One of the jewels of Central America, Costa Rica features unique wildlife, lush rainforests and fabulous beaches. Founded by Spanish settlers in the 16th century, it’s now a haven for both nature lovers and extreme sports enthusiasts. It was named the happiest nation in the world in 2009 and 2012 - book one of lastminute.com’s Costa Rica holidays, and you’ll soon find out why for yourself.
Almost a quarter of Costa Rica’s land is designated as either national parkland or a protected area, meaning that you’ll find plenty of untouched, idyllic scenery all around the country. The Barra Honda National Park offers impressive caves to explore, while the Manuel Antonio National Park was named one of the world’s most beautiful national parks by Forbes magazine for its lush rainforest and sparkling beaches. Arenal, Poas, Irazu and Tenorio parks all feature dramatic volcanic landscapes. The country is also home to more than 500,000 species of wildlife – about 4% of the world’s biodiversity - making Costa Rica holidays ideal for animal lovers. Bird watching can be enjoyed all around the country, with many rare species to see, but particularly recommended spots include San Gerardo de Dota, which is home to the rare, and beautiful, Quetzal, and the Sarapiqui Eco Observatory. Sloths, monkeys and big cats can be found living in the country’s forests, but, in the unlikely event that you don’t spot any in the wild, there are numerous animal refuges open to visitors.
With coastlines on both the Pacific and Caribbean, Costa Rica has some pretty amazing beaches – in fact it has almost 300 of them, and, with a year-round tropical climate, holidays in Costa Rica are perfect for a spot of sunbathing on the sand. Some of the beaches are so secluded that you’ll need a car, and the help of the locals, to actually find them, but there are plenty within easy reach. Tamarindo and Jaco are popular coastal getaways, with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants nearby. Nicknamed “Little Hawaii”, Playa Avellana is a particularly good surfing destination, with dramatic waves that can reach up to 18 feet high.
And, for a particularly relaxing getaway, head to the Arenal Volcano. Regularly active for several decades, the volcano hasn’t erupted since 2010, and the area is now home to several spa resorts, which are surrounded by lush forests and feature thermal baths, fed by natural hot springs.
But it’s not all about R&R – Costa Rica holidays have plenty to offer to adrenaline junkies too. Lake Arenal, which sits at the base of the volcano, is widely regarded as one of the world’s best wind and kite surfing sites. The country is also famous for its white water rafting, with river routes suitable for both beginners and experts – from tranquil trips down to Penas Blanca River to thrilling rides down the Naranjo. You can also see Costa Rica’s forests from a different angle by zip-lining above the treetops on one of the country’s famous Canopy Tours, which have been a popular attraction since the 1970s.
Costa Rica has a tropical climate with tourist seasons defined by annual rainfall and known locally as 'summer' and 'winter'. Summer from December to April is the peak time for holidays in Costa Rica when hotel prices and flights are at their highest. Winter or the rainy season lasts from May to November and is when hurricanes may strike. Depending on altitude temperatures vary from below 10°C to 27°C or more with humidity higher on the Caribbean coastline than on the Pacific coastline.