Costa Rica Travel Guide - Vacations

Costa Rica is a vacation paradise and so much more. The country is the most stable in the region, with a strong economy, a democratic government, a modern legal and judicial system, a well-developed physical infrastructure (everything from clean water to direct-dialed international calls to at least some good highways), and no need for a standing army (they did away with it so they could spend the money to improve the quality of life for everyone).

Costa Rica is justifiably famous for its tremendous reservoir of the world’s biodiversity, and the country aggressively protects its natural heritage. While other countries around the world are fighting a losing battle against poachers, Costa Rica uses the money earned from ecotourism to give their citizens (called Ticos) a society where there is no economic incentive to poach.

Tourism is Costa Rica’s number one industry, followed by agriculture and manufacturing. The national parks and wildlife refuges attract many visitors, as do the white sand beaches, the surf, the fishing, and the mild climate. Costa Rica offers many kinds of activity, from extreme sports to hiking and birding to relaxing on the beautiful beaches, to suit everyone’s taste.

More and more people are choosing Costa Rica not only as a vacation destination or as a place for their wedding or honeymoon but also as a great place to buy real estate. There are luxury condominium resort communities, individual beach villas, and many more modestly priced properties, too, that people are snapping up as vacation or retirement homes.

Costa Rica also caters to people who just want to get away from it all, whether for a yoga retreat or to get some cosmetic surgery and hide out. The beautiful surroundings and laid back culture dissipate your stress the minute you land in the country.

In Costa Rica, travel and tourism is an important part of the economy. Because it is the country’s number one industry, you can be assured of great hospitality and attention to your desires.

Travel is easy for visitors from anywhere in the English-speaking or Spanish-speaking world. The country is one of the most stable countries in Latin America, politically, economically, culturally, and environmentally. You can drink the water (in most places); the cuisine isn’t overly spicy; and every part of the country is a scenic paradise, with great beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific, rain forests, cloud forests, enormously varied wildlife, and numerous active volcanoes.

You do need a passport, but travelers from the US and Canada, most of Europe, and several other countries can visit for up to 90 days without a visa. You can plan on driving in the country if you watch out for the aggressive local drivers and the equally aggressive potholes. Driving defensively is the best bet. If you’re an aggressive driver yourself, your best bet is to leave the driving to the natives.

Other tips:

  • Bring high-speed film from home rather than planning to buy it locally. Better yet, bring a digital camera so you don’t have to worry about running out of film.
  • Expect mild weather, ranging from the 70s to the high 90s (on the coast, during the brief Caribbean summer). Assume there will be some rain, but don’t worry about your vacation being completely rained out.
  • The basic diet, if you plan to eat street food or take your meals in local eateries, is rice, beans, and corn tortillas, plus fresh produce, seafood, and some meat. Of course, this doesn’t apply in luxury resorts with fancy restaurants. You don’t need to worry about highly spiced food; but if you have a severe corn allergy, you should come prepared.
  • Pack light, as there are strict weight limits on baggage on all the airlines serving the country. Clothes you can hand wash are best (again, with the exception of luxury accommodations).
  • You’ll be able to rent any gear you need for adventure or ecotourism excursions.

One last word: SUNSCREEN!

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