The Wanderlust guide to the best of Costa Rica

Home of the sloth but not for the slothful, Costa Rica is paradise for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike. Here’s everything you need to know...

5 mins

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.

Frog on a leaf (

Frog on a leaf in Costa Rica. From

Looking for inspiration?

Mark Stratton took two-weeks to cycle, raft and walk from Costa Rica’s Pacific cast to its Caribbean one. You probably won’t want to traverse 273 kilometres in his footsteps, but you’ll appreciate his tips and advice on the varied corners of the country.

Costa Rica has been described as a ‘mother lode of eco-diversity’, home to 800 species of birds, 220 reptiles and 10,000 plant species as well as well as jaguars, peccaries and countless monkeys. It is also home to the endangered olive ridley turtle, and Mark Eveleigh travelled to the remote Nancite Beach to witness the incredibly rare arribada (‘coming up’), where the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.

Finally, Alex Robinson ventured to Costa Rica to test its eco-credentials, and found that it is possible to take a long-haul trip that gives more to planet earth than it takes away.

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Crossing Costa Rica with manpower – Mark Stratton

Turtle-watching in Costa Rica – Mark Eveleigh

The Costa Rica conundrum – Alex Robinson

Crossing a wooden bridge in Costa Rica (

Crossing a suspension bridge in Costa Rica. From

Costa Rica’s secrets revealed

There’s more to Costa Rica’s thick, tropical cloud forests than pulling off the leeches and looking out for monkeys. Rob Balles lists his five favourite activities in Monteverde and reveals how you can do them too.

Christabelle Dilks, on the other hand, has uncovered five offbeat eco lodges in each of the country’s travel hotspots. From Arenal to Monteverde, there’s a rustic cabin with impeccable green credentials waiting for you to bed down for the night.

Sarah Elliot joined a volunteer project on her visit to Costa Rica and reckons it’s a great way to see a side of the country many visitors miss. Make sure you’re not one of them.

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Top 5 authentic experiences in Monteverde – Rob Bailes

5 offbeat Costa Rican eco-lodges – Christabelle Dilks

Volunteering in Costa Rica – Sarah Elliot

Hummingbird feeding (

Hummingbird feeding in Costa Rica. From

Capturing it all on film

Whether it’s a brightly coloured macaw or an elusive hummingbird, chances are you’re going to want to take a photo of a bird. If we’re being honest, you’re probably going to take lots of them. Getting a great shot of one of our feathered friends isn’t easy, but luckily our resident photographic guru, Steve Davey, is on hand to advise you how to do it.

If it’s inspiration you’re after, look no further than the amazing images our readers have taken on their travels to Costa Rica.

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Snapping flappers: photographing birds – Steve Davey

Readers’ photos from Costa Rica

Mural in La Fortuna, Costa Rica (

Mural in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. From

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Costa Rica Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by our Costa Rica Essential Info page too, for more everyday (but equally vital) information.

If you have a particular question about Costa Rica, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum, where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions people have already asked about Costa Rica. The answer to yours might already be there.

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Costa Rica Travel Guide – Wanderlust Team

Costa Rica Essential Info – Wanderlust Team

Content from our readers about Costa Rica

Forum posts about Costa Rica

Beach in Costa Rica (

Golfo de Papagayo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. From

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From tropical forest walks to specialist birdwatching tours, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in Costa Rica

Main image: Friendly sloth. From

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