Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination in Central America and is sought-after for its incredible national parks and nature conservation areas. It makes an ideal coastal vacation, bordered by the Pacific Ocean on its west side and the Caribbean Sea on the eastern side. 

Costa Rica translates to “rich coast” in Spanish, and it is easy to see why. It is known as one of the most biodiverse regions in the world and is teeming with fauna and flora. Costa Rica has many celebrated beaches that make for a perfect summer getaway. Also, the country has several active volcanoes, which are accessible and provide a different edge to your vacation. 

Lodging is renowned in Costa Rica, with five-star hotels and vacation rentals all over the country. Among these are the Lapa Rios Lodge on the Osa Peninsula and the Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo. Lodging is also extremely affordable, with hostels, cabins and mid-range hotels available as well. Hotels can also be tailored to the desires of any traveler. Ecotourism hotels provide rugged comfort. Some hotels have hot springs for those looking for a more relaxed vacation. 

The region is one of the safest Latin American countries, and is easily accessible from the U.S., averaging three to five hours of flight time. The country also falls within the central time zone, meaning that visitors from the U.S. will experience little, if any, jet lag. 

Although it is one of the safest countries in Latin America, general safety precautions are recommended. Travelers can be vulnerable to theft. Don’t leave valuables in cars (especially rental cars). Also, don’t leave your possessions unattended on the beach while swimming in the ocean. Furthermore, it is not a good idea to go into isolated places while alone at night, and always remain aware of your surroundings. 

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Puntarenas, Nicoya Peninsula (William / Adobe Stock)

Things to Do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is packed with things to do on your vacation, ranging from beach leisure, ecotourism, bird watching, cultural experiences and rural tourism. Costa Rica also offers some of the world’s most incredible wildlife spectacles, as well as cruises along its coasts, which allow you to appreciate a wide range of activities.  

Exploring Costa Rica through hiking 

Costa Rica can be explored on land through hiking trails that wind through its incredible national parks and weave between its mountains. These trails boast incredible waterfalls and magnificent rivers, allowing you to get in touch with nature. The region has sprawling landscapes and dense forests. The more adventurous can explore the trails on mountain bikes.  For the truly daring traveler, caving is another way to see Costa Rica’s natural beauty from a unique perspective.  

You can also explore Costa Rica from the air with treetop tours accessed by suspension bridges that provide a breathtaking view of the river landscapes below. On these excursions, you’ll see lots of interesting birds (particularly hummingbirds), and primates such as spider and howler monkeys. You can also zipline over the treetops, gliding through the canopies and stopping to hike at various points of interest. 

You can also explore the more rural towns and local communities on horseback and guided by an expert. This is a good way to experience the culture of Costa Rica and its rich cuisine. 

Exploring Costa Rica through the water 

Water adventures are another way to experience this beautiful country. River rafting is an option for thrill seekers, as is kayaking for those who want a quieter experience of lush forests, various wildlife and incredible landscapes. 

You can also take a canoe trip through rivers, lakes and wetlands, where you’ll  encounter one of the most biodiverse natural environments in the world. Sea kayaking is one way to see Costa Rica’s many beaches, each with varying colors of sand and all bordered by plush foliage. 

Diving is another extremely popular activity in Costa Rica.  A litany of marine species dwell along its shores and coastlines. Snorkeling also affords incredible opportunities to see the abundance of marine life and coral growths. 

Costa Rica is also a sought-after surfing destination, owing to its two coastlines, spectacular beaches and warm waters. The climate in Costa Rica is steadily pleasant, and the waves are perfect for surfing. Nicoya Peninsula is known for its ocean swells and uncrowded beaches, a perfect surfing spot. 

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Osa Peninsula, Pacific Ocean (Kevin / Adobe Stock)

Why Costa Rica is a unique tourist destination

Although the territory of Costa Rica is comparatively small, it contains almost 6% of the world’s biodiversity, with nearly half a million species. Costa Rica is a birdwatcher’s dream, with over 400 species of birds native to the area. The country is also known as the hummingbird capital of the world, with 50 different species of hummingbirds residing in Costa Rica.   

Other standout species dwelling in Costa Rica’s national parks include scarlet macaws, the endangered jaguar, sea turtles and their hatchlings, two- and three-toed sloths, spider and howler monkeys. Also, from July up to December, the beaches of Costa Rica become nesting sites for turtles, and you can see turtles laying their eggs in the sand. 

Costa Rica also has several volcanoes that can be explored. Most volcanic sites lie within national parks. The most popular volcano in Costa Rica is Arenal Volcano. Natural hot springs and lookout points are popular sites near Costa Rica’s volcanos. In total, Costa Rica is home to six active volcanoes, but all are accessible through guides.  

Waterfalls in Costa Rica are incredible, filled with clear blue water and surrounded by greenery and wildlife. Standout waterfalls are the Rio Celeste waterfall located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, as well as the La Fortuna waterfall at the bottom of the dormant Chato Volcano. Costa Rica also shares an impressive forest with western Panama that covers 6,300 square miles. 

Costa Rica also has vibrant and growing cities, with new restaurants and bars. The food is particularly notable in the capital of San José, with fusions of traditional cuisine and modern twists. It is also the perfect place for coffee lovers. Some of the world’s best coffee is sourced in Costa Rica. 

For travelers that are looking to unwind, Costa Rica offers many five-star spas and resorts to cater to your every wellness need. Enjoy a spa treatment and massage before soaking in a geothermal pool. 

Lastly, the locals in Costa Rica are extremely friendly and community orientated and are welcoming of tourists. Tourism is an integral part of Costa Rica’s economy, and this is reflected by the native hospitality. Above all, Costa Rica is known as one of the happiest countries in the world. With such incredible surroundings, it is easy to understand why this is the case.

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Blue, Gray And Silver Throated Tanager (Alajuela Bleung / Adobe Stock)

COVID-19 travel restrictions in Costa Rica

As of April 2022, all establishments could  operate at 100% capacity regardless of their vaccination mandates. 

Travel requirements for Costa Rica include a proof of a return ticket, proof of economic solvency in some cases, and varying duration of stay based on one’s country of origin. A valid passport or visa is also required for entry into Costa Rica. 

Travel to Costa Rica with AAA

Whether you need additional travel guidance for Costa Rica or you wish to book one of AAA’s world-class Costa Rica travel packages, get in touch with AAA today to speak with a seasoned travel agent.  

AAA has been in the business of curating high-end travel experiences for decades and uses its knowledge to create vacation packages to accommodate and reflect the needs and desires of every traveler.  

Get in touch with AAA today to speak with a passionate travel connoisseur about your upcoming vacation.