Costa Rica travel information
Information to help you prepare for your vacation or vacation to Costa Rica courtesy of 'The Key to Costa Rica'. With a wealth of practical and background information, this travel guide is the essential companion for your vacation.
Costa Rica is a fascinating country to travel on vacation. It is a land bridge between North and South America, so its forests and seas are rich in wildlife from both continents. In a country the size of the US state of West Virginia, there is a great variety of altitude and terrain. Mount Chirripo reaches 13,000 feet. On vacation go and stare into the mile-wide crater of the semi-dormant Poas Volcano, or soak in hot springs while watching lava ooze from the top of active Arenal Volcano. In the lowlands of the Caribbean coast travel the serene waterways in Tortuguero National Park or get a thrill on the white water of the Pacuare river. And of course there are the beaches--miles and miles of them on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to relax on vacation.
Costa Rica is also fascinating for the foresight of its leaders, who established public education and democratic elections in the 1880's, abolished the army in the 1940's and have preserved over 25 percent of Costa Rica's territory in a system of conservation areas. MINAE, the ministry responsible for the parks, has a very active citizen arm, called COVIRENAS (Comite de Vigilancia de los Recursos Naturales). In this lively, grassroots movement, neighbors in natural areas are given the power to conduct citizen arrests if they witness environmental crimes. The same committees organize to do organic gardening, recycling and environmental education in the schools. Of course Costa Rica's long-standing democratic traditions help this to happen.
Ecotourism in Costa Rica in its finest sense saves pristine natural areas by inviting tourists to experience them in a principled way, using the proceeds to protect and maintain the same areas. Great ecotourism opportunities exist in all parts of Costa Rica.
In the dry northeastern province of Guanacaste there is bird-watching at Los Inocentes, the famous canopy tour at Buenavista Lodge, or visiting communities that have made tourism their own, like the pottery-makers of Guaitil, or the Montealto Reserve, created by the town of Hojancha to preserve its watershed. Beachwise, the communities of Nosara and Montezuma have done the most to preserve habitat.
In the Southern Zone, tourists can search for the incredibly beautiful Resplendent Quetzal at El Toucanet, Mirador de Quetzales or Hotel de Montana Savegre on the slopes of Cerro de la Muerte. From there they can travel and hike on the Tapir Trail through local farms, ending with a rafting trip on the Savegre river near the famous Manuel Antonio National Park. The Tapir Trail (Paso de la Danta) seeks to unite the forests of the Osa Peninsula with forests of the Talamanca Range. Of course there are the lovely ecolodges of the Osa--El Remanso, Bosque del Cabo, Lapa Rios, Luna Lodge, Corcovado Tent Camp, and the great lodges in Drake Bay, among them the locally-owned Jademar and Poor Man's Paradise. All of these lodges protect the rainforests around Corcovado National Park, and sightings of scarlet macaws, white-faced and howler monkeys, and several species of dolphins and whales are common.
On the Atlantic Coast, ANAI was just awarded the Equator Prize at the World Summit in Johannesburg for its decades of work with the communities of Talamanca, which have created five ecotourism lodges working for conservation, sustainable community development and protection of cultural traditions. In addition, the Gandoca community provides homestays and hotels for ecotourists and volunteers in the ANAI Sea Turtle Conservation Program, and the Manzanillo Guides Association provides botanical, wildlife and fishing guides.
In the northern region of Sarapiqui, are Costa Rica's original rainforest ecotourism projects--La Selva and Rara Avis, now complemented by the Centro Neotropico Sarapiquis with its pre-Columbian tombs and Tirimbina Rainforest Reserve.
The New Key to Costa Rica (16th edition) covers nature travel and ecotourism by trying to acquaint readers with both the beauties of Costa Rica and the environmental challenges in each area. We mention nature lodges, community-based ecotourism projects, volunteer opportunities and natural destinations that will give you a great vacation while making sure that your money goes to protect the nature you came to see. For the last ten years we have included a Sustainable Tourism Rating, which highlights the lodges we think are doing the best job.
Country facts for Costa Rica vacations
The best time to visit Costa Rica is November to April.
The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish, and Limón Creole English or Mekatelyu is spoken in Limón Province (Puerto Limón).
The currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colon (CRC).