Costa Rica

Costa Rica   Toucan in the forest

Why Costa Rica?                                                                Click here to view video

Emerald rainforest, pastel-coloured hummingbirds, smouldering volcanic peaks, tumbling rivers, and freshly picked oranges still warm from the glowing Central American sun: if Mother Nature can ever be accused of showing off, it is in Costa Rica. Mention Costa Rica and people think paradise. The country’s Disneylike cast of creatures – ranging from howler monkeys to toucans – are populous and relatively easy to spot. The waves are prime, the beauty is staggering and the sluggish pace seductive. A peaceful oasis in a tumultuous region, this tiny nation draws 1.5 million visitors every year.
 
What’s on tap? The question is what isn’t? Active travelers can surf, hike, snorkel and spot wildlife for starters. The incredibly varied topography means you can cruise the cloud forest one day, visit an active volcano the next, and finish relaxing on a hot sandy beach. Adrenaline junkies have a myriad ways to make mothers worry – among them zipping through canopy lines hundreds of meters long and riding the rough surf of the Pacific. Choice and variety name the game.

Sat just north of the Equator, this verdant chunk is one of the most bio-diverse spots on the planet. Costa Rica has a simply stunning variety of landscapes, microclimates, and flora and fauna. Showcasing the country's breathtaking plant life, Costa Rica's national parks are its greatest glory, with one-third of the country set aside as protected natural areas. As well as being a world leader in eco-tourism, Costa Rica superbly caters for visitors looking for an adrenalin kick, with options including whitewater rafting, zip line tours through the rainforest canopy, surfing and quad biking. Of course, the frenzy to snatch up a piece of Shangri-la has its consequences. Since the boom, tourism is more chic and less cheap. Classic destinations are now crowded destinations and local culture is often lost or cast aside. Lucky for Costa Rica that its do-gooder fans, ranging from ecologists to proud Ticos (Costa Ricans), are vocal and vigilant. Nature here suffers its blows, like everywhere, but at least it is taken seriously.

  • When should I travel?
Generally, the best time to visit Costa Rica is the dry season from December through April, which locals refer to as verano (summer). Dry season does not mean it does not rain; it just rains less (so perhaps should be called the ‘drier season’). Costa Rican schools are closed from December to February, when beach towns are busy, especially on weekends. Lodgings during Semana Santa are usually booked months ahead.  In May begins the rainy season, or invierno (winter) as it’s known locally. The tourism ministry has come up with the more attractive denomination of ‘green season’. The early months of the rainy season are actually a wonderful time to travel to Costa Rica: you can avoid the tourist bustle and lodging is slightly cheaper. During this time, however, rivers start to swell and dirt roads get muddy, making travel more challenging. Some more remote roads may not be accessible to public transportation, so always ask locally before setting out. Bring your umbrella and a little patience. Because of the number of North American and European tourists, some Costa Rican towns experience a mini–high season in June and July, during the northern summer holidays. Expect to pay high-season prices in some towns at this time.
 
  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Most visits to Costa Rica are trouble-free but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate international terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. Incidents of violent crime, some targeted at tourists, are on the increase. The rainy season in Costa Rica normally runs from May to November, coinciding with the hurricane season in the Caribbean.

  • What money should I take?
The currency is the Costa Rican Colón (CRC). Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are all accepted; American Express slightly less so. Many banks will only process MasterCard for cash credits. Cash may be the only form of payment in smaller towns and rural areas. ATMs usually accept foreign cards. Although travellers can avoid additional exchange rate charges by taking traveller's cheques in US Dollars, fewer and fewer businesses in Costa Rica are willing to accept them, and it is better to use the ATMs.

  • What language will they understand?
Spanish is the official language. English is widely spoken. Some French, German and Italian is also spoken.

  • How about my health?
Health insurance is recommended. Reliable medical services are available. Standards of health and hygiene are among the best in Latin America, although public facilities may not come up to par with developed countries.

  • Public Holidays

2012
01 January New Year's Day
06 April Easter
11 April Juan Santamaría's Day
01 May Labour Day
25 July Guanacaste Annexation
02 August *Virgin of Los Angeles, Feast of Patroness of Costa Rica
15 August Mothers' Day and Assumption
15 September Independence Day
25 December Christmas Day

2013
01 January New Year's Day
31 March Easter Sunday
11 April Juan Santamaría's Day
01 May Labour Day
25 July Guanacaste Day
02 August Virgin of Los Angeles, Feast of Patroness of Costa Rica
15 August Assumption
15 August Mothers' Day
15 September Independence Day
12 October Día de las Culturas
25 December Christmas Day

  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders do not require a visa for Costa Rica for stays up to 30 days.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
No innoculations are required for Costa Rica.