Few places boast the range of natural attractions available in Costa Rica and Costa Rica holidays guarantee you some extraordinary experiences; beach holidays in Costa Rica are centred on the Caribbean coast and the spectacular stretches of sand there whilst wildlife holidays here are popular ways of exploring the many national parks and eco-tourist destinations. [See Costa Rica holidays tailor-made itinerary ideas]
The capital San José is a great mix of traditional and Spanish architecture. Close to the city is the crater of Irazú; the surreal lunar landscape is one of Costa Rica's most stirring sights. Arenal is one of eight active volcanoes in the country; night-time eruptions are the most spectacular. The thermal springs and mud pools of Volcán Rincón de la Vieja are best explored on horseback or on foot. Trekkers should scale Cerro Chirripó, the country's highest summit.
People looking to spot wildlife should travel to Santa Rosa National Park, which has ten different habitats, or Tortuguero National Park to explore the lush rainforests, long beaches, swamps and lagoons teeming with wildlife, including nesting turtles. Parque Nacional Corcovado is considered one of the most biologically diverse places in the world, whilst Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio is perfect for primates including howler monkeys and capuchins.
Costa Rica's best beach is Playa Conchal, whilst the wildest surfing is at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Offshore, in the Pacific, lie San Lucas and Isla del Coco, two attractive islands with fine beaches and plenty of history.
When to go
Costa Rica has just two seasons, winter (wet) and summer (dry). These seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere with summer running from December to April, this is also known as the dry season and is the perfect time to visit the beautiful beaches of the Pacific coast.
In the wet season (May to November) most of the rain falls on the country's vast rainforests and the weather can disrupt transport routes to the southeast and the Osa peninsula. In most places the rainfall is intense but brief. Some activities are actually better in the rainy season (rebranded as the Green Season by Costa Ricans), for instance whitewater rafting and birdwatching, but others can be difficult if not impossible, so plan carefully if visiting during the rainy months.
Capital - San Jose
Size - 51,100 sq km
Language - Predominantly Spanish. The most commonly spoken version is Costa Rican Spanish, a form of Central American Spanish. Local indigenous languages are still spoken by a small percentage of the population and an English based Creole language called Mekatelyu is spoken to varying degrees in Limon province.
Population - 4 million
Religion - Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Costa Rica, although the constitution also provides for freedom of religion. 70.5% of the population are Roman Catholics, but 13.8% declare themselves Evangelical Protestants, while 11.3% report no religion at all and 4.3% declared that they follow another religion.
Currency - 1 Costa Rican colon = 100 céntimos
Time zone - GMT - 6 hours
Flight time from the UK - Direct flights from London to San José take approx. 11 hours.
January - Dia de Santo Cristo de Esquipulas, popular religious festival celebrated with fiestas, dancing and ox cart parades.
February - Fiesta de los Diablitos, the festival of the little devils is an indigenous celebration centring on a re-enactment of a battle between the Spanish troops and the Boruca Indians (the diablitos).
February - Ash Wednesday
March - Dia de los Boyeros, oxcart driver's day, with parades of beautifully hand pained ox carts, traditional costumes and dancing in San Antonio de Escazu.
March - Dia di San Jose, a national holiday in San José, this is the feast day of the cities patron St Joseph.
June - St Peter and Paul's day
July- Fiesta de la Virgen del Mar, Puntarenas celebrates the virgin of the sea with a flotilla of fishing boats.
October - Columbus Day, a national holiday in Limon to commemorate the arrival of Columbus in the new world
December - Festival de la Luz, weeklong festival of lights in San José
December - Immaculate conception, popular religious celebration.
Please note that entry requirements and visa regulations can change often and at short notice. We can provide general information about the passport and visa requirements for your trip and this information may be included after the itinerary section of your quotation. Your specific passport and visa requirements and other immigration requirements are your responsibility and you should confirm these with the relevant Embassies and/or Consulates. Neither we nor the principal(s) or supplier(s) accept any responsibility if you cannot travel because you have not complied with any passport, visa or immigration requirements. Please call your WEXAS specialist if you wish to discuss entry requirements.
Passports must be valid one calendar day beyond your departure date from Costa Rica. Proof of a round trip ticket or onwards travel to another country must also be provided. If you are visiting another country or countries en route or after visiting Costa Rica, be sure to check any additional entry requirements.
Costa Rican colones are issued in four denominations: â‚¡1000, â‚¡2000, â‚¡5000 and â‚¡10,000, and coins in â‚¡5, â‚¡10, â‚¡25, â‚¡50, â‚¡100 and â‚¡500. Note that older coins are large and silver while newer coins are small and gold. US dollars are widely accepted but you should not rely on them.
ATMs that accept visa and/or MasterCard are widely available at most banks and shopping malls as well as inside San José airport. Note some ATMs will only accept cards held by their own customers.
Most state run banks will change US dollars and some will also change euros, but it is impossible to change any other major currency. There is a small charge on credit card transactions, though it is advisable to carry cash as not everywhere will accept cards, especially outside of the main tourist establishments.