Lonely Planet guide to Costa Rica

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The latest in our series of Lonely Planet guides takes us to Costa Rica. Click here to check out the full range of guides online.

Mention Costa Rica and people think paradise. The country’s Disney-like cast of creatures — ranging from howler monkeys to toucans — are prolific and relatively easy to spot. The waves are prime, the beauty is staggering and the sluggish pace seductive.

Costa Rica, despite being such a tiny nation, draws well over a million visitors every year – and you can see why. The incredibly varied topography means you can cruise a cloud forest one day, climb a volcano the next, and finish passed out on a hot sandy beach.

When to go:
The early months of the rainy season (May to July) are a wonderful time to travel to Costa Rica with some towns experiencing a mini-high season. During this time, rivers start to swell and dirt roads get muddy, making travel more challenging. Remote roads may not be accessible to public transport, so always ask locally before setting out. Bring your umbrella and a little patience.

For surfers, the Pacific coast sees increased swells and bigger, faster waves during the rainy season, peaking in the worst rainy months of September and October. The Caribbean side has better waves from November through May.

Wildlife enthusiasts may wish to plan their trip around high visibility seasons. The best time to spot the resplendent quetzal is between November and April. The peak season for leatherback turtles from April to May; for green turtles it’s during August and September.

Fishing is good year-round, but you might choose your season if you have your heart set on a specific fish. Anglers head to the Caribbean coast between January and May in search of tarpon, while autumn is the season for snook. On the Pacific coast and in the Golfo Dulce, the best time to snag that sailfish is between November and May.

Fast Facts:
Country Full Name – Republic of Costa Rica
Population – 4,133,884
Currency – Name: Costa Rican Colon, Code: CRC, Symbol: ¢
Electrical Plugs: 120V 60Hz
Languages Spoken – Official: Spanish
Time Zones – GMT/UTC -6
Country Dialing Code – +506
Weights & Measures – Metric


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