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In 1502, Christopher Columbus first spied the densely forested coastline of a land he named Costa Rica (Rich Coast). Although resulting from the mistaken belief that there was abundant gold to be found, that name aptly applies to the richness of Costa Rica’s extraordinary natural history.

With the highest biodiversity of any nation its size, this small section of the Central American isthmus boasts two dramatic coasts, Pacific and Caribbean, between which runs a spectacular volcanic mountain chain.

Costa Rica’s astonishing variety of habitats contain a fantastical array of bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate species, and the two coasts boast beautiful beaches, huge mangroves and extensive offshore waters teeming with marine life.

Coupled with friendly people, a wide range of excellent accommodation, well trained guides, exemplary service and sound infrastructure, Costa Rica amply satisfies the highest of natural history holiday expectations.

Highlights

What To See

Osa Peninsula

The Osa is a large peninsula of true wet Pacific rainforest and still relatively pristine. It contains Corcovado National Park, the most wild and biodiverse of all Costa Rica’s reserves. Nature walks will normally reveal many different mammal, reptile and bird species, and offshore boat trips are possible to Cano Island for snorkelling, humpback whales and manta rays, and in Golfo Dulce to spot playful pods of dolphins. Osa is our favourite location and mandatory for those wishing to experience the top wildlife environment in Costa Rica.

Turrialba

Reached from San Jose via the historic Orosi Valley, Turrialba contains many top attractions: the CATIE tropical plant research station, the eponymous volcano, the white-water Pacuare River and the Guayabo National Monument, the most important pre-Columbian archaeological site in Costa Rica. The most easterly of the country’s volcanos, Turrialba offers forested slopes inhabited by quetzals, great scenery and hiking and riding trails taking you right to the top of its three craters. Once there, you can walk around the summit and down into one of the active craters – a very rare treat.

Savegre

Found near San Gerardo de Dota at 7000ft, just off the Cerro de la Muerte (Hill of Death) road, this lush, secret valley contains the resplendent quetzal and much more high altitude bird life besides. Ancient trees drip with mosses, orchids and bromeliads, and majestic tree ferns grow surprisingly tall – classic cloud forest habitat. Long walks can be enjoyed along forest trails to hidden waterfalls and beyond. Of the 400 hectares of the farm, 250 are excellently preserved primary cloud forest in which one has the best chance to see resplendent quetzals – perhaps the most beautiful bird in Central America. For those who require a quieter cloud forest experience, Savegre should be chosen over very popular Monteverde.

Poas Volcano National Park

One of the most popular volcanoes for visitors, Poas boasts a scenic crater lake and variably active fumarole. Accessible by car, the summit has an observation platform for viewing the bubbling sulphurous mud below, after which one can stroll to the crater lake through the stunted woodland. Early morning is the best time to visit, before mist forms to obscure your view of the volcano.

Rincon De La Vieja Volcano National Park

The 14,000-hectare park contains the eponymous active volcano consisting of nine contiguous craters, geysers, waterfalls, thermal pools, mud pools, cloud forest, dry tropical forest with many mammals and birds and a profusion of orchid species. The area around the park is renowned as the centre of activity and adventure tourism in Costa Rica.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal is the most frequently visited volcano in the country. The nearby town of La Fortuna has grown large through tourism, attracted by one of the world’s most visible volcanoes With clear weather, good activity levels and luck, one can observe huge boulders rolling down the mountainside and spectacular nocturnal pyrotechnics, accompanied by loud booming noises. However, for the last few years Arenal has been far less active than normal – please ask us for an update.

Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge

Almost bordering Nicaragua, the 10,000 hectares of this remote Central American “everglades” constitute the main wetlands reserve in the country, protecting an impressive array of waterfowl such as anhinga and neotropical cormorant, crocodile, caiman, iguana and terrestrial fauna such as capuchin and howler monkey. The lake, the focus of the reserve, floods during the wet season and drains away in the “summer” from December to April, but feeder rivers keep it from drying out completely.

Carara National Park

Offering the best chance to see scarlet macaws outside the Osa Peninsula, Carara protects a rare tract of primary transitional rainforest between the dry deciduous zone to the north west and the wet rainforest belt to the south east. There are also many other species of birds to see, as well as mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and a trail suitable for those with disabilities.

Cocos Islands National Park

Its nearest land being the Galapagos Islands, this unique volcanic mount far out in the Pacific Ocean has become famous amongst scuba divers for its schooling hammerhead sharks and other pelagic marvels. Visited only by live-aboard dive boats on seven-day cruises, the island has few disembarkation points and is uninhabited apart from some rangers. Legend has it that there is buried pirate treasure, but none has been found despite several search expeditions over the years. Only recommended for serious divers.

Irazu Volcano National Park

One can drive to the top of this 3,400 metres (10,000 feet) high volcano, with its dormant fumarole and extinct, green crater lake, winding through changing vegetation zones until reaching the moonscape at the summit. Seeing the clouds stretch below is wonderful, and on a clear day you can see both coasts.

Manuel Antonio National Park

The National Park and its environs have some of the finest beaches in the country, with lush rainforest coming down to the high tide mark and containing diverse wildlife. This includes mammals such as the three-toed sloth, black howler monkey, white capuchin monkey, endangered squirrel monkey and racoon, and 184 species of birds. Between the park and the town of Quepos are many varied hotels and resorts catering to the area’s many visitors, both local and foreign.

Monteverde

Founded by Quakers and owned by a non-profit organisation, the 10,500-hectare reserve consists of primary cloud forest with stunted trees festooned with an abundance of epiphytes (ferns, mosses, lichens, bromeliads and orchids). The reserve is home to the rare and beautiful golden toad (now possibly extinct) and over a hundred species of mammals including black howler monkey, sloth and six species of jungle cat (including the elusive jaguar and puma).

The main attractions are 400-plus species of birds which can be seen in the reserve including 30 species of hummingbird, rarities such as the three-wattled bellbird, bare-necked umbrella bird and the resplendent quetzal, the fabled Maya God-bird which is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful birds in the world.

One may also visit the town, traverse the SkyWalk canopy walkway, ride the long zip-lines of the SkyTrek, and visit the nearby reserve of Santa Elena.

Climate

Best Time To Visit Costa Rica

The conventional time to visit Costa Rica is between November and May, the “summer” months when the weather is usually drier. However, the “winter” months (April to August) can be equally attractive since, although there may be a higher incidence of rain, the forests are more lush, wildlife can be more active and visible and turtles visit the Caribbean coast. Costa Rica can be thought of as a year-round destination, although it is best to avoid September and October – the hurricane season. Read more in our Best Time to Visit Costa Rica blog post.

Costa Rica Travel

Getting There

Flight Time

14 Hours (plus stops)

Time Zone

GMT -6

Language

Spanish

Population

4.8 million

Featured

Wildlife Holidays

Accommodation

Featured Places To Stay

Hotel Belmar

Lovely hotel on a hillside with views over flower-filled grounds and cloud fores...

Xandari Resort & Spa

Boutique Resort with twenty four spacious, luxury villas, all with living area, ...

Maquenque Lodge

A haven for birdwatchers and naturalists situated in northern Costa Rica near th...

Pacuare Lodge

Set within a 25,000- acre area of pristine rainforest and river valley near Turr...

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Destination Map

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Costa Rica: 9.748917, -83.753428

Your Very Own

Costa Rica Specialist

John Melton

Area Specialist

If you have any questions regarding travel to Costa Rica, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965

This is just a brief note on return from our Costa Rica holiday to thank you for your excellent arrangements and to report on a very successful holiday… I would make a special mention of the service offered by [your representatives]. Every single booking and taxi arrangement was spot on, and the drivers were all helpful and friendly… Please pass on our specific thanks to them. Altogether we had a most relaxing and enjoyable holiday as well as some good birding…you succeeded in keeping my wife as well as me very happy! Many thanks.

Mr S M - Yorkshire