This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
Touchdown for Pacific coast beaches, giant cattle ranches and national reserves of the Guanacaste province and the Nicoya Peninsula is the new international airport in Liberia. The big draw is a host of eco-lodges, boutique seaside hotels and luxury resorts, such as the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, Westin Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal and JW Marriott Guanacaste with top golf and spa facilities. However, natural attractions serve the region well. An hour north of Liberia, adventure-seeking travelers head for Rincon de la Vieja National Park, a ruggedly beautiful habitat of one volcano and a host of geysers, fumaroles and thermal springs, while the long white beaches of Santa Rosa National Park offer sanctuary for the Pacific green, leatherback and Olive Ridley turtles, as well as surfers who come to ride the tubular waves at Playa Naranjo. Most surfers head south from Liberia to catch the great breaks around the Tamarindo and Jaco beaches of the mid-Pacific area, home to key resort hotels and such nature areas as Carara National Park, where scarlet macaws are the superstars. Visitors continuing down the southern coast will arrive in Quepos, a big sportfishing town. Between the town and the sea, visitors make themselves at home in small intimate hotels, built into the rain-forested hills to guarantee panoramic ocean views. For nature-lovers, the big draw is the accessible wildlife (sloths, monkeys, toucans and macaws) in surrounding Manuel Antonio National Park that spreads along the sea, just beyond one’s terrace. There seems no end of things to see and do here. You can zipline through the treetop canopy, take a beach or waterfall horseback ride, go hiking and mountain biking, kayak through the mangroves, discover dolphins, go fishing for marlin and sailfish, and take a sunset cruise. Then adjourn for dinner (or breakfast) to El Gran Escape, a Quepos landmark and favorite local hangout, specializing in seafood.
- Best time to go:
January to May, although the North Pacific coast is drier and popular almost year-round.
- Fun fact:
Despite its small size (less than half a percent of the earth’s surface), Costa Rica shelters 4 percent of the planet’s biodiversity and 3.5 percent of the world’s marine life
- Getting there:
Delta flies from Atlanta and Minneapolis to Liberia
- Entry documents:
Costa Rican colon
- Must-try local food:
Rice and beans, gallo pinto, served at breakfast and with everything, from eggs to meat to fish
- Best buys:
Reproductions of pre-Columbian gold jewelry; wood crafts, from salad bowls to jewelry
- Information please:
Costa Rica Institute of Tourism— visitcostarica.com