The beautiful Central American country, filled with rain forests, beaches, rivers, biodiverse wildlife, and eco-chic hotels, has long been a great place to vacation. But in recent years, it’s grown in popularity.
It’s no wonder, considering there’s something for everyone. Costa Rica is famous for its incredible national parks, where travelers enjoy thrilling activities like river rafting, canyoning, cave tubing, and zip lining. It’s also one of the best places for animal lovers to discover wildlife like macaws, sea turtles, and adorable sloths.
But it also has a hip, glamorous side. The capital of San José is quickly becoming a hot spot for foodies, especially since innovative chefs have been opening new restaurants and bars there. The city is also home to a vibrant craft beer scene.
And if you’re looking to relax, there’s no better place to go than a pristine beach resort or a spa near one of the country’s many hot springs. You can work on your tan, get a massage, go swimming and surfing, or relax in a geothermal pool, all in one vacation.
The best time to visit Costa Rica is generally between December and April, though the Caribbean side of the country is particularly sunny in October. Many airlines offer non-stop flights to the cities of Liberia and San José.
If you still need a little convincing as to why this Central American nation will make a life-changing vacation, take a look at these reasons to visit Costa Rica.
Related: The Ultimate Costa Rica Packing List
It has stunning national parks.
Costa Rica is home to 30 national parks and about five percent of the world’s biodiversity. There are cloud forests, coral reefs, dry forests, and rain forests to explore. One of the best things to do in Costa Rica is to take a hike, especially in Tenorio Volcano National Park, where you can see the stunning Rio Celeste waterfall.
It boasts active and dormant volcanoes.
Costa Rica has more than 60 volcanoes — including five that are active. Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s most popular attractions, especially for people who want to hike its rugged terrain or soak in the soothing geothermal hot springs. There are lots of spas and resorts in the area that take advantage of the naturally warm waters.
It’s a wildlife paradise.
About 30 percent of Costa Rica is protected through national parks, reserves, and refuges, so there are many places for animal populations to thrive. And pretty much anywhere you go, there’s wildlife to discover. The country is a haven for more than 500,000 species of animals, including scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, humpback whales, green iguanas, sea turtles, and sloths.
It’s known as the hummingbird capital of the world.
Costa Rica is already a wonderful place for bird watchers, but it’s particularly great if you’re looking to catch a glimpse of one of the 50 different species of hummingbirds that live there. Some of the types of birds you could encounter include the violet sabrewing, the coppery-headed emerald, and the magenta-throated woodstar.
It’s a playground for adventure enthusiasts.
If you’re looking for thrilling outdoor activities, Costa Rica is the place for you. There are dozens of tour companies specializing in river rafting, fishing, ATV driving, scuba diving, tubing, horseback riding, and zip lining through the rain forest. There are also plenty of places to go hiking, surfing, and swimming.
It’s an unsung culinary destination.
Food usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Costa Rica. But with its traditional cuisine shaped by Spanish, Caribbean, and Indigenous influences — as well as a bounty of fresh ingredients — it’s a hot spot for adventurous foodies. Some of the most popular dishes include vuelve a la vida (a ceviche-like seafood cocktail) and arreglados (a type of sandwich made with meat, cheese, and vegetables), pejibayes (peach palm fruits that are often boiled and served with mayonnaise).
It has both Pacific and Caribbean beaches.
Costa Rica makes significant efforts to protect its national parklands, and the same goes for its beaches. The country has more than 800 miles of pristine, beautiful shoreline on its Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The Nicoya Peninsula is especially popular for its laid-back beach towns like Santa Teresa and numerous surf spots.
It’s dotted with world-class resorts.
Costa Rica isn’t just a rugged vacation for adventure seekers. It’s also the perfect place for a relaxing spa getaway. The area around Arenal Volcano is famous for its luxury spas surrounded by natural hot springs. Beach resorts are also growing in popularity, with destinations like the Papagayo Peninsula offering sandy shores, wildlife experiences, and five-star accommodations.
It’s easy to find a good cup of joe.
Some of the best coffee in the world comes from Costa Rica, making it one of the main drivers of the country’s economy. Coffee connoisseurs looking to immerse themselves in all things java can stay at Finca Rosa Blanca, a hotel and organic coffee farm that offers tours and tastings.
It has a potent national beverage.
When you’re not drinking coffee, you should opt for Costa Rica’s other drink of choice: guaro. The clear, sweet liqueur is made from sugar cane juice and has a very high alcohol content. It’s not recommended to drink it in shots unless you’ve had it before. However, many people drink it chilled with sugar and lime, or in a cocktail.
It’s a convenient vacation destination.
Costa Rica is about a three-hour flight from Miami, a six-hour flight from Los Angeles, and a five-hour flight from New York City. If you’re traveling from the United States, you likely won’t have to worry about dealing with severe jet lag, as the country operates on Mountain Standard Time from mid-March to October and Central Standard Time from November to mid-March. Although the country’s currency is the Costa Rican colón, U.S. dollars and credit cards are widely accepted.
It’s one of the world’s happiest countries.
One of the best-known Costa Rican mottos is “pura vida,” which means “pure life.” And Costa Ricans take this to heart. This is probably why the country is considered one of the happiest in the world according to the Happy Planet Index. The phrase is also used as a greeting or a response to “How are you?” so it’s a ubiquitous part of the culture.