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“All trails seem to lead to waterfalls, misty crater lakes or jungle-fringed, deserted beaches. Explored by horseback, foot or kayak, Costa Rica is a tropical choose-your-own-adventure land.” – Lonely Planet

Why visit Costa Rica

We studied Spanish on our own before coming to the United States from Russia. We learned enough to read books, but our spoken Spanish was poor. Realizing that to improve the foreign language, one needs a full emersion, we went to Costa Rica and ended up spending one month there, traveling through the country by bus.

Costa Rica is sandwiched between Panama and Nicaragua and between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This small country offers mountains, volcanoes, lush jungles, and pristine beaches with sea turtles nesting on both coasts.

Also, Costa Rica has an enormous variety of tropical fruit and to-die-for coffee. Costa Rican coffee is world famous. You can get this strong aromatic drink anywhere in that country.

We spent several days in the capital San Jose, visiting its opera theatre and art museum, joining the city tour, walking in the lush city parks. In Mercado Central, we saw the mounds of mangos, leeches, cherimoyas (custard apple) and tried several unfamiliar tropical fruits.

The biggest draw of Costa Rica is its’ nature – mountains, volcanoes, jungles, beaches. There are more than 60 volcanoes which are either dormant or extinct. There are also six active volcanoes.

The two volcanoes which are still active are Poas and Irazu. Each of them is very close to San Jose and can be visited in one day. It takes just about an hour and a half by bus. We liked Poas volcano so much that the next day we hopped on another bus that took us to Irazu.

Irazu is Costa Rica’s tallest active volcano, standing at 11,260 feet. It is usually cloud-covered, and this is what we encountered when we got off the bus. We could see almost nothing. We put on the raincoats to protect our clothes from the dense fog. After a couple of hours, the sun burned the mist, and we marveled at the spectacular views of the crater.

Arenal is another popular tourist destination, but it is located much further from San Jose – 3 ½ hours drive. You should plan a two-day trip to see this famous volcano.

Manuel Antonio State Park can also be reached by bus – no need to rent a car. You will be greeted by iguanas and capuchin monkeys almost from the first few yards of entering the park. A close look at the trees will help you to spot a sloth. It is not an easy thing to do since the sloths hardly move at all. We couldn’t find a sloth on our own, but luckily a passing group of tourists lead by a local guide, helped us to spot it.

Manuel Antonio State Park offers several cozy coves which are perfect for swimming. If you bring your bathing suit, you can take a dip in the calm and warm water. It will refresh you after a long hike in the park.

Where to sleep in Costa Rica

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Book your flight to Costa Rica

Best time to visit Costa Rica

The best time to travel to Costa Rica is during the dry season, from mid-December to April


In Costa Rica, you will save money on day tours if you book them through the local tour operators. Your hotel will help you to get in touch with these companies. It is more expensive to book day tours if you do it from your home.

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