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Costa Rica, despite its small size is one of the most diverse countries of Central America. It stretches for no more than 200 miles from north to south or east to west. It borders with Nicaragua in the north and Panama to the south. To the east and to the west it is only confined by the oceans. Yet, within its small confines it seems to offer all: sandy, palm fringed beaches, steamy lowland rainforest, mountain peaks and volcanoes, grassy savannahs, montaine rainforest, and temperate valleys. This incredible geographical diversity naturally gives rise to an equally incredible natural diversity. In fact, Costa Rica is generally considered to be one of the biodiversity 'hot spots' and an eco-tourists paradise.
Ethnographically the largest population group consists of mestizos, but there are also black and indigenous minorities. The indigenous population consists of various tribes that live in small groups, mainly in remote areas scattered across the country. The great natural and geographical variety offers a wealth of exciting travel adventures, whatever one's 'special thing' might be: lazing around on tropical paradise type beaches, hiking through the rainforests and learning about the incredible flora and fauna, exploring the underwater world, climbing mountains and volcanoes or pursuing adventure sports such as white water rafting or mountain biking. Costa Rica is generally regarded as one of the safest countries to visit in Central America - for both the individual traveler and families alike.
Costa Rica is divided into seven departments or six regions. Central Valley
The capital of San José is fairly centrally situated in the middle of the Central Valley region. It is a pleasant town, nestled between volcanoes, which can easily be visited from here. In fact, the well developed transportation infra-structure allows for easy access to many interesting sites in the surrounding regions, including hot-springs and nature reserves.
N. Guanacaste/Northern Pacific
S. Guanacaste/Nicoya Peninsula
S. Pacific/ Corcovado & Golfito
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More information about the many protected areas, volcanoes, national parks and wild-life reserves of Costa Rica can be found by following the links in the nature reserve section below.
Considering its small size, Cost Rica has an unbelievably large number of protected areas and reserves. It prides itself as a pro-conservationist country that values its natural heritage in its living state, rather than as resources to be exploited and depleted. Its proved to be a wise move. Costa Rica has proportionately more income from tourism, than any of the other Central American countries. To find out more about these rich and varied protected areas and their wildlife, follow the links below.
Costa Rica, as mentioned before, is the perfect country for adventure and nature travel enthusiasts.
Costa Rica is famous for its infinite opportunities for rainforest explorations and wildlife watching. Its considered a Mecca for bird watching. Many remote jungle lodges specialize in nature encounters, offering guided treks into the jungle with knowledgeable local guides or naturalists. Special organized tours focussing on in-depths jungle exploration are also available. One of the most novel and exciting ways to explore the jungle and its rarely seen canopy are the newly developed canopy explorer tours which are offered at some of the research stations. Much of the jungle life is hard to observe from the forest floor but these innovative new methods allow for close-up views and observation of birds, butterflies, flowers and animals that spend most of their lives in the canopy. The canopy can be explored either by modified ski-lift, walkways which connect platforms high up in the trees or with mountain climbing gear.
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Horseback riding excursions are offered in many places and range from hourly rides to overnight trips. Many lodges also offer this service. Inquire locally.
Although diving in Costa Rica may not be quite as spectacular as in its neighboring countries, Belize and Honduras, there are certainly some good spots worth exploring. Notably around Playa del Coco in the northwest and at Drake Bay in the southern Pacific coastal region. On the Caribbean coast there are good diving spots near Puerto Viejo and the Cahuita National Park.
The Pacific coast offers the most popular beaches for surfers, the waves are good for most of the year. The beaches of the lower Nicoya Peninsula, near the Golfo Dulce and the Osa Peninsula are less populated and offer somewhat more privacy.
Santa Rosa National Park (Playa Naranjo) is also very popular but hard to reach due to bad road conditions for about 6 months of the year. Jaco Beach and Manuel Antonio National Park in the Central Pacific area, are also popular spots. Whilst the northern Caribbean coast usually has higher surf, it is not always safe, as it is frequented by rather aggressive bull sharks. Along the southern Caribbean shore the surf is lower but offers great opportunities for exploring the coral reefs.
This is a relatively new activity offered by some agencies in Costa Rica. Some of the rivers are quite wild. Rafters can explore more than a dozen rivers, which range greatly in their degree of difficulty. Tours are offered as one day excursions or multiple day camping/rafting trip combinations.
Costa Rica is a great country to explore by bike, whether you go on day trips from San José or decide to tour the country on two wheels. Overnight stops and food can be found anywhere and if the going get tough you can always get a ride for you and your bike with the local bus. Bikes can be rented in Costa Rica, or if you prefer, bring your own (but package carefully for the plane journey.
There are always local fiestas going on in Latin American countries, which are almost impossible to keep track of. The event listings below lists the most important public holidays. As with other Central American countries, Easter tends to be celebrated most passionately and most elaborately.
|TIME OF YEAR||EVENT||LOCATION|
|January 1||New Year's Day||Nationwide|
|March 19||Day of St. Joseph||San José|
|April 11||Battle of Rivas|
|May 1||Labor Day||Nationwide|
|June 29||Day of Saints Peter and Paul||Nationwide|
|July 25||Annexation of Guanacaste|
|August 2||Day of Our Lady of the Angels||Especially in Cartago|
|August 15||Assumption Day||Nationwide|
|September 15||Independence Day||Nationwide|
|October 12||Columbus Day||Nationwide|
|December 8||Immaculate Conception|
|December 31||New Year's Eve|
Costa Rica is a tropical country and as such is hot and humid most of the year in most regions. However, there are some regional variations. On the Pacific side the 'dry' season runs from November through April. The Caribbean coast is hot and humid year round. However, even during the rainy season, rains tend to come as reasonably short downpours, rarely lasting more than a few hours any time of the year. The mountain regions tend to be generally dryer and somewhat cooler.
Citizens of Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Holland and dependencies, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America and Uruguay do not need a visa for a maximum stay of 90 days.
Citizens of Albania, Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Dominica, El Salvador, France and dependencies, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, San Cristobal, San Marino, St. Lucia, St Vincent, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Suriname, Taiwan, Trinidad & Tobago, United Arab Emirates, Vatican and Venezuela can stay in Costa Rica for 30 days without a visa. Extentsions can be applied for from the immigration office.
Pictures and Info about Costa Rica's Flora and Fauna can be viewed at http://www.tourism-costarica.com/ follow the Biodiversity link.
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