30 Things Costa Rica is Known For

Costa Rica has something for everyone. It doesn’t matter whether your interest lies in leisure, wildlife, agriculture, cuisine, geography, culture, or even health. Visiting Costa Rica will be a learning experience.

I often visit Costa Rica for leisure vacations. However, I also love visiting with my kids, and I am amazed by how much they learn every time. My husband and I have now agreed that every time we visit Costa Rica, we pick three things for the kids to learn.

Key Takeaways From This Article

When making a Costa Rica travel guide, ensure you incorporate a lot of activities. I highlight a few key takeaways about Costa Rica.

  • Costa Rica has six active volcanoes.
  • Growing coffee and cocoa are some of the economic activities in Costa Rica.
  • Besides its beautiful natural resources, Costa Rica has a lovely culture and historical sites.

Things Costa Rica is Known For

A vacation place is what most people know Costa Rica for. However, there are so many other things that you see and do.

1. Biodiversity:

Costa Rica is among the 20 top countries globally known for its remarkable biodiversity. Though not a large country, Costa Rica has about 500,000 different species, two coasts, several mountains, and forests.

The Costa Rican government has brought together the public and private sectors to help conserve the country’s rich diversity. It has 12 microclimates, including volcanoes, forests, beaches, tropical jungles, mountains, etc.

2. National Parks and Reserves

28% of Costa Rica comprises national parks and reserves. These national parks and reserves host hundreds of birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibian species. Tree and plant life cover 14,000 sq. km.

In 1970, Costa Ricans formed the Costa Rica National Park System to protect its natural heritage for future generations. I highlight some national parks and reserves under the government’s protection in the table below.

Costa Rican National Parks and Reserves
Arenal Volcano Tenorio Braulio Carillo
Cahuita Cocos Island Irazu
Cordillera de Talamanca Marino Ballena Barra Honda
Manuel Antonio Palo Verde Gandoca Manzanillo
Tortuguero Rincon de la Vieja Bahia
Turrialba Santa Rosa Cabo Blanco

3. Beaches:

Costa Rica has over 700 miles of coastline. All the beaches belong to the people; anyone can visit and enjoy them. However, you might be required to pay a small park fee for those within national parks or reserves.

The most popular beaches in Costa Rica, according to coast, include.

  • Pacific beaches: The Pacific side of Costa Rica consists of the Nicoya Peninsula, north and south Guanacaste, the Osa Peninsula, and the central and south Pacific. Some of the best beaches on the Pacific side of Costa Rica are Hermosa, Conchal, Flamingo, Tamarindo, Grande, Samara, Guiones, Espadilla, and Montezuma.
  • Caribbean coast: The whole of Limón makes up the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. It’s the shortest of the two coasts. The most popular beaches on this side of Costa Rica include Negra, Punta Uva, Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, Manzanillo, Cahuita, and Chiquita.

4. Volcanoes

Costa Rica has six active volcanoes: Arenal, Poás, Rincón de La Vieja, Irazú, Tenorio, and Turrialba. Another 61 volcanoes are dormant. National parks, hot springs, reserves, forests, and diverse wildlife surround most volcanoes.

Rincón de La Vieja volcano had its most recent eruption in 2021.

5. Eco-Tourism

Costa Rica has made eco-tourism one of its key components. Did you know that Costa Rica is among the few countries with a military force and no army? After abolishing the army in 1949, Costa Rica reallocated its resources to sustain its people and land.

Eco-tourism in Costa Rica is a major economic booster. Because of this, the Costa Rican government has taken strict measures to help conserve eco-tourism. The government involves the local community in its conservation efforts.

The locals gain financially by providing accommodation through eco-lodges and becoming tour guides. The locals work hard to take care of their sources of revenue.

6. Adventure Sports

If you are an adrenaline lover, Costa Rica should be on your bucket list. Diving, zip-lining, surfing, kayaking, and hiking are some activities you can enjoy, whether solo or with a group of friends.

Don’t worry if it’s your first time doing any sports. Many resorts and tour companies offer trainers for these adventure sports. Inform them you are new so the trainers can advise on safe sports.

7. Coffee Plantations

While Costa Rica is not among the top-producing coffee countries globally, you want to take advantage of the chance to taste their coffee. There are several coffee-producing areas in Costa Rica, but the main ones are in the southern mountains or central highlands.

But don’t stop at just tasting coffee; why not take a few coffee farm tours and learn all about its production, too? I have highlighted a few coffee farms that you will love.

  • Doka Estate is a large coffee and sugarcane plantation on the slopes of Póas Volcano.
  • Hacienda Alsacia is the only coffee farm that belongs to Starbucks.
  • Hacienda Espíritu Santo is a 600+-acre coffee farm. It is in Naranjo, a small town outside of San Jose.
  • El Toledo is a family-owned coffee plantation.
  • Café Britt Plantation is both a coffee and chocolate producer.

8. Wildlife Watching

With over 500,000 animal species, Costa Rica is truly an animal kingdom. All these animals find a home in over 27 national parks, countless wildlife refuges, eight biological reserves, and 13 forest reserves.

You’ll encounter rare animals in other countries, such as sloths, humpback whales, macaws, howler monkeys, green sea turtles, and many others. The best time to visit Costa Rica to watch wildlife is from December to April. The weather is drier during those months, making it possible to access where the animals are.

9. Pura Vida Lifestyle

Pura Vida means “pure life” and is Costa Rica’s slogan. But for the Costa Ricans, it means a more relaxed, stress-free, and slower way of living. Surrounded by nature, Costa Ricans strive to live a carefree and happy life. Something I have noticed from the locals in all the towns I have visited in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s “pura vida” lifestyle shows that people can live harmoniously with nature without necessarily being controlled by many laws. No wonder Costa Rica manages without the presence of an army.

10. Rainforests

Most of the rainforests in Costa Rica are on the southern Pacific coast and lowland areas along the Caribbean coast. The rainforests have lush vegetation and diverse wildlife. Thousands of insects, birds, amphibians, and reptiles call Costa Rican rainforests home.

Some famous rainforests in Costa Rica include Corcovado National Park, Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve, Tortuguero National Park, Carara National Park, and Corcovado National Park.

11. Hot Springs

Due to the many volcanoes in Costa Rica, there are hundreds of hot springs. Most popular tourist destinations have some hot springs. Visiting hot springs will leave you feeling relaxed, therapeutic, and rejuvenated.

Are you looking for hot springs in Costa Rica? Then you’ll need to visit Guanacaste province, which has the most hot springs. Some of the best hot springs in Costa Rica include Tabacon, EcoTamales, Rio Negro, Rio Perdido, Baldi, and El Silencio Mirador.

12. Sustainable Living

Costa Rica is among the few countries with 98% renewable energy. The government reversed deforestation by turning most of its land into national parks and reserves. All industries and regions in Costa Rica follow sustainability laws and customs.

In most of the accommodation facilities you visit, there are some sustainability practices that you will be requested to follow by the management. All Costa Rican students undertake elementary sustainability courses throughout the university.

13. Cultural Festivals

Costa Rica is a mixture of diverse people, including Spanish descendants, some indigenous tribes, the Afro-Caribbean, and others. Because of that, there are so many different cultural festivals throughout the year.

Ticos is the name given to locals—a few examples of Costa Rican culture and festivals.

  • Fiestas de Palmares is the longest festival in Costa Rica and lasts two weeks. Held in Palmares, the festival includes a carnival, live concerts, bullfights, local cuisine, and traditional dancing.
  • Puntarenas Carnival is also known as the “Carnival of the Queen” festival. It is held during the last week of February and has a lot of dancing before the queen’s coronation. Fireworks, fishing, horseback riding parades, and concerts carry the day.
  • Annexation of Guanacaste: Celebrated on July 25 to commemorate the day Nicoya district became part of Guanacaste province. Food, marimba music, horse parades, and cultural events fill the day.

14. Costa Rican Cuisine

You might notice rice and beans in almost every dish when trying different Costa Rican cuisines. However, one thing is sure: no matter which meal Costa Ricans make, they use fresh ingredients.

Gallo pinto is a national dish comprising rice and beans with lots of pepper, spices, cilantro, and onions. In some regions, it is a part of breakfast, and in others, it is a side dish during other meals.

When you visit Costa Rica, the following traditional foods are a must-try for an authentic experience of the local cuisine:

Costa Rican Dishes
Ceviche Arroz con Pollo Seafood
Casado Gorditas Chicharrones
Tamale Tortillas Empanadas
Olla de Carne Almuerzo Campesino Arreglados
Chifrijo Patacones Gallos

15. Indigenous Cultures

Because Costa Rica is an exciting country, my kids were happy to write a report on the indigenous cultures. We learned that eight indigenous groups remain in Costa Rica. They comprise Huetar, Maleku, Bribri, Brunka, Cabecar, Ngabe (Guaymis), Broran, and Chorotega.

The easiest tribe to learn from in Costa Rica is the Bribri. They have managed their agricultural practices, religion, language, and way of life. The Bribri people mainly live on the South Coast, concentrated in the Talamanca province.

16. Turtle Nesting

If you visit Costa Rica between March and November, please visit any beach where sea turtles nest and hatch. Sea turtles leave the ocean during the entire moon season and lay eggs. The female turtles dig holes in the warm sand and lay over 100 eggs. After seven to ten weeks, baby turtles hatch out.

There are five species of sea turtles common on Costa Rican beaches. Sea turtles, including leatherback, hawksbill, loggerhead, green sea turtle, and olive ridley, are endangered. Tortuguero National Park, Ostional Beach, and the Nicoya Peninsula are the most reliable places to see turtle nesting.

17. Cloud Forests

They are common at higher altitudes and have constant mist and moist conditions. Ferns, mosses, orchids, and other plant growth on trees are the most common.

  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the most famous cloud forests globally. On my last visit, I saw rare bird species, such as resplendent quetzals and bellbirds. You can zip line or fly above the canopy on hanging brides.
  • Bajos del Toro is a private cloud forest. The reserve is in the Central Highlands and has a popular eco-lodge with a spa.
  • Los Angeles Cloud Forest is a 2,000-acre forest reserve with over 347 bird species, wildlife, and plants.

18. Surfing:

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica experiences powerful waves and is popular with experienced surfers. Famous surf towns include Nosara, Jaco, Saint Teresa, and Tamarindo. The best season to surf in the Caribbean is between December and April.

Limón, Guanacaste, and Puntarenas are the provinces where you’ll find the most surfers. For beginners, the best place to learn surfing is Tamarindo. It offers milder waves and consistent breaks, which are ideal for beginners. Langosta and Puerto Viejo are the best places for experienced surfers.

19. Bird Watching

Costa Rica is home to over 947 bird species. I came across an incredible sight: the Resplendent Quetzal—one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Other beautiful birds you will likely encounter in Costa Rica include the black-faced solitaire, bellbird, macaws, aracari, motmot, toucans, and many others.

The best places for birdwatching in Costa Rica include Palo Verde National Park, Ranco Naturalista, Tapanti National Park, Corcovado National Park, and Manuel National Park. La Selva Biological Station, 140km northeast of San Jose, hosts 470+ bird species.

20. Conservation Efforts

The Costa Rican government is doing a lot to conserve and protect the environment. The government pays landowners to plant new trees and protect the old ones.

In August 2022, Costa Rica became the first Latin American country to receive payments from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.

21. Art and Craft

Buying art and crafts sold by the locals in Costa Rica will provide much-needed economic support. It’s also a way to learn more about the culture of the indigenous tribes found in Costa Rica. Skillful artisans in Costa Rica produce woodwork, pottery, oxcarts, jewelry, leather products, and other functional arts.

You’ll find skillful artisans in the small town of Sarchi, famous for colorful oxcarts (a traditional vehicle for transporting goods). Woodwork artisans are plentiful in markets across Costa Rica. Visit Guaitil, a town renowned for pottery crafts, and Boruca, a village famous for handicrafts.

22. Renewable Energy

Since early 2014, Costa Rica has produced 98% of its electricity from renewable energy. Costa Rica’s geographical layout has a lot of rivers, volcanoes, and dams, and it receives a lot of rainfall, making renewable energy production easier.

The largest source of energy in Costa Rica is electricity. Other sources include solar, power, wind, biomass, and geothermal.

23. Chocolate Production

Only a few people know that Costa Rica produces and exports cocoa. Costa Rica has been a vital cocoa producer since the early 1800s. The main cocoa production areas in Costa Rica are Brunca, Huetar Caribe, and Huetar Norte.

Costa Ricans only export high-quality cocoa due to its ideal geographical location. Hence, their chocolate tastes exceptional. They harvest cacao pods during specific times and ripe states to avoid losing quality properties.

24. Marine Biodiversity

The Isle de Coco in Costa Rica has 1,142 marine species, out of which 35 don’t exist anywhere else. Chordata, Mollusca, Echinodermata, and Arthropoda are the main species. In total, Costa Rica’s marine diversity comprises 6,778 species. Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast is where most species inhabit.

25. Canopy Tours

Enjoy the Tarzan swing and zip-lining by joining the Monteverde canopy tour. It’s a three-hour tour, and you get to participate in the longest zip line in Costa Rica. Other Canopy tours include Arenal Reserve, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, and San.

Canopy tours help you experience the jungle from the air, using cable connections and trees. That way, you can still view the wild animals lounging on the upper levels of the trees. Apart from zip-lining, you can take aerial tram tours. Others opt to hike on hanging bridges.

26. Yoga and Wellness Retreats

After all the hopping around different places, you also need time to relax. Yoga and wellness retreats are an excellent way to relax and regain energy.

Enjoy nature while caring for your body by visiting Oxygen Jungle Villas, Parador Nature Resort & Spa, Lost Iguana Resort & spa, Bodhi Surf & Yoga, and Arenal Springs and Resort.

27. Historical Sites

Apart from nature, Costa Rica is also rich in historical sites. The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, the hanging bridges of Arenal, and the Guayabo de Turrialba are some of the most precious historical sites in Costa Rica.

Don’t missthe chance to visit the pre-Colombian Gold Museum in San Jose. In the museum are 688 pre-Columbian gold pieces, plus more ceramics and stones from various regions of Costa Rica.

28. Friendly Locals

While Costa Rica continues to grow, its people remain friendly, though somewhat reserved. However, they are happy, inviting, and always smiling. The Ticos still maintain the small shops, friendly neighbors, and kids playing in the streets.

29. Unique Ecosystems:

Costa Rica has 12 different ecosystems.

Costa Rica’s Ecosystems
Cloud forest Lowland Tropical rainforest Semi-Deciduous Mid-Elevation Forest
Pacific coastline Highland Mountain rainforest Páramo
Tropical dry forest Mangrove Forest Wetlands
Caribbean coastline Shallow Sea Coral Reef

30. International Retirement Community:

Most ex-pats and digital nomads retire to Costa Rica. Its climate, low cost of living, and friendly people attract most foreign retirees.

Conclusion

Costa Rica is one of the most attractive countries in Central America. The country has so much to offer regarding tourism that it soon becomes everyone’s favorite. However, Costa Rica’s conservation efforts are what make it globally recognized.

There are so many things to do and see in Costa Rica. Please visit and share with us what else you discover.

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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