• Dean Nelson

Costa Rica - a destination highlight

Updated: 6 days ago

Costa Rica Overview

Located between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America, Costa Rica is a democratic and peaceful nation, without a military since 1948. Focused on tourism, Ticos (a nickname for locals) are happily welcoming visitors to experience this country’s incredible natural beauty, indulge in adventure and make time for wellness and relaxation.

There are two international airports in Costa Rica. Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) is located in Alajuela, and less than a half hour to drive into San Jose. Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) is located in Liberia and perfect for tourists visiting Guanacaste, Monteverde and La Fortuna. Costa Rica has four domestic airlines: Aerobell, Sansa, Skyway and Air Caribe.

Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, but English is widely spoken throughout the country. Costa Rica boasts a literacy rate of 96 per cent one of the highest in the world, and since 1896 has made education free and obligatory for all its citizens.

Costa Rica may be small in size, covering only 0.03 of the world’s surface, but is mighty in attracting visitors. This Central American country has four UNESCO World Heritage sites: Area de Conservacion Guanacaste, Cocos Island National Park, Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves and PreColombian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquis.

With 1,228 km of coastline, 1,016 km on the Pacific coast and 212 km on the Caribbean Sea Costa Rica also offers the ability to access beaches at Puntarenas only 90 minutes from San Jose. Coastlines are separated three hours by car or 45 minutes by air from Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose.

With five per cent of the world’s biodiversity and 26 per cent of its territory protected for conservation, Costa Rica is divided in 11 conservation areas comprising National Parks, preserves, and biological corridors, etc. There are 29 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones, 15 wetland areas, 11 forest reserves and eight biological reserves.

Costa Rica is an industry leader in sustainability, with its distinctive combination of unique geographical features, and this concept weaved in Costa Ricans’ DNA. With the goal to become a carbon-free country by 2050, every region in Costa Rica is committed to sustainable practices across all industries, adopted by all citizens and embraced by visitors. From local Costa Rican cuisine to artisan crafts to traditional customs and celebrations, sustainability is embedded deeply in the culture and traditions of Costa Rica.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) / Costa Rica Tourism Board developed a Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program for local tourism companies in 1997. First adopted within the hotel industry, tourism companies who focus on environmental preservation and local community can apply for the CST designation. There are currently almost 350 CST designated tourism businesses. Costa Rica also has the Bandera Azul Ecologica, an ecological blue flag award given annually to reward communities to improve environmental conditions and adapt to climate change.

During its first stage, CST applied only to the hotel and lodge sector.   However, the Program now accepts other tourism-related companies, such as car rentals, local tour operators, transportation companies and theme parks that can opt for Elite Level or Basic Level, according to the new CST 2.0 regulations, depending on the different qualifications they get.

Participation in this program is voluntary, the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program teaches best management practices, conducting certification assessments, offering training sessions and promoting the certification within the environmental markets.

CST motivates tourism companies to have a positive impact on the natural environment, society and economy leading to a demand for recycling, energy saving, proper waste disposal, conservation of the natural environment and a better system management.

Costa Rica Climate

Blessed with a tropical climate, Costa Rica’s landscape is constantly in a state of renewal, making this country a year-round destination with annual average temperature of 21C-30C (70F-82F) and with a year-round sea temperature that makes it welcoming for swimming and watersports.

A diverse combination of mountains, plains and plateaus and the influence of ocean currents and sea breezes gives Costa Rica a temperate climate with two beautiful coastlines on the Pacific and Caribbean which travellers could enjoy in the same day.

The Pacific region is characterized by well-defined dry and green seasons. The dry season lasts from December to March, with March the driest and hottest month of the year. The green season is from May to October. During the months of July and August, locally-called veranillo, or “little summer” winds start to increase, leading to the rainy season’s main months in September and October.

The Caribbean region doesn’t have distinctive dry and green seasons – but November to January and May to August are two time periods where visitors can expect constant rain showers but there are endless sunny days in October. The rainiest month is January, because of cold fronts from the Northern Hemisphere, with the majority of rainfall happening at night and in the early morning, which allows for exploration from mid-morning until the late afternoon. Unlike other countries, in Costa Rica, the green season still means attractions are open and many events happen during this season such as bird and whale migration and sea turtle nesting.

Costa Rica Highlights

San Jose

The capital of the country, San José is the centre of culture and entertainment in Costa Rica. The National Theater offers inspiring performances, while the Gold Museum features Pre-Columbian and Costa Rican art. A visit to the National Museum will detail the history of this Central American country, while the Children’s Museum is a fun interactive learning adventure for all ages. The Central Market is a place to discover Costa Rican-grown food like fresh produce and coffee, while visitors can enjoy walking tours to see highlights like the San Jose Cathedral, Parque Central and the new Museo del Jade, an archaeological museum.

Blue Zone

Numerous wellness features in Costa Rica have made it one of the five blue zones or longevity areas on the planet, where locals have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else on earth. A 2004 study by the University of Costa Rica found mortality among Costa Ricans of 90 years of age is 10% lower in the Nicoya Peninsula, south of Guanacaste. The “pura vida” lifestyle of this region along with calcium-rich water, healthy eating and family living are the reasons why this area is known for its healthy and happy residents who are focused on a slow pace of life.

Cultural Tours

Outside the capital, there are several tours to learn more about Costa Rica’s history, handicrafts and locally-grown products. There is a lot to explore: indigenous tours in Quitirrisí and Puriscal, and indigenous experiences like the Boruca Indigenous Community Museum and the Terraba Indigenous Community Museum, El Guarco for its sculpture park and Santa Ana for ceramics, gastronomy adventures in Los Santos for coffee, Turrialba for cheese and sugar cane and Orotina for fresh fruit and local cuisine. Historic highlights include museums in Ujarras and Orosi and churches in Ciudad Colón, Moravia, Coronado and the Basilica of Our Lady of Angels in Cartago. Costa Rica also has world-renowned cultural wonders, including: the oxherd and oxcart , the Diquis spheres and the Guayabo National Archaeological Monument. Other nationally prized offerings and cultural traditions to be discovered by visitors include creole swing dance, Limón calypso, traditional Chorotega ceramics, the Boruca Little Devils Festival and many more.

Sea Turtles

There are few natural spectacles more impressive than the arrival of the majestic sea turtles and Costa Rica is home to some of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the world. Leatherback turtles can be seen from March to July on the Caribbean coast, while Green turtles nest from June to October on the north Caribbean coast and Olive Ridley turtles can be spotted July to November along the Pacific coast.

Ocean life

Costa Rica protects coral reefs and beds of seagrass in an oceanic trench more than 4,000 meters deep. This underwater mountain range shelters more than 6,700 marine species, 90 of which are unique on the planet.

Among the aquatic wonders is the thermal dome of Costa Rica, an oceanic phenomenon caused by the strong winds and ocean currents which creates an upwelling of plankton and an oasis frequented by large concentrations of fish and marine mammals including blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins and whale sharks. One of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage sites is Cocos Island National Park, a Pacific coast island which limits access to visitors and recommended for expert divers to see its diverse land and marine environment that is unlike any islands in this region of the Pacific Ocean.

Costa Rica Activities

Birdwatching Costa Rica has almost 900 species of birds – the density per square kilometer and the diversity of habitats in a relatively small territory, make possible more bird sightings than in any other county in the world in less travel time. Costa Rica’s National Parks, Protected Areas and Private Reserves provide ample stomping grounds to spot colourful avian varieties like the Blue-grey Tanager, Great kiskadee or Crimson-fronted Parakeet and Quetzal, but it is also possible to spot numerous birds in hotel and resort gardens in a wild environment.


Costa Rica is one of the favorite international destinations for surfing due to easy ocean access and variety of surf conditions throughout the year in Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limon. Both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines offer a myriad of surfing spots, with plenty of options from the north Pacific’s Potrero Grande to the Caribbean’s Puerto Viejo and the world-renowned Salsa Brava.