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Costa Rica

Costa Rica travel guide

Costa Rica is red hot and green all over – an epicentre of wildlife-watching and adrenaline activities

Costa Rica is so rich in wildlife that you’d think it had a monopoly on nature. Home to howling monkeys, toucans, butterflies, hummingbirds, colourful frogs and leatherback turtles, more than 25% of Costa Rica is protected in national parks and reserves.

In the far north-west of Costa Rica the dry forests of Guanacaste are a Unesco Natural World Heritage site. Further south, the beaches of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula are hidden in secluded coves, while on the central Pacific coast, the laid-back hangout of Jacó is a magnet for sun-worshippers.

In the mountain ranges dividing the Caribbean from the Pacific, the mighty Arenal volcano spews and splutters lava into the Costa Rican night sky.

Twitchers will love the coastal mangroves around Tortuguero, a huge national park comprising coast and jungle-fringed waterways teaming with bird and insect life. And for some of the best rainforest trekking in Latin America, head to Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica’s most remote and possibly most rewarding wilderness.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Gaze up at erupting Arenal volcano from the comfort of a state-of-the-art rainforest lodge
  2. Have a cultural chinwag round a campfire with the Bribri women of the Talamanca Mountains
  3. Go turtle watching on the beaches of Santa Rosa National Park
  4. Dive with hammerhead sharks off Cocos Island
  5. Meet the abundant wildlife of remote Corcovado National Park, on the Osa Peninsula

Wanderlust tips

In restaurants, asking if the service charge and sales tax are included before you order. Likewise, check at hotels that tax is included in the price.

When travelling to remote areas, carry plenty of colones in small denominations. Your credit card won’t pass much muster out in the sticks.

I wish I'd known...

Thomas Rees on the thing he wished he'd known before he arrived:

"Pack a pair of ear-plugs. The only downside to Costa Rica's mind-blowing biodiversity is the noise of the jungle at night. The sound of millions of chirping insects and amphibians can make getting to sleep a little difficult!"

Daisy Cropper on what she would have wanted to know before her trip:

"I wish I'd known a bit more Spanish. I was very young and ignorant when I visited and thought a lot more people would speak English. There's nothing like arriving in a country when you don't understand anything going on around you! Learn the basics – especially if you're hoping to get off-the-beaten-track."

"There are also some very interesting taxes in Costa Rica. Keep an eye on them as it's easy to get ripped off. There's a departure tax, which must be paid in cash on departing the airport. We didn't have any cash and there wasn't a cash machine which took our cards in the airport. Cue mass departure hysteria."

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