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Costa Rica

Costa Rica
Sloths can be found in Costa Rica (Shutterstock)

It would be impossible to visit Costa Rica without hearing ‘Pura Vida’ echoed everywhere you go.  Translating to ‘pure life’, the saying is not only the country’s unofficial moto, but also a mindset inherited by native Costa Ricans, who are called Ticos.

Costa Rica is so biodiverse 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 the country is protected in national parks and reserves. Unlike many other places in the world, the Costa Rica’s rainforest is actually increasing in size. It’s no world the nation is a world leader in sustainability and ecotourism.

Costa Rica’s two coastline – bordering the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea – offer different sides of Costa Rica and not just geographically. On the Pacific side, in the far northwest of Costa Rica the dry forests of Guanacaste are a UNESCO 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.

On the northern Caribbean coast, Tortuguero, a huge national park comprising coast and jungle-fringed waterways, is one of the best places in the world to see green turtles. 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.

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Latest Costa Rica articles

San Jose
5.2 million
Int. dial code
British nationals do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. You may stay as a visitor for up to 180 days under a tourist visa waiver
Time zone
Plug type
Type A and B
Costa Rican Colón CRC

When to go to Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s two coasts have different weather patterns: the Pacific coast is dry from December to April, while the Caribbean side is drier between August and October.

International airports

Juan Santamaria (SJO) is 17km from San José.

Getting around in Costa Rica

Local buses are one of the best ways of getting around Costa Rica; they are basic but frequent and cheap. ‘Gringo’ minibuses are more expensive but considerably more comfortable and they’ll pick you up from your hotel.

Renting a car can be a hair-raising experience: accidents and car crime are real possibilities. Costa Rica’s terrain makes for easy cycling and there’s little traffic outside the Vale Central.

Health & safety

Visit your GP/travel clinic for advice on necessary vaccinations. Do not travel without adequate health insurance.

Street crime is a major problem in San José, particularly around the Coca-Cola bus terminal, so take extra care and get a licensed cab if you’re barhopping.

In budget accommodation, some ‘suicide showers’ have a button on the nozzle that turns on the element – do not touch when wet! Finally, riptides can be a problem on popular tourist beaches.

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