Nicola Billens

The idea of travelling in Central America might evoke fears of danger to some, but when it comes to Costa Rica that’s about as far from the truth as it gets – this peaceful country hasn’t had an army since 1948.

With more and more travellers enquiring about Central and South America here are 10 things you need to know about Costa Rica, possibly one of the best destinations I have ever explored.

 

1. It’s beautiful. You have to get there yourself and see it.

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As far as countries go, Costa Rica has a lot going for it. From stunning beaches draped by tropical palms and monkeys playing on the sand, to cloud forests dripping in green, to fascinating volcanic terrain with turquoise crater lakes and hot springs. You’ll want at least two weeks to explore it properly.

 

2. The locals are extremely friendly and helpful

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No hassles. Trustworthy. Friendly. There’s something about the ‘Pura Vida’ (Pure Life) lifestyle that makes Costa Ricans (called Ticos) so incredibly lovely. Maybe it’s because they live in one of the most beautiful countries on earth. Who knows – but they are some of the nicest people that you’ll ever meet. 

 

3. Costa Rica is to Americans like Bali is to Aussies

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Just like when we go to Bali, Americans head to Costa Rica for yoga retreats, beach holidays and surf. What does this mean? It means it’s safe. There’s nothing to worry about, and while it seems far away to us, it’s just a normal holiday for many. I’ve even heard on the grapevine that it may become the next Ibiza!

 

4. It’s not as cheap as its Central American neighbours

Colones: The currency of Costa Rica.

It’s not expensive but don’t expect a super budget holiday. Prices have been pushed up recently thanks to its popularity, and the influx of American tourists surely doesn’t help.

Just like Bali, things aren’t as cheap as they used to be but you can still do some very cool things for less than half what you’d pay back home. Plus they have a sloth on their bank note!

 

5. It’s one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world with awesome animals.

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It might be tiny, taking up a mere 0.03 percent of the earth, but it punches above its weight when it comes to natural wealth with over 6 percent of the world’s biodiversity.

About one third of the country is dedicated to national parks and nature reserves full of interesting mammals, birds and insects like tapirs, sloths, jaguars, monkeys, macaws, toucans, turtles… get the drift?

 

6. Speaking of sloths – they are pretty cool

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Sloth-spotting is actually harder than you think thanks to their camo-style algae-covered fur and surprise surprise… lack of movement. This means that they blend in with their environment so you’ll need a keen eye but their funny faces and unique gangly bodies make them a must-see on any visit.

Even better, get yourself to the sloth sanctuary to see the cute little babies!

 

7. The whole country is eco-friendly (and very green)

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Costa Ricans are highly aware of just how precious their natural wealth is and it could be argued that ecotourism pretty much started here. You’ll find the locals recycling, reusing and very proudly protecting their beautiful country.

 

8. You can stand on a mountain and see both the Pacific and the Caribbean

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Costa Rica is a skinny little thing divided by some big mountains. If you’re feeling adventurous there’s a trek to the summit of Costa Rica’s highest mountain Cerro Chirripo where you can see both sides of the country from above the clouds.

 

9. It takes a while to get there but it’s worth it

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Quickest and probably cheapest way is via Dallas and then ducking down into San Jose. It’s a bit of a hike but aren’t all good things worth the wait?

For an added cultural experience you could do a stopover in the US and visit the Fortworth Stockyards to experience some full-on American cowboy action. They really do wear cowboy hats and carry guns!

 

10. And finally… You’ll think you’re in heaven

Costa Rica _ Manzanillo Bay.photoPicture this. You’re sitting on the porch of a private bungalow perched up on a jungle covered hill – it’s a tad rustic with electricity only at night, but who needs electricity with views like this?

On the horizon is an island and if you look hard enough you can see dolphins and whales swim by in the calm sea below. Frequently you’ll spot toucans and squawking red macaws fly past and just as you think it can’t get much better, a troop of squirrel monkeys start playing in the tree tops metres in front of you.

Welcome to Costa Rica – heaven on earth!

Have you been to Costa Rica?