A place of bountiful biodiversity and home to an astounding array of landscapes, habitats and incredible wildlife, Costa Rica is a natural, and colourful, wonderland. Long the destination of choice for those who like their holidays with a side of sloths, whales and rainforest, Costa Rica’s emergence as a stronghold of sustainability (even winning the ‘Protect and Restore Nature’ Earthshot Prize in 2021) has only increased its appeal.
Alongside the endless opportunity for adventure and the local’s laidback ‘pura vida’ lifestyle, Costa Rica is a destination full of rich and unforgettable hues, bought by everything from its native wild- and plant-life to the vibrant traditional carretas (ox carts) that still ply the streets. On our Colours of Costa Rica tour, we can’t wait to share them all with you.
As one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, it’s not a surprise that Costa Rica boasts a whole lot of green! A country that occupies just 0.3% of the earth’s landmass but boasts over 500,000 plant and animal species, the range of habitats here is extraordinary, from tropical forests to grasslands, and mangroves to wetlands. Nature here is wonderfully accessible, with plentiful paths and trails through the national parks and areas of scenic beauty that allow you to get right into the thick of it. In fact, in the cloudforests of Monteverde you can traverse hanging bridges high up in the canopy, giving you a real bird’s eye view, while exploring the tropical forest- lined canals and lagoons of Tortuguero is best done by boat.
Aside from the copious amounts of wildlife, another of Costa Rica’s draws are its beautiful beaches. Both coasts offer prime stretches of sand, some great for sunbathing, some still wonderfully wild. While it’s easy to get your fix of totally tropical golden sands backed by waving palms, there are plentiful beaches that are backed by dense rainforest that take a bit more effort to get to. Head to Manuel Antonio National Park for beach with a side of adventure and spot the resident monkeys, sloths and brightly hued frogs.
With a coastline that stretches 1,290 kilometres, the ocean is an important part of the Costa Rican psyche. To the east, the calm waters of the Caribbean lap golden sands, the area permeated by a laidback Afro-Caribbean influence. Here, turtles emerge from the water on their annual pilgrimage to lay their eggs, something that the Tortuguero National Park is particularly well known. The Pacific coast is all together wilder, the deep cold waters full of a huge variety of fish and, at the right times of year, whales. Lined with spectacular beaches and often dramatic cliffs, there are a series of national parks here that protect the unique habitats where vast swathes of rainforest meet the sea.
A major part of, and influence on, Costa Rica’s landscapes are volcanoes. Across the country there are 67 of them in total, six of which are active, with the best known being Arenal. Looming over the waters of Lake Arenal, until recently Arenal would sporadically erupt, its red-hot lava particularly visible at night. Today things are much quieter which makes it easier to enjoy the glorious nature of the national park spread around its foot. Over 850 species of bird can be found here including the rare resplendent quetzal as well as a series of natural hot springs, another biproduct of volcanic activity, the perfect way to relax after a day of explorations.
With their distinctive over-sized orange bills and cheeky personalities, toucans are the poster bird of Costa Rica’s avian circus, but they are just one (well actually, there are six species of toucan in Costa Rica) of over 900 different species of bird that live here, including 53 species of hummingbird! Wherever you happen to be exploring in Costa Rica, make sure you keep an eye on the sky and the treetops for bright flashes of tropical colours, especially in the national parks. The one bird that everyone wants to spot here is the increasingly elusive resplendent quetzal. An endangered species with a range across Central America, Costa Rica has a healthy population of these magnificent birds thanks to all the protections put in place around forests, so if you are going to spot one anywhere, it’ll probably be here.
Another perennial Costa Rican favourite is the utterly charming sloth. You are most likely to spot a brown-throated three toed sloth as you explore the forests and national parks, but there is also a more elusive sloth species – the Hoffman’s two toed. Excellent at camouflage, it’s not so easy to find them up in the trees, but you have an excellent chance in places like Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero and Monteverde, especially if you are with a nature guide who knows where to look. The sloth is just one of a huge cast of Costa Rica’s wildlife characters – other must spots include American crocodiles, monkeys – spider, howler, squirrel and white-faced capuchin, anteaters, tapir, iguanas, all sorts of frogs and many, many more.
Beans are an essential part of Costa Rican life, two in particular – black beans and coffee beans (yes, coffee beans are brown, but the coffee they produce should be drunk black!).
Black beans are a common element in many traditional Costa Rican dishes, particularly as part of gallo pinto, a rice and bean dish eaten at breakfast with eggs and as a side to meat or fish for lunch and dinner and the hearty sopa negra from the cooler highland regions. Costa Rica is so wonderfully bountiful, both the land and the sea, that there is a whole load of delicious food to try, so don’t be afraid to get stuck in!
In 1989, the government passed a law that said that all coffee grown must be high-quality Arabica beans – that’s how much Costa Ricans love coffee! Grown across eight mountainous regions where the beans thrive in the cool, wet climate, drinking coffee, and visiting a plantation, while here are absolute musts.
You can see and enjoy all these colour-filled experiences on our incredible Colours of Costa Rica tour!
Colours of Costa Rica
14 days from £5690pp
Tortuguero National Park - Sarapiqui - Arenal Volcano - Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve - Manuel Antonio - San Jose -