Why Should I Vacation in Costa Rica?
Even if you have never been to Costa Rica before, you have still no doubt heard about it as a vacation destination. Lying in the neotropics of Central America, bursting with plant and animal life, this country is sandwiched between two oceans and is home to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Half a million species (of which three fifths are insects, including spectacular tropical butterflies) occupy the land and sea of Costa Rica, and there are over a dozen distinct habitats in the country as well, from mangrove forests along the coast to cloud forest and rainforest further inland.
You should spend vacation in Costa Rica because it is the world’s foremost ecotourism destination for a number of very good reasons. The sheer diversity of its living creatures and plants, as well as the beauty of its mountains, seacoasts, beaches, waterfalls, hills, and misty, mysterious valleys means that you could potentially explore it for years and still have discoveries to make.
At the same time, there are plenty of modern conveniences in this Central American paradise, mixed with colorful local cultural events such as bullfights in which no bulls are killed, parades of beautifully painted oxcarts, exhibitions of horsemanship, and the like. There is something for everyone in Costa Rica, from those whose idea of relaxing is surfing and parties, to those who prefer to appreciate the wonder of a rare bird flitting amid thick, marvelously textured jungle vegetation on a remote mountain trail, to those who want a pleasant blend of all these activities.
Costa Rica is warm year round, so regardless of when you find the time to visit, a welcoming tropical warmth will greet you as step off the airplane at one of the Central Valley airports. Indeed, some of the finest floral displays of the dry tropical forests on the western slopes of the Costa Rican cordillera occur in December and January, making this an ideal getaway for those weary of the short days and bitter, snowy temperatures of the northern latitudes.
Vacationing in Costa Rica is a great way to get away to a clean, beautiful tropical paradise where you can enjoy everything from yoga and birdwatching to dancing, parties, and exotic food. But more than this, engaging in ecotourism here helps preserve one of the world’s most remarkable natural treasures, a network of habitats that is home to nearly 5% of the entire planet’s species.
You will come away from Costa Rica not only with spectacular memories of snowy waterfalls flanked by vividly emerald vegetation, or a rare quetzal peering at you from the high branches, but also with a warm glow of moral satisfaction at the thought that your fun helped to conserve such a unique trove of natural riches for the future.
What Types of Vacation in Costa Rica are Available?
Although the trite answer to this question would be that the types of vacation in Costa Rica are infinite and limited only by your imagination, the truth is that both time and money limit the possibilities of what most people can squeeze into their visit to this remote tropical land. However, the country is bursting with adventurous promise, and there are at least several dozen vacations that you might want to plan. Here are a few of the more popular options:
- Birdwatching vacations are a great choice for those who want to enjoy some of the nearly 900 types of avians that make their homes in the country. Around two thirds of these are permanent residents, and range from egrets and herons along the coasts, parrots and toucans inland, to tiny, jewel-like hummingbirds on the high volcano slopes.
- The Caribbean coast offers surfing and beach activities along its southern expanse, while the northern end of this coast is expensive to visit but offers a quieter experience with the possibility of seeing sea turtles in the correct season. Inland hikes expand the ecotourism possibilities in this region as well.
- The mangrove forests along the Pacific coast are popular for kayaking and boating expeditions. These vacations allow visitors to savor the variety of plants and animals in these habitats (made richer and more intriguing by the transition between land and sea) as well as the peace of gliding along tree-fringed waters under the vivid tropical sky.
- Hiking through the dry tropical forests during the dry season (the northern winter), when the trees and bushes are in flower. These prickly, slightly alien forests are less dense than the rainforest, giving you longer views than the rainforest affords. The peccaries, jaguars, and dry forest birds also give you a chance for viewing slightly different kinds of wildlife.
- Coffee plantation tours which give you the opportunity to visit still-functional coffee groves throughout the country, sample the different brews they produce, and get a close up look at the intriguing process that puts the morning “java” on millions of breakfast tables worldwide. These places also evoke a sense of Costa Rica’s remarkable history.
- Visiting or climbing the volcanoes of the central cordillera, which include mountains tall enough to see both oceans from the same vantage point on a clear day. Most of the volcanoes are the centerpieces of intriguing national parks where you can view some of the endless abundance of Costa Rica’s flora and fauna.
- Yoga retreats are available throughout Costa Rica, set against the soothing yet spectacular backdrop of the nation’s national treasures. Many of these are small, peaceful lodges near beaches, in valleys, or in other places that encourage calm and contemplation. Some supply their own organically grown food and offer vacationers the chance to participate in the relaxing process of tending the gardens as a form of yoga as well.
- Timing a visit during some of the annual festivals, such as the ox cart parade staged in several major towns, lets you sample the human diversity of Costa Rica as well as its animal and plant life. Smaller events such as bullfights and horse racing are more common, occurring at various dates throughout the year, and can be used to break up a program of nature viewing.
How Safe is a Vacation in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a relatively safe place to visit, but you should still exercise normal caution as you would when visiting any foreign country – or anywhere away from home. Theft is the biggest risk that most foreigners encounter during a vacation in Costa Rica, and you should take care to keep careful track of wallets and purses, be cautious of pickpocketing when people approach you on the street (one friendly person may be approaching you to distract you from someone else quietly moving in to slip a wallet out of your pocket), and do not ostentatiously display cash or valuables.
The murder rate in Costa Rica has been rising steadily for a decade and is now more than twice that in the United States, but it is far below Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, or indeed any other Central or South American country. This relatively low murder rate is probably due to a less stressed population thanks to the relatively broad-based prosperity that ecotourism has brought to the country.
Of course, you are a good deal safer in many tourist situations than in others. When you are out on a hiking trail leading to the hummingbird-haunted summit of a volcano, you can breathe deeply, relax, and enjoy the scene without worry. If you are exploring the night life of San Jose, however, then you should be considerably more cautious.
Central America is stereotypically the scene of political turmoil, coups and counter-coups, and all types of political mayhem, but Costa Rica has had very few such incidents even in its distant past. The jungle-clad, volcano-studded country has been a stable, peaceful democracy for decades. There is no standing army in Costa Rica, yet political unrest is close to unknown, so you can visit the country in the assurance that your vacation will not be interrupted by rioting, military takeovers, or any other problems of that type.
Why Should I Return for Another Vacation in Costa Rica?
No matter how many times you’ve been to on vacation in Costa Rica, there is always something new to see and do. With such a varied landscape, intricate puzzle of rich habitats, wealth of plant and animal life, and distinctive yet comfortably modernized human culture, you can return annually, or even several times a year, and discover a new facet of this green, breathing, ecologically inspiring neotropical jewel.