Places in Costa Rica

Top events in Costa Rica

September
14

In celebration of Costa Rica’s split from Spain, relay runners carry a freedom torch from Nicaragua to Cartago on the 14th of September, and then...

September
15

The entire isthmus celebrates Central American Independence on September 15, declared in 1821 by the Colonial capital in Antigua, Guatemala. The...

October
12

The Caribbean spirit shines through in this annual festival, which involves Latin music galore, fancy dress, dancing, parades, floats and juggling...

Volcan Arenal, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
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Volcan Arenal, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

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Costa Rica Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

51,100 sq km (19,730 sq miles).

Population

4.7 million (2013).

Population density

92 per sq km.

Capital

San José.

Government

Republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1821.

Head of state

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda since 2010.

Head of government

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda since 2010.

Electricity

120 volts AC, 60Hz. American-style two-pin plugs are standard.

Emerald rainforest, pastel-coloured hummingbirds, smouldering volcanic peaks, tumbling rivers, and freshly picked oranges still warm from the glowing Central American sun: if Mother Nature can ever be accused of showing off, it is in Costa Rica.

Sat just north of the equator, this verdant chunk is one of the most bio-diverse spots on the planet. Costa Rica has a simply stunning variety of landscapes, microclimates, flora and fauna. Showcasing the country's breathtaking plant life, Costa Rica's national parks are its greatest glory, with one-third of the country set aside as protected natural areas. As well as being a world leader in eco-tourism, Costa Rica superbly caters for visitors looking for an adrenalin kick, with options including white water rafting, zip line tours through the rainforest canopy, surfing and quad biking.

The country’s eco-conscious bent has been one factor in why Costa Rica remains a pristine wilderness; you won’t find the rampant overdevelopment that blights many tourist spots here. Instead, the government, having recognised the environment to be one of its biggest assets, has maintained its commitment to ecotourism, most recently evidenced by a promise to make Costa Rica the worlds’ first carbon-neutral country by 2021. The country’s long-term stability in a region often fraught with political uprisings is another factor in its relative prosperity – having abolished its army in 1949, all the money can go towards medical and social facilities instead.

Tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to getting up close and personal with nature. Whether it’s catching a glimpse of all four native monkey species in Corcovado National park, admiring the incredible orchids in the Monterverde Cloud Forest reserve, or becoming a bona-fide twitcher whilst out spotting one of the country’s 840 birds, Costa Rica will turn you into a nature-lover if you weren’t already.

The cities may not be its premier attraction, but that’s not to say tourists shouldn’t make a stop at one of Costa Rica’s urban centres. Get a sense of local life and culture as you explore downtown San Jose and its mishmash of architectural styles, national museums and excellent cafes. Or head to Puerto Limón on the Caribbean coast, a sleepy port town which makes an excellent jump-off point for surfers looking to catch the waves off Isla Uvita. It’s worth spending some time in the cities, if only to get a sense of how many Costa Ricans live, and what a multi-faceted country this truly is. For all those looking for an ethical adventure, Costa Rica’s charms will have you under their spell all too quickly.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 27 July 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Around 45,000 British nationals visited Costa Rica in 2013. Most visits are trouble-free, but incidents of violent crime against tourists have increased.

There is a low threat from terrorism.

Since early 2013 there has been a sharp increase in cases of dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases.

You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.  

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