It’s not too hard to fall in love with Costa Rica. This small country has absolutely everything, and in the past years, its popularity has been growing. Costa Rica is now the #1 destination in Central America for short-term tourists and long-term relocators alike, and the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. Just a couple days in this tropical country will already steal your heart, but it will take more than that to truly get to know this beautiful land. Take some time in Costa Rica and find out what pulls at your heartstrings, we know you’ll find something new at every stop. And while you’re at it, keep an eye out for our 20 favorite things about Costa Rica.
1. Local Coffee
You’ve probably tried Costa Rican coffee before, as it’s a favorite in both Starbucks and small, local coffee shops around the world. But you probably haven’t ever had a cup of joe straight from the source. Costa Rican coffee is delicious. It’s strong, dark, and full of flavor. Best yet, your favorite coffee plantation probably accepts visitors for tours, tastings, and a full lunch. You may possibly even get eco-lodging and scenic hikes out of the deal. Costa Rica is the coffee lover’s dream, and a trip to visit your favorite bean will be fun for your entire travel group.
2. Stunning Views
Costa Rica is home to almost 5% of the entire world’s biodiversity, but this fact may be only stunning to someone who has never visited the small country. Those who have visited have already seen the white sand beaches, mountains, lowlands, volcanoes, and rainforests. They’ve also seen the exotic flowers, rare tropical birds, and dense jungle thrush. No matter where you turn, you have an incredible view right in front of you.
3. Salsa Nights
Vacations aren’t all just relaxation and good food, you need to get some active fun in as well. That’s where Salsa Nights come in. Any city or beach town will have a weekly salsa night, and you’ll be invited. You can simply drink rum, chat with your travel group, and admire the practiced dancers, or you can join in the fun. Dancers of all levels will be there, mixed in with people with no experience whatsoever, so you’ll fit in just fine. These nights are active, cultural, and you’ll leave with a handful of new dance moves and friendships.
Obviously, Costa Rica is well known for their sloths. These animals can be found on your jungle hikes, but you just might run into one in a bustling city, on the side of the road, or in your hotel patio. There’s no saying where these slow-moving guys will show up, but they’re always welcome.
5. Pick Your Climate
When we say Costa Rica has some of everything, we mean it. It has steamy hot Pacific and Caribbean beaches, chilly mountains, and the Central Valley that stays in that perfect 70-80 degree range for most of the year. Whatever your climate preferences may be, you’ll find it in Costa Rica. And it will doubtlessly come with its own array of breathtaking scenery.
6. The “Pura Vida” Life
This phrase translates to “pure life,” but in Costa Rica, it’s used almost constantly. It can be a greeting, a goodbye, or used as the word “cool” or “nice.” It also encompasses the entire way of life, focusing on happiness and good health before all else. Here, life is slower paced, you have less stress, and your encouraged to be and act happy. Your tour guide will be pura vida, your beach trip will be pura vida, and the glass of local rum you drink from your beach-side hammock will most definitely be pura vida. This is not a difficult lifestyle to get used to.
In Costa Rica, asking for a soda will get you directions to the nearest family-run, cafeteria-style restaurant. Here you’ll pay around $6 for a huge plate of delicious, traditional food created entirely with local ingredients. You’ll experience the dishes of Costa Rica, support the local economy, and fill up entirely without breaking the bank.
8. Hot Springs
As if Costa Rica wasn’t magical enough, it has hot springs. These are naturally-formed pools of water which are heated entirely by volcanic energy. Occurring naturally along the edges of volcanoes, some of these hot springs are a happy surprise to be found mid-hike, and others have been converted into full-service luxury spas. This may be the most incredible way to recuperate your weary muscles after a week of jungle adventures.
9. Adventure Sports
When you see pictures of Costa Rica, they almost always include someone lounging in a beach-front hammock, cocktail in hand. While this may be a rather accurate picture, it’s not all that Costa Rica offers. From mountain biking to rappelling, climbing, and water skiing, Costa Rica has one of the most wild Adventure Sports scenes in the world. Whether you’re already an expert or looking for a good beginner’s teacher, Costa Rica is the place to be.
One of the natural miracles of Costa Rica is the cacao fruit, which turns into chocolate after the pods are roasted. Unsurprisingly, the availability of cacao has gave way to some incredible artisanal chocolate companies, and their products are amazing. Eating a bar of dark chocolate made from organic, local ingredients is the dream come true for any choco-lover. Try as many local sweets as you can, you may just find your new favorite bar.
The only thing better than enjoying every aspect of a country is learning that the country is taking care of itself. In Costa Rica, around 24% of the land is protected. The government puts considerable work into renewable energy, conservation laws, and eco-tourism options. While you hike the jungles and scale the volcanoes, staying in an eco-lodge will be the best decision you can make. You’ll enjoy the country to the fullest and ensure that you don’t leave behind a negative footprint.
12. National Parks
Speaking of protected lands, Costa Rica has National Parks. TONS of National Parks. For all of your adventurism or meditation needs, head to the nearest park. You’ll enjoy the sites, have maintained trails at your disposal, and find some incredible wildlife.
13. The Ticos
“Tico” is the friendly name for a Costa Rican. And here in Costa Rica, the people are absolutely the best. Internationally, Ticos have a reputation as friendly people who will go out of their way to help. When you’re visiting the country, you’ll be helped constantly by a friendly stranger, always quick to point out directions or give adventure suggestions.
14. Fresh Produce
You won’t make it 30 minutes outside of the airport before running into your first produce stand. Fresh, local produce is sold street-side for just pennies on the dollar, and some of these foods are so exotic you may never have even heard of them. You’ll have everything you need for a tropical fruit salad, and still be able to take advantage of the smoothie stands and coconut water vendors. In Costa Rica, you can enjoy a tropical summer year-round.
15. Leatherback Turtles
These huge turtles are amazing to see, and Costa Rica’s dedication to protect them and their natural habitat is even more amazing. If you time your trip right, you may even be able to watch the amazing hatching process, when the baby turtles scramble toward the sea.
If Costa Rica loves one thing, it’s soccer. And what’s not to love? The National Team is better every year, and the fan base gets wilder with every passing season. Regardless of whether you’re a soccer fan or not, you’ll want to find yourself in a sports bar for a game. The bar will be full of die-hard fans and you’ll make some fast friends by expressing any pride in their teams.
Most tourists try to avoid adventuring in Costa Rica during the rainy season, but they’re missing out. While they may not have the unpredictability factor in their hiking itinerary, they won’t get to see the angry tropical storms roll over the Pacific either. These storms are truly impressive, and enjoying them from a beach-side bar with a beer in hand is an incredible afternoon. When these furious storms end, typically within 30 minutes of starting, they set the scene for the most vivid sunset imaginable.
It has to be mentioned, Costa Rica has hammocks, and lots of them. You’ll have hammock time in your hotel, on the beach, and in the city. When in a beautiful country, it would be a shame not to spend a couple hours admiring the scenery from a hammock. Do as the locals do and bring the hammock with you on adventures, you’ll be glad to have it when you find that perfect viewpoint.
19. Salsa Lizano
Salsa Lizano is a local sauce that has won the hearts of every country in Central America, and its fame is quickly spreading. This sauce, a strange mixture between a steak sauce and a barbecue sauce, can now even be found state-side. And it’s incredible. There will be Salsa Lizano in any hotel or restaurant you visit, so be sure to ask for the bottle. You’ll want a couple drops on your morning eggs and afternoon meats.
Costa Rica loves to throw parties, and we love to attend. From city parades, to community bull rides, dancing festivals, and history reenactments, every public party comes hand-in-hand with delicious food, lots of drinks, and happy music. Costa Ricans know what an incredible country they have, so nearly weekly celebrations are a must.