With both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, miles of untouched rainforest, towering volcanic peaks and fast-flowing rivers, it’s no surprise that Costa Rica is the wildlife star of Central America.
Resplendent quetzals, once considered divine by pre-Columbian civilisations, flit through the moss-dappled cloud forests. Hummingbirds congregate to drink nectar from a fabulous feast of flora. Monkeys howl in the rainforest canopy. Jaguars slink across the shady forest floor. And turtles lay their eggs along the coast’s virgin beaches.
The capital, San José, has a spectacular setting in the Central Valley, ringed by mountains and volcanoes on all sides. The Pacific coast stretches southwards from the Papagayo Peninsula in the north, past the unspoilt beaches of Nosara, Santa Teresa and Uvita, to the Osa Peninsula in the south, a remote yet rewarding outcrop of beautiful beaches, tangled mangroves and lush, dense rainforest.
On the Caribbean coast, Tortuguero National Park is the obvious star, its coastal rainforest threaded by a maze of canals, swamps and waterways. Dividing the two coasts is a string of mountains and volcanoes, including Arenal, a sleeping giant that rises imperiously above the rainforest canopy. Amongst all this are some of Central America’s most innovative lodges, from which a wealth of activities can easily be organised, from trekking, horse riding and white-water rafting to zip-lining, surfing and volcano climbing.
When to go
The weather is at its driest and brightest between December and May.