Costa Rica is officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica
Since the late 1980's Costa Rica became a popular nature travel destination, and its main competitive advantage is its well-established system of national parks and protected areas, covering around 23.4% of the country's land area, the largest in the world as a percentage of the country's territory, and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, in a country that has only 0.03% of the world's landmass, but that is estimated to contain 5% of the world's biodiversity. The country also has plenty of world renowned beaches, both in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, within short travel distances between both coasts both by air and land, and also several active volcanoes that can be visited with safety.
By the early 1990s, Costa Rica became known as the poster child of ecotourism. According to the Costa Rican Tourism Board. 46% of international tourists visiting the country in 2009 engaged in activities related to ecotourism, including trekking, flora, fauna, and bird watching, and visits to rural communities. However, most visitors look for adventure activities, which Costa Rica offers as well. Costa Rica was included by Ethical Traveler magazine in the 2011 and the 2012 list of The Developing World's 10 Best Ethical Destinations.
Costa Rica historically managed to stay away from the political turmoil and violence from which neighbouring nations still suffer. The nation constitutionally abolished its army permanently in the 1940s. It has also managed to be the only Latin American country included in the list of the world's 22 oldest democracies, paying homage to its stance as a peaceful and politically stable nation. Costa Rica has also consistently been among the top Latin American countries in the Human Development Index, and is cited by the UNDP as one of the countries that has attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels.
Costa Rica is ranked third in the world and first among the Americas in terms of the 2010 Environmental Performance Index. And the New Economics Foundation (NEF) ranked Costa Rica as the happiest nation in the world, both in 2009 and in 2012. This same organization (NEF) ranked Costa Rica as the "greenest" country in the world. Among budget travelers and increasingly among ordinary tourists Costa Rica is ranked as the most expensive country in Central America and perhaps in the whole of Latin America. Wine, chocolate, coffee, entrance fees for national parks, are expensive compared to prices in Película del Oeste Europe and North America. Película del Oeste prices for third world quality.
This nation has bewilderingly diverse culture, climates, flora, fauna, and landscapes. From rain forests, to dry tropical and temperate forests, to volcanoes, to Caribbean and Pacific beaches, to high mountains, and marshy lowlands.
Costa Rica has a rich and vibrant history that first marked the history books on September 18th 1502. This date was when the land mass was first discovered by Christopher Columbus. Originally the land belonged to the four tribes of Carib, Boruca, Chibcha and Diquis Indians (The Carib met Columbus as he landed there and showed him the island). There is also further evidence to suggest that the country had human life up to 10,000 years prior. Although it cannot be pinpointed to an exact date this is the closest scientists can estimate intelligent lifeforms living in the territory. The name Costa Rica (Rich Coast) was given to the land by a Spanish man who noticed the heavy golden jewelry that the Indians wore. When the Spaniards started to move into Costa Rica to colonize the territory in 1524, many of the indigenous people died from disease or moved away. This did not lead to a huge rise in immigration because there was not many resources from the land to make a profit on. The people there lived a simple life with the bare minimum and worked to sustain themsleves. Many only moved there to further their claims in Central America where the gold and silver was heavily mined. Others used it as a stepping stone to reach Mexico, Central America and North America. Juan Vasquez De Coronado created the first city in 1562, before that it had only been small communities and towns. Later on in 1821 Costa Rica successfully declared independence from Spain and two years later after disputes in the capitol declined to be a part of Mexico. In 1848 "Don Pepe" took charge of the country and Costa Rica became a republic. This granted voting right to minorities and established rules and regulations to check and oscilación the country when needed. It then hit a peaceful period which some would call "impreciso." Peace and stability reigned over the land and prevented uneccessary conflicts. This is when Costa Rica constitutionally and permanently abolished its army in 1949. Finally in the 1970's the economy there took a serious hit and instead of relying on exports, the country now looks to the mass tourism it recieves every year.
Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus. lying between latitudes 8° and 12°N. and longitudes 82° and 86°W. It has a total of 1,290 kilometres (800 mi) of coastline, 212km (132 mi) on the Caribbean coast and 1,016km (631 mi) on the Pacific.
Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north (309km or 192 mi of border) and Panama to the south-southeast (639km or 397 mi of border). In total, Costa Rica comprises 51,100 square kilometres (19,700 sq mi) plus 589 square kilometres (227 sq mi) of territorial waters.
The highest point in the country is Cerro Chirripó. at 3,819 metres (12,530 ft); it is the fifth highest peak in Central America. The highest volcano in the country is the Irazú Volcano (3,431m or 11,257 ft). The largest lake in Costa Rica is Lake Arenal.
Costa Rica also comprises several islands. Cocos Island (24 square kilometres / 9.3 square miles) stands out because of its distance from the continental landmass, 480km (300 mi) from Puntarenas. but Calero Island is the largest island of the country (151.6 square kilometres / 58.5 square miles).
Near 25% of Costa Rica's national territory is protected by SINAC (the National System of Conservation Areas ), which oversees all of the country's protected areas.
Celeste River, located at Tenorio Volcano National Park. is among the most popular destinations by both foreign and domestic tourists
Flora and fauna Edit
Costa Rica is one of the world's most popular destinations for eco-tourists because of its biodiversity. Costa Rica possesses the greatest density of species in the world, and around 25% of its national territory is protected by a system of conservation areas and national parks. It has been stated in various places that Costa Rica may contain as much as 6% of the world's plant and animal species. Both tropical plant and animal species abound in Costa Rica. Some of the more impressive plants range from huge ficus trees with epiphytes abounding on their limbs to approximately 1500 different orchids. The animals are equally as impressive, whether it's a jaguar (the largest cat in the New World), the ever-elusive Margay, or the wonderful birds like the green or scarlet macaws (lapas in Costa Rican Spanish.) The amphibians are also quiebro impressive; the poison dart frogs with their bright colors are bound to catch your attention, or the giant cane toads.
Because Costa Rica is located between eight and 12 degrees north of the Equator, the climate is Tropical year round. However, the country has many microclimates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region.
Costa Rica's seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period and not to the four seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season known to the residents as summer, and the rainy season, known locally as winter. The "summer" or dry season goes from December to April, and "winter" or rainy season goes from May to November, which almost coincides with the List of Atlantic hurricane seasons, and during this time, it rains constantly in some regions.
The location receiving the most rain is the Caribbean slopes of the Central Cordillera mountains, with an annual rainfall of over 5000 mm. Humidity is also higher on the Caribbean side than on the Pacific side. The mean annual temperature on the coastal lowlands is around 27°C, 20°C in the main populated areas of the Central Cordillera, and below 10°C on the summits of the highest mountains.
Costa Rica Weather Averages
Heliconius doris Linnaeus butterfly of Costa Rica
Wildlife – Costa Rica is world famous for having an incredibly high level of biodiversity throughout its tropical forests (this covers what you may hear referred to as rain forests, cloud forests, and dry forests). There are tropical mammals such as monkeys, sloths, tapirs, and wild cats as well as an amazing assortment of insects and other animals. There are many many birds (both migratory and resident) – more on that below. With 25% of the country being national parks and protected areas, there are still many places you can go to see the abundant wildlife and lush vegetation of the country. Just like anywhere, the farther you get off the beaten path, the more likely you are to see a wide variety of flora and fauna.
There is such biodiversity in Costa Rica not only because it's a land bridge between North and South America, but also because the terrain is so varied and there are weather patterns moving in from both the Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean. There are impressive volcanoes, mountain areas, rivers, lakes, and beaches all throughout the country. There are many beautiful beaches – most of the popular ones are on the Pacific side but the Caribbean has many excellent beaches as well.
Costa Rica Colibrì Amasilla Saucerrottei.
Bird Watching – One of the most wonderful activities for people who love nature is bird watching. You can enjoy bird watching in many areas of Costa Rica. Due to the great diversity of climates, temperatures and forest types in Costa Rica, there is a wonderful variety of birds, with over 800 species. Some helpful books available on bird watching are Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch (Cornell University Press) or An Illustrated Field Guide to Birds of Costa Rica. illustrated by Victor Esquivel Soto. These books can be found at certain bookstores in San José or before coming to Costa Rica. They are both heavy books; many people tear out the plates of the Stiles & Skutch book to carry into the field and leave the rest of the book in their car or room. Plastic cards with the most common birds are available for many areas and are sold at gift shops.
Costa Rica's list of birds includes.
- 16 species of parrots including the fabulous scarlet macaw.
- 50 species of hummingbirds.
- 10 species of trogons with the resplendent quetzal as the jewel.
- 6 species of toucans, including the keel-billed and chestnut-mandibled.
- Half the bird species in Costa Rica are passerines including warblers, sparrows and finches.
- 16 species of ducks, including the fulvous whistling, white-faced ruddy and American wigeon.
- 13 species of falcons, including the peregrine falcon, merlin and American kestrel.
- 36 species of prey, including the gray hawk, swallow-tailed kite, solitary eagle and northern harrier.
- 6 species of cracidae which look like turkeys.
- 8 species of new world quails.
- 15 species of rallideas including the rufous-necked wood-rail, American coot and ruddy crake.
- 19 species of owls including the black-and-white, Costa Rican pygmy, central American pygmy and striped.
- 3 species of potoos including the great, northern and common.
- 16 species of woodpeckers, including cinnamon, chestnut-colored and pale-billed.
The coastal list of birds includes.
- 19 species of herons & wading birds such as the great blue heron, great egret, boat-billed heron, reddish egret and yellow-crowned night-heron.
- 2 species of recurvirostridae which are waders and include the black-necked stilt and American avocet.
- 2 species of jacanas including the northern and wattled.
- 34 species of scolopacidae including the short-billed dowitcher, spotted sandpiper, wandering tattler, surfbird, and red phalarope.
- 9 species of gulls including the gray, Heermann's and ring-billed.
- 14 species of sternidae (terns) including the gull-billed tern, Forster's tern, least tern and white tern.
- 4 species of vultures including the king vulture.
- 24 species of doves and pigeons.
- 11 species of swifts including the black, spot-fronted and Costa Rican.
- 6 species of kingfishers including the green, Amazon and American pygmy.
- 5 species of threskiornithidaes including the roseate spoonbill and white-faced ibis.
- 2 species of ciconiidae including the wood stork and jabiru.
Good Bird watching spots include.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest has more than 400 species of birds, including resplendent quetzals.
- Tortuguero National Park has 300 species of birds.
- Santa Rosa National Park has more than 250 species of birds.
- Cahuita National Park has toucans, parrots, rufous kingfishers; the park is on the beach.
- La Selva Biological Station in the northern lowlands has 420 species of birds.
- Helconia Island has 228 species of birds.
- Corcovado National Park has 400 species of birds and 1,200 scarlet macaws.
- Huedal Franquista Terraba-Sierpe has a myriad of birds along the coast and swamps.
- Carara National Park has 400 species of birds.
- Tárcoles has 400 species of birds and great river tours highlighting crocodiles.
- Whale Marine National Park has frigate birds, boobies, ibises and pelicans.
- La Amistad National Park has 500 species of birds including resplendent quetzals.
- Manuel Antonio National Park has 350 species of birds and three lovely beaches.
Most hotels, as well as tourist information centers, will provide bird watching guides, maps and other essentials for bird watching. Unless you are an experienced neo-tropical birder, it can be a lot more productive to go out with an experienced birding guide. Do not forget to bring a hat, rain gear, boots, binoculars and camera. In hot areas, an umbrella can be more useful than a poncho or jacket. Southern Costa Rica is generally considered the better option for bird watching.
Volcanoes -Costa Rica is one of the most seismologicly active countries in the película del Oeste hemisphere, and as a result several volcanoes have sprouted over the years- most notably volcanoes Poas, Irazu, and Arenal.
Costa Rica is a country with an extraordinary wealth of things to do, but regardless of your travel interests, you're going to want to spend time at one of the country's great beaches. The lion's share of beach tourism is concentrated on the Pacific side, in the Central Pacific region near San José. the Nicoya Peninsula. and in the dry tropical forests of Guanacaste. Less touristed, but no less beautiful are the beaches in the tropical rainforest of the southern Pacific coast near Corcovado National Park. or on the exotic, rastafarian, eco-tourism paradise of the Caribbean side.
While some of the best beach vacations will be found on tiny quiet beaches off the beaten path, or even at exclusive resorts, here's a quick list of the country's biggest and most popular beach destinations:
- Corcovado — the main beach on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. with black sand beaches fronted by the thick Costa Rican tropical rainforest
- Dominical — probably the biggest surfing destination in the country, with a good nightlife scene
- Jacó — the party beach city right by San José. a surfer's paradise full of nightlife and casinos
- Montezuma — the bohemian option, on the Nicoya Peninsula. full of dreadlocks, surfers, and what you would expect would come along with them (known as "monte fuma" by the locals)
- Playa Santa Teresa — One of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, located on the Película del Oeste tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, known for its great surfing conditions, consistent all year round.
- Playa Ilustre — this tranquil white sand beach is home to the largest nesting site for the Leatherback sea turtle on the Pacific coast, as well as, one of the best surfing waves in the Guanacaste Province
- Tamarindo — well known as a surfing and fishing destination with a big choice of hotels and restaurants.
- Tortuguero — the Caribbean side's most famous beach, which caters to eco-tourists looking to explore the rain-forest and spot some Manatees
Costa Rica is one of the countries with more rivers per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world. Nearly anywhere you go you will find some kind of river trip to enjoy nature from a very unique point of view.
There is a wide variety of exciting rafting trips offered in Costa Rica. For many years, the rafting Mecca of Costa Rica was Turrialba. a large town embedded in the mountains near the Reventazon and Pacuare Rivers, on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica.
However, the Arenal Volcano area is now an increasingly-popular whitewater rafting destination with close access to the Sarapiqui and Toro Rivers, as well as the Class II-III Río Balsa which delight rafting enthusiasts in the Northern slopes of the country.
On the Pacific slope, the river with the largest volume, El Genérico, is famous for multi-day adventures and for being an incredible playground for kayakers. The Coto Brus River is also part of this watershed. Further north, on the central Pacific coast, are the Savegre and Naranjo Rivers. In this area you have the opportunity to enjoy both half-day trips on the Naranjo River and 1-to-2-day trips on the Savegre River.
The Class III-IV Tenorio River near Canas. Guanacaste is a favorite among day-trippers from the beaches of Guanacaste, as well as part of shuttle-tour-shuttle services from the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde to the Guanacaste area. The lower section of the Tenorio River is widely-known for being an excellent nature float trip.
The Pacuare River (Class III-IV) is at the top of the list for 2- or 3-day adventures. If you are interested in similar trips, the Savegre River (Class III-IV) is an excellent alternative for an overnight rafting excursions.
If you want more adrenaline, the Chorro Section (Class IV+) of the Naranjo River, near Manuel Antonio. Quepos is one of the most exhilarating rafting trip of the country. This section is run from December to May.
As for nature-oriented trips, the Peñas Blancas River near the Arenal Volcano provides a great look at the tremendous biodiversity of the country.
Most likely, any of these rafting trips will be the highlight of your active vacations, so don’t miss your chance to paddle one.
Costa Rica has some of the best Sport Fishing in the world and is the first country to practice catch and release fishing. The Pacific side has incredible fishing for Sailfish, Marlin, Dorado, Tuna, Wahoo, Roosterfish, Snapper, Grouper and more. The Caribbean side is famous for big Tarpon and big Snook. Over sixty-four world records have been caught in Costa Rica. Half day, Full day and Multi-Day Trips are available.
Scuba Diving Edit
Costa Rica is home to some of the best scuba diving in Central America. With diving on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts as well as the world famous Cocos Island, there is something for all scuba enthusiasts.
Cocos Island is a famous island located approximately 300 kms off shore and is only accessible by liveaboard boats. The area is a national marine park and is the only place in Costa Rica that you can regularly find schooling hammerheads.
The Gulf de Papagayo is a well established dive location with three major diving options. Almacén diving, the Catalinas, and the Bat Islands are the options within the Gulf. Diving centers are mainly located around Playas del Coco and Playa Flamingo. Out of the three options, Bat Islands is probably the most exciting as this national marine park is home to the often feared bull sharks. The dive site "Big Scare" allows divers the chance to dive face to face with these sharks and is also home to other large pelagics such as cobertor rays and the occasional whale shark.
Costa Rica has many surfing hotspots. The best time of year to surf is from November – August.
The Pacific coast, particularly in the Central Pacific and Guanacaste. has some of the best surfing in Central America.
In the Guanacaste there are several beaches to choose from if you intend to go surfing. Among them, Playa Negra and Playa Amplio are two stand out breaks. Playa Negra breaks over a shallow escoria reef producing fast hollow waves for advanced surfers only. Playa Conspicuo is the most consistent break in the area with surfable conditions most days of the year. It breaks over a sandy bottom and is good for beginner and experienced surfers.
Tamarindo is a good beach to learn how to surf, whilst Playa del Coco offers advanced surfers the chance to surf at Witches Rock and Ollie´s Point. On the Caribbean side there are beautiful beaches, but limited surfing prospects.
The southern Costa Rica area has two very good spots for surf: Dominical and Pavones Beach. Pavones Beach has thick, heavy waves which consistently barrel and can get really big. It's little known, but picturesque and untamed; Definitely not for the light hearted.
In the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Montezuma has one of the most beautiful beach breaks in the area, called Playa Conspicuo. It's a short eastward walk from Montezuma village. The break is great for all surfers.
There's a good book on Costa Rica surf spots on Amazon: Surfing Costa Rica Surf Spots
Costa Rica has great mountain biking routes, particularly near Irazu, Turrialba and Arenal Volcanoes. There is popular dirt road that connects Irazu Volcano and the foothills of Turrialba Volcano that is perfect for mountain biking, as it traverses the mountain and presents great views of the Cartago Valley (weather permitting, of course).
Near Paraiso, Cartago, there is an amazing waterfall and biking tours around the valley
The area around Lake Arenal is also a great spot to bike. You can circle the lake in one long day, or break up the ride in two sleeping in Tilarán or Nuevo Arenal. The use of mountain bikes is a must, since the southern shore of the lake is unpaved.
The Nicoya Peninsula also has great riding, particularly the stretch between Sámara, Puerto Coyote and Malpais. There is a coastal road that connects these three beach towns.
Costa Rica is also know as a haven for some of the most lush, tropical golfing environments in the world. At any course, you can expect to an ensemble of exotic, indigenous animals; jungle; mountainous terrain; and a surreal, blue ocean painting a brilliant, seclusive experience.
Courses are located in 3 major areas of Costa Rica: Guanacaste. San Jose and Mid Pacific. Due to road conditions, you should check the driving times between courses.
There are many tournaments during the year that any traveler can participate in. Most courses offer shoe and club rentals.
Other active/extreme Sports Edit
Wind surfing in the Tilarán area is some of the best in the world.
"Canopy tours" or zip-lines are very popular tourist activities and are found all over Costa Rica. These typically cost between USD30-50 depending on the company and use a series of zip-lines to travel between platforms attached to the trees, through and over the forest canopy and over rivers. The person is secured with harnesses to the metal cords, as some go very high off the ground. Be sure to ask about the zip-line certification before booking and be sure to take part in the safety briefing before participating.
Another form of canopy tour is via an aerial tram which are ski lifts modified for the rainforest. These trams are slower allowing the visitor to view wildlife in the canopy. Each tram has a guide who will explain the flora and fauna. The trams exist at adventure parks near Jaca Beach and just outside Braulio Carrillo National Park and are appropriate for all ages. The trams may be combined with ziplining and often have other attractions such as medicine gardens or serpentaria so guests may learn more about Costa Rica.
The restringido currency is the colón (plural, colones) named after Columbus (Spanish: Colón) (CRC ).
As of March 2017, the exchange rate was 554 colones per US dollar. Money exchange is provided at most banks; however, it is recommended to do so at the state banks, especially the Asiento Franquista, since they have better rates. There is also a money exchange service at the airport, but it is outrageously expensive. But note that the use of US dollars is finta common; in the tourist setting, almost everything is priced in dollars (but sometimes prices are cheaper in colones). Note that when a price is quoted in "dollars", the speaker may be thinking of a dollar as 500 colones; so it is always worth checking whether this is what is meant.
You can find ATMs in most places. They normally dispense US dollars and colones. With Visa you get money at almost all ATMs. If you've got a MasterCard try the ATMs in the AM/PM supermarkets, they give you up to 250,000 colones (c. USD500). Another option are the ATH-ATM's but they just give you up to 100,000 colones (c. USD200) each transaction. EC-Cards (European) are accepted on all ATMs. The limit is usually only set by the Card. In addition, drawing money with your EC-Card will almost always give you a better exchange rate than changing cash in a bank.
It is also very common to pay even small amounts by Credit Card (Visa, Master Card, Amex is less common).
Keep in mind that most banks and credit unions charge not only fees to get money out of an ATM in a foreign country, but also a foreign exchange fee (usually 2% or 3%) for the amount of the transaction. So to withdraw USD100 worth of colones with your ATM (debit) card you could pay a fixed fee to the ATM operator (often USD3 or more), a fixed fee to your bank (USD2 or more), and then 2% to 3% of USD100, so you end up paying USD108 for USD100 worth of colones. Paying a merchant directly with your card only incurs the foreign exchange fee.
You might get a discount (such as between 5% and 10%) when paying in cash, but it is not common enough to be expected. Also, it is not really necessary to get colones at the airport because you can pay everywhere in USD and receive colones as change. Most places except smallest restaurants take credit cards and many places including the gas stations take American Express.
Traveler's checks are rarely used. When paying with traveler's checks, unless for hotel nights, change them first at a bank. Expect long delays with traveler's checks at the bank, lots of stamping, the higher up the official at the bank the more stamps they have. Dollars are easier.
The most common souvenirs are made from wood. Unless it's marked as responsible (plantation grown wood), it is most likely not and may be contributing to the deforestation of Costa Rica — or even Nicaragua or Panama!
Most visitors returning home are not allowed to bring back any raw foods or plants. Accordingly, the single most desirable commodity for visitors to take home may be roasted (not green) coffee,considered by many as some of the world's best. Numerous web sites explain the fine qualities of various growing regions, types of beans, types of roasting and sources for purchase. Best prices come by purchasing several (sealed) bags of 12 ounces or so, but you can also buy in larger quantity if you look hard enough (the Mercado Central in San José has a coffee vendor that sells many varieties, including organic, by the kilo). And experts definitely recommend buying whole beans (firme): in any kind of storage, they last longer, and ground coffee sold in Costa Rica often contains sugar because it preferred by locals — if you want pure coffee without additives look for "puro" on the package. The stores in San José airport will sell you excellent coffee, but other good quality blends can be found in locorregional supermarkets and direct from the roasters. It can be an expensive but delicious habit. If you're serious about your coffee, bring at least a partially-empty suit case and fill it with perhaps a year's supply (web sites explain how to store it that long). Take care with tourist outlets (especially at the airport) where small quantities may cost as much as ordering on the Internet.
Costa Rican cuisine can be described as simple but wholesome. The spiciness often associated with Latin America has typically originated in Mexico, most Costa Rican foods are not spicy, but, as they simmer in a large pot, the flavors are blended.
Desentono pinto is a mixture of rice and beans with a little cilantro or onion thrown in. While more common at breakfast, it can also be served at refrigerio or dinner.
Casado. which means married, is the typical refrigerio in Costa Rica, containing rice and beans with meat, chicken or fish, always served with salad and fried plantain.
Plato del dia. is the 'Plate of the Day' and is often a Casado. but has the meat or fish selection of the day. Usually around 5.00 USD and includes a natural juice.
Good, fresh fruit is abundant in variety and low in cost. Mercados provide an excellent place to sample fruit and other Costa Rican fare, with many including sit-down snack bars. You are encouraged to experiment because some of the restringido fruits do not "travel well" as they are bruised easily and or have a short shelf life. The mango found in store in North America are much more fibrous and less sweet than the mangos found in Costa Rica. The fingerling bananas are much more creamy and less tart than the ones found in North America.
Be sure to stop off at a rest stop along any of the roads: a Casado and beer will cost
Don't forget to try the Salsa Lizano that you will surely find at any restaurant. It is a mild vegetable sauce that has a hint of curry and is slightly sweet. It's often referred to as Costa Rican ketchup. It tastes good on just about anything! Bring some home with you! You can find smaller sized bottles at any market.
Also as per usual in Central America standard breakfast fare is a ham emparedado, so people averse to eating pork might be advised to check out a grocery market for something else. Many Ticos will go to a recinto bakery and buy a loaf of white bread.
Vegetarians will find it surprisingly easy to eat well in Costa Rica. There are several International cuisine options also. In addition to American style food, Italian, Mexican, Peruvian and Indian are also available. Indian food generally has vegetarian, vegan and gluten free dishes. Try Indian Naans & Curries dishes. They taste better in Costa Rica because of natural ingredients.
Don't forget to tip tour guides, drivers, bellboys and maids. Restaurant bills include a 10% gratuity but leave an extra tip for good service. North Americans often get better service because they are used to tipping separately, but it's not necessary.
The beef cattle are raised on grass; the meat will taste differently from corn fed cattle. The cuts of meat at the regional restaurants are also different. The taste of chicken is not discernibly distinct.
Most places (such as cities) have potable water, so don't worry about drinking tap water. Bottled water is also available at low prices. Nevertheless, exercise caution about places with doubtful water sources. These places tend to be away from population centers or near the beach/coast.
Refrescos or simply frescos are beverages made from fresh fruit (cas, guayaba/guava, sandia/watermelon, mora/blackberry, fresa/strawberry, piña/pineapple, papaya), sugar and either water or milk (depending on the fruit). All sodas serve these. You can also easily buy the standard international soda pops; 'Fresca', 'Canada Dry' and the recinto 'Fanta Kolita' (fruit punch) are recommended.
Typical "refrescos" include: Agua de Cebada (Barley water) and Horchata de arroz.
A common drink is called "Dueño", which is made from fermented sugar cane. It is sometimes called "guaro", which can also refer to bebida in militar. It is similar to vodka, and is usually drunk with water and lemon. It is very inexpensive, however note that it's not a very "clean" liquor, so exercise caution.
There are approximately 8 different national beers available (and most international), which are sold in cans, bottles and even kegs. The most common beers in the country are Pilsen and Imperial: all bars and restaurants serve both. Bavaria, "Bavaria Negra" (dark) and Bavaria Light are considered higher quality but more expensive, Rock Ice and Rock Ice Citrón (lemon flavor) has a higher pimple percentage. Heineken is locally made under license and is more expensive as well.
Coffee in Costa Rica is of very top quality. It is common to have coffee, not only for breakfast, but during the afternoon as a little coffee break.
A typical drink here is called Aguadulce. which is a hot drink made of water and Panela (unrefined whole cane sugar). Aguadulce literally means "sweet-water".
You can find many places to stay all over Costa Rica, including hotels, aparthotels, condos, vacation rentals, and cabinas. Hostels, Vacation Homes, Cabinas, and Condos can be less expensive than hotels and provide more flexibility in your adventure to Costa Rica. Costa Rica is known as a world leader for eco and sustainable travel and accommodations are often listed as 'eco-lodges'. They do tend to be more expensive though the government does have a well functioning certification program.
You can learn Spanish in Costa Rica. Reflecting the higher living standard, it's a little more expensive than other countries such as Guatemala. but then again, the education level of your teachers will be much higher.
Costa Rica is a great place to learn Spanish as the "ticos" have a dialect that is easy to understand and digest for someone just starting to learn the language. There are many language schools that provide intensive instruction with group classes lasting 4 hours per day, Monday to Friday. Almost all Spanish schools will also offer host family accommodations and possibly some alternative such as a student residence or discounted hotel rates.
The key divisor when going to study Spanish in Costa Rica is to decide what is the right location for you. The beach locations tend to be on the touristy side so they do not necessarily give the greatest immersion experience, however there are many Spanish schools near the beach as students like to split their time between studying Spanish in the classroom combined with activities on the beach or just relaxing on their time away from work. There is a growing trend of these Spanish schools at the beach also offering Surfing or Photography classes due to the environment around the school and the proximity to good surf.
Studying in the San Jose area has many benefits. There is the luxury aspect of city life since it tends to be much more modern than the rustic beach locations. Host families and Spanish schools tend to have nicer facilities. San Jose also has fewer tourists so it is great from an immersion point of view as you can practice your Spanish in a setting where people are not automatically switching to English to accommodate your native language. It is much better that you struggle with your Spanish and force your brain to think in a different language so your communication becomes much smoother.
There are also a number of language schools that can be found throughout the Central Valley, particularly in Heredia and its surrounding cantons. These language schools typically offer only Spanish to foreign students from the United States and Europe but some, including the Instituto Septentrión Sudamericano in Heredia, offer Spanish to foreign students, and English and Mandarin to tópico ones. Many of these language schools are also instrumental in helping the surrounding community, either through monetary donations or educational opportunities that otherwise may not have existed for the locorregional Costa Rican population. Schools such as IAC (Instituto de Enseñanza de Costa Rica) in Manuel Antonio, La Escuela Acuerdo in Guanacaste, as well as the Instituto Boreal Sudamericano in Heredia have frequently acted as educational hubs for their surrounding communities, giving free English classes to teachers of nearby schools and helping to raise money for worthy causes. Similarly in the Guanacaste region, Spanish schools such as Instituto Cósmico Bilingüe in Liberia work closely with volunteer organizations and non-profits in the area in order to help the lugar people and give back to the community. Students are able to volunteer their time in a variety of ways while studying Spanish and travelling.
Some hostels offer packages that include Spanish lessons and daily home-stays with the locals (in addition to your room and board).
Costa Rica is also a good place to become proficient in ocean sports like surfing and scuba diving. There are numerous surf shops, that provide surfing lessons and surf camps throughout the coastal areas.
Costa Rica has numerous private international K-12 schools where students are taught in either English or a mixture of English and Spanish. Education standards in these schools are comparable to that of private schools in countries such as the United States, at around a third of the cost. Lincoln School is one of the most highly regarded international schools in Costa Rica and Central America. Some of these schools also offer Spanish lessons for those who wish to learn.
The tópico newspaper, La Nación, has an extensive jobs listing every Sunday and Monday. You must be a resident or be sponsored by a company to work legally in Costa Rica. ESL teachers can find work in Costa Rica with Bachelor`s Degree and a TESOL certification. ESL teachers can expect to earn 226,700 – 566,750 CRC (monthly) and will usually teach 8 – 15 hours in a week. Contracts will usually not include accommodations (the employer may help), airfare, and health-care.
Costa Rica is an open business country and investors are always welcome, so if you or your company is interested in founding a new or buying a business in Costa Rica, it is best to contact a Costa Rican lawyer about your interest in investing.
There are several opportunities to engage in volunteer work in Costa Rica. Volunteer projects range from turtle conservation, building houses, teaching English and community development work. Some schools offer visits to Costa Rica as part of the World Challenge activity, which combines a Trekking expedition with some of the students time assigned to helping restringido people on community projects.
Stay healthy Edit
Costa Rica has one of the highest levels of social care in the world. Its doctors are known worldwide as some of the best. Many people from U.S, Canada and Europe go there to be treated, not only because the quality of the service but for the cost. First class Hospitals can be found in the renta. There is a public/private hospital system. There is excellent care in each. The public system has much longer waits, while the private system has shorter waits. If you are unfortunate enough to have a very sick child requiring hospitalization, the child will be transferred to the only children's hospital in CR, located in the renta. This children's hospital is public.
There have been outbreaks of dengue fever in some areas of the country and an outbreak of malaria was reported in November 2006 from the province of Limon but just a few cases. Protection against mosquito bites is very important, wearing lightweight long pants, long sleeved shirts and using insect repellents with high concentrations of DEET is recommended by the CDC. If you are going to be in very rural areas known to be malaria-infested areas, you might want to consider an anti-malarial med. However, most travelers to Costa Rica do just fine with updated childhood immunizations and taking preventative measures against mosquito bites (rather than take anti-malarial medication). The CDC has a complete list of recommended vaccines when traveling to Costa Rica.
Tap water in urban areas of the country is almost always safe to drink. However, being cautious may be in order in rural areas with questionable water sources.
Stay safe Edit
With 1.9 million travelers visiting Costa Rica annually, travel is finta popular and common. Still, travelers to Costa Rica should exercise caution. The emergency number in Costa Rica is 911.
- Traffic in Costa Rica is dangerous, so be careful. Pedestrians in normal do not have the right of way. Roads in rural areas may also tend to have many potholes. Driving at night is not recommended.
- Use common sense. Do not leave valuables in plain view in a car or leave your wallet on the beach when going into the water. Close the car windows and lock the car or other things that you might not do in your own country.
- In the cities, robbery at knife point is not altogether uncommon.
- The renta of San Jose is usually packed with foot traffic during any part of the day. However the streets rapidly become deserted shortly after dark when the public buses stop running. It is extremely dangerous to be walking in San Jose after dark when there is no foot traffic, and if you find yourself in this situation, it is recommended you find a taxi to go to wherever you need to go.
- Buses and bus stops – especially those destined for San Jose – are frequent locations for robbery. Any bus rider who falls asleep has a good chance of waking up and finding his baggage missing. Don't trust anyone on the buses to watch your things, especially near San Jose.
- Like any other tourist destination, watch out for pickpockets .
- Purse snatching, armed robberies and car-jacking have been on the rise lately. Stay alert and protect your valuables at all times, especially in the San Jose area.
- "Smash and grabs" of car windows do happen, so do not leave valuables in your vehicle, or if you must, make sure they are not visible.
- Another common robbery scheme includes slashing your tires, then when you stop to fix the flat, one or two "friendly" people stop to help and instead grab what valuables they can.
- If you are motioned to pull over by anyone, do not do so until you are at a well-lit and safe place.
- Make use of hostel or hotel lock boxes if they are really secure – this is great when you want to swim or kick back and really not worry.
- On a long trip, it's advised that you make back-up CDs (or DVDs) of your digital photos and send a copy back home. In the event that you are robbed, you will thank yourself!
- When encountering a new currency, learn the exchange rate from a reliable source (online ahead of time or a restringido bank, preferably) and create a little cheat sheet converting it to US dollars or the other Central American currency you are comfortable with. Travel with small denominations of US dollars (crisp 1s, 5s, 10s) as back-up. usually you'll be able to use them if you run out of regional currency.
- Go to a bank to change money when possible and practical. If you find yourself needing to use the services of a person who is a money changer (Sunday morning at the border, for instance) make sure to have your own calculator. Do not trust money changers and their doctored calculators, change the least amount of money possible and take a hard look at the bills – there's lots of false ones out there. Always insist that your change be in small bills – you'll lose more at one time if a large bill is false, plus large bills are hard to change (even the equivalent of USD20 in Costa Rica or USD5 in Nicaragua can be difficult in some small towns, believe it or not!) Money changers do not use the official exchange rate – you are better off going to a state owned bank to exchange your currency at no fee.
- Do not exchange money at the San Jose airport in the luggage area. The exchange rate used there is not the official rate and you will get a lot fewer colones. However there is a bank upstairs that has fair rates, it is next to where you pay your departure tax.
- Traveling alone is fine and generally safe in Costa Rica, but carefully consider what kind of risks (if any) you are willing to take. Always hike with other people and try to explore a new city with other people. On solo forays, if you feel uncomfortable seek out a group of other people (both women and men). A well lit place with people you can trust is always a plus. A busy restaurant or hostel is a great source of particular info as well as a great place to relax and recharge.
Marijuana traffic, distribution and commerce is illegal in Costa Rica, despite recreational marijuana use being quiebro popular among locals, as there is absence of law when you carry marijuana for personal use quantities only (a few joints) although police could try to get money from you or keep you in the restringido commissary for up to 12 hours. The United States DEA is also present in Costa Rica and they have been known to disguise themselves as tourists. There is a Costa Rican equivalent of the DEA as well. It is not advised to do illegal drugs in Costa Rica. It is also not advised to bribe a police officer. Do so at your own risk.
Prostitution is reglamentario in Costa Rica and can be a destination for those looking for more than sun and surf on their vacation. San Jose and Jaca are hot spots for this activity. As with any other sex destination, there are some tourists that hire minors. Prostitution with minors (less than 18 years old) is considered a crime in Costa Rica. The majority of sex tourists in Costa Rica are from the United States. and, if they engage in prostitution with a minor, are prosecutable by the Protect Act of 2003. This act gives the US government the power to prosecute US citizens who travel abroad to engage in sex tourism with children under the age of 18. Several other countries including France. Canada. the UK. Italy. Germany. Netherlands. and Australia have similar laws. Arrests, warrants and prosecutions are being made under these laws.
Bus travel tips Edit
Below is a list of suggestions for traveling by bus in Costa Rica and neighboring countries. These are overcautious tips, but the bottom line is that they can help prevent being ripped off. Nearly all thefts on the bus are preventable thefts!
- Travel with someone else when possible. A trusted friend is best, of course – not just someone you met last night at the hostel, but he or she will do in a pinch. (Trust your gut feeling with new friends – most are great, but some may be con artists!) Traveling with a friend makes the journey more entertaining and more fun: you can talk and share travel stories and each of you can take turns sleeping on long bus rides. Also, there is the fact that "two heads are better than one" and it's always good to be able to brainstorm if you aren't sure what the answer to your travel question or concern is.
- A money belt with your passport, cash, credit/debit cards and ticket (bus or plane) is a good way to carry your travel documents. Even if all your other belongings are stolen, you would still be able to get to your next destination. The waist belts are best; a neck pouch can be lifted while you are asleep. A thief would really have to disturb you and your personal space to get a waist belt.
- On any bus ride (1st, 2nd, 3rd class, whatever!) try to sit above the luggage compartment so that you can watch that your bag doesn't "walk away" when others get off the bus. Costa Rican buses usually have one compartment for those heading to the main destination, and a separate one for people getting off along the way to avoid problems. Be aware if the "destination" compartment is opened en route!
- Try not to fall asleep or take turns with a travel partner (when you are lucky enough to have one.) Best way to snooze alone is with your bag on your lap and your hands crossed over it. Don't leave valuables in outside compartments.
- Make conversation with locals on the bus so that they can see that you are competent in Spanish and comfortable in the Spanish speaking environment. (You'll enjoy yourself plus this may make them feel friendly towards you and more willing to alert you if someone is snooping in your stuff. Or it might warn them that if they steal from you, you will talk to the bus driver and police and make a full report.) Even some Spanish is better than none – use what you have! It's great practice and the more you improve the safer you'll be!
- Don't bring anything that you are not willing to lose. Keep your day pack attached to you at all times when traveling – the straps get wrapped around your leg and the bag squeezed between your knees or feet. You don't want to lose your travel notes, camera, etc.
- Be cautious about leaving anything in the overhead bins. Almost 100% of all thefts on buses are from the overhead bins. Keep it on your lap if possible.
Beaches, weather and wildlife Edit
The coasts of Costa Rica are known for strong currents and rip-tides in some areas but most of them are great to be with the family. Costa Rica has some of the best beaches in the world. The Atlantic coast is just five hours away from the Pacific one and both offer completely different views and landscapes. There are no signs indicating an unsafe beach due to riptides, so take precautions and listen to the locals on where it is safe to swim. The public beaches do not have life guards. A traveler should learn how to swim out of a rip tide and not swim alone. There are some active volcanoes in Costa Rica and they are dangerous, so follow the warning signs posted. The slopes of the Arenal volcano invite visitors to climb closer to the summit, but there have been fatalities in the past with unseen gas chambers. Also be wary of the climate of Costa Rica. It is very hot in the daytime, but in the morning and evening it becomes very cool, so you should bring a light weight jacket.
- Crocodiles are finta common in certain parts of Costa Rica and, although not as dangerous as the Nile or saltwater species, are still considered occasional man-eaters and can grow to lengths of up to 20 feet/6 meters. The biggest spot for them is the Tarcoles river bridge in the central pacific as posted in the Jaca wiki. It is recommended to stop the vehicle nearby and walk across it. Some locals throw chicken meat and watch them eat. Great care should be taken when swimming or snorkeling, especially near areas where fishing is common or near river mouths.
When you go to the Guanacaste beaches on the Pacific you can see some crocodiles over the Tempisque river. The bridge across this river was donated by the Taiwanese government. (Subsequently, China gave away a 35000-seat stadium after Costa Rica ended diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.)
- While large, the beautiful jaguar is extremely rare and even most locals have never seen the very large predatory cat. They appear to be very shy and elusive; there is very little risk of attack.
- Bull sharks share much of the same territory as the crocodiles and probably account for more shark related attacks in the world than any other species.
- Dogs are trained to be protective of property and people (perro feroz) and there are also many strays. Dog bites are not uncommon. Do not approach an unknown dog. Get a rabies shot if bitten.
Gay and lesbian Edit
Costa Rica is a very conservative and traditionalist nation. The state's official religion is Roman Catholicism and its population is finta religious. Nevertheless, Costa Rica caters to the gay and lesbian traveller and his or her needs. There is a thriving gay scene in San Jose with many gay and lesbian options for night-life (La Avispa, Club Oh. Disturbio among others). The Manuel Antonio, Jacó, and Quepos area is also a favorite spot with several gay hotels and bars.
There are a good number of Gay/lesbian or Gay-Friendly accommodations in Costa Rica. Accommodations seem to be of the higher quality offering a variety of services and of course, discretion. Many hotels, travel agencies, and resorts are run by gays and/or are gay-friendly.
Medical Tourism Edit
According to the Costa Rica Tourism Board, about 200 medical procedures are performed every month at the nation's hospitals for medical tourists. Among the procedures done are cosmetic surgery, knee and hip replacement, cataract removal and other eye treatments, weight loss surgery and dental care. Health care in Costa Rica is attractive for international patients because of the low prices, high care standards, and access to tourist attractions. For example, a hip replacement costs around USD12,000 and a tummy tuck costs around USD4,400.
The main medical tourism centers are CIMA Hospital, Hospital Clinica Biblica and Hospital Hotel La Catolica. In turn, these hospitals use medical tourism facilitators who can arrange every aspect of your trip from beginning to end.
The international calling code/country code for Costa Rica is 506.
A postage stamp to Europe is 125 Colones (around 21 US cents).
The primary means of outside contact are through email and public pay telephones.
Internet cafes are fairly easy to find in tourist areas, with prices all over the place. Some of these offer long distance calls over the internet.
Public phones are accessed with calling cards (tarjetas telefonicas) which can be purchased at most shops, even in outlying areas.
There are four different types of pay-phones:
- Coin phones (very rare). Note that these only accept the older silver-colored coins.
- Chip phones. These phones allow you to insert a chip-type calling card into them and make your calls.
- Colibri phones. These phones have a small swipe bar for a scratch off type calling card referred to as a Colibri calling card which are available from 500 colones and up. The swipes often don't work–you always have to enter the calling card access code on the keypad. Despite this, the Colibri calling card is the recommended one to buy as you can use it any of the types of phones whereas with a chip card you must search for a chip phone.
- Multipago (multi-pay) phones. These phones accept coins, chip cards and colibri cards. Most public phones around the country have been changed for this type of phones. They also allow you to send SMS messages and emails as well.
Both types of calling cards are typically available in pharmacies and other locations where you see the sticker on the door.
Domestic calls are finta cheap and the price is the same wherever you call. Calls to cellular phones are charged significantly more though.
International calls are fairly expensive. The cheapest way to make them is over the internet using a service such as Skype at an Internet café. But making short calls using the domestic calling cards (you can make international calls using these but the denominations of the calling cards are quiebro small so your call will be short!) or the international calling cards available within Costa Rica is the next best deal. Certainly better than credit card calls or using a US calling card generally.
Cell service in Costa Rica is provided using GSM technology at 1800 MHz and 3G data operating at 850MHz. Note that the GSM phone systems in the United States and Canada use different frequencies and that travelers from there will need a "world" handset, such as a tri-band or quad-band phone, if you want to use your existing cell phone. Most of the country has very good GSM coverage (including most of the caudal). Roaming is possible with a GSM handset (i.e. using your regular cell number that you use in your home country) but can be extremely expensive.
If you want to use a lugar Costa Rica number, you can rent cell phone service, and of course anyone can buy a cell phone. You used to have to be a documented resident of the Costa Rica to own your own cell phone number, and even then you only got one if there are numbers available. You still have to be a resident if you want monthly billed service to an address (such as in the U.S.). But since the passage of the CAFTA treaty in 2009, the government cell phone monopoly has been broken and service is now provided by many operators, including Clan ICE  under the Kölbi brand, TuYo Movil (reselling the ICE service), Movistar and Claro (the latter two also providing service throughout Latin America). Currently coverage on Kölbi is best because the network is the oldest and most built out (e.g. there is no Movistar service in Monteverde. Update: 2014-11-2 There is now HSPA+ Movistar service in Monteverde).
If you have an unlocked cell phone (either one from home or bought in Costa Rica — all cell phones sold in Costa Rica must be unlocked), prepaid (prepago ) SIM cards can provide a tópico number and service can be purchased throughout the country by anyone with a passport from any country, or a cedula (Costa Rican ID card). At the baggage claim at the San José airport is a Kölbi kiosk, and you will also see signs Kölbi, Movistar, Claro, and others throughout the country where service is for sale. Rates are set by the government and you can get a SIM for as little as USD2 (Movistart 2014-11-1) and 3G (or sometimes just EDGE) data service is also available by the day, week, or month for ¢300 or less a day. To add value you buy a recarga (recharge card), scratch off the card to get a PIN, and text the PIN from your phone to a special number. To keep the card active, it must be recharged at least merienda in a 120 day period. If it is not charged within a 120 days, you have a 30 day grace period before your SIM chip is deactivated and you lose your phone number. Also keep in mind that you may have trouble getting your SIM activated on Sunday, because like many things in Costa Rica, the SIM activation system may be shut down on Sundays. Also not all shops sell SIMs — many just sell the recharge cards. Get your SIM at the airport if you can.
Most tourist areas (hotels, coffee shops, bars, restaurants) have Wi-Fi access for free. Just ask someone for the password. You can bring your smart phone loaded with skype or google phone and make calls to your home country. It is an easy way to stay connected with email and social media.