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"Though my job takes me around the world seeking adventure, the one place I return to for my own busman's holiday is Costa Rica, not just for its well-known attributes of long-standing democracy, model conservation efforts, and panoply of adventures; but for the fact that most Costa Ricans genuinely like Norte Americanos." Richard Bangs, New York Times. Feb. 4, 2006. Read the full article...

Costa Rica, a tiny country that is part of the land bridge between North and South America, is almost too good to believe. Although slightly smaller than West Virginia, it has more species of mammals and birds than the continental US and Canada combined, unmatched flora that includes over 3,000 species of wild orchids alone, world class whitewater, unparalleled sport fishing on two coasts, and a world famous national park system.

Even beyond its political stability and pacifism (the Costa Rican constitution forbids a standing army), Costa Rica is internally peaceful. It is safer to walk the streets of San Jose, Costa Rica than the streets of San Jose, California or any other city of comparable size in the US. It is also cultured and clean. There is over 90% literacy in this peaceful, 150-year-old functioning and stable democracy. You can safely drink the water and eat anything that strikes your fancy.

Juan Santamaria International Airport, located outside the capital city, San Jose, meets all of the new US standards implemented for domestic airports. The airport has been undergoing a thorough security overhaul under the supervision of USA FAA regulators. Bechtel Corporation's Alterra has been in charge of major renovations and manages the airport under a concession from the Costa Rican Government. Alterra is a company specializing in operating safe and efficient airports around the world, including Singapore's Changi Airport, recently voted the safest airport in the world. Today Costa Rica's airport is a state-of-the-art facility.

Americans and other foreign guests are welcomed. Even before Bostonian Minor Keith built the San Jose-Limon railroad in the late 1800's, Costa Rica's great beauty and open people have attracted immigrants from all over the world. The annals of Costa Rica's proud history are dotted with English, French, German and Italian surnames. Costa Rica continues to attract foreigners. At the present, approx. 500 Jewish families and over 20,000 US citizens live in Costa Rica.

Temperatures in Costa Rica vary from below freezing at night at high altitudes to the 90s at sea level. In the cloud and rainforests, humidity often hovers around the 100% mark. The Central Valley (altitude 3,000-5,000 feet), which includes San Jose, is noted for its eternal spring-like weather with average temperatures in the high 60s F. In general, the rainy season is mid-April to mid-December, although rain is always a possibility in the jungle and in the high mountains. See a temperature and rainfall chart.

Costa Rica is bounded on the north by Nicaragua, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, on the southeast by Panama, and on the southwest and west by the Pacific Ocean. Area: 51,060 sq km (19,714 sq mi). Capital: San Jose. Population: 3,604,642 (1998 estimate). Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces: San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago, Puntarenas, Guanacaste, Heredia, and Limon. Government: Costa Rica is a republic governed under a constitution of 1949. Defense: Costa Rica has had no standing army since 1948, when the PLN came to power and abolished the army. The only security forces are the 4,500-member Civil Guard and the 3,200-member Rural Guard.

In 1503 Columbus landed in what is now Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, on his fourth voyage to the New World. He named the area Costa Rica (rich coast). Some say because of the beauty he found there. Some say because he'd heard rumors of gold. Be that as is may, he was right in the first instance and wrong in the second. It was quickly discovered that there was comparatively little gold, but the natural beauty of Costa Rica has been attracting settlers ever since initial colonization. Costa Rica was settled by those relatively few Spanish immigrants who valued natural beauty and independence more than riches. Since the rugged mountainous land was not suitable for large plantations, Costa Rica developed into a country of independent family farmers. Even now they are the backbone of the country. This, more than anything else, explains the fact that from independence (1821) on, Costa Rica has been the most stable democratic country in Latin America.

Take the US's passion for baseball, basketball and football combined, multiply it by five, and you will get an idea of how Costa Ricans feel about soccer. If you want to get a feel for Costa Rican life go to any small town on a Sunday morning and watch a soccer game. Whatever town is convenient will do. They all have soccer fields and they all have games every Sunday. Major league soccer in Costa Rica is just a hair below major league soccer in Europe. Costa Rica's best players often play on European teams who can pay more than the local clubs. Costa Rica Expeditions is happy to get tickets to a game. If you have a team that wants to travel to play in Costa Rica, we can arrange that too. Let us know the level of play and we'll come up with appropriate opponents.


Costa Rica has several boat trips that are well worth doing and are perhaps the most interesting way to get from one region to another. Traveling by boat across Lake Arenal is expensive, but by far the fastest and most beautiful way to travel between Arenal and Monteverde. See trips that include boating.

The calm waters of the Golfo de Nicoya and the Golfo Dulce are ideal for sea kayaking. There is also very good inland kayaking and canoeing on Tortuguero's rivers and creeks. See trips that include kayaking.

Some of the larger resorts such as Melia Paraisus and Marriot Los Suenos have world-class golf courses. Which is more than you can say for the service. See trips that include hotels with golf courses.

Costa Rica has some of the best opportunities in the world to see wildlife. Not because we have lots of wildlife (as do all countries in the Meso-American tropics), but rather because we observe wildlife a lot. The best naturalist guides in the world are what make our wildlife observation extraordinary. Costa Rica has few places that do not have superb birding. Hot spots include: Monteverde, Tortuguero and Corcovado. See trips featuring wildlife observation.

With some of the best rafting in the world, Costa Rica is the place to start and also the place to go if you are a highly experienced rafter. See trips that feature rafting.

Costa Rica has a rich equestrian tradition. Half and full day rides are available as well as opportunities to ride on working ranches. The sunset ride at Monteverde Lodge is particularly beautiful. See trips that feature horseback riding.

Costa Rica is an angler's paradise. World class tarpon and snook fishing on the Atlantic Coast. World class bill fishing on the Pacific. Rainbow Bass in between. See trips that feature fishing.

Costa Rica has some first rate opportunities for bicycling, but they are not always easy to find. Many paved roads are too narrow and heavily traveled. The best mountain biking can be found in the Arenal Volcano area. See trips that include biking.

Canopy tours became popular in the 90s and since then have spread throughout Costa Rica (and the world). A good canopy tour should not only be thrilling, but also give you time to look for animals unique to the canopy. Most importantly, it should be safe. Many companies do not adhere to stringent safety codes so be sure to ask the company you are planning to go with about their safety standards. Read our Canopy Safety Guidelines for details. Only tours that have passed our safety surveys are found in our itineraries.See a list of trips that include Costa Rica Expeditions-approved canopy tours.

Spas and yoga programs have sprung up like mushrooms all over Costa Rica. Several resorts have full service spas with treatments ranging from the traditional to the esoteric. International yoga gurus frequently offer retreats at a variety of different properties. See trips that include resorts with spas and/or yoga.

If you are looking for clear water and beautiful reefs, go to Belize. Costa Rica diving is about big fish and lots of them. The mecca is Cocos Island National Park off the Pacific Coast and accessible only by live aboard boat. Catalina, Isla Cano and the Bat Islands are the best options for shore-based diving. See trips that include diving.

Whether you want to walk in a rainforest or a tropical sub-alpine meadow, Costa Rica is a wonderful place to hike. See trips that include hiking.

Surfers will find world class breaks on both the Atlantic and Pacific. Among the best Pacific breaks are Pavones, an endless left point break on the southern end of the Golfo Dulce and Witches Rock at Playa Naranjo in Santa Rosa National Park. On the Carribean side, Salsa right in the center of Puerto Viejo will remind experienced surfers of the reef breaks of Hawaii. See trips that go to Guanacaste.

Lake Arenal is said to the second best place in the world for windsurfing, right after the Columbia River Gorge. Of course there are probably several other places that are said to be the second best place for windsurfing, but we do not know where they are, so if you are into windsurfing may as well come to Costa Rica. Count on an average 15 knots of wind Nov-Apr. 30 knots is not uncommon. Of course, if you can't handle 75 degree water temperatures, maybe you should stick to the Columbia Gorge. See trips that go to the Arenal region.

In our opinion most of the sightseeing and conventional tours offered in Costa Rica are superficial and not worth the time. Two notable exceptions are the Cafe Britt Coffee Tour and the Calypso Pacific Island Cruise - perhaps because they are not conventional.

Costa Rica still heeds its rural traditions of early to bed and early to rise. Yes, there is some nightlife in Costa Rica, but if you want nightlife, you are looking at the wrong web site.

There are lots of great things to buy in Costa Rica. Half of them are made out of wood and the other half is made out of coffee. The gift shops at the airport have a particularly good selection at reasonable prices so if you can fit your purchases in your carry-on bag you can avoid having to schlep the stuff all over the country.