Costa Rica, Happy, And Naturally Rich
Costa Rica always comes at the top of the Happy Planet Index. And, with 5% of the world’s biodiversity, locals definitely have a lot to be pleased, and happy about.
This small, but amazing central American country is full of national parks, volcanoes, cloud forests, waterfalls, and incredible beaches.
Indeed, Costa Rica is the eco-tourism capital of the region.
The country also counts with world-class infrastructure, good education, and political stability.
What’s amazing about Costa Rica is that a fourth of the land is protected by the government.
And there’s actually more biodiversity in this small green jewel, than in the United States and Europe combined.
Costa Rica: Need To Know’s
Here’s some key information anybody traveling to Costa Rica should know:
- Currency: Costa Rica Colon.
- Language: Spanish (official), English.
- Population: 4.8 million
- Visas: Not required if you stay for 90 days or less.
- Weather: Tropical climate, a combination of sun and rain.
- Time: Central Standard Time
Important Phone Numbers for Costa Rica:
Here are the most important numbers to remember when traveling to Costa Rica:
Country code: 506
International access code: 011
Arriving in Costa Rica
There are two main entries for Costa Rica:
- Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaria, San Jose: The Juan Santamaria International Airport is the main airport in the country, and it’s located in Alajuela.
- Aeropuerto Internacional Daniel Oduber Quiros, Liberia: The second largest airport of Costa Rica is the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, it’s located in the province of Liberia, in Guanacaste.
- Tobias Bolaños International Airport: The Tobias Bolaños is San Jose’s airport. And it mainly handles small aircrafts.
Air: Taking a domestic flight to many airstrips in the country is easy and in most cases, inexpensive.
Bus: There is extensive coverage for the whole country. If you don’t have a car, you can make it to the most important destinations by bus.
Car: Now, if you want to explore Costa Rica at your own pace, and visit specific locations; a car rental is the best option.
Private Shuttle: This is a great door-to-door service for popular destinations. It can pick you up at the airport or the hotel; and take you to a hotel located in a different area of the country.
Provinces of Costa Rica:
Costa Rica has seven provinces:
- San Jose
Downtown Alajuela is mostly an area for locals, and coffee production, including sustainable coffee, is a big part of the local economy.
With that said, the province is also full of tourist destinations, such as the Arenal Volcano.
It’s a region mostly devoted to coffee production. And also the home of the Basilica de Los Angeles, the most famous and visited church in Costa Rica.
Guanacaste is a combination of pristine beaches, expanse grasslands, tropical forests, and volcanic peaks.
Downtown Heredia is located just 11km from the capital, and it’s a slow-paced city. It’s also a bit bohemian, and full of bars and cafes.
Limon is located in the Caribbean, and it’s a port city. In fact, it’s the main hub for Costa Rica’s imports and exports.
Puntarenas is very popular among Ticos, as this is the closest coastal town to San Jose.
This city is good for a one-day visit, and also a routine stop for travelers going somewhere else.
San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica. It’s affectionately known as “Chepe.” And although at first sight is not very impressive; it’s definitively worthwhile to take the time and explore it, to find its hidden treasures.
Regions of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is divided into different regions:
- Central Valley
- Caribbean Coast
- Northwestern Region
- Arenal and Northern Lowlands
- Peninsula de Nicoya
- Central Pacific Coast
- Southern Costa Rica And Peninsula de Osa
San Jose is the only area in Costa Rica where you can find a concentration of museums; and art-related exhibitions and activities.
The National Theatre is a good place to start exploring Costa Rica’s capital.
Here’s where you’ll also find a lot live music events; including frequent shows with national and international acts.
Some of Costa Rica’s best restaurants also call San Jose home. So, if you’re after a culinary experience, a visit to the capital is a good idea.
There are very interesting volcanoes in this region. Some are moderately active, such as the Turrialba Volcano.
While others are always packed with visitors, such as the Poas Volcano.
The Caribbean Coast is set apart from the rest of the country in cultural terms.
This area is rich in wildlife. Visitors will find animals such as sloths, four species of monkeys, poison dart frogs, caimans, crocodiles, dolphins, and more than 370 species of birds!
This is also the region where many green, hawksbill, and leatherback turtles come to leave their eggs.
Filled with large trees, the forests from this region are the original home of the canopy tour in Costa Rica.
These forests also shelter a number of animal and plant species.
A great factor related to this area are its independently-owned eco-lodges. There are many options, from the traditional B&B to working fincas and biological stations.
If you want to do some water rafting, the rivers from this region also offer great alternatives.
You can also do some surfing at stunning beaches, or ride the wind on Bahia Salinas; one of the most impressive bays the country has to offer.
Arenal and Northern Lowlands
This region offers amazing experiences for tourists, including rainforest tours, and working-finca home-stays.
This area is filled with thick forests teeming with many bird species; including toucans, green macaws, and storks.
Indeed, the region offers a lot of natural entertainment options, such as river kayaking and fishing.
Peninsula de Nicoya
If you want to visit Costa Rica because of the beaches and the waves; this is the area you may want to explore.
And this is because there are just so many types of waves in a such a small peninsula!
This is also the perfect region to practice scuba diving. If you take part of this adventure; chances are that you’ll get to see fascinating creatures such as the bull shark, and the stingray.
Central Pacific Coast
Surfers love the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The reason is the varied breaks.
Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the highlights of the area; and one of the top attractions in the country. Here you can get to see coatis, monkeys, and a good variety of tropical birds.
Another excellent option for visitors is Parque Nacional Marino Ballena. It takes a while to get there, but the empty beaches are worth the long trip.
Southern Costa Rica And Peninsula de Osa
This region is biologically rich. In fact, the preserved green patches here represent 2.5% of the globe’s biodiversity.
Or you can make it to the top of Cerro Chirripo, and shoot some postcard-like pictures to take home.
If you want to meet the local indigenous communities, you can hire a guide; and explore the jungles and mountains of this region of Costa Rica where they reside.