Costa Rica

This article originally appeared in the Central & South America Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full guide, visit the digital edition.

There is something very special about Costa Rica, a small country, yet finding room to put out the welcome mat for more than two million visitors who landed last year, mostly at one of two international airports. Certainly a good part of Costa Rica’s visitor appeal comes from being a friendly place, democratic, stable and wildly protective of its great outdoors. The nation is firmly established as the Central American darling of adventure aficionados and the eco-tourism set, who come to survey the 850 species of birds, 150 different kinds of orchids and bats, and amazing undersea life. Travelers who land in San Jose stop to visit a handful of first-rate museums—most popular are the Gold Museum and the Jade Museum—before heading out on a coffee plantation tour, a drive up to look down into the Irazu or Poas Volcanoes, and a day of white-water rafting. The favorite corners of Costa Rica—all replete with excellent ecolodges and resorts—in which to hang one’s sombrero include Arenal National Park, the country’s multi-sport center for hiking, mountain biking, canyoning, windsurfing and fishing; Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast, or Puerto Jimenez, first stop on the way to the Osa Peninsula, the richest biological zone in Mesoamerica.

The international airport in Liberia is the touchdown point for Pacific coast beaches, seaside boutique hotels and luxury resorts, tops in surfing, golf courses, giant cattle ranches and national reserves of the Guanacaste province and the Nicoya Peninsula. Among the favorites are Carara National Park, where scarlet macaws are the superstars, andManuel Antonio National Park, the place to zip-line through the treetop canopy, take a beach or waterfall horseback ride, go hiking and mountain biking, cast off to fish for marlin and sailfish, or relax at a day’s end with a sunset cruise. (

What’s New in Costa Rica

✘ Decameron Hotels is expanding its menu of destinations this fall to include Costa Rica, taking over two properties from Grupo Marta (Best Western Irazu and Best Western Jaco),and re-branding to Royal Decameron Irazu (330 rooms) and Royal Decameron Jaco (150 rooms) and refitting them to its own all-inclusive vacation style. (

✘ Kura Design Villas, set on a mountain ridge overlooking the Pacific outside of Uvita, will debut its boutique hotel property in November. Accommodations, fitted with everything from king-size beds to free WiFi, will feature six hillside villas including two suites; shared amenities will include a 62-ft. infinity pool, a spa and private hiking trails. Guests will be able to explore the Marino Ballena National Pak and Cano Island, and enjoy white-water rafting, zip-lining, kayaking and surf lessons. (

✘ Paradisus Resorts, the five-star, all-inclusive luxury hotel brand of Sol Melia Hotels & Resorts, has under development the new-build Paradisus Papagayo Bay. Scheduled to open in July 2013, the 381-room beachfront resort will have five restaurants and five bars, as well as a YHI Spa and Health Club.

✘ Come November 2013, the 112-passenger SeaDream I yacht will be positioned in Caldera to offer six sailings along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Itineraries will include Isla de Coiba, Golfito, Drake Bay, Isla del Cano, Quepos, Tortuga Island, San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua), Playas Coco and Flamingo. Three-day, pre- and post-land packages are also part of the program. (

Up next: El Salvador