Costa Rica seems to be one of those travel destinations that everyone has heard of, but a relatively small number of travelers have actually visited. The country topped 2.6 million visitors last year, which was a new record,. While that sounds like a lot perhaps, Mexico is drawing close to 30 million per year and for a U.S. state like Florida, 2.6 million visitors would be called “a good week.”
That’s part of the appeal of course: that this is not a country overrun with tourists and it’s still quite easy to get into the wild and see lots of animals.The tourism infrastructure is well-developed, however, with generally good roads, an ever-improving international airport, and quality hotels & resorts. The workforce is educated and more fluent in English than in most other Central American countries where Spanish is the first language. Building has kept pace with demand, so it’s still possible to find good online travel deals for packages and tours.
When reporting the record visitor numbers from 2015, the Tico Times noted that around 40% of the visitors were from from the United States. That’s only natural since they have far more flight connections than any other country. Things are improving on that front, however, with two new routes opening this year from Europe. Air France is flying to San Jose from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and British Airways is offering new direct flights from London Gatwick.
There’s not just one reason to fly across an ocean for a holiday in this destination though. Costa Rica is jam packed with things to do, especially adventure activities, and this remains one of the best countries in the world for jungle hikes, birdwatching, and an abundance of wildlife. It’s also a major surfing destination, a championship fishing destination, and a great place to play golf with a view. Visit the hot springs to unwind, then sit on your hotel balcony and watch a smoking volcano. You can go ziplining across a gorge in the morning and then visit a coffee farm in the afternoon. Go whitewater rafting the next day and then go paddleboarding on the ocean as the sun goes down. When happy hour rolls around, have a drink of excellent Centenario rum.
You can find very eco-friendly rustic jungle lodges, but even the best luxury hotels and resorts in Costa Rica adhere to much higher green standards than you find elsewhere in the world. You can find high-end options from the north in Guanacaste to the far south in the Osa Peninsula—home to the largest, most biodiverse protected wildlife refuge in this region. Without the oil exploration (Ecuador), illegal gold mines (Peru), or slash-and-burn cattle farmers (Brazil) you keep reading about in the news.
Spend some real time here though. The quick in-and-out tours tend to ply a well-worn path full of tour buses. Even a couple extra days can mean the difference between a routine trip and something you’ll remember for a lifetime.
See more from our site on the best hotels and tours for luxury travel in Costa Rica.