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Your guide to Costa Rica
All About Costa Rica
Pura Vida, or pure life, is the unofficial national motto of Costa Rica, which perfectly encapsulates a laid-back way of life that permeates much of this eco-conscious country. This tropical Central American destination is widely known for its dedication to green spaces, sustainable tourism, and conservation — providing an abundance of land set aside for public use and wilderness recreation, making it one of the world’s premier destinations for adventure travel. And with nature reserves and national forests covering 25 percent of the country, there’s a commitment to sustainable living and accessible fun that’s ever-present in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is also one of the most biodiverse places on earth, with climates and ecologies ranging from high-altitude cloud forests among active volcanoes to the Nicoya Peninsula’s lush beachside surf villages, where you’ll find plenty of eco tours and ziplining adventures. The country has pristine coastlines along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, each side offering distinct cultures, wildlife, and recreational opportunities — including surfing, diving, and horseback treks through the jungle. The capital city of San José is known for its museums — dedicated to gold, jade, and the arts, among other collections — and vibrant street markets.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a range of microclimates, and due to the Talamanca Mountain Range running through the center of the country, each coast has opposing wet seasons. If you’re visiting the Pacific coast, the ideal time to rent a house in Costa Rica is between December and April, when you’ll have plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures for beachgoing activities and exploring the lush rainforests. On the second Sunday in March, el Dia de los Boyeros (Oxcart Drivers’ Day) is marked with ornately hand-painted carts and a parade of dancers and drivers in Escazú, just outside San José. From September to October, the seasons flip, and the Pacific will be inundated with rain while the Caribbean coasts remain sunny and dry.
Because of this seasonal tradeoff, you can get away with renting a home in Costa Rica and spending time in the coastal communities most times of the year. However, if you plan on exploring the inland mountain regions, it is essential to visit in the Pacific dry season, as many of the trails and forests become too rainy to enjoy.
Top things to do in Costa Rica
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
This biodiverse reserve of mostly virgin forest sits in the mountains surrounding the villages of Monteverde and Santa Elena. Although you can get a day pass for self-guided trips, you can also hire knowledgeable guides on-site to explain the dense high-altitude jungle ecologies that are home to jaguars, pumas, spider monkeys, and hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. For added excitement, consider one of the many ziplining tours or guided night walks.
San José is the capital city and cultural center of Costa Rica, with plenty to offer in terms of history, art, entertainment, and culinary appeal. Museums like the Museo del Oro Precolombino — home to thousands of gold relics, figurines, and artifacts from the area’s early Mesoamerican civilizations — are just a short walk from the sprawling green spaces of Parque Metropolitano La Sabana, the city’s largest park, which contains the national sports stadium and art museum. Wandering San José’s meandering palm-lined streets is another way to discover the country’s culinary traditions. You’ll find plenty of cafes, high-end restaurants, and local eateries serving traditional casado plates — featuring black beans, rice, and a choice of protein — around every corner.
Miles of pristine white-sand beaches, dense palm forests, and cliffside waterfalls line this small beachside community along the southern edge of the Nicoya Peninsula. Set among some of the wildest tropical forests in the country, the village provides opportunities to explore areas like the towering Montezuma Falls and Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, with its miles of trails through thick-vined jungles home to wild storks and white-faced capuchin monkeys. The warm turquoise waters of the Gulf of Nicoya offer excellent snorkeling and diving, with world-class breaks that attract surfing enthusiasts from the world over.