Costa Rica has long been seen as an “eye of the hurricane”–a peaceful nation situated in the center of an often turbulent region. The rich history and well-preserved and diverse environment attracts tourists from around the globe. From its beautiful beaches to its massive rainforest, teaming with wildlife, the Costa Rican government has long been committed to preserve the country’s reputation as a environmentally and user-friendly place to visit.
Traveling in Costa Rica
Because it’s the transportation hub for international visitors, most people spend a couple of day in the capitol city San José for at least a couple of days. Compared to other Central American capitols, San José is more metropolitan and modern, with finer restaurants, nice hotels, shopping malls, a variety of museums, and more. But if you’re travelling on a budget, don’t let the polish of San José deter you. It’s possible to eat, sleep, and enjoy all that Costa Rica has to offer, for as low as US$20-$30 a day.
If using traveler’s checks, stick to U.S. dollars. American cash is the most easily exchanged, but it’s recommended you use small, newer bills, as countefeiting is widespread. Restaurants typically add a 10% gratuity to the bill, so tipping here is unnecessary unless the service is exceptional. It’s recommended, however, that you tip bell boys, room attendants, and tour guides.
The Caribbean coast is home to many of the more popular beaches and most of the protected environmental area in Costa Rica. The wildlife here is plentiful–including the hanging sloth and breeding grounds for green sea turtles–and it’s also the most culturally diverse part of the country, with plenty of handicrafts, music, and cultural tours to be had. If you’re looking for a little quiter action, head to the Pacific coast, where more remote beaches, parks, and destinations can be found on the Península de Nicoya and elsewhere. One of the nicest beaches in Costa Rica is Playa Sámara, and Montezuma, near the tip of the Península de Nicoya.
Weather in Costa Rica
The dry season in Costa Rica is between late December and April; the wet season lasts the rest of the year; however, the Caribbean coast tends to be wet year round. As a tropical country, temperatures vary little between seasons, affected most by altitude. San José, at 3772 feet, has a climate that the locals refer to as the “Eternal Spring”: lows average 60°F (15°C) and highs average 79°F (26°C). The coasts tend to be much hotter, with the Caribbean from the 70s to the high 80s (°F) day to night. The humidity at lower altitudes can be oppressive.
Republic of Costa Rica Information
Population: 3.8 million
Square Miles: 19,929 sq mi (51,100 sq km)
Capitol: San José (pop: 340,000)
Official Languages: Spanish, Creole English, and Indian dialects
People: 96% Spanish descent, 2% African descent, 1% indigenous Indians, 1% Chinese
Religion: 85% Roman Catholic, 14% Protestant
Major products/industries: Tourism, electronics, coffee, bananas, sugar, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products