One of the most stable and safest destinations in Central America, Costa Rica, shines with its eco-tourism, unspoiled beaches, pristine wilderness and superb infrastructure. This beautiful country is a major international holiday and adventure-travel destination, but remains undamaged, with plenty of natural wonders and biodiversity available for those who want to escape the crowds.
The wonderful capital, San José, is in every way a modern city, with shopping malls and fast-food chains, but it retains a charming element with plenty of low-key sights like good museums and traditional markets. Travelers will find plenty of small but elegant hotels in renovated historic buildings as well as a range of fine international cuisines.
A visit to San José’s Centro Nacional de Arte y Cultura is rewarding. This complex is located in what was once the National Liquor Factory but today contains the offices of the Cultural Ministry, several performing arts centers, and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design. Museo de Oro Banco Central is an underground museum with massive collections of pre-Columbian gold. La Paz Waterfall Gardens provide a cool escape from the city streets. Here, you can walk along trails through the forest and alongside the La Paz River, with lookouts over a series of waterfalls.
Another town you won’t want to miss is Monteverde, in northwestern Costa Rica. This tiny settlement was founded by Quakers in 1951. The Monteverde Biological Cloud Forest Reserve offers incredible, rich biodiversity and is popular among scientific researchers and eco-travelers. Although it covers just 10,400 hectares, there are more than 2,000 species of plants, 400 species of birds, and 100 different species of mammals living here.
Many people come to Costa Rica for its beaches, which alone are worth the trip. The Pacific coast contains an appealing blend of luxury resorts and deserted beaches. Golfito, on the southern Pacific coast, is an important port and good base for exploring the area’s beaches.