• Coastline Cloud forests and crystal waters
  • Coast life Zip lines, surfing and snorkelling

‘Pura vida’ is Costa Rica’s national motto, and for good reason. Visitors to this beach-enclosed paradise can enjoy the pure life in some of the most biodiverse jungles, rainforests and coastlines in the world.

Costa Rica’s name alone hints at the country’s most beautiful scenery: its pristine shores. The country is book-ended by beaches on its Pacific and Caribbean sides, hence the laid-back surfer ethos that characterises coastal life. Inland, nature holds sway: a quarter of Costa Rican land is protected. It’s as though the landscape has been prepped for a Nat Geo photo shoot, with smouldering volcanoes, dense emerald jungles, and rainforests towering into the clouds. The Afro-Caribbean culture that dominates the east brings reggae and Rastafarianism, and in the highlands, farms and plantations produce delicious, gem-bright tropical fruit, as well as some of the finest coffee ever to grace your espresso cup. Not a place for museum-trudgers or city-break addicts, Costa Rica is where you go to come face to face with Mother Nature, gloriously undressed.

Do go/Don’t go

There isn’t a bad time to visit Costa Rica. The dry season runs from December to April. Although the wet season, from May to November means rainy afternoons, it’s the best time to see the rainforest come to life.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes San Jose’s Juan Santamaría International (SJO) is the main airport, served by most major airlines, including United Airlines (www.united.com), British Airways (www.britishairways.com) and TACA (www.taca.com). Flights operate from New York, Madrid, Miami, Toronto and other international cities. There's a departure tax of about US$26. Smaller airlines, including Nature Air (www.natureair.com) and Sansa (www.flysansa.com) cover Costa Rica’s smaller regional airports.
  • Automobiles A rental car can come in handy for any travellers looking to explore Costa Rica’s parks and forests. There are rental kiosks at every airport and most tourist hubs. Avis (www.avis.cr) is a reliable company.
  • Taxis It’s not easy to flag cabs on the street, so ask your hotel for the number of a reputable company. Rates are typically low. In more-remote destinations, it’s best to request four-wheel drive.