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Day of Masquerade – Costa Rica’s Halloween

People all over the world prepare for Halloween by dreaming up elaborate scary costumes and stocking up on ginormous pumpkins. Ticos, on the other hand, start putting gin their orders for oversized masks, in anticipation of the Day of Masquerade.

The Dia de la Mascarada (Day of Masquerade) held on Halloween is a relatively recent tradition in Costa Rica, one which has picked up momentum in the last few years. Although celebrating Halloween the ‘traditional’ way (ie. US-style) has certainly increased in popularity among young locals, the tradition of Masquerading is making a resurgence. You may not see local kids door knocking and trick-or-treating on October 31, but that certainly doesn’t mean you won’t be privy to a host of festivities. Traveling to Costa Rica for Halloween is actually a fantastic idea as you can partake in one of the most boisterous Costa Rica festivities of the year.

Day of Masquerade

How the Day of Masquerade…

The Day of Masquerade is a tradition which stems from Carnival, a costumed ‘fiesta’ which was imported by the Spanish when they hit the Central American shores. Masked parades are very popular in the country and held several times a year, although the tradition was swiftly fading, especially among the youngest generation. It was only two decades ago that a deliberate attempt to bring back a passion for the parades, and reaffirm the importance of mask-making skills, was made. The first National Day of the Masquerade held on October 31, was in 1996.

Interestingly enough, pre-Columbian tribes had their own masked and costumed rituals, and in Costa Rica nowadays the parades are a gorgeous mix of both ancient and contemporary traditions.

Mask making – a traditional and revered craft

The day of the Masquerade is celebrated all over Costa Rica, however, the three cities with the largest celebrations are Cartago, Escazu and Barva de Heredia. This has to do with the actual craft making skills of locals: it is in these three towns that the best ‘mask makers’ in Costa Rica are found. Unlike what the name suggests, Costa Rican ‘masks’ aren’t merely masks: they are oversized paper mache heads depicting prominent characters from politics, mythology (devils and animals are popular) and even sports and film.

Day of Masquerade masking

The making of a single mask is a time-consuming and tedious affair, beginning first with a hand-made mold made out of clay. Left to dry for about a week, the mold is then meticulously covered with strips of paper which are attached to each other with a glue made of flour and water. This process continues until fifteen layers of paper have been added. Once dried, the clay mold is removed, leaving a perfectly shaped paper mache face.

The Costa Rican masks are as exaggerated in their expression as they are in size. Some can be comical while others downright grotesque. Seen here is ‘La Giganta’ a popular giant lady mask which symbolizes the opulent ladies of Colonia-era Costa Rica.

Day of Masquerade mask

As the masked participants of the parades meander down the main streets, they dance to the rhythm of local folkloric music. The tunes are played by so-called Cimarronas, whose skills are particularly revered. Cimarron band members are self-taught. There are no scores to read so each must learn by ear. This musical part of the Day of the Masquerade is one of the oldest traditions in Costa Rica and one of the most protected by the Ministry of Culture.

Costa Rica’s National Day of Masquerade is a wonderful event which brings together all the eclectic attributes which have combined to create this very unique country. You may not get to trick-or-treat and you may not gorge on pumpkin pie. But come visit anyway and what you’ll experience is one of the most colorful, historic and endearing festivals of the year. And because it’s Costa Rica, you know that delectable food and fantastic celebrations are an absolute given!

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5 Top Spots in Costa Rica for Digital Nomads

Want to discover the 5 Top Spots in Costa Rica for digital nomads? Then read on and find out!

Costa Rica is fast rising as one of Latin America’s best destinations for digital nomads, and it’s not hard to see why that would be. The country of a million smiles, countless national parks, endless stretches of pristine beaches and an easy and affordable lifestyle, ticks all the boxes for those who have managed to create location-independent employment. Digital nomads swarm to this idyllic country for months at a time – between 3 and 6 is the most popular option – and enjoy an exotic lifestyle far away from the hustle, routine, and stress of their normally fast-paced home countries.

What’s a Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad is anyone who has managed to transfer their work skills to an online platform. So, basically, anyone who can earn a living over the internet. Years ago, this group of intrepid travelers was mostly involved with computing specifically, but nowadays you’ll meet all sorts of people working online. From yoga and foreign language teachers who hold lessons over Skype, to travel writers, translators, and freelancers of all kinds. Generally speaking, the motto is: if you can work from home two days a week, then you can become a digital nomad.

Why do digital nomads go abroad? Because traveling the world is arguably the biggest incentive to becoming a digital nomad in the first place. Because spending 3 to 6 months out of a year living in Costa Rica is about as idyllic a lifestyle as anyone could dream. No stress, no commitments, no shackles holding you down to one place. Just pick a place with good wifi connection and lots to see and do around, and you’ve got yourself a digital nomad heaven. Coupled with a wonderful year-round climate, amazing food and friendly locals, it’s easy to see why so many people choose Costs Rica for their yearly jaunts abroad.

Want to know the 5 Top Spots in Costa Rica for Digital Nomads?

Here are the most popular, taking into account the monthly rental of a house/villa/apartment, a few fellow English-speaking residents, and plenty of nearby attractions for those blissful days away from the computer.

1.   San Jose, Central Valley

San Jose digital nomadCosta Rica’s capital city is an obvious choice for those who still love a bit of city ‘action’ and want as many modern conveniences nearby as possible. You’ll still be just a stone throw away from the central region’s most popular attractions, and can take advantage of your long week-ends – which can be whenever you like – to take multi-day trips and discover all the corners of the country. A bustling city with a great mix of high-end and local eateries, a wicked nightlife and plenty of museums and attractions to keep you busy, San Jose is an obvious great choice for digital nomads heading to Costa Rica.

2.   Santa Teresa, Guanacaste

Santa Teresa digital nomadFor merely USD $500 a month, you can live comfortably in an air-conditioned villa with good wi-fi, along one of Costa Roca’s premier surfing spots. The area around Santa Teresa is renowned for its alternative, laid-back lifestyle, and offers plenty of options for surfing, yoga, swimming, reggae-bar hopping, and socializing with fellow digital nomads. The exceptional and varied choice of food here is also an excellent incentive to visit.

3.   Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste

Playa Hermosa digital nomad‘Beautiful Beach’ truly lives up to its name, and it is no wonder Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste consistently ranks as one of the best places in Costa Rica to visit and live for a while. Yet another idyllic spot for surf-mad digital nomads, this seaside town boasts one of the best beaches in the country (it has won multiple awards in recent years) with a high degree of environmental care and optimal safety standards helping to make this a very popular choice. When you’re not in front of your laptop, you can be swimming, SCUBA diving, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, and taking day trips to fantastic Arenal Volcano. If you’re starting to wonder whether or not you’ll get too many distractions here to actually get any work done…you may be totally right.

4.   Playa Samara, Guanacaste

Playa Samara digital nomadWith a town the size of a shoebox – or thereabouts – you are never further than half a mile from the stunning beach when you live in Playa Samara. A good mix of organic food shops and sunset yoga classes on the beach, and plenty of seaside restaurants offering free Wifi, make Playa Samara – on the Nicoya Peninsula – one of the most delightful spots in which to spend a few months. Playa Samara boasts a lovely beachside community, made up of locals and foreigners who delight in the glistening white sand, and collection of colorful coral reef just off the shores. Snorkeling, SCUBA and fishing are popular pastimes, and the town is a wonderful throwback to a time when Costa Rica was far less developed. Daily buses connect to the capital, San Jose.

5.   Puerto Viejo, Limon

Puerto Viejo digital nomadWith its healthy cluster of digital nomad friendly guesthouses, trendy cafés and restaurants, living and working in Puerto Viejo is as good as it gets in Costa Rica. A hammock for those brainstorming sessions is never too far away, and neither is the stupendous coast of the country’s Caribbean coast. Stay here, and you’ll be super close to the Cahuita National Park and the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, both of which are brimming with spectacular wildlife. The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is ideally visited during rainy season (this is the driest spot in the country) and although it’s a little more remote and difficult to get to than other hubs, the rewards are fabulous.

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Part IV: Costa Rica Vacation – Wedding and Honeymoon

Costa Rica honeymoonWhether you wish to enjoy a superb adventure-filled honeymoon or simply dreaming of a romantic vacation, Costa Rica is your incomparable destination choice. But don’t just take (admittedly subjective) word for it!

PerfectHoneymoons.com rates this tropical Caribbean gem as the 3rd most-popular destination in the world, after Italy and Hawaii, for love-filled getaways. And what’s not to love? With its magnificent nature, array of luxury resorts, eco-lodges and indulgent retreats, not to mention the idyllic year-round climate and utterly unique ‘exotic’ charm, Costa Rica is the obvious choice if you want to steer clear of run-of-the-mill love-do’s and get more value for your hard-earned holiday funds.

Truth be told, the whole country is chock-full of incredibly beautiful places that are ideal for a romantic getaway, yet some are just a little more ideal due to their proximity to the capital (for that dreamy long weekend), smattering of high-end eco-lodges (for that one-a-kind splurge), stunning beaches (because if you don’t go home with a tan then you’re doing something wrong) and variety of fun and exhilarating activities.

Here are just of the amazing options for your romantic Costa Rica vacation:

Manuel Antonio National Park honeymoonManuel Antonio National Park is arguably the most popular destination for active romantic vacations and honeymoons, as it’s only a 2-hour drive out of San Jose and is, above all else, a superlative natural haven. Brimming with wildlife and offering a multitude of options for adventure-filled days, Manuel Antonio is the kind of place where you can enjoy a thrilling white water rafting trip in the morning, enjoy a delectable gourmet lunch in an exclusive lodge, delight in a romantic afternoon horse ride on a pristine beach, and end the day with a swoon-worthy candle-lit dinner under a canopy of stars.

Costa Rica romanceNot to be outdone, dormant Arenal Volcano offers an equally outstanding backdrop for soaks in therapeutic hot springs and indulgences in superb 5* spa resorts. This is Costa Rica’s tropical lusciousness at its very best. Waterfalls galore and plenty of fun pursuits are the cornerstones of the Arenal region, yet it’s all the spectacular thermal springs which hold the ultimate appeal for romantic holidays and Costa Rica honeymoons.

Lovers of the sun and surf will do well to check out the stellar options along the Guanacaste coastline. Here is where you can spend endless days playing in the waves, snorkeling, diving, surfing and lazing around on some of the world’s most coveted sandy stretches. The sand glistens, the sunsets WOW and the romance spills at every turn. The Gulf of Papagayo, along the north-western shores of Costa Rica, is where you’ll find the largest collection of exclusive and all-inclusive 5* resorts. Just a short drive from the Liberia Airport, the Gulf of Papagayo is arguably the favorite among honeymooners and makes for a brilliant base from which to explore Costa Rica.

Nicoya Peninsula honeymoonWant to feel like there are just the two of you in the world? Then the Nicoya Peninsula is your honeymoon destination of choice. You’ll find fewer people here, fewer tourists in general, and a much more remote and exclusive experience awaits you. Remote and spellbinding, the Nicoya is idyllic for couples who want to get away from the rest of the world, for just a little while. Outstanding resorts are set amidst verdant hills, overlooking sapphire and emerald waters. Quiet coves, endless stretches of pristine beaches and oodles of isolated dream spots is what makes the Nicoya Peninsula a top choice for those seeking romance and intimacy.

Costa Rica Weddings

Costa Rica weddingIn case you didn’t already know, Costa Rica is one of the most popular wedding locations on the planet, attracting couples and their delighted loved ones from every corner of the globe. The affordability and sheer uniqueness of Costa Rica weddings is a huge incentive for many couples, who can enjoy an unforgettable wedding and honeymoon in one of the world’s most coveted destinations, for only a fraction of the cost of a wedding at home. Exceptional luxury, an incredibly well-planned wedding day and a mesmerizing holiday to boot? I do!

Getting married in Costa Rica isn’t nearly as complicated as you may think, most especially when you consider most resorts will put you in contact with a wedding planner who will look after you from beginning to end. Here are a few guides to help you get started:

Costa Rica Destination Weddings: Everything You Need to Know

Costa Rica Wedding: How to Time it Right

How to Find the Best Planner for Your Costa Rica Wedding

All-inclusive Costa Rica honeymoon packages are undoubtedly the best value-for-money deals you’ll find anywhere, and it is something in which Costa Rica Rios specialize. After the vows have been exchanged, cake has been cut and teary hugs have been shared, let us propel you into an adventurous week of ‘love + adrenalin’ to get your married life off to a heart-pumping start.

Part I: Costa Rica Vacation – Getting Here is Now Faster…and Cheaper!
Part II: Costa Rica Vacation Accommodation to Suit All Tastes and Budgets
Part III: Costa Rica Vacation – Family Adventure Vacation

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The Best Cultural Souvenirs that Just Scream COSTA RICA

Unforgettable memories are by far the most precious souvenir you could bring back from your Costa Rica vacation. But let’s face it…what’s a vacay without a little shopping spree? Add to that an enticing infusion of history and culture and what you’ll get is the perfect souvenir to bring home. Or several of them. Souvenirs that just screams ‘COSTA RICA!’ whenever you see them.

Whether useful or not, cultural or simply ‘pretty’, unique or edible, Costa Rica offers an array of fantastic souvenirs for the shopper, collector, or gift-giver. But if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind work of art, that reflects the country’s indigenous cultures and history, then look no further than Costa Rica’s best cultural souvenirs to bring home.

But be warned: you may just want to pack an extra travel bag.

Miniature Painted Oxcarts

Painted Costa Rica ox cartUnsurprisingly, most of Costa Rica’s best souvenirs are hand-made, carved and stitched using natural and sustainable materials. Renowned for being an ecologically conscious nation, the country’s best souvenirs are made with love, both for the artwork and the land the materials derive from, and represent a taste of the culture and multi-colored landscapes.

So fine, bringing home a hand-painted oxcart may be a bit of a challenge, but the Ticos have you covered. Miniature wooden oxcarts are the ideal souvenir for visitors who want a unique and unmistakable keepsake of their trip to Costa Rica. For the best in the country, head to the city of Sarchi, just an hour’s drive north from the capital, San Jose. This immensely charming town is renowned for its intricately carved and painted artifacts, including not only oxcarts but also masks, furniture, and stunning jewellery.

Boruca Masks

Costa Rica boruca maskBoruca masks, which were used by indigenous Boruca warriors in their fights against the conquistadores, are arguably the second-most favoured Costa Rican souvenir and have become so ubiquitous they are literally found in just about every stall and souvenir shop in the country.

Many of the cheaper masks you’ll find are ‘imitations’, so if you’re in the market for an authentic piece, made by a Boruca tribesperson, then you ought to visit an upmarket art gallery or souvenir boutique instead. Traditionally, Boruca masks are multi-dimensional works of art, brightly painted with drawings depicting scenes and wildlife of Costa Rica. The more complex pieces can set you back $200, but if you’re after a truly special souvenir to hang on your wall, then this would certainly be it.

Chorotega Pottery

Costa rica chorotega potteryThe Chorotega people of north-western Costa Rica (they used to inhabit Honduras and Nicaragua as well) have lost much of their traditional language and way of life over the years, yet still retain their incredible pottery skills. In the small towns of San Vincente and Guaitil, beehive-shaped kiln ovens are a telltale sign that amazing workshops are around.

Chorotega pottery is about the last remnant of a tribe that was one of the strongest in the country by the time Europeans arrived. And it’s a stunning one at that. This incredible legacy is being kept alive through local workshops and organizations that promote the art, keep the indigenous history alive and promote the craftsmanship throughout the country. You’ll find everything from stunning plates, bowls, vases and animal sculptures for that utterly unique and historical souvenir-lover.

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Discover the Natural Beauty of Historical Costa Rica

Costa Rica museumCosta Rica may not be as archaeologically enriched as its neighbors and it is true that it is primarily renowned as the epitome destination for nature and wildlife lovers. Yet this doesn’t mean that you’ll find Costa Rica completely devoid of historical attractions.

While many artifacts and relics are housed within the walls of the country’s best museums, there are also plenty of landmarks to discover, all boasting fascinating stories. Want more on your Costa Rica adventure holiday than just volcanoes, tropical rain forests, pristine beaches and outstanding diving? Then include a few cultural attractions in your sightseeing itinerary and you’ll enjoy a much more comprehensive adventure.

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose

Museum de NationaleThe country’s best museum is housed within the walls of a fortress which was built in 1917, and still bears the bullet-ridden marks of the 1948 civil war. It boasts a very detailed account of Costa Rica’s history, starting from the pre-Columbian relics – from stone tables to jewels – up to 18th colonial era and, most recently, a display dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 1987 to then-president Oscar Arias Sanchez.

Halls and rooms are chock-full of priceless art and artifacts and the chronological way in which displays are organized makes a visit here a phenomenal and educational walk through the major trials and achievements of the country. Geological and natural science displays complement the historical sections.

Cartago City

cartago-cityRight on the base of Irazu Volcano, about a half hour drive out of San Jose, is where you’ll find the city which was the capital of Costa Rica for almost 300 years. The city was originally founded in the mid-1500s in what the Spanish governor considered ‘the most beautiful valley he’s ever seen’.

In Cartago, a glorious city of innumerable attractions, you’ll find the Cathedral of the Virgin of the Angels, arguably the most stunning church in the entire country. Stroll the Playa Mayor and get lost in its charming alleyways. Cartago’s city centre is heritage listed and protected, and a local government initiative, to provide subtle lighting and restoration, is aimed at attracting visitors who may choose this as a travel base, rather than San Jose.

Guayabo National Monument

Guayabo National MonumentThe country’s largest archaeological site is also one of its most mysterious and there are still no clues as to which ancient tribe first built dwellings on this site. The mammoth ancient city was built in the second millennia BC over an area of 540 acres, but was hidden below a blanket of wilderness until the late 1960s.

There are still extensive areas which are yet to be excavated and archaeologists believe many dwellings date back over 3,000 years. The Lost City of Guayabo is 60 miles east of San Jose, past Cartago, and walking through a section of it is incredibly beautiful. Hike up to the mirador for spectacular views or take along some camping gear for an unforgettable night of tenting under the stars.

Museo de Arte Costarricense, San Jose

Museo de Arte CostarricenseThis is one of San Jose’s most gorgeous buildings which also happens to display the most comprehensive art collection for the country’s best artists, from the colonial era right up to the present day. The modern-day museum was the terminal of Costa Rica’s first international airport and is connected to the lovely La Sabana Park in the heart of the city. There are thousands of artworks on display permanently, with the Gold Room being an absolute highlight, and various temporary collections appear during the year. Admission is free.

Stone Spheres

Costa Rica spheresThe Stone Spheres are another Costa Rican archaeological mystery, and a collection of over 300 has been amassed by experts over the last seven decades. Ranging in size, shape and weight – from a hundred grams right up to 16 ton – the spheres appear to be ornamental and although the exact composition or use of them is unknown, experts agree that all were man-made.

Nowadays, very few remain in the area where they were first discovered (Palmar Sur and Palmar Norte) but you’ll actually find several of these Stone Spheres decorating the gardens of government buildings – a number are also on display in the garden of the National Museum in San Jose – and quite a few have been purchased by wealthy locals as a status symbol. As of 2014, the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica were awarded UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Isla San Lucas

Isla San LucasA jail in the heart of the Nicoya Gulf may not appear, at first, to be a very attractive landmark. But hear us out on this one! Isla San Lucas was indeed a prison for over a century yet now that it’s no longer in use, the historical and archaeological value of this wildlife-rich isle has come under intense scrutiny. There are dozens of ancient sites here, which both pre and post date Colonialism, as well as a plethora of endemic wildlife both on and off the shores. Due to this diversity, Isla San Lucas has gained a reputation as a very rewarding day-trip destination from Puntarenas.

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Costa Rica in March: Best for Beaches, Wildlife & Fiestas

WildlifeMarch is an exciting month to visit Costa Rica. Being the last of the dry season and at the tail end of the high tourist season sees the country at its best with abounding wildlife and verdant landscapes along with greater availability and a drop in accommodation and tour prices.

The western half of the country, which includes the popular hubs of the Osa and Nicoya Peninsulas, as well as Guanacaste Province, are simply superb to visit in March. El Niño is having a particularly drying effect on the Pacific side in 2016, and extremely wet on the Caribbean. Although this is great news for travel-related activities, don’t be surprised if you must contend with occasional power cuts. Costa Rica relies heavily on hydroelectric power, and as rivers dry up, power supplies are somewhat rationed. But rest assured, this is certainly not enough to put a damper on your vacation!

Costa Rica beachBeaches are pristine and dry, boasting balmy waters and sparkling sandy shores. With barely a cloud in the sky, March is ideal if beach-bumming, snorkeling and relaxing is on your agenda.

Wildlife viewing is also perfect at this time, as rain-free days and nights make jungle hikes enjoyable and easy, and creatures tend to be a lot more active as they seek watering holes.

Wildlife Highlights

SlothMonkeys, sloths and larger animals are all quite active in March and easy to spot, as they tend to spend much less time in thick forest coverage – there’s no need to seek shelter from the elements when the climate is dry and delicious- and as water holes shrink in the heat many of the animals are lured out for a refreshing drink, making wildlife watching particularly great. All of Costa Rica’s major national parks are very rewarding to visit at this time of year.

For turtle hatchling viewing, March is also ideal, with the Pacific coastline hosting colonies of Olive Ridley, green and leatherback turtles, with the latter being the last of their kind for the season. Since nesting season peaks at around Christmas time, this is the perfect month to catch the little ones in flapping action!

Excellent whale watching spots towards the end of the month are all along the coasts of Guanacaste and Nicoya, where humpback whales make their seasonal swim. Many more actually migrate off the eastern shores; however, they tend to take a much wider berth and are usually invisible from the beach.

Bird watching aficionados will also enjoy the blooming population in the wetlands of Tortuguero and Cano Negro, where northern birds retreat to for a balmy and much more agreeable winter vacation.

Cultural Highlights

Costa Rica ox cart paradeThe cultural calendar for March is jam-packed full of colourful celebrations, with the month being a precursor to Easter, the busiest and most celebrated event in the Costa Rican calendar. The Oxcart parade (El Dia del Boyero) which takes place in San Antonio de Escazu on the second Sunday in March, is one of the most colourful of the year. Proud cart owners parade their incredible works of art in what is one of Costa Rica’s most unique events. Watch ox-pulled carts fill the streets of San Antonio and witness the blessings of the animals by local priests.

On the 19th March, you’ll find St José, one of the country’s most revered Saints, being celebrated all over the country. Alongside cruelty-free bullfighting shows, you’ll stumble upon amazing food and produce markets, arts and craft stalls and an evening filled with music, dancing and fiesta-making!

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting San José in March 2016, you can attend the fantastic International Arts Festival, which is held between 15th and 25th March, only on even-numbered years. This fortnight event serves up an amazing array of great artists, performers, and musicians, in concerts, fiestas and events held all over the capital. Look for a reason to make a short-notice getaway to Costa Rica? This is it!

Adrenalin sports highlights

surfingAlthough the heart of dry season spells lesser flowing rivers, daytime water release plans means white water rafting in the central region is still very much offered! The lack of rains and stormy seas makes March absolutely ideal if you’re heading to Costa Rica on a surf learning vacation, something you can do all along the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, and the beaches of the Manuel Antonio National Park. A dry climate, of course, is what makes this one of the year’s best months for zip-lining, mountain biking and hikes immersed in pristine nature.

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Top 5 Most Iconic Costa Rica Experiences

Adventure, culture, pristine wilderness and amazing wildlife: a vacation in iconic Costa Rica is an incredible kaleidoscope of unique experiences found nowhere else on earth.

It’s about discovering an amazing culture that’s warm and welcoming, about finding a slice of unspoiled paradise close to home, and about creating unforgettable memories.

Whether it’s the first time you’re visiting Costa Rica – or the 100th – you’ll find a myriad of iconic experiences and activities in which to indulge.

Here are our favorite five:

Overnight in an Eco-Lodge

Costa Rica is considered to be the birthplace of the eco-lodge and it’s indeed here that you’ll find some of the most amazing jungle lodges in the world, built with recycled local materials and run with environmental sustainability, resourcefulness and conscientiousness in mind.

The most famous lodges in the country have won multiple awards, thanks to their commitment to conservation of the local wilderness, support of local indigenous communities and relentless protection of the endemic wildlife. Spending at least one night in one of these awe-inspiring lodges is about as iconic as Costa Rica can get, and a chance for you to experience pure Costa Rican wilderness in comfort and luxury, all the while knowing you’re contributing to a truly amazing side of tourism.

Check out: Lapa Rios for superb luxury, Pacuare Lodge for adventure (want to white water raft to reach the lodge? You can!) and Luna Nueva, on the base of Arenal Volcano, for breathtaking views.

Soak in a Natural Hot Spring

If there’s one thing this country is renowned for, aside eco-lodges, it would have to be therapeutic natural hot springs. Coast Rica is literally bursting with them! While some, like the über-famous Tabacón Hot Springs, have become bona fide tourist meccas and boast a multitude of facilities, others still offer remote, wild, and unspoiled soaks. Stumbling upon these by pure chance is priceless. Due to the country’s volcanic landscape, there are a near infinite number of small natural spring and mud pools strewn about. It’s always worthwhile asking in a village for the local thermal pool, as this is how you’ll discover the least touristy sites.

Check out: Tabacón for a soak with a view and delectable cocktails, Vandara if you want to add a horseriding and ziplining adventure to your jaunt, and Eco Termales for a much more intimate experience.

Learn to Surf

Few places in the world offer the chance to learn a new skill while enjoying superlative, unique and unspoilt scenery. Head to Costa Rica a swimmer and you can well come home a bona fide surfer! You’ll find easily accessible beaches here, along with professional surfing crew and plenty of options; from all inclusive learn-to-surf vacations (where accommodation, meals and daily surf lessons are included in the price) to random one-off lessons you can take at any time and at short notice. Costa Rica has it all!

Check out: the various surfing schools in Nosara if you want a mix of surf lessons and amazing yoga classes on the side (this is Costa Rica’s yoga central!), the über-popular Witchs’ Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo for a full-immersion experience, and head to Pointbreak Surf School in Guanacaste for one-on-one and group lessons, especially aimed at novices.

Go on a Kayaking & White Water Rafting Adventure

Costa Rica is all about adventures out in nature, and if you’re one of those people who love to be thrown in the heart of the action, all at once, then a combo kayak & rafting adventure is for you. This country boasts the kind of landscape that’s just perfect for waterborne activities whether out to sea or along a pristine river, so you’ll find the ideal spot to rappel down waterfalls, raft class V rapids, kayak or canoe for days on end.

Check out: The best in the game, of course! Join us on an 8-day kayak and canoe adventure over class II, III, IV and V rapids, as we show you how adventurous and exciting ‘our’ home is. For an incredibly comprehensive week-long adventure, then how about our Week of Adventure, where we promise to put you through your paces as we zipline, kayak, surf, snorkel, mountain bike ride and raft over a tremendously varied landscape.

Watching Turtles Nesting

There’s something utterly mesmerizing about watching colonies of sea turtles coming to shore to nest, and colossal waves of tiny hatchlings trying to find their way to the sea. To animal lovers the world over, this is one of the most unforgettable spectacles of Mother Nature. Time your visit just right and you can admire the nesting or hatching of sea turtles, under the light of a full moon. Turtles absolutely love Costa Rica, its idyllic waters and prime nesting spots so here you’ll find numerous nesting sites, country wide.

Check out: Tortuguero National Park is the unrivalled headquarters of nesting and if you visit here between March and October you’ll see four different turtle species digging new homes for their babies. Head to the Las Baulas National Park from October until March and you’ll see Tamarindo awash with these incredible creatures.

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Costa Rica in December: the Most Festive Month of the Year

When it comes to cultural highlights, there’s no better time of year to visit Costa Rica than December. That’s when the country has its most festive month of the year in anticipation of Christmas, a time when festivals, fireworks and frivolities are everyday occurrences.

Here are just some of December’s very best highlights.

1st – 7th December

Christmas treeChristmas may still be a few weeks away, but Ticos have already begun decorating their homes. Around this time, locals start making tamales, which are delicious steamed cornmeal pockets filled with meat and vegetables, or jam and fruit. They’re tedious to prepare and quite time -consuming, with each secret family recipe being a source of much pride. In Costa Rica, it’s customary to exchange tamales at Christmas as gifts to friends, family members and neighbors, and to include them in all the festivities.

This week also marks the beginning of Lights Fiesta – Festival de la Luz – which will be a week-long celebration in San Jose with lighting displays, lots of music and food and nightly fireworks.

As if they don’t have enough to do, Ticos also start harvesting coffee at this time of year! Nature also begins her early celebrations by sending humpback whales from Alaska to Cano Island.

8th – 15th December

Fiesta de los NegritosTravel to the indigenous village of Boruca this week and you can partake in the Fiesta de los Negritos, an incredible festival which combines indigenous and Catholic rituals to create a visual spectacle like no other. The costumes are outrageous, the music and the dance hypnotic and the food on offer simply delectable. On the 8th December Costa Rica also celebrates the Lady of the Immaculate Conception, and you’ll see fiestas countrywide celebrating Mary, and plenty of young girls donning blinding-white starched skirts.

The Nicoya Peninsula celebrates Fiesta de la Yeguita on 12th December, with parades, bullfights (but without violence!), concerts and food stalls set up in towns all over the peninsula.

Around mid-December is also a time when Ticos receive their ‘aguinaldo’ which is essentially a Christmas bonus: a little bit of extra cash to help pay for gifts and celebrations. At this time, locals will start to set up their Christmas trees and put up nativity sets, which here are called ‘portales’.

Cano Island also celebrates its own ‘lighting festival’ in mid-December. This is the time of year which sees the most electrical storm activity in the entire region.

16th – 23rd December

Turtle preservationProcessions, religious reenactments, fiestas, fireworks and tamales are all the rage by the third week of December. Rompopo, the local eggnog, makes an appearance at festivals, as do the tamales, of course. Nativity set competitions are held in villages all over the country.

Meanwhile, hordes of Olive Ridley turtles continue to arrive on Playa Nancite (Santa Rosa National Park) to lay their eggs. This is one of the country’s most famous turtle nesting site.

24th – 31st December

It’s tradition in Costa Rica to attend mass on Christmas Eve, feast on a sumptuous dinner at midnight and open presents shortly thereafter. Tamales are the centrepiece of each meal, with plenty of rompopo, chicha (an alcoholic corn brew) and coconut candies (melcochas) laid out. When all the evening’s festivities wind down, baby Jesus is ceremonially placed in the crib of nativity sets. Christmas day is usually a quieter affair, with families gathering late in the afternoon to feast on leftovers.

Horse paradeHead to San Jose on Boxing Day and you’ll witness El Tope, a famous horse parade which is meant to showcase the prowess of the animals and skills of the riders. The festival continues the next day, with a colossal carnival taking place in the heart of the city. Large flamboyant floats, live music and more food than you can imagine!

New Year’s eve celebrations are held countrywide, with more food, fireworks, dance, music and fair-rides helping Ticos and visitors bring in the New Year in vibrant style.

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Enjoy the Highlights of Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast

Caribbean CoastWe’ll be the first to admit that the whole of Costa Rica is amazing to explore, even during these current rainy months. But if you are short on time and wish to make the most of every minute of your Costa Rica adventure vacation, then you may want to concentrate your itinerary on the eastern side of the country. Thanks to the sheltering high mountains of central mountain ranges, which absorb the moisture from the Pacific, the winds which reach the Caribbean Coast are blissfully dry. In fact, while the rest of the country bathes in much-needed rain, the eastern half of Costa Rica is enjoying the driest months of the year.

As far as tourism is concerned, the Caribbean side of Costa Rica has always suffered from some kind of inferiority complex. Some tourists claim it is not as beautiful, or wildlife-rich, as the Pacific side. The way we see it, they’re obviously going to all the wrong places! Moreover, the lack of modern infrastructure – at least to the extent found on the western side – tends to keep some foreign tourists away, yet this is precisely the Caribbean side’s most alluring aspect. Wilder, more remote and less crowded, the eastern coastline of Costa Rica is an absolute delight for anyone wanting to get off the beaten path and, at least in August to October, enjoy less rainfall.

Want to know what’s so good about the Caribbean side?

We’ll tell you!

Wildlife is Second to None

Tortuguero National ParkTortuguero National Park is one of the country’s top wildlife viewing nooks and it’s located on the north-eastern tip of Costa Rica. Renowned as a turtle-nesting hub – best seen between March and October – Tortuguero is one of the hardest, yet arguably most rewarding, places you could visit. There are no roads in or out and the small town of Tortuguero can be reached only by boat (from Moin) or small plane, from San Jose.

Visiting this part of the country is not cheap, but if it’s pristine wilderness and abundant wildlife you’re after, then you’ll find no better natural haven. The diversity here is astonishing. Aside from sea turtles, you’ll also encounter half a dozen species of land turtles, as well as manatees, crocodiles and sea cows in its streams, and jaguars, sloths and several monkey species in its rainforests. An infinite array of endemic birds, as well as fish and reptiles, also call Tortuguero home. Whether on foot or by boat, exploring the far reaches of this national park is an absolute highlight of any trip to Costa Rica, rainy season or not.

Trendy Seaside Towns

Aside from the gorgeous beaches of the Tortuguero NP, the Caribbean coastline of Costa Rica is delineated by the 70 km (44 miles) long stretch of beaches between Limon and Manzanillo. Unlike the northernmost corner, this southern part is infinitely easier to reach and, consequently, much more visited.

Puerto ViejoThe main hub on this side of paradise is Puerto Viejo, where chilled-out surfers tend to lose themselves in the sun, sea and surf for weeks if not months at a time. This is possibly Costa Rica’s most interesting town, with its ethnic fusion of Caribbean, Tico and hippie-cool making for a rather fascinating and very captivating scene. Moreover, this whole short stretch of pristine sandy coastline is framed by wildlife-rich national parks, so if you didn’t get your fill in Tortuguero, you’ll certainly be able to indulge here as well. The nearby smaller towns of Manzanillo and Cahuita (the former reachable via a superb 12km long beach walk or short drive) are fantastic springboards for their homonymous national parks, so aside from surfing, sunbathing and snorkeling you can also hike to your heart’s content. Cahuita is also renowned for its amazing off-shore reef, making this the region’s premier snorkeling hub.

Need some more reasons to discover the Caribbean side of Costa Rica? Then pack your bags and come discover what other amazing adventures await you!

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Costa Rica Weather in October: How to Beat the Rainy Blues

Costa Rica rainCosta Rica may receive its heaviest rainfall of the year about this time, but this does not mean that a vacation to this tropical haven, in October, will be a disastrous mess.

Costa Rica rainQuite the opposite actually! There is still plenty to see and do, numerous ‘drier’ corners of the country and more than enough incentives to head down south for an unforgettable, adventurous, vacation.

Here’s why traveling to Costa Rica in October is about the best decision you can make.

You can travel longer…for cheaper

Off-season deals are incredible in Costa Rica and, if you can take the time off, it means you can enjoy a much longer vacation for the same price, or less. Considering the fact that you can plan for a certain number of full rainy days a week (say 3), stretching your vacation time means you’ll have many more chances to get out and explore your favorite areas. Discounts on flights, accommodation and tours can drop by 40%, which is simply phenomenal!

It’s blissfully uncrowded – Enjoy it!

Costa Rica hikingWant to feel like you have Costa Rica all to yourself? Then you could do no better that to travel here in October and November. You’ll find vacancies in hotels and B&Bs (which means you can wing it and don’t need to book ahead), encounter fewer people on hiking trails (if you’ve visited in high season you’ll know just how precious this is) and have entire stretches of pristine beach all to yourself.

You won’t be alone all the time, but that’s OK! There are plenty of discerning travelers who head to Costa Rica specifically in rain season, but no part of the country will feel overcrowded. And that’s pure bliss.

Appreciate the downpours & have fun

However annoying it may be to suffer an insanely rainy day, do remember that Costa Rica, being one of the world’s most bio-diverse countries, depends on rain. A lot of rain. It regenerates flora, feeds fauna and spawns all the wonderful wilderness for which the country is so beloved. Appreciating how much Costa Rica relies on its yearly rainfall may help you see the rain in a different light. It is a wondrous thing, to experience the ‘healthiest part of the year in Costa Rica. So pack some gum boots, buy a poncho once you arrive and enjoy exploring the vibrant forests and national parks.

Come to see the turtles

Costa Rica turtlesTake the turtles, for example. They love the rain, and although they head ashore all year long to hatch, it’s only during rain season that they arrive in colossal proportions.

During an (the local name for mass nesting), you can spot thousands of turtles! Olive Ridley Turtles are spotted on the Pacific coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula and, from October onwards, is when you can see Leatherback Turtles coming to nest on the shores of the Las Baulas National Park. October is also the last month of the year to spot Green Turtles nesting in Tortuguero, so head here pronto! If you’re a turtle lover then this is the optimal time to visit.

It’s the Perfect Time to Head to the (Caribbean) Beach

Thanks to its topography, and the Talamanca Mountains in particular, the Caribbean coastline of Costa Rica actually enjoys its driest time of year in September and October. How great is that? Not only can you enjoy still spectacular adventures on the western side of the country, but you can end your trip with some gorgeous days on one of the many beaches on the eastern side. Enjoy fantastic snorkeling in Cahuita, or sunbathe in the pristine beaches of Puerto Viejo. If you’re looking for some clear skies and drier days, you’ll definitely find them here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      As you now know, traveling to Costa Rica in October is not just a way to save money! If you want to enjoy an off-the-beaten- path experience here then you really couldn’t pick a better time to travel.

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