Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of “Pura Vida!” This Central American paradise is known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and incredible biodiversity. But there’s so much more to discover, from its delicious coffee and chocolate to its friendly “Ticos” and exciting adventure sports.
Whether you’re looking to relax on a beach or explore the rainforest canopy, there’s something for everyone. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at 70 things that make Costa Rica such a special destination, from its natural wonders and cultural traditions to its rich history and unique attractions. So grab a cup of Terrazu coffee and get ready to discover the magic of Costa Rica!
Table of Contents
Costa Rica is home to some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet. It has some of the lushest rainforests and beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters. It’s no wonder Costa Rica is a top destination for eco-tourists and adventure seekers. Let’s dive deeper into some of the natural landscapes that make Costa Rica unique.
From the wild Pacific waves to the calm Caribbean waters, Costa Rica boasts a stunning array of beaches that will take your breath away. Many of them have secluded stretches of sand and plenty of amenities. You’re sure to find a beach that fits the bill. Here, we’ll briefly highlight some of the best beaches in Costa Rica, each with its own unique charm and appeal. So grab your sunscreen and get ready to hit the sand!
- Playa Manuel Antonio: Located within Manuel Antonio National Park, this white sand beach is one of the most popular in the country.
- Playa Tamarindo: Located on the northern Pacific coast, Tamarindo is a popular surf spot with plenty of amenities for visitors.
- Playa Montezuma: This secluded beach on the Nicoya Peninsula is surrounded by lush jungle and has a bohemian vibe.
- Playa Conchal: Known for its white sand and crystal-clear waters, Playa Conchal is a popular destination for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
- Playa Hermosa: Located near Jaco, this beach is known for its excellent surfing and stunning sunsets.
- Playa Santa Teresa: This remote beach on the southern Nicoya Peninsula is known for its excellent surf and laid-back atmosphere.
- Playa Punta Uva: This Caribbean beach is known for its calm waters and pristine white sand.
Costa Rica is a land of striking contrasts where towering volcanoes rise above rainforests and pristine beaches. The country’s volcanoes are among its most fascinating natural wonders, providing a glimpse into the geologic forces that have shaped the landscape. If you’re seeking adventure or simply want to take in breathtaking views, Costa Rica’s volcanoes will leave a lasting impression. Let’s explore a few of the country’s most famous and awe-inspiring volcanoes.
- Arenal Volcano: One of the most iconic volcanoes in Costa Rica, Arenal is known for its perfect cone shape and frequent eruptions.
- Poás Volcano: Located in the Central Valley, Poás is one of the country’s largest and most active volcanoes, with a crater over a mile wide.
- Irazú Volcano: The highest volcano in Costa Rica, Irazú is famous for its bright green crater lake and stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
- Turrialba Volcano: Located near the city of Turrialba, this active volcano has erupted periodically since 2010, and its ash clouds can sometimes be seen from miles away.
National Parks & Reserves
Costa Rica is known for its stunning natural beauty, and there’s no better way to experience it than by visiting one of its many national parks and reserves. These include the cloud forests of Monteverde and the beaches of Manuel Antonio.
Here are some of the most popular national parks and reserves in Costa Rica:
- Manuel Antonio National Park: Known for its pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and abundant wildlife, Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular national parks in Costa Rica.
- Corcovado National Park: Located on the remote Osa Peninsula, Corcovado is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including jaguars, monkeys, and scarlet macaws.
- Arenal Volcano National Park: Home to the iconic Arenal Volcano, this park is a popular destination for hiking, bird-watching, and relaxing in natural hot springs.
- Tortuguero National Park: This park is known for its vast network of canals and its important nesting site for sea turtles.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: This unique reserve is home to an incredibly diverse array of flora and fauna, including over 400 species of birds and countless species of butterflies.
- Cahuita National Park: Located on the Caribbean coast, Cahuita is known for its beautiful beaches and coral reefs, making it a popular destination for snorkeling and diving.
Costa Rica is a nature lover’s paradise, and its abundant wildlife is a major draw for visitors from around the world. From the colorful scarlet macaws to the slow-moving sloths, the country’s animals are a fascinating and integral part of its natural heritage.
These are a few species that should be on your list to see in the wild:
- Scarlet Macaws: These stunning birds are known for their vibrant red, blue, and yellow feathers and are often seen flying in pairs over forests and beaches.
- Sloths: These slow-moving mammals symbolize Costa Rica’s laid-back lifestyle and can be found lounging in the rainforest’s trees.
- Toucans: Known for their oversized colorful beaks, toucans are a common sight in the forests of Costa Rica.
- Howler Monkeys: These noisy primates are known for their distinctive howls, which can be heard echoing through the forests.
- Sea Turtles: Costa Rica is home to several species of sea turtles, including the Olive Ridley, Leatherback, and Hawksbill, which nest on the country’s beaches.
- Poison Dart Frogs: These brightly colored amphibians are a common sight in the rainforests of Costa Rica, but don’t let their beauty fool you – they are highly toxic.
After exploring the natural wonders of Costa Rica, it’s time to turn up the excitement and dive into the world of adventure sports. From scaling waterfalls to surfing the waves, Costa Rica offers a wide range of heart-pumping activities for thrill-seekers.
- Ziplining: Flying through the rainforest canopy on a zipline is one of the most popular adventure activities in Costa Rica.
- White-water rafting: With its rushing rivers and challenging rapids, Costa Rica is a top destination for white-water rafting.
- Kayaking: Whether navigating the calm waters of a mangrove estuary or braving the ocean waves, kayaking is a great way to explore Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes.
- Paddleboarding: Stand-up paddleboarding is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy the country’s beaches and calm waterways.
- Surfing: Costa Rica is a surfer’s paradise with its world-class waves and surf culture.
- Canyoning: This activity involves rappelling down waterfalls and through narrow canyons and is an exciting way to explore the country’s rugged terrain.
- Mountain biking: With its challenging hills and diverse landscapes, Costa Rica is an excellent destination for mountain biking.
- Horseback riding: Riding through the rainforest or along the beach on horseback is a peaceful and scenic way to experience Costa Rica’s natural beauty.
- Scuba diving: The waters surrounding Costa Rica are teeming with marine life, making scuba diving a popular activity for adventurers and nature lovers alike.
- Bungee jumping: For the ultimate adrenaline rush, bungee jumping is available in several locations throughout the country.
Food & Drink
As the saying goes, “good food and good company are two of life’s simplest yet greatest pleasures.” You can certainly find both in Costa Rica, especially after working up an appetite from all the adventures you just experienced. With a fusion of Spanish, African, and indigenous influences, Costa Rican cuisine is a unique and flavorful experience that is a feast for the senses! So grab a plate, and let’s dig in!
- Gallo pinto: A staple of Costa Rican cuisine, Gallo pinto is a simple but flavorful dish of rice and beans often served for breakfast.
- Casado: Literally meaning “married,” this dish is a hearty and satisfying combination of rice, beans, meat, and plantains.
- Arroz con pollo: This classic rice and chicken dish is a comfort food favorite throughout the country.
- Olla de Carne: This traditional beef soup is made with root vegetables and is a comforting and nourishing dish, especially on cooler days.
- Ceviche: Made with fresh seafood marinated in lime juice, ceviche is a popular and refreshing dish along the coast.
- Tres leches cake: This moist and sweet cake is made with three types of milk (condensed, evaporated, and regular) and is a beloved dessert in Costa Rica.
- Salsa Lizano: This tangy and slightly sweet sauce is a ubiquitous condiment in Costa Rica and is used to add flavor to everything from rice to meats to eggs.
- Imperial beer: Costa Rica’s most famous beer, Imperial, is a crisp and refreshing lager that pairs well with the country’s tropical climate.
- Guaro: Made from sugarcane, this clear and potent spirit is a popular ingredient in many of the country’s signature cocktails.
- Ron Centenario: This rum, made from sugar cane, is one of the most popular spirits in Costa Rica and is often used in cocktails.
- Horchata: This sweet and refreshing drink is made with rice, cinnamon, and sugar and is a popular way to cool down on hot days.
- High-quality coffee: Costa Rica is renowned for its high-quality coffee beans grown in the country’s fertile volcanic soil, and have a rich, smooth flavor.
Culture & Traditions
Costa Rica’s vibrant culture is a reflection of its history and the diverse influences of its people. The country’s cultural landscape is rich and multifaceted, from indigenous traditions to Spanish colonial heritage to modern-day innovations. Here, we’ll highlight some of the most fascinating and distinctive aspects of the country’s culture and traditions.
Here are some popular examples of Costa Rican culture and traditions:
- Sarchi crafts: Sarchi is known for its traditional crafts, such as brightly painted oxcarts and intricate woodworking.
- Traditional dance: Costa Rica has a rich tradition of folk dancing, with styles ranging from the lively merengue to the elegant waltz.
- Día de los Muertos: This holiday, also known as the Day of the Dead, is celebrated on November 2nd and honors deceased loved ones through colorful parades and offerings.
- Cimarrona music: This lively and upbeat music is played by groups of musicians using traditional instruments such as cowbells and tambourines.
- Bullfighting: Costa Rica has a unique version of bullfighting, in which the bulls are not harmed, and instead, the participants dodge the bull’s charges in a test of skill and agility.
- Carnival: This annual celebration takes place in Limón and features vibrant parades, lively music, and colorful costumes.
- El Tope: Held in San José on December 26th, this festival celebrates Costa Rica’s equestrian culture with a parade of horses and riders.
- Army Abolition Day: On December 1st, Costa Rica celebrates the abolition of its army in 1948. This decision was made by then-president José Figueres Ferrer, who believed that the country’s resources should be invested in education, healthcare, and social welfare programs rather than military defense. Today, Army Abolition Day celebrates peace, democracy, and social progress in Costa Rica.
- The abolition of the death penalty: In 1877, Costa Rica became one of the first countries in the world to abolish the death penalty. This decision reflected the country’s commitment to human rights and progressive values.
- Pura Vida: This expression, meaning “pure life,” is a standard greeting and cultural catchphrase in Costa Rica. It represents the country’s laid-back and positive attitude toward life and is often used to describe its beautiful natural scenery and friendly people.
Costa Rica’s rich history and cultural heritage are reflected in its many historical landmarks, which offer a glimpse into the country’s past. From the pre-Columbian archaeological sites to the colonial architecture of San Jose, these landmarks showcase the diverse influences that have shaped Costa Rican culture. With that in mind, we’ll take a closer look at some of the landmarks that make Costa Rica such a fascinating destination, highlighting the unique stories and insights that they offer.
These archaeological sites offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives and cultures of the indigenous peoples who inhabited Costa Rica long before the arrival of Europeans. They are a testament to the country’s rich and diverse history and a must-see for anyone interested in archaeology and ancient civilizations.
- Guayabo National Monument: This ancient site, located in the Turrialba Valley, was built by the indigenous people who inhabited the area between 300 BC and 1400 AD. It features a network of roads, waterworks, and stone sculptures.
- Diquis Spheres: Found in the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica, the Diquis Spheres are a collection of more than 300 stone spheres that were created by the Diquis culture, which flourished between 700 AD and 1500 AD. The purpose of these spheres is still unknown.
- Finca 6 archaeological site: Discovered in 2014, this site in the southern Nicoya Peninsula features stone spheres and other artifacts dating back to 300 AD and 800 AD. It is believed to have been a significant ceremonial center for the indigenous people who lived in the area.
- Las Mercedes Archaeological Site: Located in the Central Valley near Grecia, Las Mercedes is an ancient site inhabited by the Huetar people between 800 AD and 1500 AD. The site features impressive stone architecture and carvings.
- Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles: Located in Cartago, this beautiful church was built in the 17th century and is considered one of the most important religious sites in Costa Rica. It is home to the famous statue of La Negrita, which is said to have miraculous powers.
- El Fortín de Heredia: Built in the late 18th century, this fortress in the city of Heredia played a crucial role in defending the region from pirate attacks. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction and offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
- La Iglesia de San José: This historic church in the capital city of San Jose was built in the 19th century and features beautiful stained glass windows and intricate wood carvings.
- Orosi Church: Built in the early 18th century, it is one of the oldest churches in Costa Rica and is known for its beautiful colonial architecture and ornate altar.
- The Costa Rican Center for Science and Culture: Also known as the “Ministry of Culture,” this modern building in San Jose was completed in 2008 and serves as a hub for scientific and cultural events and activities. It also houses the National Archive, which contains important historical documents and artifacts from throughout Costa Rica’s history.
- National Museum of Costa Rica: Originally built as a military barracks in the 19th century, the National Museum of Costa Rica was transformed into a museum in 1950 and has since become one of the country’s most important cultural institutions. It features exhibits on the country’s natural history, indigenous cultures, and political history, including the Costa Rican Civil War of 1948.
- Casa Presidencial: Also known as the “White House” of Costa Rica, Casa Presidencial is the official residence of the President of Costa Rica and serves as the country’s administrative center. It was completed in 1958 and has been the site of many important political events and decisions in Costa Rican history.
As we’ve seen, Costa Rica is a country that truly has something for everyone. From the lush rainforests and stunning beaches to the thrilling adventure sports and rich cultural heritage, there is no shortage of things to see and do in this Central American gem. So why not book a flight (or a helicopter ride), pack your bags, and come explore all that this amazing country has to offer? Pura Vida awaits!