaks and serene snapshots of local colour. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures.
Sights in Costa Rica
Activities in Costa Rica
Tours in Costa Rica
Restaurants in Costa Rica
Budget hotels & hostels
Guesthouses and B&Bs
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