Hailed by many as “the happiest country in the world”, Costa Rica welcomes with an amazing array of wonders. Incredible biodiversity? Check. Warm, friendly people? Check. Stunning terrain ranging from cloud forests to pristine beaches? Check.Depending on your desired level of adventure, you can choose to unwind on the impossibly white sand beaches of the Caribbean shores, explore underwater life on the Pacific shores, or venture into the colorful tropical jungle for an educational tour of the natural wildlife, or an adrenaline buzz, ziplining through the trees.
1. Snorkeling or Diving
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One of the best kept secrets on the Pacific side of the country are the crystal-clear waters of Playa Conchal. Calm enough for rookies but with a wealth of biodiversity for experienced divers willing to go further, the waters are a wonderful way to explore some of the best snorkeling/diving in the world. Dive operators abound and one can rent all the required equipment to go exploring the marine paradise. On the Caribbean side, Isla Uvita has multi-colored tropical fish, sea fans, and a coral reef. Farther south, at Cahuita, is Costa Rica's most beautiful coral reef, extending 500 meters out from Cahuita point. Skincare tip: While diving or snorkeling, don’t forget to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and to reapply at least every 2 hours.
2. Zip Line through the Canopy
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Adrenaline junkie? Costa Rica has you covered. If you’re in for some outdoor adventure, this is IT. You can conveniently book a tour that includes a delicious Costa Rican lunch, photography (trust us, you WANT to document this!), multilingual guides (Spanish and English), and frequently, round-trip transportation from, and to your hotel. Costa Rica boasts Central America’s longest zip line which is almost a mile long! Tours can last up to 6 hours, so remember to bring any essentials you may need.
3. Eat a Gallo Pinto!
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Costa Rica is well known for its delicious cuisine. Casados & Gallo Pintos are amongst the most popular and delicious dishes to be sampled in Costa Rican cuisine. Staples in local cuisine, it isn’t hard to find these, either at a roadside stall or in the funlittle restaurants in local downtown areas. Gallo Pinto, a mouth-watering dish of rice and beans, is typically served with breakfast alongside a fried or scrambled egg - a delicious and nutritious start to the day. Costa Ricans say that when you are able to prepare Gallo Pinto to perfection, you are ready to get married! Casado is a traditional meal served with rice, beans, plantains, salad, tortillas and either fish, chicken or some meat. Wash it all down with Imperial, Costa Rica’s national beer, or Frescas (fruit waters) or agua dulce (sugarcane juice) for a PG-friendly version.
4. Enjoy the relaxing sounds of the Marimba
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Declared the national musical instrument of Costa Rica, the Marimba is considered a symbol of culture and tradition. In the province of Guanacaste on the Pacific side, it is easy to find a restaurant or bar where one can sit down, unwind and enjoy a few drinks, while listening to the distinct resonant sounds of a traditional marimba.
5. Horseback Riding
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When in Costa Rica, a perfect way to close the day, is with a horseback ride along the shore. It is truly breathtaking, and almost meditative, to witness the sun kiss the ocean on the horizon, with the soothing sounds of waves lapping at the shore. Guided tours are available at most beaches, and group rides can be arranged as well. Skincare tip: remember to keep your sunscreen and bug repellent handy, so you can have a comfortable ride.
The beauty, warmth, friendliness and simplicity of Costa Rica can be captured by the phrase “Pura Vida” (pronounces poo-rah vee-dah). Simply translated, it means “simple life” or “pure life”, but in Costa Rica, it is more than just a saying. Pura Vida is a way of life and people tend to wave to each other while saying “Pura Vida!” as a salutation or farewell.