Despite its small size, Costa Rica offers a dizzying array of things to see and do. We asked Imagine Latin America Specialist Grant to give us the lowdown on what to expect from a holiday to this Central American country and to answer some of the most frequently asked questions from our guests.
Who is a holiday to Costa Rica suited to?
Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world; anyone who is interested in marine, bird and wildlife will immediately fall in love. There is also a more adventurous side where you can find yourself zip-lining through cloud forest, white water rafting, hiking volcanoes and snorkelling coral reefs. And whether you want to relax or surf some of Central America’s best breaks, the beaches can deliver. Age is not a problem either. Although some level of fitness is required for certain activities, Costa Rica has something for everyone – it’s safe for young families, action-packed for teenagers and offers couples and solo travellers an endless choice of experiences.
How long do you need for a trip?
Despite being one of Latin America’s smaller countries, Costa Rica packs a lot of incredible places into its borders. If you are looking for a three or four-centre holiday, you can do this in 10 or 12 nights and come away feeling like you have done the country some justice. Two weeks or longer can open up more of the country and let you enjoy it at a relaxed pace. Sometimes you need that extra day or two to justify travelling that little bit further to find the perfect beach or the best wildlife spot.
How do you normally get around?
Most of Costa Rica can easily be linked by road or boat travel. Transfer by private vehicle or small group minivan is usually the easiest way to get from A to B. Renting a car is also a good option and can give you added freedom, especially when staying in a beach area. There are a few more remote locations where flying is recommended, as it is quicker and can provide some truly stunning views as you fly over the beaches and rainforests in a small plane.
When is the best time to travel?
There is no straightforward answer to this question as the country has many micro-climates. December to March is most likely going to give you the sunniest weather, but these months also bring the biggest crowds – advance planning is absolutely essential to get the right holiday at the right price. Costa Rica receives a lot of rainfall year-round so always pack a raincoat! That being said, over the last few years it has become increasingly more popular to travel in the ‘green season’ from May to November (July and August are now almost as popular as January and February).
What is your favourite part of Costa Rica?
I would have to say the Osa Peninsula. I would need no persuasion to return here year after year. It has the greatest concentration of species in Costa Rica and some of the most beautiful wildlife lodges in the world. Every day you wake up and go to sleep listening to nature. The days and nights are spent exploring the national parks and private reserves. You will be amazed how the tiniest insect can captivate you as much as a brightly coloured bird or a 300kg tapir… and how surprisingly difficult it is to spot a 300kg tapir five metres away from you in the undergrowth!
Where is the best place to see wildlife?
Costa Rica is teeming with wildlife. Whether you are in built-up towns or remote national parks, there is always a chance you will spot something exotic and exciting. Sloth, toucan, quetzal, tapir, green iguana, crocodile and spider monkey are just some of the amazing species you can see. Of course, the less populated zones have enabled nature to flourish more, which is why the Osa Peninsula is one of the best wildlife spots in the country. If you are more interested in birds, then some of the cloud forests and higher elevated parts of the country may be better suited to you. Wherever you decide to go, you will not be disappointed.
How has Costa Rica changed since tourism boomed?
Costa Rica’s popularity has soared in recent years and booking up to a year in advance for high season holiday dates is now considered normal. Although big crowds and a high level of biodiversity would not normally go hand in hand, Costa Rica seems to have managed this successfully, where many other countries have failed. Some parts of the country have inevitably seen a greater increase in hotel and crowd numbers, but others have remained relatively unchanged in 40 years. More recently, people are going the extra mile to stay in those parts of Costa Rica that have remained relatively untouched in decades. The effort and cost to access these remote locations can be high, but the rewards really do make it worthwhile.